Monday, June 29, 2009

Chris Pronger is a Flyer!

Paul Holmgren traded for tough defenseman Chris Pronger the other day. It cost 19 year-old defenseman Lucas Sbisa, reliable winger Joffrey Lupol, and a couple of draft choices. However, Pronger is precisely the sort of tough defenseman who can play defense and also score goals from time to time. He's also a proven winner, having won a couple of Olympic gold medals and a couple of Stanley Cups in his career. He's also been captain of two teams and should provide precisely the sort of veteran leadership that the Flyers have been needing for some time.

Let's hope that the next time we see a photo of Chris Pronger with Lord Stanley's hardware, it's in a Flyers jersey.

Welcome to Philly, Chris. May your stay be long and productive.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lidge Gets the Save, But....

Brad Lidge is back from the disabled list, and he got his first save opportunity against the Toronto Blue Jays today. He came into a 5-4 game in the bottom of the ninth, hoping to save one for Jamie Moyer. Moyer pitched five innings. Chan Ho Park pitched two good innings, and Ryan Madson had a scoreless eighth, and so it came to the Phillies' erstwhile closer.

Even his scoreless outings are adventures. Lidge gave up a bunt single to the first hitter, and then Lidge walked the next batter. Lidge then managed to extricate himself from the situation with a scoreless inning and his 14th save in 21 opportunities, but it's like watching Mitch Williams all over again. Even the successful outings are enough to drive one insane. Let's just hope that Lidge is back to his old form after the rehabilitation trip to the minor leagues. If the Phils are to have a chance to repeat, they will need Lidge to get people out and not blow any more saves.

The Phillies' bats finally have awakened the last two games. They've scored 15 runs in two games, including a come-from-behind victory today. Chollie Manuel gave the team an uncharacteristic chewing out on Friday night, and it appears to have done some good. Let's hope that the team is back on the right track, because there's still lots of season left to go. In spite of it all, the rank incompetence of the Muts means that the Phillies continue to hold an improbable tw0-game lead, even after the losing streak from hell.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pat Burrell Beats the Phillies

Pat Burrell, the former Phillies left fielder who was unceremoniously let go after leading the World Series victory parade last November, got a measure of revenge against his old team last night. Leading his new team, the Tampa Bay Rays, to a victory over the Phils last night, Burrell hit a two-run homer in the second inning and then drove in the third run with a fielder's choice in the 8th inning. The Rays won 3-1, with Burrell driving in all three runs. Although he didn't specifically say so, that had to have been particularly sweet for the jilted outfielder. Unfortunately, the Phillies and their fans failed to appreciate Pat Burrell until it was too late. I, for one, was--and still am--sorry to see him in another team's uniform.

On another note, Brad Lidge was activated from the disabled list today and returned to the active roster. Let's hope that the 15-day rehab stint helped him and that the Brad Lidge that returns to the mound is the one who was last year's hero and not the one who has been eminently hittable so far this year....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Get Well, Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard, the slugging first baseman of the Phils, spiked a 104 degree fever this weekend, and had to be briefly hospitalized twice. Today, it was announced that he has a particularly nasty sinus infection. As someone who has regularly suffered with the misery of sinus infections on at least an annual basis for more than 30 years now, I can certainly empathize. There are few things more miserable than a bad sinus infection. You feel like your head is in a vice, and nothing you do helps. It's horrible.

Get well very soon, Ryan. I hope that you make a quick and full recovery, as the Phightin's need every at bat from you that they can get after this weekend's disaster against the Orioles. It's a good thing that the Muts are so incredibly inept, or the Phillies would be out of the race by now. Only because the Muts continue to play inconsistent and bad baseball are the Phils still in it.

The good news is that the Phils can't lose tonight, simply because they don't play. Maybe a night off will help right all that's presently wrong with this team, because it would be hard to imagine a team playing a whole lot worse than they are at present.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Okay, So Madson is Not the Answer....

I agitated for Ryan Madson to become the Phillies' closer due to the ineffectiveness of Brad Lidge. When Lidge when on the disabled list, I got my wish. The answer is, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Madson has blown one of his three save opportunities, and he came into a tied game in the ninth today and promptly gave up the game-winning homer to light hitting Phillies reject Rod Barajas. That's not good. Not good at all.

Supposedly, the inflammation is gone from Lidge's knee and he's ready for a rehab assignment to Reading. Let's hope it's true and that he is ready, because even with his inconsistency, Ryan Madson has demonstrated that he's not a closer. A terrific set-up man, perhaps, but NOT a closer.

The Phils need pitching help badly. Let's hope they find some.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Donovan Gets His Deal

The Eagles have signed Donovan McNabb to a new contract. Claiming that he's earned it, the Birds gave their franchise's greatest quaterback a new six-year that will take him to age 38. There's no question that McNabb has rewritten the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback record book. However, there's still one major accomplishment that remains unfulfilled: bringing a Super Bowl championship home to the City of Brotherly Love.

Some of that, of course, is NOT his fault. It is not Donovan McNabb's fault that the front office has not seen fit to bring in the sort of game-breaking wide receiver that championship teams typically have. The one year that they had one--the year when T.O. acted like a human being and not like himself--the Birds made it to Super Bowl. That's no coincidence.

It likewise is not Donovan McNabb's fault that he has suffered two season-ending injuries with his blown ACL and with the sports hernia surgery that he underwent. Players get hurt. It's part of the game. Quarterbacks are no exception to that rule.

Nevertheless, the crushing burden of being the franchise's face and its undisputed leader mean that the pressure to bring home a Super Bowl win will be ramped up by this signing, particularly among the McNabb critics who think that the time has come to give Kevin Kolb his chance to be the team's starting quarterback. Only time will tell who's correct between the McNabb supporters and those who believe that Kolb has earned his shot.

Congratulations to Donovan McNabb. Be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gambling on Ray Emery

The Flyers are taking a huge chance at goaltender. Instead of re-signing Martin Biron, who played pretty well when he was healthy, the Flyers have signed former Ottawa Senators goalie Ray Emery to be their netminder. Emery is a gifted but troublesome goalie, as well known for his fondness for fisticuffs as for his quick hands. He's been known to go Terrell Owens on his teammates and was described as a cancer in the locker room before the Senators cut him. Emery has been playing in Russia--no NHL team wanted him--and he is definitely a risky acquisition.

"I've learned from those bad experiences, maybe more than I learned from the good times," said Emery at the press conference after his signing. "I went through a lot the last two years or so. I realize I had a great thing going there and lost a lot of people that I enjoyed hanging out with on a daily basis. I want to get back to having those good relationships and enjoying my workplace and the sport because it's a great position to have."

He has been saying all of the right things: "This is a fresh start for me. I'm excited that they're giving me the opportunity. This is a great young team. . . . I came back to a Stanley Cup-contending team. Any goalie in the league would want to play here, so I consider myself lucky."

Time will tell. Let's hope that Emery was telling the truth, and let's hope that he was sincere. We can only hope he was, or else the Flyers won't be going anywhere next year, either.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Phils and the Muts

The Phightin's head for New York today for a three game set with the Muts.  Characteristically, the Muts have been playing badly, and are three games behind the Phillies.  The Phils should, of course, have a five game--thanks for the two consecutive blown saves, Brad Lidge--but a three game cushion is nice.  It's important to remember that last year's world champions never had more than a four game lead over the Muts over the course of the season, so this year's team has a chance to really put some space between the Phils and the Muts with more good baseball this week.

The Muts are not playing good baseball.  They are getting their normal inconsistent hitting, and that bullpen that they spent so much money to try to fix hasn't set the world on fire.  While Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez has been fairly effective, J. J. Putz, the former closer for the Seattle Mariners, has simply stunk out the joint.  Their starting pitching has been inconsistent, and their fielding is always indifferent.  In short, this is a team that never seems able to live up to the high expectations of its fans, which is just fine by me.  

On the other hand, Lidge's blown saves notwithstanding, the Phillies are playing terrific baseball just now, and they will be facing the Muts at a time when pretty much everything but Lidge are working well.  This is a chance for the Phightin's to put some real space between themselves and the Muts, and let's hope that they do so.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Lidge Dilemma

The Phils SHOULD have swept the Dodgers this weekend, and they would have, but for two consecutive blown saves/meltdowns by Brad Lidge.  Lidge blew saves on Friday and Saturday nights, costing the Phils two games that they could and should have won.  Lidge's confidence is apparently blown, and he's not getting the job done.

"Last year's last year and this year's this year," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, in an admirable effort to bolster his guy's confidence. "He's got the same stuff he had last year, but that's baseball. Right when you think you've got this game whipped, it can jump right up and bite you. But he'll always be my guy. If you do something else with him, I think that could hurt his confidence."

I appreciate that Charlie wants to stand by his man.  I likewise understand that the psyche of closers is somewhat fragile.  However, Lidge has cost the team five losses this year and has six blown saves.  It is quite clear that this is not the same dominating pitcher as last year.  To his credit, Lidge recognizes that he's not pitching well.  "I feel good, but I know that something needs to change , in terms of the results," Lidge said.  While I support trying to stroke the closer's brittle psyche, the team cannot afford to continue to blow games in a misguided attempt to massage Lidge's ego.  

My humble opinion is that unless Lidge gets himself right very quickly, he and Ryan Madson need to switch roles, as I think that Madson deserves a shot at the closer's role.  While that may not be good for Lidge or for his ego, the needs of the team must come first, and if Lidge isn't doing the job, someone else needs to get a chance to do so.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Congratulations to the Big Unit

Congratulations to 45-year-old Randy Johnson for becoming the 24th member of the 300-win club today.  Johnson beat the lowly Nationals 5-1 today, reaching the pantheon of the game's great pitchers.  Not that the Big Unit was not headed for Cooperstown already after four Cy Youngs and nearly 5,000 strikeouts, but achieving the magic number of 300 makes membership in the Hall of Fame automatic.

In recent years, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Roger Clemens all reached this milestone (although Clemens apparently did it by juicing).  Some have speculated that Johnson will be the game's last 300-game winner due to the dramatic changes in the way pitchers are used today.  I don't believe that for a moment.  I don't think that there's any doubt that there will be more 300-game winners, but it WILL be a long time before the next one.  With 305-game-winner Glavine having been cut by Atlanta yesterday, there are only two active pitchers with more than 200 wins.  46-year-old Jamie Moyer has 250 wins, and I cannot imagine that Moyer will last long enough to reach 300.  The next in line, Andy Pettitte, has 220 wins, but he's already talking about retiring at the end of the season.  Consequently, it will be a LONG time before we see another pitcher reach the magic number. 

That makes Johnson's accomplishment all the more remarkable.  Congratulations to the Big Unit.  There's not much else left for him to prove.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Would Jake Peavy Be a Good Fit?

There is no question that Jake Peavy is one of the three or four best starting pitchers in the National League.  He has a Cy Young Award to prove it.  He's also the only really talented player left on a Padres team that has been decimated to suit the purposes of its idiot owner, much like the way that Connie Mack raped his Athletics teams.  Peavy has a no-trade clause in his contract, and has already vetoed a trade to the Chicago White Sox.  He has made his preference for the National League clear.

With Brett Myers done for the season, the Phillies need to find another quality starter to take his place in the rotation.  Peavy would be a perfect one-two punch with Cole Hamels and would make the Phils hard to beat on the days when those two start.  However, Peavy is apparently partial to Southern California, having indicated a preference for the Dodgers.  He has also criticized Citizens Bank Park as being a launching pad, so it's questionable whether he would ever approve a trade to Phillies.  That's a shame, because he's giving up his best shot at winning a championship.  He's certainly not going to get one with the Padres, decimated as they are.

Another option is Roy Oswalt, who is also available.  Oswalt is a fine pitcher, but he also comes with a $14 million contract.  The Phils are already heavy on payroll, and the traditionally skittish Phils' ownership may not be willing to absorb that sort of liability.  He's also suffering from a nasty bone bruise on his pitching hand from trying to stab a line drive barehanded.  

Time will tell.  Perhaps Antonio Bastardo will set the league on fire tonight against Peavy, and he will prove to be the sort of solution that Kyle Kendrick was in 2007.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Congratulations, Jamie Moyer

After several unsuccessful tries, 46-year-old Jamie Moyer finally won the 250th game of his very long career last night, pitching six solid innings against the hapless Nationals.  Moyer became only the 44th pitcher--and only the 11th lefty--in the history of the game to reach that historic benchmark.  He has won a remarkable 216 games since reaching the age of 30, getting major league hitters out with a fastball that has rarely exceeded 82 mph.  

After struggling all spring, Moyer finally seems to have found command of his pitches, and is getting people out, just as he did last year, and with Myers done for the season with hip surgery, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Moyer has the second highest win total of all active major league pitchers, trailing only Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson, who goes for the 300th win of his epic career tomorrow night, also against the Nats.  Just think, the Nats could lose to two pitchers who are 91 years of age between them and who have 549 major league wins between them in less than a week.  Talk about a dubious accomplishment...

Moyer was typically modest about his accomplishment.  "I really hadn't thought about it," Moyer said of reaching his 250th win. "For me, it takes so much effort to play, to prepare to play.  I really believe that my focus has been on that, not milestones or numbers or personal things.  I've been taught to play the game as a team, not an individual, and I really feel that's how I approach things. When you play 20-plus years, some of these things are going to happen. I'm proud to get my 250th win, but there is still a lot of baseball to play."

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer.  I've criticized his performance this year, and have suggested that perhaps it might be time for him to retire, but if he pitches as he did yesterday, I wish him many more wins.