Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Senselessness of Baseball

Right now, the Phillies have three pitchers that are all literally right there in the Cy Young conversation right now: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Halladay has three losses on the season, and I was at one of them. Cole Hamels has four losses on the season, and I was at two of them. And heading into last night, I had yet to see the Phillies win in person, this despite the fact that the Phillies have the most wins (51) and best record in baseball.

So of course of the first win I'd see in Citizens Bank Park in 2011 would come thanks to Vance Worley, a player who wasn't even expected to be on the roster heading into the season.

Baseball really doesn't make sense sometimes. And honestly, not much about last night's game made sense either.

Because my luck has been so fantastic this year, of course the Red Sox-Phils game I get tickets to features a pitching matchup of Vance Worley and John Lackey — a matchup bookended by Cliff Lee vs. Josh Beckett on Tuesday and Cole Hamels vs. John Lester today. So naturally, given Worley's inexperience and the fact that John Lackey entered the game with an ERA north of 7.00, you'd expect a ton of runs.

So naturally, the Phillies won 2-1 in a pitching duel … and the Red Sox got their lone run on a double by John Lackey, a guy who came in with grand total of three career hits. Yet somehow, Lackey hit the hardest ball any Boston player hit all night, absolutely crushing a 3-2 fastball off the Lukoil sign in center. And it came after he looked terrible with every other swing he took on the night.

Like I said, nothing about that game or my experiences at the ballpark this year have made sense. I mean, Adrian Gonzalez was even playing right field last night.

And that's what makes baseball so great, the unpredictability of it all.

I mean, Worley by far had the best outing of any starter I've witnessed in person this year, going seven innings and surrendering just five hits and the one run while striking out seven. Raul Ibanez, who hasn't exactly had a stellar season, was the star of the game, going 3-for-3 with a double and home run, driving in both runs for the Phils — one on a single in the 2nd that plated Victorino and the game-winning solo home run in the 7th.

And the game was nailed down by Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, as the young duo pitched two perfect innings — Stutes in the 8th, Bastardo in the 9th for the save — to close things out. Just like it was drawn up, I guess.

Other weird things that happened last night:

-The Phillies could not hit a ball to right field to save their lives. With Gonzalez playing right and David Ortiz at first, you'd think the Phillies would do everything in their power to hit the ball to the right side, especially the lefties trying to pull the ball. Yet for the most part, the Phils were grounding out to second and short most of the night, rarely getting anything out to Gonzalez to test him. It was infuriating. But you have to give Lackey credit, the guy was hitting his spots and staying away from the lefties. And that's annoying, because John Lackey sucks.

-The security people at Citizens Bank Park are way too sensitive and aggressive these days. In the section next to us, one guy kept playfully ribbing a Boston fan wearing Jacoby Ellsbury jersey. There was nothing profane, nothing obscene. Mainly the guy just kept yelling, "Hey Ellsbury! You see that one Ellsbury? Nice play Ellsbury!" Nothing crude, honest. Yet the guy got warned by security for some reason. Apparently you can't even playfully mock a fan from an opposing team. That's dumb.

-Also, sitting close to us was a guy wearing a No. 7 Boston Red Sox jersey. Number 7 … J.D. Drew's number. Now listen, I'm not one for violence at sporting events, and this guy didn't get harmed in any way, but if you wear a J.D. Drew jersey in Philadelphia at a Phillies game, it's almost asking to get beat to a pulp. That's provoking just for the sake of provoking. If the guy's a Red Sox fan, you know he has plenty of other Red Sox clothing he could have chosen to wear, but he went with the J.D. Drew jersey in Philadelphia. Fuck him.

-It was odd that Placido Polanco didn't take at least one strike in the 8th after Rollins led off with the single to try and let Jimmy steal, especially Raul and Chase had already stolen bases off Lackey and Jarrod Saltalamacchia rather easier earlier on the night. It was the perfect steal situation, up 1 and looking to get an insurance run. Let Jimmy steal, have Polly hit the ball to the right side like he does so well to get Jimmy to third with one out, and all Chase would need to do is get the ball out of the infield to get that run home. But Placido didn't take a strike, Jimmy didn't go, and Polanco grounded into a double play. And of course Chase came up and just missed homering, hitting a triple off the top of the fence in right that would have easily scored Rollins.

-Seriously, fuck J.D. Drew.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Pied Phifer

This picture pretty much says it all.

Last night, Cliff Lee played the Red Sox lineup like a flute en route to his third straight complete-game shutout. Read that again: third straight complete-game shutout. All he did was go the distance and surrender just two hits and two walks while striking out five against the best offense in all of baseball, albeit one absent David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford. Still, he didn't allow a single hit to guys named Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. Not one.

God damn the man is awesome. How awesome? Let's just say his ERA in the month of June heading into last night's game was 0.27 … and he somehow LOWERED it. With last night's ridiculously incredible outing, his third straight shutout mind you, Lee is now working on a career-best 32-inning scoreless streak, and he is now 5-0 in the month of June with a 0.21 ERA, which is where he'll finish the month, seeing as it ends tomorrow. Seriously, the guy has given up just 1 run in 42 innings this month. Think about that. Wait, don't, because it's pretty much unfathomable.

To put that in perspective, Lee hit a sacrifice fly last night to give himself an insurance run in the fifth, his second RBI of the month. That means Cliff Lee, a pitcher — a pitcher who has spent nearly his entire career in the American League, no less — finished with more RBIs himself than runs allowed in an entire month. That's just stupid.

It's really just not fair what he's doing to hitters right now. Sarge said it best last night (I know, I'm as shocked as you!): The Red Sox were just up there guessing against Lee, and they were guessing wrong. He had every Boston batter completely baffled in the box. Every one.

And the few times someone got good wood on a pitch, the defense was there to ensure Lee's shutout streak would remain intact. There was the insane play by Rollins, a couple nice grabs by Ryan Howard, and man, what can I say about Placido Polanco? The man may be mired in a slump, but his defense over at third this year has been nothing short of superb. To the point where he almost has to be in the Gold Glove conversation over there.

Of course, it wasn't just Lee and the defense doing work. Domonic Brown looked like a man's man against one of the game's best pitchers, absolutely destroying a ball to center off Josh Beckett in the second to give Lee and the Phils a 2-0 lead, then roping a double the other way off Beckett in a great piece of hitting.

I said it last night and I'll say it again, I don't care what his batting average is right now, I want me as much Dom Brown in the lineup as humanly possible. He has a cannon in right, he's fast, and he goes and does things like that last night. Let him take his licks and make his adjustments, because when he gets comfortable he's going to be a beast. That's pretty clear.

I'd be remiss not to mention Shane Victorino's two-run bomb in the sixth to pretty much put the game away, because the way Lee was pitching last night — and has all month —  there wasn't a chance in hell Boston was going to score 5 or 6 runs.

That's because right now, Clifton Phifer Lee is playing batters like a flute. No matter what they do, they're helpless against him. In one month, the conversation around Lee has gone from "What's wrong?" to "Cy Young." Or maybe even "Babe Ruth."

Seriously, Cliff Phifer Lee.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Philadelphia A's

The Phillies took two of three from the A's this past weekend, and of course, I was at the lone loss on Saturday. Not that I remember any of it, because I went with a group of about 20 for the warm-up portion of a bachelor party, tailgating for a good four or so hours before we went in, and then doing what men do for bachelor parties afterward.

Anyway, remember the days when the A's called Philadelphia home? Me neither, because I wasn't even close to being born yet. So here's some footage of the Philadelphia A's because why the hell not?

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Well god damn, that was one hell of a day yesterday wasn't it? I've already made my feelings known about what the Flyers did yesterday, but now that I've gotten that off my chest, time to move on. I may not agree with what they did, but I sure as shit hope it works out for the Flyers.

Then there is the matter of Roy Oswalt sucking and hurting his back again, then sounding all kryptic about it. Not good.

And last but not least, there was the NBA draft. Is it weird that I'm infinitely more excited that the Sixers drafted Lavoy Allen in the second round (50th overall) than I am about their first-round pick Nikola Vecevic (16th overall)? Because I am. Honestly, I was hoping the Sixers would take Chris Singleton because he instantly could replace Andre Iguodala defensively whenever Iggy gets traded, or Kenneth Faried because he's a man's man on the block. Instead they went for a very skilled, very tall center, definitely a need, but a guy who is apparently more Spencer Hawes than, say, Andrew Bynum.

Whatever, at least Lavoy stays in his hometown. I really hope he makes the team.

Anyway, yesterday was absolutely insane around here, so naturally there's only one song to dance to on this muggy, humid Friday in Philadelphia. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fuck You, Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider

A month ago, I wrote a heartfelt, thoughtful (at least I think it was) piece about Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. What it boiled down to was that these two guys are the centerpieces of the franchise, really, really good players that any team would love to have, and two guys who weren't going anywhere.

Then today fucking happened. In the span of less than an hour, the Flyers inexplicably traded their leading goal-scorer and their captain. The first move was surprising enough, shipping off golden boy Jeff Carter and his 11-year deal to Columbus in exchange for 21-year-old Jakub Voracek (14 goals, 32 assists last year), and a first- (8th overall) and third-round pick.

I honestly didn't believe the Flyers would trade Carter given the length of his deal and how much the Flyers brass seemed to like him. But his trade wasn't completely shocking. Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider traded for the rights of the top goaltender on the market in Ilya Bryzgalov, and they are determined to sign him. The Carter move was the cap relief they needed to sign the franchise goalie they've been looking for and still give them some flexibility to fill out the roster and re-sign guys like Ville Leino and Darroll Powe.

I wasn't exactly thrilled about losing a perennial 30-goal scorer, but so be it. The Flyers had forwards to spare, and they need that goalie.

But then Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider went out and did the stupidest fucking thing they could do, trading away Mike Richards, easily this team's best two-way player, its captain, an all-star like Carter, a guy who does everything in his power to try and win, to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Schenn is a 19-year-old who has played in a grand total of 8 NHL games, going goal-less in all 8. Simmonds is a 22-year-old who has a grand total of 39 goals and 54 assists in three full NHL seasons. In other words, in three years he has three more goals than Carter scored last season alone and 9 more assists than Richards had last year alone.

Sure, the Flyers just ridded themselves of their two longest contracts and got a lot younger, but they also just traded away two of their best players, two guys who are among the better players in the entire NHL. What the fucking fuck?

What good is it signing a top-notch goaltender if you're going to trade away the best players in front of him? It makes abso-fucking-lutely no sense, and I'm pissed about it. Really pissed.

If this team doesn't win a Stanley Cup this coming season, and they won't, this will go down as one of the stupidest days in Flyers history. This was a team that was believed to be a goaltender and a piece or two away from hoisting the Cup, not a team in need of a major overhaul. Yet that's what they just did. And guess what, now it puts a huge bull's eye on Claude Giroux's back.

Hopefully he can handle it, and I'm sure he can, but now night in and night out, every team will be focusing on his line and Danny Briere, and he and Briere individually as well. There is no more Carter. No more Richards. No more scapegoats.

The fucking retarded Flyers fans that have been calling for the heads of Carter and Richards finally got what they wanted. Now who are they going to blame when this team doesn't come through? I'm genuinely interested to see.

Today I think my head exploded. I honestly never saw any of this coming. And there's a reason for that: Because none of this should have happened. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are franchise players. They've been to a Stanley Cup Final and two Eastern Conference Finals. They've made the Flyers one of the elite franchises again. And now they've been discarded for a goaltender who has never even had a good playoff run.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted Ilya. But not at this price. Not even a little bit.

Fuck you, Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider. You've lost your fucking minds.

I hope the fans in Los Angeles and Columbus give Richards and Carter the respect they deserve. Because those two guys gave it their all for this franchise, and I'll never forget that. Even if Ed Snider and Paul Holmgren already have.

The Real Three-Headed Monster

I very rarely watch post-game shows for any Philadelphia teams, mainly because I already know what just happened because I watched it, but also because there is usually nothing but pointless drivel on them. However last night, I found myself listening to the words coming out of Ricky Bottalico's mouth because I was sort of paying more attention to the internet after the game ended and never flipped the channel.

Anyway, Ricky Bo said that when you look at what Cliff Lee is doing now — you know, throwing his second consecutive complete-game shutout because he's awesome — the Phillies could potentially have five pitchers in the all-star game. Ricky Bottalico is insane, because that will never happen. For the record, he thinks Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Lee, Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson all should be all-stars. Let me just slow his roll for a second — no way Bastardo makes the all-star team, and probably very little chance Madson makes it with so many good relievers. I say that because when you really look at it, Hamels, Halladay and Lee all almost have to be considered all-stars at this point.

Let me lay out the facts for you.

Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are tied for the most wins in the National League with 9. Cliff Lee is just one game behind them, picking up his 8th victory last night. Halladay, Hamels and Lee represent three of the top four leaders in strikeouts in the league, Halladay leading everyone with 119, Lee third (behind Clayton Kershaw) with 114 and Hamels fourth with 103.

Halladay leads the league with 4 complete games. Cliff Lee is second with 3 — all three of which have been shutouts. Oh, those three shutouts for Lee just so happen to lead the league. Further, Halladay and Lee go 1-2 in innings pitched as well, no surprise given their 1-2 ranks in complete games, and Hamels isn't far behind.

Further, Hamels and Halladay are tied for third in ERA at 2.51 — trailing the Atlanta duo of Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson — and in a month, Lee has gone from an ERA just under 4.00 to a 2.87 ERA, right among the league leaders.

And when it comes to WHIP, Hamels leads everyone with the only sub-1.00 WHIP in the league, at an insane 0.93. Halladay is 4th at 1.04, and Lee sits just outside the top 10 with a 1.12 WHIP.

Combined, they have more wins than any other trio in all of baseball with 26, and had the Phillies been able to hit just a little bit in some more of their starts, that number would easily top 30.

Right now, they are pitching even better than anyone expected, and that's with Roy Oswalt still trying to find his way, which he always does. Not that Oswalt has been terrible. He does have a 3.38 ERA, and everyone knows he does his best work in the second half of the season.

But right now, it's Halladay, Hamels and Lee leading the way. They're the main reason the Phillies have the best record and biggest division lead in all of baseball.

Move over LeBron, Wade and Bosh. There's a new three-headed monster making headlines now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Chris Wheeler Annoys Phillies Fans

Basically from the moment I was brought into this world, I was a Phillies fan, watching, listening and taking in every pitch I could. And since my birth some 27-plus years ago, the majority of fellow Phillies fans I've come across all have one thing above all else in common: their dislike of Chris Wheeler.

To be perfectly honest with you, I've never really been a part of that contingent. Don't get me wrong, the guy certainly can be grating, but I've never really had a problem with Wheels. Maybe it's because he's a Penn State grad, I don't know. To me, he's far and away the best guy on the TV broadcast these days, since we've gone nearly a decade and a half without Whitey and now sadly with no Harry.

Tom McCarthy is the one who draws my ire the most, mainly because he's absolutely terrible at his job and feigns what feels like forced excitement over just about everything. And as much as I like Sarge as a person, he adds absolutely nothing of substance to a broadcast. I often find myself wondering what the hell the Phillies brass was thinking putting that guy on TV.

OK, that was pretty awesome

I've never really felt that way about Chris Wheeler. The man certainly knows his baseball. He's been around the game forever and you can truly sense his love for baseball. However, I completely understand why he annoys so many people. His insistence on explaining the no-doubles defense every single time a team employs it. His often smug, know-it-all attitude. His irrational "old man" hate of Brandon Phillips. His embarrassingly horrible rug. Hell, even the late, great Harry Kalas notoriously didn't get along with Wheels. The man certainly can wear on you, and the entire Philadelphia Phillies fan base can and will attest to that.

Last night he went into one of those annoying, beat-you-over-the-head-with-it type of rants, and it really began to annoy the hell out of me. If you watched the Phils' 10-2 victory last night in St. Louis, you should know exactly what part of the game I'm talking about.

In the top of the 7th inning, the Phillies trailed 1-0 with Roy Halladay throwing yet another excellent game (though he got himself in trouble with the run he gave up by getting the ball up) but the bats completely silent. How silent? To that point, the Phils only had two hits in the game off Kyle McLellan, and only had one runner even get as far as second base.

Placido Polanco, who really, really is struggling in the five hole ever since his grand slam a couple weeks ago, grounded out. Then Raul Ibanez walked, followed by a fly out to center by Domonic Brown. Here's where I began to get extremely annoyed with Wheels and Tom McCarthy.

When Brown flied out, Charlie Manuel got Michael Stutes up in the bullpen, just as he should have. Carlos Ruiz was up with 2 outs, with the pitcher spot on deck. If Manuel didn't get anyone up and have a pitcher ready, McClellan would have no reason at all to pitch to Ruiz, leaving it up to the very light-hitting Roy Halladay to get a two-out hit to tie it. You can't do that. The Phillies, as I said, had only had one player all game reach second base and had only two hits on the night. If Ruiz got on, the Phils absolutely had to pinch-hit for Halladay. This was a no-brainer. It was the 7th inning, the Phils were down a run, and the offense had been dormant all night. They couldn't let an RBI opportunity slip through their fingers. They just couldn't. 100 times out of 100, no matter how well your pitcher is doing, you must have someone ready so you can pinch-hit if the pitcher spot comes up.

Despite that all, Wheeler made a huge, huge stink about it, saying this is a really tough decision, saying he didn't think Charlie would pinch-hit for Halladay, almost exacerbated that Manuel would dare take out Roy Halladay after only going 6 innigns and surrendering just 1 run. He did qualify that by saying "sometimes managers will do this on the road trailing in the 7th." No, not sometimes. All the time. 100 percent of the time. Unless the pitcher is Carlos Zambrano or CC Sabathia or maybe even Cliff Lee, a guy who can actually handle the bat. Roy Halladay is not one of those guys. He's a terrible hitter.

Yet McCarthy and especially Wheels kept going on about, making a big deal about it as if there was a real decision to be made, almost questioning Charlie's decision. And it continued when Ruiz ripped a single up the middle to put runners on second and first with 2 outs, and Manuel rightfully sent out Ross Gload in Halladay's place. I honestly couldn't believe they were beating this dead horse into the ground, especially when Charlie made the absolutely correct, no-brainer decision. That is exactly why people in this city despise Chris Wheeler. He was so smug that even when he was wrong and probably knew he was wrong, he kept pushing his point home. Just shut the fuck up about it already!

Oh, by the way, Gload came through big time, smoking a single to left to score Raul Ibanez and tie the game — though we know that was even close. For some bizarre reason, Ruiz kept running from second toward third before checking where the cutoff was, and he got tagged out so quickly that I wasn't quite sure he had given Ibanez enough time to score. Luckily he did, but it was an awful base-running play by Chooch. Not only did he nearly cost the Phils the tying run and cost Gload an RBI, but he ended the inning, not giving Rollins a chance to put the Phils ahead. Jimmy would have had another late-inning RBI chance with Ruiz on second and most like Michael Martinez pinch-running for Gload on first.

Regardless, the Phils tied the game with Manuel doing exactly what every manager on the planet would do, because it's the right thing to do. Though it didn't help to quiet Wheels and McCarthy when Michael Stutes came in and had one of his ugliest outings since being called up. Stutes struggled with his command, missing high with just about everything, and gave the lead right back. Though he limited the damage, and we all saw what happened in the 8th.

Shane Victorino got things going with a one-out single, and then the wheels came completely off for the Cardinals and Tony La Russa. La Russa went to veteran lefty Trevor Miller to start the 8th with the top of the order up for the Phils. Miller got Rollins to fly out, then surrendered the single to Victorino and walked Chase Utley. Then Tony La Russa did something only Tony La Russa would do, because Tony La Russa is an asshole.

Presumably, La Russa brought in the left-handed Miller mainly to face Utley and Ryan Howard. Or so it seemed. Because after Miller walked Utley, La Russa yanked him … for a hard-throwing righthander named Jason Motte. This time Wheels and McCarthy were rightly baffled, as was everyone else watching the game. And the move wound up backfiring big time, to say the least.

Motte hit Howard with a pitch to load the bases, then hit Polanco with a pitch to force in the tying run. But it didn't just force in the tying run, it hit Polanco right on the hand, forcing him to leave the game. Not good. Hopefully he'll be OK.

That was it for Motte, but not for the Phils. The St. Louis relievers just completely imploded, undoing all the brilliant work starter Kyle McLellan had done in keeping the Phils' offense down. After Ibanez struck out for out No. 2 when La Russa brought in his other lefty (seriously, he had another lefty but put in a righty to face Howard), Charlie pinch-hit for Dom Brown with Ben Francisco. This is where we thought the inning would end, and by we I mean myself and Adam EatShit.

Right when Francisco was sent in, I received this text from Adam:

Let dom hit. This is fruitless

I agreed. Then all Francisco did was single to left, plating Utley to give the Phils the lead. From there, the carousel was on. Miguel Batista came in to relieve the lefty, and he walked Curbball to bring in Howard. Michael Martinez came in to hit for Stutes and Batista walked him as well, making it 5-2. Then Jimmy singled to plate Francisco and Ruiz. Out went Batista, in came the hard-throwing youngster Cleto … who proceeded to walk to Victorino. Then Utley followed with a single to plate Martinez and Jimmy, and Howard singled to plate Victorino before it was all said and done.

The Phils plated 9 in the 8th, as the genius Tony La Russa's genius move backfired like a motherfucker. Honestly, who the hell lifts a left-handed specialist in favor of a hard-throwing righty to face Ryan Howard? An idiot, that's who. You got what you deserved La Russa.

That's the thing Chris Wheeler should have been harping on last night. And while he did mention it, he seemed to be much more conflicted on Charlie's wise decision in the 7th. That's a prime example of why Chris Wheeler annoys Phillies fans.

Though he's not nearly as annoying as Tony La Russa.

Monday, June 20, 2011


The Phillies just lost of 2 of 3 to the Mariners out in Seattle, losing starts by Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels yet somehow defeating reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez Saturday with Vance Worley on the mound.

Whatever, that's fine. I'm not going to freak out about the Phils losing a series in Seattle in the middle of June. For starters, the Phillies never really fare that well in interleague play, and then there's that little fact that they have the best record in baseball and the largest division lead in the game.

But there is one thing that bothered me about yesterday's game: the lineup. In case you were preoccupied with being a good son or daughter and actually spending time with your father on Father's Day, here is the lineup for the Phillies yesterday:

1. Jimmy Rollins ss
2. Shane Victorino cf
3. Chase Utley 2b
4. Ryan Howard 1b

OK, so far, so good. The offense has come to life with the return of Utley and since Victorino has been put in the two hole. Like I said, good start. But here's where it gets troublesome:

5. *Ben Francisco rf
6. Carlos Ruiz c
7. Raul Ibanez dh
8. *Wilson Valdez 3b
9. *Michael Martinez lf

Look at the bottom of that lineup. Something seems off, no? Specifically that Charlie Manuel actually filled out a lineup card that included the names Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez all starting in the same game.

I have a problem with this. Especially when the team is playing a soft-tossing lefty in Jason Vargas, the type of pitcher that for whatever reason seems to be this team's Kryptonite. I understand the need to give guys rest, especially with how many games the Phillies have been playing lately. Placido Polanco could certainly use a day off, and sitting Domonic Brown after a long stretch of starts against a crafty lefty isn't a bad idea. But to do it on the same day? And then to throw Michael Martinez out there too? That's a bit much, especially when you put the ridiculously struggling Francisco in the five hole as Howard's "protection." It was almost as if Manuel was asking his team not to score any runs.

Unsurprisingly, the Phillies couldn't even eke out one run and lost 2-0, wasting another good, if not his best, start by Cole Hamels, who gave up just 2 runs through 6 and a third.

Charlie's makeshift lineup bit him right from the get-go. After Rollins and Victorino were retired to start the game, Utley reached despite striking out thanks to Miguel Olivio completely missing the ball. Howard followed with a single, and then Utely and Howard advanced on a wild pitch. A hit by Francisco and the Phils would have an early 2-0 lead and perhaps the entire complexion of the game would have changed. Instead, Francisco predictably failed to come through, flying out harmlessly to center. He's now batting a lofty .218 on the season, and that's after a torrid first two weeks of the year. What I'm trying to say is Ben Fracisco is absolutely terrible. John Mayberry deserves to have his roster spot about 8 billion times more right now.

As it turned out, that was the closest the Phillies would get to scoring a run. In fact, they only had two more hits the rest of the game … one a meaningless single by Francisco with no one on base later in the game, and a single by Howard in the 9th before Francisco flew out to end the game.

It's incredibly frustrating to see the Phillies fail to even pose a threat against an average pitcher, but as we've come to know by now, Vargas is the type of guy that gives Philadelphia fits. What drives me nuts is that Manuel would decide to put in three bench players in the same game against a type of pitcher they already struggle against with their best lineup out there.

Like I said, I get it. Polanco needs a day off here and there. Dom is still very green. And you want to give guys like Francisco, Valdez and Martinez some at-bats — even though they can't hit much most of the time anyway — to keep them sharp. But there is such at thing as moderation. Like sitting Polanco on Friday or something, then Dom yesterday, etc. But hey, Charlie knows what he's doing, and there really isn't much to complain about right now (despite the fact that complaining is in our Philadelphia fan DNA).

I'm just in favor a little moderation with getting the subs in.

Also, Ben Francisco stinks. I'm not sure if I've mentioned that or not yet.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Cliff Lee's line yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia's 3-0 to cap off a four-game sweep of the Marlins: 9 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and an RBI. Ladies and gentlemen, Cliff Lee had as many hits as he gave up yesterday in a complete-game shutout and more RBIs than the entire Marlins lineup (obviously).

This is in honor of him.

His ERA, which was getting near 4.00 a couple weeks ago, is back down to 3.12. Cliff is just fine, and so are the Phillies. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Double the Fun

OK, show of hands … if I told you before the first pitch was thrown yesterday that one of the two starters for the Phils in their day/night double header with Florida would surrender just 1 run and 1 extra-base hit in 7 innings and pick up the win while the other would give up 4 extra-base hits, 4 runs and leave with his team trailing, how many of you would have guessed pitcher No. 1 was Kyle Kendrick and pitcher No. 2 was Roy Halladay?

Not me, that's for damn sure. Yet that's exactly what transpired yesterday here in the City of Brotherly Love. And I missed practically all of it due to work and life getting the way … though I did manage to see the best parts of game 2.

You see, late Tuesday night Paul "lil' Jon" Runyan texted me that he had an extra ticket to the day game Wednesday. Due to stupid work obligations and no notice, I really couldn't ditch out and go to the game even though I desperately wanted to. Then around midnight, he texted me again, waking me from my sleep, trying to convince me to go. But I really had to go to work yesterday morning, though I held out hope I could maybe take a half day and meet him and silver fox down there. Didn't happen. The work piled up and deadlines were fast-approaching. I had to stay put.

As disappointed as I was, I at least had the comfort of knowing I was missing out on a Kyle Kendrick game. I should have known better. I mean, so far this season I've been in attendance for one of Cole Hamels' two losses this season and one of Roy Halladay's three losses — unquestionably the worst outings for each of them — not to mention another shitty loss on a shitty night. So of course if I had gone I would have seen Kyle Kendrick, easily the worst pitcher in this star-studded rotation, throw a gem. It only makes sense, and by that I mean it makes absolutely no sense.

By the time I checked in on the score, the Phillies had an 8-1 lead, the weather was insanely nice and I was stuck in a freakin cubicle with neon lights and hating my life. Being an adult sucks so hard.

In my work mode, I missed out on Jimmy Rollins turning his swag on high with a three-run homer and two-hit, four-RBI game, Wilson Valdez going 3-for-4 at the dish including a bases-loaded, bases-clearing triple and Kyle Kendrick unfathomably pitching a 7-inning, 5-hit, 1-run, 5-strikeout gem to pick up the win. Oh, AND J.C. Romero and Danys Baez finished it off with allowing just one base-runner between the two of them. Unbelievable.

Later, right when the Phillies were about to start the nightcap, I had to leave for my softball game. So basically I missed everything in the game for the first 6 innings. But after our team managed to get a victory despite having just 9 guys to the opposition's full squad of 10, the team headed to the bar where we saw the final innings unfold.

Before we got there, we missed Roy Halladay uncharacteristically give up two runs in the first and two more in the fourth, and also Chase Utley driving in both Phillies runs with a double and a triple.

The good news is, the Phillies were saving their best for last, and we were able to see it. The Phils still trailed 4-2 going into the 9th, and in came Florida's closer Leo Nunez. He immediately got Dom Brown to ground out, but then Carlos Ruiz singled, followed by Ross Gload (I know, I thought he was dead too) getting a pinch-hit single right behind him. Gload was then replaced by Michael Martinez on the base paths, and up came Jimmy. Suddenly, there was life again in Citizens Bank Park. These are the spots that Rollins thrives on, and he looked like he was about to come through again. J-Roll absolutely smoked a ball right back up the middle. Off the bat, it looked like a sure single to center, possibly plating Ruiz but definitely getting Rollins on. Only he smoked it so hard that Nunez didn't have time to get out of the way of it, it bounced off his leg all the way to first base, and Rollins was out on an incredibly unfortunate ground out.

The good news was Ruiz and Martinez were able to advance, so any type of hit that left the infield would tie the game. The bad news was the Phils were down to their final out. However, right then and there, as Shane Victorino was stepping into the box, my buddy said he was definitely getting a hit and the Phils were definitely going to win, proclaiming that he could see into the future. He's an idiot, though Shane made him look like a genius, ripping a single back up the middle to tie the game. I have to admit, I'm as baffled as everyone else that the Phillies decided to keep Michael Martinez in the bigs seeing as he doesn't hit and really doesn't play, but dear god was he flying around the base paths. Sure, pretty much anyone would have scored on that hit from second with two outs, going right on contact, but still, he was flying. Michael Martinez is fast.

With the way Utley was swinging the bat last night and the game now tied, I'm pretty sure everyone within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia thought the Phils were going to win this thing right then and there. Adam EatShit said immediately that Chase should take one and let Shane steal, which everyone in the bar agreed with. Best-case scenario, you have Victorino in scoring position, meaning a hit wins the game. Worst-case scenario, Shane gets thrown out and the Phils go into the 10th with Utley, Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco coming up. The Phils thought the exact same thing, as Victorino easily swiped second. Then Chase hit a tracer to left, but unfortunately right at Logan Morrison. On to extras.

Ryan Madson worked around a leadoff walk to put up a 0 for the Marlins, and everyone was hanging on to every pitch. To lead off the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Howard got hit by a pitch. But then Polanco flew out and Raul struck out. That put the game on the shoulders of the youngster Dom Brown.

Though Brown's numbers aren't overly impressive, the kid has looked really good. You can tell he belongs, and it's evident why he has been so highly touted. But at home so far this year, he's struggled more than he has on the road. And in that spot, in a tie game in the 10th with a chance to be a hero, it would be perfectly understandable if Dom tried to do too much, tried to hit a walkoff, didn't have the most patient approach. Instead, Brown worked an incredible at-bat, finally walking on 7 pitches after fouling off a slider with two strikes. It was one of the best pure at-bats for anyone on this team all season. That is an awesome sign for his development, that in that spot he can have an at-bat like that.

That brought up Curbball, and everyone knew he was going to come through. Chooch is as clutch as anyone on this team. And he was clutch yet again, smoking another single up the middle to plate Howard easily and walk away with a 5-4 victory. The bar was overtaken with cheers, we drank ourselves until closing and then it was off to bed.

In a bizarre day that saw Roy Halladay have a worse outing than Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies found a way to win both games. They've now won six games in a row, have a 5 game lead over the Braves in the division, and at 43-26 have the best record in all of baseball. Not bad for a team that "hasn't put it all together yet."

Don't look now, but the bats are waking up, and the pitching staff isn't going anywhere. The Phillies are who we thought they were. The best team in the National League, and right now, the best team in baseball.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fire Hydrants Make Great Beer Can Holders

Pretty busy and fried this week, so not a ton of time to write. Instead, here's a rare photo I took personally. Did you know the top of a fire hydrant makes the perfect holder for a beer can, even a pounder?

You learn something new every day. Oh, and the Flyers traded for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov. I would very much be willing to forgo re-signing Ville Leino in order to sign Ilya, as much as I like Ville.

Also, I consider it a really, really good sign that the Phillies have the second best record in baseball even though it doesn't feel like it. I mean, this team still hasn't really had its projected lineup out there much, Cliff Lee hasn't quite been himself yet and they're still 36-25, just a half game behind the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. Not too shabby for a team that hasn't hit much.

One more note: These NBA Finals have been absurdly awesome. Every game coming down to the last shot. The Mavericks continuing to be beasts in the 4th quarter. Dwyane Wade looking like more of a superman than Shaq and Dwight Howard combined (right now). Fun stuff.

That is all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Absolutely Incredible: The 10-Year Anniversary of the 2001 76ers (and Game 1 of the NBA Finals)

Ten years ago today I, like an entire generation of Philadelphia 76ers fans, experienced the pinnacle of basketball enjoyment in my life to date. On this date a decade ago, June 6, 2001, the Philadelphia 76ers went to Los Angeles and defeated the previously undefeated (in the playoffs) Lakers to win game 1 of the NBA Finals in an overtime thriller. And it was the greatest moment of my basketball viewing life.

Back then, I was a baby-faced high school junior, just 17 years old — born more than a half a year after the last time the Sixers made it to the NBA Finals (and won) in 1983. And I remember every last second of that game and that season like it happened yesterday, even 10 years later as a 27-year-old who has a tough time remembering what I ate for lunch.

It’s no exaggeration when I say I’ve watched game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals dozens upon dozens of times. Not only did I watch the game live from home in suburban Philadelphia at the time, but I taped it at the same time. The next day, I asked my Latin teacher – who did not exactly enjoy having me in her class – if I could bring in the tape and watch it, seeing as it was the end of the year and everyone had checked out. Incredibly, the same teacher who had given me ISS (in-school suspension for you goody-two-shoes who never got in trouble) and two Saturday morning detentions for dropping a few “F” bombs at a girl for saying something to me she shouldn’t have actually, agreed to let me bring in the tape and have the class watch it. You bet your ass I brought it in and the class did just that.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s another person on the planet who’s watched that game more than me. On several occasions over the next year, I popped in the tape when I wasn’t doing anything else and watched every last second of it, yelling and screaming at the refs and plays (especially Rick Fox’s clear travel in overtime, where he slid across the floor with the ball in his possession) like it was live. I brought that tape to college and popped it in my TV/VCR combo anytime I felt down or needed motivation to do some work or when I was skipping class.

To this day, I still have that tape, worn and beat up, and though I don’t watch it much anymore since there’s no VCR in my current house, I’ve been known to sneak it in on occasion when I find a real, live, working VCR.

That might sound insane and unhealthy to a lot of people, but not if you’re a Sixers fan, and certainly not if you lived through the 2000-01 Sixers season.

For those you outside Philadelphia, you have to understand where I’m coming from. For my entire childhood, the Sixers were one of the laughingstocks of the league. I came around in the post-Dr. J era, when the team consisted of Charles Barkley and little else. Hersey Hawkins and Johnny Dawkins were the only respectable players I remember playing with him.

Names like Charles Shackleford, Jeff Malone, Shawn Bradley, Clarence Weatherspoon, Dana Barros and Manute Bol were the biggest names in town, and as you can imagine, the Sixers were terrible. Really terrible. So terrible that I spent nearly as much time watching Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls as I did the Sixers. Though Philadelphia was still my favorite team, the Bulls were more fun to watch, and they were on TV just as much as the Sixers because those were the days of PRISM. Only Sixers road games were televised, while home games were on PRISM, a pay channel we did not have in my home.

Being a Sixers fan was tough. And really, there was never much hope until Jerry Stackhouse was drafted and was a finalist for the Rookie of the Year.

The next year, the excitement grew even greater, as the Sixers won the draft lottery and selected Allen Iverson out of the Georgetown, the consensus No. 1 pick and eventual Rookie of the Year. Finally, there was some buzz around professional basketball in the City of Brotherly Love.

Unfortunately, the Sixers still sucked, and Iverson and Stackhouse really couldn’t find a way to co-exist. So Stackhouse was shipped off to Detroit in exchange for Philadelphia native and former Temple star Aaron McKie and a raw, athletic but pretty much unknown Theo Ratliff.

Little did we know at the time that that trade would set things in motion for this franchise. Seeing the way Iverson dominated the ball and scored as well as anyone, the Sixers began to build a team of role players around A.I. In came Larry Brown, the legendary coach who made is career by turning around moribund franchises and turning them into playoff teams. While Brown and Iverson clashed heads, the Sixers began their steady ascent, making the playoffs year after year with Iverson getting better and better. Yet they could never quite get over the hump, routinely getting bounced by Brown’s former team, the Indiana Pacers.

Then the 2000-01 season happened. Fed up and frustrated with dealing with Iverson, Brown and then-GM Billy King had a deal in place to trade Allen Iverson and Matt Geiger in a four-team deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons. I don’t recall all of the details, but I do remember that Iverson was to end up in Detroit, with Eddie Jones, I believe Glenn Rice and more heading to Philadelphia. But Geiger had a no-trade clause in his contract and vetoed it.

When I heard of the trade, I remember being furious. How could the Sixers even think about trading their best player, the franchise player, one of the best scorers and a guy who laid it on the line every night? Silver fox, Arkansas Fred and I couldn’t fathom it, and Geiger instantly became a savior in our eyes. Had the Sixers traded Iverson in his prime, I’m not sure any of us would have known what to do. All I know is, we were pissed. So was Iverson. And he used that slap in the face from the front office as fuel for the greatest season any little man has ever had in the NBA.

Iverson and the Sixers stormed out of the gate, A.I. determined to prove Brown, King and everyone else that even thinking about trading him was a lethal mistake. They blew out the Knicks in the opener, then topped the Raptors, then the Magic and the Heat. Before you could blink, the Sixers were off to a 10-0 start, with Iverson playing out of his mind and the team playing some of the best defense in the league. Theo Ratliff, who had come into his own under brown, was a defensive force, protecting the rim and erasing shots. Aaron McKie and Eric Snow were incredible on-the-ball defenders. George Lynch a shutout guy on the wing. Tyrone Hill did yeoman’s work, and despite his atrocious offense was playing awesome low-post defense and hauled in every rebound. And the Sixers looked like they might never lose.

Their winning streak did come to an end in game 11, but by the time the all-star game came around, the Sixers had the best record in the NBA and were running away with the East. It looked like nothing could stop them … until Ratliff broke his wrist before the all-star break, this after being voted in as the East’s starter for the all-star game. That’s when the rumors began of a trade for Dikembe Mutombo. And as great as Mutombo was, I couldn’t stand the thought of Philadelphia trading away Theo. Outside of Iverson, Ratliff was my favorite player on the team. His incredible shot-blocking and athleticism drew me in, and I had grown to love him. To this day, I love the guy. And I desperately wanted the Sixers to keep him. After all, they had the best record in the league and were playing the best basketball I’d ever seen the Sixers play, and he was a large reason for that.

As fate would have it, that all-star game turned out to be foreshadowing. With Ratliff out due to the wrist injury, Iverson was the lone Sixer playing in the game. The Western Conference, who had dominated the game for a while, built a commanding lead. But then Iverson, with the help of Stephon Marbury and, yes, Dikembe Mutombo, led the East back. Iverson and Marbury teamed up as a two-man blur, scoring at will in the 4th quarter, and Mutombo got what felt like every single rebound down the stretch. With Iverson winning the MVP, the East won coming from behind 111-110, thanks largely to Iverson and Mutombo.

Not long after, Mutombo would team up with Iverson again. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was working at my after-school job at a gas station, where I sat and watched TV while eating candy and drinking Rosie’s as people paid me for gas and cigarettes. I’m watching Sportscenter as I hear word that the Sixers and Hawks pulled off a trade, with Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc and other moving parts going to Atlanta in exchange mainly for Dikembe Mutombo. I let out a loud, emphatic, “Fuck! Fuck shit fuck!” I was infuriated that they traded my man Theo, and immediately declared that if the Sixers did not make the NBA Finals, it was a stupid trade. Of course it wasn’t. Because as good as Theo was, Mutombo was one of the greatest rebounders and defenders in NBA history, a shot-blocking machine and defensive wizard. Still, I was heartbroken and didn’t quite know what to do with myself. The only thing I could do was sit back and watch.

What I and everyone else in Philadelphia and across the country witnessed was continued dominance by the Sixers. Iverson threw his body all over the court on his way to MVP, leading the league in scoring and minutes per game while finishing second in steals. Aaron McKie, the defensive stalwart and big-shot maker, won 6th Man of the Year. Larry Brown, finally able to get through to Iverson and put the right surrounding cast around him, won Coach of the Year. And Mutombo, the man who replaced Ratliff, won Defensive Player of the Year. Coach of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and MVP all on the same team.

With a such huge lead in the East going down the stretch, Brown decided to rest his weary and beaten players. Ultimately, that cost the Sixers a chance at home court if they made the Finals, but they had home court all sewn up in the conference. They finished 56-26, and night in and night out, the building was packed and everyone tuned in on TV.

It was the most fun regular season of my life, but now came the real test. First round, the Indiana Pacers, the team that had made a habit of bouncing the Sixers year in and year out. But after they lost game 1, it was all Sixers in game 2, and they made quick work of Indiana, winning the series in four games. They had exorcised a demon. After that, I honestly believed this team would overcome everything. And they did.

The rest of the playoffs were a blur. That epic 7-game series with Toronto in which Vince Carter and A.I. exchanged 50-point games. Iverson scoring 50 for a second time just days after Charles Oakley proclaimed Iverson would never score 50 against them again. Vince Carter’s graduation-day controversy. Then his missed last-second shot that seemed to go in slow motion to ensure the Sixers would move on. I watched it all, hanging on to every moment.

Then it was the Bucks, another 7-game battle. Yet it wasn’t game 7 that stands out. Believe it or not, the most memorable game in that series for every Sixers fan alive wasn’t even a game the Sixers won. No, it was game 3. With the series tied 1-1, Milwaukee went home with the news that Iverson was too banged up to play. Everyone in the world expected a blowout victory for the Bucks, with Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen providing way more punch than the Iverson-less Sixers.

Yet without A.I., the Sixers battled and battled and battled. They overcame a huge second-half deficit and made it a game. And while the Bucks ultimately won, it showed the true resolve of this team. Not even missing their unquestioned star, the man tasked with the biggest scoring load in the league, could derail their confidence. Jumaine Jones of all people stepped up in Iverson’s absence with 16 big points. McKie led the Sixers with 22. And their defense was incredible yet again.

Even after the Sixers fell behind 2-1 in the series on that night, you just knew Philadelphia would find a way to win the series. And they did just that. Iverson came back with avengeance, putting up 28 in game 4, and the Sixers outlasted Milwaukee in 7, with Dikembe asking, “Who wants to go to L.A. with me?”

Ray Allen and George Karl cried the whole series, with Allen uncharacteristically complaining of a conspiracy because the NBA wanted to see Iverson vs. Shaq. Karl, who proclaimed earlier in the series that Dikembe Mutombo wouldn’t really be a factor, walked out of a press conference after Mutombo had a monster game and a reporter asked him about that comment. It was nothing but sore losers from Milwaukee, and I didn’t give two shits. The Sixers were going to the NBA Finals.

And that’s where the Sixers were headed, to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, who had swept their way to the NBA Finals. No one gave the Sixers a chance. No one. With Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and a slew of championship veterans, the Lakers were the unbeatable juggernaut. It really was a David vs. Goliath story, Iverson vs. Shaq and Kobe.

Then the Sixers went out and shocked the world. Raja Bell with the scoop shot. Eric Snow with the face. Iverson’s 48 points despite Tyronn Lue “holding me the whole time,” as A.I. would say after the game. Dikembe’s remarkable one-on-one defense against Shaq. Rick Fox’s clear travel that wasn’t called in OT, the Lakers storming out in overtime and looking like they buried the Sixers, only to have A.I. go bonkers, cross up Lue, step over him, and give Philadelphia the victory and a 1-0 series lead. Ironically, as former No. 1 overall pick for the Sixers and current Sixers head coach Doug Collins called the game on NBC with Marv Albert. The unbeatable were beaten, and I honestly thought that somehow, some way this band of misfits and its star would continue to shock the world.

We all know that’s not how it played out. As expected, the Lakers came out and won game 2. But when the series shifted back to Philadelphia and the Sixers built a big lead, it looked like they weren’t going anywhere soon. Shaq fouled out. The home crowd was going nuts. But the Sixers still lost. Right then and there, all hopes were dash. If they couldn’t close out a game with eventual Finals MVP Shaq fouled out, this thing was as good as over. Robert Horry did his thing, Shaq and Kobe closed out the Sixers, and Kobe became public enemy No. 1 when the series shifted back to Philly by proclaiming he wanted to rip Philadelphia’s heart out. The hometown hero turned unappreciative traitor. He could have been diplomatic about it, but he chose to cast his hometown aside completely. Philadelphia hasn’t forgiven him since.

And the reason is because this city absolutely loved that team. For one magical regular season, for one incredible playoff run, for one remarkable NBA Finals game, everything was perfect. We had the MVP. We had the Coach of the Year, DOP, 6th Man. And 10 years ago today, they went out and shocked the world, beat the unbeatable Lakers, played the perfect game.

It was a season unlike any other. And although it didn’t culminate in a title, it was, simply put, absolutely incredible.

Check out Kenny's take, along with mine, on game 1 over at Ed the Sports Fan.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Shaquille O'Neal, the most dominant center I ever got to witness, officially retires today, so of course it's an all Shaq marathon.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Freeing of Domonic Brown

This has been the moment both Domonic Brown and the Philadelphia Phillies fans have been waiting for. Ever since Brown began storming through the minor leagues and was named one of, if not the, top prospect in baseball, fans have been salivating over his arrival while Brown himself continued to mash minor league pitching and await his chance.

Finally last season he got his chance, getting called up toward the end of the year to get some seasoning as the Phils made another bid at the top spot in the National League. The buzz around the area was quite large for Brown, but in limited playing time he struggled. Brown batting just .210 in 35 games and 70 plate appearances, striking out an alarming 24 times. Worse than his numbers, he often looked overmatched and out of place. He struggled so mightily that some fans started waving red flags, and when he hit woefully in the winter league, the term "bust" started being tossed around.

As it turned out, Brown didn't let any of that affect him. After struggling in his short stint last season, Dom began to tinker with his stance and hand positioning in the winter league on the advice of his coaches. He had trouble adjusting, and when it came time for this season to start, he went back to the form that had gotten him this far. All Dom did from there was destroy minor league pitching once again, and when Shane Victorino went down, up he came.

He's been on a role ever since. Sure, Brown didn't do much in the way of hitting his first few games, but as he's gotten more playing time, he's begun to flourish and show exactly why he's so highly touted. In 11 games this season, Dom is batting .324 with a .529 slugging percentage and .898 OPS. And he looks infinitely more comfortable than he did last season in the midst of a playoff run. That's evident by his much decreased strikeout rate. In 39 plate appearances, Brown has struck out just 4 times this season. And perhaps even more encouraging, he's hitting damn near everything hard.

Since he's been freed, he's been nothing but a bright spot. And with each at-bat he seems to be gaining confidence. After starting 1-for-14 in his first four games, Brown has gone 10-for-20 in his last 7 games, hitting safely in 6 of those. And it would have been 7 had Laynce Nix not robbed him and the Phillies yesterday.

It will be interesting to see what exactly the Phillies will do with Shane Victorino scheduled to return tomorrow, specifically how they handle Brown. This team already has a surplus of outfielders, with opening day starters Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco starting to swing better, not to mention the impressive outfield play and improved approach at the plate by John Mayberry. And that's not even mentioning Ross Gload. But the way Brown is playing, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. He's already been semi-freed, and it wouldn't make a whole of sense to lock him back up now. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

What I do know is that Domonic Brown is proving to be every bit the player he was projected to be, and when Ibanez and Francisco move on, the Phillies outfield will be in good hands with Victorino, Mayberry and Brown out there.

Oh, and Domonic Brown will be beloved in the City of Brotherly Love. Actually, he already is.