Monday, March 31, 2003

The $85 million RBI

So this is why we got this guy...on the first pitch he saw this afternoon, Jim Thome ripped a double to right-center, scoring Bobby Abreu from first after Abreu had worked a two-out walk. 1-0 Phillies after half an inning.

I'm not too excited for real baseball, am I??

Opening Day is here...

I'm sure that many of you joined me last night in collapsing on your couches, flipping to ESPN, and listening to Jon Miller call the first ballgame of the season. Opening Day is here, and the long sprint to the finish line begins now. The Phillies already know that they need to reverse last season's April flop if they want a shot to win this year. It has become even more important to start well and build up a decent lead on Atlanta, while 2/5ths of their projected starting rotation starts the year on the DL (Byrd and Hampton).

The Phils open up this afternoon at 4:05 at Pro Player Stadium against the Florida Marlins. TV coverage is on KYW-3, and radio can be found on 950 AM. Let's Play Ball!

Quintessential leadoff hitter?

Watching last night's game, I was sent into hysterics by a Jon Miller assessment of the Rangers' new leadoff man, former Phillie Doug Glanville. During Glanville's 2nd plate appearance of the evening, Miller commented that Glanville was the "quintessential leadoff hitter" after working the count to full in each of his first two plate appearances. Miller, who I usually feel is very good in analysis and handing out accolades where they are due, may have been too giving in this description. In praising Glanville, Miller made no mention of his ability to put the ball into play (which he does an above average 87% for his career) or his speed. He made this analysis based solely on his ability to work deep into a count, having seen Glanville work the count full in both of his plate appearances on the year.

Yet a quick look at Glanville's stats for last season show that his first two plate appearances last night were an abberration, not the norm. In fact, Glanville saw a 3-2 count only 28 times last season. In those 28 full counts, Glanville hit an anemic .214, although he did raise his chances of getting on base to a much more leadoff-like .371. Looking at his overall numbers in the leadoff spot last season, Glanville had only a .308 OBP. In all, Glanville only saw about 3.5 pitches per plate appearance last season, which would have been good for about 125th in the majors last year -- not exactly the numbers one wants from their lineup's table-setter.

So it appears that Miller may have jumped too soon in heaping praise on the Rangers' new leadoff man. But the moment allowed me to laugh at the normally correct Miller, and take a few minutes away from cursing his broadcast partner.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Links, links, and...what's that? Oh yes, a link.

A couple of links to add to the collection on the left...

-- I don't know how I managed this, but I was part of the blogging world for almost two months before I finally stumbled upon Alex Belth's Bronx Banter. Alex keeps tabs on David Wells until the wee hours of the morning, and still finds time to get interviews with Ken Burns and Marvin Miller. Great stuff over there, so go check him out.

-- Josh and Matt are following the daily doings of the NL Champion Giants, and join in the SF Livan "fan club":

--Livan Hernandez--trade in all-you-can-eat buffets for weights and low-carb diet, and keep golf club use confined to golf courses. (Side note to Livan: when you're already overweight, and being criticized for it, wearing a baggy jersey only make things worse!)

Check them out at The New Giant Thrill.

-- Last but not least, the lovely Rachael Reid offers a baseball trivia e-mail every Wednesday and Saturday night. Some questions are easy, some are much harder, but she promises that only a few of them will involve Kevin Orie. If you are interested in checking that out, you can e-mail her at Note: Go ahead and let the name fool you...she's as cute and harmless as a bunny. Well, as long as you don't tick her off... *wink*

My blood is boiling

I was going to pop on here this morning and write about the ineptitude of the Phillies bats last night as they were no-hit by the Devil Rays, of all teams. But then I found something that made me even more upset. While reading David Pinto's Baseball Musings this morning, I learned that TBS has "demoted" Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren from its broadcasts this season. These two will only be working games on Turner South, while Don Sutton and Joe Simpson will be carrying the load on TBS. To many of you, I am sure this falls in the "so what?" category. But it touched a nerve with me, and I responded to David to tell him so. Excuse my rant, but here is what I sent him...


The news of Skip Carey and Pete Van Wieren had passed under my radar
until I read your blurb about it this morning. To say it makes my
blood boil is an understatement.

The decision by TBS to move Skip Carey and Pete Van Wieren to Turner
South broadcasts and not on TBS is absolutely ridiculous! And TBS's
decision to promote their games as "MLB on TBS" and not "Braves on TBS"
is just as dumb.

I had the pleasure of growing up in South Florida in the 80s, long
before the Marlins came to town. For a baseball fan like myself, my
only viewing option -- other than the Saturday Game of the Week -- was
the lowly Braves on TBS. So I watched them. Night after night, day
after day, I watched the pathetic teams that the Braves sent out to the
field in the eighties. I enjoyed watching Dale Murphy, Oddibe
McDowell, Ken Oberkfell, Chris Chambliss, Rafael Ramirez, Glenn
Hubbard, etc. day in and day out. But more importantly, I enjoyed
listening to the pictures that guys like Carey and Van Wieren painted
for me. They were the ones who really got me into baseball...

For a number of years, it was the presence of the Braves on the
schedule that carried a young TBS station. As the Braves grew in the
early 90s, so did the station. One has always been synonymous with the
other -- the Braves are part of what TBS is, and Skip Carey and Pete
Van Wieren are part of the Braves.

Even after I moved to the Philadelphia area, I have enjoyed listening
to Braves broadcasts in order to hear these two gentlemen, as well as
their partners, Don Sutton and Joe Simpson. The foursome offered a
good listening experience, baseball insight, and overall general
entertainment. Knowing that by watching only TBS this season I will be
missing half of this broadcasting team, I find myself less likely to
watch a TBS broadcast on a regular basis.

I know that not everyone agrees with me on this count. Some people do
not enjoy listening to the Braves foursome. But we each have our own
tastes. Personally, a baseball highlight for me has always been Sid
Bream sliding (almost in slow motion) across the plate, and Skip Carey -
- echoing his father, almost -- yelling "Braves win! Braves win!
Braves win!". These guys are a part of my own baseball history.

I caught a TBS baseball promo the other day, and I was struck how it
was promoting Major League Baseball on TBS, not the that
point I turned to my wife and asked her what they thought they were
hiding by taking the focus away from the team that they broadcast. I
guess now we know. They are trying to develop a more national flavor
to their broadcasts, and thus in their broadcasters; yet, every game on
that station will still have the Braves. Granted, they have a national
following, but these games will not create the same sort of national
appeal as would a schedule with different teams every time.

I just don't understand the decision. Braves baseball has worked on
TBS for 20 years. Carey and Van Wieren have made it work. By trying
to give the broadcast more of a national feel, TBS is losing so much of
what has made the Braves broadcasts work for so long. It's a poor
decision, and I think they will suffer because of it.

As I said, you may or may not agree with me on this. But the Braves crew is part of why I enjoy baseball -- much like listening to Joe Morgan drives many of us crazy. For each of us, there are baseball voices -- Harry Carey, Jack Buck, Vin Scully, Harry Kalas, Bob Uecker. For me, among those voices are Skip and Pete. This is a bad move by TBS, and we, the viewers, lose out because of it.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Previews, previews, previews...

They are everywhere right now. You can find them in your local papers; you can find them in national papers; you can find them in magazines; you can find them on the Internet. I'll spare you with too many specifics. One that did catch my eye was the most recent issue of Sports Weekly -- which, by the way, I have not enjoyed since they expanded to include football every week. Anyway, what I found interesting in this week's issue is that despite the many columnists in that publication hyping the Phillies for most of the winter, 6 of 7 selected "experts" did not choose the Phillies to win the NL East this season.

Then again, maybe this is a good omen...

Another preview that caught my eye today:'s preview of the Phillies' minor leaguers. I hope to highlight a number of Phillies prospects in the coming weeks and months, but this is a good intro to start the season.

In other news...

-- They were reading my mind, I swear. I was sitting here just Tuesday wondering whether or not former Phillies minor league 3B Travis Chapman -- a Rule 5 pick by Cleveland who was dealt to Detroit -- was going to make the Tigers' roster. To that point, I had not found a single article on him or his chances. Since then, I have read that he was not expected to make it, that the Tigers were trying to work out a deal for him, and that he was being sent back to Philly. He's back in red pinstripes now, and expected to start the season at AAA Scranton.

-- X-rays on Tyler Houston were negative, but he may start the season on the DL as a precautionary measure. It's looking more and more likely that 2B Chase Utley will make the cut and head north, at least for a short time.

One year rental?

From today's ATM Reports:

1) A's GM Billy Beane says any rumors that the A's have had trade talks regarding Miguel Tejada are "Fiction. Total fiction. I don't know where these guys come up with this stuff. I don't even think teams will call, because they know what we're planning to do with Miguel."

Meanwhile, there is a rumor of Tejada to the Phillies for Jimmy Rollins and P Brett Myers, which both sides are denying.

I certainly hope that's fiction. While Tejada would be a significant (probably) upgrade over Rollins at short, I would not want to give up the futures on Rollins and Myers (especially Myers) for what is likely a one-year rental on Tejada. First of all, the chances of Ed Wade pulling the trigger on this deal (forget whether or not Billy Beane would agree to it) are slim, as he has been very hesitant to break up the nucleus of the team he has built, and unwilling to trade the future arms of the organization. But even if he did, the chances of management shelling out the dollars that Tejada would want to remain in Philly -- even (or maybe especially) one year after opening the purse strings for Thome & Co. -- are even slimmer.

I don't have to make the argument that Tejada will eventually be paid more than he is worth -- the fellows over at Elephants in Oakland have already done that. Check it out, and let's hope this deal is truly fiction.

From Lee Sinins's ATM Reports yesterday:

4) Devil Rays MGR Lou Piniella says, barring a trade, Marlon Anderson is going to be the starting RF on Opening Day.

My first thought was, "Sure. If you've seen Marlon play, you know that he positions himself in shallow right field on every play." Then I realized that wasn't what he was talking about.

Marlon -- he of the -10 RCAA last season and -54 RCAA for his career -- was at best an average 2B, both offensively and defensively. While his defense might be okay in RF, his offense will be absolutely putrid. Comparing him to projected starting RF in the AL this season, here are Marlon's ranks in various categories (using 2002 stats):

(out of 14 AL teams)
Runs: 8th
Hits: 3rd
Doubles: 4th
Triples: 2nd
Homeruns: 11th
RBI: 10th
Stolen Bases: 8th
Batting Avg: 9th
On-base: 11th
Slugging: 14th
OPS: 14th

Okay...putrid might be a little harsh. His speed is average, which help his doubles and triples numbers. Those rankings, along with his rankings in hits, are higher due to a larger number of plate appearances in comparison to the competition. (The AL RF group includes a number of players who were injured for at least part of the year -- Higginson, Gonzalez, Dye, Gibbons, Catalanotto; some part time players last year -- Tucker, Mondesi, Garcia; and a rookie who will get more time this year -- Cuddyer.) But his batting average of .258, while acceptable for a second baseman, will hurt him in RF. As will his weak power numbers. He not only finished last in SLG and OPS, he finished 26 and 41 points behind Michael Tucker in those categories, respectively.

Granted, we are talking about Tampa Bay here. Anderson may be an upgrade over what they had last season. But he's not going to be a significant one, and the Rays might be better off if RF was where Marlon positioned himself for 2B.

Mt. Bowa

Okay...I am not going to harp on Larry Bowa's temper. We have all known from Day One that the fire has been burning, and that it is always only a matter of time until it boils over. That said, I appreciated yesterday's outburst. It's nice to see that the manager -- not to mention the rest of the roster -- is willing to stick up for the $85 million man.

Look, I am only 25 years old. I missed the days when if a player on your team got plunked, you would plunk the opposing pitcher when he came to the plate the next time around. I've grown up in the days of "I plunk you, you hit me, we dance for a bit around the mound, and we both get tossed out of the game." The whole idea of warnings, ejections, and suspensions is ridiculous when it comes to a hit-by-pitch. Last time I checked, pitching inside is part of the game, and an essential one for a successful pitcher. Some control their pitches better than others. But even the best lose control every once in a while -- heck, even the pitching artist that is Greg Maddux plunked four guys last year (for comparison purposes, yesterday's perpetrator, Roy Halladay, hit 7). Pitchers are going to hit batters every-so-often with a wayward pitch. Chances are, it's accidental. Rub it off, turn towards first, and take your base. If you think it's intentional, have your pitcher hit their guy later in the day, give him a base, and call it even. End of story.

What I can't stand are the evil stares, the charging of the mound, the benches clearing, the bravado that comes with standing around and doing nothing. *rolls his eyes* As far as I am concerned, the first hit-by-pitch of a game should be considered accidental. The retribution should be considered just that; let it go, call it even, and play ball. Anything after that is needless and should be responded to. But from the hitter's perspective, if you get hit, shed some tears and take your base. If you charge the mound, you should be tossed. Chances are, the guy wasn't trying to hit you -- in fact, he's helping you and your team by giving you a free base. Take it. Steal second. Make him regret it. Instead, too many of today's idiots charge the mound in some act of self-defense. Nope, sorry, your defense is to take the next pitch and drive in a run. If you charge the mound, you deserve to be tossed and get an automatic suspension.

The same goes for anyone who leaves the bench -- manager included -- and bullpen. Ejection and automatic suspension. Maybe the loss of a paycheck of two will help these players come to their senses. You come to the defense of your teammates on the field...and I don't mean by pushing and shoving in the infield.

Beanball "fights" are ridiculous. They make baseball players look childish and bratty -- more so than they already are. When you realize that a hit-by-pitch actually gives the batting team an advantage by adding a base runner, it seems even more stupid. Baseball needs to do something -- probabaly in the way of suspensions and fines -- to cut this crap out of the game. But that's just my opinion...


I really didn't mean to start a diatribe on beanballs and such this morning. My main purpose in speaking of Bowa was to say that I felt that yesterday's outburst -- and to clarify, I mean Bowa's outrage at the warnings; not his comments to Halladay, nor the clearing of the benches -- was good. It showed that he and the team are willing to protect their prized possession. More importantly, it appeared to spark a sputtering offense as we are now 4 days away from Opening Day. Wake the bats up,'s time to get rolling.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Mt. Bowa has erupted. Let's hope that the injury to Thome is not serious. I'll have more of a response to this tomorrow...

Fantasy League Invite

I recently started a Yahoo fantasy league with a few college friends. However, outside of the 3 of us who wanted to do it, we have had no interested from our extended group of friends. So I am going to extend an offer to anyone out there. We have 7 openings left, and are looking for anyone who will be active and just out to have fun with this. It is part of Yahoo's free leagues, and we will be doing an automatic draft. If you are interested, drop me a line.

Roster Notes

-- The idea of having Thome, Burrell, and Abreu hitting 3-4-5 did not even last through the spring. Larry Bowa has slid Abreu back up to the 3-spot -- which I have earlier argued is his best spot -- and is trying to find the right combo of Thome and Burrell in the 4- and 5-spots. Don't mark any of this in pen, as Bowa will likely play with these three spots for most of the season.

-- Pitching injuries: Both Brandon Duckworth and Turk Wendell threw on the side yesterday. Both were short sessions, but both were deemed fairly successful. Both are still expected to start the season on the DL, but at least Duckworth could return soon thereafter. In other pitching news, Bud Smith, recovering from off-season surgery, is expected to pitch one inning in today's exhibition game.

-- In a perfect follow-up to my entry on the roster situation yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer had an article in today's paper (although for the life of me, I can't find it online) about Rheal Cormier, and the Phillies reluctancy to part with him. Most obvious, of course, is the fact that the Phillies are hesitant to simply hand him a $3.2 million check, show him to the door, and thank him for his services. Additionally, just about everyone from the coaching staff on up believes that, despite his struggles last year and his inconsistancy this spring, he can still be an influential addition to the bullpen this season. New pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who worked with Cormier in both Montreal and Boston, believes that will a few mechanical changes, Cormier can recover that consistancy and be an effective pitcher. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but we are talking about a situational lefty here -- for as little as he pitches, and for as important as his appearances will be, the team needs someone in that role that will be consistant. I'm not sure that Cormier is that guy. I'd rather go with the hot hand, and give Crowell a shot, despite the inexperience. Cormier has shown over the last two seasons at the Vet that while he can be good at times, he can be frustratingly bad at others. We need more than that from the bullpen this season.

So, as I said yesterday, expect Cormier to remain with the team as they start in Miami on Monday, sending another deserving pitcher to the minors.

-- Backup 1B/3B Tyler Houston has not swung a bat since he suffered bruised ribs from a hit-by-pitch on Saturday against the Red Sox. His slow recovery has concerned the team, who have since called for X-rays on the ribcage. The Phillies major concern is that Houston is the main backup for Thome at 1B. As a precaution, the Phillies have recalled Eric Valent from the minors. How this helps the backup situation at first is beyond me...

Tuesday, March 25, 2003


Administrative Note #1: Baseball Musings has moved. David Pinto got his own domain, and the site is now at the easy-to-find

Administrative Note #2: Aaron has posted an NL East Preview. He has the Phillies winning the East. If they don't, you can blame him. Check it out...

Roster Notes

We are less than a week away from Opening Day down at Pro Player Stadium, so it's coming down to those final roster cuts. As of this morning, the 25-man roster is stuck on 31 players. Here's who is left:

Pitchers: Terry Adams, David Coggin, Rheal Cormier, Brandon Duckworth, Hector Mercado, Jose Mesa, Kevin Millwood, Brett Myers, Vicente Padilla, Dan Plesac, Joe Roa, Carlos Silva, Bud Smith, Turk Wendell, Randy Wolf

Catchers: Mike Lieberthal, Todd Pratt

Infielders: David Bell, Tyler Houston, Tomas Perez, Placido Polanco, Nick Punto, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome, Chase Utley

Outfielders: Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Marlon Byrd, Ricky Ledee, Jason Michaels, Eric Valent

Now, Coggin and Smith will start the year on the DL or extended spring training assignments as they recover from off-season surgeries. That takes us to 29. As mentioned yesterday, Duckworth and Wendell, both fighting arm trouble, will also start the year on the 15-day DL. OF Jason Michaels will join them, as he is dealing with an abdominal strain. That drops us to 26. One more cut...let's figure out who is established.

Starting rotation: With Duckworth out, Myers backs into a start despite a rough spring, and Joe Roa will start the year in the rotation. So the starting five will be Millwood, Wolf, Padilla, Myers, and Roa.

Bullpen: Mesa is set at closer. Adams is set as set-up man. Plesac is set as the lefty specialist. Silva is assured a spot in the 'pen. That takes us to nine pitchers, Cormier and Mercado still looking in. One could argue that we simply slide them into spots 10 and 11 in the 'pen, but we have the issue of non-roster invitees Jim Crowell and Amaury Telemaco. Let's take a look at the spring numbers (for what they are worth):

Cormier: 7.71, 11.2 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 7 SO
Mercado: 3.94, 16.0 IP, 15 H, 2 BB, 15 SO
Crowell: 0.73, 12.1 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 11 SO
Telemaco: 1.08, 8.1 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 9 SO

While it might seem logical to keep Cormier as a second situational lefty, Crowell is also a southpaw, and is pitching much better than the veteran. Another question is whether the Phillies go with an 11- or 12-man pitching staff. While Bowa prefers to start the season with 12 arms, if Duckworth is on schedule to return within two weeks, they may head to Opening Day in Miami with 11 pitchers. That would cut two of the above four out, and Cormier and Mercado may find themselves on the outside looking in.

Catcher: This position is set -- Lieberthal starts, Pratt backs up, and Tyler Houston will serve as the emergency third-stringer.

Infield: Around the horn -- Thome, Polanco, Rollins, and Bell. Perez will be first off the bench, able to fill in at any of the four spots. Houston will be with him, able to spell Bell and Thome. Reports are that the speedy Nick Punto will stick as well as a late-inning speed/defense option. The question mark here is prospect Chase Utley. We'll get back to him.

Outfield: Abreu, Byrd, and Burrell are your starters. Ricky Ledee is a fourth bat off the bench. Michaels, as stated earlier will start the year on the DL. Valent, it appears, is headed back to Scranton as unlucky number 26.

The key to finalizing the roster is whether the Phils go with an 11- or 12-man pitching staff. If they go with 12, 3 of the 4 pitchers on the spot will stay, and the young Utley will play everyday in AAA. If they feel that Duckworth will return shortly, however, and go with an 11-man staff, 2 of the pitchers will find themselves outside looking in, and it is believed that Chase Utley would claim that 25th spot, even if it is for a short time.

Is this good for Utley? Who is to know? He is only hitting .234 this spring, but the coaches like the way that he is hitting the ball. Still, if the choice were up to me, I'd rather see him start the season in AAA, get some more at-bats under his belt, and if he's playing well and there is a need for him later in the year, bring him up then. I don't see how a 2-week stint on the bench will help his growth. But that could just be me.

So how does it shake out? If it's an 11-man staff, look for Cormier -- they'll likely give the lefty veteran a chance to turn on the switch in April -- and Telemaco to come north, with Utley taking that last spot on the bench. If it's a 12-man staff, we can watch Chase in Scranton, along with Crowell, who despite having a great spring, will serve as the first option should someone struggle.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Hello to any readers who are still out there! My apologies for the two-week hiatus, but I was unfortunately whisked away to Florida for a work function. You would think that they would at least have the decency to do this before spring training, but no. So I miss two weeks full of news and notes, not to mention the draft of one of my fantasy leagues. Note for you fantasy-leaguers out there: if you are doing an auto-draft, make sure that your list is set before you leave town. That means excluding players with season-ending injuries; it's not fun to come home and see that Phil Nevin is your starting 1B. I'd get more production out of *gasp* Travis Lee this season.

Quick rundown, with more details to follow:

-- C Mike Lieberthal missed a good week and a half with what was described as a pelvic injury, similar to what plagued him a couple of seasons ago. He claims to be close to 100% after the time off, and is hitting well when he's playing. His health is a major concern as we approach April.

-- P Brandon Duckworth is having arm problems and hasn't pitched in two weeks. There was talk of letting him go an inning over the weekend, but he was not cleared by the doctors and the rainout on Sunday ruined that plan anyway. There is discussion of putting him on the DL to start the year, which would clear a path for Joe Roa -- who has been pretty good this spring -- to start the year in the rotation.

-- P Turk Wendell, who when I left two weeks ago was about to start throwing again, had a setback in his elbow. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it appears that he will need some more time to rehab, and will likely start the year on the DL.

-- And as I am sure you have all heard, former Phillies and Mets P Tug McGraw (who, by the way, has Faith Hill as a about being proud of your son) was found to have a brain tumor. It was removed, but was later found to in fact be cancerous. I am sure you will join me in wishing a speedy recovery and the best of health to Tug.

I'll check in later with some's good to be back.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

It's official: the home opener is 29 days away, and I will be there. Pirates at Philles, 1:33 start time. Two tickets for section 727...ooh, and free rally towels! *shrugs about the towels* Lame giveaway, but better than nothing, right?

In other news...

I apologize for the minimal reports over the last few days. Here at work, we are preparing for our annual conference, so needless to say, things are hectic. That said, I will be out of town from this Sunday, the 9th, through March 19th. So while I will try to leave a more comprehensive and informative post tomorrow, it will likely be the last you hear from me for two weeks. Hopefully upon my return, we'll be ready for Opening Day, and off and running to a wonderful season!

According to various sources, Peter Angelos has given the O's front office the go-ahead to acquire Ken Griffey, Jr. from the Reds. Hey, Peter! Have you talked to the Reds about this? Last time I checked, they were removing Griffey from the trading block. You can give the go-ahead to acquire anyone you want -- that doesn't mean you are going to get them.

In other news, I have given my fantasy team the go ahead to resurrect Babe Ruth and acquire him for some added power.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

A good sign that your team is improving -- national TV coverage. Fox will provide coverage of SIX Phillies games this summer, a number surpassed only by 9 other teams (you can probably guess most of them). Tune into your local Fox channel on the following Saturday afternoons:

May 17 at Houston
June 7 at home against Oakland
June 21 at home against Boston
July 12 at the Mets
Aug. 9 at San Francisco
Aug. 23 at St. Louis

And don't forget to tune into ESPN on Sunday, May 18th, as the Phillies take on the Astros at Minute Maid Field in the ESPN Game of the Week.

Blogger just ate my last post. I was ranting about the fluff sportswriters print when lacking in real news stories during Spring Training -- very much along the same lines that Aaron spoke about this. I think we had the same thoughts this morning as we read the morning papers. I don't want to repeat my rants -- and you probably don't want to hear them anyway -- but it amazes me how they manage to fill page after page in the paper and yet say nothing. With a happy Camp Bowa progressing, a lineup set, and a rotation that seems pretty stable, the sports scribes have nothing to complain about. So instead, they waste my time with stuff like the following articles:

  • When will Mt. Bowa erupt? -- How long before Larry blows up after a 4-game lsoing streak?!? Yes, for you and I, it's only Spring Training. But for the bored sports writers, it's a concern.
  • How will 5 extra pounds affect Abreu? -- Abreu came in weighing 215, up 5 pounds from the end of last season. He attributes it to hitting the weight room this off season, and the shortening of the Venezuelan winter league, in which he usually plays. Our trusty scribes are concerned that the "extra bulk" will decrease his speed and have him swinging for the fences. This could be a legitimate concern -- if we were talking about more than 5 pounds! Bobby says that the weight will be down by Opening Day, and that his game will remain the same it has always been.
  • The Thome file -- I think the only thing we are not watching currently regarding the new 1B is whether or not he is eating enough fiber and staying regular. That could, however, be next week's news unless something happens in Clearwater soon.

*yawn!* Wake me when there is real news to report...

It seems that Aaron and I were thinking along the same lines this morning. I read the sports section with breakfast every morning for the latest Phillies news, and during Spring Training, the articles they count as "news" is barely filler. Aaron argues that there are three basic type of Spring Training stories:

1) Changes in the batting order.
2) Injured players looking good.
3) Players adjusting to new roles.

For the most part, that's very true. In regards to the Phillies, the three varieties above break down like this:

1) Changes in the batting order: There have been multiple articles about how the insertion of Jim Thome in the lineup will help Burrell and Abreu. Otherwise, articles have focused not on a change in the order, but rather in adjustments -- as in how will Jimmy Rollins make himself a better leadoff hitter (an 0-for-13 start to Spring Training probably wasn't near the top of the list).

2) Injured players looking good: Thankfully, injuries have been minimal in Clearwater. With David Coggin and Bud Smith still a couple of weeks away, the focus has been on the return of Turk Wendell, and the refreshed Vicente Padilla, who was ordered by the Phillies to pass on winter ball and rest an arm that threw almost 300 innings last year.

3) Players adjusting to new roles: How is Thome adjusting to Camp Bowa? How prepared is Marlon Byrd to take over the starting CF spot? Is Placido Polanco more comfortable after his move back to 2B? How is Pat Burrell handling "superstar" status?

You've seen the same articles yourself, with the local team's names inserted in place of the Phillies mentioned above. Same news, day after day, with really nothing to report. But when the sportswriters get tired of recycling a stock story, there have been a few other Philly-plots to follow:

When will Mt. Bowa erupt? -- The Phillies are mired in a 4-game losing streak, in which the hitting has been awful, and the pitching has been shaky. Surely, Larry Bowa is chomping at the bit, ready to lash out at his team for poor, lackidaisical play?!?

"We're catching the ball. We're making plays," said Bowa, ever a defense devotee. "Am I worried about the hitting? No. The pitching? We've given up some runs. But it's too early to worry about that."

Ah, but this isn't enough for the Philly papers. Sure, he's happy now -- but what if it were May?!? Ah, the horrors!

What will some extra weight do to Abreu? -- This, actually, could be a legitimate concern if it wasn't overblown by the writers. Yes, Abreu hit the weight room this offseason, and came into came a little more bulked up than he had been in past years. But will it affect his game?

"No, I'm not trying to hit more home runs," Abreu said. "I can't do that. I have to play my game."

There are some legitmate concerns about how the extra weight will affect his speed, which with 67 stolen bases over the last two seasons, is a big part of his game. Truth be told, Abreu finished last season weighing in at 210 pounds. He's currently at 215, and he attributes the extra few pounds to the fact that the winter season in his native Venezuela was cut short. He fully expects to drop that weight by opening day, and play the same game that he has always played. And truthfully, that's all the Phillies need.

Thome 0-3; needed extra five minutes in shower -- I suppose it comes with a $90 million contract, but the Philly papers have their own Thome section anymore. Do I really care that he's one day closer to finding his timing? Well, maybe. Do I really care that he wore a pair of khaki shorts and had his shirt untucked when he left the clubhouse yesterday? No, not really. The honeymoon is -- for the most part -- over, guys. Let the man play ball.

And for goodness sake, give me some real news. If you don't have any, that's fine -- just don't waste my time with this fluff.

Monday, March 03, 2003

The sun may be shining today, but the weather people are still discussing wind chills. I look at my calendar, and I see that it is March 3 -- actually, I see that it is February; but if I were to change my calendar like I should have, I would see that it is March 3. Spring Training games are in full swing, and we are now about three weeks from the season's first game over in Japan. I want to be at a ballgame. I want to be sitting in an uncomfortable seat, soaking in the sunshine, listening to the vendors offering their products, keeping score, and hearing the crack of the bat. Yet, I am still up north, listening to weather forecasts that include wind chill temperatures and predictions of snow. The closest I get to a ballgame is the game offered up on local TV yesterday.

Making things even worse is the fact that I leave for a 10-day trip to Florida on Sunday, and I likely won't have time to catch a game. My trip down is unfortunately a work trip, meaning my days will be spent in a hotel helping to run a conference. I'm lucky if I get outside to see the pool, much less a Spring Training game. Ah, but rubbing it in is the fact that my wife is going to a game -- probably without me. My parents, in a random chance of coincidence, will also be down in Florida next week, and are taking her to next Tuesday's Cardinals-Orioles game. I have tentative plans to join them, if the pre-conference setup schedule allows me to sneak away for a few hours. As of now, I am not counting on it. So I will continue to long for a game...

So I am left here, sitting in the cold, waiting for spring to roll around and the baseball season to begin. The month of March is often the longest for a baseball fan...

Without a game to watch, I am left with the memories of games I have seen in the past. I had a college roommate who was all about Top 5 lists... "Top 5 actors", "Top 5 movies", "Top 5 'Simpsons' episodes"...and he once got me to think about the top 5 games I had seen in person. I have refined the list in the last couple of months, but I believe these are my top 5, in reverse order:

5. Expos at Phillies, 2002

Sunday, June 2nd. A meaningless game, as the Braves are already running away with the NL East -- again. Robert Person was taking the mound for the Phils, a frightening prospect as he is just returning from a lengthy DL stint and is likely being rushed back to the lineup. Person's pitching performance was admirable on this day -- 5 IP, 1 unearned run on 3 hits -- but it wasn't his arm that made the day memorable. Person came to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the bottom of the first, and sent a Bruce Chen pitch deep into the left field seats for a Grand Slam. Person came to the plate again two innings later, again with the bases loaded, and again drove one deep to left. The crowd jumped to its collective feet to watch this one go...foul! He struck out on this at-bat, but made up for it two innings later with a line-drive, 3-run homer to put the Phillies up 17-1 in this eventual 18-3 rout. Person finished the day 2 for 3, with 2 homeruns and 7 RBI.

4. Diamondbacks at Phillies, twilight DH, 1998

Free tickets to a double-header. Can't beat that, right? Game 1 showcased a wonderful pitching performace by then-Phillies ace Curt Schilling as he fired a complete game, 1 run, 14-strikeout gem. Following an alumni hitting contest -- in which pitchers Tug McGraw and Mitch Williams stole the show -- Game 2 was a hitters' game that went extra innings. 12-9 D'backs win, in 11 innings. All told, I spent 9 hours at the ballpark on a glorious summer evening.

3. Red Sox at Orioles, 2000

Camden Yards used to be filled to capacity, and it used to be all O's fans. On this night, it was easily a 50-50 split in the crowd as the Red Sox were in town and Pedro was taking the mound. My friend and I drove up from DC to see Pedro pitch, and we weren't disappointed. A complete-game, 2-hit shutout, capped with 15 K's. The two hits were both of the bloop variety in the 4th inning; otherwise, Pedro was as dominant as we had ever seen him. By the time Mike Bordick came to the plate with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, the entire crowd -- in orange and red alike -- were chanting "PEDRO!". When the shortstop checked his swing on a called strike three, I thought the noise was going to bring the warehouse down.

2. Braves at Phillies, 2001

September 17th, 2001. The first game played after the 9/11 tragedy. The game was played with a heavy heart, and there were few left without a tear in their eye as the national anthem was played that night. But the game was important in baseball terms, as well. The Phillies were only a couple of games behind Atlanta, and for the first time that I could remember, the Vet was full and the fans were into it. I was happy because I was finally getting to see the artist that is Greg Maddux pitch, but a disgruntled 3B stole the show. Scott Rolen homered off Maddux twice on the night in the midst of all of the American flags, leading the Phillies to an emotional and exciting 5-2 win, and bringing the Phillies one game closer to the division leader.

1. Mariners at Orioles, 1993

My first trip to the beautiful gem that is Camden Yards, and a chance to see the guy who was, at that point in time, my favorite player -- Ken Griffey, Jr. My father and worked our way up to our seats in the 300 level and took in the breathtaking skyline beyond centerfield. We had taken in some BP and watched as balls cleared the scoreboard in right and bounced their way to the warehouse, and I was hoping to see such a sight during the game. I got my chance late in the game. Bases loaded for the Mariners. The O's bring in Brad Pennington to face...Griffey. Pennington threw two pitches. The first got past his catcher, allowing a run to score and moving the other runners up to 2nd and 3rd. The second connected with Griffey's bat and exploded to right -- over the scoreboard, over the fence, and on to Eutaw Street. The ball literally took one bounce at the base of the warehouse before bouncing off the outer wall. One of the more majestic shots I've seen, leaving a childhood memory forever burned in my mind.

What's the best you've seen in person? Share your stories with me, and give me something to enjoy while I struggle through the month of March.