Friday, June 27, 2003


Damn blogger. I've been trying to post the last two posts for the last four hours. Ridiculous...

At any rate, at the end of work today, I head out on vacation. I will be on the Maryland shore, soaking up some sun, and relaxing at someplace that is anywhere but work. I shall return on Monday, July 7th...

In the meantime, root for the Phils to sweep the O's, take 3 of 4 from the Cubbies, and at least 2 of 3 from the Fish (I can handle a loss to Dontrelle Willis). If you are looking for some reading, check out the links in the left column, but be sure to come back.

Have a happy 4th, and enjoy the games!


Phillies tidbits from Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings and Grumblings article...

  • Days after agent Scott Boras stated that he and P Kevin Millwood would not negotiate a contract extension during the season, Millwood himself went to the Phillies front office to start talking. I'm not sure this means anything besides Millwood refusing to play by his agent's rules.

  • This one makes me so happy, I'll let Stark's words speak for themselves:

    The Phillies are now finally getting concerned about Jose Mesa, as much over whether he's the guy they want closing next year as whether he's good enough this year. The big dilemma is that, if Mesa remains the closer all season, he'll finish 55 games -- and trigger a clause that guarantees his 2004 option at nearly $6 million. The Phillies no doubt would prefer to have the flexibility to make their own decision on whether to pick up that option.

    Teams that have talked to the Phillies continue to report they're not looking for a closer, per se. But there appears to be a decent chance they will trade for a set-up man who could also close. They almost dealt for Pittsburgh closer Mike Williams at the deadline in 2001, so it wouldn't be surprising if they make a run at him -- or Tom Gordon -- again next month.

    And now that another leadoff experiment with Bobby Abreu has been pronounced dead, they might also be in the market for a true leadoff man, either in center field or at second base. Which would seem to translate to Kenny Lofton or Luis Castillo. There are no indications, though, that they've even inquired about Castillo.

    Castillo would be an interesting acquisition. I am not sure if you would bump Polanco from the lineup, or move him to third and bump Bell, but putting Castillo in the leadoff spot would spark the lineup, and allow Rollins to hit deeper in the order. The question becomes, would the Phillies "rent" Castillo for the stretch run. Something to keep an eye on.

  • In regards to the failed experiment of Bobby Abreu in the leadoff spot, I'm not the only one out there who thinks it would be good for the team. Says one scout, when asked how good Abreu would be in leadoff if he stopped complaining and let himself get comfortable: "The best in the world."

  • End of the 24-game stretch

    Last night's victory against Atlanta ended the rough 24-game stretch that began back on May 30th. The Phillies came out of that stretch -- which included 24 games against teams that were .500 or better when the Phils came to town -- at a better-than-decent 13-9, with two rain outs. The Braves finished that stretch at 13-10 with a rain out of their own.

    You may remember, when this stretch started, I made my own guesstimates on how the two teams would fair. My rough guesses had the Phillies stumbing out of the 24-game block at 10-14, while the Braves went 14-10. My guesses were based on the belief that the Phillies would go 1-2 against all of the teams they faced, except for Anaheim and Cincinnati, against whom 2-1 was reasonable. Here's my predictions versus what actually happened:

    OpponentExp. W-LActual W-L

    And for the Braves:

    OpponentExp. W-LActual W-L
    NY Mets2-11-2

    I came pretty close to guessing the Braves 24-game record, although not necessarily in the way it would happen. As for the Phillies...well, they started the stretch strong by sweeping the Expos, and then fell flat on their faces with the sweep by Seattle. They bounced back and swept the doubleheader from the A's, and then struggled through Anaheim and Cincinnati. The 15-2 blowout in Cincinnati, complete with an all-out brawl, may have awoken the Phillies just a little bit, though.

    They followed up the blowout with one of their own, and then proceeded to win 6 of 8 against Atlanta and Boston. So while my guesses had the Phillies losing four games (and ending up 12 back), they in fact picked up half a game, and a lot of momentum.

    The three-game set with Atlanta this week started a new stretch, this one of 20-games-in-20-days. They played three in Atlanta, head to Baltimore tonight for three, head home for four with the Cubs, host Florida for three, and then hit the road again: at Montreal for three, and at the Mets for four.

    The Braves, meanwhile, get the same opponents, except for the Interleague series. While the Phillies get the O's in Baltimore, Atlanta travels to the Gulf Coast for three with Lou's Rays. Otherwise, the Braves have three at Florida, four at home vs. Montreal, three in New York, and four in Chicago.

    Similar opponents...who will beat on on them more?

    They say an inning...

    They say an inning can be the difference in winning a ballgame.

    Top of the first: The Phillies load the bases with no one out...again. They had, of course, loaded the bases in each of the first three innings on Tuesday night, and managed only two runs out of it; they lost that game 5-3. The importance of early runs in this ballgame could almost be felt. Early in the count to cleanup hitter Mike Lieberthal, Braves C Javy Lopez allowed a ball to get past him, and Jimmy Rollins scampered home with the game's first run. But then Lieberthal grounded out, Bobby Abreu struck out, and Pat Burrell did the same. Bases loaded, no one out, and the Phillies managed but one run. The early momentum appeared in the Braves' dugout.

    They say an inning can be the difference in winning a ballgame.

    Bottom of the first: Randy Wolf almost didn't make it out of the first inning. After striking out Rafael Furcal in a 10-pitch at-bat, Wolf got a 1-2 lead on Marcus Giles before walking him on seven pitches. Gary Sheffield fell behind 0-2 before working a walk on 11 pitches. So after 28 pitches to the first three batters, what does Chipper Jones do? He lines the first pitch to left for out number two. Andruw Jones faced a two-strike count before drawing a walk of his own, loading the bases for Javy Lopez.

    So, the Phillies had the bases loaded in the top of the inning, with no one out, and scored just one run. Now the Braves had the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, with one of the league's hottest hitters coming to the plate. The wrong pitch, and the Phillies would be facing a very hard uphill battle for the rest of the night.

    Wolf again got two strikes on the batter, but this time managed to slide strike three past a surprised Lopez. 40 pitches, three runs.

    They say an inning can be the difference in winning a ballgame. The sudden change of emotions -- from disappointment in the top of the first, to elation and relief in the bottom of the inning -- may have made that difference for the Phillies last night.

    Randy Wolf calmed down after that first inning, and dominated a Braves' lineup that has dominated left-handed pitchers all season. Wolf allowed one run on three hits in six innings of work (throwing just 69 pitches in the last five innings, after that 40-pitch first), walked just one more after the first, and let his offense carry the Phillies to an 8-1 victory.

    The Phillies held that one-run lead into the fourth, when they strung together an RBI grounder by Randy Wolf, and RBI singles by Rollins and David Bell. Mike Lieberthal doubled and scored in the fifth to make it a 5-1 game, and Jim Thome hit his 18th homer of the season -- to the opposite field -- gave the Phillies a 6-1 lead in the sixth. A two-run homer by Lieberthal in the eighth accounted for the final margin. Tomas Perez and Marlon Byrd each set a career high with four hits, and the Phillies had 15 hits overall. By the way, for all of his early struggles, Marlon Byrd is now hitting .284. Yikes...

    After Randy Wolf took a shot off his leg in the sixth (and threw 109 pitches in six innings), Terry Adams pitched a perfect seventh; Turk Wendell came in and pitched a one-hit eighth; Jose Mesa closed things out with a one-hit ninth.

    The Phillies' victory allowed them to take two of three in Atlanta, giving the Braves their first home-series loss since they were swept by Montreal in the first series of the season. The win also means that the Phillies took four of six from Atlanta over the last ten days; couple that with the two-game sweep of the Red Sox, and the Phillies went 6-2 in this tough nine-game stretch (one rain out).

    The Phillies have pulled to within 7 1/2 games of Atlanta, and have pulled within 1/2 game of second-place Montreal. They have picked up three games in the standings over their last ten, and appear headed in the right direction.

    Tonight, that direction takes them north to Baltimore for the start of a three-game set with the Orioles, the last Interleague series of the season. Brandon Duckworth (3-2, 4.98 ERA) -- who has not pitched since June 10, thanks to off days and rain outs -- will go against Jason Johnson (6-3, 4.08) tonight. Tomorrow's game features Brett Myers (6-6, 3.38) -- coming off his first ML shutout -- against Pat Hentgen (1-4, 4.82), who was recently returned to the rotation after a stint in the bullpen. Sunday's game has the struggling Kevin Millwood (8-6, 4.07) trying to right the ship against Rick Helling (5-5, 5.74).

    Thursday, June 26, 2003

    I was called on to pinch-hit

    Rachael, who runs the Out of Left Field trivia e-mails, asked me to pinch hit for her last night in this week's Wednesday trivia. She claims she has received no hate mail, so I guess I did a decent job.

    At any rate, the trivia question this week was this: Name the 7 active players who have the most career homeruns in their current team's franchise history. The current team is key, as while Ken Griffey, Jr is tops on the Seattle HR list, he is now with Cincinnati, so he doesn't count. If you have the answer, e-mail Rachael with the answer and join the mailing list. You won't be disappointed.

    Padilla cruises in Atlanta...what a surprise

    Vicente Padilla continued his dominance of the Atlanta Braves, and the offense did all the right things against Greg Maddux, giving the Phillies an 8-1 victory at Turner Field last night.

    Padilla went seven innings last night, giving up just one run on four hits. That takes him to 3-0 against the Braves this season in four starts, with a 1.48 ERA. Lifetime, he goes to 5-2, with a 1.81 ERA, against Atlanta.

    "I can't explain it," Padilla said through an interpreter.

    He may not be able to explain it, but he seems to control the Braves. He has also regained control over his pitches. Since falling to 3-6, Padilla has righted the Flotilla, going 3-1 in his last five starts (the team is 4-1), throwing 34.1 innings, allowing only 9 runs for a 2.31 ERA in that time. His victory last night came at a wonderful time, as it prevented a losing streak to the team the Phillies are still hoping to catch in the standings.

    He got some help from his offense, as well. One night after loading the bases in the first three innings, and walking away with two runs from it, the Phillies took advantage of early opportunities.

    "It's very important," Bowa said of the early lead. "When you play teams like Atlanta, when their pitcher's in trouble and you let them keep getting off the hook, they're going to beat you. We don't have as much firepower as them. So you can't let them hang around. You have to take advantage of opportunities, and we did that."

    In the first, Placido Polanco reached on an error by Vinny Castilla. He scored on a Jimmy Rollins triple. Rollins scored himself on an Abreu sac fly to make it 2-0 after half an inning. Jim Thome doubled with one out in the fourth, and went to third on an Abreu single. Bobby stole second, and Thome scored on a Pat Burrell single. Abreu, who had moved up to third on the single, scored on a Lieberthal ground out. The Phillies had four runs in four innings.

    The Inquirer's Todd Zolecki describes the fifth:

    In the fifth, Abreu doubled, and Braves starter Greg Maddux (6-7) intentionally walked Pat Burrell, who was 10 for 31 lifetime against Maddux, to face Lieberthal.

    "I was a little surprised," Lieberthal said.

    Lieberthal, who has been the most consistent hitter in the Phillies' lineup this season, hit a double to score Abreu and Burrell to make it 6-1.

    Good career numbers against Maddux aside, I'd still rather pitch to the .200-hitting Burrell right now than the .300-hitting Lieberthal. But maybe that's just me.

    The Phillies later added two more on a Ricky Ledee home run and a single by David Bell that scored Abreu.

    Since the Phillies can't throw Padilla against the Braves again tonight, they will instead send the man who may be their sole All-Star representative: LHP Randy Wolf. The pitching rotation was shuffled last week to prevent the Braves from facing a lefty, since they have murdered them this season, and thus Wolf did not face the Braves in Philly. Atlanta as a team is hitting .291 off of lefties, with a .876 OPS. They have hit 31 home runs off of southpaws in a mere 577 at-bats (1 in every 18.6 ABs). Individually, they throw up these numbers:

    Sheffield: .382/.453/.782/1.235, 5 HR, 43 RBI
    Lopez: .362/.375/.745/1.120, 5 HR, 35 RBI
    Giles: .389/.469/.556/1.024, 2 HR, 30 RBI
    J. Franco: .370/.453/.543/.996, 1 HR, 25 RBI

    Chipper and Vinny hit over .300 against lefties, and each have more than 20 RBI. Andruw doesn't make contact well, but when he does, the ball travels: 6 HR, 32 RBI against lefties.

    But Randy Wolf isn't just any lefty. Rather, he is one of the best in the league. Among left-handed starters in the NL, Wolf ranks first in IP and strikeouts, and tied for first in wins. He is second in ERA, hits allowed, runs allowed, and earned runs allowed. The only comparable lefty in the NL is LA's Kaz Ishii:


    With that in mind, Wolf definitely presents himself as All-Star material on a team that might otherwise be lacking this season. He can add to those credentials by defeating a division-leader tonight, a team that feasts on other lefties.

    First pitch around 7:35 PM.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2003


    The title could describe the Phillies feelings after last night's game, or any one of a handful of Kevin Millwood's pitches. Javy Lopez crushed two homers, and Andruw Jones cranked another, as the Braves knocked around Millwood and walked away with a 5-3 victory in the series opener.

    It wasn't just the three homers that got a lot of air time, either. Robert Fick hit a drive in the second inning that Bobby Abreu brought back into the park with a sensational catch; two innings later, Pat Burrell went to the top of the left field wall to rob Chipper Jones of at least extra bases, if not another home run. Millwood appeared to be high in the zone most of the night, and the Braves bats were making contact and driving the ball. My first thought was that this was part of his problem during his slump: he was allowing more fly balls than normal, and thus more homers. But that is not necessarily the case. Last night, his GB/FB ratio was 1, with 13 of each. But in his six previous starts, he had coerced more ground balls than fly balls. So that's not the answer.

    Control hasn't been an issue, either. He has walked only 10 batters in his last six starts; he walked 15 in his six March/April starts, over which he went 4-1 with a no decision. He has struck out fewer in this six-game streak, but not a noticable amount (33 in March/April, 26 during his slump). So what is it?

    Maybe he is getting too much of the strike zone? His walks and strikeouts are down during this six-game stretch, in comparison to March and April; his hits are way up. In the six games in March/April, he allowed 24 hits -- this included his no-hitter. In his first five starts in May, he allowed 30 hits. In the six starts since then, he has allowed 46 hits! Quick and dirty comparison:

    6 starts, March/April33.224.194
    First 5 starts, May36.030.221
    6 starts, May/June34.146.313

    Very obviously, he is getting hit around a lot more than he was when he jumped out to a 7-1 record. So while he is not walking more batters, he appears to be getting more of the hitting zone. Last night's numbers seem to back this up: he walked only one, but he struck out NONE -- his previous season low was three, in an injury-shorted, three-inning outing on April 5th. To find the last time he went without a strike out, you have to go back to September 9th, 2001, at the Cubs. He worked three innings that night, facing 14 batters, giving up four runs on six hits. So of the 29 batters he faced last night, one chose not to put the bat on the ball. The other 28 saw something they like, and jumped at it.

    I'll be the first to admit that I am no expert. I know very little about pitching, and it was my inability to hit a little league fastball that had me on the basketball courts growing up instead of the baseball diamond. But I can watch the games, and I can crunch the numbers. And my eyes tell me that Millwood pitches have been catching too much of the plate in the last month. He's missing, and at least last night, he was missing up and over the plate. That's a dangerous combination.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2003

    Off to Atlanta

    Atlanta came to town last week with a 10 game lead over the Phillies, and the Phillies were desperate to take at least two of three from the Braves. They did just that, and followed it up by sweeping the abbreviated two-game set with Boston. One week later, the Phillies make the trip down South trailing the Braves by 8 1/2, hoping to chop a little more of that lead away. The pitching matchups for the three game set are

    Tonight: Kevin Millwood (8-5, 3.90) vs. Russ Ortiz (8-4, 3.56)
    Wednesday: Vicente Padilla (5-7, 3.96) vs. Greg Maddux (6-6, 4.31)
    Thursday: Randy Wolf (8-3, 3.26) vs. Mike Hampton (3-3, 3.59)

    Millwood faced his former team for the first time last week, and was greeted rudely. He was hit up for four runs on eight hits in five innings; he struck out five and walked three more. The loss dropped him to 1-4 in his last five starts. In those five starts, he has thrown 27.1 innings, allowed 20 runs on 39 hits, walked nine and struck out 26. But tonight, Millwood returns to his former home field, where last season he had a 3.21 ERA and opponents managed only a .237 average off of him. In familiar surroundings, Millwood hopes to break his mini-slump.

    Millwood's opponent tonight, Russ Ortiz, was part of the package of pitchers replacing Millwood. And Ortiz's core numbers are not that different than Millwood's:


    But this shouldn't surprise us. One look at Kevin Millwood's stats at Baseball Reference would tell us that among pitchers similar to Millwood in terms of statistics, Russ Ortiz is third on that list. Their career numbers, coming into the 2003 season:


    Their 162-averages:


    Same number of wins per season, one more loss per year for Ortiz. Equivalent number of innings, hits, and strikeouts. Ortiz walks a few more per start. A quick look at these numbers, and one would think that you were looking at the same pitcher. But the similarities don't stop there.

    Both are right handed. Big whoop. Millwood is 28. Ortiz is 29. Millwood is 6'4", 220. Ortiz is 6'1", 208. Millwood would appear to be more of a power pitcher, but the career strikeout numbers do not necessarily reflect this; this season's may, but Ortiz appears to be below his normal output this year.

    So who has the advantage? One might give the nod to Millwood, returning to a familiar and friendly pitching mound. But Turner Field hasn't been a den of horrors for Russ Ortiz this year, either: he is 5-2 at home, with a 3.72 ERA. Opponents are hitting .199 off of him in Atlanta; against a team hitting like the Phillies are, that could be deadly. Ortiz did pitch against Philadelphia last week, and threw six shutout innings, allowing just four hits.

    So what am I saying? Well, nothing much. These stats could be manipulated any number of ways to come up with any number of comparisons. But on the surface, I am saying that Millwood and Ortiz are about as similar as two pitchers come, and we should have a pretty even pitching matchup tonight, both statistically and physically. Tune in, and try not to blink: you may mix the two up.

    Monday, June 23, 2003

    Couldn't have said it better myself

    From, of all people and places, CNNSI's football expert, Peter King:

    Anatomy of a pitching victory:

    Phils reliever Jose Mesa entered a 2-2 game against the Boston in the 12th inning. He gave up a run on a single and a triple and stood to lose the game as the Red Sox went up 3-2 in the top of the 12th. The Phils scored in the bottom of the 12th to tie it. In the top of the 13th, Mesa gave up two runs on a single, double and single and stood to lose the game as the Sox went up 5-3. The Phils scored three runs in the bottom of the 13th to win it.

    Two innings, five hits, three runs, twice putting his team in a deficit.

    And he gets the win.

    Prospects heating up

  • Scranton 2B Chase Utley, who had slumped a bit after streaking to .340-something a couple of weeks ago, is hitting again. He had one hit in each of the games in yesterday's double-header; each hit was a home run. The longballs were numbers 10 and 11 on the season for Utley.

  • Lakewood P Cole Hamels is still firing blanks against Single A competition. He went five innings last night, allowing one hit and walking three. He struck out eight of the 15 batters he retired, and his ERA is a ridiculous 0.72.

  • While I was gone...

  • On Thursday, Aaron Gleeman of Aaron's Baseball Blog was kind enough to plug my site. He was speaking about Jayson Stark's comments on the Phillies looking for a set-up man, not replacement, for Jose Mesa, and he mentioned the Mesa Watch in the upper right hand corner.

    Thanks to Aaron's mention, my site hits spiked that day. And how do I follow up on that mention? I don't post for four days, probably losing whatever traffic Aaron sent my way.

    Aaron, thanks for the mention, and by the way, the Mesa Watch is back to 0 games.

  • Also on Thursday, Edward Cossette got called up to the big leagues. His Bambino's Curse blog has been picked up by Fox Sports Net New England. New posts will be available on FSN for five days, at which time they will be archived back that the original site. Congratulations Edward!

    The link in the left menu now points to the new location.

  • Odds and Ends

    Let's try to catch up with the news from the last few days:

  • Suspensions were handed down from the brawl in Cincinnati more than a week ago. The Reds' Adam Dunn and Sean Casey were each benched for three games (pending appeals) while the Phillies' Carlos Silva was knocked out for six games for inciting the riot. Silva is, of course, appealing. Larry Bowa got hit with a one-gamer, which he served on Saturday.

  • The experiment of having Bobby Abreu hit leadoff is over. He went 5-for-20 in the leadoff spot, and just never felt comfortable. He was dropped down in the order this weekend, hitting fifth on Saturday (2-for-4 with a home run) and fourth yesterday (2-for-3 with another home run). With Jimmy Rollins hitting well further down in the order, Placido Polanco has been moved to the leadoff spot. Polanco went 0-for-8 over the weekend.

  • Former Philly writer Jayson Stark had a few mentions of the Phillies late last week. In his Rumblings and Grumblings article, he posted what is the first mention I've seen of any Phillies' interest in Ugueth Urbina:

    One friend of Urbina on the Phillies says Urbina is lobbying to go to Philadelphia as a set-up man, because of his friendship with Bobby Abreu and Tomas Perez, and his Montreal connections with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. Phillies sources are saying that hasn't been discussed -- but the Rangers are scouting their system anyway.

    Yes, set-up man. In contrast to the heartburn I feel every time he walks on the mound, the Phillies seem to be in no hurry to replace Mesa. Also from Stark:

    Phillies scouts who have shown up at various minor-league outposts are telling people they're hunting for potential down-the-road closers -- but there's still no indication they're looking to depose Jose Mesa at any point in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, they are believed to have some short-term interest in Mike Williams as a set-up guy and an occasional closer alternative. Tom Gordon also is thought to be on their potential July shopping list.

    Again, set-up. What does he have to do to get replaced, anyway?!?

  • Stark also has an article on the Phillies and the development path they are taking. When the Braves came to town last week, they may have felt like they were looking at themselves, 10 years ago. We can hope that's the case.

  • LHP Bud Smith, acquired in the Scott Rolen deal last season, is having problems. His surgically repaired left shoulder is giving him problems, and the organization doesn't think it is normal post-surgery pains.

  • Other minor league notes, from the Inquirer:

    Reading third baseman Juan Richardson, the Eastern League leader with 15 home runs, is on the disabled list with a sprained ankle he suffered when he slipped on stairs at his apartment. Arbuckle expects him to miss a couple of weeks... . The MRI on Scranton/Wilkes-Barre righthander Eric Junge's shoulder was clean, and he could be pitching in two weeks... . Righthander Josh Hancock, obtained from Boston for Jeremy Giambi, pitched eight shutout innings for Scranton on Thursday. "His stuff is pretty good," Arbuckle said. "He'll have value as a major-league pitcher. He just needs to get more confidence in his stuff."... Arbuckle had high praise for Scranton righthander Ryan Madson, who is 8-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 13 starts. "He's throwing well, and he's been very consistent," Arbuckle said. "His command has continued to improve. He's on a very good track."

  • Hall of Fame 3B Mike Schmidt has offered to help Pat Burrell break out of his slump...if Burrell wants the help. Schmidt thinks he has seen some things, physically and mentally, that may be fouling the young hitter up. But he doesn't want to butt in where he's not wanted. Burrell, for his part, is more than willing to listen, and seemed surprised that Schmidt would think he wouldn't want the help.

  • What a weekend!

    Once again, real life has interfered with my blogging life, leaving me unable to comment on the games Wednesday and Thursday last week, or comment on the weekend series with the Red Sox. And boy was there a lot to talk about.

    I'll focus on the good, so if you want the info on Wednesday night's 6-1 loss to Atlanta, check out the ESPN recap. Quick notes: the Braves got to Millwood, and the Phillies failed to build on Tuesday night's exciting win. Moving on...


    In my estimation, the Phillies needed Thursday's game, and needed to take two of three from the Braves at home to show that they were still alive in the NL East race. I spent Thursday at home, dealing with house issues, so I flipped on the afternoon game. I did not really pay attention until the fifth, when I noticed that Mike Hampton had a no-hitter going. Two solo home runs from Gary Sheffield had given the Braves a 2-0 lead, but the Phillies hitters looked weak and lifeless. In danger of wasting a very good pitching performance from Vicente Padilla (two runs, seven hits in 7 1/3 innings), Philadelphia entered the bottom of the eighth still looking to break through against Hampton. With Smoltz looming in the ninth, desperation was setting in.

    Todd Pratt led off the inning with a groundout. So with one out, Marlon Byrd finally broke through. A soft looper to right, and the Phillies finally had a "1" in the "H" column of the scoreboard. Pinch-hitter Tomas Perez followed with a single to right, and suddenly the Phillies were in business. Except that Bobby Cox made a double-switch, bringing Smoltz into the game in the eighth. Smoltz struck out Bobby Abreu, but in the course of doing so, let loose a wild pitch, allowing Byrd and Perez to move up ninety feet. With two outs, Placido Polanco poked at a 3-2 pitch down and away, and watched it fall just past the glove of the outstretched second baseman to fall in that dead man's land between first, second, and right field. Polanco was safe at first, and Byrd and pinch runner Nick Punto crossed the plate to tie the game.

    Top of the ninth, Larry Bowa brought Jose Mesa into the tie game, and the real fun began. Mesa got Robert Fick on a fly out, and had a 2-2 count on Javy Lopez. As Pratt went out to talk with Mesa, Mt. Bowa erupted:

    AP Photo/George Widman

    Bowa would later say that he was tired of hearing that the Braves' pitchers were just hitting the corners while his guys were just missing. But Bowa argued from the dugout, got tossed, and then exploded. He raced out of the dugout, yelling and screaming, and put on a show for the fans. Dirt was kicked on the plate. That was followed by more screaming, more dirt, and some more screaming. Bowa finally left, and went back to the clubhouse, allowing the game to continue.

    Mesa proceeded to strike out Lopez, and got VInny Castilla to ground out to end the inning. Yes, that was a 1-2-3 inning by Mesa in a tie game. I'm as shocked as you are.

    Smoltz came back out in the bottom of the ninth, and the struggling Pat Burrell drove the first pitch to deep left-center. The ball hit high off the wall, and Burrell strolled in to second with a leadoff double. Jason Michaels pinch ran for Burrell, and it was up to David Bell to move Michaels over. Bell fought off a few pitches before flying out to center, leaving Michaels at second. With one out, up stepped Jimmy Rollins. Jimmy had been hitting decently since being dropped from the leadoff spot -- 7-for-20 to that at-bat, with three doubles and a pair of runs driven in. Rollins saw the first pitch from Smoltz, and obviously liked it. He roped it into left field and away from Gary Sheffield, allowing Jason Michaels to round third and beat the late throw.

    AP Photo/George Widman  AP Photo/George Widman

    The Phillies had gone from lifeless to winners. They had been 0-25 when trailing after 7. Smoltz had been 26-for-27 in save opportunities, had not allowed a run since May 10th, and had not lost since early last season. All that was thrown out the window, and the Phillies had (yet another) game to build on.


    Mother Nature stepped in and once again tried to squash the Phillies momentum. Friday night's game with the Red Sox was postponed for September 1, and the Mike Schmidt bobblehead dolls will be handed out that day. Don't get me started on the fact that both teams had an open day on Labor Day.


    I missed most of Saturday's game. I was in DC visiting friends again, so I missed the pitcher's duel between Pedro Martinez and Randy Wolf. Wolf went six innings, giving up two runs on six hits. Pedro went one better, lasting seven innings, giving up a single run -- an Abreu homer in the 2nd -- on four hits. But it was after they left that the fun began. Jim Thome homered in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at two, and eventually send it to extra innings.

    The ninth and tenth passed uneventfully, although the Phillies did load the bases in the 10th with two outs, only to have Abreu strike out to end the inning. In the 12th, Boston struck. Nomar Garciaparra, who went 6-for-6 on the day, singled to lead off the inning. One out later, Kevin Millar hit a triple to score Nomar, and give the Red Sox a one-run lead. But it wasn't enough. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Thome struck again; his second of the day, another solo shot, tied the game and moved us to the 13th.

    With two out in the thirteenth, Johnny Damon singled and stole second. Todd Walker followed with a double, scoring Damon. Garciaparra followed that with his sixth single, scoring Walker and giving Boston a two-run lead this time around.

    This is where I turned on the game...

    In the bottom of the 13th, Abreu led off with a walk. After Lieberthal flied out, he took second on a catcher's indifference. David Bell, who has been hitting a little bit better as of late, put good wood on the ball and smacked it to right center, scoring Abreu and putting himself on second. With Larry Bowa serving a one-game suspension for the brawl in Cincinnati, bench coach Gary Varsho used his last player -- Todd Pratt -- to pinch hit for Jose Mesa. Pratt took ball one from Rudy Seanez before seeing something he liked.

    AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy  AP Photo/H. Rumph, Jr.  AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy

    Over the center field wall. 6-5 Phillies. Game over. Thanks for coming. Drive safely.

    Two comeback wins in a row; two thrilling victories; a small winning streak.


    If Saturday was about timely hitting, Sunday was all about the pitching...and a few more longballs. Bobby Abreu homered for the second day in a row to give the Phillies an early lead. David Bell added a sac fly in the sixth to make it 2-0. Marlon Byrd launched his first home run on the season leading off the seventh, and Jimmy Rollins followed suit a few batters later with a two-run shot of his own, staking 22-year old Brett Myers to a 5-0 lead. Myers got into a bit of trouble in the middle innings, but for the most part owned the aggressive Red Sox lineup. He faced 34 batters on the day, and welcomed 28 of those with a first-pitch strike. He walked three on the day, and allowed three hits, but nothing more. A four-pitch eighth left enough in the tank for Myers to come back out in the ninth and finish off his first career complete-game shutout and thrilling his manager:

    "Brett was unbelievable,'' Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa said. "You couldn't have drawn it up any better than that game.''

    If Myers's shutout wasn't enough to thrill a crowd of over 60,000, maybe Jim Thome's bunt did. With two out in the fifth, Polanco walked. He swiped second, and with the Thome shift on and no one manning third, Polanco swiped that one, as well. So with the runner on third, Thome did what he has wanted to do against the shift all year -- he squared around. A little harder -- or maybe with someone a little less athletic on the mound -- and he had a base hit. Instead, BK Kim hopped off the mound, got the ball, and just got Thome at first. Still, it was fun to watch.


    So, for that matter, was the entire weekend. 3-1 since I last posted, and a three-game winning streak heading in to Atlanta. Comebacks, longballs, and touching up one of the best closers in the game. The Phillies are riding high right now, and that's important as they try to make up even more ground on the Braves. Preview of that series later on...

    Wednesday, June 18, 2003

    News I've missed

    In an attempt to catch up on news that I have not had time to write about over the last few days:

  • The Phillies won that fun little exhibition game in Cooperstown on Monday, defeating the D-Rays 7-5. The game itself was alright, but the highlight was the pitching of prospect Cole Hamels. Hamels went five innings,

    struck out nine, walked one and allowed three hits and three runs, two of them earned. He struck out the side twice while displaying a crackling fastball and a nasty change-up, and was named the game's MVP.

    The Inquirer's Sam Carchidi might be a little early in the comparison's to Steve Carlton (read the article to see how he does this), but it's still quite a performance.

  • The ballpark has a name -- Citizens Bank Park. And to think, for $95 million it could have been called 700 Level Park. Oh, well.

    Billy-Ball points out a growing theme in the Philly area: "Apparently everyone in Philly plays in a bank: the new Philadelphia Eagles stadium will be named Lincoln Financial Field, and First Union Center, where the Flyers and 76ers play will soon be the Wachovia Center because of another bank merger."

  • Reports are that the Phillies and agent Scott Boras will begin discussing a contract extension for P Kevin Millwood. It would be great if it were true, but for some reason I can't see Boras not wanting his client to see free agency. If it does happen, expect something in the range of $12-15 million a year.

  • Harry Kalas will be featured tonight in ESPN's continuing Living Legends series, as he will help ESPN in their broadcast of the Phillies-Braves game. That's wonderful, and Harry is a legend, but it means that I will be sitting home, watching the game on CSN (since the ESPN feed will be blacked out), and I won't get to listen to him. Does that mean we get Chris Wheeler as play-by-play for nine innings? Eck.

  • And finally, Rob Neyer had an article the other day about three teams still looking for that offensive spark, and lo and behold the Phillies were one of them. We know about the problems. His solution:

    Send David Bell to the bench, shift Placido Polanco from second base to third base, and call up Chase Utley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After skipping Double-A and posting solid numbers in Triple-A last year, Utley was ranked by Baseball America as the Phillies' No. 2 prospect for this season. And in 59 games with Scranton, he's batting .336 with 15 doubles and eight home runs. There are questions about Utley's defense, but it's pretty obvious that he should be playing every day for the Phillies, whether at second base or third.

    And Bell should not. Get him out of the lineup, and everything else should take care of itself. The Phillies aren't going to catch the Braves, but the wild card remains a distinct possibility.

  • What I really liked...

    Tie game, ninth inning, and Mesa was not on the mound.

    So this is what it is supposed to be like?

    The Phillies took game one of this important three-game set with the Braves when the much-maligned David Bell singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Phillies a 5-4 victory. For one of the few times all season, I can say that the Phillies did just about everything right last night.

    They got to the Braves' starter, Shane Reynolds, for three runs and nine hits through four innings. They worked him for five walks. They grabbed the early lead. After Atlanta came back to take a one-run lead in the sixth, the Phillies came right back to tie it in the bottom of that inning. The bullpen worked 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit.

    Bobby Abreu got on base twice in five plate appearances as the leadoff guy. Placido Polanco was 2-for-5. Jim Thome, pitched around most of the night, drew three walks and scored twice. Pat Burrell, protecting Thome, went 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Mike Lieberthal went 3-for-4, starting the ninth with a key hit. Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-4, including a key two-run double. David Bell had the game-winning single. Marlon Byrd, while hitless, walked twice.

    The Phillies very well could have fallen apart in the top of the sixth: Furcal doubled to start the inning, and moved to third on a fielder's choice. Sheffield brought him home on one of the shorter hits in his career. Chipper followed that with a game-tying, two-run homer. You could almost feel the air come out of the fans, and the Phillies themselves. They had claimed an early lead, and just like that it was gone. Brett Myers...well, I don't know if he was affected by it, or just at the end of his rope. After he got Andruw Jones to ground out, Robert Fick doubled. Lopez was intentionally walked to get to VInny Castilla, who had looked bad in two earlier at-bats. Castilla, of course, walked to load the bases. Matt Franco pinch-hit, and on a 2-2 count, Myers unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Fick to score the go-ahead run. Adams came in to finish off the inning.

    All of a sudden, it is a 4-3 Braves lead, and they need 9 outs to get to Smoltz. But the Phillies didn't back down. Thome walked with one out. Burrell followed with a double. And Lieberthal lifted a simple sac fly (a lost art with the Phillies) to center, scoring Thome and tying the game. The bullpens kept things quiet until the Phillies struck for the winner in the 9th.

    It was the little things that the Phillies did that give me just a glimmer of hope that they might be waking up. Everyone got on base. They got the early lead. They came right back when they lost the lead. Really, the only place they failed was the timely hit -- they left 14 men on base through the night. If that trend continues, it will come back to bite them hard sometime soon.

    For now, I am happy. One game, one win, one game closer in the standings.

    Millwood goes for another tonight.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2003

    Three with the Braves...hope?

    The Atlanta Braves come to town tonight for the first of three this week, first of six in the next 10 days. Here are the NL East standings, as of this morning:

    New York313714.5

    But how do things look if we look at the Pythagorean Standings, which Rob Neyer lists on his page at

    TeamExp WExp LGB
    New York293912.5

    Suddenly, this series means something. All this comparison shows is what many of us have already figured out: the Phillies are playing below where they should be and were expected to be, while the Braves are playing above their heads. The Phillies, based on their runs scored and allowed, should be four games better than they are; the Braves should be four games worse. That eight game swing is the difference between a great summer series, and a series with one team holding on for dear life.

    The problem is, neither team looks like they are able to stop their trend. The Phillies haven't been able to get anything kick-started, and the Braves do not seem to be coming down from cloud nine any time soon. The frightening thing is that for the last ten years, the Braves have been carried by their pitching. This year, they are finding success on the heels of the top offense in the league. Should their pitching ever come around...well, I don't want to think about it. I have talked until I was Phillies-blue in the face as to what the Phillies can do to turn their season around. So the question now is, will the Braves fall back to the pack any time soon.

    I contacted a couple of Braves bloggers and asked them what their team's weakness was...if there was any. Mac Thomason, over at Braves Journal offered me this:

    The Braves' weaknesses, in no particular order:

    1. Middle relief/set up men.
    2. Reliance on the longball.
    3. Bench.

    1. The Braves have a great and dominant closer in John Smoltz. Other than
    that, the bullpen is a weak point. Roberto "Boom-Boom Bobby" Hernandez, now
    on the DL, was being used as a setup man most of the year despite the fact
    that he was giving up walks and extra-base hits left and right. Kevin
    Gryboski keeps being used in close games with runners on base because he
    gets ground balls, but he also walks a bunch of people and doesn't strike
    anyone out. Ray King, the primary lefty, has had control problems all year;
    he's pitched better lately but is being used almost exclusively against
    lefty batters now. Trey Hodges has been excellent used in long relief or to
    start an inning, but keeps allowing inherited runners to score. You can
    imagine how this could come back to bite the Braves in postseason. Since
    their starters are unlikely to go much more than seven innings, the middle
    relief comes into play in every close game. In the Phillies' case, if
    Burrell, Abreu, and Thome play like Burrell, Abreu, and Thome, they can wear
    down the starter and beat up on the soft underbelly of the bullpen.

    2. If you saw the weekend series in Seattle, you'd see what happens if the
    home run isn't in play; the Braves scored only five runs in the series
    despite getting 20 hits and 11 walks. I'm not sure why this is so; the
    Braves are a high-average team and are fairly fast on the basepaths. (They
    do lose a ton of runners from overaggressive or just plain dumb
    baserunning.) But they're a big-inning team, and if you avoid giving up
    homers and doubles they can be stopped.

    3. The bench is just dreadful, except for whoever isn't starting at first
    base. Darren Bragg is the worst of the lot, hitting .135 with no power, but
    playing a lot because of Chipper's injuries. Mark DeRosa has shown a little
    power, but is hitting .230 with a .299 OBP. Henry "Personal Catcher" Blanco
    is hitting .203/253/.270. Matt Franco may actually be good, but it's
    impossible to tell because every time he goes up to pinch-hit, the other
    manager brings in a lefty and Bobby calls him back. And that's it, because
    the Braves are carrying seven relievers in case a game goes fifteen innings
    or something. It killed them in Seattle; they had at most one pinch-hitter
    they could use a game.

    I'll throw in that Vinny Castilla really isn't any good, but that doesn't
    hurt the team much because he hits eighth, and anyway the Expos and Phillies
    are getting even worse play from third base.

    I don't think that the Braves will be caught. It's possible, of course, but
    they're seven games up on Montreal, which is playing without its best player
    and with a tattered starting rotation. The Phillies still have a shot, but
    don't seem to be in very good shape for a run.

    David Lee, of the fairly new Braves Buzz, agrees with the point on the bullpen:

    The question is whether the pitching will come around. Everybody knows that when you lose such great pitchers like Remmy (Remlinger), Chris Hammond, and Mr. Spooney (Spooneybarger), you'll have a hard time matching the stats. But the guys John have brought in have proved themselves several times and we have too many good pitchers to stay this sorry. The pitching will come around.

    As for the offense, Braves fans haven't seen this great of an offense in quite a while. I certainly hope it stays like it is. If the pitching comes around like I predict, those Phillies (or anybody else) will have a time trying to catch up to them.

    And as I am writing this, I get an e-mail from Brad Dowdy over at No Pepper, agreeing with the points on the bullpen and the bench:

    The first weakness I see is the bullpen. Outside of John Smoltz, I get a
    little nervous every time Bobby Cox signals down to the pen. Trey Hodges
    has pitched great as a rookie, but Cox sees him as just that, a rookie.
    Jung Bong has held his own as well, but Cox is hesitant to put either rookie
    into any crucial situations at the moment. The way Hodges has pitched (1.64
    ERA, 31 K, 21 H, 33 IP) may force Cox to change his usage pattern soon.

    Holdovers Darren Homes and Kevin Gryboski, and newcomers Roberto Hernandez
    and Ray King are, for the most part, terrible. I have been especially hard
    on Hernandez in my blog, and of course I would never wish harm to anybody,
    but we may be better off with him on the DL. Jason Marquis got the call
    back from AAA to replace Hernandez, and if Marquis has his head out of his
    you-know-where and is resigned to the fact he is coming out of the pen, he
    could be a solid contributor the rest of the way.

    Out of the other three I haven't mentioned, Ray King has a good ERA (2.70),
    but has walked more batters than he has struck out (14 walks to 13 K's), and
    is basically a LOOGY. Darren Holmes ERA sits at 4.74 and Gryboski is at

    The other weakness I see is the Braves bench. While there are good players
    and good hitters riding the pine, we don't really have anyone who can
    adequately patrol the outfield in case of an injury to one of Chipper,
    Andruw, of Sheffield. Darren Bragg has been average at best in the field,
    filling in during minor injuries to Chipper and Andruw, but has been beyond
    awful at the plate. Despite knocking in what turned out to be the game
    winning run in our only victory in the Seattle series, Bragg is currently
    hitting .135/.190/.149 in 74 plate appearances. He has had more than enough
    chances to prove that he stinks, and it's time management makes a move. We
    have players in AAA and even AA that can do better than what he has done so

    Mark DeRosa is a valuable asset of the bench, able to play all infield
    positions and hit with some competency, but Cox doesn't see him as a fit in
    the outfield. The two-headed Franco is basically one too many of the same
    player. Henry "Personal Catcher" Blanco is here to stay as well.

    All that being said, I obviously still like our chances for postseason play,
    which isn't too much of a stretch to say. I think our starting pitching is
    good enough, and will actually improve the rest of the way. I don't think
    this offensive output is a fluke, but it will have to calm down at some
    point. When that is, who knows, but I sure am enjoying the ride!

    I haven't watched the Braves enough this season to know what their weaknesses are; that's why I went to my "experts". But I do know that their pitching is not up to the level that we have become accustomed. Glavine is gone. Millwood is in Phillie red. Maddux is not himself. Remlinger and Holmes are gone. Hernandez is now on the DL. But in the past, if their pitching had faltered, their hitters couldn't pick up the slack. That is not true this year. Sure, their bats have to cool off -- to a certain extent -- at some point. But what happens if the pitching starts to pick up? Aren't the teams trailing them in the same boat then?

    It appears that the chances of the other teams in the East come down to hoping that the starting pitching in Atlanta stays mediocre, the bullpen continues to struggle to get to Smoltz, and the hitting cools off. My fingers are crossed, but then again, these are the Braves. Every year we count them out, and every year, they knock everyone else out. This year is no different.

    A big thanks to the Braves' bloggers mentioned for their assistance in scouting the Braves.

    Monday, June 16, 2003

    19 to 21 Baseball

    So what do you do with yourself if you are a Phillies fan living just outside of Atlanta? Well, first off, you ignore that "10" in the GB column. Second, you write a weekly e-mail looking at the history of baseball, and relating it to contemporary events.

    This is what John Shiffert has done. His 19 to 21 Baseball ties together baseball "Then and Now", from the 19th century to the 21st. This week, he is taking a look at Roger Clemens' feats of 4000 and 300, and whether or not such a thing can happen again.

    Check him out and tell him I sent you. And help his voodoo curse on the Braves!

    On the way to Cooperstown

    First off, I am claiming that Friday night's game never happened, despite evidence to the contrary. The only thing I saw happen Friday night was that great shoestring tackle Mike Lieberthal put on Cincinnati's Adam Dunn. Dunn hasn't been tackled like that since he was a quarterback at Texas; no truth to the rumor that the Eagles were calling the Phillies' catcher over the weekend in hopes of finding him at Lehigh next month. However, the rest of the game didn't happen, so I don't know what sparked the fight.

    The Phillies went 1-1 on the weekend (and since Friday didn't happen, that loss came against Mother Nature on Sunday). Saturday's 12-2 win provided a little bit of everything that the Phillies needed or wanted. Bobby Abreu provided a spark at the top of the linuep, going 2-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI. The offense woke up to put a 10-spot on the board in the eighth inning, an inning in which they managed to do all of the little things that have been eluding them for months. Placido Polanco went 2-for-5 in the second spot in the lineup. Jimmy Rollins went 3-for-5 with two runs scored in the seven spot. One spot higher, David Bell went 1-for-4 with a sac fly, a home run, and four RBI.

    But the Phillies highlight of the night was P Randy Wolf. Wolf picked up his eighth win of the season after going seven innings, allowing just one run on two hits, striking out seven. He did not walk a batter. He allowed a leadoff home run to Dunn in the first inning, and then proceeded to retire 21 of the next 24 batters he faced (he hit two batters on the night). He was followed by Rheal Cormier, some rain, and Terry Adams, who closed the ballgame out.

    Sunday's game was rained out in the second inning. The Phillies had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Abreu got on base, moved to second on a balk, was moved over to third by Polanco, and brought home on a two-out hit by David Bell. That was all for naught, however, and there was no mention of when the game would be made up.


    So now the Phillies return home...what's that you say? They don't come home? But the schedule has an off-day today, followed by three at the Vet with the Braves. Why wouldn't they come home? An exhibition game? Are you kidding me?

    Yes, that's right, the Phillies make a stop in Cooperstown today to play in the annual Hall of Fame exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Brandon Duckworth, who is being skipped in the rotation due to two days off surrounding the Reds series, will make the unofficial start today and pitch just one inning. He will be followed by last year's first-round draft pick, Cole Hamels. The Inquirer has an article this morning on Hamels and the progress he is making in his first year at Lakewood. Expect the Phillies roster to be made of bench players and minor leaguers, as Larry Bowa rests the regulars for a three-game set with the NL East-leading Braves.

    One regular who may be in the lineup is LF Pat Burrell. Burrell has, of course, struggled in the season's first two-plus months, and Bowa is unsure exactly what to do with him. Play him? Bench him? Send him to Scranton? Really, none of the options look particularly appealing, so I wouldn't be surprised if Bowa and Burrell use today as a chance for Burrell to try -- once again -- to find something to get him back on track.

    The game in Cooperstown today will feature a home run derby that will include Burrell, Thome, and ... *ahem* ... Tomas Perez? Umm, okay. I think.


    So after the pitstop in Cooperstown, the Phillies will come home for three with the Braves. The three game set is the start of a nine-game stretch that features three with Atlanta, three versus the Red Sox, and three in Atlanta. This is, of course, all part of the longer 24-game stretch that I have been keeping track of at the top of the left hand column. The Phillies entered this stretch 8 games behind Atlanta, and have last two more games through the first 15 of the stretch (each team has one rainout). In my preview of this 24-game stretch, I thought that the Phillies would be 7-8 to this point (2-1 vs. Anaheim and Cincinnati; 1-2 vs. Montreal, Seattle, and Oakland). In reality, they are 7-7, with that one postponement. Similarly, I thought the Braves would be 8-7 (2-1 vs. the Mets, Rangers, and Pirates; 1-2 vs. Oakland and Seattle); instead, they are 9-5, increasing their lead to 10 games here in mid-June.

    I don't have to tell you that the final nine games of this stretch, especially the six versus Atlanta are important for the Phillies' post-season chances. Losing any more ground to the Braves would all but end the Phillies' chances at the division. The door would still be open for the Wild Card, but even that would be on its way closed. Whatever offense the Phillies had in that eighth inning on Saturday needs to continue at the Vet this week, and be taken to Atlanta next week. A split in the six games would hurt. Anything less than that could be fatal.

    The pitching matchups for the next three games are Brett Myers (5-6, 3.54) against Shane Reynolds (5-1, 5.14) tomorrow night; Kevin Millwood (8-4, 3.72) vs. Russ Ortiz (7-4, 3.79) on Wednesday; and Vicente Padilla (5-7, 4.09) vs. Mike Hampton (3-3, 3.73) in the Businesspersons' Special on Thursday. Thursday is supposed to be Wolfie's turn in the rotation, but citing Atlanta's domination of lefties this season, Larry Bowa may hold Wolf out for the Boston series. We'll see how many times that changes...

    Friday, June 13, 2003


    Baseball Prospectus has the Phillies in their Prospectus Triple Play today. What do they have to say?

    The question for the Phillies then becomes one of whether they can turn things around and live up to the expectations that were set for them--there's little reason to think they can't.

    Go and check out the full article.

    Happy Father's Day

    Bill Chuck of Billy-Ball Daily had a Father's Day special in his e-mail this morning. Bear with me while I repeat it:

    Rather than give you a whole column of stories this year, I have chosen one that I hope you will enjoy from our reader and contributor Matthew Coyne, who is a real good dad, despite his own protestations.

    “Once in a while I look around and realize that I am sitting in my office for a reason. Yesterday sucked.

    I suck.

    My little boy played his last T-ball game Monday. I had to leave early (again) in order to get him to the game on time. I was running late (again) and forgot to bring my camcorder. That was a mistake. He's the type of kid you want to record his actions because he leads the league in silly. One game he got a nice hit (off real pitching!) and, as he stood on first base, he leaned over and licked the first base coach's hand! The guy freaked, and Conor just stood on the base, innocently asking "What's wrong?"

    Getting a 5 year old to adhere to the rules of baseball can be hard, especially when he has the attention span of a fly. So my goal was to keep him focused for 2 innings, then 3, then finally, the entire 4 innings. His coach was a great guy who constantly encouraged him and worked with him, but it still was a challenge.

    After every game the coach would single out a boy who had done something special, or had tried extra hard, or had even shown up on time, and awarded him a game ball. Conor never got one. I didn't think he noticed until one night, as I was tucking him in, he asked why he never got one. I told him he had to try really hard to pay attention during the whole game, and Coach Pat would give him one.

    With all the rainouts, we played only 13 games and there were 14 kids. Coach Pat told me that he would give Conor and the other boy each a ball after the last game, but he wanted Conor to focus. So that was the basis of our discussions all week.

    Come Monday, Conor tried, but he clearly was distracted by the 3rd inning. Some of the other kids were going into the oods to relieve themselves, and I guess he thought that was cool. After the inning I was urgently summoned to the bench. "Daddy, I have to pee. Let's go into the woods." So we did, and he peed outside for the first time (the pool doesn't count). After wrestling with his zipper, he ran back to the bench and proudly announced to his teammates "I peed in the bushes!"

    After the game, the coach made everyone sit on the bench as he gave his final pep talk. "Guys, you really came a long way this year and I'm really proud of all of you. Tonight I am awarding two game balls. Brian, you deserve a game ball because you really hustled in the outfield tonight. Great job, Brian!"

    Conor didn't pick up on the fact that Coach Pat was giving out two balls. He was sitting on the end of the bench, eagerly awaiting his moment of recognition. As Coach Pat talked, I could see Conor's face scrunching up, like he was going to break out in heart-wrenching sobs any second. The kid was devastated.

    Then Coach Pat said "The second game ball is going to Conor. Conor tried really hard to pay attention all game and he did a great job. Way to go, Conor!"

    Conor jumped off the bench, smiling a huge smile, grabbed the ball, held it high, and announced to his teammates and their parents "I got a game ball! Look!"

    From the depths of despair to the ultimate glory, and my stupid camcorder was sitting in a corner of a closet.

    I suck.”

    See, I told you he was a great dad.

    This story reminds me of all that my father has done for me over the years. I started playing basketball when I was 5, and for most of the next 10 years, he was my coach. Sure, he made me run laps when everyone else got to stand and watch, but he was more than willing to be the coach year after year. In terms of baseball memories, my father took me to my first game when I was 9 or so. Blue Jays at Rangers, in the old ballpark in Arlington. I don't remember much about the game, but I remember that we were together, and we had a great time. This was just a few years after I realized that my own baseball future was bleak; when your father, serving as the umpire, has to call you out on really don't have major league teams knocking on your door. So we stuck to attending games.

    There was the game in Texas. There were a couple of games in Kansas City, after making a five-hour drive from Iowa. There was a weekend of baseball at Camden Yards in '93. There was my first Phillies game earlier that season. And then there was the game I took him to last year: a June 23 home loss to the Twins. We didn't arrive until the bottom of the second due to construction and traffic on the highway. I was ticked because we were late; he didn't seem to mind. I was disappointed with the loss, and frustrated by the Phillies (lack of) effort. After the game, I said so. He looked at me and said, "That's okay. It was just nice to spend the day with you."

    I feel the same way, Dad. Thank you for being there, and may there be many more games in our future. PNC Park next?

    Minor League news

    Only minor leaguer of note last night was the unbelievably hot Chase Utley. Chase went 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles, scoring two runs in last night's game. The three hits make him 22-for-44 in his last 11 games.

    At some point, we may want to consider adding some spark -- like Utley or Travis Chapman -- into the major league lineup, and see if they can light a fire under a team that has fallen 10 1/2 behind the Braves.

    All-Time Phillies Lineup

    On Wednesday, I posted Rob Neyer's lineup for the All-time Phillies, and said that I would give it some thought and offer my opinions. This is what I found:

    I am too young to even start to think that I know the "best" players from a 100+ year old franchise. I could offer my opinions left and right, but I would always be missing somebody. So, I'm leaving "my thoughts" to a reader. (I'm finding that I have more and more of those!)

    Bill Liming sent me an e-mail with his all-time Phillies lineup. With his permission, I offer it to you here:

    C - Boone's not a bad choice at C, though Seminick might be better, and
    Lieberthal's probably close to passing them both. Give Boone the
    benefit of the doubt for being part of 5 playoff appearances and a WS

    1B - It probably says something about this franchise that Kruk has a
    decent argument here. Neyer's 2nd choice, Camilli, really didn't spend
    much time with the Phillies, though he had 2 great seasons. Fred
    Luderus is probably the best choice, based on longevity, and he also
    contributed as much to the 1915 WS appearance as Kruk did to the 1993

    2B - Samuel was the best hitting 2B the Phils have had, but Taylor
    beats him on playing time and defense and isn't really that far behind
    as a hitter. Morandini probably gets into the argument, too, but
    assuming Taylor's D was really that good, he probably deserves the nod.

    SS - I don't get picking Hamner at all. He only played ~900 games at
    SS and was really the starter for only about 5 years. HIs fielding
    numbers look good but not great. Larry Bowa played over 1700 games and
    Mickey Doolan played almost 1300. Heinie Sand played almost 800, and
    wasn't a much worse hitter than Hamner. Bowa's probably the worst
    hitter of the bunch, but not by a lot, and he probably added the most
    on the basepaths. Combined with the # of games, he looks like the
    obvious choice.

    3B - Schmidt, obviously. Interestingly, Dick Allen was awfully good for
    a short while, though Rolen still seems the clear #2. Better still,
    all three of them are clearly better than any of the Phils other IFs.

    LF - Magee looks like a solid pick, though you could make a case for
    Delahanty having a better peak. Luzinski's probably third.

    CF - Ashburn looks like another solid choice. Cy Williams and Roy
    Thomas look like good offensive picks for 2nd and 3rd, though Maddox
    may edge them out based on defense.

    RF - Callison was good for about 10 years, Chuck Klein was better, but
    only for about 6+ (in RF). Abreu's been awfully good for 5, 2-4 more
    and he's the pick.

    SP - Roberts, Carlton, and Alexander are no-brainers. I think
    Schilling and Short both edge Simmons.

    RP - Reed's awfully close to McGraw, but probably still 2nd, mostly
    because of McGraw's 2nd half in 1980.

    Bill also shared his depression at how few "great" players the Phillies have had in their history. In responding to his e-mail, I asked him what he thought of Rob Neyer's question as to whether or not Pete Rose should have been the 1B in the Phillies all-time lineup:

    My immediate impulse was no, that Dick Allen would be the obvious
    choice. Then I looked back and found that Allen really didn't play
    much 1B for the Phils. Rose is the best 1B to play for the Phils
    (taking into account his whole career) but the best 1B as a Phillie was
    Luderus. Kruk didn't even play that much 1B, about 400 games, to
    Luderus' ~1300. Looking at it some more, Von Hayes and Deron Johnson
    aren't that far behind Kruk. Incidentally, Luderus hit .437/.471/.750
    in the '15 WS while the team as a whole hit .182/.234/.243
    (.152/.206/.182 without Luderus). Kruk was good in the '93 postseason
    (.298/.431/.468 combined), but not that good.

    Bill wasn't the only one to share his thoughts. Matthew Appleton would make these changes:

    C: Darren Daulton subs for Boone

    I think that defense can be over-rated and I think Boone's selection is such an overstatement. Daulton at his peak was far more valuable to the club.

    LF: Greg Luzinski subs for Magee

    Of my four changes, this is the one I'm least comfortable with. Magee truly is an overlooked star from the deadball era, but Luzinski was better at his peak and played just as many years with the Phils.

    RF: Chuck Klein subs for Callison

    Callison put in more years, but Klein's first 6 years as a Phil dwarf Callison's entire career as a Phil.

    SP4: Bunning subs for Simmons

    With all four of them, I'm making something of a peak value over career value argument. Bunning really only had four good years with the Phils, so you can easily say that Simmons had a greater career value. However, those four years were spectacular.

    And loyal reader Mike Morley was just plain "disappointed that Steve Jeltz, Greg Legg and Porfi Altamirano aren't on these lists". Well, we all have our issues. :)

    Spark at the top?

    I really hate it when real life interferes with blogging. I was going to gloss over Wednesday night's loss to the Angels yesterday morning, and move on to any of three or four different topics at the top of my head. But instead, I was stuck in meetings all day. So my plan was to come in this morning, and make those posts. Nope...meetings through lunchtime. Doesn't anyone in the office understand that my main priority is this blog?!?

    What's that? They sign my paycheck? Oh, about those meetings...

    The main piece of news I had yesterday was that Larry Bowa is thinking about moving Bobby Abreu to the leadoff spot in the lineup. The Inquirer had news about it in Thursday's paper, as well as this morning's. Abreu -- who has many times expressed his displeasure with hitting leadoff -- now seems agreeable, as long as it helps the team.

    If you have been reading the 700 Level from the beginning (all two of you), you will know that I suggested back in February that Abreu might be the best Phillie for the leadoff spot. Actually what I said was

    And should [Rollins] fail, Larry Bowa will have to look at another option, whether it be Polanco or Bobby Abreu, who -- although he has expressed his disinterest in hitting leadoff -- may be the best Phillie for that role. -- February 14, 2003

    When reader Jordan argued that Abreu was better off further down in the order, I agreed. But I also said

    If the job of the leadoff man is to get on base and work a pitcher, Abreu is the Phillie best suited for that role. His OBP last season was .413 (.409 career), highest among the regulars in the lineup. He also saw 4.27 pitches per at-bat, 3rd best figure in the majors. He has patience and the ability to get on base. But Bobby Abreu is not your quintessential leadoff man; Jordan is right in that he belongs further down in the order where he can use his power and speed to the highest advantage. I have always thought that he was perfect in the 3-hole because he has the ability to drive in baserunners that get on ahead of him while getting on base himself for the guys further down the order. I think he's best at 3, and he will more than admirably do the job at 5, if that's where Larry Bowa puts him. But if you are looking for the Phillie that is best suited to hit leadoff, I think you have to look at Abreu. -- February 18, 2003

    I said that early in Spring Training. Bobby is struggling this season, but still has a .391 OBP, which trails only Lieberthal's .399 among regulars this season. He is seeing 4.30 pitches per plate appearance, showing that he has the patience to work a pitcher early in a ballgame. Rollins has struggled since getting off to a great start in April (.292 BA, .365 OBP). He dropped to .274 and .305 in May, and is an awful .191/.224 in June. He went from 13 walks in April to 5 in May and 2 so far in June. His patience has evaporated, and he is seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance than he did last season. Larry Bowa used Placido Polanco in the leadoff spot for a game last week, but Polanco's numbers have not been much better. Polanco is hitting .175 in June, and getting on base at a .227 clip this month. He has drawn 17 walks all season.

    You may wonder about moving Marlon Byrd to the leadoff spot, now that he is hitting. Marlon is hitting a spectacular .519 this month, and is getting on base almost 60% of the time. He has almost as many walks in two weeks of June (4) as he had in April and May combined (6). But Marlon is just getting comfortable; I wouldn't want to move him to leadoff and put more pressure on him at this point in time.

    So that leaves Abreu...

    And what would moving Bobby to leadoff do to the rest of the lineup? My guess is that Rollins slides down to the #2 spot, followed by Thome, Lieberthal, Burrell, Polanco, Bell, and Byrd. Jimmy gets to relax a little bit by not hitting leadoff, and may see some more fastballs hitting in front of Thome. Polanco moves down in the order and uses his ability to put the bat on the ball and drive in some runs. It certainly takes some punch out of the middle of the lineup, but maybe -- just maybe -- it sparks the lineup from the top, and shakes Abreu out of his season-long funk.

    Will it happen? Watch this weekend in Cincinnati. Will it work? Your guess is as good as mine...and maybe Larry Bowa's.


    Pitching matchups this weekend in Cincy:

  • Tonight: Millwood (8-3) vs. Jimmy Haynes (0-5)

  • Saturday: Wolf (7-3) vs. Danny Graves (3-5)

  • Sunday: Padilla (5-7) vs. Paul Wilson (4-4)
  • Wednesday, June 11, 2003

    All-Star voting

    The latest results of the NL All-Star voting were released yesterday, and it is interesting to see which Phillies are getting votes.

    Jim Thome is second in the balloting at first base, 58,000 votes (or so) behind Houston's Jeff Bagwell. Thome was often the odd man out at 1B in the AL. Will that continue in the NL?

    David Bell is fifth in the third base voting, more than 300,000 votes behind...*cough*...Scott Rolen. Rolen, by the way, is second in the NL in total votes, behind some guy named Bonds.

    Jimmy Rollins ranks fifth in SS voting, behind Edgar Renteria, Rafael Furcal, Rich Aurilla, and the wrong Alex Gonzalez (Cubs version).

    Amazingly, Mike Lieberthal is getting no love at the catcher's position. He is not listed in the top five, and is trailing (at least) Pudge Rodriguez (struggling), Mike Piazza (injured), Javy Lopez (scorching hot), Benito Santiago (87 and playing well), and Mike Matheny (what?!?).

    None of the struggling Phillies outfielders made the top 15.

    Minor League Update

    From the Baseball America Prospect Report:

  • Scranton 2B Chase Utley had another good night, going 3-for-5 and scoring two runs. He is now hitting .340 on the season, and has 17 hits in his last 8 games.

  • Clearwater P Gavin Floyd goes to 5-4 on the year with a 4-hit shutout of the FSL Blue Jays last night. Floyd struck out five while walking two, and lowered his ERA to 2.82.

  • Lakewood P Rob Tejeda gave up one run on four hits over five innings last night. He struck out eight, and came away with a no-decision.
  • All-time lineup?

    As most of you, I am sure, know by now, has posted the all-time team lineups, from Rob Neyer's "Big Book of Baseball Linueps". The all-time Phillies, you ask?

    C Bob Boone (1972-1981)
    1B John Kruk (1989-1994)
    2B Tony Taylor (1960-1971; 1974-1976)
    SS Granny Hamner (1944-1959)
    3B Mike Schmidt (1972-1989)
    LF Sherry Magee (1904-1914)
    CF Richie Ashburn (1948-1959)
    RF Johnny Callison (1960-1969)
    SP1 Steve Carlton (1972-1986)
    SP2 Pete Alexander (1911-1917; 1930)
    SP3 Robin Roberts (1948-1961)
    SP4 Curt Simmons (1947-1960)
    RP Tug McGraw (1975-1984)

    I haven't given this list much thought, or considered any alternatives, but I intend to. At a quick glance, the only "untouchables" in my mind are Schmidt, Ashburn, and the first three starters.

    I'll try to come up with some thoughts later, but what are yours?

    How to lose a ballgame

    Let us count the ways...

  • Marlon Byrd -- who two innings earlier had made a great play to rob Tim Salmon of a hit -- misplays a ball hit by Salmon in the sixth. Salmon ends up on third.

  • Brandon Duckworth uncorks a wild pitch, allowing Salmon to score the Angels second run.

  • With no one out in the top of the seventh, Pat Burrell was nailed at third on what should have been a sacrifice bunt by Tomas Perez. Larry Bowa said after the game that the bunt wasn't the issue -- Burrell just didn't get a large enough lead for the situation.

  • Later in the inning, the Phillies had runners at second and third with two outs. Down by a run, Jimmy Rollins laid down an uncalled-for bunt. He was out; the inning was over.

  • Things like that lead to a 2-1 loss, and the end of a short-lived winning streak.

    Brandon Duckworth was not on the top of his game last night, but he still only gave up two runs on four hits through 5 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, he had also walked four and thrown over 100 pitches when he was pulled. Terry Adams came in and threw 2 2/3 perfect innings, yet the Phillies floundered in their comeback chances.

    The offense was facing a struggling John Lackey, who came into the game with a 5.93 ERA. In his nine previous starts he had given up runs in bunches: two earned runs in three of those starts, three earned runs in one start, four earned runs twice, five earned runs twice, and six earned runs in one start. Batters are hitting .300 against him for the season. Yet the Phillies managed just one run on five sad hits.

    On the bright side, David Bell woke up and went 2-for-4 with an RBI. The two hits brought him back up and over the Mendoza Line (.203). Pat Burrell got a hit (.201), but he also struck out twice and looked really bad in doing so. Marlon Byrd got another hit (1-for-3) to raise his average again, this time to .264.

    In his Inside Pitch segment on Baseball Tonight last night, Peter Gammons reported that the recent surge by Marlon Byrd has the Phillies reconsidering trading for a replacement in CF. According to Gammons, the front office is going to continue to be patient with Byrd, and if they do decide to make a move, it now will not be until after the All-Star break.

    One possible trade that the Phillies should not sit back on is the one in my head for Ugueth Urbina. Urbina is rumored to be heading to either Boston or New York, but I think he would be a wonderful fit for the Phillies, even if it is just to let Mesa collect dust on the bench. Urbina is a free-agent at the end of the year (I think), and would not cost a whole heck of a lot to acquire. The one thing that Texas always needs is pitching, and the Phillies have a wealth of pitching in the minor leagues. I am not saying that Philadelphia should part with a Hamels, a Floyd, or even a Madson. But they have a number of better-than-decent pitching prospects that would interest a pitching-starved team like Texas. So maybe Ed Wade should be calling John Hart. Just something to think about...

    Tuesday, June 10, 2003

    Minor League News

  • Infielders are on fire in Scranton. 2B Chase Utley went 2-for-4 last night, bringing his average up to .333 on the season. In his last 12 games, he is 20-for-43 (.465). 3B Travis Chapman went 2-for-3 last night with an RBI. In his last 10 games, he is 15-for-35 (.429).

    As a side note, 3B David Bell went 0-for-4 last night, dropping his average to .197.

  • Reading P Taylor Buchholz gave up three runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings last night, dropping him to 4-4 on the season. He has a 3.69 ERA, has allowed 51 hits in 53 2/3 IP, and has a 4:1 K:BB ratio.

  • Lakewood P Francisco Butto pitched seven innings of three-hit, shutout baseball last night, and walked away with a no-decision. He struck out five, walked none, and lowered his ERA to 1.59. On the season, he is 5-3 through 10 starts, and has allowed only 47 hits in 68 innings.

  • According to Baseball America's web site, the Phillies have two players in the Prospect Hot Sheet's top 12: P Cole Hamels (A Lakewood) comes in at #2, and 2B Chase Utley (AAA Scranton) rises to #11.
  • The Flotilla is sailing in CA

    Who knew that the Flotilla was up for a cross-country trip? It's captain, P Vicente Padilla, certainly was. Padilla shut down a fairly strong Anaheim lineup last night for seven innings, giving up only five hits. More importantly, he did not walk a batter. The Phillies offense provided timely hits, and walked away with their third straight victory, a 3-0 shutout of the defending champs.

    Padilla, who has been criticized by his manager in recent weeks for relying too heavily on his fastball, threw all of his pitches, and threw them all effectively.

    "The key to this game was that I was able to throw strikes with all of my pitches,'' Padilla said through an interpreter.

    Padilla stayed out of serious trouble until the seventh. With one out, Brad Fullmer singled. Scott Spiezio followed with his third single of the night, but Fullmer was gunned down by Bobby Abreu when Fullmer overslid third base.

    "Bobby made a great throw, and then David kept the ball on the runner,'' Bowa said. "A lot of guys don't do that, but David stayed with him. That was a big turning point for me.''

    Padilla's pitching was key, as the offense struggled to do much against Angels' starter Jarrod Washburn. Mike Lieberthal -- back home in California -- singled to lead off the 2nd and 5th, but those were the only Phillies' hits through five innings. In the sixth, LF Jason Michaels doubled to lead off the inning, and the hot Marlon Byrd followed with an infield single. Jimmy Rollins failed to get down a bunt to move the runners up, clearly angering his manager.

    "I know he didn't do it on purpose, but those are little that things you have to do to win games -- and we didn't get it done,'' said Bowa, who was visibly frustrated in the dugout.

    Placido Polanco flied out, bringing up Jim Thome with two outs. Thome ripped the first pitch back up the middle, scoring Michaels and giving Padilla a run to work with. Padilla got the Angels 1-2-3 in the sixth, and squeezed out of the seventh, preserving the lead. Rollins atoned in the top of the 8th for his earlier miscue at the plate, hitting a one out, solo homer to double the Phillies lead. One out later, Thome followed with his 15th of the year, a shot to center that cleared the 400-foot mark.

    Rheal Cormier pitched a one-hit eighth and Jose Mesa pitched a perfect (gasp!) ninth to nail down the shutout, and Padilla's fifth win of the season. Padilla's ship may finally be settling, as he threw his second decent game in three starts, third in five. His improved play may be a key for the Phillies as the summer drags on.

    Monday, June 09, 2003

    Blogging issues

    I have noticed lately that there have been issues with enetation -- the commenting tool I use -- loading properly. I'm looking into the issue, but if you need/want to contact me in the meantime, just e-mail me:

    Big time?

    After Jose Mesa blew a game against Arizona on May 13th, I wrote about his ineffectiveness: you can find those entries here and here. A few days later, Jayson Stark mentioned the fans' restlessness when Mesa entered a game in his Rumblings and Grumblings article.

    I contacted Jayson Stark -- actually, I took a shot in the dark and blindly e-mailed an address -- and offered to share my research on Mesa's troubles over the last two seasons. I actually got a response from Stark, who said the research was "good", and I was simply thrilled he responded. I thought it would end there.

    Imagine my shock as I was reading his Useless Information Department article this morning, and found my name. Near the bottom of the page, in the first bullet point under "Useless factoids of the week":

    Jose Mesa can be scary, all right. But until he served up a game-winning three-run homer to Mike Cameron on Thursday, loyal reader Michael Blake reports that the Phillies had gone 93-1 in games in which Mesa entered with a lead of two runs or more.

    Granted, I didn't get the site mentioned like Aaron of Aaron's Baseball Blog did a few weeks ago, but still. Who am I to complain??

    Phillies News and Notes

    A lot to offer today...

  • Has there been anyone hotter lately than Marlon Byrd? He entered the second game of last week's doubleheader against the Expos hitting .193. Since then he has gone 10-for-17 (.588), scored six runs, walked four times, and swiped a base. His 4-four-5 effort yesterday brought his average up to .260, 67 points higher than it was seven days earlier. Hell, he brought it up 28 points yesterday alone. He is starting to make contact at the plate and is, in turn, getting more comfortable. Larry Bowa, meanwhile, is getting more comfortable leaving him in the lineup, as he started all three games of the Oakland series, and eight of the last ten games overall.

  • Cole Hamels is going to Cooperstown. Last year's first round draft pick is expected to pitch next Monday when the Phillies take on the Devil Rays in the annual Hall of Fame game. Hamels pitched a seven-inning shutout for Lakewood last night, giving up only four hits and striking out a career-high 13. On the season, he is 2-0, with an 0.83 ERA. He has allowed 17 hits in 32 2/3 IP, walked 11, and struck out 54. He has struck out a ridiculous 45% of the total batters he has faced.

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning has an article on the Phillies' minor league strength at third base. Travis Chapman is hitting .299 with five home runs and 42 RBIs at AAA Scranton, but even more impressive to the Phillies is AA 3B Juan Richardson. Richardson is hitting .281 overall, has driven in 30 runs, and has hit an Eastern League-leading 14 home runs. For more on Richardson, read the article.

  • The same article also mentions two injuries to affect Phillies' minor leaguers this week -- one more serious than the other. The less serious: Scranton OF McKay Christensen is out for the year witha tear in his shoulder. His absence allows the Phillies to move Josue Perez to AAA. Perez was hitting .294 in 24 games at Reading. More serious is the season-ending injury to Reading OF Jorge Padilla. Padilla was off to a great start, hitting .315 in 39 games, but injured his hand diving for a ball, and has been out since May 25th. Tests showed a tear in the hand, and Padilla will undergo surgery this week. He has been considered one of the Phillies better position prospects.

  • Veterans Stadium seats go on sale today. The Phillies are selling the blue seats in pairs for $280. Each pair of seats comes with a certificate of authenticity. If you are interested, you can call the Phillies ticket line at 215-463-1000, or go to

  • Despite a struggling offense and a double-digit deficit to the Braves, Larry Bowa has no plans to change his lineup or make roster moves. If they keep hitting like they did yesterday, I have no problem with that. No, I take that back: I'd like to see Travis Chapman get a shot at replacing David Bell. I realize that the Phils spent a good deal of money on Bell, but he is in a 2-for-41 funk. Since he reached .259 on April 28th, Bell has had three distinct hitting streaks:
    • an 11-game 3-for-40 that dropped him from .259 to .200
    • an 11-game hitting streak in which he went 14-for-38, bringing his average from ..200 to .239
    • and his current 2-for-41 funk which has dragged him down to .201.
    With struggles like that, I think it's worth looking at Chapman.
  • Double the fun

    Phillies fans are starting to do rain dances on Saturday mornings. For the second consecutive week, a Saturday Phillies home game has been rained out, forcing an old-fashioned Sunday doubleheader. And for the second week in a row, the Phillies swept that doubleheader.

    Yesterday, it was their former neighbors, the A's, that were on the short end of the DH sweep. Finishing up their first series in Philadelphia since leaving town 49 years ago, the A's sent Mark Mulder to the mound in the first game. Mulder, the 8-game winner, was facing Kevin Millwood -- who was suffering from the flu -- and a Phillies offense that itself has looked ill for weeks. That, of course, meant that the bats would wake up.

    Millwood (8-3) ignored the illness and pitched seven strong innings, giving up just one run on six hits, and ending his own personal two-game losing streak as the Phillies won 7-1. The offense had 11 hits -- three each from Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd -- and a game-opening, three-run homer by another flu-infected Phillie, Pat Burrell. Burrell went 2-for-4 in the opener with that home run and a double, raising his average to .199. The home run stifled the fans' boos for at least a short time; Burrell took a seat on the bench for game two.

    In that second game, Randy Wolf tried to match the new staff ace pitch-for-pitch. Wolf (7-3) went seven innings himself, giving up three runs on only four hits. He struggled to find a groove early on, but he had time to do so, as the offense had staked him to an early lead. A first-inning home run by Jim Thome -- his 14th -- gave the Phillies an early lead. He was joined in the homer parade by Bobby Abreu (9th) and Placido Polanco (6th). Tomas Perez added two hits and two RBI, and Marlon Byrd went 1-for-2, raising his average to .260. The nine hits by the Phillies were enough to score eight runs, and complete the day's sweep, 8-3.

    Yesterday's doubleheader sweep was the second such sweep in eight days for the Phillies, making them 4-0 in doubleheaders this season. The four wins takes them to 29-31 in their 30 doubleheaders since the start of the season in 1994. Strangely, they have played seven doubleheaders against Cincinnati (5-9 overall; 2 sweeps by Philly, 4 by Cincy, 1 split), including two each in 1996 and 1997. They have also played 13 doubleheaders against their current NL East opponents in these 10 years, going 12-14. Six of those 13 DH's have come against the Marlins -- each team swept two doubleheaders, and they split the other two.

    The A's last played a doubleheader in Philly in 1954, just before they left town. According to the game log at Retrosheet, Boston came to town and won both games of a twinbill on September 5, 1954. Tom Brewer led the charge in the first game, winning 12-5; Russ Kemmerer led Boston in the second game, 7-3. So, in their last two doubleheaders in the City of Brotherly Love, the A's are 0-4 and have been outscored 34-12. Ken Macha and company are happy to be leaving town again.

    Thus ends your random doubleheader lesson for the day...

    Following yesterday's games, the Phillies boarded the flight heading westbound, as they travel to take on the Anaheim Angels for three starting tonight. Both teams are doing this east coast-to-west coast overnight flight, yet this will be the only game in the majors today. You figure it out. Vicente Padilla (4-7) will take the mound tonight against Jarrod Washburn (6-5). Tomorrow night's game will feature Brandon Duckworth (3-1) versus last year's rookie sensation, John Lackey (3-5). Wednesday's finale will be Brett Myers (5-5) versus Kevin Appier (4-3). All three games will start at 10:05 PM Philly time.