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What is this baseball game of which you speak?
March 2 2006

Here's one for those of you tiring of the stories of backs, shins, feet, coughs and 103-degree fevers:  The Phillies played a baseball game today.  And not against Manatee Community College, either, as the Phils squared off against the New York Yankees at Legends Field to kick off their Grapefruit League schedule.

Ryan Franklin was on the hill and gave up five hits and two earned runs in
two innings.  I'm ready for Franklin to turn it around, but he didn't start today.

Ryan Madson followed Franklin, shutting down the Yankees for two innings without allowing a hit or a walk.

Pat Burrell had a homer and a double in three at-bats.

Among the guys looking to make the team, Gavin Floyd pitched two innings, allowing a walk and three hits, including a solo home run by Andy Phillips.

Geoff Geary, who seems likely to make the 25-man roster, pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits.

hit a solo home run after going 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI in an intrasquad game on Monday.  Coste, who can play several positions, is still looking for his first major league at-bat at age 33 after hitting 292/351/466 with 20 HR at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year.

made the most of his lone at-bat, hitting a two-run double.

Finally, Brian Sanches threw a scoreless seventh inning for the Phillies.  Sanches is a 27 year old reliever who has had some nice seasons in the minors.  Last year at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sanches posted a 3.69 ERA in 83 IP, striking out 75 while walking just 27.

Phillies win 6-3.  They get the Yankees again on Friday afternoon.

Ancient Mariners
March 2 2006

In a fascinating article in today's Seattle Times (click here to read), Phillies GM looked back at his time with the Seattle Mariners and what he might have done differently.

From 1996-1999 and A-Rod shared the spotlight in Seattle, with both putting up tremendous numbers for Mariners teams.  The Mariners went to the playoffs in 1997, winning 90 games in the regular season but falling to the Orioles three games to one in the ALDS.  The team failed to make the playoffs in '98 and '99 and by that time Griffey wanted out and requested a trade.  His wish was granted and he was dealt to the Reds in return for four players, the biggest name of which was Mike Cameron.  Gillick and the Mariners kept Rodriguez, who signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent after the 2000 season in which Seattle won 91 games but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.

What does Gillick think of his moves now?  "I possibly traded the wrong guy," he said. "If I had to do it over again, I should maybe have traded Alex."  He later added, "Even though he was only one year away from free agency, I probably could have gotten more for Alex than we could for Griffey."  In the Seattle Times article, Gillick goes on to speculate the Braves may have been willing to deal then star prospect Rafael Furcal in a deal for A-Rod.

So there you go, Gillick was looking out for the Phillies even back in 1999.  Who knows how often the Braves could have won the NL East since then had they added Alex Rodriguez?  They could have dominated the division.

Anyway, what Gillick did for the Mariners, whether he now views it as a mistake or not, worked out beautifully as the team went 116-46 in 2001.  With Griffey and Rodriguez out of the picture, they added free agent Bret Boone before the start of the season and he went loopy, stroking 37 HR and 141 RBI while hitting .331.  2001 was the best offensive year of Boone's career -- his highs in home runs and RBI prior to 2001 were 24 and 95 respectively.  Mike Cameron won a Gold Glove in center field, while putting up what were probably the best numbers of his career offensively at 267/353/480.  Edgar Gonzalez, who may have been the best hitter on the team even when they had Griffey and A-Rod, continued to produce at a tremendous rate.  And the pitchers, led by Garcia, Moyer and Sele, finally put it together in the same year.

They lost in the ALCS again in the 2001 playoffs, again to the Yankees, and the Mariners have not returned to the playoffs since.

Kaz Matsui and praying for the end of time to hurry up and arrive
March 1 2006

"I'm going to give this everything I've got, go at it full force. I expect to go out and have a great season. When I'm back next year and I don't have that feeling, I'll go home. And no one will have to tell me. I'll know. I'll go home."
-Bret Boone, Seattle Times, 9/12/05

has announced his retirement, making it even less likely he'll win the job as the Mets 2B.  Boone had a miserable last two years with Seattle and Minnesota but a nice career, which ends with more than 250 HR and over 1,000 RBI.

Boone was an All-Star three times and won four Gold Gloves.  His best year was with Seattle in 2001 when he hit 331/372/578, smashing 37 HR and driving in an AL-leading 141 RBI for the Pat Gillick general-managed Mariners.  He finished third in the AL-MVP voting that season in a tight race, behind and Jason Giambi.  Including 2001, when the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the ALCS after posting an amazing 116-46 regular
season record, Boone made three trips to the post-season and one to the World Series with the behated Braves in 1999.  In his lone World Series the Braves were swept by the Yankees in four games.  Bret played well in that series, hitting .538 and slugging .846 with four doubles in his 13 at-bats.

The news isn't all bad for Phillies fans, though, as the chances were slim that Boone (or anyone else born in the western hemisphere) was going to wind up at second base for New York, given that they owe Kaz Matsui eight million in the final year of his three-year contract.  The $20 million dollar deal the Mets gave Matsui probably seemed like a really good idea at the time, but so did "Cop Rock" and the XFL.

Other possibilities for the Mets at 2B appear to be Anderson Hernandez or Jeff Keppinger.  Both hit over .300 at AAA last season without much power.  Hernandez is younger at 23 (Keppinger is 25) and faster, while Keppinger is the better defensively.  Neither of them seem to have much of a chance to win the job, however, which bodes well for the Phillies and anybody else playing 19 games against the Mets in 2006.

So I think it's not too early to go ahead and pencil Kaz in at 2B for the Mets, hopefully in the two hole given the Mets organizational insistence that the guys who get on base least bat as many times as possible.  In their defense, they didn't have much of a choice last year, as only two players on the team with 400 or more at-bats managed an on-base percentage
over .330.

There's nothing wrong with this team that can't be solved by having six third basemen
February 28 2006

This is what I think the 25-man roster looks like for the Phillies at this point, with four open spots.  This is assuming they go with 12 pitchers and 13 fielders:

Pitchers

Fielders

1 Lieber Geary 1 Lieberthal Perez
2 Myers Santana 2 Fasano Bergeron
3 Lidle Rodriguez 3 Howard Kata
4 Franklin Tejeda 4 Utley Coste
5 Madson Floyd 5 Bell Kroeger
6 Gordon Booker 6 Rollins Garrett
7 Rhodes Brito 7 Burrell Sandoval
8 Fultz Lopez 8 Rowand  
9 Cormier Mathieson 9 Abreu  
10     10 Victorino  
11     11 Nunez  
12     12 Gonzalez  
      13    

It seems there's a good chance the remaining three pitching spots will be filled by Santana, Geary and Ricardo Rodriguez.  I would love to see the Tejeda win the job as the #5 starter with Madson in the pen, but I expect Tejeda is headed back to the minors given that he has options remaining.  Gavin Floyd may need to beat out one of Santana, Geary or Rodriguez to make the squad -- same goes for Chris Booker, who will have to be returned to the Nationals if he does not make the team.

It looks like there is just one slot left for a hitter and, while some may hope against hope, it's not that likely we're in for our first Tomas Perez-free bench of the century for the Phillies this season.  Perez, who may have some kind of unpleasant photographs involving somebody in the Phillies front office, could help some team but doesn't seem like the perfect match for the Phillies given the additions of Nunez and Gonzalez and the need for someone else who can play the outfield.  I would have liked to have been in the room when somebody explained it to Pat Gillick that the organizational charter requires Tomas Perez be part of the team for pie-facing related reasons.

I'm rooting for Josh Kreuger to make the squad in the final hitter spot (if they want a lefty outfielder I hope they would do that before BJ Surhoff), but that's looking exceedingly unlikely.  So I hope everyone likes Shane Victorino a lot -- I do, but if Aaron Rowand separates his shoulder in the first week of the season things might get out of hand pretty quick.  Peter Bergeron did stroke two home runs yesterday in an intrasquad game.  He may appeal because he could likely play center as well as the corner outfield spots if the Phillies are really planning to carry a true fifth outfielder.  Bergeron may yearn for his days as an Expo/National before too long, though, given that the Nats outfield is looking like Ryan Church, Jose Guillen and nobody (or Michael Tucker) at this point.

There's no tying in baseball
February 28 2006

Things with the World Baseball Classic are deteriorating at such a rapid rate I think we can official call it a success if we get through the tournament with no loss of human life.  Here's the latest from the AP, as seen on MLB.com:

"Tied games will be possible in the first World Baseball Classic."  

Organizers said Tuesday that games in the first two rounds of the tournament will be ended after 14 innings, even if teams remain tied.

In addition, the tournament's technical committee may suspend semifinal games after 14 innings if 'pitcher availability for both teams would be substantially jeopardized by not suspending the game and pitcher availability would be substantially enhanced by resuming the game as a suspended game on the next day.'"

A lot of long relievers are ashamed to tell their parents what they do. The only nice thing about it is that you get to wear a uniform like everybody else. (Jim Bouton)
February 27 2006

For the Phillies this season, the elephant in the room that everybody is talking about is starting pitching.  With that in mind, I'm a bit surprised that there's not more excitement about Robinson Tejeda.  Here's what he did last year, with the Phillies and at AAA:

Team IP ERA W-L H BB K HR
PHL 85.2 3.57 4-3 67 51 72 5
SWB 28.1 2.24 2-0 21 13 28 0

The walks are the big problem.  Tejeda only pitched 85 2/3 innings in the major leagues, yet only two Phillies pitchers issued more walks throughout the entire season than Tejeda  -- Padilla, who walked 74 in 147 innings, and Brett Myers, who walked 68 in 215 1/3 innings.  It's not real encouraging if you compare it to the rest of the NL either.  Kip Wells allowed the most walks in the NL in 2005, giving up 99 in 182 IP on his way to an 8-18 record and a 5.09 ERA.  Well's walks were issued at a rate of 4.90 per nine innings while our man Robinson gave up 5.36 per nine.  It looks like way too many walks to be successful for Tejeda (or Wells).

The good news, though, is pretty much everything else.

Tejeda allowed just five home runs in his 85 2/3 innings, which is tremendous.  Only five Phillies allowed fewer than five home runs on the team in 2005, and of those five none pitched more than 22 innings.  By comparison, Randy Wolf posted a 6-4 mark with a 4.39 ERA and allowed 14 home runs in 80 innings. 

Tejeda allowed just 7.04 hits per nine innings -- had he had enough innings to qualify, that would have put him at fourth in the NL in 2005, behind Roger Clemens, Pedro Marinez and Carlos Zambrano.  This is a bit misleading because Tejeda was not close to having enough innings to qualify and appeared in half of his 2005 games as a reliever.  On the Phillies, Wagner, Fultz and Urbina all had similar or better numbers when it came to hits per nine innings.  Starter or reliever, though, allowing just 67 hits in 85 2/3 innings is very strong.

However he did it, it was a good year for Tejeda.  He gave up a ton of walks but managed to wriggle out enough to post nice numbers in almost every category except walks.  He didn't do it by getting a bunch of double plays either, as he got far more outs by fly ball than ground ball.

There are a lot of people not convinced yet, and it looks like the decision makers on the Phillies might be among them.  A big reason why are his numbers in pretty much every other year of organized baseball.  Here's what he did in 2004 at AA:

IP ERA W-L H BB K HR
150.1 5.15 8-14 148 59 133 29

Ew.

There's still no denying what Tejeda did last season.  He won't be 24 until next month.  I'd let him start long enough to show us all whether or not his magic act in 2005 was a fluke.

National embarrassment
February 26 2006

The Washington Nationals, in a move that looks to make about as much sense as the plot of Syriana, have acquired Alfonso Soriano to play in their outfield in 2006.  The problems here are many, but are highlighted by these: 1) Soriano is not an outfielder but a second baseman and 2) the Nationals already have a second basemen, three-time All-Star Jose Vidro.

Soriano doesn't want to play outfield and apparently there is no Plan B, given that Plan A was so practical and well thought out.  This leaves the Nats with some choices, none of which seem very good.

A big issue is that Soriano is a terrible defensive player.  In 2005, only six players in the American League made more errors than Soriano (21) and five of them were shortstops (the other was Brandon Inge).  Vidro is no great shakes defensively at age 31, but he's much better than Soriano.

Washington has a huge void at shortstop in the person of Christian Guzman.  If either Soriano or Vidro were passable there they would be starting there, but there's no way.  Vidro hasn't played a game at SS in his nine year career.  Soriano came up as a shortstop but has demonstrated unequivocally in his 45 2/3 innings there that he can't get the job done.  The Nationals added Royce Clayton in the off-season and it's more likely we'd see him there before either Vidro or Soriano.

The Nationals could get off the hook in the short term if Vidro's knee is not good enough to go at the start of 2006.  The injury limited him to just 87 games in 2005 but everyone is saying it's healthy now -- the Nationals did try to use the knee to get an injury exemption that would prevent Vidro from playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.  This request was denied but Vidro has since decided on his own not to play.

Assuming Vidro is healthy enough to go to start the season, there's really not that many options available to the Nats.  They can keep trying to convince Soriano to play in the outfield or they can trade one of the two.  Soriano is a huge name, but the market for a bad defensive 2B who on-based .309 last season and is due to make $10 million this season might be limited.  He has been an All-Star every year since 2002 and has hit at least 35 home runs in three of the last four years, so he should be able to help someone.

Despite a two-hour meeting on Friday, the issue is still not resolved.  Soriano still says he doesn't want to play in the outfield, and the two sides have agreed to wait till after the World Baseball Classic to revisit the issue.  Soriano will continue to take drills at 2B for the Nationals till then, as that's where he will be playing for the Dominican Republic during the Classic.

The bottom line is that this would have been a good problem to have resolved by now, but there's no clear end in site -- so thank goodness that, like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of somebody else's lives.

Opportunity knocks 617 times
February 24 2006

Here's a look at which Phillies had the most chances to drive in runs during 2005, in order of the total number of runners that were on-base during their plate appearances:

Player Runners On Base Plate Appearances
Burrell 514 669
Abreu 480 719
Utley 453 628
Bell 451 617
Rollins 338 732

I've included only players with 500 or more plate appearances, which leaves both Thome and Howard off the list -- combined they had 590 plate appearances with 454 runners on base.  It again demonstrates how Bell's struggles made things tough on the Phils as only three guys on the team had more chances with men on base.

Burrell had more men on base than anyone else in the NL East.  Guys with the most men on base for the other teams in the division were David Wright (434), Andruw Jones (503), Miguel Cabrera (494) and Jose Guillen (381).

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