-Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

-Pro Football Prospectus 2006

-Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

-Break Point!: An Insider's Look at the Pro Tennis Circuit

-Phil Gordon's Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold'em

-How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods)

-The Last Season


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August 31 2006

With a titanic blast into the upper deck Ryan Howard's magical season got a little harder to believe and a little easier to put into perspective.  In just 133 games Howard has managed to do something nobody in the 123-year history of the Philadelphia Phillies has ever done before:  hit his 49th home run in a season.

The Phillies suffered a tough loss to the Washington Nationals tonight, falling 6-5 in ten innings to drop to 67-66 on the season.  The Phillies dealt themselves a short hand, going into the game with just 11 pitchers after sending Matt Smith back to the minors.  Their hard-worked pen let them down after starter Randy Wolf went just five innings.  Twice the pen was given leads in a situation where a scoreless frame would have won the game.  Twice they came up empty.

The Phils have been busy.  Last night they called up Carlos Ruiz and sent down lefty Matt Smith.  Smith had thrown two scoreless innings for the Phillies out of the pen and was sent to Single-A Clearwater and not Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.  If he had gone to Scranton Wilkes-Barre he would have had to stay till the end of the Red Barons playoff run -- he'll be back soon.  Ruiz was called up so he can be eligible for the playoff roster.  He's hit very well at Triple-A this season, posting a 307/389/505 line with 16 home runs in 368 at-bats.  He has hit 205/234/273 in 44 at-bats with the Phillies this season.

The move leaves the Phillies with just 11 pitchers.  Another move is coming soon cause they need a starting pitcher for Saturday's double-header with the Braves.  Tom Gordon could be ready to return during the series with Atlanta as well.

The Phillies also sent 25-year-old infielder Angel Chavez to the Orioles as the player to be named later in the Conine deal.  The Phillies got Chavez after San Francisco put him on waivers earlier this year.  Chavez was hitting .270 with five home runs in 193 at-bats at Triple-A after hitting .255 in 239 at-bats at Double-A Reading earlier this year.

Randy Wolf got the start for the Phillies and went five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks.  All five of the hits he allowed were singles and he struck out three. 

Wolf struggled in the bottom of the first.  After striking out Soriano on three pitches the Nats loaded the bases on two singles and a walk.  Austin Kearns hit a fly ball to center deep enough to score Lopez from third and move Zimmerman from second to third with two down and the Nats up 1-0.  Marlon Anderson was next and singled to right, scoring Zimmerman and extending the lead to 2-0 before Wolf got Brandon Harper to pop out to first and end the inning.

Wolf gave up a one-out single to Pedro Astacio in the second, but got the next two batters to leave him stranded. 

Ryan Zimmerman led off the third with a bunt single to third, but Wolf got Nick Johnson to hit into a double-play.  With two outs and nobody on he walked Kearns, but struck out Anderson to end the inning.

Wolf set the Nationals down 1-2-3 in the fourth and again in the fifth. 

Ryan Madson came in to pitch the sixth.  Johnson greeted him with a leadoff single but Madson struck out the next two.  Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward was next and crushed a ball to deep center.  Victorino made a tremendous play to track it down and make the catch while crashing into the wall, saving a run and ending the inning.

Madson returned for the seventh, setting the Nationals down 1-2-3. 

Geary came in to protect a 4-2 lead in the eighth.  He quickly got behind Lopez 3-0 before battling back to bring the count full and Lopez doubled into left.  Zimmerman followed with a fly ball to center and Lopez was able to tag and go to third.  Nunez made a big play next -- Johnson smashed a ball down the line that he was able to pick.  He held the runner at third and threw Johnson out for the second out of the inning.  Kearns followed with a ground out to third and Geary was out of the inning.

Rhodes came in to try and nail it down in the ninth.  Marlon Anderson led off and bunted for a single.  Pinch-hitter Brian Schneider was next and doubled to left, sending Anderson to third.  Rhodes struck out Bernie Castro for the first out of the inning and got Mateo to dribble out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning with the runners unable to advance.  Soriano was next and Manuel wisely walked him to put the winning run on base and load the bases with Felipe Lopez at the dish.  Lopez delivered a two-run single into left and tied the game at 4-4.  Rhodes struck out Zimmerman to end the inning.

Fultz came in to pitch the tenth with a 5-4 lead.  Nick Johnson led off with a ground ball to the right of Howard at first.  Howard fielded it and tried a backhand flip to Fultz, but the throw was nowhere close and Johnson was safe.  Fultz got Kearns to fly to center for the first out of the inning.  Anderson followed with a single into center, sending Kearns to second.  Schneider was next and came up with his second huge hit in two innings, singling to left and bringing in Johnson to tie the game again at 5-5.  Bernie Castro flew to center for the second out of the inning, with Anderson tagging and going to third.  With Ryan Church at the plate, Fultz threw a ball in the dirt.  Lieberthal blocked it, but the ball bounced out in front of the plate.  Fultz grabbed it as Anderson raced for home but his dive was too late as Anderson scored the run that won the game.

Fultz has been charged with eight runs in his last 2 1/3 innings.  The pen needs help in the worst way -- it has for a while and the Phillies have gotten away with it for the most part.  Tonight it cost them a game.

The Phillies lineup against righty Pedro Astacio went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Dellucci (6) Burrell (7) Lieberthal (8) Nunez.  With no lefty in the Nationals pen, Dellucci again hits fifth instead of Burrell, putting all three of the Phillies lefties in a row.

Rollins led off the first with a single but Victorino followed and grounded hard into a double-play.  Utley flew out to end the inning.

Trailing 2-0 going into the second, Howard led off with a single and came around to score when Dellucci followed with a triple to right.  The Phillies had been tremendous on the bases this season, but made a mistake on the next play when Burrell hit a hard ground ball to short.  The infield was back and instead of going on contact Dellucci seemed to freeze and then break for home.  Lopez threw him out easily for the first out of the inning and Burrell was safe at first.  Lieberthal and Nunez went down to leave him stranding with the Phils trailing 2-1.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the third. 

With one out in the fourth Ryan Howard absolutely hammered a 2-2 pitch from Astacio, hitting it into the upper-deck in right-center for his 49th home run of the year and a new single-season record for the Phillies.  Howard's blast tied the game at 2-2.  Dellucci flew to center for the second out of the inning before Burrell walked.  Lieberthal struck out to end the inning.

With two outs in the fifth Rollins singled, stole second and went to third when Lopez couldn't handle the throw from the Harper.  Victorino popped to second to end the inning with Rollins stranded at third.

The game was still tied 2-2 when the Phillies came to bat in the sixth.  Howard drew a one-out walk but Dellucci flew to left for the second out of the inning.  Burrell was next and smoked a double in right-center, scoring Howard to put the Phils on top 3-2.  Lieberthal followed with another hit, a single that scored Burrell and made the score 4-2.  Nunez followed with another single and Manuel called on Joe Thurston to pinch hit for Wolf.  Thurston dribbled back to the pitcher to end the inning. 

Victorino singled with one out in the seventh, but Utley was next and grounded to first.  Washington got the lead runner with Utley safe at first.  The super-hot Howard was next and was hit by an 0-2 pitch.  He was clearly displeased -- he didn't say much of anything but tossed his bat away and looked generally pissed.  Dellucci grounded to first to end the inning.

Nunez singled with two outs in the eighth, but Hernandez popped to third to end the inning. 

Rollins led off the ninth with a single and went to second on a bunt by Victorino.  Utley grounded to second for the second out of the inning, moving Rollins to third.  Washington intentionally walked Howard to bring Dellucci on deck with runners on first and third and two down.  Dellucci was called out looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Mike Lieberthal was hit by a pitch in the tenth inning, but Nunez followed with a ground out to short for the second out of the inning.  Jeff Conine hit for Rhodes and ripped a ball back up the box and off of the pitcher -- the ball bounced wildly into right for a single as Nunez went to third.  With Rollins at the plate, Nunez came into score and put the Phillies up 5-4 on a passed ball that Schneider couldn't handle.  The ball was low but Schneider clearly should have handled it.  Rollins walked but Victorino struck out to end the inning.  Big hit in the inning for Conine. 

Rollins was 3-for-5 with his 31st stolen base.

Victorino was 1-for-5 with a play in center field that saved a run.

Utley was 0-for-5 and 1-for-15 in the series.

Howard was 2-for-2 with a home run and two walks. 

Dellucci was 1-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.

Burrell was 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.

Lieberthal was 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Nunez was 2-for-5 with two singles.

Jon Lieber faces Oscar Villarreal tomorrow night in Philly.

August 31 2006

Do you remember what Mahatma Gandhi said when asked what he thought of Western Civilization?  "I think it would be a good idea."  I'm starting to feel the same way about professional baseball in Washington, DC.  The Nats didn't look real sharp last night.  They didn't intentionally walk all-everything Ryan Howard when they needed to, but seemed real comfortable intentionally walking everybody else when they didn't.  They had some trouble with the part of the game where the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher.  Leadoff man Alfonso Soriano continued his wicked barrage of solo homers, accounting for all of their offense and one of their four hits.

The Phillies beat the Washington Nationals last night 5-1, improving to 67-65 on the year.  They remain in second place in the NL East, 15 1/2 games behind the New York Mets.  The Phillies remain a half game behind San Diego in the hunt for the Wild Card.  Cincinnati, losers of six in a row, has dropped to 1 1/2 games behind the Padres.  The Phillies have gotten the job done against the Nationals but are just 2-2 in their last four games and 3-3 in their last six.

Cole Hamels got the start for the Phillies and was very good.  Coming off of a start in Chicago where he was bombed, he went eight innings allowing a single run on four hits.  Two of the four hits went for extra-bases, a double and a home run.  He threw 104 pitches and struck out just three.  The struggles Hamels had in Chicago were apparently due to a cut on his index finger  -- I've heard enough about that for a while.  If you can't pitch, don't pitch.  If you can, do, but don't pitch and then subject us to six days of talk about the cut on your finger.  Even with the wretched start in Chicago where Hamels gave up five runs in two innings, he's 4-2 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts in August.

Hamels set the Nats down 1-2-3 in the first.  In the second he walked Nick Johnson to lead off the inning.  He got the next man, slugger Austin Kearns, who tired to bunt early in the at-bat (really!) before flying to center. Vidro grounded to short and the Phillies got Johnson at second for the second out of the inning with Vidro safe at first.  Ryan Church followed with a single, sending Vidro to second, but Brandon Harper grounded out to second to end the inning.

Hamels threw a 1-2-3 third.  In the fourth inning Nick Johnson reached on a throwing error from Howard with one out, but Hamels got Kearns to ground out and Vidro to pop to center to end the inning.  Howard's error was his 14th on the season, which is the most of any first baseman in either league. 

The Phillies were up 3-0 in the fifth when Hamels walked Harper with one out.  The pitcher Ortiz bunted him to second to bring up the scariest bat in the Washington lineup, Soriano.  Soriano hit a foul ball back behind first, which Howard chased but couldn't make the over-the-shoulder catch on, giving Soriano another chance.  Hamels struck him out to end the inning.

Hamels took a 4-0 lead into the sixth and got Felipe Lopez to pop to second for the first out of the inning.  Zimmerman followed with a single up the middle and Johnson was next and smoked a ball into the corner in left.  Burrell did a nice job getting to the ball quickly and making a solid throw to hit the cutoff man Rollins.  Rollins made an even better throw to Coste, who made a diving tag to get Zimmerman at the plate.  Kearns flew out to right to end the inning.

Hamels got three ground balls in a 1-2-3 seventh. 

I thought Manuel did a great job with the eighth inning.  With a 4-0 lead and the number nine hitter due up, and Soriano on deck, Manuel let Hamels, who had thrown 96 pitches, start the inning while Madson was warming in the pen.  I assume the thinking was that if the leadoff man gets on he could bring in Madson to pitch to the righty Soriano.  Hamels got pinch-hitter Henry Mateo to ground out for the first out of the inning and Manuel left Hamels in to pitch to Soriano.  Soriano absolutely crushed the ball for another solo home run, but Hamels stayed in the game and got Lopez to ground out and Zimmerman to fly out to end the inning.

Another day, another solo home run for leadoff man Alfonso Soriano.  Nick Johnson is on-basing .421.  No wonder everyone in Washington seems like they're in such a bad mood these days.

Arthur Rhodes came on in the ninth in a non-save situation with the Phillies up 5-1.  He gave up a one-out walk to Austin Kearns, but Vidro was next and lined into a double-play to end the game.

The Philies lineup against righty Ramon Ortiz went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Conine (7) Coste (8) Nunez.  Conine makes his first appearance with the Phillies, starting in right in place of the slumping Dellucci.  I continue to yearn for Jose Hernandez at third base, even against a righty.  Hernandez is a bad third baseman and Nunez is a terrible one.  The Phillies are trying to win a playoff spot with a guy having an awful, awful, year playing every day.  Nunez is at 196/264/255 on the year and has five extra-base hits in his last 154 at-bats.

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the first. 

Burrell was hit with a pitch with one-out in the second.  Conine followed with a ground ball to second that should have been a double-play, but the Nats could only get one with Burrell forced at second and Conine safe at first.  Absurdity followed when Ortiz didn't catch the ball thrown back from Harper and it got past the middle infielders and into center.  Conine went to second, giving the Phillies a chance to score a run with a single, but Coste flew out to center to end the inning. 

With two outs in the second, Rollins singled and stole second.  The swipe gave him 30 on the year and he's been caught just four times.  Victorino followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second with two down, before Utley singled on a ball that looked fieldabe by Vidro to score Rollins and send Victorino to third with the Phillies up 1-0 and Howard at the plate.  Howard got up in the count 3-0 but the Nats didn't put him on and it cost them.  He ripped a double into center, scoring two more and the Phils led 3-0.  With two outs and Howard on second the Nats walked Burrell intentionally to pitch to another righty, Conine.  I don't know if Robinson just thought they needed some intentional-walking practice after the Howard debacle or what, but that there is just plain kooky.  Conine grounded to short to end the inning. 

The Phillies went 1-2-3 in the fourth.  Victorino singled in the fifth with one down, but Utley followed and grounded into a double-play.

Up 3-0 going into the top of the sixth, Howard lined to center to start the inning.  Burrell was next and drove a ball into the gap in left center.  Church and Soriano nearly collided on the warning track but the ball bounced in between them at the base of the wall.  Burrell was originally given a double on the play but the call was later changed to an error on Soriano.  Conine was next and was hit by a pitch and Coste followed with a check-swing single into center to load the bases with one out for Nunez.  Nunez hit a high chopper back to the pitcher and the Nats had no choice but to take the out at first as Burrell scored from third to put the Phils up 4-0.  Hamels grounded out to end the inning.

Victorino got another hit in the seventh, a one-out single, but Utley popped to first and Howard struck out to end the inning.

Conine doubled with one out in the eighth inning.  Coste flew out to center for the second out of the inning and the Nationals intentionally walked Nunez to put runners on first and second with two outs.  I may be wrong, I may be right, but either way I give you my word here and now friends that if I ever am at the helm of a major league team I'm not intentionally walking Abraham Nunez under any circumstances with the possible exception of him having one of the Olsen twins hitting behind him.  Hamels had thrown 96 pitches but hit for himself and struck out to end the inning. 

Rollins led off the ninth with a single and went to second on a balk where it looked like the 6'11" Jon Rauch exploded on the mound.  He either slipped or stumbled and didn't throw the ball home.  I don't know what happened but he was lucky not to be hurt.  Victorino followed and singled to right, sending Rollins to third.  Chase Utley was next and had another bad at-bat, fouling out to Zimmerman in foul ground with nobody out and runners on first and third.  Washington intentionally walked Howard to load the bases for Chris Roberson, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement for Burrell in the eighth.  I'm so done with that move.  If you wonder why you never see Pat Burrell get a big hit late in a game a big part of the reason is that he's on the bench.  Dellucci pinch-hit for Roberson and drove a sac fly to left, which brought in Rollins to put the Phillies up 5-1.  Conine was next and lined to second to end the inning.

Rollins was 2-for-5.  After not on-basing more than .337 in any previous month, he's on-basing .394 in 126 August at-bats.

Victorino 3-for-4 with three singles and a walk.   He's hit in five straight, going 10-for-21 with nine singles and a double.

Utley 1-for-5 with an RBI.  He's 1-for-his-last-15.

Howard was 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI.  He has 40 RBI in August and has driven in at least one run in eight straight games.

Burrell was 0-for-2 with a walk.

Conine was 1-for-4 and left five men on base.

Coste was 1-for-4.  He's at 351/393/544 in 57 August at-bats after hitting 372/426/651 in 43 July at-bats.

Nunez was 0-for-3 with an RBI.

Randy Wolf faces Pedro Astacio tonight as the Phillies go for a sweep.

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