Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:47 pm
LOS ANGELES -- All credit to the all-world Phillies rotation. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is pitching for a place in history.
And we've all seen the damage wreaked by a highly decorated lineup led by Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
But you don't compile baseball's best record based behind just eight or nine players. And as such, the Phillies are getting plenty of help from these easily overlooked parts in their machine:
-- Reliever Antonio Bastardo: With closer Brad Lidge on the shelf for most of the season, Bastardo has played a key, late-innings role and currently is holding opponents to a .128 batting average -- second lowest among NL relievers. His 1.49 ERA is fifth-lowest among NL relievers.
-- Starter Vance Worley: With Joe Blanton done for the year, Worley is 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA and currently has won six consecutive decisions. He's fanned 66 hitters against only 28 walks in 84 1/3 innings.
-- Infielder Michael Martinez: With third baseman Placido Polanco hurt again, it is Martinez, plucked from the Nationals as a Rule V pick last winter, who is providing steady relief. Martinez's 15 RBI during the month of July ranked third among all NL rookies, behind Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (18) and the Padres' Jesus Guzman (18).
-- Outfielder John Mayberry Jr.: Acquired from Texas in a trade in November, 2008, Mayberry, 27, continues to develop into a serviceable backup outfielder with an intriguing future. Of his past 23 hits, 17 have gone for extra bases (and overall, 52.5 percent of his major league hits, 31 of 59, have been for extra bases).
-- Infielder Wilson Valdez: He's plugged in at second base, third base and shortstop at various times this season and, in an extra-innings pinch against the Reds on May 25, became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to start a game in the field and then become the winning pitcher. Though light-hitting overall, Valdez is batting .390 with runners in scoring position this season.
Shane Victorino, twice a Rule V pick himself (the Phillies took him from the Padres in 2004 after the Padres took him from the Dodgers in 2002), raves about Martinez and the "energy" he brings.
"Little pieces," Victorino says. "It always takes 25 guys. Somebody gets hurt, somebody else steps in."
Recalling when the Phillies signed pitcher Pedro Martinez for the stretch run in '09, Victorino said he was extremely wary of Martinez because of the reputation the pitcher brought as a fiery headhunter. But Martinez went 5-1 for Philadelphia in nine starts, pitched the Phillies into position to beat the Dodgers in a key NLCS game and Victorino now calls Martinez "the greatest teammate I've ever had."
"Here, it's all about winning, and winning right now," Victorino says. "If you don't care about winning, don't show up.
"We have so many superstars in here -- MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers. But Martinez is no different from me because it's all about winning."
That's the way it is throughout the Phillies' clubhouse right now, an impressive culture that is steamrolling everything in its path.
Likes: With the trade deadline having passed and at least a little more free time in August, looking forward to a big date night with my wife to see Crazy, Stupid Love sometime soon. ... Lots of TV to catch up on as well: Last couple episodes of Treme, last five episodes of Friday Night Lights (that's only with trepidation, though, because it's the last season and while I can't wait to see the last few FNLs, I don't want to get through them because then one of my favorite shows in recent memory will be done, sniff, sniff) and the first few episodes of Entourage. ... Haven't gotten all the way through it yet, but I'm liking Sky Full of Holes, the new Fountains of Wayne disc.
Dislikes: I realize there are plenty of parents out there who disagree with me, but man I hate to see summer dwindle down to its last few weeks before school starts again. Summer is never, ever long enough.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Then she wakes me with coffee
"And kisses my head
"And she starts to explain
"About something she's read
"I say, 'Darlin', you haven't heard a word that I've said'
"And I love that girl."
-- John Hiatt, I Love That Girl
Tags: Antonio Bastardo, Babe Ruth, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Fountains of Wayne, Friday Night Lights, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, John Hiatt, John Mayberry Jr., Michael Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Vance Worley, Vance Worley, WIlson Valdez
Posted on: October 14, 2009 10:58 pm
LOS ANGELES -- The Phillies and Crazy Like a Fox Manager Charlie Manuel are at it again.
They named only their Game 1 starter, Cole Hamels, on Wednesday for the NL Championship Series.
Manuel said he'd get back to everybody with further rotation details.
Last round, the Phils named only their first two starters, leaving everybody to guess on their Game 3 starter. J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton were the favorites, which made for a real interesting scenario when Manuel summoned each of them in relief in Game 2.
For the NLCS after Hamels ... based on his starting Monday in Colorado, Cliff Lee probably will pitch Game 3. Happ, who started Sunday in Denver, likely will pitch Game 4.
Which leaves Game 2 a mystery.
Don't look now, but indications are that it could be Pedro.
Manuel said Wednesday that Blanton and Happ would be available out of the bullpen in the "first few games" of this series. Martinez, meantime, threw a simulated game Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Which means, adding two and two, you get ... Martinez as the Phillies' Game 2 starter?
"I'll say this about Blanton: I definitely look at Blanton as a starter," Manuel said a moment after confirming that Blanton would be available out of the bullpen in Game 1. "I told you before, he is the guy that can really set our bullpen up. In front of [Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson] ... give me some leverage in the back, if that makes sense.
"And I feel like he is that guy, ... with the mentality and the go get 'em and the grit and the desire and whatever you want to say."
Regarding Martinez, who has not pitched in a game since Sept. 30 and has thrown only seven innings since Sept. 13, Manuel said he was impressed with Pedro in Tuesday's simulated game.
"His stuff is there," Manuel said. "That speaks for itself. Tremendous, beautiful pitch. And therefore he gets back his command. In order for him to pitch good and win games, he's got to have good command."
Posted on: August 13, 2009 6:17 pm
Those who believe in clubhouse chemistry now have two riveting experiments to watch in these final six weeks: Alex Rios and his Chicago White Sox teammates, and Pedro Martinez and his Philadelphia Phillies teammates.
Both situations involve winning teams with high expectations, a new player with baggage and current players who are popular in the clubhouse and stand to lose playing time.
It is widely believed that Rios' arrival will punch Jermaine Dye's ticket out of town. Dye, a free agent this winter, Rios, Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik equal four players for three spots. So? Manager Ozzie Guillen's job just became ever-more challenging. And unless there's mega-understanding, somebody's not going to be happy with each new lineup card posting.
Between general manager Kenny Williams' uber-aggressiveness and Guillen's take-no-crap manner, these are just the guys to handle it. What these Sox have done so well over the years is put winning first, rather than cater to personalities, and that's not changing now.
"That's what we do here," Guillen told Chicago reporters this week. "We hurt your feelings? That's easy. Call your agent, your agent will call [general manager] Kenny Williams and then Kenny will do something about it."
The biggest key might be how much of an effort Rios makes. In Toronto, several sources say, he rubbed several teammates the wrong way with his disinterest in working too hard.
Meantime, Martinez's arrival has pushed veteran Jamie Moyer to the bullpen. Moyer is not a happy camper, and Pedro, historically a diva, could cause a clubhouse rift down the stretch. Especially if he isn't winning. Moyer, integral to the Phillies' World Series title last year, is popular with teammates and is viewed as a mentor by younger Phils (which, yes, pretty much includes all of them being that Moyer is 46).
The prediction here is that, as usual, it will come down to performance and wins in the end. If Rios hits and the Sox win, the rotating outfield quartet will be all smiles. If he doesn't and they don't, it could get ugly.
In Philly, same thing. Pedro's act always has tilted toward the endearing when he's winning, and toward the grating when he's not. His debut with the Phils, a 12-5 win over the Cubs, was a start. If he improves from there, the Phillies' callous shoving aside of Moyer will be far more easily overlooked in the clubhouse.
And if not, Pedro may not be around for the long haul, anyway. And maybe Moyer makes a triumphant, late-season return to the rotation.
At the very least, both situations have the chance to work out splendidly ... or to turn catastrophic. Either way, it'll be must-see TV.
How good are the New York Yankees' chances of playing in another World Series?
History tells us this: Dating back to 1995, eight of the 14 teams that owned the best record in baseball on Aug. 13 have advanced to that year's World Series (and four of those teams won).
The eight best record on Aug. 13/World Series teams: 2007 Boston Red Sox, 2006 Detroit Tigers, 2005 Chicago White Sox, 2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 1999 New York Yankees, 1998 New York Yankees, 1996 Atlanta Braves and 1995 Cleveland Indians.
The four World Series winners: 2007 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox, the 1999 Yankees and the '98 Yankees.
The Yankees, by the way, are the seventh different team over the past seven seasons to own the best record in baseball on Aug. 13.
Likes: Caught The Bob Dylan Show -- Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dylan -- in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Wednesday night and it was fantastic. Great venue -- at The Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, Single A affiliate of the San Diego Padres -- gorgeous night and great sound. Willie Nelson opened, playing for about an hour, and the man may be 76, but his voice is timeless. Of course, his classics Whiskey River and On the Road Again were great, and a couple of Hank Williams numbers mid-show, Jambalaya and Hey Good Lookin', were really cool. Mellencamp rocks, though one of his highlights was an acoustic version of Small Town. He brought out his 14-year-old son, Speck, to play guitar on his final number, The Authority Song, and Mellencamp teased him pretty good ("Now you know you're not in the band, right?"). Pink Houses, Crumblin' Down, Rain on the Scarecrow and a couple of his new songs were stellar. Then, last came the master. And while I've heard Dylan can be maddeningly inconsistent, and barely able to be understood sometimes when he sings, I've gotta say, he and his five-man band were far better than I expected. There isn't any interplay with the audience, but that's fine. Watching Dylan was the same feeling I got when I was in a baseball clubhouse when Muhammad Ali entered a couple of springs ago. To me, there are only a very small handful of icons that can make you sit back and go, 'Whoa', and the reclusive Dylan -- like Ali -- is one. He killed on Thunder on the Mountain and Summer Nights, among many others. All Along the Watchtower, his show closer, was terrific. The Times, They Are A-Changing was barely recognizable until about a third of the way in, but it was great. Two songs from the new album, Beyond Here Lies Nothin' and Jolene, were highlights. All in all, when you can catch three Hall of Famers in one venue on one night, that's a pretty darn good night. ... Oh yeah, and there was a fourth Hall of Famer, too: Basketball legend -- and former Grateful Dead groupie -- Bill Walton was rockin' in the standing room area in front of the stage, about 20 feet to my right. Looked like people were leaving him alone and letting him enjoy the show.
Dislikes: A Cubs fan throws beer on Shane Victorino during Wednesday night's game? All these years later, and Lee Elia is still right. ... Can we just get past the Aug. 17 signing deadline so we don't have to listen to more of the Stephen Strasburg negotiations. Every baseball man I talk to expects, with Scott Boras as the adviser, that it will go right up until the midnight EDT deadline on the 17th. ... Aw, they sold out of the cool Bob Dylan Show concert poster I was going to pick up on my way out of the Lake Elsinore ballpark at Wednesday night's show. It would have looked so good on my office wall, too.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver
-- Bob Dylan, I Feel a Change Comin' On
Posted on: August 11, 2009 6:45 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2009 9:57 pm
When the Arizona Diamondbacks signed center fielder Chris Young to a five-year, $28 million deal in April, 2008, it appeared as if both Young and the Diamondbacks were on the rise.
The team, coming off of an appearance in the 2007 National League Championship Series, had what appeared to be a solid young core. And Young was one of the centerpieces.
As an encore to their '07 October run, the Diamondbacks reeled off a 20-8 April in '08 and seemed well on their way to long-term domination in a weak NL West.
For that one month in '08, they served as a model for the way budget-conscious teams must run their shops.
No more. Since then, the Diamondbacks have gone 113-134, essentially lost ace Brandon Webb for the year, fallen out of the '09 race practically by Mother's Day and fired manager Bob Melvin. Then, on Monday, exasperated with Young's descent, they finally optioned him back to Triple-A Reno in an attempt to, if nothing else, jump-start what has become a total reclamation project.
Young, currently in a 2-for-27 slump, is hitting just .194 this season and looks nothing like the player he was in '07, when he became the first rookie in big league history to collect 30 or more homers (he finished with 32) and 25 or more steals (he had 27).
The five-year, $28 million deal is looking like a wreck right now, as is the three-year, $30 million deal bestowed upon outfielder Eric Byrnes (.216, five homers, 24 RBI) that does not expire until after the 2010 season. The Diamondbacks owe Byrnes ($11 million) and Young ($3.25) a combined $14.25 million in 2010.
Young still is only 25, but the race is on to see whether he can live up to his contract.
"He hasn't gotten any better," says one scout who watched the Diamondbacks recently. "He's stubborn. He's hacking at pitches out of the strike zone, he's trying to pull everything. He's trying to be a home run hitter, which he is, but you've got to be somewhat selective sometimes.
"Arizona did the right thing with him."
Presumably, the Diamondbacks will take a big step forward next season with the return of Webb, who, teamed with Danny Haren, provides as good a one-two punch as there is in the league. But Doug Davis and Jon Garland each is a free agent this winter. And the $14 million they owe Young and Byrnes is that much more they cannot spend in other areas of need.
Likes: Phillies-Cubs for three beginning tonight in Wrigley Field. Interesting pitching matchups, too: Rich Harden against the Phillies' hot J.A. Happ tonight, Jeff Samardzija vs. Phillies' newcomer Pedro Martinez on Wednesday and a couple of aces, Ryan Dempster vs. Cliff Lee, on Thursday. ... I know all about slump busters, and I have to say, this one's in a class of her own. ... Good for the Washington Nationals, winners of eight in a row. But you know what will kill the goodwill immediately? If they blow the signing of first-overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg. Signing deadline is Aug. 17 at midnight EDT. ... Saw In the Loop the other night, the political satire in which Britain and the United States ready to go to war in the Middle East over a miscommunication thanks to a British staffer. Liked it overall, but doggone it's difficult to understand the accents. ... Really enjoying this season of Entourage. I thought last year it was close to jumping the shark, but this year's storyline is crisp and funny. ... Brad Paisley's American Saturday Night is a bit too country for me, but it's got some good, catchy stuff. The title song and Catch All the Fish in particular stand out.
Dislikes: I know they've got $60 million worth of players on the disabled list, but are the Mets even trying anymore? People around the team seem to think general manager Omar Minaya's job is safe after the club had to toss assistant GM Tony Bernazard overboard, but if the Mets continue to slide and play with no heart, don't be surprised if they wind up sacrificing Minaya for the flawed $100 million roster. Manager Jerry Manuel? I think he stays. Bottom line: It's all going to depend on ownership and how much dough the Wilpons are willing to cast aside, because Minaya is signed for three more years and Manuel is signed through 2010.
"If I had a boat
-- Lyle Lovett, If I Had a Boat
Posted on: April 22, 2009 9:26 pm
With four starting pitchers on the disabled list, the Los Angeles Angels remain determined to patch their holes from within and will promote right-hander Matt Palmer from Triple-A Salt Lake to start Thursday night's game against Detroit.
Which means, for now, you can forget about the few scraps still out there on the free agent market such as Pedro Martinez. And behind him, neither Paul Byrd nor Mark Mulder should be waiting by their telephones.
"There are obvious free agents out there," Angels general manager Tony Reagins says. "Pedro's representative (Fern Cuza) reached out to me a couple of weeks ago. Since then, there hasn't been any contact."
Nor, Reagins said, are the Angels anywhere close to signing a free agent despite the fact that ace John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Dustin Moseley and Kelvim Escobar are on the DL. The Angels also are still recovering from the death of starter Nick Adenhart, who opened the season in the rotation, in a tragic traffic accident two weeks ago.
"There is nothing imminent," Reagins said when asked if there are plans to go outside the organization for help. "We're confident in the players we have in house. I want to be clear on that.
"Right now, we're not playing as good as we can. We can play much better. We're trying to re-set our bullpen. Our starting pitching has been fine.
"We're 13 games in. We're not pushing any panic buttons. We have some talented players. We're very confident."
The Angels gave a spot start to reliever Darren Oliver on Saturday in Minnesota. But manager Mike Scioscia said before Wednesday's game against Detroit that Oliver was "still a little stiff" from that start and that the club did not want to push him any harder with another start.
Besides, despite so many starting pitchers out, the Angels cannot afford to dip into their bullpen for spot starters because they need all hands on deck there. Los Angeles' 7.85 bullpen ERA is the worst in baseball.
Originally selected by San Francisco in the 31st round of the 2002 draft, Palmer has three big league starts on his resume, all last year. He went 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA for the Giants in 2008. In 12 2/3 innings, opponents batted .333 against Palmer last year. He walked 13 and struck out three.
Posted on: February 16, 2008 5:43 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2008 5:44 pm
If healthy players are happy players, then Pedro Martinez apparently is feeling very good this spring. Had a fun exchange with him early Saturday morning in which we started talking about how long he's been playing, which led me to ask how long he wants to play.
"I'm 36. How many years after 36 did Roger (Clemens) play?" Pedro demanded.
Well, that's difficult to say, I told him, given how Clemens keeps un-retiring. But he played until he was 41 or 42 I told Martinez, momentarily blanking that he actually was 44 during his half-season with the Yankees last summer.
"Well then, when I'm 41, 42, we'll talk," Pedro shot back. "So far, let's not talk about that. I'm only 36. I'm still a young buck. Unless (baseball) says goodbye. Tom Glavine was 41 last year when he pitched here. Do I look that old?"
Absolutely not, I told Pedro. Besides, I teased him, looking for a rise, you're prettier.
"I'm not prettier!" Pedro shrieked. "I'm handsome. Pretty is my wife."
About that time, reliever Scott Schoeneweis, who had been listening from a couple of lockers down, chimed in.
"You're a snappy dresser, though," he kidded Pedro.
-- One other exchange worth passing along: Mike Pelfrey, the 6-7 right-hander, is dressing across from newcomer Johan Santana, which is interesting in that Santana could have been Pelfrey's ticket out of town. At various times this winter, Pelfrey's name popped up in proposed packages to Minnesota for Santana.
I asked Pelfrey whether it was a restless winter for him, and he gave me the cliche ballplayers' answer that you try not to pay attention to the rumors.
"You hear stuff from friends, and whatever happens, you've got to make the most of it," Pelfrey said.
The most interesting part of the discussion, and a glimpse into how excited the Mets are to have Santana, came when Pelfrey said this about the former AL Cy Young winner: "It was a huge pickup for this team. I would have given up the whole farm system for him."
Santana's a great pitcher and all, but if Pelfrey doesn't become a general manager when his playing days are finished, you'll know why.
Likes: The father and son (who was perhaps 10) playing catch in the parking lot at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie when I pulled in early Saturday morning. ... Chien-Ming Wang losing his arbitration case the other day and being awarded a $4 million salary instead of his requested $4.6 million. Sorry, Mr. Wang, no malice, but $4 million is still a nice raise over the $489,500 you earned last year. ... This sign on the dugout fence of one of the Mets' practice fields: "No seeds, No tobacco, No gum." Gee, no wonder they couldn't hang on and win last year if that's how they prepare for the season. ... The New York Post's Mike Vaccarro, one of the good guys in the business, is working on a follow-up to his 2006 book Emperors and Idiots, about the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. His latest work is a book on the 1912 World Series between the Red Sox and the New York Giants. 1912, huh, I asked him. "My goal is to never write a book again where I have to talk to somebody," Vaccarro quipped. "You can't libel the dead."
Dislikes: The Mets' black warmup tops. Ugh. ...
Sunblock day? Most definitely. Hot sun, temperatures up to 82, 83 degrees Saturday on the eastern side of Florida. Outstanding.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"I ain't got much sense
"But I still got my feet"
-- Bruce Springsteen, Girls in Their Summer Clothes