Phils Fall Over a Cliff, Not Off of One

Somebody slap me across the face, or pinch me…real hard.

Are my beloved Philadelphia Phillies really the World Series champions? The reigning kings of Major League Baseball?

Have they really won back-to-back East Division titles, poised to win a third straight?

And has it now really gotten to the point where their farm system is so deep with quality prospects that they can pry the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner away for a few of those prospects just before the trade deadline?

And they got a right-handed power-speed package outfielder in that same trade? And they still have their very best prospects left in that farm system?

Really? Seriously?

Fellow fans of the local nine, our beloved Fightin’s are among the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. It’s for real. And you had likely better get used to it, because barring some major unforeseen occurrence, they are likely to remain top contenders for the next 2-3 seasons, at least.

Yesterday, just 72 hours shy of baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline, the Phillies obtained veteran lefty Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco from the Cleveland Indians for a package of prospects: pitcher Jason Knapp, pitcher Carlos Carrasco, catcher Lou Marson, and shortstop Jason Donald.

From many fans there was jubilation. Amazingly from some there was disappointment. The sports talk radio crowd had been driven into a mad frenzy over the past few weeks by some local hosts, as the Phillies attempted to first obtain Toronto Blue Jays ace starting pitcher Roy Halladay.

These hosts repeatedly called Halladay “The Best Pitcher in the Game Today”, and prodded the Phillies organization to trade away the package that Toronto wanted, which included the very top prospects in the system: pitcher Kyle Drabek and outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, along with young lefty pitcher J.A. Happ, who was only 7-0 in the big leagues at the time.

Let’s set a couple of things straight right now. First, the Phillies and General Manager Ruben Amaro made a sensational deal to bring Lee and Francisco here, adding high quality pieces to what was already another legitimate championship contender. Second, Roy Halladay is not the clear-cut best pitcher in the game, and would not have guaranteed that the Phillies would win another World Series or two.

What both Lee and Halladay are is this: they are both among the very best starting pitchers in baseball. Who the absolute best is varies from year to year. A decade ago you would be right to say that one year it’s Pedro Martinez, the next it’s Randy Johnson, the next it’s Roger Clemens, and so on. Now, one year it’s Johan Santana, the next it’s Cliff Lee, the next it’s Roy Halladay, and so on.

What is important here is not what you didn’t get, it’s what you did. Cliff Lee courageously fills the strike zone with pitches. He rarely walks batters. He does not beat himself. He is not afraid to throw inside, or to backup his team if someone is throwing at them. He is a veteran leader who is still in the prime of his career, who has already won his profession’s top individual award.

These local radio hosts would be smart to remember what Gene Hackman’s famous coaching character said in the film Hoosiers: “I would hope that you would support who we are, and not who we are not!”

What is important here are the ramifications of the deal. In trading for Cliff Lee with Cleveland, the Phils get to keep both Happ and Drabek, two pitchers who could very conceivably be joining Lee in the starting rotation for the next 3-4 years. Of course, the Phils need to get to the business of extending Lee’s contract, which they should try to address between now and the early winter.

They also get to keep Joe Blanton, a valuable right-handed starter due a salary increase in arbitration this winter. Blanton would likely have been dealt to help defray the $6 million more in salary that Halladay will make next year over Lee.

They also get to keep both Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, a pair of exciting, emerging, multi-tooled outfielders, at least one of whom is likely to be a huge part of the next Phillies offensive generation that we will be rooting for down at Citizens Bank Park.

And make no mistake, Phillies fans. As we all know very well, that next generation will indeed have to take the field one day, and probably sooner than any of us will realize it is happening. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge…they won’t be youthful forever.

The Philadelphia Phillies front office management team did an outstanding job this week, both for the current World Series champions who are trying to repeat, and for the organization’s ability to continue to be a contender well into the future.

Ruben Amaro and the Phillies management team got it right. Rather than falling off a cliff, they fell over one. The fans are sure to fall for this particular Cliff in short order.

The Left Fears Sarah Palin

There is a very clear, tested, tried-and-true rule in evaluating how a political figure is viewed by the former mainstream media. The more the candidate embraces their own leftist political agenda, the more they like the candidate and shine a heavenly, positive light upon them. The more traditional the candidate, the more conservative, then the more they are feared and thus the more they are attacked.

There are few political figures that the left has feared more over the past year than Sarah Palin. It is very easy to spot their fear in the viciousness of their attacks on this wholly traditional and exceptional woman. From CBS to NBC, from the Huffington Post to NPR, no Republican politician has been slammed, sliced, diced, and dirtied more than her.

It was at about this time last year that struggling Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced that she would be his running mate as the Vice-Presidential candidate. At the time, few outside of her home state of Alaska, and hard core politicos, knew her. Within days she was a rock star.

The lefties were reeling as the ‘hockey mom’ from Wasilla took the nation by storm and energized the McCain campaign. The nation saw a regular person, a wife and mother who had taken on the Alaska political establishment and won. Palin rose like a meteor from city council in 1992 to mayor in 1996 to governor in 2006 to the VP nomination two years later.

To that leftist media she seemed to come out of left field, and they were dazed. It didn’t take them long to figure out how best to approach this new problem, however. Attack, and attack hard, at any and all perceived or developed flaws in Palin’s personal armor, her family, her business dealings. Anything that could even remotely be painted in a bad light would be, and would be with an entirely exaggerated slant.

The election was lost thanks to an excruciatingly lukewarm campaign run by John McCain. Sarah Palin, who so electrified the Republican National Convention in early September with her speech, was largely stifled, buried, and left miscast and misused. But before that happened we got to see that she was a true conservative with traditional American values, and she emerged from the McCain debacle as a serious 2012 contender in her own right.

Today, Sarah Palin begins the next phase of her public life after formally stepping down as the Governor of the State of Alaska. The media has continued to bash her over the head at every turn: alleged ethics charges in Alaska with no substance; a teenage daughter who gets pregnant and jilted; even the sudden resignation just 2 1/2 years into her Gubernatorial term.

What Sarah Palin has been subjected to both personally and politically in the past year would devastate many lesser people. It’s no wonder that she would seek to take a break for herself and her family from the spotlight for awhile. But there is no doubt that she will emerge again. A book deal. A television program. And of course, 2011 will roll around and the serious campaigning will begin.

There are probably very few people, perhaps not even Sarah Palin herself, who know exactly what lies next, or what lies ultimately down the road, for the hockey mom from Wasilla. Though the constant political attacks have decimated her overall positive public approval rating, her rating remains higher than Democratic congressional head Nancy Pelosi, and she remains 3rd behind only the high-profile Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in Republican 2012 presidential preference polls.

One thing you can count on is that when this traditional, conservative politician and woman sticks her head out in public again the mainstream news media will be there waiting to bash that pretty head in with their clubs. They will be trying to strike her early and often. That is how much they fear her personality and her politics. And that is why so much of traditional America loves Sarah Palin.

Man on the Moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of what remains the greatest single technological feat that mankind has ever achieved. It was forty years ago today that American astronaut Neil Armstrong took that first step on to the surface of the moon, and uttered the iconic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!”

Armstrong had become the first human being to ever set foot on another world outside of the earth.

On July 20th, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 orbited the moon, after having left behind their home planet Earth just four days earlier. They were on the verge of the most spectacular achievement in man’s history. Since our creation, man has looked up at the glowing disc in the night sky and dreamed.

At first those dreams involved the nature and the meaning of the object. Then the moon became an object of study, particularly as to it’s relationship to Earth. Finally, it had become a destination.

Now, here were three Americans: Neil Armstrong, Ed ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, and Michael Collins, actually flying above that moon and preparing to land on it. Collins would draw the role of staying behind in order to pilot the command module ‘Columbia’, while Armstrong and Aldrin would actually descend in the ‘Eagle’ landing module to the moon’s surface. They had the full resources of NASA, the National Aeronauticas and Space Administration, behind them, but they were very much on their own in so many ways.

The process to reach that point had been ongoing for decades. It began with the creation of rockets, and moved onward as those rockets were made larger and more powerful, capable of traveling further and further. Finally, man developed the technologies and the courage to enter outer space, that vast area outside of the protective atmosphere of the only planet we had ever known intimately.

President John F. Kennedy, slain by an assassin’s bullet almost six years earlier, had set the ball in motion when on May 25th, 1961 he uttered the great challenge: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Six months later, I was born.
Two and a half years later, Kennedy would lie dead. But his vision and goal of landing on the moon would become the passion of thousands.

I remember well the excitement leading up to the moon landing. I was just 7 years old in that summer of 1969, and far too young to understand most of the incredible changes that were happening to our country in those days. The inner city race riots as the Civil Rights movement marched forward, the murders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War. These things meant nothing to me at that age. But the moon landing, this was huge to the imagination of a young boy.

My parents allowed my brother Mike, who had just turned 6, and myself to stay awake past our usual bed times on that Sunday night to watch this historic event. I recall sitting mesmerized at the entire proceeding as it unfolded on the black and white television picture in our living room on American Street in South Philadelphia. There was a lot of language that was over my head, but I was getting the idea.

At a few minutes before 11:00pm our time, Armstrong took that final step down the ladder from the Eagle and spoke those words. And I joined over 600 million people around the world in viewing grainy black and white pictures of the exact moment that a man stepped on to another world, out on to that glowing night disc that we still look up at each night. We had fulfilled President Kennedy’s great goal with a little more than five months to spare.

I remember following as much of the mission as I possibly could in the following weeks on both television and in the newspapers, culminating in the dramatic return home of the astronauts that was capped by their capsule splashing down into the Pacific Ocean on July 24th.

Over the next few years, following subsequent Apollo moon missions was something that I always anticipated with excitement and thoroughly enjoyed. There were five more after Apollo 11, all of which took groups of men to the moon and back, over the next three years. On December 14th, 1972, the Commander of Apollo 17, Eugene Cernan, lifted his foot off the surface of the moon. No human being has stepped foot on any celestial object in the ensuing 37 years.

I still to this day remember the excitement, the thrill, the wonder of those days in the summer of 1969, as I stood outside and looked up at the moon as billions of men, women and children had for mellenia before me done, and was able for the first time to know that other men were up there walking around, working, talking, living.

I hope that sometime before my time on the Earth is up, that I again get to see men travel to another world. There are already missions being planned for man to return to the moon in the next decade, and then in the early planning stages for a possible trip to the planet Mars within 2-3 decades. Those would be missions of wonder for my children and grandchildren to share.

May God bless mankind with the courage, the wisdom, the vision, the ability, the resources, the technology, and the determination to continue to reach out beyond our world, and to explore the vast greatness and the majestic wonders that He has created. As a wonderful, old television show of those Apollo days said: “To boldly go where no man has gone before!”

Phils’ Vote for Pedro

Just two weeks ago to the day, I penned an article titled “What’s Wrong With the Phillies?” The answer apparently was as simple as a 9-1 homestand, highlighted by a 22-run outburst near the front end that my wife and I attended, and by a dramatic 8-7 comeback win in the 9th inning near the back end.

Thanks to the sudden burst of inspired play, the Phils moved back to 10 games over the .500 mark, and opened up a four game lead on their nearest challengers, the Florida Marlins. The rival New York Mets? They have been buried under an avalanche of injuries that has them sitting with a losing record, 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies.

One of the biggest reasons that the Phils turned things around was the long-anticipated emergence of the ‘real’ Jimmy Rollins. The straw that stirs the world champions drink finally began to hit on the homestand, and with the return of Raul Ibanez from injury the team appears to again be the best offensive club in the National League.

But the starting pitching remains an enigma. The early season loss of Brett Myers is beginning to catch up to the rotation. The ace, Cole Hamels, has been extremely inconsistent. He was outstanding in that 22-1 win over Cincinnati, but then got whacked around by the Pirates over the weekend. Jamey Moyer has been ineffective, to put it nicely. Joe Blanton had a strong outing to build on his last time out, and J.A. Happ remains the most consistently strong starter.

For all of the offensive and defensive talents of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz and the rest, it will be the pitching staff that likely determines how far the team will go should it reach the post-season.

To that end, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr and the Phillies brain trust have left no stone unturned in an effort to improve the pitching staff. Today the club took their first step forward by signing former all-star and future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to a 1-year contract.

From the time he truly broke out as a 25-year old with the Montreal Expos in 1997 through his 7 memorable season with the Boston Red Sox, and on into his first full season with the New York Mets in 2005, Pedro was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has 214 career wins, a career 2.91 ERA, has struck out 3,117 batters, and has won the Cy Young Award in both leagues.

Unfortunately, the Phillies did not sign that Pedro Martinez.

Oh, he’s the same man. But at age 38, not having pitched all season in the Major Leagues, the Pedro whom the Phillies signed is a shadow of his former self. That said, I still believe that he can help this Phillies team win this year, and quite obviously the Phillies believe that as well.

Martinez has been placed on the DL with what is described as a mild shoulder strain to start his Phillies career. The organization believes that he will be able to compete again in 2-3 weeks. The guess is that in about two weeks he will be scheduled for a minor league rehab assignment, and his progress during those starts will dictate his callup to the Phillies sometime in the 2nd or 3rd week of August.

If the Phillies get 6-8 good starts out of Martinez that help win the pennant in August and September, that will have been well worth the investment. If not, they are probably out nothing more than the $1 million that he has been contracted for at minimum. It is a risk well worth taking, that Pedro’s guile, experience, and remaining talents can help the club down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Now with Pedro Martinez aboard, the Phillies have added a decent depth option to their starting rotation. But what they really need in order to nail down the division and advance deep into the playoffs again is a big improvement at the front of the rotation. Whether that comes from Cole Hamels finding his winning form, or from a trade for a true ace like Roy Halladay, or both, it remains a necessity.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore is a maker of documentary films for liberal values and anti-American causes, and his latest titled “Capitalism: A Love Story” is going to be no exception.

In this film, slated to be released in early Fall, Moore will attempt to portray capitalism as the root cause of the American and global financial meltdowns over the past couple of years, calling it “the biggest swindle in American history.”

Let’s give credit where it is due, Moore is good at his craft. He knows how to push all the right buttons, slice all the right video clips, edit all the right sound bytes, and basically tell a story in the way that his political views and values want that story told. You need a propaganda documentary made? Michael Moore is your man.

This is all well and good as long as you understand going into the theatre that this is what you will be paying your money to see: propaganda. One side of a story, told from a slanted view, through a tinted lens.

The fact is that greedy corporate tycoons and misguided politicians, flawed human beings, have been the problem, not our capitalist economic system.

Now if what you really want is the truth of the matter, explained in depth, with examples and in complete historical and political context, then what you want to do is pick up a copy of a book called “How Capitalism Saved America” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

In reading this enjoyable and educational book you will find out why DiLorenzo says “Free-market capitalism, based on private property and peaceful exchange, is the source of civilization and human progress.”

In his book, DiLorenzo fully explains the overwhelming evidence which indicates that exactly what Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts are doing right now: more regulations, taxes, government-run industries, controls, protectionism, and other forms of intervention, the poorer a country will be. These interventions will cause higher unemployment, higher prices, shortages of goods and services, and many other problems.

In his great work on capitalism titled “The Wealth of Nations“, Adam Smith explained it’s most important elements: the division of labor, social cooperation, and free exchange.

The idea of serving one’s fellow man is central to capitalism. As DiLorenzo puts it “In a capitalist economy the primary means of improving one’s standard of living is giving others that which they want.”

It is precisely because of capitalism that “the average American working person today lives better in many ways than kings did serveral hundred years ago.” Capitalism is pure democracy. People decide how they wish to spend their hard-earned money, in effect voting with their dollars, and everyone’s dollar vote counts the same.

Key to capitalism, and indeed the key to overall freedom and economic prosperity, is private property rights. The absence of such rights has been the major cause of poverty around the world.

Since the 15th century creation of commercial property law and commercial law courts designed to enforce and protect property rights, capitalism has grown and flourished, along with every nation that has adhered closely to it’s principles.

You see it already with attacks on the tobacco industry, the health industry, and many more to come. The Obama administration is clearly anti-capitalist, couching the control of money and power in public interest rhetoric. They will destroy jobs and economic freedom, all in an effort at socialist control. And now Moore will actually attack the very idea of capitalism itself.

Have there been those who have abused the capitalist system? Absolutely. As long as there are living, breathing human beings behind any form or system of government or economic power there will be greed, misuse, and corruption. That is what our justice and legal system is supposed to be for, to weed out criminals and make them pay for their crimes.

What America needed was a change to closer scrutiny in business practices and harsher public punishments for those who abused and manipulated the financial and economic system. It also needed a far more realistic home ownership policy. It needed to tweak capitalism, not trash it in favor of corporate bailouts, tax-payer funded stimulus plans, and socialism.

DiLorenzo states at the end of his book, that “capitalism has been America’s great blessing.” I might rather put it that our relationship with God since our very inception has been our actual great blessing. The intellectual ability to formulate and put into practice our system of capitalism has been one of His great gifts to us.

The question before us now is, will Americans allow 2 1/2 centuries of greatness to be destroyed by the emergence of political socialism here in the United States? Do yourself a favor before you decide that Obama and socialists might be on to something. Read “”How Capitalism Saved America” – you’ll thank me, and yourself for having done so.