Live Blog Coming, Wheels on the Wind.

Mikey Mart Can Boot Balls With His Eyes Closed.

Two games into Spring Training and the only Phillie in mid-season form is Wheels.  There are certain things that Wheels loves talking about.  He’s a bit like one of those automated things you see at a museum or Zoo or something.  Every time a new person walks over and pushes the button he goes off on the same spiel.  A little known fact about Wheeler is his fondness for talking about wind.  He’s a bit of a weather buff, who catches a chill any time the mercury dips below 84 degrees, but wind is his true calling.  I’m honestly surprised he didn’t land the role opposite Matthew Modine in the movie Wind.  What does Jennifer Grey have that Wheels doesn’t?  Anyway, whether it be Wrigley Field or the blustery confines of a Grapefruit League Park, Wheels is on the edge of his seat waiting to say, “It’s going to be one of those days here…”

That’s Wheels’ speak for windy.  And, windy means WACKY.  One Hunter Pence home run on Saturday and Wheels was chuckling like a madman and all but guaranteeing a 19-18 final.  Then no one scored for about 4 innings. Wacky. Things have a way of getting a little tedious and dull during Spring Training, so to liven things up for myself, I’m going to Live Blog the first few innings  this afternoon.  It is Joe Blanton’s debut.  I think the game is on TV.  We’ll see.  So, check back at 1 pm for some WAY TO EARLY Spring Training thoughts.

Ok, getting ready to start here.  Pineda vs. Blanton.  A bit of a mismatch.  Those of you still holding onto the belief that if Blanton has a strong Spring the Phillies will be able to move him will want to pay close attention to this one.  Good news is, Mikey Mart will not be behind Blanton today.  Thanks to the MLB Network for reminding me yesterday that Martinez hit .196 last year.  One Ninety-Six.  At least he can field…

Top 1st–

Wind’s down.  This game will be slightly less cray-zee.  Also, we’ve got ourselves a Placido Polanco sighting.  The head looks as big as ever.  Another of Wheelz’ interests?  “High Sky.”  Granderson grounds out to Wigginton at 1st.  You know who looks great at 1st?  Mayberry.  Guy’s a defensive savant.  Smooth top of the 1st for Joe.  Let’s get some AL teams on the horn.  We’ll pay 3.5 million of his salary…

Bottom 1st–

Anyone else hoping the Mariners get the better of this Pineda deal?  Polanco’s tombstone “Prototypical 2-hole Hitter.”  Wheeler obsession part III–Times to the plate.  According to Wheels, “Pineda looks like a 1.3, 1.4 to the plate.”  Wheels can distinguish tenths of seconds with his naked eye.  Here comes Jim Thome.  As my 13 Twitter followers know, I’m very high on Hunter Pence this year.  Thome?  Not so much.  Thome strikes out to end the inning with Rollins on 2nd.

Top 2nd–

I’m reading the Mets owe another 83 million for their Ponzi involvement.  Where are the Mets getting 83 million?  How long until China owns the Mets?  Eric Chavez, according to Hollywood, the 8th or 9th most important guy on the Moneyball A’s leads off the 2nd with a quick 3-1 putout.  Blanton breezes through the 2nd, he’s throwing a lot of ground balls.  Odd.  I’d go ahead and get him out of there.

Bottom 2nd–

Here’s Hunter Pence who appears to be in violent, flailing mid-season form.  That’s how we like him, but Pineda gets him to pop-up to 1st.  Dom Brown lines out to 3rd.  Hopefully that’s the end of Pineda’s day.  I’ve seen enough.  Scott Elarton is coming into the game for the Phillies. Is this the same Scott Elarton that won 19 games for Houston when I was in High School?  Yep, it is.  Between Elarton, Piniero and Bush the Phillies could have a buy one 6th starter, get 2 free sale.

Top 3rd–

According to Wheels, Utley has learned to “gear himself down.”  Must be the new baby.  On cue, McCarthy mentions the kid.  Elarton is 36 and threw 0 innings anywhere last year.  Wheels is an expert on what everyone used to be.  “At one time, Elarton had a REALLY heavy sinker.”  “At one time, he could REALLY run.”  “At one time, I had my own hair.”  Three up, three down for Elarton.  All ground balls.  Perhaps that sinker still has some heft.

Bottom 3rd–

Brian Schneider leads off the 3rd.  I’d rather have a backup catcher with more stick.  McCarthy says Schneider hit a long home run today…in BP.  He pops out to left.  Kevin Fransden pops out to 1st.  Fransden is one of about a dozen guys I have on my depth chart ahead of Michael Martinez.  Rollins is also expecting a kid, well, his wife is expecting.  Wheels loves his fatherly potential.  He’s got a 4.7 WAR in Dadability.  Rollins walks and has been on base both times today.  RBI single Polanco after Rollins steals 2nd and 3rd!  Phils lead, 1-0.  SMALL BALL!!!!

Top 4th–

More Elarton.  Here’s Nick Swisher, star of How I Met Your Mother.  Another ground out to 1st.  Elarton is the new Brandon Webb.  According to Sarge, “The Phillies still aren’t squaring up enough balls.”  Sarge, go organize your hats, it’s the 3rd day.  Elarton breezes through the 4th.  Warming up in the Phillies bullpen:  Pat Rapp, Wilson Alvarez, and Carlos Perez.  Kidding.

Bottom 4th–

Thome has adopted Utley’s practice of taking ground balls on a chair.  I don’t understand how this helps.  Seeing hops?  Long double into the gap for Thome.  I should clarify my earlier statement, I don’t like Thome as a pinch-hitter.  If we had a DH in the NL, I’d be good with him.  Brown hits another ball hard the other way.  He certainly doesn’t look “lost.”  I’m ready for Mayberry at 1st and Brown in LF.  I’m underwhelmed by Nix.  Phils rip three balls in the inning, but get nothing out of it.  I think I have one more inning in me.  First sign of Hector Luna and I’m out.

Top 5th–

Austin Hyatt in for the Phillies in the 5th.  I’m losing steam.  Nick Swisher just stole 2nd.  Does he have a Spring Training steals incentive clause?  Laynce Nix has a brother.  Jason.  Or excuse me, JaYson.  Obviously.  Sac-Fly for Nix, perhaps the family felt short-changed in the last name category so they started adding arbitrary “ys” to their first names.  Sisters: MaYgen, AYmy, and ShaYron.  Hyatt escapes the 5th without further damage, we’re locked at 1-1.

Bottom 5th–

The Phillies “on-deck” series this year is April 2nd and 3rd against Pittsburgh.  Tickets still available.  Yankees going to Dan Burawa for the 5th.  You have no idea who that is.  I could have said the Yankees have gone with Dusty Pennypacker for the 5th and you would have no idea.  We’ve derailed.  Rollins rips a single off the 1st baseman’s glove.  He’s 2 for 2.  GREAT APPROACH.  Base-hit Polanco. Flare.  Right-center.  I’m worried about a “Polanco Shift” where all outfielders stand 225 feet away from home plate.  Victorino grounds into DP to end it.  DANG it Shane.  OK Phils, finish strong.  I’m out.

 

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Great.

Rory Shows Off His 2012 Win Total.

I guess this is how it’s going to be. Rory McIlroy’s rise to #1 in the World Golf Rankings was inevitable according to most scribes penning love letters to the young lad today.  I suppose I should have seen it coming as well.  Lately sports. for me, has been an exercise in realizing that wishing something won’t happen doesn’t get you very far.  I’ve become the kid in Bad Santa.  Giants–Super Bowl.  Rory–Number One.  Prepare Miami for good news.  The way things are going, there’s no way they’ll be denied the NBA Title.

Rory’s win Sunday provided some compelling theater.  Tiger Woods, who had spent the 1st three days of the tournament fighting himself, suddenly had everything click.  He breezed through an error-free day, which culminated with an eagle on the 18th hole.  The 62 (his best Sunday round ever) brought him within two shots of McIlroy, who still had a handful of holes to play.  From that point on, a series of perfectly executed chips and bunker shots sealed the win for Rory.  I watched without much hope of a different outcome.  Tour pros don’t often skull bunkers shots across the green into a lake, but I guess you can dream.  Johnny Miller was dreaming.  He was dying for a McIlroy/Woods playoff showdown and documented every possible way Rory could make a bogey. It never happened.  Rory won comfortably and became the 1st number won to actually own a major since Martin Kaymer.

Many believe McIlroy will succeed where Kaymer failed, using the number one ranking to springboard his career to even loftier heights.  He’s certainly become the most steady top-tier performer in the world, hardly ever leaving the top-5 of any tournament he plays.  His win yesterday, though, was just his fifth worldwide.  Everything appears to be in place, but he still needs to win a lot of events to realize his obvious potential.  The assumption that he will win dozens of tournaments, loads of majors, is already out there.  In Sports Illustrated’s weekly tournament wrap, one writer suggests that Rory will retire as the 3rd greatest player of all-time.  I’m not sure such bold and rushed predictions are appropriate at this point.

It could be Tiger who has the biggest say in the kind of start Rory gets to supplanting him atop a list of the game’s modern greats.  McIlroy will have plenty of competition from his generation, but there’s no player aside from Woods who can captivate a crowd, or interest the public enough to be a mega-star.  Tiger has already kept an entire generation of players down.  He trimmed the Major totals of Ernie Els, Phil, Lee Westwood, Sergio and many others.  Is that what Rory is going to do to the likes of Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Kaymer, etc?  Can Woods summon four or five more productive years to remain a factor in all this?  His play Sunday suggests he can, but his inability to put together four rounds suggests his real dominance is forever in the past.

What I can say about Rory is he seems to have a quality that few players have and that’s his ability to make people overreact.  It’s now seen as a given that Rory will win the Masters, or at the very least be the favorite.  Like I mentioned earlier it was just his fifth win, but now there is no longer a single doubt about his ability to close.  In the span of two weeks we’ve forgotten about Westwood and Donald, we’ve forgotten that this was perhaps going to be Sergio’s year to win a major, we’ve forgotten that it was only 3 weeks ago that we crowned Phil Mickelson the prohibitive favorite at Augusta.  That’s all because of Rory, and even if he’s 60 or 70 wins, and 13 Majors short, that one quality is very Tiger-like.  Now we just have to see if Tiger can win before Augusta and see what that does to everyone’s expectations for the year’s first major.