Where Do the Phillies Go From Here?

They Have Third Baseman At the Swap Meet?

I thought when I got home on Monday evening I might have found the Phillies without a few of their veterans.  The team has failed to respond to any stimulus provided throughout the year.  Charlie Manuel tried meetings.  They brought some guys back from the DL.  Ruben Amaro basically said, “Win the series in Atlanta–or else.”  As you may have noticed the Phillies were swept out of Atlanta, continuing a season of struggles against the NL East.  The optimism that accompanied the 4-game win streak of last week is gone now, and the only chance that remains is a mathematical one.  With a couple of months of what promises to be low-intensity baseball left, the question becomes, where do the Phillies go from here?

1.  Make the Obvious Trades.  Victorino must go.  Pierre should be dealt as should Joe Blanton.  If the Phillies find a taker for Ty Wigginton they can go ahead and trade him too.  Keeping guys like Pierre and Blanton makes no sense, given the standings, and if they wanted to keep Shane it would be simply to save some face this year.  The return for these players will be minimal.  The Phillies could look for relief pitcher.  Maybe you get lucky on a mid-ceiling prospect.  Perhaps you can get Baltimore to part with one of their starting pitchers who has fallen out of favor?  The Phillies should make these deals to get themselves under the luxury tax threshold and to open up a place in the outfield immediately.  Even if they get nothing in return for these players, those are enough positives to move ahead.  

2.  Call up Dom Brown yesterday.  Brown was either wildly overrated or the Phillies did hinder his development a great degree with their yo-yo promotion/demotion tactics, but Brown is no longer THAT young.  Eventually you run out of time for seasoning.  Dom Brown cannot start the 2013 season in Lehigh for the Phillies.  He needs to be on the Major League roster, or the Phillies need to move on.  Brown has displayed a knack for getting hurt this year, but he’s also finally rounded back into prospect form.  He’s hitting .395 in July with a 900+ OPS.  When you first heard about Brown the term was “5-tools.”  What we’ve seen from Brown is that he may, in fact, not have any elite skills.  He can throw, and he can run, but is he ever going to hit 30 homers?  Or develop into a good outfielder?  Probably not.  But, Brown could be a contributing, low-cost piece on the Phillies for the next several years.  A LF that hits .265/20HR would be a revelation compared to what they put in LF this year.  Especially at $500,000 those stats are pretty easy to swallow.  Give Dom Brown 50 starts from now until the end of the year, give him 200 at-bats and see what it looks like.  For those concerned about his defense, have you seen Hunter Pence play RF this year?  And, even if he is a butcher, the Phillies really have an eye toward 2013 at this point.  If he costs you a game or two in the field, what’s the difference?

3.  Watch Halladay closely/Limit His Innings.  You have to keep sending Roy out there at this point, because there is the occasional sign that he’s coming around.  Halladay may never throw 93-94 again, but plenty of pitchers have been effective at lower velocities.  We know Halladay will work at it, but at some point you wonder if he’s pushing himself too hard.  If Roy continues to mix in 6IP/4ER type of outings, it might be time to reexamine the health of his shoulder.  If you shut Halladay down, you could also promote a starter from AAA to see if there’s any shot he could fill the #5 spot in the rotation next year (long shot).  If Halladay is throwing 110 pitches in late August and September (barring a 24-game win streak), someone should be relieved of their duties.  And, I’m not even a pitch count guy.  

4. Treat all other veterans with care.  The Phillies got old quick.  They need some of those veterans to stay healthy throughout 2013.  Chase Utley looks better to me than last year, but it was September when he really trailed off in 2011.  To me, it’s hard to justify him playing even five times a week down the stretch if the Phillies are out of it.  Ryan Howard needs to play to continue to get himself closer to being in shape, but he too should see plenty of days off down the stretch.  Same goes for Chooch.  Does this mean the Phillies are going to trot out some painful/hilarious lineups in September?  Probably.  

5.  Trade Big Salary in the Off-Season.  I don’t see the Phillies moving Lee and/or Pence before Tuesday.  If they do, hopefully it is because they have been blown away by a massive offer.  If they wait until the winter they can give themselves some more time to plan the next two or three seasons for this team.  Yep, it’s finally time to look long-term.  Also, the market for starting pitchers will be very thin this winter when it comes to free agents.  Say Cliff Lee has a big last two months, the price he’d bring from a team who misses out on Greinke this winter would be a lot more than the Phillies could get in the next two days.  And, trading Lee now for any prospects, just for the sake of dumping salary seems like a rushed judgment.  Got to start thinking bigger picture.  

6.  Attitude/Leadership Changes.  Nothing makes a team look worse than losing.  The Phillies had plenty of fire against the Brewers, but when shut down by Atlanta, it looks like they have no heart.  Charlie Manuel appears to be cracking a bit.  The once loyal Manuel has started to publicly say that he doesn’t see “the want” in his players.  Manuel is an old-school guy.  He puts up with Jimmy Rollins’ strolls to first because they were winning 100 games.  Now, I imagine it’s driving him crazy.  I can’t even begin to comprehend the level of frustration among the coaching staff.  So, even with a clean slate next year how are the Phillies going to change the feel of things?   Manuel and Rollins have taken on a bit of a Brown/Iverson feel for me at this point.  Most times, it’s the player who stays, but if the Phillies don’t want to eat Manuel’s fat contract, J-Roll could find himself on the trading block next to Cliff Lee.  

***

So, if I’m a Phillies fan at this point, I’ve closed the book on 2012–minus the blind faith quotient.  This Phillies team is like when I’m watching a golf tournament and thinking well…”If he birdies the last 6 holes and the other guy hits 4 in the water–I’m liking our chances all of a sudden!”  What you hope is that the Phillies do call up Brown, or perhaps a young starter, or maybe they pry away a legitimate prospect from another team.  Then you’d have something to watch the last two months, because it’s been 6 years since we saw a meaningless baseball game in this city.  It’s going to be a hard adjustment for the fans to make (especially the “new” fans), and it’s already been a hard year, but the Phillies have to figure out a way to keep things positive in regard to 2013 and beyond.  Fortunes with the fans can turn quickly.  Just ask the Sixers.  

Phillies Face Huge Series in San Diego.

Phils Continue Their Beautiful Ballpark Tour.

Last night was a new milepost on this test of patience that we call a Phillies season.  Cliff Lee was incredible.  Ten shutout innings on a comical 102 pitches.  The only time Lee had to sweat was when someone on his infield butchered a ground ball.  The Giants had no chance.  You could miss entire half-innings if you were slow with your channel flipping.  The only problem was, the exact same thing could be said for the Phillies.  Matt Cain was exerting an equal amount of control over the Phillies’ lineup.  Coming off a near perfect game against Pittsburgh, Cain was almost that good again, dodging perhaps one legitimate threat in nine innings of work.  It was one of the better pitching duels that you’ll ever see, and if the Phillies had been playing a little better, scoring just a few more runs, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  But, this was another loss, another lost series, another shutout.  Every team wastes good pitching from time to time, but the way it happened Wednesday night felt significant.

Charlie Manuel complimented his struggling offense with a series of dizzying, stupefying moves in the top of the 11th.  Carlos Ruiz led off with a double.  Freddy Galvis bunted him to 3rd.  Then Charlie got woefully out-managed, as is his custom any time he runs into Bruce Bochy or really any other working manager.  Manuel stuck with Jim Thome against a lefty who allowed 15 hits to lefties in 92 at-bats last season.  He then used John Mayberry as a pinch-hitter against a right-hander with two outs when he didn’t trust him to get a sac fly against a lefty with one out.  That Ty Wigginton, who could have been replaced by Placido Polanco, made the game-deciding error in the bottom of the 11th was just the icing on the cake.

It’s not that Polanco or Mayberry are great options, but Charlie’s loyalty to Thome is misplaced and troubling at this point.  Everyone likes Jim Thome, but it’s getting close to the point where he’s going to have to look in the mirror.  He’s 1 for 12 with 6 strikeouts this year.  His one hit was a roller through the infield.  It’s hard to see a role where he can help the Phillies, but it’s hard to imagine Charlie not continuing to use him in important spots.  Charlie has to make the right decisions this year.  His margin for error has disappeared just like everyone else’s and if he can’t honestly access Thome’s skills, it’s going to continue to hurt the Phillies.

The other thing that struck you when watching last night was that something is going to have to change for this team.  It’s not a big deal that the Phillies are 5-7, or 4.5 games behind Washington, but the way they’re playing is a big deal.  What concerns me is that the vehicle for change is not readily apparent.  That’s where the question of this team’s composition comes into play and a finger starts getting pointed at Ruben Amaro.  I wrote a lengthy piece a while back about the Phillies and Amaro overreacting to their loss in the 2009 World Series.  Since that loss the Phillies have gone on a spending spree centered almost entirely on pitching and their existing position players.  The result is the veteran, pitching-centric team you see today.

While Amaro was quick to make a change after 2009, he’s been stubborn since despite the fact that the Phillies have endured three straight unsuccessful post-seasons and the core of regulars was deteriorating at a rapid pace.  Heading into 2012, Amaro opted for a giant band-aid on offense and another binge on pitching.  Can you blame Amaro for not seeing the Utley risk?  Can you blame him trusting that John Mayberry would emerge?  I think you can to a certain extent and you can certainly be critical of his depth decisions.  In Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome, Amaro brought in three players who stood in stark contrast to his post-NLDS mantra.  In Wigginton and Nix he brought in two guys who have never really played for a winner.  He brought in guys with defensive liabilities.  With Howard and Utley out, the Phillies are usually starting three players who wouldn’t start for many other NL teams and at least one or two guys who are out of position.  Doesn’t that blame sit with Amaro as the architect?

The series with San Diego is huge because if the Phillies as they are currently constituted plan on staying in this thing, they’re going to have to start showing some signs of life and they’re going to have to beat a team at the bottom of the league like the Padres.  If the Phillies can’t start playing a little better, the fingers will start getting pointed and people will be singled out for blame.  Will it fall to Charlie this time?  Will the Phillies try firing a coach again?  Would they think about a trade that could really shake up the clubhouse?  Will they just wait it out until Utley and/or Howard come back?  Would they try a small move like Dom Brown Part III first?

It’s still only twelve games, and like I said, the wins and losses aren’t the concerning thing right now, it’s a question of where the improvement is going to come from.  This series against the Padres should provide the Phillies with a chance to get some things going.  To maybe have a guy or two break out of an early season slump.  I think it’s important that happens.  For a number of reasons.

 

This Stuff Happened — 3/6/12

Beware the 2nd G.

It feels like an especially slow day.  Not even a Phillies telecast.  I know people were probably anxious for a second consecutive Spring Training blog.  Not going to happen.  Not for a while.  Instead, I’m just going to throw together a little post here, catching up on some things I haven’t touched on, etc.

***

I’ve completely ignored the bounty controversy.  For some reason this story just hasn’t captivated me like it has others, and judging by the pounding it’s getting on sports radio, people are interested.  Why don’t I care?  I guess I just assumed this was something that went on in the NFL.  I know it’s prohibited, but considering “The Bounty Bowl,” is one of the more famous games in Eagles’ history, it’s not a really new concept.  There’s no shock value.  NFL teams doing something to get an edge?  You don’t say.  I’m not pro-bounty, don’t get me wrong, but I guess I just looked at it as an accompanying evil to the game.  It’s like how you can’t go to an R-rated comedy anymore without seeing some guy’s schlong.  Do I want to see that?  Of course not, but I know it’s coming.  You’ve got to take your lumps to watch the movie.  These NFL players are trying to physically dominate (that’s the nicest way I can put it) each other on every play.  I don’t know how much more dangerous a bounty could possibly make the sport.  What I’m really interested in is, who takes the fall for this?  Do the Saints come out fresh and clean?  Is Gregg Williams going to be the scapegoat here?  With some of the other stuff leaking out about Williams, I feel like he’s going to take the brunt of this.

***

Cliff Lee is starting the game against Toronto today, and that made me realize that Lee has been a bit of a forgotten man in Phillies camp this year.  If you aren’t nursing an injury or in a contract year, you’ve been pushed to the back of the line in terms of attention.  Throw in that we had to wait for the 4th game to see Lee, and his start is a nice surprise, “Oh yeah, we have Cliff Lee!”  I was thinking about my Shane Victorino theory some more, that he’s gone after the season, and after you write something like that, there’s always a bit of remorse.  I should have played it safe and been less definitive.  I started talking myself into the other side of the argument, but relented. I still expect Shane to be playing elsewhere in 2013.  If for some reason the Phillies choose Victorino, or cannot sign Hamels for another reason, Lee will never go under the radar again.  I think the “aces” here appreciate the cover they get from being part of a group.  I wonder if Hamels will consider that if he does because a free agent.

***

Mila Kunis, a blog favorite, has joined the long line of female celebs who complainslies about, gets philosophical about never being approached for a date.  Is this the most annoying thing a model or actress can do?  Perhaps.  The quote, from a Harper’s Interview, “I don’t get asked out.  This past year, I haven’t been home, so who’s going to ask me?”  Translation: I’m too busy being a movie star to date anyone.  What a grind.  There’s a few things working against Mila.  First, I’d imagine 99% of the population assume they have no chance.  Second, she dated Macaulay Culkin for about a decade.  That sends an interesting message.  Have you seen Mac lately?  Not many of that type walking around.  I have to be famous and a train wreck to date this chick?  Tall order.  In the interview Mila goes on to talk about her general anti-social behavior (her wine is her “besty”) and kind of sounds like she never leaves the house.  Perhaps the mystery is solved.  Around these parts we’ll continue to be enamored with the idea of Mila Kunis, these in-depth interviews provide unnecessary details.

***

So, I came across something on the internet last week.  They are videos that are compilations of comments from Twitter or YouTube videos.  They are called YouTube Reacts and Twitter Reacts respectively.  Makes sense.  You may have been watching these for years, but they’re new to me.  What they do is, mash-up some comments and read them in voices I find to be quite hilarious.  They’re absolutely laced with profanity and contain the odd slur, but the general theme is, people are stupid.  That’s always funny.  This is a compilation of Tweets in response to the Wikipedia blackout from a while back.  Twitter Reacts…

Rough Sunday.

A Scene The Phils Will Try to Avoid on Tuesday.

Sometime during the early evening hours on Saturday night, after the crowd at Citizens Bank Park had been standing for several minutes and the Phillies had taken a 4-3 lead, I started yelling at Tony LaRussa.  Well, I wasn’t really yelling at him, I was just offering advice.  It was smug, and fueled by the adrenaline of Ryan Howard’s  upper deck home run. Speaking to my friend as if he were the Cardinals’ manager I said, “Take him out, Tony.  Take him out now.  If you don’t, Raul is going to go deep.”  Three pitches later Ibanez had homered, the crowd had found a new level of insanity, and the Phillies were suddenly up 6-3.  You watch enough baseball and I believe you learn to feel the momentum.  I know a guy who calls far too many home runs for it to be just a fluke.  

No matter how anyone does it, though, it always makes for a good story.  The Phillies took the lead, and you knew the game was over. Ahead by three with Halladay settled in?  Forget about it.  I guess how often I tell that story in the future will probably depend on how the rest of these playoffs unfold.  When Cliff Lee couldn’t hold a four-run lead on Sunday, the type of lead that is supposed to be insurmountable with the Phillies’ pitching staff, the NLDS picture got a lot more cloudy. 

And, speaking of momentum, the game Sunday night didn’t feel right to me as soon as St. Louis scored their first three runs.  An inning earlier, Ryan Howard had been up with two men on-base and sent a shot the other way that from my first base perspective looked like it had a chance to leave the stadium.  It would have put the Phillies up 7-0, and for all intents and purposes, up 2-0 in the series.  But, the ball came down on the track, curse my poor perspective, and a few minutes later the bottom of Cardinals’ lineup was bleeding Cliff Lee out with a series of tiny incisions.  The fact that it was Theriot, and John Jay, and then later the “up-to-that-point hitless” David Craig made Lee’s failure all the more puzzling.  

Of course the manner of the loss, blowing the lead, makes the fans feel worse than they likely should, given the series is tied 1-1, and the Phillies still have Cole Hamels on deck.  That’s the beauty of this rotation.  They still haven’t gotten a real shutdown performance, but now they may need one from Hamels to nose back ahead.  I don’t think we have to be any more worried about the Cardinals than we already were.  Albert Pujols hasn’t looked superhuman, the Cardinals starters have struggled, and their bullpen has balanced one rough outing with a great performance last night.  All along we knew the Phillies were going to have to pitch to get this thing done, and that’s still the story.  Send the next ace out there Tuesday, and hope to give him enough support to win the game.

***

The Eagles are a whole other story.  During the 4th quarter of the Eagles game I started getting a lot of texts.  They were similar in nature.  “This is comical.”  “This is so bad, it’s funny.”  “This is hysterical.  I hope they lose.”  Of course, no one actually thought it was funny.  That’s just the type of thing you can say when there are still 12 games left in the season and delusional sports fans behavior requires you to still believe there is a chance for the Eagles even if outwardly you are saying otherwise.  Also, I’m not sure anyone really thought the Eagles were going to lose until Maclin fumbled that ball. Sure, it was going to be an embarrassing win, but it was going to be a win nonetheless.  The fact that it turned into perhaps the worst regular season loss in the Andy Reid era is still a little hard to believe, though if you looked around the NFL, it was hardly the only blown game.  

I think the worst part about the Eagles 1-3 season is that they’ve run a con on the fans.  Fans are gullible, they want to be optimistic at their simplest level, and the Eagles exploited that with their flashy off-season.  The fact that they ignored core deficiencies, ignored the fact that they couldn’t really protect Vick toward the end of last year was all swept up in wave of free-agent signings.  I don’t know the signings have been busts, there are times when Jason Babin is all over the place for example, but they haven’t done a thing to address what handicapped the 2010 Eagles.  They still can’t tackle, they still can’t protect Vick, and they still can’t stop anyone, with the slight caveat of their defense occasionally looks good when the pass rush gets to the quarterback.

Of course, this is all Andy Reid’s mess.  It’s been his to claim for some time, and now I’m afraid he looks more incompetent than ever.  The Castillo hiring, the redundancy of their offensive issues, the horrific drafting, it all has to come back to Andy.  And, if the Eagles are truly on the verge of a disastrous season, something in that 6-10 vein, it’s going to end up being a test of loyalty.  The fans loyalty, their willingness to max-out Eagles revenue regardless of product in the Andy Reid era vs. Banner and Lurie’s seemingly unflappable allegiance to Andy Reid.  Would Eagles fans ever not sell out the Linc?  Or would Lurie ever get rid of Reid?  Which is more likely?  

Of course, the lone upside of all this is that the Eagles may be one Michael Vick injury away from joining the Andrew Luck race.  Their schedule is certainly difficult enough.  If the Vikings could ever figure out how to win a game or two…who knows.  

Entourage Still An Awful Show, Bizzaro Cliff Lee & More.

Bizzaro Jerry is now Married to Kelly Kapowski on USA.

Count me among those who thought Ross Gload was going to hit a towering 2-run, game-winning home run this afternoon. My unwavering support of G-Load can get me in some trouble, but you can’t win them all I suppose, even if it feels that way against the Padres.  Cliff Lee put the Phillies in a 5-1 hole and they couldn’t quite make it all the way back, and lost for the first time to San Diego this season.  I guess any time you have a chance to win a game where Drew Carpenter throws the 5th and 6th innings you should be happy, but Lee’s bad starts continue to be too pedestrian for my liking.  There’s no way I’m starting him before game 3 of a playoff series, I don’t care what he did in 2009.  Take a suck of that, Lee fanboys.

The newest concern I’ve heard from Phillies fans, now that the team is scoring a few runs here and there and the Braves have been pushed back to arm’s length, is that the team isn’t good enough to win the World Series.  They’ll coast into the playoffs, have a decent shot at winning the National League, but waiting in the World Series will be an offensive juggernaut.  I think much of this concern stems from Boston’s recent run of torrid offense.  The belief is that the Red Sox, the Yankees, or the Rangers will simply be too strong offensively to hold down.  The Phillies will have to win a couple of games 7-5, 8-6 to achieve the ultimate goal.

To this I say, they better not have to do that.  If that’s the case, then this entire team has been constructed on a faulty premise.  Not only that, but there isn’t a hitter out there that will suddenly turn the Phillies into mashers.  An addition may marginally help the offense, but it’s very unlikely that a new bat will carry the Phillies all the way.  This team has been constructed to out-pitch the opposition.  So, get in bed with it.  And, get some perspective, too.  The Rangers hit .272 last year.  They were 4th in the league in runs scored.  In the World Series they scored 12 runs in 5 games and 7 of those came in game 1.  In their last three losses they scored once, total.

Pitching wins these things.  It’s time to put the focus on the pitchers.  We’re worried about putting too much pressure on them, but that’s what they’re being paid to handle.  That’s Ruben’s plan.  So, they’re going to have to suck it up and out-pitch the other teams when the playoffs come around.  You can’t change the entire philosophy of a team with one deadline deal.  The pitchers will have to pitch and that means Roy Halladay can’t give up 2 homers to a journeyman.  And, Cliff Lee can’t have a bizzaro Cliff Lee start.  That’s the bottom line.  Pence or no Pence.

***

So, I just watched the first episode from the final year of Entourage.  You know a show is terrible when you can’t remember a single thing that was going on, but they can completely catch you up in the 45-second montage before the episode starts.  You can’t watch a 45-second clip of Breaking Bad and get caught up, but with Entourage that is no problem.  The last season of the show was almost watchable, or at least it was compared to the seasons that came before it, but last night’s debut was a cold reminder that this show forgot the formula.

It’s important in bad TV to stick to your formula if it works.  It’s like how Survivor keeps recycling contestants for their seasons, or how the Real World figured out it can’t use people with actual jobs.  I guess it is harder than we think, because Entourage derailed after a couple of years and never came back.  In this episode there was a girl who flashed Vince and they didn’t show anything.  Is this TNT?  Why did I put this show on?  Certainly not to watch Vince struggle with sobriety. The formula was envy.  Everyone wanted the houses, the cars, the lifestyle, the girls.  Keep it superficial.  Everything else is a failure.

***

I’ve got a pretty serious semantics problem.  I feel that chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream should actually be called chocolate chip ice cream with cookie dough.  I’ve got a little mind-blower for you.  Chocolate chip cookie dough (misnomer) ice cream is wildly overrated.  It’s good, it is ice cream after all, but real cookie dough is so good that it really blinds the public here.  Look at your ice cream.  There is no chocolate actually in your fake dough.  It’s just in the ice cream.  Not appropriate.  And, even the fake dough is a lukewarm interpretation.  Yeah, I’ll eat it, but it’s not even in the ball park of actual cookie dough.  That sh*t has raw eggs in it.  It’s dangerous.  You take your chances, dance with the devil, because it’s worth it.  This stuff in the ice cream is like playing with wooden swords.   I can really survive on 3 ice cream flavors.  Vanilla, chocolate and cookies and cream.

(Happily goes and eats Cookie Dough Ice Cream)

They’re Called Greens for a Reason.

The US Open Brought to you By UPS.

I’m watching the US Open right now and Phil is thinking about imploding.  With a partially obstructed backswing, Phil is attempting to hit a driver with a giant slice out of the rough.  He pulls it off (?), which by my definition means he didn’t cold top it.  The ball lasers into the rough on the other side of the hole, and Phil continues his comprehensive tour of the grounds.  Phil’s over-thinking might be the lead story of day one so far.  He’s already hit the water with his opening tee shot, hit one block/shank into the hay with his specially tweaked driving iron, and he’s currently grinding away at the par-5 16th sitting at 2-over for the event.  What else is happening?

The greens look terrible.  Especially in HD.  We’re so conditioned to seeing perfectly hued greens on tour that any brown tinge makes people assume the grass is dead and they’re rolling terrible.  That isn’t necessarily the case.  The surfaces seem to be running all right, but there are some choppy areas around the holes.  I’m not too optimistic about the shape they’ll be in on Sunday at this point.  The question is, will the players grin and bear it, or will they downshift smoothly into spoiled brat mode and start complaining?  I’d expect a nice mix.  It’s not a U.S. Open if someone doesn’t go off half-cocked ripping the course set-up.

Y.E. Yang, aka “The Yanger,” has the early lead in the clubhouse at (-3) 68.  He’s joined by a Molinari brother, and a couple other dozen guys under par.  It doesn’t look right now that anyone will get much deeper than 3, or 4 under, which likely means the USGA will get their wish of a winning score right around level par.  Plenty of big names off to decent starts, and it’s really too early to even attempt to shake things out.  My pick, Angel Cabrera, shot even par 71 for the opening round. A few favorites have put themselves in a position where they need a rally.  Lee Westwood (75), Jim Furyk (74), Adam Scott (74), Martin Kaymer (74) and Luke Donald (74) already find themselves a half-dozen shots back.  To close it out, in an interview, Davis Love III just called the greens “bumpy,” and “not good.”

***

Two-hitter?  Two-hitter.  Cliff Lee just finished off a 2-hit shutout of the Marlins, and it might be time for one of our commenters here to cancel the rest of Florida’s season.  They’ve lost 14 of 15.  Oh my.  The streak has actually dropped them into last place, 11.5 games behind the Phillies.  Two weeks ago, they were Philadelphia’s closest competition.  At the game last night, we were talking about how it was a little surprising Florida hadn’t packed it in, especially with Halladay on the mound.  Well, today I think Florida just went through the motions.  Cliff Lee was great, but the Fish weren’t offering much resistance.  The Phils ended a streak of games of scoring more than 3 runs, by managing just 3 against Javy Vazquez, but with 10 hits and a Howard homer it wasn’t the type of game the Phils have struggled through for a good portion of the year.  The result pushes the Phillies win streak to 7 games, they finished off a 9-2 home stand, and now get the pleasure of flying to Seattle.  Tough 6-game trip coming up.

***

I’m going to fire up the grill this weekend.  Kind of commandeered my own version of a grilling cabin.  Anyway, it’ll be my first time manning the tongs and spatula this season.  I’ve got a pretty good menu in mind, but if anyone has stumbled upon any recent grilled delectable and wants to fill me in, please do.  And don’t say I should grill fruit, or some such horse bleep like that.

***

Quiz of the Day:  TV Show Opening Credits.  Category:  Pre-DVR Phenomenon.  My Score: 18/24.

Cliff Lee’s A Lumberjack.

Hitterish.

Phils are leading the Reds 9-4 in the 8th of their series ending affair this afternoon as I type this post.  Cliff Lee has had a hand in about everything.  He blew a 4-0 lead, but since has rallied with 2 hits and 3 RBIs to push the boys back in front.  If the Phillies bullpen hadn’t thrown 1.3 million pitches last night, Lee might not even have gotten his chance to wield the lumber, but one of the reasons he said he wanted to come to Philly was to hit, so he might as well be productive up there from time to time.  The victim was Cincy’s “take one for the team” man, Daryl Thompson.  I don’t think the Phillies took into account Lee’s offense when they dropped 125 million on him, or whatever the total was.  Maybe they should have.

Is it a bad time to bring up that Lee hasn’t really been worth the money yet on the mound?  Aside from a few brilliant performances Lee has been pretty average except for his strike out rate, which doesn’t really matter when you are giving up big innings and blowing leads.  Don’t get me wrong, Lee more often than not looks like a top-10 pitcher in the NL, but is that really what we were paying him for?  Cliff already has 4 or 5 “Blantons” this year.  Six innings, 3 runs.   Five innings, 4 runs.  Today he couldn’t protect a four run lead.  As an aside, why do the Phillies let the same guys kill them over and over again?  How many RBIs does Jay Bruce have to pile up in this series?

Getting back to Lee, I guess I am just saying I’d like a bit more consistency.  I know he was signed for the post-season so we can’t really judge until we get to that point, but the Phillies do need him to win his share before he gets there.  I know the advanced stat people will praise his strikeouts and his ERA+ and fielding independent pitching, but I do think those stats can miss some things.  And, perhaps they put too much weight on the dominant outings?  Lee’s best is certainly among the absolute best of any pitcher in the league, but how often does he get there?

There is part of me too that wants to get back to the time when the pitcher took a little more responsibility.  Kind of like the quarterback in football.  Some things aren’t necessarily in his control, but how about taking the brunt?  I’ve never heard of a stat, “passing independent receiving.”  Sure, we know when a guy is the victim of some drops, but it all usually falls on the QB’s head, and I think that should be the case with pitchers some of the time.  Ok, you don’t get run support, but I think sometimes you have to make adjustments, rise to the occasion.  I suppose the advanced stats don’t believe in such things, because each game is played out mathematically, but at the end of the day people still want to know if you won the game.

So, that’s my little Cliff Lee mini-rant, on a nice easy afternoon where the Phillies manage to level off at 10-10 for their stretch against contenders (not too bad in the end).  They scored 28 runs in the four game series against the Reds and have some lesser teams coming up to maintain the momentum…hopefully.  I like Cliff Lee a lot, but I could already hear people explaining away his game today if the Phillies didn’t retake the lead and win (the game has ended, 10-4 as I continue to ramble on here).   I know he pitched well in the post-season, and nonchalantly caught a pop-up, but there are guys on the team I like a little better.  And, there are guys who probably deserve some of the slack that Lee is given in spades.

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Feasting on Offensive Futility Day 3:

Well, this is far easier than picking actual games.  Even with a 3 game sample, I can see that.  The A’s managed to do their usual against the Angels last night and I cruised to another under, bringing my record to 2-1.  This is the first time I’ve head my head above water in any type of baseball betting scenario.  You’re welcome.  Today, I’m stuck with quite the dilemma.  Only two night games.  Should I show discipline and take the night off, or keep firing away?  Think we all know the answer to that:

Today’s selection:  Chicago and Toronto Under 8.0.

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Quiz of the Day:  This Day in History: June__.  Category: Actual Knowledge.  My Score: 23/30*

Two spelling look ups.