Thursday, May 28, 2009

Myers Finally Tells the Truth

After getting hit hard again last night, Brett Myers finally came clean and told the truth--he's been pitching with a very sore hip that prevents him from planting and pushing off the way he needs to be able to do to pitch effectively.  He described a sharp nerve pain: "It kind of runs from my hip down to my knee sometimes. It might be a nerve."

Obviously, he needs to do what he needs to do to get well.  That much is obvious.

I also respect his desire to play hurt, and to do his best.  There's no question that Brett Myers is a competitor, and I have always admired that about him.  However, that raises another issue: how smart is it for a high-priced major league pitcher to hide an injury like that which (a) hurts the team, which continues to trot him out there expecting him to perform at a level that is physically impossible at the moment and (b) which could cause him to alter his motion and irreparably damage his arm?  

There comes a time when you have to do the right thing, set aside your own ego, and seek help.  I respect Myers for do so, but I can't help but ask why he waited so long to do so if this has been bothering him that much?  Getting help sooner not only would have helped him, it also would have helped the team.  I'd rather see him spend some time on the disabled list, get well, and come back to pitch the way we all know he can, rather than to have him continue to get hit hard and lose games when he's not pitching at his best.

A trip to the DL for Myers raises the important question of who takes his place in the rotation.  It shouldn't be Chan Ho Park, who seems to be thriving in the bullpen.  That means that the Phils either have to bring up someone like Carlos Carrasco, who made a run at making the team in spring training, or they have to go out and trade for a starting pitcher.  Quality starters don't come cheap. 

I hope Myers gets well soon.  The Phils need him--at his best--in order to compete.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is it Time to Make Ryan Madson the Closer?

Brad Lidge got hit hard again yesterday, not only blowing a save by giving up a game-tying homer to A-Roid in the bottom of the 9th inning, he then gave up the losing run.  He came into the game with a 4-2 lead.  The Phils lost 5-4, thanks to Lidge's incendiary performance, wasting a fine start by J. A. Happ.  It also wasted the first major league homer by rookie outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. (whose father, former Kansas City Royal first baseman John Mayberry, was present).  Mayberry, Jr. hit his first homer in Yankee Stadium while Mayberry, Sr. his last there, completing the circle.

He blew another today, giving up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th, and wasting a terrific start by Cole Hamels and good work by Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, and Ryan Madson.  It's SO frustrating.  The minute he came into the game, something told me that he was going to blow it, and, unfortunately, I was right.

Lidge's ERA is now a very, very ugly 9.15, and opposing batters are hitting .340 against him.  Those are hardly the numbers for a closer.  Hell, they're not even the numbers for a long reliever.  He's now blown 4 of 12 save opportunities, and can't seem to get through an inning without letting at least one runner get on base.  He is definitely NOT the same pitcher he was last year, and the Phillies just cannot afford to keep blowing games in the last inning.  I think that it's time that Lidge be removed from the closer's role and Ryan Madson installed in that critical role.  Madson certainly has the stuff to be an effective closer.  If Lidge works out his problems and gets his shit together, then he can certainly be reinstated as the closer.  I sincerely hope that that happens, preferably sooner than later, but for now, the Phillies just cannot afford to trot him out there with as totally ineffective as he has been.

Luckily, the starting pitching seems to be improving.  Brett Myers pitched a terrific game Friday night, Happ did very well yesterday, and Cole Hamels pitched six solid innings today.  That can only bode well, given the inconsistency and unreliability of Lidge.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Sad Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, Michael Jack Schmidt, the finest third baseman to ever pick up a glove retired.  Schmidt was 39, and his skills were deteriorating quickly.  Schmidt was unable to bear the idea of not playing the game up to his standards, and, unlike his Hall of Fame teammate, Steve Carlton, was unwilling to hang on too long and tarnish his great reputation.  Insisting on going out on his own terms, Schmidt suddenly and unexpectedly retired.  

The picture on the left is of Schmidt announcing his retirement to the surprise of fans and press alike. 

Mike Schmidt was the greatest Phillie ever, and the greatest third baseman to ever play the game.  I was fortunate enough to see his entire career and to appreciate the man for all of his greatness, even if Phillies fan didn't come around to doing so until it was nearly too late.

My favorite memory of Mike Schmidt was watching him hit his 500th homer, which happened in Pittsburgh while I was just about to graduate from law school.  Schmidt came up in the top of the ninth inning, with the Phils down two, with two out and two on.  After working the count to 3-0 against tough pitcher Don Robinson, Schmidt his 500th for a game winning homer.  The usually taciturn Schmidt was ecstatic and, for once, allowed his emotions to show as he made his way around the bases.  That's the Mike Schmidt that I will always remember.

I still miss watching you play, Mike, and I wonder what sort of numbers you would have put up playing in Citizens Bank Park instead of at the Vet.

Charlie Makes a Good Decision

Not surprisingly, Charlie Manuel has banished Chan Ho Park to the bullpen.  To Park's credit, he has taken it well, acknowledging that he hasn't done well as a starter, and he vowed to make the best of his new role.  He pitched a solid inning out of the bullpen this afternoon against the Reds in today's 12-5 blowout in Cincinnati.

J.A. Happ, who has pitched exceptionally well out of the bullpen, will get a start against the Yankees this weekend.  It should make for an interesting game.

Jamie Moyer pitched better last night, even though he lost.  He gave up three runs in 5 inning, but he finally showed some command of his pitches last night.  His performance last night was a significant improvement over the last several, giving me hope.  Blanton got hit again today though--5 earned runs in 5 innings.  

Next up: the hated, damned Yankees.  Oh, and did I mention that I really hate inter-league play during the regular season.  It's just wrong, in so many ways.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are the Wheels Coming for the Mets? (Let's hope so!)

From today's issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Things falling apart fast for the Mets
By Michael Rushton, MLB Contributing Editor

(Sports Network) - There is no being saved by the bell for the New York Mets right now. It's too early in the season for that.

Despite the fact that they are just percentage points behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, the Mets are on the ropes and all that remains to be seen is if the club can stay on its feet or fall faster than when Jake LaMotta made sure Tony Janiro wasn't "pretty no more" in Raging Bull.

Even a successful series in San Francisco came at a price. Despite taking three of four games over the extended weekend, the Mets saw Carlos Delgado opt for right hip surgery that could end his season, Jose Reyes missed most of the series due to a lingering calf injury and his backup Alex Cora land on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The Delgado injury is a big one for the Mets, who now have to find a first baseman out of Fernando Tatis, Jeremy Reed or Daniel Murphy, or make a move. Delgado had surgery to repair a labrum tear in addition to removing a bone spur from his right hip, an injury similar to the one that sidelined the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for the start of the season.

Rodriguez was out for two months and the Mets think Delgado can return in 10 weeks. But lets be real here; Rodriguez is 33 and regardless of how he did so, is in excellent shape. Delgado is three years older and his 159 games played last year were the most since a 161-game campaign with Toronto in 2003.

In addition to not having a suitable replacement at first, the Mets will miss Delgado in the locker room. The mental lapses have already begun, a problem that has plagued the Mets for the past few seasons.

In Monday night's loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York may have turned in one of the worst innings in club history. It began when Ryan Church wiped out a go-ahead run in the 11th inning when he failed to touch third on what looked like an Angel Pagan triple.

Already rumored to be in manager Jerry Manuel's doghouse, Church might not see the field for some time now.

"The guy missed third base, it's unbelievable," Manuel said. "I can't remember a guy missing third base. It was a very bad game."

Strong words by the manager, who didn't even address Church by name.

Things didn't get better in the bottom of the 11th. A catchable fly ball that fell between Pagan and Carlos Beltran, followed by Reed's wild throw from first to home with the bases loaded led to a 3-2 Dodgers win.

Sure, there are built-in excuses for the Mets. After all, Reed was playing just his fourth game ever at first and few can blame Beltran for wanting to avoid contract with Pagan given the infamous collision he was involved in with then-teammate Mike Cameron in 2005.

"I called the ball like six times, and Pagan stood in the middle and I couldn't see the ball," Beltran told New York's official Web site. "That particular play right there, I have priority.

"He knows that when the center fielder calls the ball, everyone has to get out of the way."

Add possible infighting to the list of New York's problems.

The easiest thing for the Mets to fix is their first base issues. That can be solved by way of a trade and looking at clubs in the bottom of the standings, Washington's Nick Johnson, Adam LaRoche of Pittsburgh and Conor Jackson of Arizona could all be available.

The tougher challenge Manuel faces is how to get his team off the cloud they seem to be floating on, surprising given that they are largely the same team that has missed the playoffs two straight years due to late-season collapses.

Perhaps tougher and unexpected roster moves will be necessary, but until then it appears as if it could be the same old story in New York.

It would appear that the wheels are coming off for the Muts.  This stuff is exactly why they've lost the division the last two years and why the Phillies, atrocious pitching and all, are in a tie with them for first place for the division now.  Let's hope it gets worse still for the Mets and that they bury themselves early.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Congratulations to Sergio Escalona

Because Chan Ho Park got hammered yesterday, Sergio Escalona, a rookie left handed reliever called up from AA Reading to help out, not only made his major league debut in yesterday's game against the Nationals, he pitched a solid inning in relief, and got the win.  Congratulations to Escalona for notching a win in his major league debut.

Luckily, the Kardiac Kids known as the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies scored a lot of runs to make up the ugly deficit that was created by Park's incendiarye performance put up a 3-spot in the 8th inning to win the game.  I've said it before, this team never quits and doesn't understand the meaning of the word "quit."  They've come from behind so many times already this year that it's difficult to keep track.

As for Park, I'm guessing that Charlie Manuel has probably seen enough.  A starting pitcher that can't get anyone out isn't much use to the team, which is somehow 20-16 and just a half game behind the Muts.  Even columnist Paul Hagen of the Daily News is now wondering aloud whether it's time for J. A. Happ to be given a place in the starting rotation.  I certainly think so.

There's also the Jamie Moyer question.  It's clear that the 2009 edition of Jamie Moyer is very different from the 2008 edition and that Moyer is not getting people out.  An elder statesman like Moyer deserves some respect and some slack, but in the midst of a pennant race, even Charlie Manuel has to be asking himself how long he has to hang in there with his elderly starter.

The Phils are hanging in there against the Muts with incredibly inconsistent pitching.  If this team can get ever its starting pitching righted, they should cruise to another division championship. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Park Gets Hammered Again

After two pretty good starts in a row, Chan Ho Park didn't make it out of the second inning today against the Washington Nationals.  Here's his ugly line for today's game: 1.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 5 earned runs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts.  His ERA is now a huge 7.08, and that's after two good outings in his prior two starts.  It's pretty clear that the experiment has been a dismal failure, and that it's time for him to take a seat in the bullpen.  Perhaps he will be more effective in long relief.

What's also clear, from consistent performances all season to date, is that Charlie Manuel needs to find a place for J. A. Happ in this starting rotation.  Happ has been consistently excellent all season long, and the poor guy just can't buy a start.  He was supposed to start the first game of yesterday's split double header with the Nationals, but because he was needed on Friday night, he couldn't start yesterday.  

I think that Park is a battler, and I appreciate that about him.  However, his battling does no good if he can't get anyone out.  That's the bottom line.  It does the team no good if he gets torched every start and they have to try to come back from a serious deficit as they did today.  The Phillies are a great come-from-behind team, but I'd rather get a lead and hold it than have to try to come back because the starting pitching can't get anyone out.  

It's time for Chan Ho Park lose his spot in the starting rotation to Happ.  Happ can't possibly do any worse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jamie Moyer

As I write this, the Phillies are losing to the Dodgers, 7-1.  Jamie Moyer started the game tonight.  Please don't get me wrong--Jamie Moyer has been a critical part of the success of the Phillies the past two seasons.  And at 46, he's only two years younger than me.  That he's still collecting a paycheck for pitching in the major leagues at that age is really pretty remarkable.  

However, Jamie has been awful so far this season.  He got hit HARD tonight--8 hits and 7 earned runs in 4.1 innings.  His ERA for the season is a brutal, awful 8.15.  Opposing players are hitting .346 against him so far this year.  He's allowed 12 homers in less than 40 innings so far this season.  

Moyer only throws the ball about 80 mph on a good day.  In order to be effective and get people out, he has to have command of all of his pitches.  He has to nibble, hit corners, and move the ball around.  There is almost no margin for error, and he walks a very fine line.  It would appear that after 25 years in the majors, perhaps Moyer has finally lost it.  A slow pitcher throwing fat pitches will get torched, and that's exactly what's been happening to Jamie.  

I hate to say this, because I love the guy, but maybe it's time for Moyer to think it's time to hang it up.  It's time to let J.A. Happ, who's been very effective coming out of the bullpen as the long reliever, to join the starting rotation, because the Phils need to start winning consistently if they're to have any chance of repeating this year.  It's still early, but every loss adds up and makes the task more difficult.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rest in Peace, Danny Ozark

I was saddened to learn that former Phillies manager Danny Ozark died today at his home in Vero Beach, Florida.  He was 85.

Danny Ozark managed the Phillies from 1973-1979.  The Phils went from doormat of the National League to three straight National League Eastern Division titles under him in 1976, 1977, and 1978, including two consecutive 101-win seasons.  However, Ozark could never get over the hump and get to the World Series, and he was fired after the 1979 season when the Phils lost the Eastern Division to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He survived a clubhouse coup by Steve Carlton in 1973, but couldn't survive three consecutive losses in the National League playoffs.

Danny always looked like a bloodhound to me.  He sort of shambled along, always looked sad, and had big ears.  He constantly made malapropisms that channeled Yogi Berra.  He had the reputation of being a solid baseball man but not the smartest guy in the world, but he did well with the Phightins.  He had a career managerial record of 594-510.  

First, Harry the K.  Now, the Wizard of Oze.  It's been a bad month for my childhood memories of the Phillies.

Rest in peace, Danny.  And thanks for helping the Phillies emerge from their years in the wilderness.

Photo courtesy of

Ramirez Suspended for 50 Games

The scorching hot start to the season by the Los Angeles Dodgers will, undoubtedly, cool off now.  As if we needed any further proof that Manny Ramirez is an idiot and a negative influence wherever he goes, our boy has now been suspended for 50 games for failing a mandatory drug test.  He now joins J. C. Romero of the Phillies in serving a long suspension.

The article in the Los Angeles Times indicates that Ramirez will blame the failed drug test on prescription drugs given him by his physician.  That may be true, but the buck stops with Manny, just as it stops with Romero.  While they both claim no intentional wrongdoing and that they're victims of a negligent physician (Ramirez) or an unscrupulous manufacturer of dietary supplements (Romero), ultimately, they're the ones who chose to put the substances in their bodies, and they're the ones who must bear the consequences of their choices.

Losing Ramirez's big bat for 50 games will undoubtedly hurt the Dodgers' chances of repeating as Western Division champs, but if it's what it takes to clean up the game, I can live with that.    

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ryan Howard and Joe Blanton

Ryan Howard is off to a torrid start.  While he was well under .200 this time last year, he's hitting close to .300 now, and has really been swinging the bat well.  When he's really on top of things, he hits the ball to center and even left center, and he's been stroking the ball to center.  His grand slam last week was to dead center field, which really bodes well.  While he's only hit 5 homers so far this season, they've been timely.  He's putting up MVP-caliber numbers again this season, and I would love to see him make the All Star game this year, as it's in his home town of St. Louis.

Last night, he smoked another grand slam, leading the Phightin's to a 6-1 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.  That was his 7th career grand slam, tying him with Mike Schmidt for the franchise's career record.  Never mind that it took Schmidt 17 years to hit his 7 slams; Howard has hit his 7 in just 3.5 major league seasons.  Howard is 20 pounds lighter, his defense is greatly improved, and he's swinging the bat really well.  Imagine how well the Phightin's might have done last year if Howard had been swinging the bat like this during the first half of the season.

Joe Blanton finally put together a good outing last night.  He pitched 6 solid innings, including pitching out of a couple of jams, finally posting his first win of the season.  His ERA came down by a couple of runs, and he looked like the dominating starter that he was during spring training and during the postseason last year.  Hopefully, he's now back on track.  It can only bode well for the Phillies if he's back on track.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Mets are Struggling

The Muts are struggling, pretty badly.  In fact, they don't look much different from the team that struggled so much that manager Willie Randolph got canned.  I wonder if Jerry Manuel's job is in jeopardy yet?

Oliver Perez, whom the Muts re-signed for $36 million just before training camp, is on the verge of being sent to the minors thanks to his ERA of nearly 10.00.  He got hit by the Phillies yesterday, which is not a good sign for the Muts.  Previously, Perez had enjoyed great success against the Phillies, but he got lit up yesterday.

The Muts also spent a king's ransom on signing J. J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez to bolster their bullpen, but they haven't performed well, and K-Rod is hurt.  Putz has been inconsistent.  Last night, reliever Sean Green had a world-class meltdown on the mound in the 10th inning.  After retiring the first batter, he gave up an infield single, hit a batter, got a second out, and then walked two in a row, including the winning run.  Gotta love that bullpen.   All that money spent, and it's still their Achilles' heel.

The Muts are currently under .500.  Let's hope that they finish the season that way, once more proving that just because you spend a fortune doesn't guarantee a winning team.