PHILLIES: BUYERS OR SELLERS????

   Ok so it is no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies window for another World Series has almost closed.  Contrary to popular belief, I am one of the rare people that still feels that the Phillies have the ability to win a championship.  Although there is tons of evidence that this team is well past its prime, anything is possible in Major League Baseball just like any other sport.  How about a few years ago when the Phillies were the popular pick to win it all each year and then went out and were upstaged by different teams in the playoffs that carried a hot streak into October.  We had the 2009 version of the Phillies that made its second straight trip to the World Series, only to be smacked down by the New York Yankees in six games.

     After 2009, Ruben Amaro turned his attention to Pitching, mainly starting pitching as he tried to assemble a staff that could dominate the league and lead this team to another World Series Championship.  Let’s take a look back at how we got to this point.  In December of 2009, Ruben shocked the majority by trading away Ace Cliff Lee and acquiring Roy Halladay, maybe MLB’s most dominant pitcher of the past ten years.  This gave the Phillies a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and a mixture.  But Amaro did not stop there, at the trade deadline the Phillies picked up former CY YOUNG WINNER and perennial all-star Roy Oswalt.  Oswalt gave the Phillies a three man rotation that was the best in the league.  Remember back to the end of that season…the Phillies limped into the playoffs while the San Francisco Giants were the hottest team down the stretch.  The Phillies would face the Giants in the NLCS with an opportunity to earn its third trip in a row to the big dance.  Well…we all know how that season ended…the Phillies were upset by the Giants who went onto win the World Series in a Sweep.

     No one can blame the Phillies for not trying as Ruben Amaro went one step further the following season by acquiring Cliff Lee in the Offseason signing him to a six year contract.  This was an unforgettable time in Philadelphia.  “THE FOUR ACES.”  The Phillies now had a staff of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Joe Blanton.  This was the modern day version of the 1990 Braves, maybe even better.  That Braves team had Gregg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery.  Well, this staff had a chance to upstage that staff and make history.  Well, it was short lived and injuries and other distractions hurt this team.  The Phillies ultimately lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals who went onto win the World Series.  A common denominator of this season to the past season…the Cardinals were the hottest team down the stretch while the Phillies once again struggled on their way to another Division Title.  “The Four Aces” never truly had a chance to take off and the Phillies were once again eliminated from Post-Season Play.

     Then the following season…it happened again.  The Giants once again dominated the league down the stretch and won its second World Series title in three years.  Well here we are now.  After his worst season as a pro last year, Roy Halladay is on the Disabled List after early season surgery.  Cole Hamels is 4-11 so far, and looks nothing like the Pitcher that was signed to a long term contract in the off season.  The funny thing is, Cliff Lee is 11-2 after a stellar season last year with no run support.  I think its safe to say that if it wasn’t for Lee, the Phillies would not even be having this discussion of wether to be buyers or sellers.

     Here we are, one week away from the All-Star break.  Ryan Howard is on the Disabled List with a torn meniscus.  Roy Halladay remains on the DL recovering from the shoulder surgery.  Chase Utley has just returned from the DL, where he has found himself four seasons in a row.  Adams, the million dollar set-up man is out for the season.  So yes, this team is injury riddled which would be an easy excuse for Phillies management to become sellers at the trade deadline.  Except there is one key stat that stands out.  The Phillies have dominated the Division thus far with a 23-12 record.  I firmly believe that is the most important fact.  Lets forget their inconsistency.  Lets forget their age.  Lets forget all of the injuries.  What has been the common theme the past few seasons in MLB.  It is not the teams that dominate most of the season that are successful in the post season.  It is the teams that battle adversity and become hot down the stretch.

     So with this…I ask the question…are the Phillies capable of one last run with the team they have?  I feel that the answer is definitely yes.  So with that, I believe the Phillies should be buyers at the trade deadline.  We are one game out of second in the NL East and seven games behind the Braves.  One would look at the Braves and wonder how they do not have a double digit lead in the division.  The truth is, the Braves have also been totally inconsistent as well.

     Ryan Howard has saw his best days pass him by and it may be a blessing in disguise that he on the Disabled List at this point.  The main reason being it gives the team a chance to see what his potential replacement Darren Ruf can do.  Secondly, the Phillies supporting cast of starters including Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan, and Jonathan Pettibone have done more than hold their own.  Also, despite his recent struggles, Jonathan Papplebon has the ability to dominate the closer position as he showed earlier with 14 straight saves and an ERA under 2.00.  Domonic Brown continues to shine and is among the League Leaders in Home Runs, RBI, and Runs.  Chase Utley is back and playing like his early days.  Ben Revere has hit safely in eleven of twelve games and has Eighteen Hits in Twenty-One games.

     But more important than any of these things is the awaited return of Roy Halladay.  Now Halladay may never be the Pitcher he was in his prime.  However, no one can question his heart and competitive spirit.  Halladay has never won a World Series so you can bet he will be at his best.  That is why Amaro brought him here in the first place: to win a WORLD SERIES.  Also, Cole Hamels is once again looking like the Cole of old.  So with that, I believe the Phillies should take one last crack at this.  By being buyers, they don’t have to sacrifice the farm.  I feel this team is one bat and one reliever away from contention.  Who knows what the future holds, but I think the Phillies owe their core one last shot at a ring.  By the core, I am talking about Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee.  As seen in previous seasons, anything is possible and I feel they have one last run in them.  Please Amaro…Don’t give up to soon.  This team has been there, up and down, and back again.  Lets try this one more time and at least if we fail…no one can say you didn’t go out trying!!!!!!!!!!ImageImageImage

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500

Ok…so the Phillies have finally reached the .500 mark after some very inconsistent behavior in the first half of the season. First it was Roy Halladay going on the disabled list after some of his worst outings of his career. His ERA when he went on the DL over 8.00. Then it was Chase Utley going down after having an excellent month and a half. Utley looked like he was rejuvenated and was playing his best baseball since 2009.

Their starting Center Fielder, Ben Revere, who they acquired after giving up their best pitching prospect Vance Worley, is hitting under .250 with less than ten stolen bases. This is horrible production from a player who was supposed to bring swagger to the lead off spot. Then there is Michael Young, who the Phillies picked up in the off season to fill their void at third base. Yes…Young is 36 but he was projected to bring a stellar bat to Citizens Bank. Well, after hitting .350 for the first three weeks of the season, his average has now dipped to .257.

And probably the most disappointing aspect of the season so far, Cole Hamels with Nine losses and one win going into today. Also, an over 4.00 ERA. All this without getting more than 2.25 Runs a game on offense during his starts. Actually, that’s the third worst in MLB. Ouch! All of these very disheartening aspects and the Phillies were still one game under .500 going into today’s game against the Marlins. This is truly a testament to how well other aspects are going for the Phillies.

Today, The Phillies won 6-1 after winning 7-4 last night in extra innings on a walk off Grand Slam from John Mayberry. Today they were tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh with Cole Hamels coming out of the game. Then wham…a two run triple for Ryan Howard and Bam…a Two Run Home Run by Dominic Brown.

Brown is finally coming into his own and is the hottest hitter in the Major Leagues right now. He has 10 Home Runs in Fourteen Games and now is second in the league with 18 Home Runs and 46RBI. Brown has been on fire and is finally showing why the Phillies would not trade him for anyone. He was their only “Untouchable Prospect.” Fans were getting weary after two seasons of disappointing call ups for Brown. Now he is their starting Left Fielder and is carrying this team on his BACK.

Ryan Howard has ten Home Runs and 30 RBI, despite seeing his production drop. And Freddy Galvis has been stellar on offense and defense in Chase Utley’s stead. In a cruel twist in events, Cliff Lee, who could not buy a win last year, is 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 88 Strikeouts. He is in the Top 10 in every pitching statistical category. If he keeps up this pace, Lee will be a CY Young Candidate.

The Phillies are now .500 and are looking up. They are only 5.5 games back of the Division Lead. If the Phillies can keep playing this way, they should be in great shape. Halladay is on track to come back healthy which would be like getting a star at the trade deadline as long as his shoulder is fully healed. Well, well, well. I would never have predicted this two weeks ago. The Phillies are Hot. And it’s not even the All Star Break Yet. Keep it up Boys.

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SPRING IN STEP

Spring Training is more than half way over and so far the Phillies Brass as well as its fans have to be happy with what they are seeing on the field. Cole Hamels has 2 Wins, 10 Strikeouts, a league leading .70 WHIP, and 12 innings pitched and a micro .90ERA. Well, that’s really not much of a surprise after Hamels coming off a career year in 2012 and a CY YOUNG shot.

In retrospect, not many people had high expectations for Roy Halladay who is coming off one of his worst pro seasons in which he was ravaged by injury. Well, so far Doc looks in Mid Season Form with a 2-0 Record, 2.16ERA, 8 Strikeouts in 10 Innings, a 1.01 WHIP. Yes, there are still questions about DOC’s velocity but no one can ever question his competitive spirit. If he has lost velocity, he has not let it effect him in the mound.

Cliff Lee has started 3 games and has a 5.13 ERA thus far. This should not really scare anyone as Lee is generally not a good spring training star. I am not worried about Lee and Kendrick who also has struggled. Mike Adams has a 0.00 ERA in 4 appearances out if the BullPen which bodes well for this relief core. He has 3 strikeouts in 3 innings. Adams is the set up man we lost in Ryan Madson. Papplebon has struggled, but not many closers flourish during the Florida Heat.

However, the biggest surprise thus far this spring for the Phillies and maybe the entire league is the way Ryan Howard is swinging the bat. Howard has hit over .300, leads the league with 4 Home Runs and is second with 13 RBI. He also has only struck out 5x. Most people would say wow Five Strikeouts is a lot. Well, not Phillies fans…we know Howard usually gets killed by the K.

All American Prospect Domenic Brown has been tearing it up. He is hitting .432 with 3 HR and 4 RBI. His slugging Percentage is .700. He looks like he is finally getting it. Chase Utley is only hitting .200 but has not missed a game and appears to be healthy for the first time in five years. Michael Young is also tearing it up hitting .391 with 1 HR and 9 RBI. This offense should be potent at the BANK.

Of course, there are always questions but this looks like a Phillies team that is determined to prove all of the National Media wrong…with comments like the Phillies are done, the Phillies are too old, etc. This team looks like it will definitely contend for the Division and if these star players can build on their strong Springs then we are in for an exciting season.

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PHILLIES 2008-PRESENT

It’s hard to believe that Five Years have passed since the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the country and this city and win their second World Series, and their first since 1980. I remember what I was doing the moment that Harry Kallas and Chris Wheeler called that last pitch strikeout by Brad Lidge on Pinch Hitter Chris Hinske and the slow motion charge of Carlos Ruiz and Brad Lidge, Ruiz jumping into the outstretched arms of Lidge, the rest of the team mobbing the mound, Ryan Howard knocking over Chase Utley, Shane Victorino in an all out sprint jumping into the pile of players. These are just a few of the many memories that the 2008 Phillies provided for its fans in an unprecedented World Series Win.

The 2008 version of the Phillies was much different than the 2013 team. The only offensive players that remain are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz. Cole Hammels is the lone pitcher that remains. Count that…Five Players…I repeat Five Players from that World Series Championship Team. Wow! My have things changed. However, those Five Players that do remain are the Five Core players that this Franchise was built around so in hindsight, they still have the core in tact.

After the Phillies won in 2008, Ruben Amaro made some unbelievable trades and acquisitions which certainly should have brought this team many more championships. That never happened…in 2009 the Phillies made it to the World Series once again, only to lose to the New York Yankees. This was after Amaro traded for former CY Young Winner Cliff Lee down the stretch, and also adding Pedro Martinez before the playoffs. The Starting Rotation of Cole Hammels, Cliff Lee, Martinez and Blanton could not get the job done. Neither could the Phillies offense.

In the offseason, in mid December, Amaro made one of the most controversial yet bold moves by trading Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners, while acquiring maybe the best pitcher in Baseball Roy Halladay. Amaro traded away its best pitching Prospects in Kyle Drabek and some other fine talent. No one seemed to care at this time as the Phillies had their Ace and Hammels and were poised for yet another run to the Big Dance. After struggling down the stretch, Amaro made another huge splash by trading AJ Happ, one of their aspiring starting pitchers to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt. The Phillies looked to again be the favorites only to lose to the eventual World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

Well…that offseason an even more dramatic roster move was made. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a long term contract, which gave the Phillies “4 Aces” in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, and Roy Oswalt, and a great number 3 starter in Joe Blanton. It’s safe to say that the Phillies were huge favorites to make it back to the World Series and win. There have not been too many pitching staffs in history that could rival these names. However, Although Roy Halladay won another CY Young, Cliff Lee struggled and Roy Oswalt was hurt most of the year, which made him expendable. Once again, the Phillies were stunned by the upstart Saint Louis Cardinals who won the World Series. To add insult to injury, Ryan Howard tore his Achilles’ tendon running to first base in the last play of the game in that NLCS. He would be out part of the 2012 season.

The Phillies failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 2012 since 2007. This team had a tremendous run. They had so much talent, but unfortunately names on paper does not guarantee a World Series. Last Season…Roy Halladay had an injury plagued season while Cole Hammels had his best year as a pro. Although Cliff Lee had a horrible record, he became only the second pitcher to lose more than 10 games and have a sub 3.25 ERA. He also was in the league leaders in Ks, Innings, Complete Games and WHIP. Ok…so much has changed since tbs Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

Lets take a quick look at that roster that won the Trophy. Starting Pitchers were Cole Hammels, Brett Myers, Jaime Moyer, Joe Blanton, and AJ Happ. The Bullpen consisted of Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyere, JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. Brad Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 Saves in the regular season and 5 for 5 in the post season. That feat may never be duplicated. Ok, on Offense the Phillies were stacked with power…lineup was Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, Pedro Feliz, and Carlos Ruiz.

In that World Series, bench players made huge contribution. Starters made huge plays. Pat Burrel led off Game 5 part 2 with a Double. Eric Bruntlett replaced Burrell, was moved to third on a sacrifice by Shane Victorino and then scored on a single by Pedro Feliz in the top of the ninth. Then, Brad Lidge made the save after allowing two base runners. Game 4 was the blowout where Ryan Howard hit two monster blasts and Joe Blanton even hit a home run. Game 3 was the long rain delay, Eric Bruntlett gets hit by a pitch in the Bottom of the Ninth and scored on a seeing eye single by Ruiz. Game 2 was a loss and Game 1 was a tremendous win for Cole Hammels who went 8 and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell went back to back. That team had heart. That team had energy. Matt Stairs pinch hit home run in the Dodgers Series. Brett Myers 3 for 3 in a game 2 thriller. That was an awesome ride.

Now lets fast forward to 2013. Tube lineup will still have Rollins, Utley, Howard and Ruiz. But that’s it. Only Four. The Starting Pitching if healthy will trump that staff in 2008 on paper. However, will they be able to execute. We will soon find out as pitchers and catchers report this week. The Phillies will have a totally new lineup with Michael Young, Delmon Young, and Ben Revere. And Johnathan Papplebon replaces Brad Lidge as the closer. As mentioned…this team is far removed from the one that won it all. However, this team still has its Top 5 Core in tact. They could surprise everyone this year if healthy. Looking forward to it!

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