Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Myers departs

BALTIMORE – When longtime baseball player Wil Cordero was arrested for domestic violence in 1997, the Boston Red Sox immediately sent the ballplayer home. Cordero had more important things to worry about rather than playing baseball, the Red Sox reasoned.

So for eight days the Red Sox went on with their business without Cordero. He wasn’t a distraction to the team because he wasn’t there. Nor was there any fodder for columnists or the talk shows about the Red Sox’s sensitivity toward women’s issues or domestic abuse, because the team jumped in and took care of the troubled employee immediately.

Ultimately, Cordero returned to the Red Sox for a little while and was eventually released. But not before the player did some work in Boston for abuse awareness and then plead guilty to the charges and received a 90-day sentence, suspended for two years.

Last weekend, the Phillies had a chance to be proactive in regard to one of their ballplayers up on charges of domestic abuse in Boston. Instead, the team allowed Brett Myers to pitch on national television against his idol, Curt Schilling, just a day after he was released on $200 bail. Additionally, the team issued a terse statement reading that it was going to respect the privacy of Myers, and the alleged victim, his wife, Kim, and chose not to do anything.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. The Phillies chose to allow Myers to pitch.

Four days later, when Myers decided it might be the correct course of action to leave the team until after the All-Star Break, the Phillies finally did something. They allowed the pitcher to do what he wanted.


Perhaps this is the proper action. After all, unlike the Cordero case there are several witnesses that saw Myers’ alleged violence against a young mother of two small children. But the popular sentiment coming from Camden Yards on Tuesday afternoon was that the Phillies, once again, reacted instead of acted.

Not so say the Phillies. In team president David Montgomery’s statement issued through the club’s public relations staff on Tuesday, the club acted in the only way that it could:

“After last Friday, the Phillies did not comment further on the events surrounding the arrest of Brett Myers out of respect for the Myers’ privacy and because there is a criminal prosecution pending,” Montgomery wrote. “Likewise, the Phillies did not summarily suspend Brett Myers immediately upon his arrest, prior to any judicial determination of guilt or complete evaluation of the entire matter. Such a decision, unfortunately, has been portrayed or interpreted as the Phillies indifference to problems of spousal abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. We abhor such violence and recognize that it is a very serious problem affecting a substantial number of victims, particularly women, across the country.

“If we have been guilty of delay in expressing these sentiments, we are sorry. We have been engaged in a difficult balancing of concerns for the rights of our employee, the presumption of innocence, the rights of his spouse, and the legitimate public concern about allegations of spousal abuse by a Phillies ballplayer. We believe that the present status, including a public apology by Brett Myers, time off from baseball, professional assistance for Brett and Kim Myers, and this statement achieves the appropriate balance for now.”

That’s all well and good, says Julie Cousler Emig of the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Collaborative, one of four organizations in Philadelphia that fights domestic violence and supports victims, but the Phillies are missing the ball once again. Cousler Emig wrote a letter to Montgomery indicating that she would like to see one of the large-market Major League clubs like the Phillies take a bold stance on something as serious as domestic abuse.

“I think we'd like to see some further action taken by the Phillies,” said Cousler Emig. “It seems like Brett Myers offered a convenient out for the team to deal with this in a minimal way. We would like to see, in the meantime, the Phillies take us on our offer to join us in an anti-domestic violence complaint. This is really a chance for them to right some wrongs.”

The charges against Myers would be a good place to start. After all, it seems as if this recent arrest of a Phillies player is just the latest on a long list of some questionable behavior. For instance:

  • Ugueth Urbina, the relief pitcher who spent most of 2005 with the Phillies, is currently in jail in Venezuela awaiting a trial for attempted murder. Urbina and three friends are accused of beating, hacking and torturing six workers in a dispute allegedly about the disappearance of a pistol from Urbina's ranch. The workers said Urbina told his friends to splash paint thinner and gasoline on them before setting them afire.

    At the time of his arrest, Urbina was technically a free agent.

  • Jason Michaels was arrested around 3 a.m. on July 3, 2005, after allegedly punching Philadelphia police officer Timothy Taylor as he left the "32 Degrees" nightclub in the Olde City. “He punched a Philadelphia police officer and wrestled him to the ground, in the process ripping the police officer's shirt,” Philadelphia police spokesperson Jim Pauley said.

    It reportedly took four Philadelphia police officers to subdue Michaels, who spent nine hours in detention. However, Michaels reported on time and was in uniform for that night’s game against the Braves.

  • Cole Hamels broke his pitching hand in a bar fight before the season began in 2005. The injury cost him most of the season and a potential chance to join the Phillies for the stretch drive. Hamels was not charged in the incident.

  • Terry Adams was arrested during the 2003 season and charged with hitting his wife during a fight in his New York City hotel room before a game against the Mets. Adams was charged with an assault misdemeanor.

  • Marlon Byrd was arrested in 2002 for an alleged assault on his girlfriend outside of the team bus when he was playing for Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. The charges eventually were dropped.

  • Robert Person was arrested in Clearwater, Fla. before spring training in 2002 on charges of obstructing or opposing an officer without violence, and giving a false name, after failing to walk away from a fight when ordered. Person was hogtied by police after he smashed the back window of a police car.

    The Phillies response after all of these incidents has been consistent – issue a statement through the PR staff and hope people get distracted by something else.

    No such luck in this case.

    There is still time for the Phillies to be proactive this time. Perhaps the club can take Cousler Emig up on her offer and do something meaningful in combating the scourge of domestic abuse. Better yet, the Phillies and Myers could get involved in some behind-the-scenes work at a shelter without fanfare, press releases or TV cameras.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control domestic violence is a serious, public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans. That total is more than 10 percent of the U.S. population, and three different Phillies have been in the legal system for alleged domestic abuse since 2002.

    That’s three too many.
  • Labels:

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    Manuel and Gillick on Myers

    When I listened to him, it was something that comment they put out described it so there’s nota whole lot more I can add to it.

    I didn’t say too much too him.

    I think getting back on the mound will be good for him and I think he’s ready. I don’t think this is going to be a big distraction at all for him.

    I don’t know what I want to say about that.

    Not to our players it wasn’t. We faced different problems in Cleveland. Usually when a guy played, he played good. A pitcher pitched god and a player played good.

    This morning around 8 a.m.

    Gotta be able to take it I guess and handle it.

    I think they’ll definitely rally behind him. I think if they like him, they’ll get behind him and I think they have respect for him.

    My first reaction was I wanted everything to be all right.

    (25 stay with through career)
    I think these things have a way of working themselves out.

    I think that we handled that pretty good.

    I want our team to be perceived to be what it is. Of the teams in the big leagues that I’ve been around, I think we have an outstanding group of guys. You have problems with every single one of them. Problems are a part of life. Problems are something you work through.

    (on Manuel)
    Do I think it reflects on me? Absolutely not.

    How troubling is this for you and the team?
    At this point, it's a sensitive issue, and I certainly think that anything affects the players or our team, we take it very seriously.

    Expect Myers to be mentally ready?
    I think he will be. I think he's the type of guy who, when he gets between the stripes on the field, I think he'll certainly be competitive. One of the things with Brett is sometimes he's a little too competitive and overthrows a little bit. I think he might be a little emotional tomorrow.

    Support for Brett?
    Again, we offer whatever support for he and his wife. Whatever needs they might have, the Phillies are her to support not only Brett and Kim, but any of our players.

    Skipping him tomorrow?
    You'd have to ask the manager about that. I don't make that.

    As a longtime baseball man, do you think it's a good idea for him to pitch?
    I think he'll be fine and it's in the best interests of the club. He's been our best pitcher. I think it's in the best interests of the club that he pitches tomorrow.

    Spoken to him?
    Yeah, I've had an opportunity to talk to him.

    State his mind?
    I can't comment on that.

    Did he tell you what happened?
    I can't comment on that, basically, because this is ongoing from a legal standpoint.

    I found out early this morning.

    My indication was that he wanted to pitch tomorrow. You'd have to talk to Charlie and Rich, but I don't think there was much thought about skipping him.

    Significant distraction?
    I think our players are professional. When you go out on the field, you try to put any distraction behind you, whatever it might be. When you're on the field, there's intensity. I think that's what our players will do.

    It's an unfortunate situation. I wish whatever did occur didn't occur.

    I don't know that it's an embarrassment. It's certainly something that we're very sensitive to. We're going to be supportive of the players no matter what the situation is.

    There have been some charges made, and I think we have to wait until the outcome of whatever proceedings the commonwealth of Massachussetts brings forward. I think you have to wait until the outcome before you think about discipline.

    Official press release from the Phillies


    The Phillies are aware that Brett Myers was arrested in Boston at about 12:30 a.m. today on charges of assault and battery involving an alleged incident with his wife, Kim. He was released immediately after booking on $200.00 bail and ordered to appear this morning for preliminary arraignment, which he did. A further hearing date was set for August ­4, 2006, which does not require his appearance.

    Out of respect for the privacy of both Kim and Brett Myers, the Phillies will not comment on this incident until the matter is resolved by the Court.

    Myers will pitch, as scheduled, tomorrow afternoon against Boston.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Wolf update

    Randy Wolf turned in his worst statistical outing in his three rehab starts for Double-A Reading tonight. His line:

    3 2/3 IP
    6 H
    6 R
    6 ER
    2 BB
    5 K
    71 pitches
    46 strikes

    Until we get the chance to chat with Wolfie, it's unfair to call this a setback but the numbers don't look too good.

    America's Past Time

    As the World Cup of soccer heads in to its third week, the inevitable cry from the American press regarding the sports’ popularity in the states seems to have flaked out like spores from a dandelion in a wind tunnel. As always it was the same tired, old self-aggrandizing meant to do nothing more than belittle “the world’s most popular sport” ugly American style.

    But this time around, the questions about whether soccer can remain ingrained in the public eye after the World Cup passes on until four years from now flickered and faded. No, not because the sport is going to be mixed into the American sports gumbo with football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR. That’s just not going to happen.

    Soccer in America doesn’t need the marketing arm of NBC, ABC/ESPN or FOX with weekly broadcast games of the week in order to be successful. That’s because American soccer has something much more important than anything that can be storyboarded into a flashy gimmick like the major four sports have…

    Soccer has the kids.

    Yes, the sport that is ignored by the American viewing public could very well be the most popular sport there is. Better yet, since the 1970s, when Pele, the great Brazilian soccer star came to America to play for the New York Cosmos in the old NASL, kids have been swarming to the fields only to leave the game behind for baseball, football and basketball when they reached adolescence.

    But that’s not likely to be the case in the future. With fewer athletic scholarships trickling around, and the physical requirements that other sports carry to simply get a kid noticed, more and more specialization is the rage. Kids are finding their niche at an earlier age and painstakingly honing their craft.

    Of course they burn out quicker, and the single-minded focus on one thing isn’t exactly mentally or physically healthy or even the best way to go about getting little Johnny that big scholarship to State U., but that’s a different argument for another day. The point is kids aren’t giving up on soccer for the glamour sports anymore.

    Here’s a simple experiment to try out:

    Drive by any suburban (and maybe even urban) playground, school athletic complex or grassy field. Once you get there, look for the kids and note what sport they’re playing. Nope, it isn’t hockey or football or even the great American Pastime. It’s soccer.

    And it just isn’t at one school or the one little field around the corner. It’s everywhere. And they have sponsorships, too, from the giants like Nike and adidas as well as the local restaurants and car dealerships. Hey, that’s where the kids are. Get ‘em while they’re young.

    Certainly, this isn’t anything new. Soccer has always been one of the first participatory sports that kids play just because it’s such a simple sport to learn. All you need is a ball, a net at both ends of a field and some kids to run around. That’s it. In fact, ask anyone from the age of 40 or younger what the first team sport they played as a child was and chances is it was soccer. If it wasn’t the first sport then it was definitely the second one.

    Oh, but there’s more. Where I live, within spitting distance from Franklin & Marshall College’s athletic fields, soccer rules. Those fields, which are approximately a mile-and-a-half wide and a half-mile deep, and tucked between a residential neighborhood and a copse of woods, could be the most popular spot on campus. Or at least, the most well visited spot for the community-minded college.

    A few years ago, those fields used to hold five soccer pitches, seven baseball diamonds, and a rugby field. There was always a flurry of activity on the weekends with kids and the parents filling up the neighborhood waiting for the chance that team after team could jump on one of the fields for soccer game.

    But over time, it seemed as if the fields had become too quaint or maybe it was time to cut down a few trees to expand the grass back to the Conestoga Creek that winds its way through the neighborhood. There were just too many teams and too many kids standing around and not playing. Frustration grew and people started going elsewhere to play.

    That is until Franklin & Marshall came up with a better plan.

    It got rid of most of the baseball fields.

    Now the kids play soccer all year round. Even in the summertime, camps of boys and girls teem from morning to dusk, tearing through the grass doing drill after drill while the summer days just wile away.

    Somewhere else they’re playing baseball.

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Twenty Years

    Twenty years.

    Think about all that can happen in the space of twenty years. Friends come and go, and milestones are recognized and passed. Sometimes, even, lifetimes are lived, and always it seems like everything had happened in just a fleeting moment.

    Time marches on. It always does.

    In sports, 20 years is an Era. There are rare cases that a career can last 20 years, but those are few and far between. The number of players that every franchise in every sport has seen make through multiple decades of service can be counted on one hand.

    For the Phillies, Mike Schmidt played 18 seasons. That was the most of any Philadelphia player. Think about it, in 20 years, the Phillies have made the playoffs once and the city’s major sports teams have brought home… well, there haven’t been any parades for championships. But you get the point; a lot can happen in 20 years.

    Levity aside, it’s been exactly 20 years since Len Bias – the great college basketball player from the University of Maryland – died of a cocaine overdose (June 19, 1986) less than two days after he had been selected as the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Billed as the next great Boston Celtics All-Star, Bias had the world by the tail.

    Bias’ death was, according to Celtics great Larry Bird, “The cruelest thing ever.”

    It certainly seemed that way at the time. With the aid of time and distance we learned that Bias and his university had a several other significant problems and the cocaine abuse was just the tip of the iceberg. Bias had been flunking out of school and was known to keep company with a few unsavory characters, including Brian Tribble, the convicted cocaine dealer who is said to have supplied the dose that killed him.

    Ultimately, Tribble was cleared of any wrongdoing in Bias’ death, but Maryland coach Lefty Driesell’s reputation remains sullied in the aftermath of his star players’ death. Actually, in 20 years there has been a lot more damage and disgrace than growth, but that’s the way it goes when a star is extinguished long before his time.

    And “star” is the best way to describe Bias. He was to be the next great star of the NBA – not like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley, his contemporaries – but instead like the guys who only needed one name.

    Michael, Magic, Larry.

    And Len.

    Not in this lifetime.

    For those who grew up in the ‘80s and lived for basketball the way the devout love the gospels, Len Bias was The Truth. Not privy to all of the scouting reports or the 24-hour inundation of sports and analysis, we only had one player to compare Bias to, and that was the guy from Carolina who was the ACC Player of the Year before him.

    Comparisons are always odious, especially when everyone knows who Michael Jordan is and what he accomplished, and Bias, amongst today’s live-for-the-now sports mindset, is largely forgotten. Yet as collegiate players, Bias, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson remain the best I have ever seen. Like Jordan, Bias could play forward and guard, but at the same age, Lenny was a better shooter, stronger and meaner.

    People always talked about Jordan and his competitiveness and how he forced his teammates to become better players. It’s all part of his legend. But Bias played with a nastiness that made Jordan seem meek. Then there was that devastating, baseline jumper that just carved an opponents’ heart out.

    Sadly, no one remembers anything about the way Len Bias played. They just remember the end.

    Long before Sept. 11, or the O.J. circus, and a handful of years before the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union crumbled; Len Bias’ death was people of my age’s Kennedy Assassination. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember where I was standing when my mom and sister came running outside to tell me the news. I remember how the sky looked and how the sun felt. I remember the way the evergreen bush next to the driveway felt when I touched it and pulled a little red berry off of it.

    I remember the local TV sportscaster delivering the news in his attempt at solemnity opposed to his typical wacky sports guy shtick. I remember mowing the grass in the backyard and wondering whether any one would ever wear No. 30 for the Celtics again.

    I remember the drive home with my mom, sister and grandmother from Rehoboth Beach the day before and hearing the news in the Rehoboth Mall that he had been selected with the second pick in the NBA Draft. I remember Red Auerbach’s creepy laugh when his Celtics and the Sixers were the only two who hadn’t been called in that year’s draft lottery. Sure, the Celtics ended up with the No. 2 pick behind the Sixers, but Red knew Harold Katz would figure out a way to mess it up.

    Who could have guessed that Jeff Ruland ended up more productive for the 76ers than Len Bias for the Celtics?

    Twenty years later we wonder where the time went and how to make the news sting a little less. Twenty years can seem like an eternity or a blink of an eye. But make no mistake, 22 years is far too young to die.

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Debuts for Phillies draft picks

    Scott Mathieson vs. Devil Rays on June 17, 2006: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K for Loss

    Cole Hamels vs. Reds on May 12, 2006: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 7 K for ND

    Gavin Floyd vs. Mets on Sept. 3, 2004: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K for Win

    Brett Myers at Cubs on July 24, 2002: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K for Win

    Brandon Duckworth vs. Padres on Aug., 7, 2001: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K for Win

    David Coggin at Expos on June 23, 2000: 6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 K for Win

    Randy Wolf vs. Blue Jays on June 11, 1999: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K for Win

    Carlton Loewer vs. Cubs on June 14, 1998: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K for Win

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Rotation for Yankees series set

    Here it is:
    Monday, June 19
    Randy Johnson (8-5, 5.32) vs. Brett Myers (4-3, 3.86)

    Tuesday, June 20
    Mike Mussina (8-3, 3.14) vs. Cory Lidle (4-6, 4.89)

    Wednesday, June 21
    Jaret Wright (3-4, 4.86) vs. Cole Hamels (1-2, 4.91)

    After a day of on Thursday, the Phillies head to Boston for a weekend series where they will have to face Curt Schilling on either Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

    Manuel safe... for now

    One of the more popular questions I’m asked these days is whether or not Charlie Manuel’s job is in jeopardy. Say, for instance, the Phillies’ skid continues to the All-Star Break and the team falls deeper into the middle of the pack – does the plug get pulled on Manuel?

    People are always surprised by how quickly I answer.

    "No," I say.

    Of course, anything can happen. Who knows, if things continue on the current path, general manager Pat Gillick might have no choice but to make a change. And you can’t fire 25 guys who are playing without much passion, right?

    Nevertheless, I don’t get any indication from anyone with the Phillies that Manuel is on the proverbial hot seat. Along those lines, I get the impression that Gillick had already chalked this season up as a “throwaway year” where he can gauge the organization, what he has and what he needs. Since the players all love Charlie so much, why rock the boat? Gillick is smart enough to realize that firing Charlie is a good way to start a mutiny which would make it very difficult for players to want to come play for the Phillies – or stay.

    Besides, there is nothing in Gillick’s past that indicates that he will make a change in the middle of a season. In fact, just once during the venerable GM’s long career has he switched managers mid season and that was in 1989 with the Blue Jays when he removed Jimy Williams and replaced him with Cito Gaston.

    That team won the AL East, too.

    So, fans, get used to Manuel in the dugout for the rest of this season (and maybe next year, too).

    More important than whether or not Manuel remains on as the Phillies manager is whether or not the team has a shot at the playoffs. Well, yeah… of course they do.

    There are still 95 games left in the season and though the Phillies really have no shot at winning the NL East – at least realistically they don’t – the team made a run at the playoffs last year when they were done and buried at the All-Star Break.

    That’s where the Phillies checked in at 45-44, struggling to barely play .500 ball. Actually, at game 102, Roger Clemens beat the Phillies in Houston to send them to 52-50, yet the team still played for a playoff spot on the last day of the season.

    Then again, it took a 43-30 record in the second half – 36-24 from game 102 on – just to get back into contention.

    Is that the way it’s going to be again this season?

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Here come the Devil Rays! Hey! It's the Devil Rays!

    There are a few interesting elements to this weekend's series against the Devil Rays at the Bank. For starters, there are the starters. Cole Hamels pitches on Friday night in his first ever game in Philadelphia. That's somewhat significant. Then, on Saturday, Scott Mathieson -- the so-called closer of the future -- makes his Major League debut.

    Mathieson's start could be a one-and-done thing, but crazier things have happened. Who knows, maybe the kid comes up, pitches well and makes it so thy can't take him out of the rotation? You never know.

    On the flip side, the Devil Rays send a pair of their up-and-comers out to the mound against the Phillies. James Shields, a 24-year-old righthander, goes up against Hamels on Friday night, while the Scott Kazmir pitches on Saturday night.

    Anyone who read Moneyball knows all about Kazmir. Of course, anyone who follows baseball closely knows about Kazmir, too. When the schedule first came out and I saw that Tampa Bay was coming to Philadelphia, I thought to my self, "Well, self, perhaps you'll get a chance to see Kazmir pitch. After all, you had a chance to see Clemens pitch in '86 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and you missed that by a day (although you caught him doing a bullpen session at Fenway in '96 from inches away... how cool was that?) and it wasn't for nearly 20 years later when you got to see him pitch in person."

    So, as fate would have it, I'll get to see Kazmir as a 21-year-old in person. We'll see if he turns out to be half as good as Clemens. Nevertheless, it would have been neat to see him matched up against Hamels -- the pair of 21-year-olds drafted the same year a few slots away from each other -- but I'm sure the lefties will have plenty of chances to go at each other.

    Either way, it seems as if there will be plenty of good seats available for this weekend's series.

    Then the Yankees come to town. I think we've seen their third-base coach around these parts before.

    Wolf back
    On another note, Randy Wolf showed up at the ballpark on Friday. The lefty is finished with his rehab work in Clearwater and should be pitching in Reading or Scranton for his next four outings before rejoining the Phillies for good.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Here are your stars

    In the interest of full disclosure, here are the players I selected for the 2006 All-Star Game to be played in Pittsburgh on July 11.

    American League
    1b - David Ortiz, Bos.
    2b - Brian Roberts, Bal.
    3b - Alex Rodriguez, NY
    ss - Miguel Tejada, Bal.
    of - Vladimir Guerrero, LA
    of - Manny Ramirez, Bos.
    of - Jermaine Dye, Chi.
    c - Joe Mauer, Min.

    Interesting notes: Jim Thome is not on the ballot though he will probably make the team. Choosing Tejada over Derek Jeter was tough even though I think Tejada is better. I took Jermaine Dye over Grady Sizemore because the defending World Champions should have at least one starter.

    National League
    1b - Albert Pujols, Stl.
    2b - Chase Utley, Phi.
    3b - Scott Rolen, Stl.
    ss - Edgar Renteria, Atl.
    of - Alfonso Soriano, Was.
    of - Jason Bay, Pit.
    of - Carlos Beltran, NY
    c - Michael Barrett, Chi.

    This was easy, though David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman should challenge Rolen in the future, and catchers Brian McCann, Russell Martin and Ryan Doumit should battle it out in the future. That Uggla kid in Florida has posted some impressive numbers, too, but Utley has now solidified himself as the best second baseman in the game.

    Stand Pat

    General manager Pat Gillick made a rare pre-game appearance on the field before yesterday’s game. No, Gillick isn’t avoiding anything, he’s just busy and perhaps I’m still used to seeing the last GM – dressed in suit, jacket and tie – down on the field before every game.

    Obviously, Pat Gillick has a different way of doing things.

    Nevertheless, Gillick took the time to talk to a few of the scribes before the game and addressed a few issues regarding the baseball team. Among them:

    On the recent spate of losses
    "It's more of the way we've played. We haven't played real smart. We've made some stupid mistakes. We haven't played a lot of really good, clean games."

    On the starting pitching
    "Our starting pitching has been so inconsistent. That really, I think, sets the tone. Hopefully, we can get some consistency."

    "That's the only way you put a streak together. (During the team's May winning streak), when you look at it, our starting pitching earned run average was very respectable. That's why, I think, we won the games."

    On a potential trade to get more pitching
    "I think that those people who are going to move pitching are probably going to wait toward the end of the deadline, closer to July 31st."

    On the amount of deals in the next month
    "I think those people who are going to move pitching are probably going to wait until toward the end of the deadline... . Whoever moves, I think they're going to be getting a premium."

    And most revealing…

    "There's probably clubs out there that have more to offer than we do."

    As he has always maintained, Gillick said the team has no “untouchables.” However, it will be very difficult to trade "5 and 10" guys like Rheal Cormier and Mike Lieberthal, as well as players with high salaries and no-trade clauses like Bobby Abreu, David Bell, Pat Burrell, Randy Wolf (can’t trade a player on DL anyway) and Jon Lieber.

    On top of that, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, players with relatively low salaries, are the nucleus of the franchise and won’t be going anywhere.

    In other words, don’t count on the Phillies making a blockbuster this season.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Can of corn

    Randy Wolf suffered a setback during his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday afternoon. While pitching for Single-A Clearwater, Wolf was struck by a line drive between the fourth and fifth knuckles of his left (pitching) hand during the third inning of his outing. Wolf immediately left the game and was taken to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla. To be examined.

    A prognosis is not yet known.

    Wolf allowed four hits and a walk without a run in 2 2/3 innings before getting hit with the liner. The lefty whiffed two during his short stint.

    Also on the injury front, Mike Lieberthal had an MRI on his injured hip on Monday that confirmed that he did, indeed, have a strained hip. There is still no word on when the catcher will return to action.

    Ditto on starting pitcher Jon Lieber, who did some light running and walking before Tuesday night’s game against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Lieber is out with an injured groin and has yet to throw from the mound. It does not appear as if his return to action is imminent.

    Starting assignment
    Charlie Manuel and the team’s brass have no decided on a starting pitcher for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, though the skipper says he has “two or three” pitchers in mind.

    But according to sources and speculation, it seems likely that Gavin Floyd could be recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to pitch in Saturday’s game.

    Floyd was demoted two weeks ago after an outing in Los Angeles where he surrendered three homers and seven runs in four innings of a loss against the Dodgers. In 11 big league starts this season, Floyd had a league worst 7.29 ERA and a 4-3 record. The tall righty allowed 70 hits and 14 homers in 54 1/3 innings.

    However, in two starts in Triple-A, Floyd has rebounded a bit by racking up 17 strikeouts and a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    King Kong, the second baseman and the big 'clean up'

    While cleaning out a closet that had become nothing more than a container for junk that I had refused to throw away for "sentimental" reasons, I came across some old baseball cards I’d saved from the 1980s. Rather than pitch them into the trash pile, or placing them up for sale on eBay (I’m saving them for my son because they’ll be valuable one day, right?), I decided to sit down and look at them.

    You know, a little stroll down amnesia lane.

    As I thumbed through all of the old names – George Hendrick, Frank Tanana, Tippy Martinez, Chet Lemon, Ron Cey, etc., etc. – it felt like it was 1985 again and there was nothing to worry about.

    But there were two things that were particularly revealing about those old cards. Firstly, let’s hope that there is never a '80s retro trend. For anyone who survived the style trends of this particular era of our culture, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

    For those of you still hanging on with the hope that parachute pants make a stylish comeback, God bless you.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the most fascinating part about looking at those baseball cards was how skinny the players looked. It wasn’t an unhealthy skinny where it appeared as if the ballplayers needed to chow down on a few more carbohydrate-heavy dinners, but it was a fit skinny.

    Though dressed in those crazy uniforms for the bright colors zooming at you from all angles, the players looked athletic – like a college miler or someone who spends three-quarters of their time at the gym on cardio instead of the weights.

    It’s a look that is nearly non-existent amongst the current crop of ballplayers, and, certainly, no explanation is needed.

    With the curious case of one-time Phillie Jason Grimsley suddenly dominating all the seedy chatter about baseball these days, as the Steroid Era finally enters into the darker, uglier Human-Growth Hormone Era, it was striking to see the 20-year old images of sluggers Dave Kingman and Jack Clark.

    Kingman and Clark, as followers of baseball remember, were two of the most-feared home run hitters of their era. At 6-foot-6 and a wispy 200 pounds, Kingman was known as "King Kong" for routinely bashing 30-plus homers per season and for smacking the ball a long way.

    In 1985, Clark was slugger and catalyst for the St. Louis Cardinals and such a power threat that he often walked more times during a season than he reached base on a hit. But during that ’85 season in which Clark struck a menacing fear into all pitchers, he hit just 22 home runs, and during his 18-year career Clark hit more than 30 homers just once.

    In 24 combined big league seasons, Clark and Kingman reached the 40-homer plateau just once.

    These were your sluggers, folks.

    And yes, both players were blade thin. In fact, Clark and Kingman had the same type of physique as second baseman Chase Utley, a strong hitter who smacked 28 homers a season ago and is on the way to duplicating that total this season.

    Those are definitely strong statistics, but how many people would consider Chase Utley a home run hitter?

    Right. Not many.

    So what exactly then is the point? That strength training, nutrition, performance-enhancing drug abuse, and fashion sense has come a long way in 20 years? That baseball’s statistics are about as valuable as the paper they’re printed on? Yes, we already knew that.

    But what about this: baseball, like those old cards buried in the back of a closet, is a fun diversion. A night at the ballpark or in front of the tube watching a game and talking about the strategy, the players and those forgotten heroes is a pretty good way to spend an evening. And based on attendance figures and TV ratings, a lot of other people think so, too.

    Even with Congressional hearings where nothing meaningful was learned about steroid abuse other than a few ballplayers were less than honest, or an investigation and the chance that one of the game’s most prolific sluggers might have perjured himself in front of a federal grand jury, interest in the game has not waned.

    Perhaps Phillies catcher Sal Fasano is correct when he says the only thing he remembers turning off the fans from the game was the strike in 1994.

    "We know the substances are being used, and we know baseball is doing what it can to clean it up," said Fasano before last Thursday’s game at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., just two miles away from where the Congress vowed to "clean up" baseball. "But do fans want to hear about it all the time? I don't know."

    A night out, some good and affordable food and maybe even a few homers from the home team… what’s better than that? Who cares if King Kong is the same size as the second baseman?

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    The view from RFK

    Needless to say, Washington is a great city and we all enjoy travelling down here for a set of games. And obviously, those trips will be much better as soon as the new ballpark opens in 2008.

    So how bad is RFK? Well, check out my view from the press box:

    Sure, sportswriters are prone to whine -- a lot. But look at those views... talk about tough working conditions.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    First in war, first in peace, last in the National League…

    Based on a very informal poll of the scribes covering the ball club, Washington, D.C. is quickly becoming the most popular stop on the circuit. For anyone who has spent any time in our nation’s capital, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – there is tons of stuff to do in the District away from the museums and touristy-type places.

    But throw all of that stuff into the mix and it’s quite a place.

    I’m hardly a sentimental person (OK, others will disagree with that, but whatever), but it’s hard not to get a tingle from standing on the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial and looking out upon The Mall and wondering what Martin Luther King Jr. felt when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1964.

    Or a walk through the Vietnam Memorial at night is downright chilling. Certainly I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic or saccharine sweet type of way. You really have to see it to feel it.

    Oddly, the first name I focused on after scanning the list that seemed to stretch through the landscape all of the way to the Washington Monument was of a man named Sanford I. Finger. For years I was always interested in Sanford Finger’s story – who he was and what he liked to do. What was he interested in and what did he look like? And how did he end up in Vietnam where he met his untimely death in 1971.

    Finally, after all of the years spent wondering and thinking about some guy who died before I was born who just so happens to share the same last name as me, I stumbled across this on the Internet.

    Anyway, last night after the Phillies’ loss to the Nationals, I took some time to unwind by taking a midnight stroll past the White House, down to Constitution Ave. and back up 15th St. for a quick pit stop at The Old Ebbitt Grill.

    This morning I loaded up the iPod with DC-type songs (late ‘70s and Dischord Records stuff) before heading out on a run to see if our old wiffle ball field was still entact (a big tree was planted where the pitchers mound was, but the paint we used to mark the home run fence was still visible on the bricks).

    From there I circled The Mall on the way out to RFK Stadium and back for a spirit-reviving 13-miler.

    I’m sure my mom is going to love hearing about the trip through our neighborhood and stomping grounds.

    Sadly, though, RFK has seen better days. The clubhouse is a dungeon, and the dugout has a Veterans Stadium-type odor. Worse, the view from the press box is severely obstructed and any time a ball is hit out of the infield we have to watch the result on TV.

    More than a few writers had trouble with the wireless Internet connection, which made it difficult to send their stories in to the office.

    Still, it’s always a blast to make it back to D.C. and until something sways my point of view, I’ll say RFK is so bad that it’s charming.

    No one can call Shea charming.


    The World Cup soccer tournament started today, and several players sat on the overstuffed leather couches rapt with attention (none more than Bobby Abreu) as Ecuador held off Poland, 2-0.

    Then again, it was raining really hard outside so outdoor batting practice was cancelled.

    I’m not up on what’s happening in soccer, but when I was a kid we used to go to see the Washington Diplomats of the old NASL play at RFK. That was always a thrill because no one could get tickets to see the Redskins back in those days. As I recall, in 1979 the waiting list for Redskins tickets was 159 years.

    No, that’s not an exaggeration. If you think Eagles’ fans are crazy, you ought to see how the native Washingtonians love the Redskins.

    I always rooted for the Eagles, though it was hard not to get caught up in the hype when John Riggins was running the ball way back when. Hey, I was a kid… favorite teams and stuff like that mattered.

    Anyway, I remember a game at RFK between the Dips, as we called them, and the New York Cosmos that was settled in with penalty kicks – what a revelation. I had never seen a game decided that way before.

    If I remember correctly, Giorgio Canalgia was the top player for the Cosmos, while Sonny Askew, Alan Green, Johan Cruijff and Joe Horvath took care of business for the Dips.

    Next: remembrances from Memorial Stadium and the 1978-79 Baltimore Orioles and how to properly mimic Lee May’s batting stance. In fact, I showed Charlie Manuel a bit of it before the game today. He seemed more impressed that I remembered who Lee May was rather than the bat waggle.

    Anyway, I’m thinking about inviting my friends over this weekend so we can all sit around and ignore the World Cup.

    Then we’ll watch Bernard Hopkins get knocked out by Antonio Tarver.

    Play list

    Just for fun, here's the list of songs that played all the way through during the run through D.C. The shuffle feature on the iPod is a genius development. So simple, yet so smart. Anyway...

    1.) Who Invited You, The Donnas
    2.) Rhinoceros, The Smashing Pumpkins
    3.) The Tide is High, Blondie
    4.) The Myth of Trust, Billy Bragg
    5.) Loretta's Scars, Pavement
    6.) Tusk, Fleetwood Mac
    7.) Bulls on Parade, Rage Against the Machine (near Lincoln Memorial)
    8.) Sex Supreme, Tenacious D
    9.) Joe #1, Fugazi
    10.) 12XU, Minor Threat
    11.) Runnin' With the Devil, Van Halen (near Air & Space Museum)
    12.) Omission, Quicksand (approaching Capitol Hill)
    13.) Sunday, The Spinanes
    14.) Touch the Sky, Kanye West (in front of Supreme Court)
    15.) Old Man, Neil Young
    16.) Fall on Me, R.E.M.
    17.) Queen Jane Approximately, Bob Dylan
    18.) Bombin' the L, Fun Lovin' Criminals
    19.) Yoy Should be Dancing, The Bee Gees
    20.) Confetti, Evan Dando
    21.) The National Anthem, Radiohead (from Cap. Hill down to Hoover Building)
    22.) Dissolve, John Frusciante
    23.) Goals, John Frusciante
    24.) A Corner, John Frusciante
    25.) Repeating, John Frusciante

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Phillies draft picks

    One of the best parts of baseball’s annual amateur draft is the production of it all – there is none. As they sometimes say, even no style is sometimes stylish.

    Anyway, what’s great about the draft is its austerity and no-nonsense, no-frills manner. Unlike the NBA and the NFL, there is no hype, no drama and no TV. It’s just a bunch of teams on a conference call announcing the player they want to select in a rapid-fire fashion.

    It’s kind of like your annual fantasy football draft without the beer.

    Fans can listen to the draft on the Internet, but that’s it. Prior to the emergence of the World Wide Web, the draft was held in secret and the results were pretty much just called in to the newspaper. These days, though, the Internet makes us feel as if we’re eavesdropping in on someone else’s telephone conversation – and for some reason that’s kind of fun.

    Nonetheless, here’s whom the Phillies took in Tuesday’s first day of the draft:

    Kyle Drabek, RHP, 6-1 190
    The Woodlands, Tx., 18th pick
    Kyle is longtime Pirates and Orioles right-hander, as well as 1990 CY Young Award winner, Doug Drabek’s son and reports say he has one of the best arms in the draft. A hard throwing righty (like his dad), Kyle already throws a fastball in the mid-90s and played shortstop when he was pitching for The Woodlands High. Drabek was the seventh right-handed pitcher selected in the draft, but scouting reports indicate that he will be better than his dad.

    Adrian Cardenas
    , SS, 6-0 185
    Monsignor Edward Pace HS (Florida) 37th pick
    Cardenas is a power-hitting shortstop that projects as a second baseman, according to the scouting profiles. The last high school position player drafted in the first two rounds to make it to the big leagues and play regularly for the Phillies was Jimmy Rollins in 1996. Cardenas was the third shortstop taken in the draft. Hit .650 with 17 homers in his senior year.

    Andrew Carpenter, RHP, 6-3 230
    Cal St. Long Beach, 65th pick
    A big right-hander who doesn’t throw too extremely hard, but has a good slider and a splitter, according to the scouting profiles. Carpenter is also a four-year collgiate, who transferred from junior college to pitch or Long Beach.

    Jason Donald, SS, 6-1 195
    University of Arizona 97th pick
    Donald is another four-year college player and the second shortstop selected by the Phillies in the first three rounds. Selected in the 20th round of the 2003 draft, scouting reports say Donald's ofensive skills haven't caught up with his stellar defensive skills yet.

    D'Arby Myers, CF, 6-3 175
    Westchester HS (Calif.) 127th pick

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Formula for Floyd: Toughen up

    During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, swimmer Amanda Beard went home with three medals – one gold and two silvers – in part because of her tenacity. Oh sure, Beard had a lot of talent. She had to in order to simply make the Olympic team. But the difference between Beard and a middle of the pack swimmer was her mental toughness.

    But just being tough against the competition was the least of it. Beard dealt with a lot of pressure that had nothing to do with swimming. That summer, TV cameras followed Beard around, sometimes basing the day’s programming around her basic daily routines. Then there was the promise of fame and money and all of the ancillary trappings that go with that kind of stuff if she swam exceptionally well against the best in the world.

    And don’t forget the press attention and the expectations from family and friends as well as the petty jealousies that always seem to crop up when someone is rising faster than expected. In other words, it wasn’t about swimming for Beard. It was about everything, yet through it all she still handled it all with great aplomb.

    Now here’s the crazy thing: Beard was just 14 years old during the ’96 games.

    At that young of an age she already was as mentally tough as even the most seasoned of athletes. After all, weaklings usually don’t win Olympic medals.

    That summer when Beard was swimming her way into the record books, young Gavin Floyd, the pitcher who was just demoted from the Phillies’ rotation to the minors so that he could go get “tough,” was just 13 years old and undoubtedly dominating his baseball league near his hometown Severna Park, Md. Like Beard, Floyd had talent to spare. That much was evident when the Phillies made him the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft when he was just 18.

    In fact, it took a big signing bonus (and the promise to pay for his college studies) to keep Floyd from giving the Phillies the J.D. Drew treatment and enrolling at the University of South Carolina. Once in the minor league system, Floyd’s ascent was quick with very few challenges. His domination in the bushes – one that included a no-hitter in Single-A ball – got to the point where team insiders and observers said that it appeared as if the tall right-hander was bored.

    The difficult part, some offered, was hoping that Floyd became engaged in a game, or that his interest was piqued.

    That’s not something anybody ever said about the great ones. Beard, at 14, was invested in her sport. The same goes for all of the true competitors in recent sports memory. Michael Jordan with the flu in the NBA Finals. Curt Schilling with the bloody sock in the World Series. Aaron Rowand doing a face plant into an exposed metal bar on a fence.

    Heck, even that kid in the National Spelling Bee that fainted, pulled himself off the ground, composed himself and then stepped up to the mic and correctly spelled the word all have something that the fourth pick of the 2001 baseball draft seems to be lacking.


    No one is really inspired by the guy with all of the talent in the world who suffers from boredom.

    What’s most baffling, according to some of the coaches and players with the Phillies is that Floyd is talented. Actually, he’s very, very talented. But to live up to the expectations others have set for him, as well as the goals he has set for himself, Floyd is going to have to do something he has never had to do before…

    Stand up and fight.

    “It's just to a point where he has to look down deep within himself and find something that will help him in his career,” catcher Sal Fasano told Phillies.com.

    But even with his talent and the soul searching that will come during the next few weeks, there is no guarantee that Floyd will ever return to the Major Leagues. He really has to do some work and it has nothing to do with boning up his repertoire of pitches to accompany one of the most knee-buckling curveballs anyone has ever seen.

    “The competition isn't a threat,” team pitching coach Rich Dubee told Phillies.com. “It should be a challenge. It intimidates him sometimes. Everything's life and death, and it doesn't need to be that way. This needs to be something that he enjoys doing. I'm sure he felt extra heat – a lot of a lot of good players have had to go backward to go forward. Hopefully, he can get straightened out and get back up here.”

    Some have suggested that Floyd simply needs the tough love, that he needs someone to grab him by the shoulders, shake him, and scream at him, “You are good!” But that metaphoric kick-in-the rear seems so simple and even a little trite. It shouldn’t have to come to that.

    After all, no one had to tell 14-year-old Amanda Beard that she was good.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Floyd sent to minors

    This shouldn't come as much as a surprise and we'll get into it deeper a little later, but here is the Phillies' official release regarding Gavin Floyd's demotion:

    Floyd Optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; Brito Recalled

    LHP Eude Brito has been recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA) and RHP Gavin Floyd has been optioned to Scranton, the Phillies announced today.

    Brito, 27, was 5-2, 3.02 ERA (19 ER, 56.2 IP) in 10 games. He last pitched on May 27 vs. Louisville (W, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO).

    Floyd, 23, went 4-3, 7.29 ERA (44 ER, 54.1 IP) in 11 starts for the Phillies.

    Brito made his major league debut with the Phillies last year. He went 1-2, 3.68 ERA (9 ER, 22.0 IP) in six games.

    Yet another Hamels update

    Chances are Cole Hamels next start will not be in the minor leagues, but instead for the Phillies. The big question, of course, is when.

    Hamels, the Phillies' rookie phenom starter, completed a rehab assignment for Single-A Lakewood on Thursday night where he worked 5 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits and two walks, while striking out three. The lefty threw just 55 pitches.

    With general manager Pat Gillick and his assistant Ruben Amaro Jr. watching from the stands, Hamels worked pain free and could pitch for the Phillies five days from now against Arizona.

    If that happens it would be likely that Gavin Floyd will be removed from the rotation. Floyd allowed three homers and seven runs with seven hits and four walks in a rather auspicious outing against the Dodgers on Thursday night. Thanks to those numbers, Floyd's league-worst ERA jumped to a rather eye-popping 7.29 over his 11 starts.

    Other options include shifting Ryan Madson back to the bullpen, adding Ryan Franklin to the rotation or standing pat with Eude Brito in there.

    The liklihood of any of these actually occuring are about the same as Charlie Manuel setting himself on fire and circling the bases naked. Well... maybe not that far-fetched, but you get the idea. Chances are that when Hamels returns, Floyd will go.

    Nevertheless, the question still remains when will Hamels return? The answer to that is a rather cryptic, soon.

    -- John R. Finger

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Hi, remember me?

    I'm finally back from a weekend of masochism (a.k.a. the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vt. where the temperature reached 85 oppressive degrees under an unimpeded, sweltering sun) and a couple of days at the ballpark to get back into the grind of writing about a baseball team.

    But before we get into the baseball stuff it's important to welcome Miss Lucy Samantha St. Clair to the world after her birthday on May 25. From the sound of it, Lucy was rarin' to go and surprised everyone by making her debut six weeks early. So far, Lucy's mom and dad are doing really well, but we're sure they're going to be tired soon.

    Tired old injuries...
    Jon Lieber had an MRI yesterday to determine the extent of the damage caused to his injured groin. However, at the time we saw Lieber in the clubhouse he did not know the results of his exam, but that doesn't really matter. Whether or not his groin muscle is torn doesn't seem to change the period he will be out, which the Phillies are saying will be three weeks to a month.

    Either way, Lieber's absence will hurt the Phillies. Sure, he hasn't been as good as in past seasons, but the big righthander is still an innings eater, who has pitched the team to the seventh inning in all but three of his 11 starts and one of those was lastMonday when he left the game early because of his injury.

    Plus, Lieber won a lot of games last season because of his ability to keep himself (and the team) in games.

    In his place the Phillies decided to call up Eude Brito from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre instead of activating Cole Hamels from the disabled list. Hamels, of course, is pitching in a rehab assignment for Single-A Lakewood tonight where he'll throw between 75-80 pitches, so it makes the move to plunk Brito into the rotation for a turn or two look like general maintenance.

    But that's where it gets tricky. The Phillies very easily could have opted simply to activate Hamels to pitch Saturday in Lieber's normal spot where he could throw his 75-80 pitches against Major Leaguers for a team in desperate need of pitching help, but instead decided to have the lefty phenom pitch tonight... The same day as Gavin Floyd -- and his 6.62 ERA -- take the mound against the Dodgers.

    When Hamels is ready to pitch again it will be on the same day as Floyd.

    Does this mean Floyd has been put on alert? Or that the improved Ryan Madson is a better option for the rotation now than Floyd? Maybe there is a trade brewing? After all, there were a whole bunch of scouts in the press box during the past two days. Some of that might have to do with the upcoming draft, but where there are scouts, there are a lot of people talking with conspiratorial voices.

    Even manager Charlie Manuel's comments about the situation are cryptic:

    "I don't want to put pressure on our young pitchers. I want them to be able to go out there and throw their game. I don't want them to read into things. I don't want them to go out there thinking 'I've got to get this guy out or I'm going to the minors.' I'll surprise them one way or the other.

    "I think when you're pitching, somewhere along the line, unless you're pitching outstanding, there's going to be some heat put on you."

    Certainly the situation would be solved so much more easily if Randy Wolf were ready to go. Even though the All-Star lefty looked pretty sharp in his first game action (he whiffed five of the seven hitters he faced in two innings in an extended spring training game), he's still at least a month or two away from joining the Phillies.

    Interestingly, Wolf is pitching again in an extended spring training game on Saturday.

    Does anyone think former Phillie Jason Michaels went over to new teammate Scott Sauerbeck, showed him a copy of his mug shot from last summer's little dust-up with the local police and said, "I understand, man... I've been there."

    Maybe not, huh?

    © 2006 - John R. Finger - all rights reserved