Trades, Olympics and Such.

Couldn’t Handle the New Look Phils.

The Phillies have had decent success against Stephen Strasburg this season.  Always take their chances against a hard-throwing righty over a junk-spinning lefty.  The win, which might have been the easiest of the season, capped a frustrating day for the fans.  Two familiar faces were shipped off to NL West contenders, and then the Phillies played like a team that should be a lot better off in the standings.  One good game isn’t going to get the Phillies very far at this point, though, so the consolation might be that even without two starting outfielders, things might not get even worse.  It’s not like we’re tanking for Andrew Luck here.  So, while the Phils settle into “spoiler” mode, what exactly did they do yesterday?  Aside from somehow not trading Joe Blanton…

Pence to the Giants:  

Why:  Pence, who experienced crazy highs and lows in his year with the Phillies was going to be due a large chunk of change in arbitration.  In fact, his one-year salary will probably be greater than the average annual value he could expect to get as a free-agent.  The Phillies can’t afford to overpay at any position, and they obviously decided Pence was not the guy they wanted in RF for the next three or four years.  With a year of team control left, Pence was one of the few pieces the Phillies had with real value.  

What they Got Back:  The centerpiece of the deal is catching prospect Tommy Joseph.  Joseph put up big offensive numbers and showed power in A-ball, but his offense has cooled this season at AA Richmond.  He’s got a strong throwing arm, and he’s young for his level–just 20.  With Carlos Ruiz locked in for 2013, this is a move that sets the Phillies up for 2014.  They now have two in-house candidates to replace Ruiz (Sebastian Valle moves to AAA) and they could flip one of them in a future deal.  With Joseph, the Phils also got fringe prospect Seth Rosin (who the Phils are hoping is a late-bloomer) and ML outfielder, Nate Schierholtz.  Schierholtz is a solid defensive outfielder with a right-field arm that should slot well into a 4th outfielder role along with getting the occasional start against right-handed pitching.  

Consensus:  When you compare what the Phillies got to what they gave up to get Pence last year (their #1 pitching and hitting prospects), this doesn’t look like a great deal, but Pence has a lot less value this year.  He’s closer to free agency, his numbers are down, and he’s a year older.  Amaro ultimately lost the gamble on Pence, but it’s not a bad return for where things stood yesterday.  

Victorino to the Dodgers:

Why:  Watching a Shane highlight package this morning, you realize how big a role he played in the team’s best seasons.  But, 2012 was a struggle for Shane and we should all be happy the Phils didn’t offer him extension after last year’s career year.  Shane should still get a decent contract in free agency at a price that the Phillies wouldn’t be able to afford–at least not for another player who is over 30.  Victorino’s versatility means he still had some value, even as a rental, and the Phillies saw a chance to help a maligned bullpen.  

What they Got Back:  Josh Lindblom will slot right into the Phillies bullpen.  Lindblom has a decent arm, accumulates a decent amount of strikeouts, but there is some concern about him being a fly ball pitcher in Citizen’s Bank Park.  The hope is that Lindblom can become a 7th inning type guy, something the Phillies have sorely missed this season.  Ethan Martin is a 23-year old AA pitcher.  Martin is a former 1st round pick, who has struck out about a batter an inning in his minor league career.  He’s more than a throw-in, but doesn’t look to be a guy who will impact the Phillies this year or next.  

Consensus:  This year’s bullpen keep the Phillies from having a chance.  They had other issues, but a good bullpen would have the Phillies in wild-card contention.  The team was just too old, too injured and too AAA out in the ‘pen, so any attempt to get better should be well received.  For two-months of Shane Victorino, you could have done worse.  

So, that’s where the Phillies stand right now.  More changes are likely to come, either through August moves, or winter wheelings and dealings.  Amaro seems to be positioning himself to take a run at a big name free-agent outfielder to pair with Dom Brown and a Mayberry/Nix platoon. 


Five More Thoughts on the Olympics: 

1.  McKayla Maroney’s vault was incredible.  I heard about it before the coverage last night, but when I saw it play out on TV, I was pretty pumped up.  It reminded me of how horsebleep the scoring/judging system is in gymnastics.  I don’t think we need a computer to call balls and strikes, but we may need one to judge gymnastics.  I appreciated the outrage of the American announcers.  I like to keep things as partisan as possible.  

2.  Shouldn’t swimmers be better at touching the wall?  What was Phelps doing last night?  And they were criticizing his turns?  How many turns has he done in his career?  Eleventy billion?  The Phelps/Lochte combo isn’t really living up to expectations, but I suppose that was to be expected.  At least they haven’t gone full Bode Miller meltdown.  

3.  Vince Hancock set a skeet shooting record, hitting 148 of 150 targets.  I actually saw the conclusion of this live and I’m honestly surprised this guy missed at all.  Well. Oiled. Machine.  Skeet shooting looks impossible to me.  I remember how hard Duck Hunt was if you actually stood away from the TV screen.  I think I might like to try it once, though, just to see what it’s like.  When that target explodes, I imagine it’s euphoria.  

4.  The Badminton cheating scandal hits pretty close to home, because as you may remember, I have a pretty serious relationship with the sport.  As you can see if you watch the video, you cannot fake badminton.  You’re either getting after it, or you aren’t.  I’m afraid the players got what they deserved.  Another lesson of 3-PT badminton is that you always play to win and show no mercy.  In the bigger picture, I’ve got my doubts about the entire Chinese team.  Serious doubts.  

5.  The tape-delay thing does bother me a little bit.  I’m not sure why they can’t show the events live and then again in their ready-made packages.  It seems like it would be the same experience for everyone, whether they know the outcome or not.  Some people like the back story, and I’ve watched several events already having known what happens.  And, there are times when tape-delay is nice.  Do you want to watch 7 rounds of 20 divers, or do you want to watch the last round of just the contenders?  It’s a tough spot for NBC, but the lesson as always is that all events should be held based on the time zone I am in at that particular moment.  Will there be more live events this weekend?  Breakfast at Wimbledon style?  I hope so.  


8 Things I’ve Decided To Say About the Olympics.

Class, Class, Class All the Way.

Technically, the Olympics have started.  The highly touted American women’s soccer team dismissed France the other day and women’s team archery is also underway.  But, I’m sure you already knew that.  All this action takes place before tonight’s opening ceremonies, which is a bit of a divisive event.  I would bet you have at least one female relative who thinks the Opening Ceremonies is the best television EVER.  Others will be bored to tears after twenty minutes.  Most will tune in though, regardless, because you want to see that torch lit and you want to see the funny hats.  On that note…

1.  Who will light the torch?  Does the United Kingdom have any famous athletes?  ZING.  Does Sir Nick Faldo have a chance?  Probably not.  What I’ve decided is that I do not care who lights the flame as long as it isn’t Beckham.  It can’t be Beckham.  According to some light research, the favorites appear to be Sir Steve Redgrave (5 straight rowing gold medals), Daley Thompson (two-time decathlon gold medalist), and Roger Bannister.  If Hugh Grant is unavailable, I’d go with Bannister.  

2.  Can we have a brief discussion on why the United States team always wears berets?  Or a version of the beret?  

Melo’s Face Tells the Beret Story.

I’m not sure what about putting on a suit says, let’s top this sumbitch off with a beret.  Do the uniforms require headgear?  I know that the United States has trotted out several cowboy hats in the past, because that’s what we are–deep down–a bunch of ranch hands, but the beret has taken over in recent years.  Are we over thinking it?  I think we are.  I’d honestly rather see the athletes in snapbacks, at least we can attribute that horrible look to the United States.  

3.  Speaking of ‘Melo and KD, and LeBron and Kobe–this is the best American basketball team in some time.  I don’t like NBA basketball, but you know what I know what I like less?  Scrappy, horsebleep, jacked up lane, incorrect 3-pt line,  International basketball.  The only drawback for the American side is that they’re led by Coach K.  We put aside those feelings for the sake of patriotism, though.  It’s gold medal or bust for both of our basketball teams.  No excuses.   And we’ll hope there’s no repeat of the greatest officiating abortion in the history of sports on its 40-year anniversary.  

4.  Usually I would say that you have to pick between two competitors.  You can’t be a fan of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.  You can’t be “equally happy” for both of them.  You can’t hope they tie.  This is gutless fan mentality.  It’s  the type of thinking that has penetrated Little Leagues across the country.  But, for the sake of the Olympics, I’ll allow you to wrap yourself in the flag.  You can go ahead and celebrate regardless of whether Phelps or Lochte wins their showdowns.  I will pick one myself, but I’m still flip-flopping.  Usually, Phelps’ dominance would turn me off, but in recent weeks it seems like everyone is picking at Phelpsy.  His fellow swimmers, the media, perhaps we need one more reminder of the greatness before he fades away.  

5.  Usain Bolt better do some crazy, fast sh*t.  Bolt set the standard, now he has to live up to it.  I’m not sure what Bolt could do to top his 2008 performance when he won with ease and celebrated with meters to go, but he better figure it out.  I’m hoping this whole stiff back thing is a bit of a ruse, something to create a little drama.  You know what would be interesting?  A handicap.  Set up Usain’s starting block 5 meters behind the actual start line.  

6.  I think everyone has a random Olympic sport that they like to watch.  In the winter games, I can’t get enough Bobsled.  I love it.  It’s so random.  In the summer games, I go with water polo.  I have no reason to like water polo.  I can barely swim.  I usually avoid pools at all costs, but hey, this is the Olympics.  Also, Mike Emrick, one of the great announcers in any sport covers water polo for NBC.

7.  You’ve got to keep an eye on the Medal Table.  This is something I remember doing as a kid.  The patriotism started at a very young age.  In 1992 my two biggest enemies were Soda Popinski and The Unified Team.  What the hell was the Unified Team?  Cheaters!  You aren’t one country any more!  I demand a recount.  Anyway, the Russians and former Russian states don’t “get after” the Olympics quite as hard as they used to.  Now the Chinese team is the new rival.  For the next few weeks I’m going to be staunchly anti-Chinese.  I suggest you join me.  

8.  The Olympics will be available in their entirety online.  You can watch all 302 medal ceremonies.  Other than the web machine, the games will broadcast on NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, Bravo–you know pretty much every random channel that NBC owns.  You should actually be able to see a decent amount of the sports you want to watch, assuming the time differential is not a problem for you and you have tons of free time.  Here’s a place to peruse the TV listings.  The first must-see event after tonight’s pomp is the 400 IM Final tomorrow night.  I finally decided.  Team Lochte!


This Stuff Happened — 4/19/12


Oh dear.  Most fast-food innovations I can shrug off.  I’m desensitized.  But other times, like when KFC introduced its chicken for bread sandwich, you just have to sit back in awe.  Here’s a new offering from Burger King.  I’m thinking the standard sundae was suffering from lagging sales?  People need to be lured in by a dessert.  It’s got to be provocative.  You’re grandpappy’s sundae doesn’t do the trick.  So, why not throw a piece of bacon on that puppy?  Problem solved.  It’s a bit excessive in my opinion, but if the bacon sundae catches on in the Nashville test market, maybe it will come to a BK near you.  I take a little shot at the gordo-inclined USA in the caption there, but we are not alone.  Pizza Hut has come out with a hot dog stuffed crust for their UK market.  I’m pretty sure the Brits know as much about good food as they do about going to the dentist, so I’m sure they’ll snap this up.  It comes with a mustard drizzle!


The Colts have finally made the least surprising decision in all of sports.  They’ve told Andrew Luck that he’ll be the first pick in the draft.  The Colts played it coy for a bit, even tried to lure RG3 in for a private workout, but this was always going to be the pick.  Of course, this means that Griffin will end up in Washington.  This is good news for all the people in Virginia who already got their customized license plates.  Now that we know for sure where Luck and Griffin will go, it kicks off what will probably be a career long comparison between the two quarterbacks.  Luck is considered the top prospect, but Griffin will head to a team that has a little more talent around him.  Interestingly enough, the picks the Colts make after Luck in this Draft could be almost as important as Luck himself in the early going.  If they don’t fill holes, they’re risking stunting his growth in a Sam Bradford-esque way.


There’s a 13-year old playing in the Volvo China Open (European Tour) this week.  Guan Tian-lang of China is the youngest competitor to ever tee it up on the European Tour.  Some people have questioned the way Guan was squeezed into field.  He finished fourth in a qualifying event, but only made the field after a player ahead of him was given an exemption.  He’s certainly not without credentials though, having romped to an 11-shot win in the World Junior Championships.  Guan is a bright star in what China hopes will be a growing presence in the game of golf.  He’s already (to a troubling degree?) committed to his golf game and has mapped out his plan to breakthrough on a major stage.  He’s got ten years to catch up to Rory McIlroy.


Donovan McNabb anointed himself a Hall of Famer yesterday.  McNabb is approaching Jose Canseco in terms of overestimating his own ability and in the last year or two, he’s done everything in his power to alienate his few remaining fans and tarnish his legacy.  Not only did his stats fall off the face of the earth, but McNabb has never been accountable.  If there’s one thing that hindered McNabb in Philadelphia, that might be it.  People bring up race, his lack of success in the biggest games, and his odd-ball personality, but the worst thing I can say about Don is that he never took the heat.  He was always deflecting, always casting himself as a victim, and he’s still doing it to this day.  I heard a discussion a couple of days ago on Pat Burrell and why he was liked so much in Philadelphia.  Well, Burrell was the opposite of McNabb in this sense.  He might not have always delivered the message, or delivered it sweetly, but Burrell always placed the blame for his numerous slumps solely on his own shoulders.  People appreciate that.  They don’t appreciate McNabb’s antics, and I’m not sure how HOF voters will react to McNabb electing himself.  So humble, Don, so humble.


Tom and Daisy Buchanan?

100 days until the Summer Olympics in London!  Phelps vs. Lochte.  Choose your swimmer.  I haven’t heard a ton of buildup for the Summer Games yet, but I imagine the hype will start soon.  Will Usain Bolt run the 100 in 8.00?  Maybe.  Above you see the athlete’s get-up for the Opening Ceremonies.  Ralph Lauren, ladies and gentleman.  A little heavy on the white, but hey, you could do worse, I suppose.  Little preppy, little Bobby Jones, but we’ll see how it looks in person.