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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We'll All Flotilla On

Alright. Not even to the start of the Spring Training schedule yet and we're already treated to an update on our old friend Vinny Pads, former all-star and staff ace in Philadelphia, though recent;y departed for muggier pastures in Arlington TX. In the story, "Twenty things to know about Padilla," Rangers fans are already being prepped for his non-communicative style and fussbudget in-game tendencies, including his habit of nodding yes each and every time the catcher lays down a single finger. Some other nuggets are as follows:

9. Padilla was the Diamondbacks Rookie of the Year after posting a 2.31 ERA in 27 relief appearances in 2000.

12. He pitched two scoreless innings in the 2002 All-Star Game but was the last pitcher used by the National League and his stiff back was one of the reasons why the game was called after 11 innings with the score tied at 7.

13. Over the past four years, Padilla has hit 49 batters. Only Victor Zambrano, Jeff Weaver and Kerry Wood have hit more. He hit 50 batters with the Phillies, the third most by a Philadelphia pitcher since 1930.

17. Opponents batted .205 off him with runners in scoring position last year and .238 combined over the past four seasons, 23rd best among Major League pitchers.

19. The Rangers tried to trade for him in the middle of last season with the idea of putting him back in the bullpen. But the Phillies wanted Volquez in return.

Filed under the Zeppelin-like category of "What Is and What Should Never Be," # 19 shows that Ed Wade tried to move Padilla in mid-season 2005, but was unsuccessful in asking for an undrafted minor league pitching prospect (and slender one at that: 6-1, 160?) with extremely average numbers in A and AA ball. For a guy with ace stuff not to even draw a trade such as this says something about the league's regard for his ten-cent headed ways. Of course, turns out that Texas ended up getting him for a guy with a shattered elbow, so one really can't blame them for saying no the first time.

It was a sad statement when Padilla was traded for an average player like Ric-Rod. It's even sadder that his value didn't improve an iota despite two solid months after the all-star break. What a waste.

Monday, February 27, 2006


It's one thing to be ripped by a star -- when John Smoltz talked about how much of a joke Citizen's Bank Park is for pitchers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've heard it before. At least, however, there's some sliver of truth in it and it comes from a respectable source. It's a defensible position to some point, as hard as it is to hear.

It's a whole 'nother story when you get ripped by a stiff. Tim Worrell, who've spouted off against before, decides to take shots at Philly fans from afar this spring training as a man who was granted a much-requested release by the club last season. That's right, he's not a part of the organization anymore, yet, he can't let it go. The non-Gothem version of Two Face kept his smile wide when talking to the gallery recently, yet couldn't and wouldn't hold his tongue whenh talking to the Sacremento Bee. According to Paul Hagen, Worrell's misery could be laid at the feet at the fans for his time on the east coast:

"Philly is a tough place to play when things go right," he told veteran Giants beat reporter Nick Peters. "I'm a West Coast guy. I grew up in California [Pasadena] and I live in Arizona. It's a different mentality back there. I don't want to say it's wrong, but I'm just not used to it.

"It was a night-and-day difference, a shock to my family. [Philly fans] want to win, but they seem happy being miserable."

For a guy who was as responsible as any member of the 2005 Phillies for missing the the playoff's, Worrell seems oblivious to the fact that his alledged *cough cough* personal problems *couch couch* mixed with his anemic performance may have been the catalyst for the cascade of boos showered upon him early last season. Blowing two games opening weekend might have something to do with. Collecting a million bucks in a blue collar town while taking the easy way out during a mental meltdown may have set a few people off, Tim.

No matter though. The Philly fan is happy being miserable. We love having guys like Worrell who underperform and overblame. We take comport in their contribution to an organization's continued underachievement. Your right, Tim. Why did you ever leave us? What are we going to do if, God forbid, we win with out you?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Paging Dr. Hamels

This spring has found thankfully less talk about the greatest pitching prospect who has ever existed in the history of Major League baseball, but today at least two stories have hit the wire, including an excellent profile/recap by the always reliable Jim Salisbury. In it, he takes a look at the long and winding road of Cole Hamels, yet de-emphasizes the young lefthander's potential in favor of getting inside the mind of the 22-year-old.

While most fans who know about Hamels have heard the legend -- how he struck out Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in '04 spring training with that nasty changeup of his -- what they don't know what is going through that reputed 10-cent head of his the last two years, when he broke his pitching hand in a bar fight and dealt with a never-ending array of back problems. Somewhat surprisingly, Hamels admits to not taking his talent seriously enough the past two seasons - not stretching, not taking care of his body, not working:

"I've taken a lot of things for granted," the tall, slender lefthander said. "I was a player who got by year to year on talent. But talent only takes you so far. Talent stops when you injure yourself.

"The fact of the matter is, I've learned you actually have to work to be successful at this game. I've learned it the hard way, but in order to be a better person and player, sometimes you have to learn the hard way."

The question this season, besides the obvious one about his health, is "has he actually learned and what will be the result?" For someone who has exhibited a lax conditioning ethic, a lot of work lies ahead and a attitude adjustment is essential. Is Hamels the type of player -- the type of person, really -- who will shake off the ghosts of promise past and begin the regiment that propels him from being a double-A part-time mystical presense to an every fifth day Major League pitcher and beyond, to stardom? From the Phillies standpoint, the love affair has cooled somewhat since the acquisistions of the dynamic duo in the Thome trade. As Salibury wisely point out, for the first time, Hamels is in danger of sinking on the minor league future stars depth chart. He now has all the motivation a player should need to take care and take advantage.

Elsewhere, the health issue is examined and the revelations are a little bit disturbing. As is probably public knowledge, Hamels lost the second half of 2005 to a significant back injury. Initially, the club thought he had a routine back spasms, then maybe a stress fracture in his lower back. Finally, the diagnosis a "transverse process," a bulging disk that is pressing on a spinal nerve in his lower back. Sound painful and chronic, neither of which make any of the least bit optimistic about the stud's story. In fact, the kid is trying everything now to get into the best possible physical condition: physical therapy, vitamins, even a decompression chamber designed to relieve the stress on his spine. Hamels has his work cut out for him this season.

In all likelyhood, because of lowered expectations and hieightened caution, an injury free season could buy Hamels a ticket to the Majors for the September call-ups. It wouldn't be the Rookie of the Year scenario that Hamels posited recently, but realistically, it would be an early Christmas miracle.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Late Show

Day two of the Kalas Crisis fins Bill Conlin turning in an A-plus of a column on the Phils' latest PR disaster, even weaving in one of the best cinematic charcters of the last 10 years by referencing Harvey Keitel's The Wolf from Pulp Fiction. If only the Phils would now, "pretty please with sugar on top, fix the f!#&-ing franhcise." A must read. OK, enough of that.

Examining how the games will look in the second hour of play this year, Marcus Hayes pulls a rare rabbit out of his hat today by filing a decent story profiling the pitchers who vie for the presumed trio of open slots in the bullpen this season. Correctly, he identifies Tom Gordon, Arthur Rhodes, Rheal Cormier and Aaron Fultz and the already-ins. Curiously, much like Beerleaguer, Hayes sees righthander Geoff Geary as an inhabitant of "no man's land." Santana with his $800k guarenteed contract appears to have an inside track at a spot, with his full year of major league service and servicable numbers with Milwaukee last year. Unfortunately, it appears that Santana has reported to camp in the middle of a Brett Myers imitation -- heavier and not in shape.

Hayes reprises his article from Saturday by laying out a case for Ricardo Rodriguez to make the pen, despite having minimal major league relieving experience, major arm troubles the past two years, and no minor league options left. We disagreed with this previously. Randy Miller sees a man with the inside track at a spot. Ric-Rod is not a power pitcher of consequence and team already has a enough nibblers; ideally, he would be dealt for a prospect of some sort, although he could be lost to the waiver wire as well.

We have to say, career minor leaguer Chris Booker seems less impressive each time we read about him. He's taken nine years to get through the minors and is currently damaged goods. It's entirely possible that his 91 Ks in 65 IP last year are a AAAA phenomenom, but the Rule 5er is worth a look before he is given back to a division rival. Because of the urgency of his keep-or-give-back status, righthander Booker essentially subsumes righthander Aquilino Lopez in the pecking order, seriously jeopardizing any hopes of a Jethro Tull summer.

While Eude Brito seems to also have little chance of making the club, despite the startiong rotation needing a lefty, hayes best work of the column comes on his reporting of fireballer Yoel Hernandez's injury troubles, not previously known to CL. A closer in the making, Hernandez apparently has good stuff but is probably a year away from making the big club as a 7th or 8th inning man.

Finally Robinson Tejeda continues to be the most intriguing case of the spring, a spot starter last year with a 99 m.p.h. fastball screaming to be used in the 8th inning, but control problems which worry the management to no end. Tejeda has all but rejuvenated the terms "effectively wild" and "escape artist" in the local lexicon by squirming through a few months of outings last year. When Manual says "make us make a decision" about pitchers in spring training, he's probably looking no further than Tejeda and Gavin Floyd. It is not a stretch to say that the Phils need Tejeda to develop this year -- he's the hardest thrower in the organization and having lost Billy Wagner up the turnpike, the bullpen could seriously some heat. In short, he needs to be the '06 version of '04 Ryan Madson for the Phils to be serious this year, whether or not he pitches in the WBC. Otherwise, career starter Ryan Franklin could find himself giving up flyballs in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Beef, On A Roll

The news from Paul Hagen yesterday regarding Harry Kalas' continued lack of pull within the organization is really just too upsetting to ponder for more than just a moment. Suffice to say, as a fan in their early thirties, Kalas' voice is inextricably linked to Phillies baseball. Whatever political pitfalls exist behind the curtain, the mere idea of a 30-year plus broadcaster being forced to work with a guy who is so plainly unqualified, unappreciated, and undesirable and who never played the game as opposed to an intelligent former member of the vaunted '93 World Series team is really a complete shame. Sure, there are other factors at work and no side has handled itself with absolute decorum (probably, Kalas went public with his beef to win the court of public opinion after finding only deaf ears within the organization), but there really appears to be no upside to the latest developments in the broadcast booth. Not for the fan, anyway. Shame.

Yesterday, Jimmy Rollins continued to grab the spotlight in his usual way, forecasting big things for himself without the benefit of precedent. There's talk on other blogs about J-Roll's self-set goal of scoring 150 runs. Not bloody likely, for obvious reasons. Jimmy = leadoff the way The Vet = green grass. But beyond that, there's something more annoying at work here.

People have hammered Rollins in the past for his not being the prototypical leadoff man who works counts and does whatever he can just to get on base. He swings at high fastballs, from his heels, tries to reach the warning track when a nice liner out of the infield will do, and so on. In Rollins' defense, he is only leading off because the organization has done such a poor job at coming up with better options; Rollins would probably be a very good 6 or 7 hitter.

However, yesterday found several stories trumpeting Rollins's hitting streak, his confidence and his high opinion of his skills. While having a swagger is something Philadelphia sports fans appreciate, it shouldn't be at the expense of a fair amount of reality. Until last year, he never had a hitting streak above 20 games nor an average above .290. Rollins' best year in terms of OBP stands at .348, a full 50 points below Abreu's career mark. Yet, in his mind, Rollins is set to go after "The Mark", the 56-game hitting streak by Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. In one story, Rollins is talking about how he comes to play when the bell rings, conveniently forgetting that the season starts in April, not August:

"When the pressure was on, I definitely showed up to play," Rollins said of the end of 2005. "That’s something I look forward to doing from day one, but sometimes it doesn’t happen until the last 30 games. When the bell rang, I was out there doing my job. That’s one thing I like. I think I knew it about myself, but it’s nice to go out there and prove it."

Meanwhile, in the Bucks County paper, the news is that Rollins is not only relishing the attention, he's finally getting around to doing something which has apparently been his life's work.

"Every single year since my rookie year (2001), I've told my brother that I'm going to break Joe DiMaggio's record," Rollins said, referring to the legendary Yankee's 56-game hitting streak set in 1941. "Up until now, that was impossible."

Of course, before the season begins, we’re all concerned, very much concerned, with the 27-year-old Rollins’ legacy. Rollins, with his trademark confidence in tow, has absolutely no questions to answer:

"I have no doubt, when I leave the game, I'll be regarded as one of the best shortstops. Hopefully, it'll be all the way around. If I don't think that, if I don't feel that, then I shouldn't be playing this game."

To say that is presumptuous is allowing for a liberal use of the term 'presumptuous.' No one begrudges Rollins his lofty ambitions or his seemingly limitless confidence. However, one has to wonder about his connection to reality. Rollins has a long way to go before he can even say his name in the same breath with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and the pre-injury Nomar Garciaparra. Of course, one roots for Jimmy to reach those heights, however one has to be very weary of a man with his head in the clouds, but no feet on the ground. Rollins has much to work on with his hitting style and approach. Confidence may be an asset but patience is indeed a virtue and for Rollins to shirk patience in favor of his aggressive nature, both at the plate and, to a lesser extent, with the media, is trading one avenue for another instead of employing them both. Who says he can’t drive on both streets? Can’t a hitter be both aggressive and patient? Can’t a guy have confidence and goals, but tempered by the self-awareness that there is still work to be done and a development process to follow?

Maybe Rollins is ready to pick up where he left off. Maybe, though, that’s the problem.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

All Apologies

For our first non-Phillies, non-baseball post, we'd like to address a very serious topic around these parts: Lindsey Jacobellis. We have considered her and her actions in many capacities and have arrived at the following conclusion:

She is still hot. Top 5 hot. We still love her as much as ever. In fact, moreso now, through her humanity and fallibility. Infinitessimal as it may be, the chances of her accepting our marriage proposal just got ever so slightly better. Amatuer as we are at snowboarding, our young lass may have met her match at mistake-making.

But we digress.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Getting the Rod

One issue that has received plenty of ink this off-season has been the pitching. The need for better starting pitching, for role assignments in the middle innings, and for solid command out of the ageless back-end of the bullpen. The field is pretty wide open, yet some arms have been all but ignored. One of thos arms belongs to Ricardo Rodriguez, the righthander aquired ffrom the Texas Rangers in the Vicente Padilla trade just before the arbitration deadline.

We raised the point of Rodriguez's relative anonymity Friday night at the beer roundtable, but really there wasn't much to say. He's a soon to be 28-year-old who's arm has been shattered the past two season by batted balls. As it happened, Marcus Hayes was tuned into our train of thought and filed a story that night on Ric-Rod which appeared in the Daily News the following morning. There's little of consequence in the story, other than the intimation that Rod's problems -- besides the injuries -- have been a poor throwing motion, caused in part by unfulfilled rehab. At least Rod can point to the arm injuries; what's Gavin Floyd's excuse?

Rodriguez also has a little '05 Floyd in him as a starter who will be presumably tried in a bullpen slot. We all know how that worked for the former first-round pick. Rodriguez actually pitched in relief in 72 of his 166 minor league games, but only in three of his 39 major league outings thusfar. Finally, and perhaps the most significant revelation in this non-saga, The Inqy reports that the righty has no options left on his contract, a document which does not appear to be of significant dollars anyway.

Bottom line, we're looking at a twice season-ending injured pitcher with delivery motion problems vying for a spot he has very little major league experience in. He is neither an overpowering thrower (100 Ks in over 200 IP) , nor does he show much in the way of hitter command (career 1.45 WHIP). If the Phils carry 12 pitchers, he has an outside shot, mostly because some of the other competition have options remaining. However, at 11, a bullpen of Gordon, Rhodes, Fultz, Cormier, and probably Julio Santana with competition from the likes of Tejeda, Rule 5er Chris Booker, Geoff Geary, and darkhorses Aquilino Lopez and Yoel Hernandez leaves little room for Rodriguez to nake the 25 man roster. Likewise, for the organization to cut a more expensive innings eater like Franklin out of the rotation, Ric-Rod would have to leave no doubt as to his capabilities and production this year. Seems a bit far-fetched given his history.

Inexpensive as he may be, if Rodriguez does not overly impress in spring training, look for him to be cut or dealt.

Hops Spring Eternal

Friday night was spent split between waiting in traffic on I-95 from DC to the Delaware Valley, driving all over King of Prussia trying to find Kildare's, and tossing back the ale with other members of the "Phlogosphere." Having already met Shallow Center last year at opening day through his bro, we also were treated to sitting down with the authors of Balls, Sticks & Stuff, Beerleaguer, and Swing & A Miss for the first time. No matter your pursuit in life, it's always nice to find kindred souls for diuscussion and while there was the requisite talk about the local 9 (as well as the local 25, the local 40, and the entire minor league system), we were honestly just as happy to talk non-baseball as well. When Mr. Goyne and yours truly wrapped up the evening by packing it in around 12:30, it was enough to make one wish that we hadn't moved to DC. Again.

But, perhaps that's what baseball can do to a fan.

Yet, imagine our surprise when we picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day to find nhot only a story on the outlook of the local Phillies blogging collective, but to find our own little site included in it. We we hadn't known it had previously been a post on Blinq earlier in the week, so we were outright surprised to read the following passage, which closes the story:

GR, who maintains a love-hate relationship from Arlington, Va., with the local nine, does a nice job on a site called Caught Looking of sifting through the Philadelphia baseball beat writers' spring previews for morsels to gnaw. He's blunt:

"Most of the news around the horn lately is little more than the standard crust in a pie yet to be baked."

His bio states what all of these dutiful bloggers are thinking. He lists his interests this way:
"Mixing baseball, music, city planning and God knows whatever else. When do pitchers and catchers report?"

They have. This week. Finally.

Kind words and yes, mom, we've already thanked the author. What we want to know, however, is, did Mr. Rubin follow us to the bar Friday night? Each author mentioned in the print story was in attendence, save for Brian Michael of Phillies Nation, who lives in London. To quote Durso's favorite band, that's a stange magic. In any case, we're honored, humbled, surpised, and mostly embarressed a bit for the scores of other bloggers who do as good if not a better job of dissecting the circumstances, ideas, and numbers surrounding phranchise.

It's very weird to think that actual card carrying members of the media pay attention to this type of thing sometimes, but by the same token, it was brought up over beers Friday night that no other team seems to have quite the array of blogs dedicated to it that the Phillies do (perhaps the Red Sox). Make of that what you will, we guess. For now, its nice to be part of the team. CL is just going to take it one game at a time and, Lord willing, we'll help the blogworld in any way that we can.

Remind us to change that bio by the way. We've kept it all-baseball, all-the-time so far.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Metaphysically Speaking

There appears to be an answer to the question "What's the worst thing about jail?" It is, in fact, "all the free time one has to dream up crazy ideas to be obsessed about."

On the other hand, its hard to read the phrase...

Reality is created and guarded by numeric patterns that overlap and awaken human consciousness, like a giant matrix or hologram

...and not think he's talking about Sabermetrics.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Curse of Mickey Rooney

While it's only been 26 years, perhaps the Phils' current championship drought is due to the fact that the franchise both has a curse and has heretofor been unable to attach a clever, marketing-friendly monicker to its troublesome spell. In any case, a new england psychologist and childhood Phils fan blames Mickey Rooney for the '64 collapase.

Works for me. Down with the Mick.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Leadership Lessons

Jim Salisbury along with Todd Zolecki do some nice work covering the Phils, but we have to disagree 100% with the former's assessment of the latest Brett Myers kerfuffle on the (web)pages of the Philly Inqy today. According to Salibury, Brett Myers had this to say to the media in reference to Pat Gillick's overcited remarks about the Phils not being good enough:

"Hearing that is irritating, man," Myers said after a workout yesterday. "I don't know if it's reverse psychology or if he's selling us short, like the fans. I'm not 100 percent sure where he's coming from.

"But nobody should be happy about it. How can you be happy when someone says you're not good? If guys took it the way I did, it should [tick] them off. It should motivate them to want to show him something."

Great. Those of us looking for a breakout season from a more mature Myers have already been put on notice. Halfway through February, the starting pitcher with the highest ceiling on the staff is quite upset about the shruggable. By getting upset in the pre-preseason, Myers is already proving WIP's Mike Missenelli right when the midday co-host says things like "To me, there's nothing cool about the guy." This is the 2006 season's version of I HAD X NUMBER OF WINS! Which of course is what we all wanted to hear going into an already iffy spring training.

But Salisbury and our beef intersect later in the article when the writer asserts the following:

You also have to like the fight and the resolve Myers is showing. It even sounds a little like leadership. In his conversation with Gillick last month, he assured the GM that he took a No. 1 starter's mind-set to the mound every fifth day. He went to bat for fellow staff member Jon Lieber.

Actually, no it doesn't sound like leadership at all. Leadership should never be mistaken for emotion. This is the same problem Myers has on the mound. When he gets upset, he begins to pitch like he's upset. He begins to ride adreniline closer to the 100 mph mark. He gets away from what serves him best. He, in effect, throws a fit worthy not of a champion, but a frustrated contender. Leadership and coolness must always be on close terms. Aaron Rowand is not getting upset. Ryan Howard is not throwing a fit when people repeatedly say he can't hit lefties. Jimmy Rollins is not complaining that he is being dogged for underproducing for 3/4 of the year. For a closer representation of leadership, take a look at Chase Utley's reaction:

"I wasn't offended by what he said," said Chase Utley, another early arriver to camp. "I think Pat was only being honest. He's saying we need a little more help. I don't necessarily agree, but he's the guy who runs the show."

Arriving early and not being distracted from the job at hand is leadership. Understanding and being respectfully concilatory show leadership. Focus and accountibility are hallmarks of leadership. So far, with the 2006 preseason not even underway, Brett Myers is not exhibiting growth, maturation, or leadership. He is already making us nervous.

No Contende

A day after considering the opening for Carlos Ruiz behind the plate in the majors, Marcus Hayes reports today that, in reference to the World Baseball Classic, "Catcher Carlos Ruiz could make the Panamanian team, but he isn't expected to contend for a spot on the major league club."

Not expected to contend? Not expected to make it is one thing. Not expecting to contend sounds like being written off. Granted, taking Hayes with a grain of salt is standard practice in these parts -- in fact, whenever Hayes' name comes up, the value of a grain of salt skyrockets -- but if this is true, it's a puzzling development. Why wouldn't there be some competition at a spot which sorely needs improvement?

Hard to believe, Harry.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Today's Truth-mitzfah

As Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are things which are known and things which we know we know and then there are things which aren't known, but are known to be known and, well, you get the idea.

Most of the news around the horn lately is little more than the standard crust in pie yet to baked. First, out of Alabama, where Job Lieber attended college after leaving that bastion of high school baseball in western Iowa, it is known that the Phils ace last year preferred to work with backup catcher Todd Pratt because he pushed Lieber to be more aggressive. One has to wonder why a 10-year vet like Lieber would need to be told such, but the revelation probably revitalizes the moans of letting Pratt walk. Considering Tank's age, however, it wasn't an entirely bad decision. The real kernals of value in this story are unsaid: (1) Mike Lieberthal, signed years ago as a member of the current cornerstones of the club, appears to lack the one basic skill all catchers should have -- the ability to run a game from behind the plate. Again, known, but it is true so much to a point that the staff's best pitcher would rather not work with their number one catcher and has no problem making that known. This is a ridiculous situation if you really think about. The other item is that (2) the Phils could really use a quick maturation by Carlos Ruiz, despite his having never played a game in the majors. By most accounts, his defense and actual catcher skills are much better than what the big club currently has. The team needs the Lieber of early and late season, not the midseason guy who went 5-10 and, quite frankly Stephen A. Smith, sucked.

Next, it is known that Cole Hamels believes he is fine. This is great news, or would be if it were true. However, its truthiness is under review until Hamels actually does something with a baseball for the first time in six months. Granted we are talking about the greatest minor league pitching prospect in the history of baseball as an american institution, but please remember (1) he hasn't thrown off a mound in 6 months and (2) he has pitched exactly 4 games at double A. To say that he is a consideration for the show right now is either crazy or sad.

Beyond that, we've got spring previews. Over in Delaware County, Denny Deitch was the first writer to point out the Phils' heavily CBP-ed schedule in the firts few months of the season. In fact, the team plays 33 of its first 53 games at home which means a few more things: (1) a mediocre start like last year's would almost certainly be a killer and (2) the offense should get off to a nice start while it will not be a surprise to see some big ugly number from the pitching staff, including flyball specialist Ryan Franklin. While the offense could have 2 or 3 all-stars, the starting staff is really going to have to bear down mentally in a number of 9-7 games possibly. No rest for the weary bullpen, either.

Finally, the bad news. Reports persist that the team's fifth outfielder will actually be an infielder. Kind of ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Your Mission

Explain to me how Alex S. Gonzalez is anything other than another David Bell.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Back in the E.R.

Any thoughts phans and phils alike might have had of seeing southpaw hurler Cole Hamels make the big league club were put to rest weeks ago when it was announced that the 22-year-old top prospect was basically slkated to begin the 2006 where the 2005 season left off -- in Reading PA, pitching for the double-AA minor league affiliate. Unfortunately, it looks as thought the '06 will also begin where it left off healthwise for Hamels. According to Jim Salisbury in today's Inquirer, Cole Hamels had an MRI on Wednesday after experiencing more soreness and inflammation in the area in his lower back.

How many different ways are there for one to say ouch?

While the Phillies will head to spring training in a couple weeks (!) with several question marks about them in the area of starting pitching, the second coming of Steve Carlton languishes in the mid-minors, a victim of injuries both seemingly untreatable and unbelievable (Breaking an arm against a car in a a football game? Who over the age of 12 has that happen to them?).

All the rhetoric in the world from Pat Gillick about this being a just a bump in the road (what the hell street is this and is it even drivable anymore?) does not change the fact that, if not for an injury-riddled last couple years, there would be a lefthander -- a pretty good one -- staring down hitters at CBP this summer. While its not completely 100% lock-and-load out of the question that it could still happen, one shoudl not ignore that Hamels has...

(a) Not pitched competitively since mid-July '05
(b) Not been throwing off a mound in the offseason, only doing soft-toss on flat ground
(c) Seen a number of back specialists, who by allk accounts, have not been able to agree on the cause of Hamels' problems
(d) Thrown exactly 4 games at AA ball.
(e) Is young, slight of build, and a pretty hard thrower (mid-90s). A trifecta for back problems.
(f) Is directkly responsible, by way of his injury merry-go-round, for the signing of Ryan Franklin.

While the last point may not be fair, it does demonstrate how important the Jim Thome trade will be over the next two years, as the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood could prove to be the antidote to Hamels' troubled run at the majors. The stories will start soon enough if both lefties pitch well this season, but for now, Hamels is taking most of the attention and expectations.