It was a common joke I used to tell among baseball media types. “It’s a good thing the Phillies are giving out rally towels because this lineup just spit in(insert pitcher’s name) face.” The Phillies hocked up a big yellow one in Cliff Lee’s face last night. During Lee’s nine starts this year, the offense has only provided 16 runs for him. Actually 15 if you consider that Lee himself has an RBI in one of his starts. His next start will be Sunday in Baltimore against Jason Hammel, who is 6-2 with a 2.97 ERA. Normally Baltimore isn’t considered that much of a challenge but this is 2012. The Washington Nationals are in first place. Cliff Lee hasn’t one win to his name this whole year. Baltimore is even closer to Philadelphia than Washington is, so it is likely Phillies fans will be trying to build a new “Citizens Bank South” just 90 min. down I-95. That is unless the fans have given up on making that much of an effort to support the team. If you’ve turned on a game lately or been to the ballpark, you might notice a lot of blue seats visible that had been filled with people where red t-shirts and white jerseys. That’s just one sign that attendance has been down. Another sign is the efforts of the Phillies themselves to drive up ticket sales. Before 2010, many fans received emails on a bi-weekly basis offering a “two tickets for the price of one” sale on certain seats. When the Phillies got hot and the park began the sellout streak, those offers disappeared. Last month, an email was sent out offering fans the same buy one get one free deal for tonight’s game that had brought people in so many times before 2009. The writing is on the wall that the streak could come to an end. The poor play of the Phillies could move up the day that this actually happens. If it doesn’t happen this season, it surely will if the Phillies don’t re-sign Cole Hamels. Fans could decide to hold on to their money in protest or simply spend their money elsewhere rather than on a team that chose not to resign their homegrown star player.
Speaking of home grown star players, not many people chose to get on Jimmy Rollins this week for his comments. When asked about if he heard the boos, he responded, “I could care less”. That’s not what fans in Philadelphia want to hear. In this city, fans respect accountability and want understanding. Not, “I could care less”. That one seemed to fly under the radar. Back when the Phillies were rocking the win column, his “frontrunners” comment set off a storm. Maybe the fans here are starting to care less about the Phillies, so Rollins’ comment flew under the radar.
In injury news, Jim Thome was called up today. He’ll likely get a lot of at bats over the next week due to the Phillies playing three series in American League Parks. The Phillies optioned Pete Orr to AAA to make room for Thome. Orr started the season with the team after Michael Martinez went on the DL in spring training. When Thome and Laynce Nix went on the DL, Hector Luna (originally Eric Kratz) and Mike Fontenot filled their spots. With Utley, Nix, and Howard still on the DL, it’s going to be a hard situation to determine who will have to leave the 25 man roster. Here’s my revamped predictions:
If/when Utley and Howard come back, Hector Luna will be the first one to get sent down. After that, Mike Fontenot will return to AAA. Fontenot can play 2nd and 3rd, but Wiggington can also play 3rd and we know how Galvis does at 2nd. But when you have that third lineup guy in Nix? That’s going to be a killer. It’s looking likely that John Mayberry might return to the Ironpigs if the Phillies decide to stick with Nix. Wiggy and Nix were signed after Howard went down. Wiggy is actually still off the Rockies contract. There is a $4M option on him next year with a $500k buyout. Nix is on a two year deal with an AAV of about $1.2M. Mayberry might have to be the sacrificial lamb again this season. But that all depends on IF Howard, Utley, and Nix return this season. Big if. As for Michael “Predator” Martinez, it looks like he just got Wally Pipp’d.
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.
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 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.
In 2012, the AA Reading Phillies have their top 30 promotions of 2012, besting their top 20 of 2011 and top 10 of 2010. The list has reached 30, being leaked out in a six part series. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Baseballtown All-Star Classic
For the first time since 1974, the Eastern League All-Star Game will be coming to Baseballtown. On Wednesday, July 11, the Reading Phillies will be hosting the Baseballtown All-Star Classic where all-stars from the Eastern (Binghamton, New Britain, New Hampshire, Portland, Reading, and Trenton) and Western Division (Akron, Altoona, Bowie, Erie, Harrisburg, and Richmond) will face off against each other. Each team is compromised of at least one pitcher and one position player from each Eastern League team. The teams are selected through a combination of fan balloting and selections from managers, media, and team personnel.
2. Opening Night Double Header Double Bobble Head with Ryan Howard and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, Tribute to Deputy Sherriff Kyle Pagerly
In December, a mysterious riddle surfaced regarding the 2012 season’s opening night giveaway. Many fans attempted to solve the mystery, and in January, the Reading Phillies announced that a very unique Ryan Howard and Crazy Hot Dog Vendor double bobblehead will be given away to the first 2,500 adults 21 and over courtesy of All-Star Distributing/Coors Light. The duo both made their first appearance at FirstEnergy Stadium in 2004, with the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor famously surprising Howard at the 2006 Baseballtown Winter Banquet. Along with the double bobblehead, fans are going to get twice the fun on Opening Night, as the R-Phils will be playing the Portland Sea Dogs in a doubleheader. During the first game, the R-Phils will be wearing jerseys honoring the late Deputy Sherriff Kyle Pagerly, with proceeds from a jersey auction and raffle benefitting the Kyle Pagerly Memorial Charity Fund. There will also be a ceremony between the games to pay tribute to Pagerly thanks to Rock Hits Y102.
3. Carlos Ruiz “Chooching” Train,
Last season, sounds of “Chooooooch” filled FirstEnergy Stadium when the Reading Phillies gave away a Carlos Ruiz “Chooching” Owl. In 2012, another “Chooching” giveaway will be rolling around the tracks as the first 3,000 adults 15 and over will receive a Carlos Ruiz “Chooching” Train thanks to FirstEnergy on Tuesday, August 14th.
4. Harry Kalas Talking Bobblehead, Tribute to the Philadelphia Phillies featuring FREE photos with BOTH the 1980 and 2008 World Series Trophies
One of baseball’s all-time greatest announcers will be featured in bobble head form as the R-Phils give away a Harry Kalas Talking Bobblehead to the first 3,000 adults 15 and over courtesy of Unique Pretzels on Monday, August 27th. Kalas started his Phillies announcing career in 1971 and was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award in 2002 by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, recognizing a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball. In addition to the Harry Kalas Talking Bobblehead, Phillies fans will be able to take a free photo alongside the 1980 and 2008 World Series Trophies thanks to 830 AM WEEU. The R-Phils will also be paying homage to the history of its parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies, throughout the night.
5. Vance Worley “Vanimal” Garden Gnome
Beginning in 2010, the R-Phils started a tradition that saw the team celebrate former R-Phils standouts in one of the most unconventional ways in Minor League Baseball—a garden gnome. It started with Ryan Howard. Then, in 2011, both Howard and starting pitcher Cole Hamels were recognized. This season, it’s Vance Worley’s turn as the Reading Phillies present the Vance Worley “Vanimal” Garden Gnome to the first 2,500 fans 15 and over on Wednesday, July 25. Worley last played in Reading during the 2010 season, where he was 9-4 with a 3.20 ERA. He was named to the Eastern League All-Star team in 2009 and 2010.
10.Mike Schmidt First Professional Home Run Photo T-Shirt, Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head Night, Play Catch on the Field
One of the most prolific players to ever play in Baseballtown will be honored on Tuesday, June 26 when the R-Phils will be giving away a Mike Schmidt First Professional Home Run Photo T-Shirt to the first 2,500 fans courtesy of Texstyles Screen Printing and Embroidery and Keystone Tees. Prior to the game, fans can do their best impression of the Hall of Fame third baseman during an on-field play catch session.
12. WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart Appearance with Autograph and Photo Session, Bret Hart VIP Session, Tribute to Professional Wrestling Night with Post-Game Wrestling and 2nd Annual Ladder Match, Fireworks
The Excellence of Execution. The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be. The Hitman. No matter how you know him, everyone’s familiar with WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart, who will be stopping at America’s Classic Ballpark for an autograph and photo session on Friday, June 15th brought to you by All Star Distributing/Yuengling. For just $20, fans can meet the five-time WWE Champion during a Pre-Game VIP Meet and Greet session. After the game, Xfinity from Comcast will be presenting a fireworks display. Those won’t be the only fireworks, though, as the post-game entertainment will feature a series of wrestling matches from World Professional Wrestling, including the 2nd Annual Ladder Match courtesy of Rock Hits Y102.
14. Father’s Day R-Phils Richie Ashburn Style Hat, All Fans Play Catch on the Field with Dad Post-Game, Prostate Cancer Awareness with Game Worn Jersey Auction/Raffle, Kids Club Free Ticket with Family Play Catch on the Field with Dad, Father’s Day Kids Intro Dad on the Field, Special VIP First Pitch Packages Available where Child Pitches to Dad, Dollar Dogs
What better way is there to celebrate Father’s Day than by taking your dad to America’s Classic Ballpark? On Sunday, June 17th, the first 2,000 men 15 and over will receive an R-Phils Richie Ashburn Style Hat on behalf of Center Urologic Care of Berks County. The team will be donning a one of a kind jersey to raise awareness for prostate cancer. Each jersey will be auctioned and raffled off throughout the game to benefit the “Us Too” Prostate Cancer Support Network. In what’s become a yearly tradition, all fans can play catch on the field with their fathers during the post-game thanks to 830 AM WEEU and 69 News Berks Edition. Kids can also introduce their dads on the field. Going along with the holiday, sons and daughters alike can purchase a special VIP package where they throw a first pitch to their dads for only $50.
15. Belated Mother’s Day R-Phils Pink Jersey Tote Bag, Breast Cancer Awareness with Pink Game Worn Jersey Auction/Raffle, Kids Club Free Ticket Game with R-Phils Player Ice Cream Party and Chat Session, Belated Mother’s Day Kids Intro Mom on the Field, Carnation for Mom, Run the Bases, Dollar Dogs
On Sunday, May 20th, Mother’s Day may have been celebrated a week prior, but that’s not stopping the R-Phils from celebrating Belated Mother’s Day. The first 2,000 women 15 and over will receive a R-Phils Pink Jersey Tote Bag presented by Coventry Corners. As part of the Belated Mother’s Day celebration, kids can introduce their moms on the field before the game. The first 1,000 women who come through the gates will also receive a carnation from Royer’s Flowers and Gifts.
23. Jimmy Rollins Old School Bobble Head, National Hot Dog Day Celebration with $1 Hot Dogs, Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head Night, 4 for $49 Family Night
On Monday, July 23, the first 2,000 fans 21 and over will receive a Jimmy Rollins Old School Bobble Head thanks to All Star Distributing/Labatt Blue. The R-Phils will also be honoring everyone’s favorite cased meat with a National Hot Dog Day celebration. The concession stands will be grilling up dollar hot dogs throughout the night courtesy of 830 AM WEEU. While fans may be thinking hot dogs on the 23rd, VIST Financial Plaza will be filled with the sounds of “Cheeseburger in Paradise” because it’s Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head Night thanks to 830 AM WEEU as well. The night is also one of the 4 for $49 Family Nights.