Friday, July 30, 2010

This Town is Big Enough for 2 Roys

I hated the Cliff Lee trade No. 2. Everything about it. That moronic decision to trade the greatest man who ever lived, combined with Raul Ibanez's ill-advised contract, the Joe Blanton extension, the Jamie Moyer extension that unnecessarily included a second year and the Danys Baez signing, put me at my wit's end. Then …

Talk about pulling yourself out of a self-imposed hole. The Phillies absolutely robbed the Astros blind with this deal. Roy Oswalt, a former 20-game winner who currently has a 3.42 ERA, 1.109 WHIP and 120 strikeouts to just 34 walks in 129 innings, is now a Philadelphia Phillie. All the Phils had to give up was J.A. Happ — a young lefty who has pitched very well for the Phillies, but a guy who also throws very straight pitches, has probably overachieved thus far, and is coming off an injury that took him forever to recover from, rendering him so ineffective that he wasn't even recalled to the big club when he was healthy — and marginal prospects Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar. Oh, and the Astros are paying $11 million of Oswalt's remaining contract. Thanks, Ed Wade!

You can complain all you want about the Phils trading away Cliff Lee — god knows I have — but it's evident that Ruben and the Phils realized they made a mistake, so they did their best to go out and correct it. Look at the top of the rotation now, compared to both 2008 and 2009. In 08, when the Phils became World Fucking Champions, their top three were Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer, with Joe Blanton as the No. 4. Last year, it was Cliff Lee, Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and then Blanton. Now, they have Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, followed again by Blanton. And they have that Roy, Cole, Roy combo for at least this year and next, potentially for 2012 as well. Right now, the Phillies rotation is a lot better than it was in 2008 or 2009, and it's one that will be together for at least two runs toward October. We now have the Royz N the Hood.

Just like that, the Phillies have gone from dead in the water merely a week ago to within 2.5 games of Atlanta for first place in National League East and 1.5 games of San Francisco for the Wild Card. Suddenly, they are the NL East favorites again, hell, the National League Pennant favorites again. And potentially World Series favorites — no starting rotation boasts as fearsome a trio as Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt. Sure, the Yankees, Rays, Giants and Cardinals have some big names and great pitchers, and the Padres and Rangers have excellent rotations, but three guys as good as Roy, Cole and Roy? I don't know about that.

That doesn't mean the Phillies are destined for their third straight trip to the World Series. Not by a long shot. In fact, they still have work to do just to make it to the postseason. But this move again proved that the Phillies aren't scared to make big moves, that Ruben Amaro and company are determined to give this team a chance to continue its recent success. Say what you will about several of his moves, most notably Cliff Lee No. 2, but Ruben has shown some brass balls these past few years. And in the past year alone, he's brought in three 20-game winners — Cliff Lee last year, Roy Halladay this offseason and Roy Oswalt now. Actually, make that four, if you want to include Pedro Martinez. That's three Cy Young winners and another 20-game winner, a remarkable feat no matter how you slice it.

Just as I was beginning to get excited about the Eagles, the Phillies go make a big splash. There's nothing but excitement once again in the air at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are hot, starting their annual second-half tear, now winners of eight straight. They're right within striking distance of first place. Roy Halladay has been everything we expected and more. Cole Hamels has returned to form. And even with the offense struggling and the injuries piling up, the team is still afloat. Domonic Brown finally made his long-awaited debut in impressive fashion. And now Roy Oswalt is a Phillie, making his first start for the Fightins tonight in D.C., just like the other Roy did, beating the Nationals 11-1 all the way back on April 5 by tossing 7 innings of 6-hit, one-run ball with 9 strikeouts. Now it's the other Roy's turn.

Believe me, this town is big enough for the both of them. It's still a great time to be a Phillies fan. If the bullpen can hold up and the offense starts to produce like it can — and the team gets healthy — there's no reason the Phils can't get back to the World Series for a third straight time.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Roy. We're happy to have you.

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It's Friday, Time to Dance

Philadelphia has suddenly become the Roy capital of the world, with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt — who makes his Phillies debut tonight in Washington — manning the pitching rotation. So might as well do some dancing to some famous Roys.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcome to the Show

All it took was one mighty swing and I was hooked. Domonic Brown very well may be my favorite player on the Phillies right now.

Yesterday, I was traveling for work. When I finally returned to my home in Philadelphia, I had no idea that the most anticipated prospect since Ryan Howard had been called up. I didn't find out until I plopped myself in front of my TV as the top of the 2nd inning was wrapping up. There on the corner of the screen, I saw this: Werth, Brown, Ruiz.

I turned to my roommates and said, "Wait, Dom Brown is playing? He got called up?" And they were both like, uh, yeah. Thanks for letting me know. I was incredibly excited. Beyond excited, you could say, to see him play. And he didn't disappoint, crushing a double to right on a pitch down and in in his first big-league at-bat, just barely missing a home run, driving in Jayson Werth, who had led off with a double. Yeah, this guy's gonna fit in quite well here.

All he did from there is ground out sharply to first, then single, then drive in another run on a sac fly. All in all, he finished his Major League debut with a statline of 2-for-3, 2 runs scored, 2 RBIs and a double. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. The only downside was his ill-advised attempt at a diving catch in the 9th, thus blowing the great Roy Halladay's shutout. I'm sure Roy and company had a little something to say to the kid about that afterward, but something tells me all is forgiven. He had to be a bit excited out there, this being his debut and all.

Speaking of Harry LeRoy Halladay, he was brilliant yet again. Another complete game, this time with 9 strikeouts and no walks. Damn near a shutout if it wasn't for Brown's youthful exuberance. The guy is a machine. And the Phillies, who looked just about as dead as any team could possibly look a week ago, look like the machine that has dominated in the second half the past three years. A team poised to make another run at it, now just 3.5 games back of Atlanta in the division and 2.5 games back of San Francisco in the Wild Card, bitches.

And rumor has it, even more help is on its way, possibly:

According to an article citing a Houston television station, the Phillies and Astros have a deal in place that would send Roy Oswalt to the Phillies.

The deal was reportedly waiting for Roy's approval. JA Happ, Vance Worley, and now first baseman Jonathan Singleton are the names being tossed around as potential players heading to the Astros.

Come on, Mr. Oswalt. Waive that no-trade clause. Come to a contender. Join that other Roy in both your quest for that elusive World Series. What a difference a week makes.

Oh, and you can read my post on the Eagles over at Ed The Sports Fan.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The shitty Phillies, who can't even win more than one game in a series anymore these days, come back home tonight to host the Rockies. I hear that John Denver is full of shit.

What a great movie.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dear Charlie, What the Hell?

Seriously, what the fucking hell? Why would you not pinch-hit for Joe Blanton? Why? Game tied 1-1 in the 7th, bases loaded two out, and your pitcher spot comes up -- that pitcher being Joe Blanton who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on the night.

Your team has enough problems scoring runs, you can't give away a bases-loaded opportunity. But you did. You just gave it away. Completely. Even with a righthanded bat left on the bench in Wilson Valdez. And predictably, Blanton struck out on three pitches, never coming close to even touching one, leaving three runners on base.

After that, everyone in Philadelphia knew he was going to give up a home run to Matt Holliday. And he did. Now the Phils are losing 2-1 in the 8th. It was the most inexplicable moves in the history of baseball. Honestly, what the fuck?

I don't even care if the Phils come back and win this game. That was dumb. Beyond dumb. Straight-up retard. Charlie, I know you've won a World Series and a hell of a lot of games and all, but you just went full retard.

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Way back when in the early days of this fine establishment, I professed my love for Zoe Bouchelle, a former Penn State women's soccer player whom I fell for (unbeknownst to her) while covering the team in college.

I bring this up because tonight, before both the Phillies and Union started, I flipped on Comcast SportsNet and saw that WPS Soccer was on, the Women's Professional Soccer League, and I started to investigate online. That's when I found out that a)there's a team in Philadelphia (the Independence), and b)former Penn State standout Joanna Lohman plays for them.

This was particular interesting to me for a couple reasons. For starters, when myself and The Charles were covering the Penn State women's team during our collegiate days, Lohman, who had graduated the year before, was working out with her alma mater's team and working in the Penn State Sports Information Department. Each and every home game, The Charles and I were in the booth with her. It wasn't exactly what she wanted to do -- she had planned to join the Women's United Soccer Association, but it folded before she graduated. So she spent every home game with us, and was one of the friendliest people I've ever met.

She also looked vastly different than she does today. Just check out some older video.

Seeing Lohman, now residing in the same city as me yet again (in State College back in the day, and in Philadelphia now), got me thinking about the player who took the reigns from her when I was covering the team. That would be none other than Tiffany Weimer.

Weimer finished as the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer, and helped lead the Lions to the No. 2 seed in the country when I was covering the team. Now she's back near her native Connecticut playing for the Boston Breakers. She's also a blogger just like me. I think perhaps we should get married.

Seriously, I may have to start posting some comments on there.

Anyway, this is how bad it's gotten for the Phillies. In the middle of the season, near the trade deadline, I'm writing about former Penn State women's soccer players that are playing in something called the WPS.

I'd still marry Zoe Bouchelle today if she was willing. Or Joanna. Or Tiffany.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thanks for the Memories, Simon

He was injury-prone, too soft, too old, too expensive. He was also Philadelphia's longest-tenured athlete before he was traded to Tampa Bay for Matt Walker and a fourth-round pick, a two-time all-star, an Olympian, a lethal scorer and an underrated two-way player.

Simon Gagne was all of these things, but more than anything, Simon Gagne was the epitome of class. Through all the ups and downs, Gagne never made any excuses, never took a shift off, never complained. Perhaps his injury woes made him appreciate the game a little bit more. And the fans appreciated him for it. Gagne knows that, and he's grateful for that:

"I think the thing I will miss the most are the Flyers fans. All the support I got there for the 10 years that I played, even during the tough times when I had some injuries, the fans were really fair with me the whole time. There were a lot of No. 12 jerseys in the stands even when I started with the team in 1999. To them, I would just like to say a huge thank you. Those are the people I am going to miss the most."

Truth be told, Gagne shouldn't be thanking us; we should be thanking him. Thanking him for all those incredible seasons, for all the memorable goals, for the way he matured from a scorer to a true sniper to a tremendous two-way player, from a green forward ceding the room to the John LeClairs and Eric Lindroses to becoming an exemplary leader with his play and with his actions. He was the definition of class, a man and player no one ever uttered a negative word about beyond he gets hurt too much. That's what makes his departure so sad. Everyone knew Gagne's days as a Flyer were numbered — a casualty of the cap and father time. But, well, it was just so hard to picture him in any other sweater but the Orange and Black that even now I won't quite believe it when I see it.

Given his concussion troubles and injuries over the past three seasons, it's easy to forget just how good of a player this guy was for the Flyers. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 1999-2000 with 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points in 80 games, finishing a plus-11. He followed that up with 59 points as a sophomore (27 goals, 32 assists) at plus-24 and 66 points (33 g, 33 a) and a plus 31 in his third season. Then the first injury came, a groin that just never quite would heal. He played just 46 games, posting 27 points on 9 goals and 18 assists, still good enough for a plus-20 rating.

But contrary to popular belief, Gagne didn't make it a habit of getting hurt immediately after that. In fact, he followed that up by playing 80, 72 and 76 games the next three seasons, putting up staggering numbers. In 2003-04, Gagne had another 20-20 season, netting 24 goals and 21 assists with yet another plus rating at plus-12. The next year, he hit his statistical peak, scoring a career-high 47 goals to go along with 32 assists for a career-high 79 points, finishings a plus-31. And in 2006-07, he again scored more than 40 goals, netting 41 pucks and adding 27 assists even as the Flyers struggled to their worst season ever.

But then the concussion happened. Gagne played just 25 games, and many fans thought he'd never be the same again … and perhaps it was time for Gagne to go. He had missed virtually the entire run that saw the Flyers go from worst season in franchise history to the Eastern Conference Finals. When everyone thought he was done, Gagne came back last year and posted 34 goals and 40 assists, finished a plus-21, tallied the second most points of his career. And even this year, when he missed significant time due to injury again, he had 17 goals and 23 assists … and scored the biggest goal of the playoffs:

In all, Simon Gagne scored 259 regular-season goals as a Philadelphia Flyer, tallied 265 assists, for a total of 524 points. In 10 seasons, he finished a plus-143, having just two minus seasons in his entire career. He played in 90 playoff games, scoring 32 goals and adding 15 assists, and had a flair for the dramatic, scoring 6 game-winners, including one against his new team.

It was time for Gagne to leave, but that doesn't make it any easier. He was a great player, a great teammate, a great human being. He will always be revered in Philadelphia, always be respected, and that's saying a lot for a guy with a reputation as injury-prone. You have to be pretty special, pretty memorable to get past that label here in Philadelphia. And Simon Gagne was. Thanks for the memories, Simon. Best of luck down south.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Phillies are out in Chicago for a four-game set with the Cubs. Last night was a tough one, as Jamie Moyer and Jose Contreras got lit up, but they're in Chicago for three more games. So in honor of the Windy City, and the late Chris Farley, and Michael Jordan, enjoy (4:55 in):

And you know, since it's the Cubs, might as well get a little Harry Caray in there:

More here and here.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

What I Did Last Night

Seeing as there was exactly nothing else remotely worth watching on television last night, I decided to actually do some wash and tune in to CSN's replay of the Sixers hosting the Bulls in 1987 at the Spectrum, where Michael Jordan had 49 points (19-35), 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks but couldn't push Chicago past Philadelphia because Charles Barkley had an even better game than Jordan, with 40 points (12-17), 21 rebounds and 5 assists.

Interesting note, former Sixer all-star and current Sixers coach Doug Collins was still employed by the Bulls as Michael Jordan's first NBA head coach. He was just 35 at the time, the youngest coach in the NBA.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All-Star Weariness Links

Believe it or not, I usually watch the entire MLB All-Star game. Even when "it didn't count" (it shouldn't). But last night during the 5th inning, I found myself becoming incredibly tired. Like, no way I was going to make it tired. So after Roy Halladay faced his three batters in the 6th, that was it for me. I went to bed with the NL trailing 1-0, Ryan Howard doing nothing as DH and Roy Halladay facing three batters — surrendering two hits, striking out Paul Konerko and getting a helping hand from Brandon Phillips, who wisely stayed with the tag to get Elvis Andrus after he came off the bag following a steal. So I missed the National League's come-from-behind win. Let's hope the Phils can get to a third straight World Series and have home field advantage this time.

Let's link …

-For starters, head on over to Ed the Sports Fan and check out my Cliff Lee post. Kenny is a Texas native and Rangers fan, and he wanted to know a little more about last season's Phillies playoff hero, so I gladly obliged.

Man, I miss that guy.

-Watch Pete Incaviglia slide home on a wild pitch and a little kid fall out of the stands and onto the field, spilling all his popcorn.

I miss the Vet too.

-Philadelphia will host the Frozen Four in 2014, and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna try to go.

-The Flyers signed Dan Carcillo to a one-year, $1.075 million contract. Despite being a healthy scratch much of the Stanley Cup final, I'm happy to have him back, but his signing does put the Flyers $2.5 million over the cap, meaning more moves are to come.

-The Eagles signed Riley Cooper, which can't be good news for Hank Baskett.

-Andrea Kramer gets an unwelcome phone call.

-Penn Stater Andrew Quarless signed with the Packers after being picked by Green Bay in the 5th round, via BSD.

I can envision Quarless as one of those players that has a better pro career than he did college career. At Penn State, Quarless was dogged with an underachieving label, often getting in Joe Paterno's doghouse. But everyone knew he had all the talent in the world, and he actually quietly had a very nice senior season. I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be a steal.

-Cheer up, Cavs fans, you just signed former Villanova standout Kyle Lowry to an offer sheet.

It would be pretty sweet to see him playing along former St. Joe's guard Delonte West.

-Speaking of Villanova basketball players, Shane Clark, genius, via Deadspin.

-Ziller believe an avocado would do a better job than Wolves GM David Kahn, and it's hard to argue with the man.

-Even though it didn't count, this dunk was still pretty sweet:

-A list of Phillies all-stars from the past three decades. There are quite a few surprising names on that list.

-Ruben Amaro's words make me very, very angry:

Q: So are you kicking yourself now knowing that you had that pitching in Cliff Lee in December? You had to figure you would need pitching at this point, right?
A: If we had Cliff Lee we wouldn't have Roy Halladay. It's pretty simple.
Q: If you couldn't have Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but still can get pitching help right now, why were those two things mutually exclusive?
A: Time and circumstance dictates some of the things you can and cannot do.

Q: What do you mean?
A: We just felt like we were in a position to be able to hold one guy and not to hold the other guy. We had to put ourselves in a position not to leave our club and our organization with the cupboard bare. By moving all of this talent from our organization it just made it very difficult to continue doing business long term.

Q: Do you have enough in the cupboard now to get somebody that could make a difference
A: I think we do.

Q: So then wouldn't your cupboard be bare again?
A: It depends on the deal I can make.

Q: Could you add payroll?
A: Yes.

So basically, there's absolutely no reason Cliff Lee shouldn't still be a Phillie. Awesome.

-Here's video of two highly touted recruits, UNC freshman Harrison Barnes and NC State freshman C.J. Leslie, going at it:

-I agree with Dash.

-The Braves traded Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes for Alex Gonzalez and two minor leaguers. That's right, the Atlanta Braves just traded a 27-year-old shortstop who has batted .326, .288 and .299 in his first three seasons, before struggling to the clip of .238 this year, for a 33-year-old shortstop with a career .248 average. Yes, Gonzalez does have 17 home runs and 50 RBI somehow this year, but that's an aberration that will surely even itself out. Gonzalez has only hit more than 17 home runs twice in his career, in 2003 (18) and 2004 (23). I'm absolutely thrilled with this. Sure, Escobar was struggling this year, but he started out injured and has a pretty consistent track record, while Gonzalez is much older and truthfully not as good as Escobar. Chalk this one up for the Phillies.

-Ladies and gentlemen, The Basketball Jones still kicks ass:

Hedo Turkoglu: Party Machine, skips town from The Basketball Jones on Vimeo.

TBJ exclusive: 'Multiple Sources' uncovered from The Basketball Jones on Vimeo.

-Just when you think the Nets couldn't possibly sink any lower after last season's embarrassing effort, they go and hire Billy King to take over as GM for Rod Thorn. Yes, that Billy King. The one who signed Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver to ridiculous contracts, and Kenny Thomas, and a million other players. The GM who basically didn't do a single good thing when he was running the Sixers.

If I was Ed Stefanski (no great GM here in Philly himself), I'd get on the phone immediately and offer Elton Brand for Brook Lopez. Seems like something dumb Billy King would do.

-If you describe someone with the words his style reminds me of Brandon Jennings back in high school, then you are sure as shit going to get me to take notice:

For the record, that's Amir Garrett, and unlike Brandon Jennings, he's 6'5"

-RUN TMC was the shit:

-New LeBron commercials:

-Finally, the 2010 Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame class was named: Phil Jasner, Dick Allen, Mike Quick, Hobie Baker, Elizabeth Becker, Tom Brookshier, Ron Hextall, William Hyndman III, Bobby Jones, Leroy Kelly, Tug McGraw, Jim Phelan, Bobby Shantz, Marianne Stanley, Joe Walcott and the Lighthouse Boys Club.

No sports tonight. Enjoy life. If the rain allows.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nothing but Empty Calories and Male Curiosity

So iconic Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died today. A lot of people didn't like Steinbrenner for his brash attitude and aggressive pursuit of players by throwing ungodly amounts of money at them. But I can honestly say, he's the type of owner every franchise, every fanbase wishes it had. The guy wanted nothing more than to win, and I can't help but respect that. So now I honor him the only way I know how … Larry David on Seinfeld.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Every Day Should Be Halladay

For the first time in a long time, it's July and I actually haven't been to boatloads of Phillies games as of yet. I attribute this to many things — increased activity outside of work such as joining adult sports leagues, limited ticket availability due to so many sellouts (yeah right, like I can't just scalp some tickets), the Flyers' playoff run, etc. But mostly, I attribute it to being broke as shit despite making way more money than I ever have in my entire life.

Seeing as I had only been to a few Phillies games prior to last week, I had the unfortunate situation of never, ever having seen one Harry Leroy Halladay pitch in person, let alone as a member of the Phillies. Well, that all changed this past week, as I attended his start last Monday against Atlanta and again on Saturday against the Reds — both games in which the Phillies did everything in their power to try and lose despite Doc's brilliance. It was quite an honor to watch the Doc do his thing in person. My only regret is that it took me so damn long to finally witness it.

After spending the 4th of July weekend with the family, I was looking forward greatly to relaxing Sunday night while taking in some fireworks and resting for my first Roy Halladay experience on Monday, which I'd be taking in with my dad, cousin and aunt's boyfriend. With an off day thanks to celebrating our nation's independence, I had planned on heading down to the stadium area early with uncle jellyfish and tailgating my face off. But mother nature had other plans, raising the temperature to unbearable levels well above 100 degrees. Because she's a whore. So instead of baking on the blacktop and getting insanely dehydrated drinking too much brew, uncle jellyfish and his significant other wisely just came to my humble abode, where we downed several beers in the air conditioning prior to heading to the game.

When we walked out of the subway, it was still insanely hot, but not quite as brutal as it had been during the day, when I stupidly attempted to run in heat-warning conditions. I still sweated my ass off to no end as I walked to the stadium, but at least I didn't feel like I was going to die.

When the three of us reached the third-base gate, we parted ways and off I went toward my seats after nabbing an iced tea and trio of dollar dogs. Is it just me, or are the hot dogs at Citizens Bank not as good as they used to be at the Vet? I never noticed this before this season, but for some reason they just don't sit as well as they used to. But I digress.

I got to my seat in perfect time, just before the national anthem was set to begin. Talk about perfect timing given the heat. I hate being late, yet I really didn't want to get there even earlier than I had to and sweat all over myself. Somehow, it all worked out perfectly. And I was about to treated to an absolute gem by Roy. Though the game didn't exactly get off to the start I was hoping for.

Doc did start the game off by striking out Martin Prado and getting the worst all-star in a long time Omar Infante to line out to center. But you know how they say that striking out the first batter is bad luck? Well, yeah, on the first pitch Roy threw to historic Phillie killer Chipper Jones, Larry crushed said first-ball fastball deep to left center and out, 1-0 Braves. That didn't take long.

When even greater Phillie killer Brian McCann followed with a single, I thought that perhaps I was about to get the rare tough start by Roy. But Roy got familiar face Eric Hinske to pop out, and really, he was never in trouble again the rest of the night … except for being in trouble of not getting a win.

Roy breezed through the second, then the third, retiring eight straight batters until McCann doubled in the 4th. He followed that up by getting seven more Braves to go down in order before Chipper go this second hit, a double in the 6th. Basically, Roy was dealing, efficiently mowing down Brave after Brave. Only one problem … the Phils weren't doing a damn thing against another familiar face. Derek Lowe was at his Derek Lowe best, getting ground out after ground out after ground out. It didn't help that the Phils weren't being very patient, or that after Jayson Werth, the lineup looked like this: Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez, Dane Sardinha, Roy Halladay.

It was really frustrating. Here was Halladay, throwing another incredible game yet again, only to see the Phillies fail to score any runs for him yet again. The guy came into the game with a 9-7 record despite having an outstanding ERA under 2.50 and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the NL.

The Phils did have a chance to get to Lowe early and make Chipper's first-inning homer meaningless when Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs led off the 2nd with back-to-back singles. But Wilson Valdez followed that up with a ground out, though surprisingly not a double play and still successfully moving Werth to third and Dobbs to second. Problem was, Dane Sardinha was up, and he struck out with a horrible at-bat, and Roy followed by striking out himself. After that, the Phils didn't really threaten much, even with loading the bases in 5th thanks to an error. It was a Dane Sardinha two-out walk that loaded the bases, with Lowe knowing full well that Halladay was on deck. Really, not much of a threat.

I was really beginning to get pissed. The Phils were putting together awful at-bats. Jimmy and Shane still couldn't do a god damn thing at the top of the lineup and they were losing 1-0 with Halladay pitching a fucking gem. Then some asshole tried to start the mother fucking wave. In the 6th inning. With the Phillies losing 1-0, wasting another great outing by Roy. I wanted to kill him. Then I yelled at him to sit the fuck down and leave. Then I wished horrible death upon him. I can only hope he got what he deserved.

It's no secret that I'm 100 percent against the wave. But still, I can see the reason some people like it. Here's the thing, it's a celebratory action. Something you do when your team is up big and the fans are excited and happy and what's going on on the field is pretty irrelevant at that point in the game. Blowouts, things like that. It's definitely not meant for when your god damn team can't score a freaking run for a pitcher that is dominating and they're losing 1-0 in the god damn sixth inning. I really hate people.

But then, Charlie's decision to start Greg Dobbs in favor or Juan Castro or Cody Ransom proved to be a great one. Lowe is a low-ball pitcher, throwing sinkers and getting ground balls. Dobbs is a low-ball hitter, and since his recall from Lehigh Valley has actually been swinging a good bat. In the 6th, following a Ryan Howard ground out and Jayson Werth single, Dobbs tattooed a two-run home run to give the Phils a 2-1 lead. That was all Roy would need.

My first time seeing him in person was no disappointment. That first-inning home run was the only hiccup to an otherwise incredible performance. He went the distance, surrendering just 5 hits while striking out seven and walking just one. His control was uncanny, the pinpoint precision something to marvel. He kept his anemic offense in it until they finally could strike, and the offense thanked him by adding an insurance run in the 8th, a run Halladay didn't even need. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed with my first Halladay.

With the heat still on the next two days, we all saw the Phils lose the next two to the Braves, then the walkoff by Brian Schneider as I was losing money in Atlantic City and the homer brigade that included that other walkoff by Ryan Howard as I was getting drunk with guys from my baseball team.

Fun stuff, and it was all culminating with my second time seeing Roy Halladay pitch in six days courtesy of Arkansas Fred.

For the second straight time, Roy was all sorts of awesome. And for the second straight time, the offense was all sorts of awful. Halladay was even better on Saturday than he was last Monday, tossing 9 shutout innings, striking out 9 while surrendering just five hits and one walk. Yet he got screwed out of a win by his offense. Why? Because Travis freaking Wood threw 8 perfect innings before Curbball, in his first game back after suffering a concussion, doubled to lead off the 9th. That's right, Travis Wood took a perfect game into the 9th against the Phillies. While Roy Halladay was tossing a shutout. What the hell does Roy have to do to get some wins? Jesus fucking Christ.

Aside from watching Roy's brilliance, that game was awful. The Phils were being embarrassed by a rookie who had pitched just twice in the Majors in his entire life. And the guy's name wasn't Strasburg.

It was becoming unbearable to watch. And unbearable to breathe up in section 420, because some disgusting human being was letting loose the worst-smelling farts in the universe all game long. I wanted to die. Roy was dominating again, not even surrendering a single run, handling every Cincinnati Red he faced. Yet the Phils were being perfect-gamed against a nobody. Unreal.

And even when they finally broke through on Wood, they fucked it up. Ruiz led off that 9th with a double. That's when Charlie decided to pinch-hit for Juan Castro, who started at second, with Wilson Valdez. That seemed odd, because that was a spot where you have to bunt and get Ruiz to third with just one out, so wasting a pinch-hitter to bunt seems dumb. Especially since Castro absolutely should know how to bunt. Making the move even more baffling, Valdez didn't square around on the first pitch, which was a strike. What? But he did square next, and bunted the ball straight in the air for out No. 1, Ruiz still stuck on second. It was fucking awful.

Raul, who had the day off in favor of Ben Francisco against the left-handed Wood, flew out, and Jimmy followed with a pop out in foul territory. Ridiculous.

When Brad Lidge took the mound in the 10th, I was certain the game was over. Jay Bruce was leading off, and I had no doubt in my mind he was going yard. Instead, he thankfully only doubled, but still, there was a leadoff double, Miguel Cairo, the ex-Phil, followed by perfectly executing a sacrifice bunt to get Bruce to third, and now all Cincy needed was a fly ball to take the lead against an offense that has been nothing short of awful outside of Ryan Howard.

Lidge followed by walking Drew Stubbs, who promptly stole second because Brad Lidge can't hold anyone on ever. But Lidge did get Ryan Hanigan on strikes for out No. 2. I couldn't believe it … then I couldn't believe what I saw next. Lance Nix came up to pinch-hit, a lefty. Conventional wisdom is to walk the guy and go after the righty, which was Brandon Phillips on deck. However, Brandon Phillips is Brandon Phillips, all-star and excellent hitter. Lance Nix is a bench guy. I would have gone against the grain and had Lidge pitch against Nix, not loading the bases for Phillips, especially with the control issues Lidge has had this year. However, Charlie stuck to the book, walked Nix and had Lidge go after Phillips. Lidge proved Charlie was wise in his decision, getting Phillips to fly out to center and somehow miraculously end the threat with no damage.

After an uneventful bottom of the 10th and top of the 11th, Ruiz doubled again, this time with one out in the 11th. Wilson Valdez was intentionally walked. Yes, you read that correctly. And Ross Gload came in to hit for the pitcher's spot, flying out. Two outs, with Jimmy up. It looked like the Phils were going to waste another Ruiz double, and that this game was going to go on forever. Then this happened:

Three straight games. Three straight walkoff hits for the Phils. Three straight wins against the Reds. As cool as that was, it was still annoying as all hell. The Phils managed just one run and four hits in 11 innings. They didn't get a single base runner to reach until the 9th inning. And they robbed Roy Halladay of yet another win. The guy should have 15 wins, not 10. If he has a wins clause in his contract, the Phils better pay it to the man no matter what. He's earned more victories than he's actually received.

Of course, the Phils wrapped up the homestand with their fourth-straight win yesterday, sweeping the four-game set with the Reds. Which is nice. But again, it took another super-human pitching performance, this time by Cole Hamels. Because again, the Phils only scored one run, and again, they only had four hits. I understand the offense took a major hit with the losses of Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, but shit, they gotta find a way to score more runs than this. It's getting ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous. Thank god we have Roy Halladay to keep these sorry excuse for hitters in it.

Not that the other pitchers haven't been good, because for the most part they have (except for you, Joe Blanton; you suck), but the Phils almost need every day to be Halladay at this point.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Allen Iverson: Distraction in a Good Way

Could you use a break from LeBron/Wade/Bosh mania? And the Phillies' injury woes and struggles? And everything else for that matter? Well, here's a nice distraction: a bevy of Allen Iverson videos, many courtesy of thedanger3 by way of Antone.

Oh, and in more in the way of good distractions, the Flyers re-signed Braydon Coburn and acquired Andrej Meszaros and Sean O'Donnell, beefing up a defense that was already stellar, especially with the 24-year-old Meszaros. Keep checking The700Level for Flyers updates.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thanks A Lot, Chase

I know I'm supposed be gone fishin' for the next week-plus, but with news that Chase Utley's thumb is seriously fucked up, I had to finally get this off my chest.

I've been holding this in because, quite frankly, I'm not sure that anyone else quite feels this way, but now I'm doubly pissed. When Chase got thrown out trying to stretch what was clearly a single into a double, I lost my god damn mind. I mean completely lost it. Why? Because it was an absolutely stupid play. We all love Chase for his incredible hustle and fundamental play. We love when he takes the extra base. Which is why I was hesitant to write this in the first place. You don't want Chase to stop doing those things. However, in this instance it was completely unnecessary and absolutely killed the team — that's how I felt before anyone even knew he was hurt.

The reason is quite simple — there really wasn't much of a chance that Chase would make it. Watch the play again. He hit a sharp shot to to left center. It was a rocket, getting on the centerfielder Drew Stubbs quickly. Chase could watch Stubbs and the ball running to first and make the turn. If Stubbs turned his back or looked away or misplayed it, he could be off. But Stubbs did none of that. Not only that, but he had the play right in front of him, kept his head up and had Utley in his sights the entire time. He got to it and immediately fired to second because he could watch the play the entire way. It was a single, plain and simple, but Chase went for second anyway. Even though the play was relatively close, it was only because of Brandon Phillips' positioning and Chase's good slide to the inside of the bag. The ball beat him by a mile. He was a dead duck, getting tagged on the helmet. That took a runner off base for Ryan Howard, an RBI machine. And even if Utley got to second, it could have taken the bat out of Howard's hands, as Cueto could have pitched around him with a base to play with and the righthanded Jayson Werth on deck, not that he necessarily would have in a 0-0 game in the 4th. Still, the risk wasn't worth the reward. Not in the least. Especially since the chances of him making it were slim to none. These aren't little league or minor league players patrolling the outfield, they're professionals. They can make strong, accurate throws more often than not.

Truth of the matter is, it was just a stupid play by Utley. To add insult to injury, Howard followed up with a double that Utley surely would have scored on from first to give the Phils a 1-0 lead. Instead, the Phillies got nothing out of it and the Reds went up 2-0 in the bottom half of the inning, a lead they would never relinquish.

Later in the game, before anyone had any idea that Chase was hurt, seeing as he was still in the game and all, I was still bitching about it to my roommates, and especially my dad when we talked on the phone. When you combine the way Stubbs played the ball with the fact that Howard was on deck and there was nobody out and the game was tied, it just wasn't the right thing to do.

Now he's out for an extended period of time to boot, right as the Phillies sit in third place and can't seem to gain any consistency at the plate while the Braves and Mets keep on winning. All because Chase's hard-nosed style got the best of him. Sometimes you have to know when to put the brakes on, know when it's the right time to go and the right time to stay.

It's a painful thing to have to say, because as I stated, we all love Chase for doing precisely what he tried to do on Monday. You don't want him to stop doing those things, to deviate from the style that makes Chase Utley Chase Utley. But you also don't want him or anybody else, especially given the Phillies' terrible luck this year with injuries, to do anything unnecessary that would put them or the team in harm's way. You can't be mad at the guy for hustling, but you can be a little agitated that he made a bad baseball play … and now everyone is suffering for it. Including the Phillies, the fans, my fantasy team and himself. Fuck.

BallHype: hype it up!