caught looking

a blog about the philadelphia phillies. not to be confused, exactly, with "caught looking" the debut album by independent/unsigned/unheard of singer/songwriter greg roth, who is, coincidently, yours truly.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Start Spreadin' the News

thank god. now, where are our draft picks in return?

4 Months and Counting

CL has secured a ticket to opening day, 2006, April 3 versus St. Louis at 3:05.

Anyone else going?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bravo / Encore

Last week's deal of Jim Thome was exciting, a revelation not to be overlooked in the annals of Phillies offseasons. It brings to town a type-A personality and everyday break-a-legger, something the team has been short on the last few years. Rowand has already said all the right things, already mentioning the same walls Mr. Lofton didn't go anywhere near, including comparing the Cit to a cathedral, while phans across the Delaware Valley probably snuck in a quick prayer session between Thanksgiving and this week's latest football farce. Amen.

But we knew all that already, right? Well, perhaps, in reading between the lines, as we all are wont to do -- especially in November, right? -- it could realistically be reasoned that two more very important items have revealed themselves.

One: Pat Gillick is a pro GM. Granted, that's not much of a stretch, so maybe we should amend that and say, Pat Gillick is a pro GM now and capable setting an agenda and following it. case in point: the quest to deal Thome apparently started through Cleveland, with Patty G establishing the bidding at "outfielder Coco Crisp, top pitching prospect Charles Lofgren, and another prospect." Sound familiar? It's exactly the deal Gillick got from the White Sox, a starting CF and two stud minor league arms. Whatever charm, charisma, or acumen that Gillick has, it served him well as he somehow dealt from strength while actually existing in weakness. However he did it, he went to Cleveland, was heard, and then peddled his papers elsewhere, appealing to Sox GM Kenny Williams' love of aging stars. Our new GM is not at the dinner table, he's more accurately cooking, serving, and enjoying the spread. Let's eat.

Two: Going more out on a limb, it seems almost a lock that, should there be one more deal this offseason, it will absolutely not involve Pat Burrell. Besides being the only right-handed power bat in the lineup and all that tactical stuff we already have been over, Burrell is a guy the team has already lived and died with over the past few seasons. Somewhere in the front office, the suits probably think that should this team make the playoffs and hit its stride, they would want Burrell to be a part of that story. In fact, on the Rowand trade, Burrell was part of that story too, quoted as saying "This town will go crazy for this guy. He'll run through anything. He'll be great here, tremendous. He may be the next Lenny Dykstra here." OK, so out of all the players on the team, we have Burrell's opinion, which involves a well-loved CF from yesteryear. Remember, Dave Montgomery's e-mail after the season which stressed the future and named a few players thought to be the embodiment of that future? In much the same way, CL maintains that Burrell's presence in this story says the same about his future here. Sure, Burrell and Rowand are apparently friends of years, but what does it say about this year's home run derby champ that his thoughts this off-season are nowhere to be found? Burrell, for all his flaws, is much closer to the heart of this team than many people probably realize. A laid-back California boy who is frequently spotted out at the city bars and is reputed to be fairly approachable, he represents both the promise of this team these last few years along with its incredible struggles. CL would not be surprised to find out that Pat has been written into the opening day line-up already. In ink.

Meanwhile, Bobby has been invisible; outside the rumor mill, of course. That, along with his fear of walls, probably means he's just not a Gillick guy. I expect he'll be moved by Opening Day.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Day at the Races

Shouldn't that read "one horse's ass race?"

Well, I am betting that the Mets win this race, while the Phils merely place. In fact, if they show, even better.

There are other races to watch.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The First Day of the Rest of our Phillies Lives

This is definately one time when we don't mind admitting that we were wrong. About a month ago, in the beginning stages of this blog, CL went out on a limb and predicted that Jim Thome would not be moved until after not only the start of spring training, but the regular season as well. This was based on nothing scientific, only the overall culture Dave Montgomery has presided over since the late 90s, the seeming aversion to big trades, and new GM Pat Gillick's own admission that he was going to take time to get to know everything and maybe do this here or there. All of this added up to slow progress.

Or not.

With the trade of Jim Thome before Thanksgiving, just days after a front page profile of him ran in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer -- how's that for a conspiracey? Gillick must have known he was getting close and possibly let a beat writer or two in on the knowledge -- the Phillies have begun what could very well be one of the most engaging offseasons in club history. And begun it well, thank you. This is good for many reasons, not least of which being that their division mates seem to be following suit. The Marlins are unloading, the Mets are opening their pockets, and the Braves are the gold standard taylors for making annual alterations. In sending their former franchise cornerstone to his hometown along with an envelope of cash, the Phils welcome their newest starting centerfielder to town (as opposed to last week's newest starter there) along with two highly-touted left-handed pitching prospects into their farm system.

As is generally agreed upon by both Phils bloggers and Southside Chi-town web gurus, both teams appear to have addressed weaknesses through these trades, but the NL almost certainly made out better. The two prospects were apparently rated #3 and #6 in the White Sox's minor leagues, including a barely-out-of-his-teens, projected ace southpaw with good K numbers at single-A ball last year. At the top level, the team appears to have added its 6-slot hitter for next year, and one with a large patrol area in centerfield. Based on this trade alone, Gillick has proven himself to be the guy the Phils needed right now to turn things around right now. Three players for one is hard to beat.

The move is not without its side effects though and they are pretty obvious: along with the acquired, the team has a surplus of players in the outfield, including two very expensive corner starters and two very inexpensive role players in center. Add to this a few highly-regarded minor league outfield prospects and you have a legit logjam both short and long term in the grass at CBP. With pitching still an unaddressed need, it stands to reason that another off-season move could bring a live arm to the mound for the price of one near the fences. Burrell should be safe as the only right-handed power in the lineup. Will it be the high-priced Abreu, the displaced former CF starter Victorino, or the perennial odd-man out Michaels? Sounds like Bobby has been shopped, inquiries on Michaels have been stopped, and plans to start Victorino have flopped. What happens from here is anyone's guess. It could be that Gillick himself doesn't know. Whatever it is, CL humbly suggests that Endy Chavez is thrown in.

One wildcard to the deal: In Jim Thome, the organization had a stand-up guy who liked to play in Philadelphia. No one can say yet for certain that Aaron Rowand, a Chicago Bears fan who was visably disappointed to leave the windy city, will feel the same. Here's to hoping he doesn't lose that willingness to run through walls.

Friday, November 18, 2005

King of the Jungle

Bill Lyon, the sports columist to end all sports columnists, is retiring from his post at the Philadelphia Inquirer after a career spanning, well, the entirety of my life. His work was immensely vital to the shaping of this (still?) young writer's mind. It was Lyon's friendly pacing of prose that a young GR shamelessly aped during his career-starting stint as a sportswriter for the Lancaster New Era and Sunday News back in the 90s. Therefore, I left a comment in the forum which reads thusly:

Thanks very much for your work. It's probably not the most prudent thing to bring up, but your career service is the same as my age. I imagine that, like other young 30-something sports fans, reading your column became more and more of a given over the years. Growing up in the Lehigh Valley, I remember through my teens thinking "this guy probably has the best job in the world in the best sports town in the world." Of course, I have no idea whether or not that's actually true, but looking back, my sentiments were probably more due to your consistant quality of writing than any single game or season I witnessed. Between your style and your residence, you seemed to have everything a sports-minded writer like myself could ever want. On a personal note, I learned more about how to use words from your consistant output than I ever did in any classroom, newsroom, or bookroom. So, for that, I thank you.
Enjoy your retirement, you've earned it.


Anyone who does not appreciate or is not familiar with Bill's effortless style of writing should read probably one of the best columns ever written, a eulogy for the man who created the greatest comic strip of all time about a boy who continued, no matter what, to play the greatest game of all time.

The greatness of Bill's writing cannot be fully explained. It must be experienced.

Put Me In, Coach

Right now, Shane Victorino is batting lead-off for Team USA in the Olympic Baseball qualifying tournament and smacking the ball every which way, it seems. And, according to words uttered on Daily News Live yesterday, the starting centerfield job for your 2006 Phils is Victorino's to lose.

Hail to the Victorino.

A seemingly small move like this represents just how different this Phils club has become in the last month. When in Ed Wade's eight-year tenure do you remember someone up-and-coming being given this kind of confidence vote in the off-season, especially over a "proven veteran"? Perhaps the days of Gregg Jefferies and Kenny Lofton are gone, although the later certainly provided ample value last season, his injury and lone gunman way of life nonwithstanding. Maybe this will eventually be a club with a little more fluidity through the ranks, with recent stars like Burrell, Myers, Utley and Howard having paved the way for a mini-renaissance.

The truth is, the best full-season player in AAA last year deserves this shot and it might not be much of a stretch to grant such a prospect that kind of shot. But before we all get haughty and hesitant, attaching Marlon Byrd's name as a qualifier to every sentence on the subject, it bears mention that GM Gillick has announced this "move" 5 months before the start of the season. Again, Wade would be and was miscast in this part. Gillick is a guy that seems to have a very clear mind on how to establish an organizational culture from the top down. As I type this, his 68-years-of-age isn't entering my mind every five seconds. His energy is actually palpable. I feel good about next season already. His blue-chip Rule 5 prospect provides more youth, presumably at the top of the order, and is every bit as promising for a good year as anyone else the team could conceivably bring in to fill the spot. At a discount price, to boot. After all, if you don't trust your best prospects to produce, why even have a farm system to begin with? While it's certainly possible that it may not work out, it's a prudent move nonetheless and crosses one more thing off the list of gotta-haves this off season. CL likey the decision almost as much as we likey the timing. Go win the gold, Shane, we've got a spot waiting for you when you're back.

A small grey lining in the whole thing is the continued repression of Jason Michaels from the/a starting lineup. From J-Mike's perspective, it must be incredibly frustrating to be regarded as a bubble player for so many years, but the flipside, little consolation though it may be, is that the Phils might have one of the best fourth outfielders in the majors. All the more reassuring to know that Endy Chavez, should he remain on the squad, is still at the bottom of the depth chart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New York State of Mind

I call it accidental arrogance. Or, I would if I thought it was accidental. The wancors in the New York media provide the tweak of the day, getting CL just a bit perturbed by their item on Billy Wagner. With the Metropolitans in hot pursuit of the Virginia Ham, city meets country in every aspect of stories filed over the past week. In some cases, you can't get past the headline, without running head-first into some allusion to the yocal coming local.

Never-you-mind that this tour of the city will include southern Connecticut and West Chester County New York (did his initial visit to Philly in '03 include Malvern and King of Prussia? Certainly the 422 bypass will wet his appetite for staying in the Delaware Valley). So much for the cosmopolitan aspects of the upper West Side or the bohemian charm of the Village. My man wants a yard, fellas.

But, to be honest, that's not why we're irked. No, its more a case of the Big Apple, in time honored tradition, ignoring its junior partner in the mid-Atlantic, leaving our City of Brotherly Love to rock itself to sleep at night alone. Its a case of ignoring the last two years of history.

It's plucking the best closer in the National League from us and the Daily News not even having the common courtesy of running a file photo from the last two years with the story. That's right. Apparently, the Mets are signing Billy Wagner straight from Houston, as if his tenure with the Phils is nothing more than an abberration, as if the big city team is ashamed their new star ever spent time in the east coast's second city.

Thanks for the memories.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tidbits ('Tiddy Biddies' for Snoop Dogg fans)

-Does anyone have a subscription to Baseball America? If so, let us know what they say about the Phils' top 10 prospects.

-On this day in 2001, Larry Bowa was named NL Manager of the Year. The unfortunate side effect of this one-year genius of Bowa was three more years of Bowa.

-In more serious matters, Tim McGraw's song "Live Like You Were Dying" was named song of the year Thursday during the 11th annual Inspirational Country Music Awards Show. Though McGraw didn't actually write the song, it obviously resonates given the passing of his father, the irrepressible Tugger, last year.

-Ryan Howard is in danger of becoming soft, hanging out with the likes of Todd Pinkston. Someone get that kid some tougher friends.

-On the lighter side, its also the birthday of Lionel Simmons, the beloved L-Train.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Manny Being Money

For any of us who entertained the idea of the Phils acquiring Moonshot Manny to be our new clutch slugger and swaggercat in leftfield, the whispers appear to tell us this much: dream on. It doesn't take an Aerosmith fan to realize that this deal was most likely pie-in-the-sky thinking. Sighing, very much sighing.

It sure would be great to have that kind force in the middle of the lineup - one that inspires in opposing pitchers actual fear; one that snears first at delivery, then again after depositing that delivery somewhere on the avenue. His temperament and lack of defensive skills nonwithstanding, he is THE premier right-handed slugger in the game. Imagine hearing this on opening day: batting 3rd, Utley; batting 4th, Ramirez; batting 5th Howard. In this park? Are you kidding? Suddenly thousands of red t-shirts with #24 on the back would be crawling through the south Philly confines, many of them attached to female fans us single folk would lear and oggle for too long. IT MUST BE SUMMERTIME!!!!

Alas, if the reports are true, it's not what the moneyman would want, regardless of his friendship with former skip and current local general Charlie Manual. He would nullify such a trade. His $18 million contract probably would throw a wrench in things as well, even if one of the current Phils' big boppers were moved in his financial entirety in kind. Whether or not it would be a wise move, its sad in this regard:

Why not, Manny? Why not us? We have the bars, the nightlife, the foolish devotion and passion, the city history, the sports drought, even the homer-friendly park. You can even have your own fan group in the tradition of Thome's Homies, the Wolf Pack, the Padilla Flotilla, Burrell's Girls, and Lieberthal's Neanderthals. Imagine looking up every at bat to see Manny's Fannies!

Tell us what you want: your own sandwich? An open tab at the Turf Club? Private booth at Delilah's? WHY WON'T YOU LOVE US?


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One last thing

This is just a note to say that football will never be discussed on this blog.

Next question!

More bad news...

...For another team, anyways. Urbina charged with attempted murder.

Perish the Thought?

I don't understand. The Phillies AREN'T thinking of trading Jim Thome? What exactly ARE they thinking of with regard to the big fella? Is there another first base on the diamond that I'm missing? Why in the world would you let yourself be referenced behind that comment? Why not say the customary "we're exploring all options" statement that is comfortably non-committal? Such a statement would at least be in line with comments a few days prior, in which "no one is untouchable."

Hard to believe, Harry.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wags the Dog


With reports populating the pages of the New York media chronicling productive meetings and lucrative offers, it appears the Billy Wagner era in Philadelphia could be coming to a, pardon the pun, close. According to the Daily News, Wagner feels that the Phils "waited and now they don't have sole possession." A clearer message I can't imagine. It might not be with the theatre of the T.O. pomp and circumstance, but quite frankly Steven A. Smith, its ceremonious nonetheless. One more time around before his retirement, Wags wants to be paid and really who can blame him? For all his talk about contenders and fans, its not like he has all that much connection to where his services are put to use. He's the epitome of a hired gun. Nor does he presumably plan to change that outlook in the future, since, should he go to Mets, he "probably wouldn't even live in the city. [He'd] live in Connecticut." Hey, whatever, they have Pedro Martinez and a championship atmosphere. Apparently.

While it's a kick in the pants to be losing a bulldog closer from a bullpen which appears to also have lost its backup closer and its young setup man (the later to the rotation, possibly), the hole created by this particular departure might be just what the front office needs to set in motion the remaking of this team. Try as they might to resist that notion, nothing gets the ball rolling like a downhill slope and the Phils, should they be so inclined to "tinker," have some stones they should roll out. With new monies available and a need which can be filled for less, some wise restraint might produce some wise investment. Hard as it may be to admit, it starts with a $10 million dollar closer in his mid-thirties. Outside of losing a quality player, it's a subtraction dictated by market forces; forces the team would be well-advised to take cues from.

The Big Apple beckons with a lot of shiny hubcaps -- I say, let some other owner worry about the dog chasing them down. Better to tend to those who want to remain in the yard.

As a side note, lets hope the Phils sign neither Braden Looper or Roberto Hernandez.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

40 Watt Club

Around the Phlogoshere, the most active day in Phillies news in the last month has already produced some keen-eyed analysis on the state and future of the franchise. While it would be repetitive to offer essentially the same thoughts on the new GM, the behind-the-scenes operating, or the highly-questionable naming of Bobby Abreu as a Gold Glove outfielder, this much begs notation:

1. The Phils, for as long as David Montgomery is in charge of them, will never get creative or welcome much in the way of fresh thinking. They will perpetually be "close" to their goals, always thinking they just need a boost to reach that flickering lightbulb. Read any book on organizational management and it will tell you that patchwork is the way of the foolishly faithful. Sometimes things don't add up and a new equation must be formulated. Forgot whether or not Gerry Hunsicker would have automatically turned the Phils into a playoff then world series contender by virtue of his Delaware Valley roots and late-50s youthful energy. Forget the fact that former 'Stros Don tells his family what they don't want to here sometime (perhaps making them offers they can't refuse). How about the fact that in 3 weeks, David Montgomery essentially interviewed two candidates for the job, plus a throw-in assistant GM which may or may not have been after he offered the position already, and a couple in-house candidates who were most likely not serious candidates for the now in the first place. He did not even flinch when young World Series champ GM left a franchise that had recently cast off a more vexing hex than Philly can ever properly fathom. This is not the mark of someone who wants much change. Which leads to the next point.

2. For all Pat Gillick's resume and reputation, he has a very short window to demonstrate what his contribution to this franchise is going to be. And that window, in this blog's mind, begins and ends with the Billy Wagner situation. If Gillick comes in and throws a large contract at a 34-year-old fireballing reliever with a few recent injury problems, adding to the piles of money out from which this team needs to climb -- the whole point of his hiring in the first place -- then the window will close and the reality will set in. More of the same, more of the same, more of the same. The term farm system will for a long time in south Philly refer to some sort of agricultural irrigation and those of use dropping our hard-earned and foolishly spent dough on season tickets will take the greatest game-day pleasure not in the on-field product, but in commiseration with each other over a ballpark, its accoutrements, and some nice weather.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I judge thee worthy

Did you guys see that President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee is a lifelong Phillies fan?