Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hunter Pence, Prospects, Expectations, Titles and Thome

It all started with "Big" Jim Thome.
If you are from Philadelphia or simply a fan of donning red pinstripes from time to time, the modern day love affair between the "City of Brotherly Love" and the "Fightin's" all starts with with a winter day during the Ed Wade era. When the Phillies won the sweepstakes for the lefty firstbaseman by completely overpaying for the aging superstar.
Thome was the brand-name player that would open the newly built CBP. He was the star that was going to spike ticket sales, and renew interest in a sagging franchise that was in the midst of a 20 year span of futility. The contract was enormous. So were the years. But everyone said we needed Big Jim if the Phillies were ever to turn the corner.
In efforts to lure Jim Thome to sign with the Phillies, the team had hired his personal hitting guru. That guy of course was Charlie Manuel... who has his own legacy in Philadelphia. You might of heard of him.
Big Jim started the party here in Philly, and missed most of the fun when he was traded away to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand. In the time in between he was everything that a major-leauger and a star of the game are supposed to be. He wore red for three seasons and did us proud for every minute.
He eased the transition for Ryan Howard. He had profound influence in the clubhouse and with the teams habbits and preparatoy work in the clubhouse. He was the perfect role model for the Ulteys, Howards and Jimmy Rollins' of the world.
With his 600 home run finally clearing the opposite field wall last night. Thome has actually done more for the people who already sat in this club than he has done for himself. He has brought them credibility, class and the type of star power that doesn't fade like a television when it gets shut off. Thome is in the rare  and CLEAN air with baseball dieties that gather just under Babe, "Say Hey" Willie and Hammerin Hank. I would mention Ty Cobb, but no one liked that son-of-a-bitch.
There is a big part of me that openly hopes that the Phillies could bring Thome back for a final tour of duty. He should be celebrated by this city, in which he gave far more than he got during his time of service.

In discussing Thome and his value to the franchise then and now, the topic I debated with Matt Lichtenschtader of Mattssportsmusings.com  had to do with the percieved pressure that the Phillies might have on themseves.
Matt's point does hold water, that the Phillies have sold away all their farm, just to keep the house. (pun intended) He also was the first person I have heard question the Phillies attempts to "buy" a title. He also warned me of the hollowness of such a victory.
The obvious motivational factor is the Houston Astros and their absolute haul for trading Hunter Pence to Philly.  On Monday, Houston named Domingo Santana as the final poece of the trade, complete the PTBL part of the deal.
Having seen Santana on mulitple occasions in Lakewood, the kid's talent is undeniable. However, his power is severly tempered by a free swinging way that makes me think of Juan Samuel. He also has been as fluid in the outfield as Dominic Brown is when he is tracking down pop-flies.
For those worried about the loss of John Singleton's power, the signing of supplemental first round pick Larry Greene might of been one of the guys that made Singleton available. The 33rd overall pick recieved an oversloted $1 million dollar bonus.
To answer Matt, I use the cliche: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery; its all about what you do in moment. And Mattie, each time Rueben is inside that moment, he adds- not subtracts.

It's nice to see Hunter Pence being celebrated as a national story. It's goes with what Pat Gillick taught us about baseball: Sometimes the right guy for your team, isnt the best player available.
While some can argue that he was the best talent on the market, Pence has a very clear cieling on his skill set and it is not as high as Jayson Werth's was when he first was handed full time right field honors in place of Geoff Jenkins. Pence just fits; like Eisenriech with macho-row.
If you are looking for the next Jayson Werth, might I reccomoned watching the progression of Mayberry. Right now, he looks like the 2007 version of the 126 million-dollar-man.

For anyone going to the game tonight, say hi to Harry Kalas' statue for me. Rain on Sunday cost me the chance to celebrate the voice of my childhood, but I will see him soon, I am sure.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Issuing thanks to the Giants, Ed Wade and RAJ

Ask Bobby Clarke about standing pat.

Ask Ed Snider while you are over at the skate zone too.

The answer you might get from those two - or any other Philadelphia sports executive - and the answer should be the same 99 out of a 100 times. Sometimes, going with the hand you were dealt is not such a bad thing.

Shortly after lunch time, as I sat with the collection of baseball freaks that have become known by the dubious moniker "the circle of trust," word spread across Indian Springs that Carlos Beltran was to join Pat Burrell in San Francisco.

News came shortly after that Hunter Pence would enjoy the rest of the season with a last place team despite most people "in the know" having believed that a the Phillies had a deal in place days ago. Once again, Ed Wade is the culprit of being the gun-shy cowboy, who does his best to talk his way out of a duel.

This is nothing new for Wade, who has left a legacy of indescisivness and waffling here in the city of the "passionate fan." Unlike when Wade passed on David Wright for Gavin Floyd ( who is often referred to around my house as "the soft throwing girl" ) this time ole Eddie did us a favor.

Pence is the Astros best hitter, just like Beltran has been the most consistent producer on the Mets. Both have tons of upside. neither should wear red- at least not in 2011.

After you set aside Beltran, for reasons varying from his lack of switch hitting to his transformation into a one dimensional player to him being years removed from aiding Houston in the playoffs years ago, the truth is that he wouldn't help the phillies. He is too old to build around. He is too slow. Renting him for the duration of the season makes about as much sense as a farmer renting a bentley to help him get through the autumn harvest.

Pence is the sexy choice because of his stature on the Astro line-up, his age and skill set. His salary, mediocre power and lack luster OPS% get over looked in the pursuit of Raul Ibanez's replacement.

Can Pence hit fifth? Can he do so with consistency? Will his numbers exceed what the the Ibanez's, John Mayberry and Dominic Brown are already giving you?

Pence is entering his arbitration years. He is expected to make upwards of nine million next year if he gets that far. That's a lot of paper routes, even for a franchise that supposedly is printing money in the basement of Citizens Bank Ballpark.

Instantly, Pence and his blossoming salary become an issue for the Phils. They are saddled with huge contracts to all the right players and a few of the wrong ones. For every Cliff Lee dollar there is Joe Blanton money. Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco all eat up more of the budget than they should if you want to start paying a Hunter Pence.

This is, after all, a different situation than the acquisition of Jayson Werth. Werth was sitting atop the scrap heap when Gillick plucked him up as an emergency option if the new coming Ruiz couldn't hack it as a catcher. Gillick drafted the lanky, third generation major leaguer as a power hitting catcher for the Orioles. Werth came at a bargain basement cost and a mile high upside.

Pence would show up with a salary that Werth had to earn by surpassing Geoff Jenkins in right field and a ticking clock towards free agency.

While the thought of selling the farm for a player doesn't bother me, the idea of selling it off for an incomplete player like Pence would. Like a Beltran, Melky Cabrera or Ryan Ludwick, the cost doesn't match the product.

So an issue of gratitude to the Giants for taking Beltran to the bay. TO Ed Wade for being... Well... A pussy when it comes to trades.

And to RAJ... Who is every bit as savvy as we hoped he had become under Pat Gillick's tenure.

Monday, July 25, 2011

R.A.D. Gillick, Conlin, Phillies, Fantasy Ethics and section 420

I have a question for you...
And without taking another breath, your body begins to cringe. Like the pitcher, alone on the mound after unfurling a pitch and simply knowing it's gone. Holding on, waiting for- and fearing- the thunderous crack of the bat.
Well, I said "with all due respect"...
Perhaps in honor of one of Philadelphia's greatest baseball writers, Bill Conlin, I thought I would unfurl a tribute to one of the better "inner dialogue" writers. A talent that I feel only Bill Lyon is equal to. Both writers are as instrumental to the heart of our "passionate" Philadelphia fan base.
It was Conlin, whose voice struck me during the 93 season. He was the only link a win-starved teenager, like myself, had to the winning age of the franchise. It was Conlin, who first told me of Pope Owens and Harry Kalas. It was through Bill Conlin's eyes that I learned of Richie Ashburn, who was the universal hero of a fan base from a generation already gone by.
I have always found the idea that the Hall of Fame honors the scribes of their sport, and I ask diplomatically..who better than Bill?

From my seats in section 420, the Sunday Package crowd got a kick of seeing Halladay on Sunday. It has been a better summer for the Sunday boys, as we have been able to see Halladay twice now.
From our seats, the talk in the crowd was all about Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran.
The consensus I felt from what I heard, is that most would prefer Pence over Beltran. Though in my mind neither make sense as addition from subtraction never makes sense.
While this team would do well with more power, a consistent bat with speed and defense would answer a lot of questions. Dominic Brown cannot be asked to produce every night, just yet.
Perhaps, we as a fan base are spoiled by the wheeling and dealing of Rueben Amaro or the steady fortification of a roster that got Pat Gillick into the HOF on Sunday.
We are so grateful of Pat, and in awe of his presence in the franchise. Silently, we revere him as Dumbledore and Gandolf combined. And while the current results are to the affirmative, we all still hope that Rueben was a good study during his stewardship.
So I ask diplomatically... Are we getting spoiled or what?

Finally, the train stops in the world of fantasy sports and walks into the room marked "ethics." (which is as murky as poker game played with a bullpen full of career minor leaguers.)
What pursues people to the "win at any costs" attitude? What possible place can it have in fantasy sports? It is a concept that is beyond me. But still, it is impossible to get through a full season with out some guy trying to get Miguel Cabrera for Justin Smoak. I can only cringe and freeze about all the insanity a Bud Selig has to deal with on a day to day basis.

If this wasn't fantasy and was real baseball, you probably would be on steroids right now.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Pujols returning means for owners

When you draft a player first or second overall, your expectations for that player are enourmous. Especially if your draft snakes back around and you are waiting for another twenty-two picks to get your second guy.
Losing Pujols was a devestating event for owners, mostly because his bat had finally started to look like it was being swung by, well, Pujols.
So, he breaks his wrist, he spends two weeks in a soft cast and now he is back in the line-up?
Does anyone remember Danny Tartabul?
Owners get a two week preview on Albert if they choose to. Only daily leagues will battle with starting him this week and the All-Star game eats away so much of next week that he isn't a must start.

Following Up On Last Nights Marlin City Massacre

Late last night I wrote a little bit about the Florida Marlins body language while in the field during the top of the ninth.
For those who went to bed, or started watching True Blood's second episode of the season, you mint of missed Brian Sanchez being left on the mound for three innings and 78 pitches. ( 20 more than he has ever thrown in the bigs)
During the ninth, Sanchez simply imploded, allowing a bases-loaded triple to Mike Martinez, a double by Howard that scored Martinez and a two run homer by Raul Ibanez. (yeah, that Raul Ibanez)
Today, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald puts a little spin on the situation.

Sanches was so upset when he walked off after the ninth that he spiked his glove repeatedly inside the dugout before throwing it in anger. It was impossible to tell whether Sanches was angry at himself, or at manager Jack McKeon for leaving him in so long.

He refused to comment after the game.

“I was down to one more guy, and I didn’t want to use him,” McKeon said of rookie reliever Steve Cishek, who was warming up in the ninth. “I didn’t want to see Sanches get crucified out there. We kept going hitter by hitter. You got to give him credit. He stayed out there and battled.”

At least Sanches showed some emotion, because the look of the Marlins infield after the Howard double suggested they had tuned into the HBO GO app on their mobile devices and had started watching True Blood as well.

Awe Sookie.

Nerve Injury Slowing Longoria

Evan Longoria was expected to be a top three third baseman this season. Most leagues saw him drafted by the second round. After two games in April, he was shelved with an oblique strain and has yet to gain any form.
As of week 13, he has had only one really big week of production. (week 12)
Yesterday, after going 0-4, Longo finally admitted to being more banged up than he was letting on. Apparently, a nerve injury in his foot has been hindering him.

“Every once in a while I take a bad swing and it just acts up. At this point I’ve gotten used to it. It’s something I’m going to battle through and it’s not going to affect playing time.”

The Rays hope that the weekend off will help their ailing third baseman in the second half, but one has to wonder how long it will be before owners begin looking into alternatives.

Since June 1, Longo is sporting a .221 batting average and .281 on-base percentage. Monitor him closely.