Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’

Rocky Mountain High and a Bunch of Lows

The Phillies just barely escaped Colorado last night with a win to avoid the 3-game sweep against the Rockies.  The first two games of the series were utterly pathetic as the Phils went down by scores of 1-2 and 1-3, respectively.  The Sunday night 10-9 win was a welcome sigh of relief.

The Phillies offense had been so bad going into this game, they officially recorded 131 at-bats in a row without an extra-base hit.  In baseball terms, that is an eternity.  And it was the worst mark for the franchise since 1968.

Not quite as awful as that, but still very bad, the Phils pitchers blew the lead in last night’s game 3 times.  And Roberto Hernandez still has yet to pitch a full 6 innings.  He was pulled from the game after only 75 pitches.  This is not promising.

Howard MountainsBut the better news is that Ryan Howard may have found his pre-ankle injury swing again.  He sort of, but not officially, hit for the cycle.  The last hit was not scored a double as many contend it should have been; it was marked as a single with a 1-base error.  The Phillies will appeal the call to MLB to see if they can get that double for Howard.  Honestly, I’d have loved it to be a cycle.  But I do not see MLB overturning the call…the outfielder should have gotten that ball.

Everyone else hit as well.  Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits and both Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd had 2 hits each.  Even more amazing, no one committed an error in the field.  Yippie!

Speaking of offense, remember way back on Opening Day when Cody Asche had 3 hits?  And the next day manager Ryne Sandberg sat him?  And then remember when I said what a bad idea that was, sending Asche the wrong message, killing his momentum, etc…?  Yeah well, guess who has had only 6 hits in his last 42 at-bats (the entire month of April)?  Yup, Cody Asche.  And he’s had only 2 hits in the very last 23 at-bats.  That is a .087 batting average.  Yikes.

Asche has been losing playing time as a result.  Obviously, that Game 2 benching may or may be contributing to the massive slump, but it is still an interesting observation.  The question now is, can he bounce back?  I have not yet heard if he will be in the line-up tonight against the Dodgers, but this is one story line you may want to keep an eye on.

Game time is 10:10pm EST.  Yuck…West Coast swings make me sleepy.  Hopefully, the Phillies offense will keep me awake!

 

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Howard Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Weird Week

The Phillies finally squeaked out a win against the Braves yesterday.  Whew!  But that 1-0 win was not the only oddity of the week.

For starters, the Phillies lost by the exact same score the night before.  Cliff Lee pitched a gem and the Phils could not bother to score a single run.  Ugh.  Here are a few other weird notes from the week:

-          A.J. Burnett, Thursday’s winning pitcher, claims that his newly formed hernia is helping him pitch better.  Maybe the offense should start straining themselves to achieve a similar injury and then they can score more than 1 run per game?  Genius!

papelbon gas-          Speaking of genius, Jonathan Papelbon does not see pitch velocity as an issue.  Granted, he has been much better of late.  But really?  Can I pitch then?  I can probably hit around 60mph on the gun and since speed does not matter, I should do just fine against major league hitters.  Put me in, coach!

-          In other Pap news, Crossing Broad had reported that the Phillies closer not only went off verbally on the media about his velocity, but that he actually aimed a fart in their direction.  Monty Python, Holy Grail fans are loving this (”I fart in your general direction!”)  If you have never seen this move, I highly recommend it.

-          In the same article, Crossing Broad also claims that Cliff Lee belched at the media.  It seems there is a lot of hot air in the Phillies locker room.

-          It looks like whoever yells the loudest really does win.  Because after Brewers manager Ron Roenicke complained that Logan Schafer’s 8th inning at-bat on 4/9/14 was not scored a hit, MLB overturned the error originally given to Ryan Howard.  Wow.

-          And while this is not Phillies news, I am sure all Phillies fans will enjoy it.  The new book, Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots, reveals that the Secret Service actually threatened to kill Mr. Met, the Mets bulbous-headed mascot.  Seriously.  That may be the best story ever in the history of baseball.  You will have to read the excerpt to believe it.

The Phillies start a 10 game West Coast road trip tonight against the Rockies.  Game time is 8:40pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Feast or Famine: Phillies Sweep the Marlins

After losing 3 straight games to the Brewers, the Phillies bounced back with 3 straight wins over the Marlins.  This all-or-nothing week ended with big offensive performances from 3 players today.

Chase Utley, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Will Nieves all had a 3 hit day.  Nieves knocked in two runs in the 5th to tie the game at 3-3.  And then Utley had the big bang in the 8th with a go-ahead home run, making it a final 4-3 Phillies win.
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Kyle Kendrick pitched mostly well, although he was up and down.  His game started a bit shaky thanks to another Ryan Howard error on the very first batter of the game.  So Kendrick started in a hole right away, but he hung in there.
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Other than the one error, the fielding was fairly clean.  There was one base running blunder as Gwynn Jr. stumbled around third base and went home anyway where he was thrown out.
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But the bullpen came into the late innings and actually held the lead.  In fact, all 3 guys, B.J. Rosenberg, Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon, retired each of the 3 batters they faced.  Finally!
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Speaking of the bullpen, Justin DeFratus has been sent back to the minors after some rather disastrous outings recently.  Luis Garcia has taken his place.

And just one fun note about today’s game, it was Kid’s Opening Day.  As part of that, some children were apparently commissioned to render their best images of Phillies players which were shown during each players first at bat.  Some of the drawings are hysterical.  Check out my Photo Album from the game to see those and more game shots.

The Braves come to town tomorrow.  Game time is 7:05pm.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Field of Nightmares

These are the things that dreams nightmares are made of.  This Phillies – Brewers series has thus far been a horror show of epic proportions.  I awoke at 3am yelling, “How do you miss a routine ground ball?”  I thought, whew, just a bad dream.  And then I remembered, it wasn’t just a dream.

This does beg the question, how does a veteran major league player miss a routine ground ball?  Sure, no one is perfect, stuff happens, etc…  But this “stuff” is happening at an alarming rate.  The Phillies have 5 errors in 2 games and that doesn’t include the many, many other mistakes made that do not have a place to be recorded in the box score.
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For instance, a pitcher gets ahead of batter with a 0-2 count.  He then proceeds to walk the guy.  How does that happen?  Just ask Antonio Bastardo.  Even the Boogeyman, who spends weeks or months hiding under beds, has had better days.

Just as scary, both Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, two of the more veteran guys and biggest salaries on the team, both booted bouncing ground balls yesterday.  But how often does a ground ball take a weird hop?  Answer: All the time!  A major league player should be able to handle this.

As I write this, I realize it is very early in the season and all that.  Still, even this small handful of games is telling of a larger issue.  Even manager Ryne Sandberg admits, “We talk about some of the plays being routine, but we haven’t been making too many of the routine plays lately.”  So, why is that?

Sandberg preaches fundamentals and fielding practice.  All of that is nice, but a guy who has been a professional baseball player for many years knows fundamentals.  The issue is focus and execution.  Why have these veteran players lost their focus, which then leads to a lack of execution?  Are their pockets so heavy now that they lack incentive to concentrate?  I think that is a fair question.

There are exceptions, of course.  When Ben Revere smashed his face into the wall on Tuesday and dropped a fly ball, he did not show a lack of effort.  He looked towards the fence for a second and lost the ball.  I never see a lack of effort from Revere, as was witnessed during two diving attempts in Wednesday’s game, one of which was a spectacular, highlight reel catch.  He dropped the second one, but clearly put forth maximum effort and focus.

This doesn’t mean other guys aren’t trying.  They just do not try as hard and are not as invested in each individual play.  In short, they are a bit too laid back.  This is a big problem.

Think about your own job.  There are days you give full effort and other days where you do not feel like doing much.  If you work in an office, this probably doesn’t hurt anyone.  But if you have a job where other people depend on you, this is a recipe for disaster.  If I am a surgeon performing my fourth surgery of the day and I feel a bit tired and do just enough to get by with patient #4, bad things can happen.

Baseball is not brain surgery, obviously.  But one person’s actions can affect their teammates and the outcome of the game.  If someone wants to pay me millions of dollars to file papers in an office, you can be assured I am going to be the best, most organized filing machine that ever lived.  And it won’t even matter if anyone else is affected.  I would be singularly motivated by just the fact that someone was willing to pay me top dollar for my services.  I worry that not everyone on this Phillies team feels the same way.  And no amount of practice is going to cure that problem.

 

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Game 2 Questions

Only 2 games into the season, some odd things have happened with the Phillies.  Game 1 was a 14-10 hitting spree win.  And yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers was quite the opposite.  Manager Ryne Sandberg made some very puzzling moves with the line-up and pitching during the game.

First, not all the line-up changes were too weird.  I liked Ryan Howard hitting 5th against a lefty and using Chase Utley as the DH.  But starting Jayson Nix at third instead of Cody Asche the day after he has a career game with 4 runs scored and 3 hits?  That I do not understand.

I get the whole lefty facing a lefty thing and if it were a week or two into the season, then sure, give Asche a break against a lefty.  But the timing of this move in only the second game of the season with Asche having big momentum coming off Monday’s win is confusing.  I do not think it was the right call; but they don’t pay me to make those decisions.

Another decision I would not have made was tossing a rookie pitcher making his major league debut into a tie game in the 9th inning against a very strong lineup.  Poor Mario Hollands had to face Shin-Soo Choo (walk), Elvis Andrus (sac bunt) and Prince freaking Fielder (walk)!  Seriously?  Is there anyone else out there who thought this was a good idea?  Talk about being thrown into the fire…

Sandberg also reused 3 relievers who had pitched the day before while leaving 2 guys in the pen, Justin DeFratus and Brad Lincoln, who have not pitched at all in 2 games.   Lincoln did not have a great spring, but few Phillies did.  And I definitely would have thrown DeFratus out there in the 9th before a rookie who has barely pitched above Double-A ball.

The end result was a frustrating loss in a very winnable game.  Plus it wasted an outstanding effort on the mound by A.J. Burnett who allowed only 1 run over 6 innings.  Is this just growing pains for a new manager or is there some method to this madness I am not seeing?

Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and all around cool guy, so he will be given the benefit of the doubt here.  A win tonight would go a long way for me :o)  Game time is 8:05pm; Kyle Kendrick will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Opening Day Slug Fest

The Phillies first game of the regular season began with a bang to the tune of 14 runs on 17 hits including 3 homers, one of which was a Grand Slam.  It was a record-setting day on many levels.

First, Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 8 earned runs and still got the win.  That is only the 8th time in MLB history that a pitcher gave up 8 runs in at least 5 innings and still won.  It is also only the 3rd time in history that happened on Opening Day.

Then in his first Opening Day start, Cody Asche ended the game just a triple short of the cycle.  With his parents looking on, Asche had a career day with 3 hits, 2 RBI including a solo homer, a walk and 4 runs scored.

But the biggest day record-wise was had by Jimmy Rollins who belted a Grand Slam in the 2nd inning, marking his 200th career homer.  That home run made him only the 19th player in baseball history to have 400 or more doubles, 100 or more triples and 200 or more home runs in a career.  He also tied a record with Cal Ripken Jr. for 14 consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop with the same team.

Rollins may have had some extra inspiration yesterday as he is on baby-watch.  His wife Johari is expecting their second child any minute now.  Rollins stayed an extra day in Philly in case she went into labor and then joined the team in Texas on Sunday night, one day after the team arrived.

Records aside, many Phillies had big days in this game.  Both Chase Utley and Ben Revere had 3 hits, Marlon Byrd went 2-for-6 with a solo homer and Ryan Howard had 2 hits and a walk.  Maybe the biggest hit of the day, besides the grand slam, was a pinch hit 2-run double in the 5th inning by John Mayberry Jr.  In his first big move of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg had a gut feeling to switch Junior’s; Mayberry Jr. in place of Tony Gwynn Jr.  That double broke a 7-7 tie and propelled the Phillies to the win with some much needed momentum.

While I do not think the Phillies are going to score 14 runs again soon, this was an uplifting start the season.  Enjoy it!  Tonight, A.J. Burnett will make his Phillies debut; game time is 8:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

More J-Roll Drama at Phillies Camp

I am sure most of us have heard about the Jimmy Rollins – Ryne Sandberg drama at Spring Training this week. To recap very quickly, J-Roll was being J-Roll and let fly a “Who cares?” when asked about the team’s offense. And then Sandberg let fly a telling, “No comment” when asked about Jimmy bringing positive energy to the club. Rollins was benched for 3 straight days (Mon.-Wed.) without having spoken to Sandberg until Thursday.

Before I offer my thoughts on the situation, I will tell you a little story from Spring Training 2009. I make it a habit to arrive to all games, even Spring Training games, many hours early. That is when some of the most entertaining and interesting things happen. Before one 2009 spring game in Bradenton, FL against the Pirates, I witnessed some real J-Roll being J-Roll behavior.

As the team was stretching on the field, manager Charlie Manual was pacing about, looking annoyed. And one player was noticeably absent from the field: Jimmy Rollins. About 20 minutes into this, Rollins suddenly appeared jogging across the field. When the team noticed him, everyone, mid-stretch, stopped what they were doing and began clapping and cheering for Rollins as he approached. It was group sarcasm, although in good fun, to congratulate Rollins for finally showing up.

As I was right up against the fence where they were stretching, I saw and hear nearly everything that happened next. Manual sauntered over to Rollins with his irritated, head-tilted, almost twitchy swagger that we have seen many time over the years. Usually you saw this when Manual was about to confront an umpire.

As Manual berated Rollins, wagging finger and all, Rollins slouched over like a 5 year old getting yelled at for stealing a cookie. He even pouted. Rollins then made various hand gestures to explain how he got stuck in traffic and then got turned around, etc… A lot veteran players these days don’t like taking the team bus to spring away games, so it was not too unusual that Rollins drove himself. Still, everyone else was on-time.

022509a1Ryan Howard then wandered over and put his arm around Rollins to comfort him, again, like a 5 year old whimpering after being punished. Manual just kept talking. It was very clear that this was not the first time Rollins broke the rules. And as we all know, it would not be the last.

But under Manual, Rollins got used to being “scolded” and then simply going about his business after some comforting words from a few teammates. This has been a decade-long pattern. So does it really surprise anyone that in this most recent incident Sandberg decided to give Rollins the silent treatment? When you were a kid, what was worse? Getting yelled at or being ignored and having to wonder what you did wrong? The silent treatment doesn’t work on everyone; however, I am sure Sandberg felt like at the very least, he needed to try something different than what Manual had done.

I have heard a lot of criticism of Sandberg the last few days for not speaking to Rollins right away. Personally, I think giving Rollins days to stew over what was going on may have an effect going forward. Although Rollins did nearly hang himself in the media afterwards with comments like, “Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have the last say.” I am sure that did not endear him to Sandberg at all. But as the new manager, Sandberg is going to have to think outside the box when dealing with player issues, especially with those players who have become used to a very different style of management.

How will J-Roll react now that he and Sandberg have put the issue to rest? Time will tell.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

I’m Back – Can the Same Be Said for the Phillies?

After a very long vacation from blogging, I’m back. I have just a quick list of excuses for my absence. For starters, I have experienced a complete life “do-over.” After some hair-raising experiences including the deaths of 3 friends/family, I changed jobs, relationships, bought a house and am going back to school to work on my Master’s degree. Change is good. Trust me on this one.

Change for the Phillies thus far this offseason, however, has been minimal. It was less change and more resurrecting history when the Phils signed Marlon Byrd, Bobby Abreu (minor league deal), Larry Bowa (bench coach) and Charlie Manual, rehired as an advisor. Not to mention dumping Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews in favor of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer in the broadcasting booth. And don’t forget Mike Schmidt on air for Sunday games. It’s a reunion!

Did you realize there are now no less than 4 Phillies managers back with the 2014 team? The current manager, obviously, is Ryne Sandberg. Former managers on staff also include Manual, Bowa and Dallas Green (front office). That is incredible. If you want to be with a team for life, sign with the Phillies!

With all of these blasts from the past, the season will at the very least be interesting to watch. But my initial impressions so far in watching Spring Training games are not too encouraging. The offense is still in hiding, as it has been for about 3+ years now. Ok, I know it is only Spring Training, but the Braves have no problem putting up 8-9 runs a game right now so why can’t the Phils? Also, many pitchers, like Cole Hamels, are already or still hurt. But hey, the defense looks pretty good J

Of the few moves the Phillies did make this offseason, I actually like the return of Marlon Byrd. He did well with the Pirates last year, he has been open about his previous suspension and above all, he has something to prove. I love his attitude so far and he appears to have at least brought some smiles back to camp.

Beyond that, not much stands out. Ryan Howard has proclaimed his perfect health. That is nice, but we will have to wait to see if results follow. Howard will be under even more pressure this year now that he and the team are adamant that he is 100%. If he falters early, I shudder to think of the reaction from the press and the fans. They will tear the Big Piece into little pieces. I do not envy his position.

I have begun counting the days until the first real pitch of the season to see what this team really has to offer. Is the winning team back or just a rerun of last year? More thoughts on Spring Training to come…stay tuned.

The Inning From Hell

The 6th inning of Sunday’s Phillies Tigers game was officially the worst baseball I have ever seen in my life.  In fact, there is no point in even discussing the rest of the game that resulted in a 4-12 Phillies loss.  This team has fallen far into the deepest recesses of hell…

That one hellish inning included 3 Phillies errors, 8 runs scored by the Tigers, all of which were unearned, a Tigers grand slam and 2 runs scored on walks.  Rookie Steve Susdorf committed one of the three errors in his first major league start; this was a day he’d probably like to forget, along with the rest of us.

Veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins described it best after the game, telling reporters, “That was embarrassing. … If there’s a bottom, this has to be it. I can’t imagine things getting worse than they have this past week, culminating the way they did today.”

And although the trade deadline is just days away, I cannot imagine the Phillies will get much of a return on anyone they plan to dump.  Jonathan Papelbon has done his best to ruin any chances of the Phils getting a good return for him in a trade.  His salary is ridiculous, his attitude is deplorable and he has blown 5 saves in the last month and a half.  He is worth nothing in a trade at this point, unless a team is desperate.

And frankly, nearly everyone else on this team has rendered themselves useless in a trade after this horrific 8-game losing streak.

So what do the Phillies do in the midst of watching this franchise ship sink?  They spend $48 million on an unproven Cuban defector.  The Phillies signed right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a six-year deal with incentives that could push the total salary to nearly $60 million.

I liken this move to what someone with a gambling addiction does…keep betting higher, despite a long, ugly string of losses (ie: Ryan Howard’s extension, Chad Qualls, releasing Jason Grilli, trading Cliff Lee, Papelbon, etc…). Ruben Amaro Jr. is still gambling away this team’s future and it is hard to watch.  I hope I am wrong.  Maybe this guy is worth every penny of that $48 million. But with a track record of contract busts, the odds are not in favor of the Phillies.

Welcome to Hell, Phillies fans.

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Dead Men Walking: The 2013 Phillies

In their 4th consecutive loss on Wednesday night, I do believe the Phillies finally rolled over and died.  They did not just lose 4 games, they were slaughtered in the ugliest and most painful manner possible.

Every problem this team has had this season was glaring in last night’s 3-11 drubbing, courtesy of the Cardinals.  It was a proverbial highlight reel of all that is wrong with the 2013 Phillies.  First, the starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent.  John Lannan had 2 solid outings in his last few attempts; but last night, he was run out of the game after only 4 innings with 4 runs allowed.  In the 4th inning, Lannan walked the opposing pitcher who then proceeded to steal second base and score after a single from the next batter.

Next, the defense was pitiful.  John Mayberry Jr. summed up 2013 defense with a Little League play in the 5th inning that allowed 3 runs to score.  He dove for a ball that he had zero chance at catching in the air, only to watch the ball sail past him into deep center field.

And then there was the awful bullpen performance.  J.C. Ramirez allowed 5 runs in one inning of work.  Jake Diekman added 2 more for the Cardinals in the 8th.

And how about that offense?  What offense, you may ask yourself.  Exactly.  The Phillies have scored 4 runs total in their last 3 games.

But the whipped topping on this sh@!! sundae has got to be all of the injuries.  Domonic Brown was pulled from the line-up with concussion symptoms.  Ben Revere, the hottest hitter in June and July, went down earlier this month with a broken foot due to a foul ball.  Ryan Howard is out with knee issues.  Roy Halladay is recovering from shoulder surgery.  And the list goes on…

The trade deadline is less than a week away.  If GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has half a brain, he will begin selling as many players as he can and give this team some hope for the future.  And if he wants anyone to attend games for the rest of the year, he should scratch Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee off any possible trade list.  Anyone of the other veterans are fair game, in my humble opinion.

In the meantime, all we can do is wait for the hammer to fall…

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