Monday, August 31, 2009

The Phillies by the Numbers

Courtesy of The Zo Zone on Facebook, here are the Phillies by the numbers:
  • The Phillies lead the National League in scoring with 665 runs, despite playing at least two fewer games than most teams in the league. They are averaging 5.20 runs per game. No other team has averaged more than 4.99 runs per game.
  • The Phillies lead the league with 185 home runs. The Rockies are second with 153.
  • Despite those home runs, the Phillies rank just eighth with 925 strikeouts. That's a strikeout every 5.46 plate appearances, which ranks seventh.
  • Their 1.08 groundball-to-flyball ratio is last in the league.
  • Their five bunt hits are last in the league.
  • They take 57.4 percent of their pitches, which is the second highest percentage in the league. They put 18.4 percent of their pitches in play, which is tied for ninth. The swing at only 20.9 percent of their first pitches, which is the lowest percentage in the league.
  • They are last in singles with 684, but first in extra-base hits with 463.
  • That explains why they are tied for 10th in hitting (.259) and eighth in on-base percentage (.336), but are first with a .452 slugging percentage.
  • They are fifth in the league with 3.86 pitches per plate appearance.
  • They are fifth with 89 stolen bases, but first with an 8.17 stolen base percentage. They have stolen third base 17 times, which is tied with the Diamondbacks for the league lead.


  • Their 4.15 ERA is sixth in the league.
  • Opponents have hit .263 against them, which is eighth.
  • They are sixth with 34 saves. They are tied for fifth with 18 blown saves. Their 65.4 save completion percentage is seventh.
  • Their 150.7 pitches per game are fourth.
  • Their 12.61 baserunners per nine innings are seventh fewest. Their 7.07 strikeouts per nine innings are ninth. Their 3.13 walks per nine innings are second fewest. Their 1.23 homers per nine innings are second worst.


  • The Phillies have 60 errors. Only the Pirates (55) have fewer.
  • Their .987 fielding percentage ranks third.
All things considered, not too bad. Not too bad at all. The obvious weakness continues to be the bullpen, and, in particular, Brad Lidge. Lidge, however, looked sharp last night after an excellent performance by first Joe Blanton and then by Scott Eyre, who inherited a bad situation from normally reliable set-up man Ryan Madson.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's No Fun When the Muts Suck as Badly as They Do This Year

In 2007, the Muts blew a 7 game lead with 17 left to play. They came into spring training last year claiming that they were the team to beat in the National League, and the Phils again surged from behind to catch them last year. Of course, the Phillies won the World Series last year. Phillies starter Cole Hamels said it all last winter when he declared, "For the past two years they've been choke artists."

This spring, after signing Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez as their closer, the Muts were yapping again. "Of course, we're going to try to win the division. Of course, we're going to be the front-runner. Of course, we're going to be the team to beat," he boasted. "I don't want there to be a controversy or the other ballclubs in that division to take it personally or take it in a bad way. If they ask me, 'Oh, which ballclub is going to win the National League East?' It's going to be the Mets. Easy question."

The Muts, of course, are 59-72 and 17 games behind the Phils, firmly entrenched in fifth place in the National League East Division. They can take consolation that they are better than the horrifically bad Washington Nationals, but that's about it. They have had injury after injury, and most recently, lost ace Johan Santana for the rest of the season to elbow surgery.

The Mets have sucked so badly for most of the season that you haven't heard any yapping out of them. They've been smart enough to keep their big yaps shut. The Phils have a large and comfortable lead and will have to work hard to blow it. I have to admit, though, that it's been more fun watching the Muts melt down the last two years. Too bad that they won't get a chance to do so again this year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

McNabb and Vick

Thursday night's sloppy win over the Jacksonville Jaguars featured Michael Vick's debut with the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick appeared in six plays. He completed four passes, with the longest completion being for 13 yards. His debut surely didn't live up the massive hype that led up to the kickoff.

Donovan McNabb, on the other hand, threw for 244 yards in less than three quarters of playing time, including four completions to prized rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. It also does not appear that Donovan is terribly excited with the whole Michael Vick Wildcat formation thing. When asked if he thought that the Wildcat formation disrupted the rhythm of the offense and whether the offense needed to get back to basics during the first half of the game with Jacksonville: "Absolutely, Absolutely," McNabb said. "I did. In that situation, it's needed." McNabb apparently demanded that the experiment be curtailed due to the disruption to the offensive flow, and Reid went along with it. That does not bode well for a rosy relationship between the hyper-competitive Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick. Even if they keep Vick, that raises a different set of questions about whether Kevin Kolb really is the heir apparent to Donovan McNabb, or whether Vick will now be appointed the heir apparent.

Andy Reid has said that Vick will get a few snaps at quarterback in more conventional formations during this week's final pre-season game with the Jets.

The good news is that, for the first time in years, it looks like the Eagles have an abundance of offensive threats at the wide receiver position. The duo of DeSean Jackson and Maclin looks like it's going to be a very effective one that gives the Birds two legitimate deep threats, with sure-handed Kevin Curtis doing what he does so well as a possession receiver. I look forward to seeing how this trio fares when it counts. It also means that Hank Baskett and Reggie Brown are now trade bait, since they may not be needed once the regular season begins.

The down side is that while Shawn Andrews is finally ready to begin playing, the rest of the offensive line remains plagued with injuries. Fortunately, Reid has a great deal of confidence in his back-up guards, because I suspect that they're going to see a lot of playing time this year. Time will tell.

There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered:

1. How will the Eagles defense handle losing Jim Johnson?
2. How will the Eagles defense handle losing middle linebacker Stewart Bradley for the season?
3. How will the Eagles defense handle losing spiritual and emotional leader Brian Dawkins?
4. Will the offensive line gel?
5. How is Brian Westbrook's surgically repaired knee? Will he be the same offensive triple threat that he has been for his entire career?

The answers to these questions, of course, won't be known until the end of the season. We time will tell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And Yet Another Blown Save...

Last night's blown save du jour was courtesy of Ryan Madson, who wasted a superb performance by Cole Hamels. Hamels pitched 8 strong, shutout innings with 7 strikeout and only 2 walks (one of which was intentional), and had excellent command of a fastball that consistently reached 95 mph. With the Phils ahead 1-0 (thanks to a solo homer by Chase Utley in the first inning), Charlie Manuel brought in Madson to save it for Hamels, and Madson promptly gave up a pinch hit homer to tie the game.

Fortunately, Ryan Howard hit a three-run long tater in the top of the 1oth to win the game for Madson, but it meant that Hamels ended up with a n0-decision to show for that superb performance. "The Big Piece was right on time," declared Charlie Manuel, who recently revealed that he refers to Howard as The Big Piece. "He was running from behind, but caught up at the end. The Big Piece is all right, especially when he hits three-run bombs."

It was Madsen's 5th blown save of the season. "I think Madson can close," said Manuel. "I know he can close. It's kind of Lidge. Get in a groove and get going." In the meantime, Brett Myers had a strong outing in Reading last night, striking out five in two innings. He could be a real plus for the bullpen at just the right moment.

"I'm not really trying to force it," said Hamels. "The stuff that I've had, it's gotten me to the big leagues. It's gotten me to have success. Why do I have to try to be better or expect more out of myself when I was able to get the job done pretty well with the stuff that I normally have? I have the stuff to be here. I have the stuff to succeed. I have the stuff to succeed in the postseason. Why was I getting carried with trying to be somebody else I'm not. Even with the stuff I have, it's pretty good. I don't think Mark Buehrle went out and tried to be even better when he threw a perfect game. He just threw a game and it became a perfect game." Let's hope that this revelation means that the Cole Hamels we've come to expect is back, and just in time. A postseason rotation of Cliff Lee, an effective Cole Hamels, and either Joe Blanton or J. A. Happ will be tough to beat.

Let's hope that Hamels has turned the corner.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not Just a Blown Save, but a Blown Game

Brad Lidge did it again.

He squandered a lead by giving up first the tying run to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the 9th last night, and then gave up a walk-off, game-winning homer to Bucco centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. That's now 9 blown saves for Lidge, whose ERA was re-inflated to a gruesome 7.33, by far the worst ERA of any major league closer. In the process, he blew a remarkable comeback by the Phils, who scored two in the top of the 9th on a double by pinch hitter Ben Francisco and a Shane Victorino muffed fly ball that turned into a triple that gave the Phightins a 4-3 lead, as well as two solo homers by Jimmy Rollins (including a lead-off homer to start the game). In the process, Lidge squandered a solid start by Joe Blanton, who didn't have his good stuff but still pitched 6 solid innings.

For once, Lidge was honest last night. He spoke of being tired after pitching in four straight games, and acknowledged, too late to do any good for the team, "I didn't have anything on the ball tonight." For once, Charlie Manuel seemed to be entirely at a loss for words. Perhaps he has finally realized that Lidge is not going to turn it around this year. Perhaps he has finally realized that Lidge is not going to be the answer to the Phils' problems.

Brett Myers is nearly ready to return, and his velocity has been up around 94 mph, which makes for an overpowering fastball. Chan Ho Park has been truly outstanding since being sent to the bullpen. J.C. Romero has the stuff to be an effective closer. Perhaps the time has come to give one of these guys a chance to close, because the Phillies simply cannot afford any more blown saves by Lidge. At this point, I can't help but wonder if the Phillies shouldn't leave Lidge off the post-season roster, because I can't imagine him closing in the World Series the way he's going.

And Billy Wagner is a now a member of the Boston Red Sox. While a return to Philly by Wagner would have been less than an ideal situation--Wagner said he would not waive his no-trade clause to allow it--he certainly couldn't do any worse than Lidge, reconstructed pitching elbow and all. Wagner is no longer an option, which can only benefit the Red Sox. While I admire the job that Ruben Amaro, Jr. has done as general manager, he should have claimed Wagner off waivers and given it a shot.

SOMETHING has to change....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vick to Play on Thursday Night

Andy Reid has stated that Michael Vick will see his first playing time as an Eagle during Thursday night's pre-season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He said that Donovan McNabb and the rest of the starters would play the first three quarters and that Kevin Kolb would play the fourth quarter. That means that Vick will NOT line up as quarterback. Thus, it appears that the only time that we will see Vick is when Andy decides to trot out the Wildcat formation.

When Andy was asked about what he expected of Vick's performance, he said, "I can only go off what I've seen in practice and it looks like he's been moving around pretty good. Again, it pretty much has been two years, so we'll see how it works out. We'll give him a couple shots in there and see what he can do."

I remain vehemently opposed to the whole idea of Michael Vick even being a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but nobody asked my opinion before he was signed. And so he will occupy a roster spot. If he's going to take up a roster spot, let's hope that he (a) makes some positive contributions to the team's success and (b) keeps his nose clean and doesn't do anything stupid along the way. If he does both, perhaps I might gain some respect for him.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Burying the Muts

After another absolutely stellar performance by Cliff Lee today, the Muts are now 57-68 and 16.5 games out of first place. Their lineup today featured the team's homer leader, Fernando Tatis, who has 6 homers this year. Cliff Lee raised his record with the Phils to 5-0, and dropped his National League ERA to a miniscule .68 after giving up only 2 unearned runs in 7 strong innings today. The Phils are now 72-50 and 7 games ahead of the second place Braves.

Best of all, Brad Lidge seems to have righted himself. He's now gone four straight outings without giving up an earned run, and has shaved half a run off his still-bloated ERA. If that's true, it couldn't have happened at a better time.

Ryan Howard blasted 2 homers today, including a three-run shot to the opposite field in the first inning. He now has 34 homers and 104 RBIS, and the big fella is on a real tear. He became only the second Phillies player ever to have four straight seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI's; only Hall of Famer Chuck Klein had accomplished that feat before Howard topped the 100 RBI plateau today. Again, Howard's hot streak couldn't have happened at a better time.

Raul Ibanez had an RBI double today, and hopefully, that will be the beginning of the end of his protracted slump. If all goes according to script, the Phils will finish the season with four players with 30 or more homers (Howard, Ibanez, Werth, and Utley) and three with 100 or more RBI's (Howard, Uteley and Ibanez). Only a handful of teams have ever had four players with 30 or more big flies, so that would be a real plus for the Phils.

Now, it's off to Pittsburgh for a three-game set with a very bad Pirates team. The Phils can put some more distance between them and the rest of the division at the expense of the rebuilding Buccos.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Wild and Wacky Win

First things first: any win over the New York Muts is a good win. Let's begin with that as the overarching premise. The Phillies beat the Muts 9-7 today, meaning that they are now 21 games over .500 and now enjoy a 6.5 game lead over Atlanta. The Muts, who were bragging about being the team to beat in spring training, are 10 games under .500 and are now 15.5 games out of first place.

Pedro Martinez went to 2-0, beating his old team. Martinez went six innings, giving up four runs, including an inside-the-park home run. Once again, the Phillies lit up Oliver Perez like a Christmas tree, including homers by Jayson Werth, who continues to be on a tear and how has 29 homers, and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has hit homers in back-t0-back games.

The game also featured a typically nail-biting save by Brad Lidge, who gave up a run. This time, though, it was not Lidge's fault--the Phils made 2 errors behind him in the bottom of the 9th. Ryan Howard made a three-base error on the lead-off hitter, and then nearly completely useless Eric Bruntlett then kicked a ground ball that brought in a run. The next hitter, Daniel Murphy, got an infield single, and it looked like Lidge was going to blow another save.

And then the useless Eric Bruntlett--playing because Charlie Manuel gave Chase Utley a rare day off--did something VERY useful--he turned what was 15th unassisted triple play in the history of major league baseball, and only the second one to end a game. With Angel Pagan on second base and Murphy on first, Jeff Francouer hit a scorching line drive to Bruntlett, who snagged the liner, stepped on second base to double Pagan, and then chased down and tagged Murphy out for an unassisted triple play (second baseman Mickey Morandini was the only other Phil to do so, in 1992) to end the game. A frustrated Francouer slammed his helmet and bat to the ground at the plate. The photo is of Bruntlett tagging out Murphy to end the game.

"Frenchy hit it on the screws," Murphy said. "It happened so fast there was nothing I could do."

"What a bizarre ending. I don't know what happened there. The game's over, so I'm happy with that," Lidge said. "That was pretty exciting. That's definitely not the way you draw it up."

"Even with the runners going I did not expect him to be there. The only place he could catch the ball was where he was," Francouer said. "To end the way it did was a little disheartening."

And with that, Brad Lidge earned his 25th save and didn't give up an earned run for the third straight appearance. Perhaps he's finally starting to find some consistency. If so, it couldn't happen at a better time.

Bruntlett remains almost completely useless, although he did get 3 hits today, raising his awe-inspiring batting average all the way to .154. However, he does deserve kudos for turning the unassisted triple play to end the game. Good for you, Eric Bruntlett. You still have no place on a major league roster, but at least today, you earned your paycheck.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's a Good Thing It Was Just a Preseason Game....

It's an awfully good thing that tonight's game between the Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts was just a preseason game, and didn't count for anything, because the Birds looked positively awful tonight. For one thing, not one of the starting offensive lineman played a snap tonight. Four of the five are injured. We're now two games into the preseason schedule, and the starting offensive line has yet to play together under game conditions. I am extremely concerned that they will start the season that way, which would not be good.

For another, fullback Leonard Weaver left the game with an injured knee in the first half, and I have no idea how serious that injury might be. The Eagles are really counting on Weaver, so his injury is a significant concern.

The defense looked a little shoddy in the first half. A blown coverage in the defensive secondary led to a 74 yard touchdown pass by Peyton Manning, and the Colts marched right down the field and scored on their first possession, meaning that the Eagles were down 14-0 before they knew what happened to them.

The offense fumbled on its first possession, but McNabb did engineer a nice touchdown drive that led to a 28-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, who split a seam in the Colts' zone for a nice scoring play. That, at least, was most promising.

All things considered, it wasn't an impressive performance by the Eagles against a very good Colts team. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

John Gonzalez of the Inquirer made a very interesting point in his column in today's paper. He points out that Charlie Manuel is keenly aware of the questioning of why he continues to stand by Brad Lidge as his closer after Lidge's inconsistency this year, but that Chollie really has no alternative but to use Lidge. Lidge has a major league-leading eight blown saves this year, only six away from the major league record. The bottom line is that, with Brett Myers still on the disabled list and J.C. Romero out, there really are no other options available. Since Ryan Madsen was even worse than Lidge as closer, Manuel really has nobody else to turn to.

He's very much aware that unless Lidge turns it around, or the Phillies find another closer (such as Billy Wagner), the Phillies will be in serious, serious trouble come October. Charlie's heard the questions coming from the likes of me. "I'm trying to find out what those options are," said Chollie. "I get a lot of help--suggestions." That's probably true--there are plenty of armchair quarterbacks like me out there.

So, the Phillies either need to get busy trying to find someone like Billy Wagner to take over the role of the closer, or they just need to suck it up and hope that Lidge gets his act together and becomes effective for the first time this season. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brilliant. Just Brilliant.

Just when I had written Jamie Moyer off, he was magnificent tonight. Pedro Martinez started and pitched three good innings before a long rain delay came along. Rather than try to send Martinez out there after that long rain delay, Charlie Manuel instead sent Jamie Moyer to the mound, and Moyer was brilliant tonight Just brilliant.

He threw six shutout innings, giving up just two hits and no walks. He had four strikeouts, and had the Arizona Diamondbacks in his back pocket. Moyer got his 11th win, and was just brilliant tonight, once again proving that someone who knows the art of pitching can win in the major leagues with an 80 MPH fastball that probably wouldn't break a pane of glass.

I have to tip my cap to Jamie Moyer tonight. The consummate professional, he was ready when called upon, and he performed magnificently when he got his chance. Nice work, Jamie. Thank you for a clutch performance when the team really needed you to step up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rookie of the Year?

J. A. Happ continues to make a strong case to be the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year. He's now 9-2 with a very respectable 2.66 ERA. Last night, even though Happ didn't have his best stuff--he issued six walks and hit a batter--he still held the Atlanta Braves to a single run in 7 2/3 innings pitched. Happ has now had 15 starts since joining the rotation at the end of May, and he's been the Phillies most consistent starter since then. He's beaten some of the best teams in the National League, including a shutout of the Rockies. Without his 9 wins, the Phils would not be in first place, and he's been critical to stopping some of the losing streaks that the Phillies have endured this year.

It's easy to see why the Toronto Blue Jays were so insistent on Happ being included in any deal for Roy Halladay, and it's likewise easy to see and understand why Ruben Amaro was so insistent that he hang on to Happ. Personally, I'm glad that the deal fell through, that the Phils kept Happ, and that they got Cliff Lee instead.

Each time he goes out to pitch, Happ makes a stronger and stronger statement about being named the National League's Rookie of the Year. He could end up with as many as 15 wins before it's all said and done if he continues to pitch as effectively as he has.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Billy Wagner Redux?

Mets reliever Billy Wagner, the former Phillies closer, is about to come off the disabled list about a year after having Tommy John surgery on his left arm. He has been overpowering during his rehab appearances, but the Muts have Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez as their closer, and there is no room for two closers. Apparently, the Muts will be shopping Wagner, who has one more year remaining on his contract.

Although Brad Lidge got a save against the Braves on Friday night, it was another typical Mitch Williams/Brad Lidge save--he gave up a walk, a stolen base and a hit before finally getting the third out. Given Lidge's lack of reliability, I think that the Phillies would be well-served in at least scouting Wagner and seeing if he might be the solution to their bullpen woes. Wagner will certainly have a better chance of winning a World Series in Philadelphia than he ever will in New York.

Wagner, of course, has been the subject of lots of booing in Philly since leaving town, rightfully so. It could be interesting to see him return.....

Friday, August 14, 2009

More on Michael Vick

I remain absolutely flabbergasted that the Eagles signed Michael Vick. Stunned.

I'm even more stunned that Donovan McNabb advocated for him. I hope it works out. From today's edition of

New Eagles quarterback Michael Vick returned to the NFL with his introductory press conference at a jam-packed NovaCare Complex auditorium, meeting with the local and national media.

“I’m glad to have an opportunity at a second chance and I won’t disappoint,” said Vick, wearing a pinstriped suit and flanked by coach Andy Reid and adviser Tony Dungy.

Outside the gates, there were about 50 people, many protesting but others supporting Vick. One man has a put bull, wearing a No. 7 Falcons jersey.

Vick struck several themes, in which he expressed contrition, and called being in position to return to the NFL "a surreal feeling."

* “It was a point in my life before I was even convicted or before the allegations even came out that I knew it was wrong and I felt it was wrong," Vick said. "Just when I was trying to turn the corner, it was too late. Everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason I was sent to Kansas, a reason I was convicted. I was conscious of that fact. To this day, I have to deal with that shame and embarrassment.”

* “We all used the excuse that it was part of our culture. I don’t think that is an excuse. I was abiding by that rule at the time. When I went to prison, I had plenty of time to think about what I did. Saw people’s reaction … Now I understand people care about their animals, their health, their welfare, the protections of their animals. Now I do.”

* “I was wrong for what I did. Everything that happened at that point in time was wrong. I can’t understand why I was involved to this day … I was a naive to a lot of things. If I can help more animals than I can hurt then I have contributed and I have done my part.”

* "I now know playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right. I want to do whatever is necessary and be the best ambassador to the NFL and in the community."

Vick also said he would contribute to the community and make a "conscious effort" to continue his work with the Humane Society.

“My actions will speak louder than my words, to be proactive, involved in community. People will see that in due time. I have been working with the Humane Society, working with certain inner cities and communities to make sure we attack the problem.”

Owner Jeffrey Lurie, an acknowledged dog lover, had some harsh comments for Vick’s actions, calling them horrific and not meeting the basic standards of human decency. Lurie made a 14-minute opening statement, detailing his feelings.

"His legend, he will be successful if he can diminish the level of animal cruelty and that's it," Lurie said. "If he is not proactive, he will not be on the team, because that is part of the agreement."

Lurie also tried to look forward. He described a lot of soul searching and a long meeting with he and Vick. Lurie said it was the first he had been so involved in the process of signing a player.

“My hope as we go forward is Michael will prove his value in society,” Lurie said. “Whether he becomes a good football player again, it’s possible. He’s got an opportunity to become a good member of society. That’s the goal here.”

Vick, who has not played in an NFL game since December 2006, is expected to practice with the Eagles for the first time tomorrow. He is eligible to play in the third preseason game against Jacksonville. His regular season debut is still up in the air, pending review by comissioner Roger Goodell. It could come as late as Week 6.

“I’ve been away from game for two years. Have to crawl before I can walk," Vick said. "I can’t imagine trying to be a starter for a football team. As much God-given ability as I have, I don’t think I could do it. I think I could, but wouldn’t want to risk it. I need time to get my feet wet ... I thought this was a perfect scenario, a perfect situation to learn from Donovan [McNabb] … I want to get with Coach Reid and Donovan and become a complete quarterback.”

Vick said he has tested his physical skills, although it will take time to get acclimated.

“I am ready to go," Vick said. "I stayed in shape, did all the things to keep up my physical physique. It was hard when I was away, but last two months, I have done the things to maintain my weight, my build, my speed. I think I have tested the waters and I feel great.”

Vick was asked about the reaction he expected from the fans.

“Hopefully, it’s positive … Fans expect a lot of the players. We have to put on a great performances, put on a how and ultimate winning games. Sometimes they’re good to you, sometimes they’re not so good. That is part of the game, that is part of this business.”

Reid struck on the theme of second chances, as he did after last night’s game.

“The majority of the public wants Michael to do well,” Reid said.

As for joining the Eagles, Dungy expressed that Vick was in the right place. He said he would be available to help Vick and the Eagles in whatever way he was asked.

“I am really happy that things turned out this way,” Dungy said. “I am proud of the Philadelphia Eagles. I know they didn’t do this as a charity measure … They also stepped out to give a man a second chance and I think that is important. I think this is going to work out great. I didn’t think he could be with a better organization … Have a great support system here in place for him.”

Asked why he landed with the Eagles, Vick said: “I know everyone is thinking why Philadelphia. It’s a flagship organization, great tradition, great staff, a winning team. They have a great team in place and want to be a part of that … I want to give the team every opportunity to win a Super Bowl. I’m considering this my first year, just trying to fit in wherever I can and get acclimated and do whatever I can to help this team succeed and reach the Super Bowl.”

Vick's former team, the Atlanta Falcons, issued a brief statement: “Michael is going to a first-class organization and will receive tremendous support from Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie, Team President Joe Banner, Head Coach Andy Reid and Quarterback Donovan McNabb. Michael has been given a good opportunity to restart his career in the NFL, and we wish him well.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released this statement: "I have said several times in recent weeks that I want Michael to be one of the NFL's success stories as an individual and as a football player. I believe he can accomplish both goals with the Eagles organization which has done an outstanding job in the community and on the field these last 15 years under the direction of owner Jeffrey Lurie. I know the Eagles will provide strong support but, ultimately, Michael’s success is up to him and the decisions he makes."

The Eagles have always said that they are about character, and that being about character sets them apart from the rest of the National Football League. They can no longer claim that moral high ground, and that saddens me most of all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back-Up Quarterback Issues

Kevin Kolb injured his knee over the weekend, another of the many injuries that the Eagles have sustained already this training camp. Kolb's injury is particularly worrisome, because if something happens to Donovan McNabb, Kolb at least knows the system and can step in and run the offense. So far as I know, other than third-stringer A. J. Feeley, there isn't another quarterback on the roster who really knows the system. Kolb won't be out all season, or so they say, but right now, they need another quarterback with only Feeley available.

The Birds have signed former Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele yesterday. He is an undrafted rookie who didn't make the team coming out of spring workouts. "I don't think I can put it into words how excited I was," said DiMichele. "The next thing I know I was getting on a flight at 5:30. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to a few of my family members. I just packed up and took off." DiMichele passed his physical and joined the team yesterday, and will probably see a few snaps in tonight's first pre-season game against the Patriots. With Kolb injured, Feeley will probably see a lot of snaps tonight.

I will be curious to see how first-round draft pick Jeremy Maclin does tonight in his real debut as an Eagle.

The Eagles broke their training camp yesterday with lots of important injured players and a team that is not especially healthy. It's not a good way to open the pre-season. Let's hope that the rash of injuries is finally over.

UPDATE, 9:22 PM: Michael Vick, the convicted criminal, was definitely NOT what I had in mind when I suggested that the Eagles really need a back-up quarterback.

"I'm happy with my quarterback situation here," said Andy Reid. "I do believe this kid deserves a second chance, and there's nobody better to have in your corner than Tony Dungy, man. He's a class, class act, and I know commissioner Goodell has stood up on the table for the kid, so I'm sure there were some things that happened there that built trust in him. He's got great people in his corner, and I'm pulling for him."

To say that I am disappointed in an Eagles' front office that would let Brian Dawkins leave, but which would sign this criminal doesn't begin to do it justice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meltdown, Part 2

Brad Lidge had yet another meltdown last night. He blew his seventh save of the season, giving up the game tying run to the Cubs in the bottom of the 9th by giving up a couple of hits and a back-breaking lead-off walk. Luckily, the Phillies won the game in the 12th inning, in spite of Lidge. Chad Durbin, just returned from the disabled list, got the win.

"I'm definitely frustrated by it," said Lidge. "I know in that situation you never want to give up a leadoff walk. I felt that maybe those pitches were pretty close, but that being said, I could have made them closer so they had to be called strikes. I was definitely frustrated by it. We'll just leave it at that. The bottom line is, it's a leadoff walk, it's a one-run game, and it kills you. I'm not happy with how it went, but I'm happy we got the win."

He shouldn't be happy with it. He sucks this year. Massively. And he has absolutely no business being a closer now, at the height of a pennant race. His ERA is a very grim 7.29, and he cannot be relied upon for anything other than to give up at least one run virtually every time he appears now.

It's time that Charlie stop trotting Lidge out there with the game on the line, and use Madsen or Durbin as his closer until Brett Myers comes back. Lidge just cannot be relied upon with the game on the line this year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Sorry for not posting for a few days. My wife and I are actually in California on vacation, and there just wasn't time to post.

That was quite a meltdown against the troublesome Marlins this past weekend. The Phils' bats went to sleep, the pitching was inconsistent and unreliable, and nothing worked. Instead of burying the Fish, the Phillies let them right back into the running. Their lead went from a comfortable 7 games to a not-so-comfortable 3.5 games, and who knows what will happen next.

And, in the midst of all of it, Jamie Moyer pitched himself right out of the starting rotation with another atrocious start. Pedro Martinez makes his Phillies' debut tomorrow night, and Moyer has been shunted off to the pen, where his style of pitching is not well suited at all. "Jamie was a total professional and team player when we let him know of the decision to move him to the bullpen. He has been and will continue to be a very important part of this team," said Charlie Manuel. Moyer is a realist, and he has to know that he has not been effective or consistent. Moyer is signed through next year, and I hope that he realizes that it's time for him to hang them up before he really embarrasses himself. Moyer is a class act, and I'm sure that there will be a position for him in the front office when the time comes for him to retire.

It's not that simple. Moyer is not happy, and he has spoken out publicly to express his unhappiness with the situation. "I'm really not happy with this decision that the Phillies have made," he said, sitting in the stands behind the first base dugout. "I will take what they've asked me to do, but I'm not really excited about the decision that has been made. Ultimately, I'm a little disheartened because this past winter when I was negotiating with the Phillies this was a sore thumb, but if you will, about this potentially happening.

"You can't promise anything in this game, but I really felt that Ruben (Amaro Jr.) parlayed to me that this type of situation would not happen. Actually even had some discussion with David (Montgomery) with them reassuring me that this type of situation wouldn't happen. Again, I'm a little disheartened by the way it's happened, how it's happened. We're still in first place. I probably feel like I haven't contributed as well as I could have, but I think if you go around to the other 24 players on our club they would probably say the same type of thing.

"Whether I like it or not, this is the situation I'm in. I will deal with it. I will deal with it in a respectful way. I'll be respectful to my teammates. Like I said in the beginning, I do not want to be a distraction and I refuse to be a distraction. It's about the 25 players that are here. We all have to pick each other up. We all have to support each other. We all have to be professional about what we do. This is a job that sometimes you're in situations that you like or dislike and you have to deal with it. That's why for me dealing with this like a man and taking whatever they choose to do. I'm an employee here, but I don't always have to like the situation that I'm in. And that's OK. Life goes on. But like I said, I feel a little disheartened. I feel a little bit like I've been misled. I feel like I've played this game long enough that the respect factor should be there."

I don't really blame Jamie Moyer for feeling this way, but I commend him for insisting that he will be the sort of consummate professional that I expected he would be. I am a little surprised that he spoke out the way he did, but the man is a class act. But he's a class act whose time to gracefully fade from the picture has come. Ultimately, as he pointed out, the team has to come first.

I'm looking forward to Pedro's debut with great interest. The way I see it, he can't be any worse or any more inconsistent than Moyer has been all season, and we know that Pedro will throw a lot harder than Moyer ever did. He will make his debut in Chicago against the Cubs, which will be a challenge.

Martinez also handled the situation with class. "I'm a man," he said. "I'm a human being. So is Jamie. He's my friend, my teammate, my colleague, whatever you want to call it. Of course, you have to feel. If it happened the same way, if I went to the bullpen, I wouldn't be happy. It wasn't my decision. It wasn't me. I was placed in this position. As a matter of fact, I didn't know anything until yesterday."

Of greater concern was another torching of Brad Lidge in the series finale against the Marlins. Lidge pitched only one inning, gave up another 3 earned runs, and inflated his already enormous ERA to a very grim 7.24. He blew another save tonight, coughing up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th inning, forcing the Phillies into extra innings in a game where it shouldn't have been necessary. Once Brett Myers returns, there really is no harm to giving him a shot at closing, because Lidge surely isn't getting the job.

This team has been streaky all year, so I guess this is nothing new. However, it's now August, and October isn't far off. They need to get settled down, and they need to gain some consistency, or else they will have no chance of repeating as World Series champions. It's now or never, guys.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Chance to Bury the Marlins

The Florida Marlins come to Philadelphia tonight for a three-game set. The Fish are 55-53, and in second place, 7 games behind the Phightin's. The Phils are 16 games over .500 and can pretty much nail things down this weekend if they can manage to take three from Florida.

Joe Blanton goes tonight. Blanton has been on a major hot streak, going 5-2 with a 2.33 ERA in his last twelve starts. Overall, he is 7-5, with an ERA of 4.04, which has been slowly but steadily dropping. In his last start, against San Francisco, he allowed 2 runs on 7 hits and struck out 5. He has not allowed more than 2 runs in an outing since June 30, when Atlanta got 3. He also leads the Phillies pitching staff in most innings pitched, a testament to his sturdiness. In addition, he leads the staff in strikeouts.

I don't think anyone expected Blanton to be a stopper when the Phils acquired him last summer, but he has certainly proved that he is capable of filling that role. After getting beyond the rocky start he had, he has been the Phillies' most effective and most reliable starter.

Florida has some interesting young players, but they clearly are not in the same category as the Phils, who have to be considered if not the best team in the National League, one of the two best teams in the Senior Circuit with the Dodgers.

If the Phils sweep Florida, they will be 19 games over .500 and have something close to a 10 game lead. Absent a complete collapse, which is very unlikely, they would have the National League East well in hand.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Six Man Rotation??????

Today, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. made a very welcome announcement: J. A. Happ will not be removed from the starting rotation to make room for Pedro Martinez. That's some extremely good news, and I feel relieved to hear that.

However, Amaro then made a bizarre statement. "Going with a six-man rotation is not out of the realm of possibility," he said. "There are a lot of permutations. We haven't discussed it yet. You never know what's going to happen in the next week to 10 days. A guy can go down [get injured]."

Why in the world would the Phillies do that? Adding another starting pitcher to the rotation just means that the tough pitchers--Hamels, Lee, and Blanton--would have to wait one additional day to pitch and get fewer starts. It's crazy.

I understand that Moyer has a large, rich contract that's guaranteed for next year, and I completely understand loyalty and going home with the one who brought you to the dance. But the bottom line is defending the World Series championship, and I don't think that the Phillies will get there with Jamie Moyer still in their starting rotation once Pedro Martinez joins the staff.

Cliff Lee had another very strong outing for the Phils today in earning his second win in his first start before the home crowd at The Bank. Lee threw 7 strong innings, gave up 6 hits and 1 run, with 9 strikeouts against a good Colorado team. That's now two very strong performances by Lee, who is proving to be the ace that the Phils hoped he would be. Why add another starter and cut the number of starts for Lee? That would be insane.

C'mon, Ruben. You're smarter than that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Think That the Time Has Come....

....for Jamie Moyer to lose his spot in the Phillies' starting rotation. Moyer had no command of his slow ball last night and got hit hard again. To his credit, he admitted as much after the game, which, unfortunately, does nothing to win games for the team. Moyer's made major contributions to the team's success. Of that, there can be no dispute. And yes, he does have 10 wins this year.

However, he also has a 5.55 ERA, and he's been hit hard much more than not. The Phils are about to add Pedro Martinez to their pitching staff, and the front office has made no bones about the fact that Martinez was brought in to be a starter. With Moyer in the rotation, there is no room for Pedro. Pedro struck out 9 of the first 12 batters he faced in his rehab start at Reading tonight, allowing 3 runs and 5 hits in 6 solid innings. He's just about ready to return to the major leagues.

Charlie Manuel, bless his soul, is a loyal man, and he has stated that he hasn't really considered removing Moyer from the rotation because Moyer has more than 250 career wins and has made major contributions. I agree, those things should count for something. However, the issue is not loyalty, but winning games. Moyer has just been too erratic and has been hit way too hard way too often this year, and I can only hope that, having gotten to the 250 win milestone, he will retire at the end of the season and join the Phillies' front office, where he belongs.

The other option is to remove J.A. Happ from the rotation. What's Happ done? He's 7-2 with an ERA of less than 3.0, and so far tonight, he's pitched 5 strong shutout innings and has given up only two hits so far. Happ needs--deserves--to be part of the starting rotation.

And what happens when Brett Myers returns later this month? I hope that Myers returns as closer and not as starter. He likes that role, and he did very well in it.

This is a tough decision, no matter how you slice it. But Jamie Moyer is nothing if not the consummate professional, and I have absolutely no doubt that he will understand and act like the true pro that he is if he's demoted to the bullpen. The name on the front of the uniform needs to be more important than the name on the back, and I think Moyer understands that.

UPDATE, 9:30 PM: Happ pitched a complete game, 7-0 shutout. He gave up only 4 hits and had 10 strikeouts, including the final hitter of the game. His ERA is now a very respectable 2.74, has an 8-2 record, and has to be considered to be a serious contender for National League Rookie of the Year. Nice job, J.A. Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Maclin Finally Signs and the Eagles Sign a Linebacker

The Eagles' first round draft choice, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, finally signed today after a nine day contract holdout. The kid is a rookie, and he really needs every minute of training camp. I am concerned that he will not be able to make up this time when he really needed to be at camp learning Andy Reid's complicated offensive scheme. However, better late than never, as they say. He signed a five-year, $15.5 million deal.

"We'll see what his retention was from the minicamps and it's my responsibility to get him ready and we've got one of the very best receiver coaches in this league and he takes that responsibility seriously as well," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "So, we'll see what happens here and he's got a lot of catching up to do. However, he's a real sharp guy, he's a natural football player and se we'll see how quickly he can get himself ready."

Time will tell.

On another note, the Eagles also signed linebacker Matt Wilhelm today. Wilhelm, who was a two-year starter at San Diego, had been cut by the Chargers. I saw Wilhelm play college ball, as he played here at Ohio State, and he was a quick, hard-hitting linebacker then. Let's see how he does in the Eagles' system. Once again, time will tell.

At least the Eagles are trying to make the best of the loss of Stewart Bradley by trying to fill his spot with another competent middle linebacker.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Am Worried About the Eagles' Defense

I am genuinely concerned about the Eagles' defense this year. This team wins because of defense, not because of offense. The defense has now taken three major hits, and from where I sit, there is plenty to be worried about.

First came the unfortunate death of defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson. Johnson was the architect of the defense, and he was the driving force behind it. He was its spiritual leader, the guy that made the Eagles the feared defensive team that they have been for the last decade. He's the guy who reinvented the position of safety with the great Brian Dawkins. I realize that the new defensive coordinator is a Johnson disciple, but he's not Jim Johnson. There will never be another Jim Johnson. And I can't help but wonder what that will mean to the team.

And then, there's the loss of Dawkins. BDawk is probably the best safety to play the game. Ever. And the Eagles let him leave. While his skills are diminished at 36, Weapon X was the unquestioned on-field leader of the defense. His are a huge pair of shoes to fill. While I think Quentin Mikell is a perfectly fine player, the bottom line is that he's not Dawkins, and in a season without Jim Johnson, I really fear what the loss of Dawkins will mean to the defense.

And then today, the Eagles announced that their fine young middle linebacker, Stewart Bradley (pictured above), is lost for the season with a blown ACL. That means that Omar Gaither--who was replaced as the starting middle linebacker by Bradley after starting in the middle for the 2007 season--is the likely starting middle linebacker. Again, with no disrespect intended to Gaither, who did alright as a role player last year, he's not Stewart Bradley. Without Dawkins and Bradley to stop the run, I cannot help but wonder how well the Birds will play run defense this year.

As is the usual case, Andy Reid won't discuss the situation, so we're left to guess and speculate and hope for the best. He decided to punish the beat writers for talking to Bradley directly instead of waiting for him to talk about the injury. That's one thing about Big Red that I have always hated.

I wonder how the Birds' defense will do without their spiritual leader in Johnson and without their on-field leader in Dawkins. Losing one is a big blow. Losing both may be too much of a blow to overcome. Mix in the loss of the well-regarded starting middle linebacker, and I am deeply worried about this.....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's Wrong With Cole Hamels?

There is no question that the Phillies could not and would not have won the World Series last year without Cole Hamels. That's a fact. Hamels was the workhorse of the staff, and he was nothing short of spectacular in the post season. He threw 267 innings last year, more than any other season in his career.

Perhaps those were too many innings. Perhaps there were too many off-season distractions (Hamels has admitted as much). Perhaps those distractions caused him to come to spring training unprepared for the season (again, he has admitted as much). I don't know what it is now, but he has been extremely inconsistent. When he's on, he's very, very good. But on days like today, when he consistently kept getting his pitches up, he gets hit hard. And this year, he has gotten hit hard more often than not.

So far in his career, Hamels has had lots of comparisons to all-time Phillies great Steve "Lefty" Carlton, picture above. Both are southpaws, both are tall and lanky, and both throw hard to hit pitches--for Carlton it was his slider, and for Hamels, his change-up. Carlton was clearly the ace of the Phillies' staff, and Hamels is supposed to be. Those are all good comparisons. However, there is one comparison that scares me.

After losing to the Giants today, his line looks something like this: 7-6, with a nasty 4.68 ERA. Last year, of course, he was 14-10, with a 3.09 ERA, a full 1.5 runs per 9 innings less than his ERA so far this year. I wonder if I am the only one that sees parallels in Hamels' performance this year and with Steve Carlton's in 1973. In 1972, Carlton went 27-10, with a 1.97 ERA in a staggering 346.1 innings, with 310 strikeouts. The next year, after winning the Cy Young Award and being feted around the country, Carlton was 13-20, with an ERA of 3.90, and only 223 strikeouts in 293.1 innings. The Lefty of 1973 was definitely not the Lefty of 1972. He didn't really return to form until 1976.

Let's hope that, at least in this sense, Cole Hamels is not Steve Carlton. All I can say is that it's a good thing that Ruben Amaro went out and got Cliff Lee, because I doubt that the Phillies would have had much of a real chance of making it past the first round of the playoffs with Hamels at the top of the rotation unless he really gets his act together between now and the end of the season.