Friday, July 29, 2011

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Phillies Game

I went to last night's Giants-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park with tempered expectations. After all, the Phillies had by far their worst starter on the team on the mound, while two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum took the hill for San Fran. But I had no idea just how miserable of a night I was in for.

Throughout the day I kept checking because I knew it was supposed to rain at some point. Virtually all day, the rain was expected to be in the afternoon, and then late at night. But then right before I was about to leave, the forecast changed to rain right around game time. And wouldn't you know it, all night long the rain was off and on, keeping my unbelievably high percentage of terrible weather games I've been to this year up. Awesome. Thankfully it never came down in buckets, but still annoying.

However, the most annoying part about rain during a game is not getting wet. Oh no, far from it. The worst part about rain during a game is the assholes who bring umbrellas to the game, and then break them out in the seats, thus blocking the view of everyone sitting behind them.

I am 100 percent of the belief that umbrellas should be banned from any and all sporting events in the country. The people sitting behind you paid for their tickets too, and now they can't see the game because your ignorant ass broke out a huge umbrella and blocked the entire view. Fuck you. I hope you die.

Seeing people open umbrellas in the stands pisses me off so badly that I honestly believe that if you do pull out an umbrella and open it at a game, the person sitting behind you should legally be allowed to take it from you and bludgeon you to death with it. I'm not even joking about that. I honestly think this should be a law in the books, because fuck that ignorant asshole. If you don't want to get wet at a game, go up to the concourse under cover, wear a poncho or just stay the fuck home. Don't ruin everyone else's experience that's around you. They're already getting wet. They'd at least like to see the game.

Seriously, if you bring an umbrella to a stadium, I hate you and I hope you die.

On a bright note, I did get up close and personal to former Phillies prospect and current Giants all-star Ryan Vogelsong's wife.

Turns out, she was in section 129, right next to the seats in 128 that I had. She was easy to spot because the people she was with were all clad in Vogelsong gear. She is tall and attractive. Very. So that at least brightened my spirits.

Anyway, back to the game. As little as my expectations were last night, it didn't make the 4-1 loss any easier to take. Why? Because the Phillies felt like they were out of it all night due to incredibly stupid decisions and poor fundamental baseball. Honestly, damn near every decision Charlie Manuel made last night was baffling, and his players could not do the simplest of things.

The biggest shame of it all is that Kendrick actually pitched very well. He had only surrendered two hits going into the 7th, and he did his job to hold San Francisco there, only an error on what looked to be a double-play ball off the bat of pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand was booted by Michael Martinez at third, leading to two more runs. As much as I'd like to bitch about Kendrick, I can't. He did his job last night. It was the rest of the Phillies who didn't. Namely Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

I know that Chase Utley is the man, and he really is, but the thing that irks me most about Phillies fans is that even after a night like last night where Utley completely sucked until his final at-bat, everyone harps on Ryan Howard's failure to come through without even bringing up Utley's struggles. And last night, despite driving in the lone run of the game for the Phils, Utley by far had the worst at-bats of the game, and here's why.

In his first three plate appearances, Utley came up with runners in scoring position. He went 0-for-3 and didn't even advance a runner. In the first, Jimmy Rollins led off with a double. While some may call it too early to bunt in the first inning, I thought Charlie Manuel made one of his few right calls of the night and had Michael Martinez bunt to get Rollins to third. Runs are not easy to come by against Lincecum, and Martinez is hardly the guy you expect to come through against him. So Martinez laid down a bunt and moved Rollins to third. Up came Utley with Jimmy on third and just one out. All Utley has to do is get the ball to the outfield and Rollins scores.

Now I know that's easier said than done against Lincecum, but it's a spot your three-hole hitter is expected to come through in. Chase did not. He hit a weak, weak pop up to short. It was an awful at-bat and put pressure on Ryan Howard to get a two-out hit.

Ryan Howard did not, striking out, which is infuriating, don't get me wrong, but Utley's at-bat was just as bad. Yet everyone around me was just cursing at Howard without anything more than a moan after Chase's at-bat.

In Utley's second at-bat, he came up with two outs and runners on the corners. They got there because Kendrick inexplicably got a one-out single off Lincecum, then Jimmy walked, and Kendrick surprisingly tagged to get to third after Martinez flew out. Now Chase had a chance to redeem himself. Instead Utley got called out on strikes, and while it certainly looked high from my seats, he still failed to come through with a runner in scoring position for a second straight at-bat.

And finally, in the 5th, Utley came up with two on and two out. Ruiz was on second in scoring position. Chase got ahead 3-1 on Lincecum and looked to zone in. This is where Lincecum showed just how filthy he is.

On that 3-1, Chase was sitting dead red on a fastball. Timmy knew it, so he threw one of the best changeups I've ever seen. Utley swung fastball and was way out in front of it, but it didn't matter. If Chase had let it go, it was still a strike. Absolutely nasty pitch. Now the count was 3-2. Here's where the problem was. Lincecum let fly another changeup, only this one was nowhere near as good. It came out low and bounced in the dirt, not even close to a strike. But Utley chased it and struck out for the second straight at-bat, failing to come through for a third straight time with runners in scoring position.

Listen, I know getting a two-out hit is tough. I know facing Lincecum is a losing proposition. But if your three-hole hitter has three straight chances to drive in a run against the same pitcher, he has to come through at least once if you expect to win. Utley didn't and the Phillies lost.

Sure, he did drive in that run in the 7th, but then Howard broke his bat and grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning. That's when a drunk guy in front of us, who stated that he knows his baseball (a dead giveaway that he doesn't know shit), unleashed on Howard, saying he never gets clutch hits and hasn't had one clutch hit all season. Yeah, a guy with 77 RBIs hasn't had a clutch hit all year, and never has in his career despite racking up RBIs, winning an MVP, destroying the baseball in every single September he's ever seen, winning a World Series and having an incredibly hot 2009 October until the World Series. Yet this man did not even make a peep about Utley after his first three at-bats. That's what drives me nuts about Phillies fans.

Don't get me wrong, Howard deserves his criticisms, no doubt. He was 0-for-4 last night and .246 just isn't going to cut it. But Utley is the one who left five guys on base and struck out twice, yet nothing. I know he's awesome and we all love him, but he's not without fail. It feels like a lot of Phillies fans think differently, pinning all the struggles on anyone but Chase.

Beyond the failures of Utley and Howard last night, there was more terrible play. The aforementioned Martinez error was crippling. The insane call from Manuel on Kendrick's at-bat in the 5th was inexplicable. Ruiz led the inning off with a walk, so naturally Kendrick was up there to bunt and move him along. He squared on the first pitch but pulled back and took a called strike. Then he squared again, only to pull back and swing for strike two. Naturally, I thought, after letting him swing with one strike, the bunt would be off. Nope, instead it was on, Kendrick failed to get it down and struck out. What. The. Fuck. If you're going to have him bunt, why in the hell would you have him pull back and swing away with a strike already? That's just insane. And stupid. And I hated it.

Then Charlie for some reason didn't double-switch when he lifted Kendrick despite that fact that Domonic Brown had just made the last out, meaning the pitcher's spot was due up second in the 7th. That didn't make much sense, but OK, maybe he wanted to leave Dom in. Only when Brown's spot came up next in the 8th, Charlie called him back with the lefty Jeremy Affeldt on the mound and sent out Ben Francisco. Naturally, Bruce Bochy brought in a righty to face Francisco and Ben got out. My question is why in the hell did he leave Brown in if he wasn't going to let him hit anyway? Why not just double-switch and leave John Mayberry in, who pinch-hit for Brad Lidge and is about a thousand times more dangerous than Francisco? And listen, I know Dom is green and the game was still close, but how in the hell is he going to learn hit tough left-handed pitching, especially out of the bullpen, if you don't give him the chance to be in there in that spot? You gotta let him hit there and go through the growing pains now in the hopes he's ready come October should they need him.

I just didn't understand any of those moves by Charlie. When you couple that with bad baseball, like Rollins being late on a 3-1 fastball and hitting a weak pop-up the other way, against a good team and good pitcher, forget about it. Add in the stupidity of some fans, the rain, the umbrellas, another loss and my arm being bound, and it was all-around a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game.

Honestly, the best parts of night were seeing Nicole Vogelsong, then spotting Scott Hartnell outside at McFadden's as we were leaving, and then getting out of the parking lot quickly due to most people staying for the fireworks after the loss. Other than that, it was a completely miserable experience.

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Despite not playing much at all with Michael Martinez getting the bulk of the playing time these days, Wilson Valdez is still having plenty of fun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Leave Raul Ibanez Alone

Listen, I know last night was all about Vance Worley continuing to be awesome and Chase Utley really truly being the man, and I'd be remiss without discussing the both of them.

I mean, what more can we say about Chase at this point? At times I get a little annoyed with how much people slobber over him while bashing some of the other players on the Phillies, but dammit if the guy doesn't deserve it. Not only did he have that absolutely insane, exhilarating inside-the-park home run, but he also got the scoring started with a two-out single in the first and then scoring from first to tie the game on a double down the rightfield line by Ryan Howard. As the late, great Harry Kalas — who you know was just making an absolutely majestic call on that homer — said, Chase Utley really is the man.

Then there is Vance Worley. I'm not afraid to admit that until very recently, I saw Vance as nothing more than a J.A. Happ at best and Kyle Kendrick at worst — a guy without amazing stats in the minors called up to the big club and pitching out of his mind in his first stint, but a guy that would eventually fall back down to earth. And while it is certainly a little too early to crown the guy a legitimate front-of-the-rotation guy in the making, Worley has done nothing but get better each and every start.

Last night was easily his most impressive outing of his career, pitching his first complete game and doing it by surrendering just three hits and two runs. At the same time, he walked just one, and that came with two outs in the 9th, while striking out 5. His comeback cut fastball was Halladay-like, and his composure against the defending World Series champs is what impressed me the most. After surrendering a run in the first inning, it would have been easy for him to unravel. Instead he came back and gave up just one more run the next 8 innings. Vance now has a 2.02 ERA and 1.09 WHIP and a 7-1 record. The man is just killing it right now.

I know that 7-2 victory was all about Chase and Vance. But now that that is out of the way, I'd like to take the opportunity to officially call for every Phillies fan alive to shut up already and leave Raul Ibanez alone.

All season long there's been a steady chorus of Raul hate. He's too old. He can't hit anymore. He's too slow. He's not a good fielder. His time is up. Nevermind that he's the consummate professional and a streaky hitter who can literally carry an offense at times. Nevermind that he's a standup guy and possibly the most respected everyday player in the locker room. And nevermind that lately Raul has been playing fantastic baseball.

A couple weeks ago, when Raul went 3-for-3 and accounted for every Phillies run in a victory over the Red Sox and then hit a walkoff against the Braves, I let my feelings on Raul be known. Given that I really like the guy, maybe it makes me a little more defensive of him. But at this point, I think it's safe to say it's time to leave Raul the hell alone.

Ibanez is not done. He's not washed up. Sure, he's old, and yes, he'll have his slumps … same as he's always had in his career. But the man knows how to play the game, and right now he's playing it damn well. Sure, Vance and Chase were the stars last night, but Raul played as integral a part in that victory as the both of them. He's the one who followed up Howard's first-inning RBI double and Shane Victorino's walk with a three-run blast to give the Phils the lead. He's the one who made a nice sliding catch and then one-upped that with an even better catch in the 9th. And he's the guy who is and should be manning left field for the Phillies the rest of this year.

Maybe you're tired of his streakiness and think he's too old. Maybe you hate that he's another left-handed bat. And maybe he isn't quite the player he was a few seasons ago. But Raul is still getting it done, and it's about time everyone got off his back and leaves him alone. Just enjoy him for what's sure to be his last season in Philadelphia and thank your lucky stars that you've been privileged to watch one of the classiest guys in baseball these past few years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Patron Saint Throws and Sings

Currently I'm stifled with just one available arm, which is why I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but when the patron saint does something like throw out the first pitch and sing during the 7th inning stretch, I have to put it up here. So here's former Cub and Phillie Doug Glanville doing both at Wrigley Field, not the house that he built, before yesterday's Phils-Cubs series finale.

Not the greatest throw, but then again Doug was never known for his arm.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Dana Barros. Rapping. Enough said.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The National League: Home of the Best Starting Pitching Staffs

During the early innings of last night's MLB All-Star game, when Roy Halladay was breaking faces as per usual, Phil (Giants fan) Ed (Braves fan) and I (take a guess) were trading jabs about each others' teams and debating which of our teams were going to benefit with home-field advantage in the World Series. That friendly debate led to a conclusion we could all agree on: The National League most definitely has all the best starting pitching staffs in baseball right now.

Don't get me wrong, the American League has its share of dominant starting pitchers, no question about it. Hell, just the all-stars that were unavailable for the AL last night read like a Cy Young ballot: CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, John Lester, James Shields, David Price. And then you add others like Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, Gio Gonzalez, Michael Pineda (who looked filthy last night), Ricky Romero, the list goes on. The AL has a bunch of individual studs. But when you take a step back and look at each American League team's staff and compare that to some of the NL counterparts, it's clear who comes out ahead.

I mean think about it, you'd be hard-pressed to find one team in the AL with three legit studs in their rotation, while the NL has a few teams that can claim that and a few others that aren't far from it. Sure, the Red Sox have Beckett and Lester, but there's not much to fear after that. And Beckett always seems to get hurt these days. In fact, he tweaked something while warming up last night and didn't pitch.

The Mariners have Felix and Pineda, then a bunch of average guys. The Yankees have CC, and Phil Hughes is alright, but does anyone fear him? And can Bartolo Colon really keep this up? The Angles have Weaver and Haren, and Ervin Santana has potential, but Santana is hardly ace status and Haren always seems to struggle as the season wears on. The Rangers have a very good C.J. Wilson and the surprising Alexi Ogando, but those two aren't quite aces yet.

Honestly, the only team with three guys that really strike fear in you is the Rays with Shields, Price and Jeremy Hellickson, but Hellickson is still green and the Rays are a third-place team.

Conversely, the National League has three staffs that really blow anything the AL can throw out there, as far 1-4, out of the water.

Philadelphia Phillies

The first and most obvious staff to mention is the Philadelphia Phillies. Three of the team's starters were named all-stars this year, led by NL starting pitcher Roy Halladay, who just so happened to pitch two perfect innings last night, followed by Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. There simply isn't another trio this accomplished on any other roster in baseball. Halladay is a two-time Cy Young winner and reigning NL Cy Young winner, with a perfect game and playoff no-hitter on his résumé. Cliff Lee is a former Cy Young winner who has been dominant in every playoff game he's pitched with the exception of last year's World Series. And Cole Hamels, who leads this staff with a 2.32 ERA, is an NLCS and World Series MVP who looks like a perennial Cy Young candidate.

As good as the staffs that follow are, none have three players with those credentials. And right now, all three are about as good as it gets in baseball. Hamels and Halladay are tied for second in baseball with 11 wins. Halladay leads the NL in complete games and innings pitched and is second in strikeouts. He also has a 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Lee has 9 wins himself, four of those being complete-game shutouts, which leads all of baseball. He's also third behind Clayton Kershaw and Halladay in strikeouts in the NL, and he has a 2.82 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Hamels is 5th in the NL in strikeouts, and he leads the league in WHIP at 0.93 while leading the Phils with a 2.32 ERA. So yeah, these guys are good. Really good.

And that's without even mentioning former 20-game winner Roy Oswalt, who has suffered this season from personal issues and injury. But Oswalt's always been a money second-half and playoff pitcher, and if he comes back healthy, this rotation gets that much better. It's pretty frightening.

Atlanta Braves

If you want to know how the Atlanta Braves have the second best record in the NL (behind the Phillies) and the third best record in baseball, look no further than their pitching. As great as the Phillies' rotation is, Atlanta's right now is even deeper, throwing out five really good starters at you: Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Derek Lowe.

Jurrjens started out the season on disabled list, yet he's tied for the MLB lead in wins with 12. The guy has has started 16 games this year, winning 12 and only losing 3. Oh yeah, he also leads the NL in ERA at 1.87, second only to Jered Weaver's 1.86 in baseball. He's not the strikeout-type pitcher some of the other guys are, but Jurrjens is pitching as well as anyone, rarely allowing a batter to make solid contact on anything.

Meanwhile, young, hard-throwing righty Tommy Hanson has continued his quick maturation. Currently, Hanson is 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA, good for fourth in NL, and his 1.02 WHIP is third in the league. Hudson isn't quite having the season as his younger teammates, but he's a damn good pitcher and a veteran that any team would love to have. Youngster Brandon Beachy has been a pleasant surprise, starting 12 games and going 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. And Derek Lowe is this team's fifth starter. Try and wrap your head around that. Sure, Lowe isn't having a great season, currently sitting at 5-7 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but how many teams can claim their fifth starter is a former No. 1 or No. 2 and typically an excellent playoff pitcher? I certainly can't think of any.

When you add in the awesomeness of lefty reliever Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel, who leads baseball in saves, the Braves aren't going anywhere, no matter what their offense does.

San Francisco Giants

And of course, who can forget the reigning World Series champions? I know I just said the Braves have maybe the deepest rotation in baseball right now, but there's a chance San Fran's rotation is even deeper, because the Giants actually have six starting pitchers on the roster. Tim Lincecum already has two Cy Youngs and he's just 27 years old. Then you add Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Jonathan Sanchez and youngster Madison Bumgarner and you have talent all over the place. Oh yeah, the Giants also have a former Cy Young winner ready and available when needed in Barry Zito. That's a lot of pitching.

Lincecum leads the staff with 132 strikeouts, and while the rest of his numbers aren't great by his standards — 7-7, 3.06 ERA, 1.20 WHIP — they're hardly bad. It's just that he's set such a high standard that you expect even more. But he's the unquestioned ace of the NL West-leading Giants and a guy you wouldn't hesitate to hand the ball to in a big game. Cain has had similar numbers as Lincecum, with his 3.06 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and he leads the Giants with 8 victories. Again, he's not having his best season, but he's still pitching well and the doing more than his share for this team.

Then there is the surprise of all surprises, Ryan Vogelsong. On a staff that includes Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez, Vogelsong is the one leading the way in ERA, posting a 2.17 ERA, second only to Jurrjens in the NL. He's 6-1 this year and made his first all-star game at age 33. The former Phillie prospect and Kutztown player is having the season of his life. It may be a fluke, but the Giants will certainly take it. Sanchez has been his typical wildly effective self. He has an unimpressive 1.42 WHIP, and his 3.81 ERA isn't exactly where you want it to be, but the guy has as good a stuff as anyone on this staff. Plus, his wildness makes batters even more uncomfortable facing him. And Bumgarner, who came into the season with high expectations, started out about as awfully as you can. Currently, he's 4-9 with a 1.34 WHIP and 3.87 ERA. However, he's pitched much better of late, and you have to think the young lefty is only going to get better, which is not good news for the rest of the league.

And if he doesn't, there's always Barry Zito. The man has not been the same pitcher he was in Oakland since migrating to San Francisco with that ridiculously huge contract, but this year Zito has started 6 games, going 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He's basically a spot starter with the potential to move into the regular rotation when needed. Think about that, San Fran's sixth starter is a former Cy Young winner. Damn.

Just try and tell me there's an AL team that can stack up 1-4 or 1-5 with these staffs. There isn't. And then there are other teams with pretty damn good starters as well. The Brewers have a pretty good staff that many thought would put them in contention if Zack Greinke wasn't having such an off year, considering they have Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and solid guys in Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. And if you think about what the Cardinals could have next year with a healthy Adam Wainwright and a bounceback by Chris Carpenter, along with Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse, not to mention the potential of, yes, the Nationals next year with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman to build around, it's clear that the NL these days has the deeper staffs.

We'll see what that means come October and November, but it's pretty clear that the National League is the home of the best starting pitching staffs right now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Statement Games

This past weekend was filled with statements in both the world of sports and my own personal life. It started with a rain delay in more ways than one and ended with on offensive explosion, with extra-inning home runs and penalty kicks in between.

My weekend began with what was supposed to be a fun, relaxing trip to Atlantic City with Toonces and a buddy of ours. I took the day off the work, slept in and relaxed until my friends arrived and we embarked east around 2 p.m. What ensued shortly after we crossed the Ben into Jersey was wave after wave of torrential downpours. Then … nothing. Traffic already began to crawl shortly after crossing the bridge, but then as we were oh so close to the 42 freeway en route to the A.C. Expressway, there was nothing but a log jam. Then we saw a fire truck slowly but surely making its way through the traffic jam, never a good sign.

About 10 rows of cars ahead of us, just before the exit for 42, the fire truck parks across two and half lanes to prevent anyone from passing. As I listened to KYW, the report was in: flooding on the 42 freeway and 295, the exit sign that was right in front of me. Motherfucker.

So there we sat … and sat, and sat. Not moving an inch. Playing games of scat (aka 31). Me alternating turning my car completely off and then idling it to get some air conditioning with the rain pouring down. Things were so bad that Toonces and our friend got out during a break in the rain, ran to the liquor store we were basically parked next to and bought a bottle of Old Grandad.

As hesitant as I was to let them drink alcohol in my car, I couldn't stop them. And as the time passed by without us moving an inch, I honestly couldn't even pretend to care. My only complaint was that I couldn't partake, seeing as I was in the driver's seat. It was so brutal. The worst part is I hadn't eaten all day yet, with the thought we'd stop somewhere on the way. When Arby's near my house got vetoed, we were set on stopping on a Burger King or Taco Bell on the way. Sadly, we were stuck with nothing but liquor stores, adult bookstores, abandoned buildings and a strip club near us. No food in sight.

Over an hour after being at a complete stop, finally some of the firemen began to direct traffic and let us through, though 42 was supremely fucked, so we started to navigate through an alternate route. And the first thing we did once we got off the first exit to get the hell out of another traffic jam was to hit up the first BK we saw, devouring our food and finally setting out.

The rest of the trip involved us mapping out routes to get to A.C., and by the time we got there, it was around 5:30. So a drive that typically takes an hour or so took us 3 and a half hours. We probably should have taken that as an omen. I mean, it was almost as if god was telling us not to go to AC with the flooding and the long delay. But we pressed on anyway.

Once we got our room and our bearings, we headed to the casinos to start gambling. And things started our really well, playing craps at Bally's and getting a good number of early wins. An old Asian man was standing directly next to Toonces and giving him shit for not believing in his rolls and for rolling snake eyes and a 12 on his first two rolls before surrendering the dice to me. But I quickly helped the whole table bounce back, as did our other friend who kept the hot streak going.

We weren't lighting the world on fire or anything, but damn near everyone at the table was up money, with the three of us all up somewhere in the $50-$80 range. Then the old Asian's son joined the table and proceeded to ruin everything. Once he started to roll, the entire table cooled, and the money we had won in a matter of minutes vanished even quicker. You're damn right I blame him.

Things only got wilder from there. Roulette came next. Then off to bar with Toonces to begin drinking. Then some let it ride with a dealer who had the most absolutely perfect breasts I have ever laid eyes on.

After that it was more drinking, as we sat at the bar at Wild West and watched the Phils game, which finally got underway.

Full disclosure: I got a six-game plan to the Phils with Toonces and silver fox, and all season long, either when we're at the games or when I'm watching any games with them, those two have been absolutely killing Raul Ibanez. I mean just killing him. Hell, we even went to the Vance Worley win against the Red Sox, where Raul accounted for every run and went 3-for-3, and they still weren't giving him much credit.

Personally, I like Raul. And even though he's struggled terribly at times this year, I still think the Phillies are better off with him in the lineup than without. So Friday's game couldn't have been sweeter for me. It started off with Raul scoring the tying the run in the 2nd after getting a hit to finally give Roy Halladay some help. And then, after Halladay be masterful in his 7 innings but still get a no-decision, we were off to wander, watching sexy girls dancing on stage, viewing some girls attempting to ride the mechanical bull and losing a game of beer pong we had no business losing.

By the time we returned to the bar to get more drinks, Raul was crushing a walk-off in the 10th after Juan Perez pitched an absurd perfect inning, striking out all three Braves he faced on 9 freakin pitches.

Drunk, happy and low on funds, I yelled at Toonces, then called silver fox and did my best Spanish impersonation. It was glorious.

Shortly thereafter, Toonces and I started to wander the streets looking for trouble as our friend, who was up around $500, headed to the Borgata for a poker tournament. We figured we'd either spend our remaining money and let our friend buy us food and drinks with his winnings, or we'd see what was up and then head back to the room.

As it turned out, we decided to pool our money and put $130 on red and another $20 on 19, letting that dictate where the night would take us. And wouldn't you know it, red hit, doubling our $130 to make it an even $260. This is where smart people, people without gambling addictions walk away, especially when they've already lost money on the night. But while we may have some decent brain power between us, we are also gamblers at heart. So after a quick walk around the casino to discuss our options, we decided to let that shit ride. The only question was do we put it on black this time instead. Toonces suggested we do, but I said we should stick with what worked.

So there we went, putting $235 on red and $25 on 19. The dealer launched the ball … and the fucker hit on some black 20 number. I can't even remember which one. All our money, gone, just like that. If I had only listened to Toonces … or if that god damn 19 would have hit.

So that was it for us. We called our friend to see where he was but to no avail. So we headed back to the room, turned on Sportscenter and tried to get some sleep. Shortly thereafter, my phone rang. It was our buddy. I asked how the tournament went, hoping he won or at least placed in the money. He said the tournament was weak, only one table, so he bailed and played cash games. And did not play well, trying bluff his way to big a pot. That $500 he was up vanished, and then some.

Basically, the three of us endured a 3 and half hour trip, 2 and a half hours longer than usual, to AC basically to hand over all of our money. Normally that's not much of a big deal, and really it wasn't a big deal, but it sucked that much more given how painful it was to get there.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some. At least Raul saved the day. We awoke the next morning, hit up an agita-inducing breakfast buffet and headed back to Philadelphia. Thankfully the ride home was uneventful and took roughly the normal time.

Once I got to my house and my two idiot friends left, I collapsed in my bed, only to wake up to Cliff Lee hitting his first career home run to give the Phils a 1-0 lead off Tommy freakin Hanson. Awesome.

Of course, the Phillies couldn't win despite Lee hitting a home run and pitching 8 insane innings of one-run ball because the regulars couldn't hit as well as Lee himself. And Brian McCann put the capper on a three-run 11th for Atlanta, giving Michael Stutes his first career loss.

It just doesn't seem right that Lee should lose a game where he hits a home run and strikes out 9 over 8 innings while surrendering just 1 run. But that's the way this game works sometimes. At least Perez looked like the real deal again, pitching another perfect inning while striking out two.

Then there was yesterday. To be perfectly honest, the only sports I watched yesterday were the first two innings and the last two innings of the Phils game. I had planned on watching all 9 innings and watching the USA-Brazil game in the women's World Cup, but I instead decided to be a good grandson and hang out with all four of my grandparents.

However, I was kept up to date by silver fox, who let me know Raul made an awesome catch, saying he was going to lay off him for a while, and who also let me know that my girl Ali Krieger scored the winning PK to give the US the huge victory over Brazil.

The reason Ali Krieger is my girl is pretty simple: Not only did she go to Penn State at the same time as me, where she was a two-time All-American, but I also covered her and the Penn State women's soccer team back when they entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. So yeah, she's my girl, even if I have not talked to her once since our Penn State days.

Seeing her cap off that dramatic victory was simply awesome.

And to put a capper on the day and weekend, the Phillies went out and made a huge statement, the same way the US did, by obliterating the Braves 14-1 in an offensive explosion that overshadowed another brilliant performance by Cole Hamels.

After splitting the first two games in extra-inning affairs, the Phils did their best to assert their dominance before the all-star break by bashing a season-high 20 hits. Every starter except Hamels had at least one hit, and everyone else except Carlos Ruiz had at least two hits. Raul was a monster again, going 2-for-5 with 2 runs, a home run and a game-high 6 RBIs, proving the rumors of his demise a bit premature. John Mayberry, who absolutely has to stay on this roster the rest of the way, was 3-for-5 with a career-high three doubles and four RBIs. Michael Martinez had a career-high four hits. Jimmy Rollins continued his hot hitting with three hits. And Domonic Brown had three hits himself, scoring two runs (including scoring easily from first on a double to left by John Mayberry, damn) and driving in two runs.

But as good as the offense was and as fun as it was to see, Cole Hamels was the real reason the Phils go into the break with a 3.5 game lead. Cole went 8 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, striking out six in the process and keeping Atlanta completely off-balane. He lowered his NL-best WHIP to 0.93 and now has the lowest ERA of any starter on the Phils at 2.32. That's saying something being on a staff that includes Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

Like Mother Nature, Raul Ibanez, Ali Krieger and the Phillies did this weekend, Cole Hamels is making a statement this season. Yesterday was his statement game.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

I'm not sure what kind of bullshit Burger King is trying to pull, but now all the sudden the sandwich formerly known as the tendercrisp bacon cheddar ranch, with the greatest commercial of all time, has been rebranded as the bacon cheddar ranch tendercrisp. This is clearly an attempt to faze out memories of Hootie and that awesome commercial, and frankly I will not stand for it. Long live the tendercrisp bacon cheddar ranch.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

David Herndon and Danys Baez Are the Same Terrible Pitcher

Sure, you can blame the Phillies' 7-6 loss last night to the Marlins on Domonic Brown perhaps missing second base, as Brown did himself being the standup guy that he is, but that would be misguided. Because the real reason that the Phillies lost is that Charlie Manuel called on the two worst pitchers on his roster to try and hold a lead.

In case you missed it, Charlie lifted Kyle Kendrick after 5 innings, and after the Phils scored on John Mayberry's second home run of the game, David Herndon entered with a 6-3 lead. Herndon proceeded to give up a leadoff single to Hanley Ramirez followed by a mammoth two-run home run to Logan Morrison to turn a three-run lead very quickly into a one-run lead. His final stat line: two-thirds of an inning pitched, 3 hits, 2 earned runs. Awful.

Then after the Marlins tied it up and the game was still tied in the 9th, Charlie called upon Baez. When they put the numbers up for Baez this season, I actually uttered the words, "He does not have a single good statistic this year." Not one. Entering the night, Baez's numbers were as follows: 2-3, 33.2 innings pitched, 38 hits, 23 runs allowed, 20 earned runs, 12 walks, 16 strikeouts, 5.35 ERA. Like I said, not a single good statistic to his name.

So of course, after one miraculous 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, Baez served up a hanging meatball to Mike Stanton, who hit a ball so god damn hard and far that it was still going up when it hit the vacant seats in left field to give the Marlins the 7-6 victory.

Herndon and Baez combined to pitch 2 innings, surrendering four hits, three runs and two home runs between them, completely wasting Mayberry's two-homerun, three-RBI performance.

Honestly, despite that one good outing by the two of them to lead to Wilson Valdez inconceivably picking up a win, David Herndon and Danys Baez have not done this team any good. At all. They are the same terrible pitcher, and if you don't believe me, check the numbers.

Herndon this year has appeared in 23 games. His numbers: 0-2, 5.14 ERA, 28 innings pitched, 32 hits, 17 runs, 16 earned runs, 5 home runs, 9 walks, 16 strikeouts, 1 hit by pitch, 1.46 WHIP.

Baez has appeared in 28 games this season. His numbers: 2-4, 5.40 ERA, 35 innings pitched, 39 hits, 24 runs, 21 earned runs, 4 home runs, 12 walks, 18 strikeouts, 3 hit by pitches, 1.46 WHIP.

Both with losing records, both 2 games under .500, both with ERAs above 5, both giving up more hits than innings pitched, both failing to strike batters out, and both with terrible 1.46 WHIPs.

Seriously, they are the exact same terrible pitcher, and there's no reason that either one should be on this roster, let alone both. Yet here they've been, all season on this roster, wasting valuable spots and hurting the team. It just makes absolutely no sense.

Given how incredibly worthless they are and how admirably Mayberry has played when given the opportunity, it would be not only unfair, but completely idiotic to demote Mayberry after the all-star break while retaining Herndon and Baez. Yet that's been the move this year, which is beyond baffling. The Phillies have three starters in Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels who consistently go deep into games, and Roy Oswalt does when he's healthy, meaning one less bullpen pitcher wouldn't kill you. And Mayberry provides the right-handed power bat off the bench, and a capable fill-in in the outfield, that this team is missing, albeit an inexperienced and unproven one.

It's pretty clear that he helps the Phillies a whole hell of a lot more than David Herndon and Danys Baez do. And realistically, how can you even afford to keep two terrible righthanded pitchers who have ERAs over 5.00 in your bullpen without hurting the team more than you're helping? You can't.

After the all-star break, one or both of those guys should be off this roster. And if the pitching staff ever gets healthy, they should be gone forever. Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton are all on the shelf, and they're all better than Baez and Herndon. Vance Worley has proven his worth this season and earned the right to be in the mix as the fifth starter. And Kyle Kendrick, as bad as he can be at times, is about a million times better and more effective than the two horrible Ds, Danys and David.

They are the exact same terrible pitcher, and they need to be banished. Forever.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hakim Warrick: Friends' Central's Finest

I haven't posted anything about basketball really besides saying I was underwhelmed with the Sixers' first-round draft pick but happy Lavoy Allen has a chance to make the team. And with the lockout now in effect preventing any player movement and not much to talk about, there's nothing newsworthy to write about.

Thankfully, I headed over to You Got Dunked On today because I refuse to do work, and Antone has some of Philadelphia native and Friends' Central grad Hakim Warrick's best college dunks right on the first page, including one over Villanova's Jason Frasor.

Here are some more of Friends' Central's finest during his college days.

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Starting this afternoon, the Phillies head up north of the border to play a three-game series in Toronto. All three games are at the odd start time of 1:07, meaning with yesterday's afternoon game, the Phils are playing four straight day games. That's weird. And I blame Canada.

And just because, this: