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.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Wiley Veterans

For those of you who have yet to see it, the Phillies recently released The Vet, a two-DVD love letter to their old ballpark. We purchased this for our dad and were able to watch some of it before leaving PA to come back to VA. Some parts of it are terribly funny (or funnily terrible, perhaps?), including a reel of old promotional commercials from as far back as 1979. A lot of bang for $15. Comparatively, our Ryan Howard t-shirt cost $22.

In terms of Veterans Stadium memories, our most memorable, as sad as it might be to think about, would have to be sitting in the upper deck by the rightfield foul pole on Oct 15, 1983, to witness Game 4 of the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. The visiting eventual-champs got the best of Cy Young Award and Game 1 winner John Denny, 5-4, including a singles-packed first inning and a late-game bases-loaded walk. Howard Cosell called the game and seemed ready to launch into one of his famous incantations as the Phils notched a run in the bottom of the ninth to rally, but ultimately, the great mouth was silenced as the Phils could do no more. Deep in centerfield that day, a solitary banner hung from the bottom of Phanavision: "Shut Up, Howard."

Whether for Cosell or Eskin, truer words have never faced a sadder ballpark.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Millwood-Dollar Man

Scott Boras is a genius. Or rather, he is very good at what he does. That is to say, Kevin Millwood is not a $12 million dollar per year pitcher and certainly not for five years. I don't care whow nice is ERA was, he's unfit (is he ever going to get around to getting in shape?), unefficient (meaning, he works so slowly), and unlucky (you've seen the stats, I bet - on batted balls, he's the "unluckiest" pitcher in MLB). He is also un-no. 1 when it comes to his spot in the rotation. One thing that will be interesting to see this year: how patient is Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor is going to be with Slow-as-Molassas Millwood, Headcase Padilla, and Distractable Adam Eaton all in the asme rotation.

Since there probably won't be much happening until the new year, hop on over and download some music while you're around. Free of charge (better hurry!)

Should All the Season Be Forgot

Want to relive the Phils' 2005 season all over again? Me neither, but I did it and you can, too, by going here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

We're Living Here in Allentown

Imagine our elation when it was announced this morning that the Phils AAA affiliate will move from Scranton to Allentown for the 2007 season. While we don't get home as much as we used to, the thought of hanging out with our dad at games in the Lehigh Valley when ever we do make it home to the 18091 area code is just too cool for a school of thought. Being able to dial up the house and say "hey let's go see hamels pitch this Saturday" for instance is phan-tastic.

We do, however, hold a special place in our hearts for Scranton and the S/WB Red Baron's stadium, a minor league representation of the late, great Veterans Stadium in dimensions, wall, and astroturf. A few years back, sometime around 2000 we think, dear old dad and his pals at the post office somehow pulled off a major league coup: the boys of the Delivering 18072 convinced the park's grounds crew to welcome us into Lackawanna County Stadium for a grounskeeper vs. mailman day of softball (yeah, that's what we said). Naturally, we were recruited as a ringer, even if we pop up too many times at the dish. Instead, as a late inning edition to left field, we protected a lead by breaing down on a sinking liner and making a sprawled out, diving catch for the third out in the sixth. We even got a huge strawberry on our left arm from the turf. The entire 3 second-moment was something we had been waiting to feel our entire lives to that point (and since, to be honest). We thought the big club would notice. They didn't but, it's their loss. No matter.

Thank you, Scranton, and good night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quick Thoughts

Happy Holidays, everyone.

-The Phils should look into signing non-tendered, groundball reliever Dan Kolb to a one-year cheap deal if possible. Sure, he was death last year for the Braves, but with the current state of their pen, it is worth investigating whether or not he could be the 2006 version of the 2005 version of Todd Jones. It's time we got lucky for once.

-The time to trade Bobby Abreu has passed for now, unless the words "Boston Red Sox" and "Matt Clement" are involved, along with a few other words. All other rumored options, including Brad Penny, Derrick Lowe, Brad Lidge, Barry Zuckercorn, or whoever are substandard. Keep him and milk the last few months of his Philadelphia value before trading him next season when the asking price is right.

-Is it possible that moving the fences back in left field could backfire? Who hit more anemic HRs in 2005, the Phils or the opposition?

-Finally, two economists agree/debate about the free agent market, specifcally for relief pitching, over at the Wall Street Journal. Except that they get off on all sorts of tangents, including strikes, stadium deals, and luxury taxes. Well, it was a good idea for story anyway. Conclusion: The cntracts this off-season aren't all that big.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One Night in December

Before we get off on another jaunt here, one beef: just last week, we were the top result when one searched for "caught looking" on Now, all of a sudden, we're 6th? Our yet to be assembled marketing department needs to step to the plate and take a few cuts at this, to put it in obvious fashion. Now, onto the anecdote.

Earlier this week, a rare baseball author event grabbed our eye that we just could not pass up: H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights and the newly-released Three Nights in August, a grand-scale dissection of both baseball itself and one manager's reputed genius, appeared at an Olssons Books event, hosted by the George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Bissinger, every bit the crotchety and overly self-referential writer character, at least on stage, was mercifully flanked by two bigger draws than himself: author and former lawyer John Grisham, whose multi-million selling legal "thrillers" (yawn!) and resulting omnipresent movie adaptations do very little justice to his comfortably low-key southern humor, served as moderator, while Bissinger occasionally interrupted the star of the show, 3 Nights focal point Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. All told, three guys on stage, all sitting, all above 50 (we think), should not have been this interesting. But, as they say, baseball is a funny game, and the mostly likewise audience of senior members, along with a few students, seemed to enjoy the twisting narrative of LaRussa and company.

Because of previous engagements -- we're currently in rehab for some serious elbow tendinities, Vicente Padilla-style -- CL was not able to make the 7 pm start time, but showing up around 7:45, we were able to persuade the box office to waive the $25 price tag, so we could waltz in for free for "what can't be more then 10-15 minutes left" we hypothesized. Imagine our joy when the program pushed into the Q&A session around 8:30.

What we witnessed for those 45+ minutes was a fairly open, engaging manager talking about not only the book that bares his one-weekend witness, but his entire array of philosophies, from how to handle pitchers ("I don't pay much attention to pitch counts and even less to my pitching coach when it comes to starting pitchers -- pitching coaches get too emotionally involved with their starters to make in-game judgments alot of times") to what he can offer major league hitters ("I can teach them how to handle pressure and to save at-bats with two strikes on them -- other than that, it's entirely up to them"). Through the course of the evening, LaRussa showed a knack for deadpan humor and seemed cordial, in a gruff way of course, to the audience, which in all fairness, contained a pretty nice contingent of "life-long" Cardinals fans. LaRussa had the good sense to praise both the Nationals' season and their manager and the somewhat surprising timing of having followed the day's latest development on the ever-frustrating DC stadium deal.

After the Q&A session began with a thud, thanks to the first questioner finishing his question with a ridiculous "How are you going to handle getting a Nationals beatdown next year?" (drawing even more ridiculous applause), the format provided probably the highlight of the night, at least the second half -- LaRussa, in painstaking detail, replaying and explaining his thought process when Albert Pujols hit that two-out, ninth-inning go-ahead HR of Brad Lidge in the NLCS. LaRussa, all the while, as the questioner so clearly illustrated in his question, "almost refused to celebrate perhaps the biggest moment of the season to that point. What the hell was going through your mind?" It was the type of innocent question most of us ask in our heads when we see two incongruent events happening simultaneously. This kid actually asked it out loud and LaRussa had no problem answering it fully. It was a strange and extremely compelling couple of minutes; not even pins would drop.

While I've seen and heard alot about both LaRussa's body of work as well as his apparent weirdness, I've heard enough to know I'd like to know more. Not necessarily just about the man, but about the game, both physical and mental. Baseball is definitely a game given to obsessions.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Flotilla, Tex-Mex Style

More on the coming and goings later, but for now, Vinnie Pads has been dealt to the Rangers for former cornerstones Mark Messier and Mike Richter. Whoops, check that -- for nothing yet, but soon something. If nothing else, Pat Gillick is on a quest to make the Phillies his team, not a collection of inherited players from deals of the past both prudent and questionable. Perhaps someone should tell the former Stand Pat that this isn't the mafia and there's no great rush to start divorcing yourself from role players and trading chips so quickly. What are we trying to hide? But then again, if it is the mob, perhaps it's none of our business to ask.

What we know is that of Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects, the Rangers have exactly four:

52. Thomas Diamond, RHP - 6-3, 230 pound hard-thrower who was the organization's Nolan Ryan Award winner last year
59. John Danks, LHP - Curveball thrower who apparently struggled at AA in '05
77. Joaquib Arias, SS
98. Ian Kinsler, SS

Both Diamond and Danks were first round picks (Diamond in '04, Danks '03), so getting them for Padilla could prove difficult. Unless Gillick pries away one of the top two, however, this isn't much of a trade to worry about. The rest of the Rangers' top ten list looks this way.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


It's a little tough to think about baseball with snow on the ground. We're also in the middle of a job search, a new apartment search, throwing arm rehab, the holidays and, oh, did we mention we just had a birthday last week? Sabremetrically speaking, we appear to be entering the downside of our athletic career production, having posted more injuries than catches in last week's flag football game. Yes, we are busy.

But we'll suck it up.

Pat Gillick is reportedly making the most of his lifetime of connections by power-networking at the Baseball winter meetings in Dallas (no doubt, enjoying the non-Toronto, non-Philadelphia, non-Seattle, non-Baltimore weather -- what's with this guy's penchant for northern cities?) by facilitating the reporting of trade possibility after trade possibility after trade possibility. Most involve the Phils getting fairly reputable starting pitching, ranging from the promising (Mark Prior) to the overrated (Matt Clement) to the wildly overrated (Carl Pavano) to the Randy Wolf-like (Barry Zito), to the Barry Zito-like (Erik Bedard) to the Andy Reid-like (David Wells), plus a few others who's names whiz by like some fan telephone polls on the main street thoroughfare (Odalis Perez, Mark Redman, Jerod Weaver, Bob Lahblah).

Cook with the hotstove if you must, but either the Phils attain a pedigreed hurler or Ryan Madsen enters the rotation, hoping to provide the youthful promise and spark that as eluded Gavin Floyd to this point, save one night in St. Louis this past Spring. For the Phils to really make out in this deal, especially if dealing their best hitter, they ideally need to find someone who fits these criteria:

1. 3 years of major league service or more
2. Not in the last year of their current contract
3. A 3:1 groundball to flyball ratio
4. Can log over 200 innings consistantly
5. Has career WHIP under 1.3
6. Lefthanded, but not essential
7. Under 30-32 years of age
8. Limited injury history
9. Has mental durability to enjoy pitching in Philadelphia for a manger not particularly strong at handling pitchers.

As you can see, being serious also means being limited. By all accounts, after the first 8 points, Barry Zito really is the frontrunner or best deal. He momentarily stalls at point number 2, but otherwise fares as well as anyone put to the test (I believe he's a flyball pitcher, but how many lefthanded groundball pitchers are their, really?). However, number 9 is a different story. Zito is loved by many, but in many ways does not seem like he would pass the "Philadelphia test". He is a career west coast guy, having grown up in San Diego, played college ball at USC, and has been with A's ever since. He surfs, plays in a rock band (perhaps he can jam with Brett Myers), has a radio show, has appeared in a stage production, and is generally known to be hanging out. No one can doubt his talent or accomplishments, but he's a Hollywood guy. One has to wonder how a career Californian would react to being shipped to someplace where it actually snows.

To be perfectly circumspect, one has to wonder.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Moonshot is No Pie in the Sky?

CL knows what you're thinking and the answer is, "you're welcome." We opined, oh how we opined, a few weeks ago what it would be like to bring Moonshot Manny to town to patrol, sort of, the outfield and stalk the batter's box every few innings. Actually, we were just as enamored with his "girl power" which, in this case, means his ability to draw alot of sassy sweethearts the ballpark, but who gives a rat's ass what was on our mind, perhaps we were on to something for once?

It appears that, in a world with a dearth of suitors for the plaintiff, perhaps bringing Manny Ramirez to town could actually happen, or is reported as being discussed in a more serious manner than one would think when the Red Sock previously said no thanks to Philly. The implications of this are many, as it would essentially swap a steady, stoic RF with questionable defensive abilities for a steady, eccentric, cocky-as-all-hell swaggercat (that's our term, please request permission to use it) LF with questionable defensive abilities. How much the Phans would embrace the kind of player who is supremely talented but is known to dog it remains to be seen. Quite frankly, Steven A. Smith, we could see this going either way. OF deficiencies could be very conveniently forgotten the first time a Moonshot reaches the leftfield bleachers -- at whatever distance they'll be at next year -- to cap a 9th-inning rally. That is what M to the R brings to the table.

Another ramification is, of course, who plays where in that OF? Being that Pat Burrell and Ramirez are both LF guys, someone has got to jog over to right to shag fly balls. What's the over-under on when in the season Brett Myers would first roll his eyes at a ball in RF he thought could have been caught? I am guessing, second start, first inning. Or, do the Phils turnaround and deal Burrell as well, this time for a pitcher? Bad baserunning is not enough to send a guy packing, but needing to win more one-run games certainly is and all those Pat the Bat 9th-inning strikeouts (ask about our name) has got to weigh on front office minds. It is an interesting quandary -- play one guy out of position or deal the guy who is a good friend to your new CF. Granted, this is all based on a story in the NY Post, but that's how these things start sometimes. It's certainly more plausible (and considerably more welcome) than the Eskin reported Bobby Abreu for Jason Schmidt move, a disaster waiting to happen for the Phils.

Dealing Abreu seems more than possible at this point. Dealing both corner outfielders seems almost inconceivable. Then again...

Fly us to the Moon, Manny.

The Old Billy Buhrooooooooo

Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy....

While it's been awhile since we held Billy Wagner's character in high regard, we had taken him for a fairly good poker player the last few months. So, imagine our surprise when he goes and shows us that he's really just the kind of gambler who does not know when to hold'em or when to fold'em. At least there's time enough for counting the money, now that the dealing's done.

Wasting no time at his introductory press conference with his new club in Flushing (as in, the sound of money going down the toilet in huge chunks), Wags called his own pitches approximately in this order: one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, get the idea. For a guy who was so happy to go to New York, who was "finally ready," who is now nice and close to his farm in southern Virginia, who has the best chance of his career to be on a winner (Houston, we have a problem with memory), lucky #13 sure had a lot to say about his former player. Sounding like a spurned ex-lover, Wagner sang every variation and remix of the "just don't feel appreciated, nobody wanted me, I want the best for my family, it's not about the money" medley the human ear can take. Good Lord, get over it already.

There are too many revelations about this story to go through -- from the Phils offering exactly what Wagner asked for back in 2003 only to see the ante upped repeatly for no apparent reason to conflicted reports about who offered what when -- but let's concentrate on two of Wagner's claims which show him to be a fraud saying anything to justify his wants to himself and presumably anyone in the Delaware Valley still listening:

#1: Wagner on his new (would have been) teammate:

"While the Phillies were getting rid of one guy, the Mets were buying up talent, and that's hard to overlook." The "talent" Wagner referred to is slugger Carlos Delgado, whom the Mets picked up the same day the Phillies traded Jim Thome to the White Sox last week.

This is by far the most insulting comment Wagner has ever let out of his one-pitch mouth. To Wagner, signing one guy to a big contract is a commitment to winning, while trading one guy with health problems and a younger, equal replacement for a world series champ ring-wearing regular and two hot prospects is simply getting rid of a guy. Aaron Rowand should tape this comment to his locker because it's a slap in the new Phillie's face. Forget that Rowand would be a defensive improvement in back of Wagner, how about the fact that getting young arms is exactly what a team committed to winning does?

Truth: Wagner was uncomfortable with the Thome trade becasue as a 34-year old vet, youth movement, even if it improves a club, is not in his interest. How much do you want to bet that Wagner took one look at the Thome trade and thought "if I sign here, that could be me"?

#2: Wagner cancels phone call:

Wagner was so impressed with the Mets' offer that he had his agent cancel the conference call with the Phillies, who, sources say, were ready to raise their offer and add a fourth-year option. "I knew they wouldn't match all the Mets had done," Wagner said of his decision not to speak one last time with the Phillies. "They were still worried about age and all that stuff organizations worry about."

It's tough to reconcile this line of thinking with real events and basic logic. The Mets behind the Phils last year, they were not as good a team. After speaking with Gillick a few weeks ago, Wagner and his agent were "encouraged" by the new GM and the direction of the team. For team to truly be concerned with winning, it has to make rational decisions based on multiple lines of reasoning. Spending is not a line of thinking. Worrying about "all that stuff that organizations worry about" is exactly what organizations are supposed to do. Who wants to work for an organization that doesn't consider that stuff? Isn't that the very quality assigned in the dictionary to the term "ignorance"? If Wagner has such contempt all of a sudden for his former employer's commitment to winning, why would he ever have entertained re-upping with them in the first place? Or is Gillick the guy who's not committed to winning? Surely, Wagner wouldn't hold a grudge against an organization for a guy they've since fired? Doesn't firing the mistake show a committment of some sort?

Truth: When hearing that the Phils could go to a fourth year on their offer, Wagner had Stringfellow cancel their call before the Phils could offer because the last thing he wanted was for the Phils to take away his best reason for walking. Having previously said that all things being equal, he'd like to return to Philly, that would not have been good for his M.O. or his leverage with the Mets.

So, blowhards like Howard Eskin and their incoherent contempt for the Phils front office can have their day of haughtiness. This was really the only move the Phils could make and sleep at night. Have a good 2006, Billy, because being an underperforming vet with a big contract is no fun in any town. Give Mike Piazza and his $16 million/year a hollar to talk about that one.