Phuture Managers

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is entering the second year of a new three year deal he signed prior to the 2011 season. He’s the longest tenured manager in the National League and the third longest in the MLB. There was talk on local radio this weekend of where he stands in the eyes of the fans and in the front office. The discussion centered on whether or not Charlie is in the proverbial “hot seat” and if he isn’t, what it will take to keep him out or put him in. A good portion said that Charlie would at least last to see the end of his contract but if he didn’t at least make it to the World Series this year, then 2013 would be his “year in the hot seat”. The Phillies could then choose whether or not to renew his contract, assuming Charlie wants to come back in 2014 at the age of 70, assuming again that he doesn’t pull a Jim Riggleman and walk out mid season in 2013.
So next year after the 2013 season the Phillies could be faced with an open hiring event on managers. There are many candidates the Phillies could choose from, both in house and out of house. It’s unknown at this point how many free spots could be open after 2013 and we could reasonably assume Charlie would come back regardless of how the Phillies finish the next two seasons. But it’s something that needs to be discussed, both for 2014 and in the future. Here are some possible choices:

The Heir Apparent

Ryne Sandberg: Sandberg is currently entering his second season as manager of the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, the Phils’ AAA farm team and was chosen as 2011 minor league manager of the year. That gives him a familiarity with the organization as well as the rising stars that can be on the team’s 25 man roster by 2014. He rose up through the Chicago Cubs farm system, managing three of their teams to winning seasons. But when Lou Pinella left the game, Sandberg was passed over in favor of Mike Quade, who only lasted one season as Cubs manager and then was replaced by Dale Sveum. Sandberg was interviewed by the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2011 season, but he was not selected as manager. It’s likely that he will be offered interviews again for any post 2012 opening so he might not even be available to pick up the clipboard when Charlie puts it down.

In House

Pete Mackanin: The Phillies current bench coach interviewed with both the Cubs and the Red Sox this past offseason. He has years of managerial experience in the minors. He served as a mid season interim manager twice and it is surprising as to why he hasn’t gotten a job yet. He took over bench coach responsibilities from Jimy Williams in 2009 so his Phillies experience counts for something.

Mickey Morandini: Morandini came back to the game after years being a power dad at home. In 2011 he managed the short season class A Williamsport Crosscutters. In 2012 he made the move up to the A level Lakewood Blueclaws in what was known as the “Parent Shift” when Mark Parent left his spot as Reading Phillies manager to be the bench coach for the White Sox and the minor league managers each moved up a spot. If Sandberg takes a job elsewhere, he could find himself in Clearwater in 2013 and become closer to Charlie’s spot.

The Experienced

The Phillies could decide to go with someone with experience managing a big league club down the road, regardless of a potential manager’s previous record.

Ken Macha: Macha led the Oakland Athletics to four straight winning seasons and two division titles but was canned by Billy Beane after getting swept in the ALCS in 2006. He came on board with the Brewers for two seasons in 2009 and 2010 but finished third both years.

John Russell: Russell played for the Phillies between 1984 and 1988. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons. During the 2010 season, the Pirates announced that John Russell’s contract had been extended through the 2011 season; though the extension occurred during the previous off season, the Pirates waited until June to announce the new contract, a move unpopular with many fans. He was fired anyway after the season and replaced Juan Samuel as 3rd base coach in Baltimore, only to move to the bench coach position due to bad knees. I doubt anyone will hold his lack of success in Pittsburgh against him. Find me a manager who can deliver a winning season there and I’ll show you manager of the century.

Terry Francona: It could happen. Francona could be the biggest managerial free agent of the 2012-2013 off season. Many managers take a year off and come back to the game with a new spirit. Francona is only 52 and his success with the Red Sox can’t be ignored. He did what he could with the Phillies tight check book in the 90’s. Whether or not he wants to manager after this year will be a major factor in all MLB vacancies.

The Phar Phuture

Jimmy Rollins: Jimmy has four years left on his contract with the Phillies. This season, keep your eye on him. Or watch footage of him from past games. He is never far from Charlie Manuel. Watching. Learning. Soaking it in. Rollins is a player with a great career and a legacy in Philadelphia, but anyone can see how much love he has for the game. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to wear red again after he hangs up the cleats.

Yankees Series in Review

The Phillies opened up their Grapefruit League season with a three game series against the Yankees this past weekend. It was our first chance to see the starters in action and also get a look at some of the players who are showcasing their stuff to get a spot on the big league team this year. Some highlights:

Jimmy Rollins went 2 for 2 yesterday with two consecutive stolen bases. This year the Phillies know they have to be more aggressive on swiping bags if they want to get their run total up. Juan Pierre is one for two in SB attempts. Domonic Brown was caught stealing on Sunday and Scott Podsednik picked up a steal. I’d expect to see Shane Victorino try his luck as soon as he gets on base again. He reached on a fielding error on Saturday and advanced on a pickoff error soon after that.

Pitching wise the Phillies regulars have been doing well. Hamels and Halladay each gave up a run in two innings work and Joe Blanton forced a lot of ground balls in his two innings of work yesterday. Jonathan Pabelbon worked one inning on Saturday and went one two three like a good closer should, even though he pitched the fifth. Chad Qualls gave up three runs and Mike Stutes allowed two runs in their relief appearances on Saturday. Joel Piniero, who is on a minor league contract, took the loss on Sunday giving up three runs ,the same amount Phillippe Aumont did. Antonio Bastardo pitched great on Sunday, and Joe Savery got his first two hitters out, walked the next two, and got the fifth batter in his inning of work.

Defensively, the Phillies have raised some eyebrows. Michael Martinez, the current frontrunner for opening day utility man, made two errors on Sunday, which automatically brought out the #ShouldHaveKeptValdez trend on twitter. His competition, Kevin Frandsen, made a throwing error yesterday. Even with his Mini-Mart’s two errors, you can bet the Phils coaching staff looked at Dom Brown’s error in left as the more egregious. He let a pop fly drop out of his glove that Roy Oswalt made look easy in 2010.

We have yet to see Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz play in a game. Charlie Manuel insists both are fine. Chooch will get his first start this afternoon against the Blue Jays, as will Laynce Nix at DH. However, this Utley situation makes me think of three things:
1. He’s really hurt and they hate telling people this. This could be due to the fact that ticket sales are through the roof and the Phillies are scared that the fans having knowledge of this would scare them away. Unlikely. The fans have proven to be loyal, and most tickets have been bought up by ticket brokers anyway.
2. He’s fine but they are being cautious. Reasonable
3. This is how it will be for Utley for the rest of his career. Scary. Next year is the last year on Utley’s contract. If he wants to continue his career after his age 34 season, he will need to get started right off the bat at spring training, unless of course the Phillies sign him to a contract extension between now and then.

And then we have Ryan Howard. After getting an infection, Howard will be in a walking boot for the next week, and probably off his feet again for another week or two. He might not even step onto the Carpenter Complex field until after the season starts. The front office won’t call this a setback. Their logic is that the word setback can’t be used when there was never a timetable in the first place. That’s aggravating to hear for fans and the media alike. I wish one write would ask “Will he be forced into early retirement?”. Then they can say no and we get that worse case scenario out of the way. Then they can ask, “Is he out for the 2012 season?” Again they can say no and we’ll get that out of the way. So we’d know he’d at least be at Citizens Bank Park sometime in 2012. Otherwise I’d just assume the worst, which is not being helped by the whispers that Howard’s infection might be MRSA related.

Today’s lineup at Blue Jays in Dunedin: Rollins SS, Pierre LF, Victorino CF, Wigginton 1B, Mayberry RF, Nix DH, Luna 3B, Ruiz C, Martinez 2B. Lee P. The game should be on the radio on 94WIP and at MLB.com if you have Gameday Audio.

Hamels Foundation teams up with Krispy Kreme

I think I know where I’m going for breakfast this weekend.
Krispy Kreme customers in the Philadelphia region are invited to celebrate Spring Training during the month of March by purchasing special edition baseball donuts to benefit The Hamels Foundation. Each Krispy Kreme location will raffle an autographed Cole Hamels baseball bat to four lucky customers who have previously purchased “The Hamels Dozen”, one box of 6 baseball donuts and 6 sprinkle donuts.

MLB Playoffs Expansion Official

Courtesy Fox Sports

Another one of Bud Selig’s dreams has become reality.

Major League Baseball will be adding a second wild card team to the mix this season. The plan was to add the extra “round” in 2013 when the Astros move to the AL West and the schedule is planned for it. But MLB/Selig could not wait that long and with the consultation of the players’ union, the decision was made to make it a go for the 2012 season.
Baseball still has the least amount of teams of all the major sports getting into the postseason now at 33%, going up from 26.6%. The NFL has 37.5%, the NBA and NHL each has 53% getting into the postseason. Major League Soccer’s postseason percentage sat at 55%, but with the additional of a team on Montreal, that number goes to 52%, with the number going to 50% once they add their 20th team in a yet to be determined city.
Up until now, winning your division didn’t mean much unless you were seeded higher than your opponent and thus received homefield advantage. Some teams that one the wild card would put up a “Wild Card” banner or flag up alongside with their division title banners. So if a team wins the Wild Card #2 spot, will they put up a banner indicating such if that’s as far as they get? I can’t imagine Phillies fans tolerating a Wild Card #1 or #2 flag being raised at Citizen’s Bank Park. They’d have to find a new color. Red is for winning the World Series, Blue for the NL Pennant, and White for the NL East. I’d think Gray would be the next color if they did it but Brown might be more appropriate given the crappy feeling it would give fans to win the wild card and nothing else.
This year, the additional will likely result in some chaos, especially if you throw a few ties into the mix. We will likely see many outcomes of the coin flip homefield scenario come September. Don’t be mistaken, it’s all about TV money here, and the TV station to carry this game hasn’t even been decided on yet. I’m also assuming that there is no change to the NLDS format, with the rule that the Wild Card team can not play the top seeded team if they are in the same division. This will likely bring much aggravation to the division winners as the thing they want to know the most is just who they will be playing.
But just for fun, let’s go through the years of the “One Wild Card Era” and see what would have happened had a 2nd wild card team been in.
Continue reading

MLB At Bat 12 released

This morning, MLB released the 2012 version of their popular At Bat app. Since it’s initial release in 2009, the mobile app was available in two versions: a free basic app which featured news and scores, and a more fully featured paid version ($10 in 09, $15 since 2010). MLB At Bat also came in separate versions for the iPhone and iPad, causing hardcore baseball fans with both devices to drop $30. This year, that all changes. There will only be one version of the app that will run in optimized form on all of Apple’s iOS devices. I am guessing this means we will get the ballpark view that we would see on MLB Gameday. Users will have also a few options on how to pay for the app’s more advanced features. The basic scoreboard functionality with news stories you can download for free, same as the lite version from 2009-2011. A $15 in-app purchase enables features that were previously only available on the paid version of the apps: Pitch-by-pitch updates, in-game video highlights, pitch tracking, and the popular live audio broadcasts of each game. There’s also live video of one MLB.com-selected game each day, as long as you are not in that market’s blackout area. Last year, all games were able to be viewed throughout the month of April thanks to a sponsorship by Volvo. No word on any special treats this year. If you just want to try it out, you can sign up for a $3 monthly charge. But if you go March to November, you can end up spending $27. Just pay the $15. One thing I can’t seem to figure out is how to send the full At Bat version of the app. My dad is stationed overseas really enjoyed listening to the Phillies on his iPod Touch after I gifted him the app as an early father’s day present.
The developers of At Bat plan to release another MLB app right around Opening Day that’s aimed at fans headed to the ballpark. This app builds upon the location-aware check-in functionality included in the At Bat offering to serve up stadium-specific offers and services. Last year you could order food from your seat and have it sent right to you. I’ll bring you more news on this app as it is released. I will also be sure to review the 2012 version of MLB At Bat in Spring Training to see how they are getting the bugs out. At Bat will be updated before opening day with additional features for fans to use.

In other news, Ryan Howard’s ankle was cleaned out after he developed an infection where his Achilles tendon surgery scar was. Trainer Scott Sheridan stated that Howard (now on twitter @RyanHoward) will be placed on antibiotics to make sure healing properly progresses. No one is saying this is a setback since they had no established timetable for his return, but Sheridan is claiming this victory as “great news”. He’ll probably be off the field for a week, then resuming once everything is cleared up.

Big week on deck

The start of big things in 2012

The last week of February / first week of March is always big for baseball fans. It brings the first practice game of the season, usually against a University team, as well as the start of the Grapefruit and Cactus League season. For the Phillies, they will be playing the Florida State Seminoles. Florida State boasts some interesting alumni off their team, including Deion Sanders, Buster Posey, and… oh. J.D. Drew. Expect to see a number of different Phillies only play for an inning or two tomorrow. Saturday is what is getting most Phils fans excited. The first Grapefruit League game against the Yankees will be on TV. It’s going to be a mild but rainy day in the Delaware Valley on Saturday. Sunny skies and baseball on the TV and radio would be perfect, but we’ll take what we can get. If you’re doing Saturday lunch out, make sure to tell the restaurant manager to have the game on.
Also, tomorrow will see the release of MLB At Bat 2012 for all mobile devices. It’s a must have purchase for baseball fans. I’ll be getting it first thing as it is released and I will give a review within the week as I get a feel for the changes and updates to the 2012 version.

Rotation Russian Roulette

This year, the Phillies pretty much have their rotation set. In past years there were 5th started controversies or competitions but not so much this year. After Halladay, Hamels, and Lee, Vance Worley looks build on his successful 2011 year and Joe Blanton is hoping to come back from arm problems which kept his stats on the lower end for much of last year. So one through five are set. However, we know we are going to need six and seven.
Six and seven?
Yes, six and seven. The pitchers on the depth chart who will have to inevitably fill in for the two pitchers who will be taken out of the rotation due to injury or ineffectiveness (AKA stinking up the place). This is bound to happen. You might want to even use the dreaded “C Word” that Philadelphia fans hate to bring up. That word being curse. Is this rotation cursed? Let’s recap the several seasons and who suffered from time off the mound.
2007 Opening Day Rotation: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia
Casualty 1: Jon Lieber. Lieber didn’t make his first start until the Phillies 15th game of the season. After three starts and two relief appearances, his ERA was 2.57 with a 1-0 record. After his 12th start on June 20th, he was put on the DL with an ankle injury that would cause him to miss the rest of the season.
Replacement: Kyle Lohse. Lohse was traded from the Reds and went 3-0 with a 4/72 ERA in 11 starts.
Casualty 2: Freddy Garcia. In 11 starts, Garcia only earned one win, took five losses and posted a 5.90 ERA. This came to be known as “The ten million dollar win” since Garcia was on a one year, ten million dollar deal. His fall soon led to the rise of…
Replacement: Kyle Kendrick. After being called up on June 13, he went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. He did a good job of eating innings and keeping the team in the game but never really dazzled. His 07 performance secured a spot in the rotation in the 2007 postseason as well as the following season. More on him later.

2008 Opening Day Rotation: Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Adam Eaton, Kyle Kendrick
Casualty 1: Brett Myers. Myers had a poor start to his season, going 2-2 in April with a 5.11 ERA. At the end of June he accepted an assignment to the minor league teams to get his pitching back on track. He his record before being sent down was 3-9 and gave up four runs or more in his last four starts in June. He returned in July to close out the year with an additional 7 wins and 4 losses and maintain an 3.06 ERA in 13 starts. The Phillies took advantage of the All Star Break, days off, and spot starts from JA Happ to work around Myers Minor League adventure.
Casualty 2: Adam Eaton. Eaton did not record his first win in 2008 until his 11th start on May 28. In July he was moved to the bullpen, and then sent down to the minors, leaving with a 4-8 record. The last image Phillies fans have of him is when he waved to the fans as he picked up his World Series ring.
Replacement: Joe Blanton. Blanton came to the Phillies from Oakland in exchange for three prospects. He took the role of the innings eater. In his 13 starts with the Phillies over two months, the team went 9-4 while Blanton only got decisions in four of those games, receiving the W each time.

2009 Opening Day Rotation: Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Joe Blanton, Chan Ho Park
Casualty 1: Chan Ho Park. After a drama filled spring training played out on TV, Chan Ho Park won the fifth starter job, beating out JA Happ and Kendrick. But after 7 starts in which he landed a 7.29 ERA, he was sent to the bullpen where he seemed to nicely fill the role of long man. These days he is playing for the Hanwha Eagles of Korea Baseball Organization and remains the Asian player with the most wins in MLB.
Replacement: J.A. Happ. If you watched “The Pen” on MLB Network, you got to see the drama for the 5th starter position play out. Cameras were there as Happ was told he would not be starting, but would still be on the team as bullpen long man. When Chan Ho was given the hook, he and Happ traded places. In Happ’s 23 starts, he went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA. You’d think that would be good right? Good enough? Good enough to start in the postseason? Keep reading.
Casualty 2: Jamie Moyer. Moyer had a pretty rocky season. In his four starts in April, the Phillies went 3-1 but he gave up 4 runs in three of those starts and never went past six innings. By the end of June, his ERA was above six and he had a even 6-6 record. There were quite a few games where he gave up six runs or more and the Phillies did not take to this at all. He was sent to the bullpen in August following a grumble session with the media. He did manage to pitch well in some relief appearances following rain delays which were started by his replacement…
Replacement: Pedro Martinez. Nobody have Pedro a contract after the 2008 offseason and he showcased what he had in the 2009 World Baseball Classic playing for the Dominican Republic. Phillies scouts checked him out in July and he was signed to a one million dollar deal for the season, the definition of low risk high reward. In his return to New York on August 23, Martinez’s win against the Mets was preserved by a rare unassisted triple play by second baseman Eric Bruntlett in the bottom of the ninth inning. With his win on September 3—his third as a Phillie and his 100th as a National Leaguer—Martinez became the 10th pitcher in history to win at least 100 games in each league. The Phillies made it to the World Series in a much hyped return to Yankee Stadium. He pitched well enough in Game 2, leaving the game with the Phils trailing 2-1 but in Game 6 allowed four runs in four innings, leaving some to wonder if JA Happ should have gotten a spot in the rotation. He officially retired this past December.

2010 Opening Day Rotation: Hamels, Moyer, Blanton, Roy Halladay, J.A. Happ
Casualty 1: Joe Blanton.  Blanton suffered an oblique injury before opening day and was placed on the DL until he was ready to come back in May.
Casualty 2: J.A. Happ. Happ began experiencing elbow problems after starting two games. He made rehab appearances, one more start for the Phillies on July 25 where he gave up three runs in five innings, then was traded to the Astros for this guy…
Replacement: Roy Oswalt: Happ was traded for Oswalt in the semi annual Astros fleecing. He lost his first start after being whisked out from Houston, but in his next 11 starts, went 7-0.
Casualty 3: Jamie Moyer. The honored elder pretty much repeated his performance of the previous year but the Phillies were locked into waiting it out with him until he suffered a a sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament and a strain of his flexor pronator, which resulted in Moyer missing the remainder of the 2010 season.
Replacement Infinity: Kyle Kendrick. He initially was given a bullpen spot on the team, then was part of the opening day rotation, first filling in for Joe Blanton, then Happ. He was sent down to AAA for a day, only to be called up again when Moyer went down.

2011 Opening Day Rotation: Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt
Casualty 1: Roy Oswalt. Little Roy started out strong in his first starts in April, but on April 27 in Arizona, was pulled after three innings and then took a leave of absence from the team, citing “personal reasons,” namely to check on his family and home after a series of devastating tornadoes in Mississippi. He later returned to Philadelphia but his back problems forced the Phillies to place him on the DL. He returned to the team on May 17th but went 1-5 in his next 8 starts (even through in three of those starts he was the victim of the other Phillies curse, poor run support). Oswalt went on the DL for about six weeks over the summer with an ailing back. It was said this was aggravated by his use of an excavator assisting with tornado relief efforts.
Replacement: Kyle Kendrick. He’s up, he’s down, he’s all around. He starts, he relieves, he gets into bets with Cliff Lee. He does it all.
Casualty 2: Joe Blanton. Problems with his elbow put Blanton on the 15 day DL in late April. He made two starts but eventually was returned to the DL, and did not return to the active roster until mid September. This leads us to…
Replacement: Vance Worley, AKA VANIMAL. Worley made a few starts after Blanton went down and pitched well. But he was sent down to AAA when Oswalt came back from the disabled list. He was brought back up again when Blanton returned to the DL. He was sent back down again to bring up Mike Zagurksi, only to come back to the Phillies in mid June to return to the rotation. Most believed this yo yo system of call ups and bullpen trips messed with him a bit, but overall he had a great season with an 11-3 record and a 3.01 ERA for the season.

So now here we are in 2012. Predictions for who might go down? Glad you asked.

Predicted casualty 1: Cliff Lee. Currently experiencing abdominal issues and there is a chance that Game 2 NLDS performance affected him during the offseason.
Predicted casualty 2: Cole Hamels. Only because the fates are cruel. Cole has it all, talent, good looks, hot wife, kids, friends. I think we are going to pay for this easy going winter we had with a Hamels injury of some kind. Throw in the fact this is his contact year and it would be just the cruel twist of fate you only see in tragic movies.

As for replacements? Kendrick just signed for 2 years and Joel Piniero is on a minor league deal with “Just in Case” stitched on the back of his uniform. Don’t get me started on Roy Oswalt, that’s a whole nother mess I’d rather not bring up.