Saturday, November 4, 2017

Welcome to Philadelphia Gabe Kapler and may you bring us another World Series championship!

It's not like Pete Mackanin had a Stengelese career as the Phillies manager. Over roughly two and a half seasons, he lost 286 games and won 174. But as the patron philosopher, Charlie Manuel, once said, "If you ain't got the horses then you ain't goin' to no Devon horse show." Sort of.

Mackanin wasn't headed to Devon with the players Klentak got him. Even so, you have to trust the process. Unfortunately for Pete Mackanin, he didn't get the Brett Brown treatment at the end.

The Phillies used him like a worn out mop and now they're gitty over Ernest.

Dusty Wathan seemed like the perfect heir to the throne. Another baseball lifer who just happened to land in Clearwater, Reading, and Lehigh Valley, when the horses Charlie spoke of were moving through on their way to the City of Brotherly Love, Rizzo statue or no.

But it doesn't matter because Ernest came along and took the horse out from under Wathan.

Meanwhile, the Faithful is scratching their collective heads. Images of Ernest do not match with what the Faithful know about Phillies' managers. Usually, in this town, managers come from the long line of the good ole boy network: Older, white men who've spent years honing their craft — usually in the minor leagues — to become a Major League manager. Some had it, some didn't. Some had the horses and some didn't. Gene Mauch, Charlie, Jim Fergosi, Dallas Green, Larry Bowa, Danny Ozark; the list goes on. There've been token interviews, such as the Juan Samuel interview this time. The Phillies have been league leaders in token interviews.

Historically, the Phillies have been slow as a snapper crossing Florida's Alligator Alley when it comes to minority players: it took the Phillies ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier to sign a black player. John Irvin Kennedy. In the spring of 1957, Kennedy became the Phillies first black player; he played just five games with the Phillies and never played another major league game.

The Phillies have never had an African American manager, nor have they ever had a Jewish manager — Ruben Amaro, Jr., was a general manager. Amaro is Jewish.

Until now.

When he takes the field on March 29, 2019, in Atlanta, Gabe Kapler will become the seventh Jewish manager in major league history and the first Jewish manager in Phillies history.

Kapler is also the youngest manager in Phillies history, 42. He played for six teams over a 12-year big league career. He was a Boston Red Sox outfielder when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 2004.

But there's more here to the Gabe Kapler story. He's part of a shift the major leagues are making toward analytics. That is, analyzing baseball statistics that measure in-game activity on each and every player. Or, analyzing data to get an edge. Next spring, watch ML baseball teams shift their defenses for different hitters. It's a perfect example of using statistics to predict where a batter is likely to hit the ball.

For the first time ever, the Phillies are part of the future, not the last step in the past.

Bravo to Matt Klentak and whoever else was involved in hiring Gabe Kapler. I wish him every success possible and will be following his every move in the spring.

Oh, and Gabe, I'm only kidding about Ernest. Sort of.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Where there's hope there's fire. Will 2018 be the year the Phillies start their climb? Do they have enough pieces to put together a winner, i.e., an above .500 record and a shot at a wild card?

They do, if the suits upstairs believe in the pieces they have, are willing to spend money, and make a few over the winter deals.

What's important is this: Who will the Phillies trade to get better?

Well first they must decide who to keep: Galvis, Hernandez, or Franco. Or do they all stay? It's possible, but with Scott Kingery hammering on the door, the infield could get cramped. Kingery had 26 home runs at Lehigh Valley and hit .304. Just as Hoskins was, he's overripe.

J.P. Crawford seems comfortable at third. Could the April lineup be Crawford, Galvis, Kingery and Hoskins? Or could it be Franco, Crawford, Galvis, and Hoskins. Or how about Franco, Crawford, Hernandez, and Hoskins.

Either way, it's not my problem. I don't get paid the big bucks to make those decisions, I just watch and criticize. That's why I'm a card-carrying member of the Faithful. Except I don't boo. Not even JD or JW.

Next question: Does Tommy Joseph have a future with the Phillies after September 30th? That question can be answered with this: No way in hell will Rhys Hoskins be a Phillies left fielder. The club drug its feet and plopped Hoskins in left to give Tommy Joseph more auditioning time.

In other words get him more at-bats and pray he hits the crap out of the ball. With 15 games left, he's got 21 home runs on the plus side but he's hitting .238 on the downside. And he's really a nice guy so maybe that will help. However, 42-plus home runs over two seasons is nothing to sneeze at and they might keep him.

The Phillies outfield is looking good, too, short of a 30-plus home run hitter with a gun for an arm. That's why they have free agency. But, lookit, they might want to save free agency for the rotation and hope Nick Williams will hit 'em. They also have Dylan Cozins at Triple A, another member of the overripe club. Like Hoskins, Cozens hit a ton of home runs for the Iron Pigs — two shy of what Hoskins hit for the same team in the same year.

Hint, hint, bring him up, boys.

Speaking of trades, there might be one in the outfield, which is getting more crowded than the Downingtown regional line, and somebody like Aaron Altherr might bring a good, young arm. On the other hand, once they get rid of Hyun Soo and bring up Cozens, things should be fine. After all, there will be some bench slots to fill.

Ah, ha, good young arms! They certainly have a few of those. One or two free agent signees and look out. Just Google 'free agent pitchers 2018.' Or maybe a combo pack of two or three expendables — Franko, Rupp and Joseph — might get a 12 game winner. Use to be you wanted a 20-game winner, but who wins 20 anymore? Like slow pitch softball, if a starter reaches the sixth it's a major celebration.

Well see here, I went seven in Dream Week. But then I had to use my left arm to comb my hair for six months.

Here's the thing. Former general manager Pat Gillick said back in aught-fourteen that the Phillies won't contend until 2017 or even 2018. Remember?

Well, guess what?

Are you excited, yet?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Over Cook 'Em

I like doing burgers on the grill. I get them made up fresh at Martin's at the Reading Terminal. Nice babies — inch-and-a-half thick. Not those frozen half-inch jobs in the supermarket freezer. There's a real challenge to grilling burgers. You've got to get them off the grill at exactly the right time.

Too soon, bloody. Too late, cardboard. When you bite into one clear juice shoots out, like a Maikel Franco line-drive, and rolls down your chin.

Just right. Where's that napkin?

Meet the Bash Brothers, Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. If they were burgers, it'be time to bring them in.

They're number one and two in home runs in the AAA International League. Cozens 23, Hoskins, 22 — that's home runs, not age. Age? Cozens, 23, Hoskins, 24. In 2016 at Reading they hit a combined 78 home runs.

From one chef to another, from me to the Phillies, "Get these two kids off the grill."

Cozens is similar in stature to Mark McGuire. And he can run. The big left hander is 6'6', 235. He hit 40 home runs last season at Double-A Reading.

Defensivily, he's solid, got a great arm. They won't be taking an extra base.

Hoskins is smaller, 6'4," 225. Smaller? Big or small, they both hit rockets. Hoskins hits in front of Cozens in the Iron Pigs' lineup; he bats right, Cozens left. In my lineup, Franco and Herrera hit behind them, like J-Dub and Burrell.

But there's more to pencil in: shortstop, J.P. Crawford, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. They're ready, too.

Cozens (.223) and Crawford's (.227) averages are low, but that shouldn't stop them. That's being picky. Bring them up and let them play. Stop dicking around. If it were the Yankees they would've been up six weeks ago.

If the Phillies have a flare for drama, they'll do it and change the look of the club. But they need to clear roster space and they finish that off this week. They have until Monday, 4 p.m. If not, it's incompetence at the top in my book.

Because, hell, the Faithful are hungry and ready to eat.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Opportunity Opportunity Opportunity

From now until Monday, July 31, 4 p.m., it's a buyers and sellers market in MLB. The six teams with a shot at locking up their division — plus the additional teams chasing the four wild card spots — want to improve for the August and September home stretch. The teams that have fallen out and have no chance want to unload deadbeats and expensive players.

QVC couldn't have it better.

So how does this affect the Phillies, who are sitting in the NL East basement with the worse record in baseball and on track to lose 110 games? Geniuses — Klentak? MacPhail? Someone else? — put together a ridiculous roster made up of veteran one-year rentals and younger players having to prove whether or not they can play in the Show.

So the time for bullshit is over. No more rope-a-dope, no more treading water. Patience and 'let's wait and see' are out the door. I mean, the Sixers are printing 2018 playoff tickets, the Iggles Faithful are delirious in Wentzlvania, and the Flyers drafted a Russian who can actually stop the puck from turning on that little red light atop the Flyers' crease. Damn, that thing's annoying.

So what should the Phillies do in the QVC weeks ahead?

While the club hunts and pecks to sell, sell, sell, it should be pointed out that it's not so important about who they receive in a trade, but how much room they can open on the roster. Plus, maybe the geniuses can redeem themselves for putting a mess together. That said, let's get this thing started.

First, the obvious, the one-year rentals: Jeremy Hellickson, Pat Neshek, Howie Kendrick, Joaquin Benoit, and Dan Nava.

What say you, Ron? I say Hellickson and Neshek are gone. Kendrick is iffy because of his sore hammy, but if the club can get him in shape for the upcoming Houston series and he can hit and run, then he's gone, too. Mr. Uncloser Benoit? Maybe they can give him away. Nava may stay due to Aaron Altherr's recent hammy injury. Besides, Nava's hitting .297 which on the Phillies is akin to a vegan eating at the Prime Rib.

The second most obvious question is Tommy Joseph. There are teams that need a first baseman like Joseph, who has 15 home runs and is projected to hit 25-plus. Not bad for a guy who's played just under a full year in the Show. And here's another Joseph goodie. He's not eligible for arbitration until 2020, which salary wise means he's an indentured servant until then.

What say you, Ron? Lookit, the Yankees' first baseman — actually several of them — have been so bad, Joseph would feel like an icy breeze on a humid day. Besides, unlike the Phillies, the Yankees have a real shot at the AL East and the two AL wild cards. Moreover, the Phillies are desperate to bring up Rhys Hoskins.

Joseph is gone, gone, gone.

Odubel Herrera. The baseball purists would likely vote to dump him. He's too cocky — and if you're in the Mike Schmidt school of baseball, there's the English thing.

What say you, Ron? Herrera stays. He has too much potential. They didn't sign him to a five-year contract for nothing. Besides, Roberto Clemente use to mumble in Spanish whenever he circled the bases, which was a quite often.

Catcher Camaron Rupp and Cesar Hernandez. The team can't keep three catchers and three second baseman. Lately, Andrew Knapp has been catching more than Rupp. The club needs to call up catcher Jorge Alfaro, and with Scott Kingery on the Triple A doorstep, Hernandez is about as valuable as a Gimbels' credit card.

What say you, Ron? To make room for Alfaro, Rupp is a goner. Hernandez could stick if Kingery isn't ready. But if a good offer comes along for Hernandez they could move him.

Now here's Ron's Trifecta Move of the Day. A three-way deal. Are you ready?

Maikel Franco. If, like Ron, the club is starting to doubt Franco's potential, here's something they could do. My informants tell me that at Lehigh Valley Kingery has been taking infield at third. That can mean one of two things: The club is trying to scare Franco into hitting, or they want to see if Kingery can adapt to third.

What say you, Ron? If they find the right deal and can fill a need somewhere else on the roster, an infield of Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Freddy Galvis, and Rhy Hoskins isn't bad. The upside is, Kinkery hits better than Franco and, since he's a great defensive second baseman, he becomes a great defensive third baseman. The downside is Franco is unloaded and goes on to have a Hall of Fame career — somewhere else.

Wait, that's never happened to the Phillies, has it?

By the way, the Prime Rib at 17th and Locust is my favorite restaurant.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Come On Phillies Give Us Something for the Humidity

The road to the rebuild isn't quick and easy. But the Phillies have some pieces to put in place and the sooner the better.

The Faithful is getting impatient and cranky.

There's some stuff the club needs to take care of between now and the July 31 trade deadline.

First there's Tommy Joseph. This wouldn't be a decision if the club didn't have a kid at Triple-A who can flat out hit. That would be Rhys Hoskins, who has pounded the ball at every level from Williamsport to Lehigh Valley. Besides having an impossible to pronounce first-name, this kid has "can't miss" all over him. Joseph, however, has become a solid-hitting first baseman.

One of them can't stay. Go ahead, you make the call. You want solid, or another Chase Utley?

By the way, it's pronounced, Reese. You're welcome.

Next is third base. Obviously, Maikel Franko is the team's number one underachiever, no doubt, on a team loaded with underachievers. I've said this before: For Franco to stick he's got to produce Scott Rolen numbers. Last season he was close, but he's fallen off. So do you dump him for what you can get or stick with him?

Be careful, the Franko decision is loaded. He could easily go somewhere and be an All-Star. I'll help you out by defining Scott Rolen's numbers: Consistently hitting 20-plus home runs and driving in close to 100 and hitting .280 or better — over a ten year period.

You're welcome, again.

Shortstop. J.P. Crawford, 22, has been the top-rated prospect in the Phillies system for the last several years. Who doesn't know that? Everybody knows that. But he's fallen on hard times. He's not simply in a slump, he 'just ain't hitting.' All season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley he's struggled at the Mendoza Line. Meanwhile, Freddy Galvis, 27, has turned into a top rated defensive shortstop and a decent hitter. He seems perfect for the number one or two hole. What's with Nava leading off, anyway? His career stolen base record is dismal.

So this one's easy. Let's watch Crawford at Triple-A and let Galvis get better.

I'll save you a decision at second base. The only question is how long will the club wait until they bring up Scott Kingery, 23. Or, for that matter, outfielder Ryan Cozens, 21? Combined, they have 40-plus home runs.

So here's what I think will happen. I mean, why write a blog if you can't make daring predictions.

Let Franco alone. Everybody has bad years.

Then before the July 31 trade deadline, the Phillies trade Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp. They should get something decent. They bring up Jorge Alfaro from Lehigh Valley and let him battle it out with Andrew Knapp. Bring up the wrecking-ball-trio: Hoskins, Kingery, and Cozens. While they're are at it, if he's healthy, bring up Roman Quinn.

With the recent addition of Nick Williams, and the quality play of Aaron Altherr, plus the hot dogging, wild swinging and erratic play of Odubel Herrera — and it hasn't anything to do with whether or not he can speak English — adding Cozens and Quinn would prove interesting.

Trade or release Howie Kendrick, Pat Neshek, Jeremy Hellickson, Dan Nava, and Joaquin Benoit. Rearrange the the bullpen and rotation, and give the Faithful something nice to deal with when the heat and humidity arrive.

Because you know this. As sure as an 110 loss season, it's coming.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lot's of Things to Enjoy About the Phillies

I've got to stop trying to analyse why the Phillies stink and enjoy the game on the field.

As a kid I knew John Quinn was a tight-fisted general manager, and I loved Gene Mauch, thought he was the best manager in the game. I loved Allen and Callison, Bunning, Amaro, the catcher Darlymple — look, I can still spell his name without looking it up, that's proof. Then came Bowa, Schmidt, Lefty and that bunch.

What an exciting team led by the Krukker in '93. 2008 was magical.

I guess I've been critical lately because I want the Phillies to do better.

As I write this on Father's Day, I'm watching Ben Lively get lit up like he's a Christmas tree at the Griswold's. It's 3-0 in the top of the first. And here I am writing this blog when I need to be working on my book. Shhh, don't say anything to Denise.

"Ron, you've got the game on, are you working on your book?"


I'm not lying. I've got three monitors. It's my own version of the truth.

I'm trying not to get ticked as the Phillies are getting thumped again. I'm trying not to yell at the big screen, "Who the hell put this God damn team together?"

Are you kidding me? I don't think I've seen a Phillies team this bad since the early sixties. The crowds at the park are getting smaller than a speck of dust on our hardwood floors after Denise is done cleaning. Actually, I clean our hardwood floors. But overall she's a better cleaner.

Okay, I tell myself, enjoy the game on the field, that's all.

And what do you know, Aaron Altherr just hit one out to left. See, enjoy the game on the field — and you'll be fine.

The GM this morning in the Inquirer said the team is looking at several position players and in order to look at them enough, they've got to play. Giving them a "look-see," the old timers use to say. And they're playing. I just wish they'd play better. I'm assuming he's talking about Rupp, Knapp, Joseph, Franco, and Herrera. There are a number of pitchers on the "look-see" list, too, and I hope they keep trying, because they're sort of getting hammered.

Strike out 'sort of.' By giving them a "look-see," they're — (we'll) — going to find out if they can play in the Show.

I don't know because I don't have a trained eye — I only went to Dream Week once, therefore, my big league experience is minimal. My guess is, however, Galvis and Hernandez might be fighting for a job on the bench, when the "the others" get here.

That's another part of the formula, "the others." There are maybe 5-6 players — part of "the others" — that are close at Double and Triple A and could round out the team when they are done with the "look-see."

Franco is getting a good "look-see" today because he just hit one out. It's now 3-2. Thing about Freddy Galvis — he's a good shortstop. J.P. Crawford, part of "the others," will have to come to Philly and take his job away. That will be interesting

So, to keep things simple they'll combine those they are "look-seeing" with "the others" and things will start to turn around. Spend some money and grab a couple of free agents and we'll be on our way.

So no more criticizing on my part, I'm going to enjoy the game on the field.

And I don't know, am I in a good mood today or is Tom McCarthy not blabbering about nonsensical stuff as much.

Ron, stop it. Just enjoy the game on the field. And what time is happy hour?

Happy Father's Day.

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Oh, wait, the game is now tied.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What's Worse The Phillies or the Newspapers?

This is not so much about the misery of Philadelphia's professional baseball team, but about questions.

Or, who's not asking them.

When a team goes south the way the Phillies have, fans get screwed. How? Because months before the first pitch fans bought tickets to see competitive baseball at Citizens Bank Park. Season ticket holders have a much larger investment to see good baseball. The price of a ticket doesn't ensure a winning team, but it should ensure a competitive team.

The Phillies are neither. And no one is asking questions like, "Why?"

Now here comes the scary part.

The other day the Inquirer's Matt Gelb asked Phillies GM Matt Klentak about the minor league prospects. Klentak said this: "If we feel a player is ready for that opportunity and we feel that the opportunity presents itself here for the appropriate playing time, then we'll definitely do it." Do it? Do what, bring some up?

Here's the thing. If you made a list of the top ten most horrible things in Philadelphia, you might list poverty, joblessness, traffic, the schools, pollution, bad cheesesteaks, etc. Not me. I'd say the top two are Philly newspapers and the Phillies.

And neither have any prospects of getting better.

Ever since Grandpa Lenfest dumped a whole lot of money into an endowment, the endowment has funded the Inquirer and Daily News. That may keep the paper afloat for a while, but it's not going to make people read it and they might as well save the trees and go to all digital

It's difficult to determine who is making the decisions for the Phillies and the Philly newspapers. But one thing is for sure, they both are pretty bad.

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