Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pat Gillick Speaks

Below is a link to a recording of a conversation between Inquirer sports writers and Phillies GM Pat Gillick. Some of the topics of discussion include Chase Utley’s new contract, Pat Burrell’s foot, and Gillick’s opinion of the Phillies chances in the up coming season. If you can’t download the mp3 click the link for the original Inquirer article.
Gillick Conversation mp3

Gillick optimistic about new season
From Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Pat Gillick from

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Come home Curt!

I remember the exact moment it happened like it was yesterday. I was in Cooperstown New York as a camper on a Lake Owego sleep over camp field trip. My friends and I walked up and down the streets gawking at the different pieces of baseball memorabilia. I had just come back from the Hall of Fame and was walking into one last collectable shop before we climbed back onto the buses to go back to camp. My friend was eyeing a Curt Schilling baseball card and the owner of the store told us the horrible news. “Hey kid did you hear that the Phils traded Schilling to the D-Backs, ” the shopkeeper exclaimed. My jaw just hung in my mouth. Having spent the last month away from home I hadn’t heard the rumors. I couldn’t believe it. The Phillies had traded away the hero of the 1993 World Series Team.

Later I would learn about the bickering between former Phils GM Ed Wade and Curt Schilling. Schilling eventually became so upset with management that he demanded a trade. He felt that since their success in 1993 the Phillies were no longer committed to winning. In fairness to Wade I don’t think the Phillies low win tallies were for lack of trying. The Phillies couldn’t win because Ed Wade was a terrible General Manager. If he was any good he never would have gotten into a public war of words with Schilling or allow the same thing to happen to Scott Rolen a few seasons later.

When Schilling left Philadelphia he had nothing but good things to say. "I will leave here with nothing but the best memories on and off the field," said Schilling during the news conference when the trade was announced. Since the trade he has often commented that would look favorably upon returning to Philadelphia.

Curt is still under contract with the Red Sox, but will be a free agent after this season. He also recently announced that he plans to play baseball in 2008. So let this blog post be the beginning of the official courtship of Curt Schilling. The 2008 season may seem it’s far away but dare to dream for a moment. Imagine a Phillies starting rotation headed by Schilling and followed by Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Adam Eaton, and Jamie Moyer. Imagine the ticker tape parade on Broad Street when the conquering hero Schilling brings home a World Series title to Philadelphia. Come home Curt, we miss you!

Schilling ‘I will play in 2008’
By news services

D-Backs acquire Schilling form Phillies
By Associate Press

First picture of Curt Schilling from

Monday, January 29, 2007

What’s wrong with Burrell?

Pat Burrell is an enigma. A player’s statistics tell the story of that player's career. Burrell’s story doesn’t track. He has all the athleticism and physical prowess to be a great ball player. In past seasons he has used those skills to put up big numbers. He has also wasted those skills throwing up some ugly stats.

Many experts have come forward with different explanations of why consistent success has eluded Burrell. Back in December former Phillies skipper Dallas Green suggested that Burrell spent too much time enjoying the rich life and that he needed to rededicate himself to baseball. Burrell has a reputation for taking pleasure in the Philadelphia nightlife. A recent Paul Hagen article suggested that the problem is that Burrell has vision problems and can’t see the ball. Burrell has led the Majors in called third strikes the past two seasons supporting the poor eyesight theory.

Both of these theories have flaws. If Burrell’s partying were affecting his performance than you would expect to see consistently bad numbers. Burrell’s yo-yo up and down, the very opposite of consistency. If Burrell had poor vision he wouldn’t score as high as he does on the Phillies mandatory vision tests. Burrell’s minor league and college stats tell us that he has the physical capacity to play MVP quality baseball. So, what’s wrong with Burrell?

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis tells the story of young player named Billy Beane. Beane had all of the “tools” that made Major League scouts salivate. Beane however never had the career as a player that was his preordained destiny. Lewis believes that Billy never had the mental makeup to be a big time player. Beane couldn't handle failure and became easily frustrated by the smallest disappointment. He couldn’t handle a game where the best players in the world, mess up seven out of ten times. There is a lot of Billy Beane in Pat Burrell.

After the departure of David Bell last season the cool Phillie to hate became Burrell. Every time he struck out, every time he couldn’t make a play in the field, boos would come down as judgment from the masses onto Burrell. Handling that kind of scrutiny is the furthest thing from easy. So, what’s wrong with Burrell? Nothing, he’s just human, a mere mortal like the rest of us.

Burrell hasn’t done a single interview this off-season. He should reverse that policy and take his critics head on. Sometimes a man needs to stand up and defend himself. Great players have a swagger and Burrell needs to get his back in the worst way.

More suggestions for Burrell
By Paul Hagen / Philadelphia Inquirer

Green challenges Burrell
By Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

First picture of Pat Burrell from, second picture of Pat Burrell from

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Phillies Officially Sign Garcia

The Phillies officially signed Karim Garcia to a minor league deal. Garcia will compete for one of the two remaining spots of the Phillies bench with Greg Dobbs, Chris Roberson, Chris Coste, and Michael Bourn. Three bench spots already belong to Abraham Nunez, Jason Werth, and Carlos Ruiz.

Garcia has been on hiatus from Major League Baseball playing for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. He played well hitting .281 and 34 homers in two seasons for the Buffaloes. He spent this off-season playing in Mexico for the Culiacan hitting .294 with 11 bombs. Garcia also played for his native Mexico in the World Baseball Classic going 3-7.

Garcia would provide Charlie Manuel with a left-handed power bat off the bench filling the void left by the departure of David Dellucci. Garcia is the front runner but will still need to have a strong spring training to beat out Chris Roberson who has been swinging a hot back in the Mexican Winter League.

Phils sign Garcia to Minor League deal
by Ken Mandel /

First picture of Karim Garcia

Friday, January 26, 2007

The straw that never broke Hamels back

In today’s game it’s harder to get a good starting pitcher than it is to get a decent cheese steak outside of Philly. That’s why Phillies fans everywhere rejoiced when Cole Hamels made it to the Majors last season. Hamels has all the work ethic, physical ability, and mental aptitude to live up to the expectation of frustrated Phillies fans.

The one bump in the road to Hamels ascendance to the Majors has been injuries. In one case of youthful indiscretion Cole broke his pitching hand in bar fight preventing him from throwing for months. The number one health concern for Hamels is his back. Hamels has exercises to help prevent an injury, but they aren’t a solution. Hamels will have to do the exercises for his entire career.

The Phillies have coddled Cole to such a degree they must honestly believe that someday soon he will just collapse and never pitch again. Phillies executives, beat writers, and fans have to relax. Baseball players get injured, it happens. Everyone seems to think that the only outcome is the worst-case scenario. These Phillies prognosticators point out that Hamels may have been over worked. Hamels did pitch 181.1 innings last season between the Minors and Majors. That is a lot of work for a pitcher who has only 333.1 innings of professional baseball under his belt. That overstressing is supposed to be the straw that will break Hamels fragile petite back.

Coming from a family of first-rate worriers and through personal experience I know the act of being anxious creates more feelings of worry. Might a Cole Hamels injury prevent the Phillies from making the playoffs and simultaneously cause the world to end? I can’t say for sure either way. What I do know is that Cole Hamels is a professional athlete. He dutifully performs his prescribed regimen of physical therapy. He has a staff of highly trained medical professionals behind him watching his every move. He also has the veteran’s veteran Jamie Moyer to guide him. Moyer at the sprite old age of 44 is still going full speed ahead and has pitched 200 innings or more in 8 of the last nine years. Cole has commented how much he has learned from Moyer and hopefully Jamie isn’t holding back the secret location to the fountain of youth. I’d say chances are better he will pitch a full season than the chances he won’t. So I hope for all us that we move beyond worrying and start to look forward to watching Cole Hamels lead the Phillies charge towards the playoffs.

Keeping an eye on Cole
By Rich Hofmann / Philadelphia Inquirer

First picture of Cole Hamels from delaware online

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Phil’s assistant GM signs contract extension

The Phillies made a big move extending the contract of one of their current stars. It’s not Ryan Howard or even a current Phillies player. The Phils have agreed to a contract extension with assistant GM Mike Arbuckle. Arbuckle now has a contract with the Phillies through the 2009 season.

"It was a quick negotiation," Arbuckle said. "I'm not interested in going anywhere. It's a great situation here, and I like where we're heading." That’s great news for Phillies fans because Arubckle has done a great job as the Phillies executive in charge of scouting and player development.

Arbuckle doesn’t get a lot of media coverage and has been a huge force in the sculpting of the 2007 Phillies. The number of current Phillies stars who have risen through the farm system is a testament to Arbuckle’s expertise as a baseball executive. Current Phillies drafted by Arbuckle include Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Adam Eaton, Cole Hamels, Geoff Geary, and Ryan Madson. The key to any consistently successful franchise is having a strong farm system. The Phillies don’t have a dearth of highly touted prospects but the players who make it to the Majors perform well.

Arbuckle has interviewed for the general manager’s job with Boston, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. He has also been passed over for the Phillies GM position twice. Fortunately for the Phillies he has been content helping make the Phillies into a winner.

Notes: Coste entering familiar territory
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Mike Arbuckle from

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Alfonseca officially signed

Antonio Alfonseca passed his physical after returning from pitching in the Dominican Winter League. Alfonseca’s clean bill of health is significant because of recent injury history. Last season a stress fracture in his right elbow allowed him to pitch only 19 games for the Texas Rangers last season.

The Phillies liked what they saw from Alfonseca while he was playing for the Azucareros. His velocity had returned to his fastball along with the sharpness to his slider. Alfonseca DWL numbers-16.2 innings with a hot 2.70 ERA-back up the conclusion of the Phillies scouting department.

Alfonseca will earn a base salary of $380,000. If he makes the team out of spring training than that number increases to $700,000. Alfonseca is also eligible to make another $400,000 in incentives. That contract makes Alfonseca an excellent value for the Phils.

The Alfonseca signing has no downside and a ton of upside. Worst-case scenario the Phillies get a good look at Alfonseca during Spring Training and find he is still unhealthy. In that case they eat his base salary and move on. In the dream scenario Alfonseca is healthy and plays up to his potential. Then he adds to depth at the end of the bullpen for a very reasonable price.

Phillies sign Alfonseca to one-year deal
By Ken Mandel /

Phils, Alfonseca agree to one-year deal
By Associated Press

Picture of Antonio Alfonseca from

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Phillies pitchers pharm report

This pharm report will review the winter league play of the top Phillies pitching prospects. Many of these pitchers will be fighting for the final spot in the Phillies bullpen or will get called up during the season. For the sake of brevity this review only covers Phillies prospects that are currently in competition for making the team.

Joseph Bisenius:
Bisenius had a tremendous season in 2006 spending time at Clearwater and Reading. Due to his success the Phillies choose to send him to play in the American Fall League. Bisenius struggled in the AFL pitching only 4.2 innings with a stinky 11.57 ERA. Bisenius then moved on to Venezuelan Winter League and brought the bad with him throwing 10.2 innings with 5.06 ERA. Bisenius does have a shot; Pat Gillick has commented that he was a “dark horse candidate” for the final bullpen spot.

Eude Brito:
Brito has been in the Phillies Minor League system quite a few seasons pushing the definition of prospect. He did have a good season last year at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre throwing 147.2 innings with a solid 3.17 ERA. Pitching with the Azucareros del Este he has been even better pitching 18.2 with a spectacular .96 ERA. Brito probably has the inside track on making the opening day roster. He could serve as a second lefty and he is versatile enough that Charlie Manuel could stretch him out over a few innings in a pinch.

Anderson Garcia:
Garcia was a waiver wire pick up from the Baltimore Orioles and has spent his entire career in the Minor Leagues. While playing for the Estrellas de Oriente he has pitched only 2 innings with a 4.50 ERA. Garcia must have a strong spring training to make the Phillies roster.

Fabio Castro:
Castro a Rule Five Draft pick form a year ago spent most of the season languishing out in the bullpen and pitching sporadically in blowouts. Castro is currently playing for the Gigantes Del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League pitching 18.2 innings with a sparkling 2.41 ERA. Castro a lefty has a good chance at making the team because Matt Smith is currently the only left-hander on the roster. In the past Castro has had control issues and many in the Phils believe he might benefit from more Minor League service.

Jim Ed Warden:
Warden was a Rule Five Draft pick taken from the Cleveland Indians. This off-season he has been playing for the Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. Warden has been pitching well throwing 8.2 innings with 4.15 ERA. Warden will have to pitch better than that to stick with the Phillies. If he doesn’t make the roster out of spring training he will have to be offered back to the Indians because he is a Rule Five pick.

Alfredo Simon:

Simon is another Phillies Rule Five Draft Pick. Simon has been pitching exceptionally well in the Dominican Winter League. The hard throwing righty has pitched 31.1 innings with a snappy 1.72 ERA. Simon similar to Warden will have to make the team or be offered back to the San Francisco Giants.

Ruiz Thriving in Winter Ball Playoffs
By Benjamin Hill / Special to

Picture of Joseph Bisenius from, picture of Fabio Castro from

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Utley signs huge extension

Frightened citizens of the Philadelphia tri-state area don’t be alarmed. The earth shattering cha-ching noise you heard on Sunday afternoon was just the noise of the Phillies securing their future as a franchise. The Phillies agreed to a seven-year eighty five million dollar contract extension with All Star second baseman Chase Utley.

Utley got a $2 million signing bonus and will make $4.5 million in 2007, $7.5 million in 2008, $11 million in 2009, and $15 million per season from 2010-2013.

This deal ensures the Phillies will have a solid core of players to build around in the future. Ryan Howard who won’t become a free agent until after the 2011 and Utley who now won’t be a free agent until after 2013 will anchor the right side of the Phillies infield.

The Phillies brass wasn’t hesitant to give Utley the deal. “We view Chase as not only a great second baseman but also one of the top 10-15 players in the game," Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's a hard-nosed, full-throttle player who exemplifies the spirit of Philadelphia. He is tailor-made for this city and we couldn't be happier to lock him up for years to come."

This is great news for Phillies fans. Utley is more than a fantastically talented athlete; he’s a reason to go to the park. Utley has Hall of Fame potential. In the past two seasons he leads all second basemen with 57 HRs, 197 RBIs, 350 hits, and 217 runs. Even though Chase probably won’t win any golden gloves he puts his heart into every play. If he has a chance at a ball on defense Phillies fans know Utley will put his body on the line. If he hits a weak ground ball Utley’s the special kind of player who will run hard down the line, whether the Phils are up or down. So congratulations Chase you deserve every penny.

7 more years for Utley
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Utley agrees to seven-year, $85M extension
by ESPN News Services

First picture of Chase Utley from, Second Picture of Chase Utley from

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Montgomery may be next MLB commissioner

Allan “Bud” Selig has been involved in baseball since the mid sixties when he tried valiantly to keep a baseball franchise in Milwaukee. In 1992 he became acting commissioner and in July 1999 the owners officially voted to give Selig the job on a permanent basis. In 2009 Selig’s contract will expire and he plans to retire, leaving no clear predecessor.

Baseball insiders like Andy MacPhail and Bob DuPuy have the inside track. MacPhail is the former owner of the Chicago Cubs and participated in the recently signed labor deal. Bob DuPuy is the current President and CEO of Major League Baseball. DuPuy doesn’t spend a lot of time in the public view but he is highly regarded in the baseball community as Selig’s right hand man.

Another man who has an inside track is Phillies President and owner David Montgomery. Montgomery is not terribly popular with Phillies fans. Personally I felt he should have fired Ed Wade years before he let him go. However, baseball insiders hold Montgomery in high regard because of his “evenhanded approach” and his experience on many different ownership committees.

If Montgomery were chosen by his peers to be the next commish then he could do a lot of good for the Phillies. Bud Selig has done a lot for Milwaukee Brewers and it would be nice to have someone who has that much power to watch over the Phillies.

Who’s going to fill Selig’s shoes?
By Jerry Crasnick /

Wikipedia Bud Selig Entry

Picture of Bud Selig from, picture of Dave Montgomery from

Friday, January 19, 2007

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Westley: You have six fingers on your hand.
Count Rugen: Yes?
Westley: I know someone who is looking for you.

In the classic movie The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is on a quest to kill his father’s murderer, the six-fingered man. Newly acquired Phillie Antonio Alfonseca will have to watch his back for sneak attacks from Patinkin.

That’s right Antonio Alfonseca has six fingers and six toes on each of his hands and feet. Alfonseca has a genetic condition know as polydactyly. Antonio is one of many six fingered members of the Alfonseca family. Polydactyly doesn’t affect his ability to pitch either positively or negatively. The extra small fingers lie next to his pinky and don’t touch the baseball when he throws.

In his native Dominican Republic Alfonseca goes by the nickname “El Pulpo” or “The Octopus”. The comparison is not really accurate because octopi have 8 tentacles, but El Pulpo is more creative and sounds a whole lot cooler than his English nick name “Six-Fingers”.

Hopefully the Phillies promotional staff will take full advantage of their new six-fingered man and play Octopus’s Garden to announce his coming into a game.

6 of 1, half dozen of the other
by Bill Conlin / The Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Antonio Alfonseca from

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Let Coste play!

2006 was Chris Coste’s rookie season in the Major Leagues, but Chris Coste wasn’t your average rookie. At age 33 a baseball player should be past his prime, not taking his first at bat in the Majors. Chris Coste is the exception to that rule. Coste spent the first 11 years of his professional baseball career with various Minor League clubs all across the U.S. Coste has confounded baseball teams for years. Originally he played second base, became a pitcher, switched to catcher, and while in the Minors learned first base, third base, and left field. Coste played all of these positions well and baseball teams didn’t know what to make of that. Now Coste has to deal with the stigma of having caught the deadly “growing older virus”.

Last season Coste almost didn’t make it to the Majors again. Coste took a hot bat to spring training hitting .472 in Clearwater. But he lost his roster spot when the Phillies traded for David Dellucci at the end of spring training. Later in the season the Phils managed to sneak him some at bats after the departure of catcher Sal Fasano.

This season Coste’s future in the Majors is once again in jeopardy. The Phils first plan was to use Coste in a platoon at catcher with Carlos Ruiz. However, the Phillies weren’t comfortable with Coste backing up Ruiz and signed Rod Barajas. Coste understands the situation, he commented to a reporter. Coste believes a " 'lack of experience' " is responsible for the Phillies not believing in him. He says the Phillies think his statistics are “a fluke". Sarcastically, Coste says "Because they don't see me as a top-line catcher, I must be bad." The Phillies have blinders on regarding Coste. They treat him like a fallen prospect when they should see a rising star.

Hindsight is supposed to be twenty-twenty, but with Coste that’s apparently not the case. Coste has put up monster numbers everywhere he has played. In Coste’s 3,480 career at bats in the Minors all Coste did was hit .301 with a .355 OBP and .450 slugging. In the Majors all he did was improve his stats, hitting .328 with a .376 OBP and .505 slugging. Coste’s numbers aren’t an aberration. Every once in a while a player comes along that does better once they get to the Majors. Coste is one of these players. In the Majors the coaches are better and the players have easier access to resources like game video to prepare themselves. It takes a brainy player like Coste-who found time to write two books during his slow climb to the majors-to take full advantage of these resources and excel.

Recently another threat has emerged to Coste's playing with the Phillies. Greg Dobbs, who the Phils recently claimed off waivers from the Mariners, is now competing for Coste’s roster spot. Dobbs did well with the Mariners last season when he was brought up for a cup of coffee, hitting .370 in 27 at bats. His Minor League numbers aren’t close to Coste’s, so I won’t bother comparing them. Bottom line- Coste has preformed better. Except that Dobbs at 28 years young has a less serious case of aging disorder.

Pat Gillick and the Phillies brain trust are unable to see the truth. Coste should not be a bench player but a starter because he has produced every time he has been given a shot. They need to find playing time for Coste because the numbers say that he is the Phillies best option at either catcher or even third base. His batting average and more importantly OBP are better than Wes Helms, Carlos Ruiz, and Rod Barajas. Those who disagree can counter that his 198 major league at bats aren’t a large enough sample size. That’s true, but why not see if he can reproduce those numbers over the long term. Logic and history say that he will. I have two simple requests for Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel: look at the numbers and LET HIM PLAY!

For Coste, coast is not clear
By Ken Mandel /

Time to step up for some Phillies
Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

First picture of Chris Coste from, second picture of Chris Coste from

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lieber still a Phillie

After the Freddy Garcia trade the Phillies gained more than a legitimate ace, they suddenly had a surplus of starting pitchers. Leaving the Phillies with Freddy Garcia, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Jon Lieber, all legitimate starters. That pitching surplus combined with the Phillies need for a quality reliever seemed to be the perfect equation for trading Jon Lieber.

It appeared that trading Lieber would be easy for Pat Gillick. The market had become over inflated; peaking with the obscenely large 126 million dollar contract the San Francisco Giants gave Barry Zito. Jon Lieber, a dependable pitcher that eats up innings and who will make 7.5 million in 2007, became a valuable player in this market. Unfortunately the price also went up on quality relief pitchers and Pat Gillick has been wary to make a trade.

"If we can't get what we think is equal value, we'll go with six [starters in the regular season]," Gillick said. "We're not going to give somebody away."

Now Pat Gillick says he won’t move Lieber unless he gets the right offer. So the Phillies could start the season with six starting pitchers. In that scenario Charlie Manuel will have to send one starter to the bullpen. Lieber probably the least talented of the six will probably start. Gillick has commented in the past that Lieber doesn’t fit in the bullpen because his weak defense is a liability in the later innings and Garcia, Myers, Hamels, and Moyer have too much talent to pitch in relief. Adam Eaton has said the he is willing to be a “good soldier” and spend time in the Phillies bullpen.

There are a number of benefits to keeping Lieber through the beginning of the season. First Eaton will strengthen the Phillies bullpen. He will likely be used as a long reliever. If one of the other Phillies starters struggled then Eaton could come in and pitch five innings in a pinch. Keeping Lieber also provides great insurance for the Phillies starting rotation. If one of the Phillies starters gets injured then they have a dependable pitcher to go to instead of a AAA prospect. Finally the longer the Phillies keep Lieber the more his value increases. Every year at the trade deadline there is a team looking for a bona fide starting pitcher. Holding on to Lieber would put the Phillies in a good position to strengthen their roster down the stretch.

Notes: Team roster likely set
By Ken Mandel /

Time to step up for some Phillies
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Gillick forecasts improved starting pitching
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Jon Lieber from

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Phillies avoid arbitration with Rowand

The Phillies have avoided arbitration with Aaron Rowand, agreeing to a one year 4.35 million dollar contract. The contract also includes performance incentives.

"I never really worried about it because I knew I would be here this year," Rowand said. "You never want to get into those arbitration hearings because they can get really ugly."

Rowand arrived last off-season in the Jim Thome trade. He brought with him his gritty style of play and his golden glove to Philadelphia. Rowand’s popularity grew quickly after he broke his nose crashing into the center field fence while making a game saving catch. Rowand started off very hot before his sensational catch, batting .306 with a 7 HRs and .350 OBP in 144 ABs. After he returned from injury his batting average and power plummeted. Rowand suffered another injury later on August 21 breaking his ankle in a collision with Chase Utley.

Rowand should hit around .280 with power and speed. Rowand will probably bat out of the six hole behind Pat Burrell. Rowand’s injuries have healed and he should be a big contributor to the Phillies defense and offense.

Phillies, Rowand avoid arbitration
By Ken Mandel /

Tigers won’t have to go to arbitration; Taguchi signs
By New Services

Picture of Aaron Rowand from

Monday, January 15, 2007

Phillies add pieces to the bullpen

As reported earlier the Phillies signed contracts with Ryan Madson and Antonio Alfonseca. Both these players will be pieces in the puzzle of the Phillies bullpen.

Last season Madson was yanked back and forth from the starting rotation to the bullpen like a yo-yo. Madson still has the goal of starting but his track record shows he’s a more effective pitcher as a reliever. Madson, who spent his first two seasons in the pen, had a stellar rookie year in 2004 pitching in 55 games with a 2.34 ERA. In his sophomore season Madson pitched increasingly in critical late inning situations. He pitched well that year with a solid 4.14 ERA in 78 games. Last season Madson struggled as a starter. In 17 starts he had an ugly 6.28 ERA. In his time as a reliever Madson had an average 4.50 ERA in 33 games.

There are several reasons to expect that Madson’s 2007 performance will be closer to 2004 than 2006. First, in 2006 Madson was hurt by having to switch from starting to coming in as a reliever. Pitching is as much a mental exercise as it is physical and this season Madson has the benefit of knowing that his stay in the pen is permanent. Last season you could see the difference just watching him as a reliever and a starter. As a starter the velocity on his fastball dropped from the mid to low 90s, his change up was less deceptive, and he couldn’t control his curve. Some pitchers like Madson are just to built to be relievers and not starters. All signs point to Madson having a successful 2007 in the Phillies bullpen.

Antonio Alfonseca is a different story. First the deal is not yet official; Alfonseca has to pass a physical. The details of the contract aren’t available because the deal isn’t yet official but reportedly with incentives the contract is worth a maximum of 1.1 million dollars. Alfonseca is an interesting player. He has spent most of the past two seasons injured. Last season then Texas Rangers cut Alfonseca in mid season and he spent his second half rehabbing his injured elbow. Alfonseca’s spent his first few seasons as a closer compiling a career high 45 saves with the Marlins in 2000. However he was never a great closer, he had a solid ERA but blew a ton of saves. In 2002 he lost his job with the Cubs closing out only 19 of 28 games. He had his best statistical season in 2004 as a setup man for the Braves pitching in 79 games with 2.57 ERA. Alfonseca has pitched very well so far in the Dominican Winter League regular season, throwing 9.1 innings with an 1.93 ERA. Alfonseca's excellent pitching continued in the round robin playoffs where he threw 5.1 innings and didn't give up a run. Alfonseca’s role with the Phillies is still far from set.

First and most important to Alfonseca’s success is that he is healthy. That by itself is the most important factor in his success as a Phillie. If healthy he could serve as a set up man like he did in Atlanta. The Phillies would be getting a great value out of Alfonseca if he was able to pitch in late inning situations because of how little they will be paying him this season. In any case the Phils will get an even better look at him during spring training and if he doesn’t pan out, he will be cut. I think it's unlikely that Pat Gillick will settle with Alfonseca. He will continue to shop Jon Lieber for a quality reliever. In the unlikely situation where Gillick can't move Lieber than Alfonseca may be the Phillies man.

Phils agree with Alfonseca, Madson
By Ken Mandel /

Alfonseca could be Phils' setup answer
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Ryan Madson, picture of Antonio Alfonseca

Phillies sign Madson and Alfonseca

The Phillies secured an important part of their bullpen avoiding arbitration with Ryan Madson agreeing to a one year 1.1 million dollar contract.

The Phillies also agreed to terms with former closer Antonio Alfonseca, signing him to another one year 1.1 million dollar contract. Alfonseca spent much of the last two season’s injured but spent this off-season rehabbing his injuries.

Phillies Agree with Madson, Alfonseca
From Baseball Think Factory

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The next Phillie in the HOF is…

This week we found out what we already knew. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. were voted into the Hall of Fame and Mark McGwire will have to wait. As is normally the custom around this time of year the analysts and reporters have been speculating about who will make it into the Hall in future years.

So I began to ponder about former Phillies enshrined for the rest of time in the Hall of Fame. The most recent Phillie Hall of Famer to spend the majority of their career with in Philadelphia is the man, the myth, the legend, Michael Jack Schmidt. Schmidt inducted in 1995 made it into the HOF a year after Steve “Lefty” Carlton. Before that you have to go back 18 years to 1976, the year Robin Roberts was inducted. Other notable Phillies inductees include Tony Perez (Class of 2000) and Joe Morgan (Class of 1990) who were both part of the 1983 Phillies team the made it to the World Series.

The next best hope for a Phillie to make it into the HOF is Dale Murphy. Murphy spent the majority of his career with the Atlanta Braves but also played for the Phillies for two and half seasons from 1990 to 1992. Murphy earned five consecutive Golden Glove Awards and back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983. He meets the dominance for a decade test compiling more runs, hits, extra base hits, and RBIs than any other player in the NL during the 1980’s. Despite those stellar stats Murphy’s chance of making it into the HOF don’t look great. Players need to get the vote of 75% of the 545 baseball writers who participate in HOF elections. In the nine years Murphys has been on the ballot the highest percentage of votes he has received was 23.25% in 2000. Since then the number of votes he has received has gone steadily down. On this most recent ballot he only received 9.2% of the vote. Murphy a squeaky clean Mormon could get a lift because of integrity he brought to the game, now stained by the steroid era. If Murphy doesn’t make it there are a few Phillies still in the Majors who have a shot at baseball immortality.

One former Phillie who may have a shot at the Hall is Curt Schilling. Schilling has 3015 strike outs, which ranks him 14th all time. Schilling 207 wins at this stage in his career means he probably will never make it to the 300 win plateau, the high watermark for pitchers. Schilling will get a boost from stellar performances in the playoffs. Schilling was the National League Championship Series MVP in 1993, the World Series MVP in 2001, and is maybe best known for pitching in the 2004 World Series despite having an injury that soaked his sock in blood. Schilling a free agent next year will hopefully continue his career and his journey towards the Hall with the Phillies.

Another former Phillie who has a chance at enshrinement in the HOF is Bobby Abreu. Abreu’s individual stats at first look don’t look impressive. Abreu has racked up 205 HRs and 271 SBs in his career; at first look these stats aren’t very impressive. What does distinguish Abreu is his ability to draw walks, which contributes to his stellar .412 career OBP. In addition Abreu is one of four players to have six consecutive seasons with twenty home runs and twenty stolen bases. The others are Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, and Barry Bonds; that’s pretty exclusive company. Abreu like Schilling has a few more years left to pad his stats.

The former Phillie who has the best chance at making the Hall is slugger Jim Thome. Thome will most likely enter the 500 HR club. Thome who has 472 career HRs could surpass the 500 mark next season. Thome for a pure slugger also has a stellar .409 career OBP. One potential mark against Thome is that although he has never been personally accused of steroid use the cloud of performance enhancing drugs hangs over all cotemporary power hitters.

The Phillies also have a number of young talented players. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins all have tremendous potential but will need to continue to produce for many years in the future to merit induction consideration. The truth is that it may be a while before another Phillie has their image sculpted into a bronze plaque. With a bit of luck and a bit of hard work these younger Phillies have a chance at the highest individual honor baseball has to offer.


“Who is Karim Garcia?”

Today many Phillies fans echo that question originally posed by Pedro Martinez. At the time Pedro then a Red Sock had beaned Garcia then a Yankee in frustration over giving up the lead. Garcia publicly complained after the game and in response Pedro queried, “Who is Karim Garcia? I have no respect for that guy.”

The object of Pedro Matinez’s disdain has agreed in principle to a Minor League contract with the Phillies. Garcia has spent his ten-year major league career as a journeyman playing for the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Yankees, and Mets. In his ten years as a utility outfielder Garcia has batted .241 with 66 HRs. He has spent the last two seasons playing in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes batting .281 with 34 HRs. According to Marcus Hayes, Garcia has lost weight since bowing out of the Major Leagues.

Garcia is now the front-runner to make the Phillies as their fifth outfielder. Garcia fills the need of the Phillies for a left-handed power bat off the bench. Garcia has played all three outfield positions but is better suited for playing the corner outfield positions. The roster spot doesn’t yet belong to Garcia. The Phillies are also looking into signing Todd Hollandsworth to a Minor League deal. If Garcia does make the team he will definitely be a big step down from David Dellucci who played the same role last year. Hopefully the Phillies will get Hollandsworth who isn’t a great option but at least has a reputation as a baseball player and not a Pedro Martinez punch line.

Garcia agrees to Minor League deal
By Ken Mandel /

Who is he? He’s the newest Phillie
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pedro Martinez Entry

Picture of Karim Garcia from

Friday, January 05, 2007

The fifth and final outfielder

When the Phillies signed Jason Werth I thought they had found all of their outfielders. The Phillies proved me wrong when they traded Jeff Conine to the Reds for two Minor League prospects. The Phillies have a lot of confidence in Werth. Pat Gillick commented after the Conine trade that he thinks, “Werth is a better option for us at this point." The Phillies had Werth penciled in as the fourth outfielder even before they shipped Conine to Cincinnati. "We weren't going to be able to give Jeff the playing time that we thought we were a month ago, six weeks ago," said Pat Gillick explaining the trade. The Conine trade leaves the Phillies with a hole in their outfield.

The Phillies will be looking to add a left-handed hitting outfielder with power. It’s unlikely the Phillies will get that player in a trade. The Phillies don’t want to trade Minor League talent depleting their farm system, like they did last season when they sent Robinson Tejeda to Texas for David Dellucci. The Phillies one trade chip is Jon Lieber. The Phillies would like to trade him for a set up man, but they might get a trade partner to throw in left handed bat. Another possible solution for the Phillies is to promote from within the organization.

The Phillies have two talented center fielders in the farm system already. Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn are both prized prospects. They have similar tools; both have speed, good defense, and project to hit around .300. Roberson is further along in his development, but Bourn is considered to have a higher ceiling in terms of talent. Roberson who right now is playing winter ball in Mexico is hitting .277 with 5 HRs, 22 RBIs, 44 Runs, and 10 SBs in 231 ABs. Bourn hit .277 with 5 HRs, 41 RBIs, 96 Runs, and 45 SBs in 470 ABs at both AA Reading and AAA Scranton last season. Neither of these players provides much power, which will probably hurt their chances of making the team. While utilizing the farm system is a possibility the most likely source for the final Phillies Outfielder will be free agency.

There are a number of free agents who remained unsigned. Among those free agents Ricky Ledee, Steve Finley, and Jeromy Burnitz stand out. Ledee who struggled last year (batting .188) but played well for the Phillies from 2002-2004 (hitting 28 HRs in 581 ABs in a utility out fielding role). While not the most talented of the group, Ledee could be a solid fit. Finley and Burnitz have both chosen in past seasons to sign with bad teams where they could get more of an opportunity to play. Perhaps one of these players could be drawn to sign with the Phils if they want a chance to play for a winning team. Finley is a solid offensive player with 303 career HRs who can also steal a few bags. Finley a center fielder could play all three-outfield positions, potentially providing flexibility to Charlie Manuel. Burnitz is a power bat through and through. He will strike out a lot and also hit his home runs. Burnitz can play in the corner outfield positions. If the Phillies could convince either Finley or Burnitz to sign they would give the Phillies a strong left-handed bat, strengthening the Phillies bench.

Phillies send Conine to Reds
By Ken Mandel /

Reds send pair of minor-leaguers to Philly for Conine
Associated Press

Picture of Jason Werth from

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The search for a set up man

aThe Phillies have made many improvements this off-season. The 2006 rotation of Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, Ryan Madson, and Gavin Floyd has been overhauled. This year only Myers remains; Freddy Garcia, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Jamie Moyer join him. That rotation combined with an offense that led the National League in runs will make the Phillies in the words of Pat Gillick, “probably a better club than it was a year ago”.

The Phillies bullpen has not been a big part of that change. Struggling relievers Aaron Fultz, Arthur Rhodes, and Rick White won’t return. No one will miss these pitchers who often had a pension for allowing big numbers to make it onto the scoreboard. Despite this addition by subtraction the Phillies bullpen still has a big hole.

For the most part the shape of Phillies bullpen is set. Assuming the Phillies carry 12 pitchers with five starters they have seven roster spots for relievers. Tom Gordon will pitch the ninth inning closing out games for the Phillies. Geoff Geary could pitch in the eighth inning, but is better suited for a role pitching in the seventh. Ryan Madson who pitched poorly as a starter will return to pitching in sixth and seventh innings where he has had much greater success. Left-handed Matt Smith has a nasty slider and will serve as a good left handed specialist. Rule five draft picks Alfredo Simon and James Warden will be given a shot to pitch in blowouts. That leaves one spot for a set up man. The Phillies would like to find a dependable reliever with closing experience. When Tom Gordon went down last year with an elbow injury the Phils bullpen struggled without a clearly defined closer. Given Gordon’s age its reasonable to expect he could spend time on the DL in 2007. It's not a luxury for the Phillies to get another reliever it's a necessity.

There free agent pool has not free agents that peak the interest of the Phillies. The Phils do have a major trade chip in Jon Lieber. Trade talks have dried up with Texas, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee. Fortunately for the Phils dependable pitchers like Lieber are always in demand. Possible trade partners include the Cardinals, Twins, and Astros. All of those teams need starting pitching and have relievers to trade. The most likely trade partner is the St. Louis Cardinals. Out of all the Cardinal pitchers they have only three definite starters Chris Carpenter, Kip Wells, and Anthony Reyes. Adam Wainwright who closed at the end of the season could step into the rotation if Jason Isringhausen is healthy enough to be the closer. They have nowhere to go for starting pitching after Wainwright.

Despite their lack of starting pitch the Cardinals do have many healthy relievers including Braden Looper. Looper was pursued by the Phillies last off-season when he was a free agent. He has closing experience with the Marlins and Mets compiling 103 saves in his career. Looper pitched very well in a set up role for the World Series Champion Cardinals. Last year he had 9 wins and 3 losses with 3.56 ERA in 73 and a third innings. Looper would serve as an excellent set up man.

Phillies Trade Conine to Reds
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Monday, January 01, 2007

Howard looking for the big bucks

Ryan Howard has dismissed his agent Larry Reynolds. This move by the National League MVP could be a precursor for him to push for a new contract. Considering his superb production and his $355,000 salary the Phillies got some serious bang for their buck in 2006. Taking in view this off season when GMs handed out obscenely large contracts like making money was going out of style the Phillies were truly fortunate to get such huge value out of a player.

Howard won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2007 season and won’t be a free agent until after the 2011. So as far as Howard’s 2007 salary goes the Phillies can choose to pay him what they want. Phil’s Assistant GM Ruben Amaro did comment that, “He’s obviously due a big raise.” How big a raise he will get is unclear. The Phillies total salary will probably end up in the 90-95 million dollar range. So they do have some room to work with. They could hypothetically trim their payroll even more if the player or players they would receive in a Jon Lieber trade come with cheap contracts. Hopefully the Phillies brain trust will choose to show Howard some respect and award him a salary in the range of 4-5 million dollars.

Negotiations for a long-term deal with Howard haven’t happened yet. Pat Gillick has been focusing on trading Lieber and finding a set up man. The Phillies also hope to avoid salary arbitration with Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Madson, and Geoff Geary. Utley, Myers, and Geary are due for big pay raises. The huge contracts GMs handed out this off-season will also force the Phillies to offer more money to their arbitration eligible. After the Phils more pressing needs at dealt with Gillick might start working on a contract extension for Howard.

I hope that Howard considers the success of the team if he chooses to ask for a contract extension. He most certainly deserves big money but he’s young and will get his money eventually. If he pushes the Phils for a contract extension too hard and the Phils give in then it could hurt the team’s chances for success in the long run.

Howard dismisses agent; Phils mull raise New Services

Report: Howard looking for new agent

Phils’ Howard fires agent
By Todd Zolecki and Claire Smith / Philadelphia Inquirer