Friday, July 27, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

As we all know, the Flyers missed out on their big defenseman when the Predators matched the insanely big offer Philadelphia threw at Shea Weber. So with that in mind, here's another big, awesome defenseman, Zdeno Chara, jamming out on the guitar.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Programming Note

I'll be in New York the majority of this week, so this increasingly vacant space will be even more vacant than usual. Some day I will have the time and energy to comment on the Sixers, Flyers, Eagles, Phillies and my now decimated alma mater. I promise. Maybe.

Either way, you an always find me over at The Sports Fan Journal, editing the works daily and writing on Wednesdays.

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Since Michael Vick said very rational things to Derrick Gunn that caused an uproar in the media because the media is horrible, here is the awesome video of the Eagles hula hoop girl doing her thing. I say it qualifies as dancing. Enjoy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

A year ago today, I severely dislocated my shoulder diving back to second base in a softball game. I am by no means the toughest person in the world, but I've broken a lot of bones in my day and gone through plenty of injuries. Typically, I deal with pain extremely well.

In fact, my senior year of high school I broke off a piece of my collar bone on both sides playing football with my friends, kept playing one-armed and then went out to see two movies — yes two — before I got home and my dad demanded to take me to the hospital. In hindsight, that was just being a stupid teenager, but nonetheless, my pain tolerance historically has been pretty high.

However, the second I hit the base, I felt an intense pain. Once the ump called me safe, I immediately bounced up, jogged off the field and called in a replacement. I couldn't move my arm, and when I reached the bench I touched it and felt a part of my shoulder protruding away from my body as my arm was shooting inward. Within a minute or two, everyone knew it was separated. What I didn't know was how painful it would be. It got to the point where I was literally begging anyone to pop it back in, but no one, understandably, wanted to touch me and risk further injury.

Finally, my buddy drove me to the hospital, where I proceeded to languish in absolute agony. I was ghost white, trying to be patient but feeling like I was going to pass out. I've never been in even remotely as close of pain as I was that night. At one point, after literally more than an hour waiting in the emergency room, I finally went to the nurse and said, "I'm sorry, I don't want to be a pain or a pushy patient, but I really need something soon. I'm in incredible pain."

It was torture. I couldn't get any pain relief until the X-ray was taken and the doctor came through, but the doctor wasn't there yet — he was on call. I literally felt like I was dying. And honestly, I kind of just wanted to, that's how bad it was.

Finally, mercifully, immediately after my X-ray confirmed what everyone around me already knew, I was hooked up to an IV and fed morphine. Instantly the pain subsided and I was on cloud 9. That stuff is incredible.

Eventually, the doctor finally put me under with the stuff that killed Michael Jackson and put my shoulder back in place, and I was laid up for 6 weeks with an immobilizer and looking like an idiot in the dead of summer. It sucked.

Anyway, I bring this all up because right before this happened, I began to watch "Breaking Bad" from the beginning. I got hooked right away, and tried to watch it as much as I could to get caught up. Well, seeing as I was laid up and terrified of redislocating my shoulder, all I did for five straight days as I stayed home from work was take a bunch of pain pills and watch Breaking Bad nonstop, catching up and then continuing on right through season 4 with Walter White's journey.

Coincidentally, the first part of the fifth and final season starts on Sunday, just two days after my one-year anniversary of the most physically painful experience of my life. Frankly I cannot wait, because Breaking Bad is my absolute favorite show on television.

As a tribute to that painful summer where I learned the incredible power of morphine, spent way too many hours hopped up on pills and watched a ton of AMC, here's some Morphine for you all.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The 10 Most Memorable MLB All-Star Game Moments of the Past 20 Years

The 10 Most Memorable MLB All-Star Game Moments of the Past 20 Years

Not on this list but worth mentioning, Brad Lidge with his only hiccup during his perfect 2008 season, losing the all-star game.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blasts From the Past: Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard Win the Home Run Derby

As you know, last night Prince Fielder took home the Home Run Derby crown, which brought to mind two other lefties that have won the Derby in the past decade: Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard.

For whatever reason — afraid of running into the wall, little emotion, lack of "clutch" — Bobby Abreu seemed to be a whipping boy during his days in Philadelphia despite being one of the best pure hitters in Phillies history. Personally, I always liked the guy, and in 2005, the whole world got to see Abreu put on a show at the Home Run Derby, winning the whole damn thing.

Then in 2006, Ryan Howard made it back-to-back Phillies to win the Derby, a prelude to his MVP season.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Swept Under the Doormat

The Phillies are bad. There are no two ways about it. This is a bad, bad baseball team. I don't care if it's because of injuries, mismanagement, bad luck or underachieving — the bottom line is the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies are just not a very good baseball team.

Only bad baseball teams start a month off with a 1-6 record. Only a bad baseball team celebrates its heart and soul player's return by losing six straight. Only a bad baseball team goes 1-10 in the final 11 games heading into the all-star break, including getting swept at home to close out the first half of the season.

This weekend was the rotten cherry on the shit sundae that is the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of not only attending one of these horrific losses to the Braves, but two. Lucky me.

Friday, as word spread that Ryan Howard was going to make his 2012 debut and bat cleanup, I started asking around to see if any of my friends wanted to go to the game. I received a steady of stream of "no" replies for various reasons: work, family obligations, Kyle Kendrick pitching. I was slightly disappointed, mainly because the return of Howard at least provided something to get excited about in this struggle of a season. Then again, it was hot as balls out and the pitching matchup clearly favored Atlanta, with the accomplished Tim Hudson taking on Kendrick.

However, literally a few minutes after I received the final bout of declines, I get this text:

Are you going to coldplay?

Oh yeah, Coldplay was playing at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night. I completely forgot. And no, I wasn't going to Coldplay, why do you ask?

I scored some Phils tix … they are free and everyone else is at coldplay

me: Well I'll go to see Howard strike out 4 times

Pretty much exactly what I said to someone 5 min ago

So that was that. I was in, excited to see Ryan Howard's season debut with tempered expectations because how can you have anything but tempered expectations with this team.

I headed down to the ballpark with a caravan of friends who were attending the concert at the WFC, tailgating for a few hours before the game. We headed in and watched in amazement as Kyle Kendrick matched Tim Hudson pitch for pitch, shutting out the Braves for 7 full innings — not to mention the fact that Ryan Howard didn't even strike out once. In fact, Howard looked pretty good in his debut, going 2-for-4 with double.

Still, I have to say that I'm not entirely in favor of plopping Howard right back into the four hole. The first reason is that Carlos Ruiz has been brilliant in that spot, just as he has been all season no matter where he's hit, and leaving Ruiz there breaks up the lefties and allows the lineup to go Rollins (sh), Victorino (sh), Utley (lh), Ruiz (rh), Howard (lh), Pence (rh), Pierre (lh), Polanco (rh), or something to that effect. Also, you have to think that even with all his rehab time, Howard may still be missing a little bit of power without his legs completely under him yet. Just seems to make sense to me, but Charlie is sticking to his guns here.

Anyway, back to the game. After the Phillies wasted a rare awesome outing by Kendrick by getting shut down by Hudson, in comes Antonio Bastardo to start the 8th. Bastardo is the embodiment of the 2012 Phillies. This time last season, Bastardo was one of the most unhittable relievers in baseball. When he came into the game, he was shutting the opposition down. This year, he's been far from perfect, struggling with his command and looking nothing like the guy we saw in 2011.

Naturally, Friday night was one of his bad nights. He surrendered a leadoff single, then proceeded to walk two of the next three batters to load the basses with one out. This is where a manager has to make a tough decision — leave in my best left-handed reliever with Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann, two lefties, coming up, or make a move. Charlie left Bastardo in, and he proceeded to walk in a run, his third walk in four hitters, 1-0 Braves. As Freeman approached the plate, I said to my buddy somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "He's gonna walk this guy, and McCann is going to hit a grand slam to right." The only reason I said that, besides McCann always seeming to kill the Phillies, is because I witnessed McCann hit a grand slam in Citizens Bank Park a few years ago in a long, rain-delayed game, which has been seared into my memory forever.

However, at this point, after surrendering a single and three walks to give Atlanta the lead, you almost had to take Bastardo out, even with the lefty-lefty matchup. Charlie did not, and wouldn't you know it, Brian McCann hit a grand slam to essentially put the game away — only it was to straightaway centerfield, not to right. So yeah, I've now seen Brian McCann hit two grand slams in Citizens Bank Park. Fantastic.

After the Phillies' fruitless at-bat in the 8th, we decided to head to the bar and then head home, a night out in the scorching heat just to see another anemic loss.

Thankfully I was spared attending Saturday's game on an ungodly hot day where temperatures topped 100 degrees, especially since the Phils lost yet again, this time 6-3, with McCann hitting yet another home run. I'm starting to think that guy likes hitting in CBP.

I instead spent my Saturday drinking all day and night with friends and enjoying myself to the fullest.

But I could not in good faith turn down a ticket to yesterday's game, no matter how much my brain told me I should. So I headed down to the stadium for the second time in three days with a couple of friends for one of the thinnest Sunday crowds in a long while. The seats in our section were sparsely populated, and for the first time in really forever, Ashburn Alley was not a giant mass of people. It was an odd scene, to be honest. Thankfully the clouds were blocking the sun and it was a cool 93 degrees, a huge improvement from the oppressive triple digits on Saturday, so that helped the mood a little.

We settled into our seats, and I noticed that Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino were not in the lineup for the final game before the all-star break. I know Shane has been struggling and Polly banged up, but with four days off coming up, I thought it was kind of absurd to not have those guys in the lineup, especially when the man taking Shane's place in center was some guy named Jason Pridie, a career minor leaguer.

When we saw Pridie, we immediately asked ourselves, "Who?" I then proceeded to ask how this guy could possibly be playing centerfield for a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball and proclaiming that Jason Pridie shouldn't even exist. I emphatically stated that Shane should be playing, struggles or no struggles.

So of course, in his first at-bat, Jason Pridie absolutely crushed a home run to right, giving the Phils a 2-0 lead.

Moral of the story? I'm an idiot. Or clearly I motivated Pridie to prove me wrong. I'll go with that second one.

The lead wouldn't last however, as Vance Worley gave up a bomb to our old friend Dan Uggla to tie it at 2 apiece. However, Pridie wasn't done shoving it in my face, scoring Hunter Pence in the very next at-bat on an RBI double, 3-2 Phils.

Sweet. Maybe they'd actually get away with a victory, I thought. But Brian McCann had other plans, driving in Martin Prado in the 5th to tie the game, then hitting his third home run in three days in the 7th complete the Atlanta sweep. Ugh.

You know things are bad when a career minor leaguer supplies the entire offense in a divisional game at home, the final game before the all-star break, a game the Phillies desperately needed to win just to stop the bleeding. But it didn't happen. They got swept, because they are a bad team.

Because they are so bad, the highlights come from elsewhere. For instance, this:

Some hooligan strategically placed a sticker on the beer stand. Well done.

The other highlight came when we went to get our final round of beers in the 7th. Turns out, we came up a quarter short for three beers at a cash-only stand, the same stand we had been hitting up all day. The guy, who we had tipped pretty well a few times, let us slide on the quarter. It was the best moment of the day.

That's what it's like as a Phillies fan here in 2012. We were spoiled the past five years, and now we're back in familiar territory. The team is in dead last in the division, 14 games out of first and 10 games out of wild card contention. They have lost four in row, 10 of 11 and just got swept at home to remain the NL East's doormat.

They are terrible, and it would take nothing short of a miracle to turn things around, even with all the big names and millions of dollars out there on the field. This past weekend just emphasized that. The Braves took the Phillies out to the woodshed, gave them a beating, and then swept them under the doormat. Now it may be time for some cleaning of their own.

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

So the Phillies lost yet again last night, this time courtesy of a blown save by Jonathan Papelbon, his second blown save of the season. In case you haven't been paying attention, the Phillies still stink.

To offset that on the eve of what's supposed to an ungodly 102-degree Saturday, here's one of the highlights of the season so far: the Phantic dancing with Paula Abdul.

Yep, it's been that kind of year.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Barbecue, Fireworks And Baseball On The Radio

A little late, since this was my 4th of July post, but still: Barbecue, Fireworks And Baseball On The Radio

Monday, July 2, 2012

Championship-less Since 2008: Evaluating Ruben Amaro Jr.

Mercifully, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies have an off day today after getting swept by the Florida Marlins over the weekend. Yesterday's 5-2 loss was the Phils' fifth straight L, as they continue to fall further and further behind in the standings.

It's become a season of despair. Not many fans can even muster up much hope in the return of Chase Utley and soon-to-be (hopefully) returns of Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay. The season has been that bad, something we have been spoiled enough to not endure the past five seasons, but something that Phillies fans are also pretty well-versed in over the years. The troubles of the team have been hashed and rehashed time and time again all over the place, so there's no need to go into depth about them again here.

However, with the season now at its halfway point in now year four of the Ruben Amaro Jr. era as Phillies general manager, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at RAJ's moves since taking the helm from Pat Gillick following the last Philadelphia team to be crowned World Fucking Champions.


Following the championship in 2008, the Phillies had a lot of housekeeping to tidy up. While the core of the team was still fairly locked up, RAJ had plenty to deal with in his first offseason as the man in charge. His first and biggest move of the offseason came in December 2008, when he signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract that everyone thought was too long for an already old, streaky hitter who wasn't so great in the outfield. Raul was taking the place of Pat Burrell, who literally road off into the sunset leading the parade down Broad Street in his final farewell to Philadelphia.

As we all know, Raul started out white hot, then slumped, but overall was pretty good in 2009. After that, not so much. As predicted, his contract appeared to outlive his usefulness, as Ibanez became a platoon player who struggled quite a bit in his final season before heading to the Yankees here in 2012. Not a terrible signing, but also not exactly the best foresight giving such an old guy a three-year deal.

That same offseason, RAJ tendered one-year contracts to Joe Blanton, Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson, Cole Hamels, Greg Dobbs, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth, all key contributors to the championship that the Phils needed to bring back. Before the calendar flipped to 2009 officially, Amaro also signed Eric Bruntlett and Clay Condrey, not to mention acquired Ronny Paulino from Pittsburgh for Jason Jaramillo.

Once the new year rang in, RAJ got to work. He singed Werth to a two-year deal (well worth it), Durbin to a one-year deal (necessary at the time), Madson to a three-year deal (excellent signing), Victorino and Blanton to one-year deals, Hamels to a  three-year deal (at a bargain, great move), Dobbs to a two-year deal, Jamie Moyer to a two-year deal (not so good) and inked Chan Ho Park to a one-year contract.

We all know Werth, Madson, Victorino and Cole were well worth their deals, big contributors necessary for the team. Moyer almost had to be brought back given the championship, but giving a guy who was that old two years just because backfired, as Moyer eventually lost his starting position down the line and became pretty cranky about it.

Blanton has been a disaster the past two years, but he was huge in getting the Phils to the World Series, so can't kill Ruben for that one. Durbin same thing, I like the one-year deal. And Chan Ho was excellent in his bullpen role during his one year in red pinstripes.

In February, RAJ also extended Howard three years and just as importantly released Adam Eaton. Can't argue with either of these moves.

March saw RAJ flip the recently acquired Paulino for left-hander Jack Taschner, while also signing Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract.

Of course, even bigger than the Ibanez signing, RAJ made his move at the trade deadline, trading Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald and Jason Knapp for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco in a move that can be considered nothing short of awesome.

Lee came to Philadelphia, dominated and put forth one of the most impressive postseason pitching performances of all time, despite the Phils coming up short to the Yankees in the World Series.

Following up the acquisition of one Cy Young winner, RAJ also then signed Pedro Martinez in the middle of the month, with Pedro pitching surprisingly well for a guy who had been away from the game for a while.

The Phillies again won the NL East and then the pennant, looking to repeat. If it wasn't for a down year by Hamels following his NLCS and World Series MVP postseason in 2008, the Phils very well may have repeated. They did not, losing the Yanks in 6, but it's hard to argue with Ruben's first year on the job. There were a few old guys he signed for too long, but he also stole Lee from Cleveland and helped the Phils return to the World Series. Off to a pretty good start.


After signing a few bit pieces, like Wilson Valdez, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload and Juan Castro, not mention bringing Placido Polanco back in another deal that was too lengthy but did sure up the team, RAJ went for broke. Roy Halladay had been the apple of Ruben's eye ever since he became GM, with rumors swirling throughout 2009 that the Phils would be the team to pry him away from Toronto. The hitch was the Phils didn't want to give up their top prospects, Kyle Drabek and Domonic Brown. But after the Phils were bested by the Yankees, Ruben was determined to get his man.

So RAJ went ahead and pulled the trigger, trading Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor for the great Roy Halladay. Incredible move, no matter how you slice it. The Phils went out and got one of, if not the, best pitchers in baseball to join forces with Lee and Hamels … or so we thought.

Instead, we were left dumbfounded, as the following day RAJ traded fan favorite and playoff MVP Cliff Lee to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez, three minor-leaguers who have yet to do a damn thing. Ruben broke up the three-headed monster Phillies fans were salivating over before it even had a chance to get together, and it was the single worst trade since the turn of the millennium for the Phillies. Don't get me wrong, getting Roy was awesome, proven by his Cy Young season, perfect game and playoff no-hitter. But to trade Lee for really no reason — RAJ claimed it was to restock the farm system, as well as a financial move — was devastating.

I will never fully forgive Amaro for dealing away Cliff Lee after just one short half season and one playoff run of brilliance.

To make matters worse, RAJ also signed Danys Baez, who was Chad Qualls before Chad Qualls was Chad Qualls. That means he sucked donkey balls, in case you were wondering. He also signed the million-year-old Jose Contreras, who was good until his arm fell off.

He also inked Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million contact, a deal that was questioned immediately and labeled by some as one of the worst contracts in baseball.

Of course, Ruben wouldn't stand pat at the trade deadline. In almost an admission that he screwed up by shipping Lee out west, he called up old pal Ed Wade and swung a deal to bring Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia, dealing J.A. Happ and two minor leaguers for Houston's ace.

So much for "restocking the farm system" and saving some dough.

Either way, the Phils flourished and won the NL East yet again, finishing with the best record in the National League and placed squarely as the favorites to win it all with Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt leading the way. Instead, the Giants' rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez stifled the Phillies on their way to the World Series in the NLCS, continuing the postseason regression under Rubes. While it was another really good season, you can't help but wonder what would have happened had Lee been teamed with Halladay and Hamels for an entire season. Of course, Lee would not have helped the Phillies' offense agains the Giants so maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway.


2010 was the end of the line for Moyer and Dobbs, both of whom were not good at all in 2010 for the Phillies. Signed for too long. That offseason also saw Jayson Werth head down to D.C. by signing a massive deal with the Naitonals, one the Phillies were wise not to match but nonetheless creating a hole in right field. Durbin was also gone to free agency, wisely.

But let's be honest, no one cares about any of that. All anyone cared about is that somehow, some way Ruben was able to reel back in the one he sent packing, as Cliff Lee shunned bigger dollars and longer deals from the Yankees and Rangers to head back to Philadelphia and finally put together the dream rotation Phillies fans had wanted: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton.

It was a coup that made the Phillies everyone's favorite for the World Series.

The season was going according to plan. The pitchers were brilliant. The only real trouble was the hole created by Werth, since Domonic Brown was unsteady, and the continued decline of Raul Ibanez. But that was all settled when John Mayberry flourished playing part time to spell Ibanez and RAJ went and got Hunter Pence to be the right-handed right fielder the Phils needed.

Hunter took off, the pitching was outstanding and the Phils won a franchise-record amount of games, running away with the division and heading into the postseason as the dead-on favorites. Instead, they got bounced in the first round by the eventual champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, as the offense struggled yet again and Lee blew a lead that turned the series around. Not good.

To make matters worse, Ryan Howard ruptured his achilles on the final at-bat of the season, the roster was aging, the bullpen in flux and Ruben did pretty much nothing to address the situations. There was a lot of tinkering needed for the 2012 season, tinkering that Ruben seemed to completely ignore.


The biggest move RAJ made was to sign Jonathan Papelbon to an exorbitant contract. Sure, it sured up the closer's role with Brad Lidge losing his effectiveness and heading to Washington and Ryan Madson testing the market, but it also cost a ton of money, money that could have been spent more wisely elsewhere. Instead of trying to reconnect with Ryan Madson after he initially refused an offer from the Phillies, he went and splurged on Papelbon as really the only big move of the offseason. Madson meanwhile signed just a cheap, one-year deal with the Reds, a deal that would have been much more manageable for the Phillies. Of course, Madson is out for the year due to injury, but who knows if that happens if he comes back to Philadelphia.

Anyway, after the Papelbon signing — and Papelbon has been the one lone bright spot in the bullpen this year — RAJ didn't do much to help the team. He brought back Jim Thome, which is a great story and all since everyone loves him, but Jim Thome is useless in the NL. It was proven given he sucked before getting hurt, then finally hit the crap out of the ball as a DH in interleague play, but then couldn't get back out there because he can't play the field. Thus he has already been traded to Baltimore.

He also traded for Ty Wigginton, a good move, and then tried to sure up the rest of the bench with Laynce Nix, Hector Luna and Juan Pierre. But he also traded utility man Wilson Valdez, who was valuable with his glove, particularly backing up Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, giving really no insurance behind Rollins, who was re-signed to a three-year deal despite his age and declining numbers.

Then to try and fill out the bullpen, RAJ signed Dontrelle Willis, who got cut before opening day, and Chad Qualls, who was recently traded after sucking and being demoted, while also attempting to rely on the ancient, injured Jose Contreras. Not a good plan.

Worse, Amaro had no plan in place for holding the fort while Howard was/is out. Maybe he was hoping Thome, Wigginton and Nix — who has been hurt — along with Mayberry would suffice, but that hasn't happened. Also, he once again seemed blindsided by Chase Utley's absence, something that is inexcusable at this point. That meant the Phillies had to go with light-hitting Freddy Galvis and then light-hitting Michael Martinez/Mike Fontenot to try and replace the team's three-hole hitter. Terrible.

And he also assumed Mayberry/PIerre could be everyday players despite one only succeeded one season in a platoon role and the other nearing the end of his carer. All this while piecing together a makeshift bullpen that has been one of the worst in the league.

Yeah, this has not been a good year for RAJ at all, and it's showing in the standings. Now, I'll concede that the injuries and poor performances have done him no favors, but it's hard not to put a lot of blame at Ruben's feet.

In his tenure, he's been aggressive and certainly tries his best to win it all every year, but he hasn't exactly been flawless. The deals to get Lee, Halladay and Oswalt were brilliant. So was the move to get Pence. But it's been offset by a habit of signing old guys to contracts that are too long and not focusing on filling out a well-rounded roster. Now it's all catching up to Ruben, and it has put the Phillies in the precarious position of trying to decide if they should be sellers here in 2012 or hope that a full, healthy roster can turn things around, if not this season than next.

Adding to the complications is the impending free agency of Cole Hamels, which only makes the trade talks swirl even more.

Ruben certainly has been bold as the GM, but just as the Phillies have regressed each postseason, RAJ has seen his stock start to fall as well with shortsighted moves and an aging roster.