2018 Philadelphia Phillies preview and predictions

Phillies should take a step forward in 2018 season

The Philadelphia Phillies are set to open the 136th season in franchise history this afternoon. Down in Atlanta, Georgia, the Fightin’ Phils will take on the NL East Division rival Atlanta Braves in the first of a scheduled 162 games.

There are a great many changes in the Phillies lineup and dugout from a year ago. In my Phillies preview piece prior to 2017 Opening Day in Cincinnati, I stated The lineup taking the field next week at Great American Ballpark should look very different from the one that will come to Florida next winter.”

That 2017 Phillies preview piece is well worth re-reading, because I was fairly dead-on in my assessment of where the team was at that point, and where they would be headed for this upcoming campaign.

Gone are the “placeholder” players, as I have been calling them over the last few years. Dom Brown and Cody Asche have been joined by Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, and Cameron Rupp in being shown the door.

While other writers and even some team personnel were lauding some of these players in recent years, I told you consistently that the club would not win until they turned the page from that group. I really do hate to say that I told you so, but…

So here we are, at the dawn of what should be the next era of contending Phillies baseball. The team is not going to win the World Series this season. They are not even likely to make the playoffs. 

But for the first time in years we have a group of talented young players who bring hope for a brighter future that is right around the corner. 

They are led by a new-era style skipper in Gabe Kapler who is in better shape than any of them, and who has already demanded that they must “Be Bold” when approaching each game, as well as in preparing off the field.

Let’s take a look around the diamond at those players. Who is likely to start for the Phillies this season? What can we expect to see as the summer unfolds? How will the club finish? Will there be any big moves?



RELATIVELY SET LINEUP ROLES

There was much talk about lineup versatility and positional flexibility from Kapler this spring down in Clearwater. But as the regular season opens, I’m not really buying that we will see a lot of that from most of the lineup pieces.

Given health, Phillies fans are going to watch a lineup most nights that includes Carlos Santana at 1st base, Cesar Hernandez at 2nd, J.P. Crawford at shortstop, and Maikel Franco at 3rd base. Jorge Alfaro will be behind the plate. 

Across the outfield it will be Rhys Hoskins in left, Odubel Herrera in center field, and Nick Williams in right. 

Three players who will come off the bench are going to play pivotal roles. Talented rookie Scott Kingery could play almost anywhere. Aaron Altherr should see plenty of time backing up all three of the outfielders. And backup catcher Andrew Knapp will get plenty of work as well.

Kapler decided to keep versatile infielder Pedro Florimon on the opening roster. He can play second base, shortstop, and even some third base in a pinch.

That “versatility” and “flexibility” is likely to come from finding ways to get Kingery into the lineup, and in juggling the four main outfielders. You might also see Hoskins play some first base, giving Santana a break against some tough lefties.

I expect that the lineup might still struggle to consistently score runs in the early going. That is a product of a combination of factors, mostly their overall youth and the typically cold early weather.

My hope is that as the season wears on, and the young players gain valuable experience both in facing more MLB pitching and in playing together as a group, that we begin to see more offensive consistency.


ROTATION STILL HAS QUESTIONS

The Phillies might have snagged the biggest free agent this off-season with the late signing of right-hander Jake Arrieta. A former Cy Young Award winner, Arrieta will be the ace of the staff, and provides a much-needed veteran arm to lead a group that is otherwise very young.

Aaron Nola gets the start on Opening Day, and is the clear #2 starter. I’ve been on record as saying that I think Nola is a solid #3-type starter for a playoff team. However, the former first round draft pick appears ready to step up his game to the #2-caliber starter level.

Perhaps the most enigmatic and important starting pitcher on this staff for the 2018 season is righty Vince Velasquez. The lead piece that came back in the trade package for closer Ken Giles a couple of years ago, Velasquez has had consistency problems.

Velasquez often blows through opposing lineups the first couple of times around. But he has struggled with command and control, leading to fast-rising pitch counts, and just as speedy exits from games. He must begin to get the Phillies into and through the 6th inning on a more consistent basis.

I’ve been in Ben Lively’s corner from the time he was acquired as a prospect from the Cincinnati Reds for Marlon Byrd a few years ago. While he won’t overpower anyone, Lively keeps the Phillies in the vast majority of his starts, giving them a chance to win most nights. That’s really all you can ask from a back-end starting pitcher.

The wildcard here is Nick Pivetta. The righty who came from the Nationals in the Jonathan Papelbon deal a couple of years ago is being given the chance at a rotation spot to open the season. He got the nod when Jerad Eickhoff got hurt, beating out Zach Eflin for the 5th starter role.

Arrieta is still fine-tuning his game shape, and will continue to pitch down in Florida while the rest of the team opens the season. He is scheduled to join the club and makes his Phillies debut during the home opening series next weekend.

As with every MLB team, this will be a key area for the 2018 Phillies. Assuming they stay healthy, Arreita and Nola give the Phillies a strong 1-2 punch at the top. Lively is likely to keep providing solid outings from the back. It will be the performances of Velasquez and the Pivetta-Eflin-Eickhoff grouping in the other two spots that will largely determine success or struggles in the standings.

BULLPEN COULD BE A STRENGTH

The front office spent a little money this off-season to bring in a pair of veteran right-handers for the bullpen. Both 37-year old Pat Neshek and 31-year old Tommy Hunter should prove to be valuable additions to help hold down any late leads. Hunter starts the season on the DL after suffering what has been called a mild hamstring strain. 
Edubray Ramos and Luis Garcia should see key middle innings work from the right side, with Adam Morgan and Drew Hutchison getting most of the work from the left side. 
The closer will again be Hector Neris. The big 28-year old Dominican has always had the pure stuff to fill the role. If he can just start to show the mental toughness it requires, he could become one of the game’s elite closers.
The Phillies are carrying 13 pitchers to begin the season. That group is rounded out by a pair of righties in former starter Jake Thompson and Victor Arano, and southpaw Hoby Milner. Thompson probably gets any long relief work that might be needed.

THE SKIPPER

I said it in a recent appearance on the “Phillies Talk” podcast yesterday, and I’ve said it prior to that here at my website. I believe that new manager Gabe Kapler is the biggest single key to the Phillies performance this season.
Though he has a ton of experience at multiple levels in the game, from player to front office, this will be Kapler’s first experience in the dugout as a manager.
The players seem to love his more aggressive style in the early going. How they respond to him, and how he personally handles the everyday grind over the course of a six-month season. How he manages those players and adjusts to in-game situations over the course of 162 games. That will be the biggest key, not just for this year, but moving forward as the club tries to return to contention.

THE PREDICTION

The rebuilding program is now over. What we are about to see are the first steps forward in building the Phillies roster back to consistent contending status. 
The team is likely to struggle under the weight of it’s mostly youthful lineup and rotation at times this season. There will be peaks where we glimpse what they are likely to become, but also valleys of maddening inconsistency.
In the end, I am calling this an 82-80, second place finish in the National League East Division standings. 
For me, the Washington Nationals are clear division favorites. The Miami Marlins are clear cellar-dwellers. You could put this year’s Phils in a hat with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, pull the names out in any order, and they could finish in that order.
I think that the Mets are a dysfunctional group with over-rated position players. The Braves are in the same rebuilding status as the Phillies are now exiting. Key injuries and actual production from young players will make the difference in these three teams finishing ahead of one another.
So there you have it, my 2018 Philadelphia Phillies preview and prediction rundown. One other important factor to keep in mind: the Phillies are still in a tremendous financial position. This club can take on at least a couple of big contracts. 
If the Phillies are indeed somehow in playoff contention come the MLB All-Star break in mid-July, don’t be surprised to find that they are buyers for the first time in years. If that happens, we could actually find them in the midst of meaningful September stretch run games for the first time since 2011.


2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season

The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher’s mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It’s that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB’s six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball’s most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it’s time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.

2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ
CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN

2018 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Carlos Correa HOU, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS

CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Corey Kluber CLE, Luis Severino NYY, Justin Verlander HOU, Chris Archer

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles
Contenders: Dustin Fowler OAK, Gleyber Torres NYY, Francisco Mejia CLE, Chance Sisco BAL

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Alex Cora, Boston
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, TerryFrancona CLE, A.J. Hinch HOU, John Gibbons TOR

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Brantley CLE
Contenders: Doug Fister TEX, Miguel Cabrera DET, Francisco Liriano DET

2018 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS

NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami

NL CENTRAL: Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego

NL WILDCARDS: Milwaukee, Colorado

AL EAST: Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago

AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Oakland

AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles

2018 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS

As stated at the top of this article, a year ago I had the Washington Nationals finally breaking through to win the franchise first-ever World Series by edging out the Boston Red Sox. I genuinely believe that making that exact same prediction this season would be just as valid. It would also be just as likely to go another way entirely.
A major development will come as the summer rolls on, and the impending free agency of superstar Bryce Harper becomes more and more realistic. At some point, the powers-that-be with the Nationals may have to actually entertain trade offers for their outfielder, or risk losing him for nothing later this Fall.
If Harper stays and is both healthy and focused come October, the Nats are my pick. But that is way too questionable at this point. So let’s call it the Chicago Cubs as winners of their second NL Pennant in three years.
Over the in AL, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the cream of the crop until someone proves differently. The Bosox and Yankees will do a Battle Royale in the AL East, and both could be good enough to dethrone the Astros. Same can be said of the Tribe in the Central. Still, I’m taking Houston to repeat in the American League.
The 2018 World Series would then be a battle between the winners of the last two Fall Classics. There is an old saying in sports that goes “you gotta beat the champ if you wanta be the champ.” I just think that Houston is too good for that to happen.
Given health, the Houston Astros will defeat the Chicago Cubs in five games in the 2018 World Series. After never having won a title, the Astros will make it back-to-back World Series crowns. They would become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row.

There you have it, my 2018 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Again, feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section below. Play ball!

Omnibus spending bill proves ‘the Swamp’ cannot be drained

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President Donald Trump was elected to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. by eliminating waste and turning away from politics as usual.

But today, the president signed a massive $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that not only failed to help drain the swamp, but pumped more muck into it instead.

As reported by Dave Boyer at The Washington Times:

The spending deal will increase the deficit for the current fiscal year to at least $850 billion, up from $666 billion in fiscal 2017. Starting in October, annual deficits are projected to top $1 trillion for the foreseeable future. On that course, the government would add roughly $12 trillion in borrowing over the next decade.”

Of course, this one isn’t all on the president alone. Congresspersons in the U.S. House of Representatives and members of the United States Senate crafted the bill, then voted it through to his desk.

The spending bill passed in Congress by a vote of 256-157, and then passed in the Senate by a 65-32 vote.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a vocal critic who voted against the bill, summed up the feelings of many conservatives very succinctly per Benjamin Brown of Fox News:

“Republicans control the government, yet Congress still follows the Democrats’ playbook. Time and again, spending skyrockets, and conservatives are expected to fall in line to praise the party for making the big-spending status quo worse.”

President Trump had stated as late as Saturday morning that he was considering a veto of the bill. However, in the end he signed off on it, claiming that it provided necessary increases in funding for the military as a primary reason.

Though a staunch supporter of the American military, I find this reasoning disingenuous at best, and a flat-out lie at worst.

After signing, the president referred to the bill as “ridiculous“, and per S.A. Miller at The Washington Times stated that “I will never sign a bill like this again.

Unfortunately, by that time the damage was already done. He signed this one. Why sign this one, knowing while you are doing it that you allegedly will never sign one like it again?

What the president could have, and should have, done in my opinion was to veto the bill. While the bill had passed easily in both Houses of Congress, there was not enough support to override his veto.

With a veto, the Congress would have been forced to go back and make cuts that would allow for the president to affix his signature. That, or with no spending authorization in place, they could simply decide to shut the government down.

This president was supposed to be the one who did things differently. Who didn’t play the same old political games. But here, when he had the chance to back up his tough talk and tweets with some real hardball action, he blinked and signed.

The Trump signature on this bill was a slap in the face to every conservative American who threw their support to him in November of 2016. It was a betrayal of those of us who believed that we finally had someone unafraid to stand up to the Deep State establishment.

There is no sugar-coating this one. President Trump caved in to politics as usual in Washington, D.C., and as a result we as a nation will sink deeper and deeper in debt.

There is no doubt that there is much to like in the spending bill, including those necessary increases for the U.S. military. But there is no funding to “build the wall” that has been promised by the president, and there is no fix to the DACA issue.

There is also no doubt that among the ridiculous 2,232 pages of this massive grab into taxpayer wallets that there is a great deal of money going out to special interest pork barrel projects that the government has no business being involved in funding.

Frankly, I’m tired of vocally backing a president and a party that, when push comes to shove, continually thumbs its nose at the people who elected them to office. They talk about Democrats spending like drunken sailors and promise that they will be different if given the chance. Then when given that chance, they drink the Dems under the table.

No more. I’ll be taking a nice, long, happy break from politics after this piece. It’s on to sports, faith, entertainment, and other less stressful topics in my writing. And that’s a shame.

The election of businessman Donald Trump was supposed to mean an end to business a usual in Washington. Instead, we saw today that he is incapable of nothing more than talk in regards to draining the swamp.

In defense of Donald Trump

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The following was the script for an experimental podcast ‘Traditional Americans’, for which this was the lone episode: “In defense of Donald Trump”.

——————————-

Hello America and welcome to the Traditional Americans podcast. I’m your host, Matthew Veasey.
 
After using our pilot episode last time out to introduce you good folks to myself, the podcast direction, and its social media and internet resources, this will be our first real topic-driven discussion.
 
So what topic would be most appropriate, most important to you, the listeners? Well, with everything that has been in the news lately, the fact remains that one man dominates the news cycle, probably more than any previous individual.
 
Today we’re going to talk about the Presidency of Donald Trump over the undeniably controversial, but also undeniably successful first 14 months of his first term in the highest office in the land.
 
There are so many directions from which we can begin a discussion of the Trump presidency to this point: his social media usage. The large and frequent turnover among his key advisors. His battles with the Democrats and with their liberal media mouthpiece. And of course, the accomplishments of his administration.
 
Let’s start with the positive – those accomplishments. Now, of course, most of these are only truly positive accomplishments if you’re a supporter of the president and his policies. That would mean that you need to be a conservative, because frankly, this president has accomplished more for Traditional American conservatives than any of recent decades. And that includes our beloved President Ronald Reagan.
 
The list of Trump administration accomplishments is indeed impressive for those of us in the conservative camp:
 
On jobs and the economy, we’ve seen passage of the first tax reform bill in more than three decades. This measure will mean $5.5 billion in real tax cuts to American workers and businesses.
 
Bloomberg has reported that the unemployment rate is expected to fall below the 4% mark by this summer. The DOW ended last week at the 24,984.45 mark. That’s up from the 18,589 on the day that he was elected back in early November of 2016.
 
All of these economic victories mean real jobs, real money in the paychecks and pockets, and real increases in the pension plans and 401K’s of real working Americans. No wonder Barron’s just reported that the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey rose to the 102 mark, its highest level in 14 years.
 
Another big piece of the Trump economy success story has been the elimination of numerous stifling Obama-era regulations. The president has operated from the beginning on the position that any new regulation would have to be accompanied by the elimination of at least two. In 2017, the president actually cut 16 for every new regulation, saving an additional $8.1 billion per the Washington Examiner.
 
Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was grossly unfair towards the United States, put an end to even more looming stifling economic regulations. Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership helped forward the cause of fair trade for American businesses, as will renegotiation of American involvement with NAFTA and the president’s recent threatened tariff increases.
 
President Trump has freed up agencies to further loosen the regulatory environment, which includes the Department of the Interior making 77 million acres available for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
The president nominated and saw successfully seated to the U.S. Supreme Court an originalist justice in Neal Gorsuch, a move that should benefit Traditional Americans for decades to come. 
 
Also, President Trump has successfully placed 14 judges to the district courts, and another 14 to the courts of appeals. He currently has another 55 nominees to those two courts awaiting Senate action.
 
In the area of Homeland Security, the president has ended Obama’s practice of “catch and release” of illegal immigrants. He has started towards an end to DACA and chain migration. 
 
The president has added roughly 100 new immigration judges, and empowered ICE and local communities to boost the arrest of criminal gang members and other illegals. He has enacted a travel ban from nations that have refused to clamp down on terrorism.
 
He visited the southern border just this past week to examine proposed samples for the border wall. Though numerous conservative commentators, Ann Coulter chief among them, has criticized the president for not pushing ahead with actual construction, the fact remains that this is a major project which cannot be taken lightly. Trump knows construction projects. He’ll get this done, and done right.


 
Under President Trump, the Justice Department is making $98 million available for police departments to add an additional 802 new officers. He declared a public health emergency on opioids, with DHS announcing a new five-point strategy to combat this crisis and the administration providing $500 million towards the fight.
 
The president empowered military commanders, reducing the need for the White House to sign off on every mission and urging them to fight to win. These actions helped lead to ISIS losing control of almost all of its territorial control.
 
In just his first 14 months in office, the president has traveled to Poland and Germany for the G-20. He has traveled to the Middle East and Europe, and did what decades of American politicians talked of doing but were too afraid to act upon, recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East. His nearly two-week trip through Asia resulted in historic deals negotiated during multiple summit meetings.
 
 
 
President Trump has worked to support life as well, expanding the Mexico City Policy to block foreign aid used for abortions. He has worked to block Obamacare money from going towards abortions, and to overturn Obama regulations which had blocked states from defunding abortion providers.
 
These are many, but they remain only a few of the triumphs of the early Trump administration.
 
Now let’s move to the controversial, starting with President Trump’s use of social media to push forward his agenda and communicate his political and personal opinions.
 
Social media is a relatively new phenomenon for American politicians to deal with. Facebook launched in February of 2004, Twitter was first created 12 years ago this month, and Instagram came into existence in October of 2010.
 
Each of those resources took a few years for massive numbers of people and businesses to begin using them. So while they existed during the latter part of the ‘W’ Bush administration and all through the Obama years, their usage was limited at first, and then has continued to grow, where politicians and political organizations and parties are concerned.
 
Donald Trump was the first major American presidential candidate to full embrace and utilize social media as a vital tool in his campaign for the presidency. After actually winning the office, some thought that Mr. Trump would ratchet back his activities on social media. Instead, especially where Twitter is concerned, the president has doubled down.
 
 
 
Trump was the first candidate to intentionally go over the heads of the former mainstream media outlets and take his message directly to the people. It worked. Folks responded. He sees no need to change now, and frankly, I can’t blame him.
 
No, Donald Trump is not the statesman that other presidents have been. No, Donald Trump does not have much of a filter. No, Donald Trump is not a traditional politician. And you know what? All of those things are fine by me. 
 
In fact, it is for all of those reasons that many of the 65 million who voted for him cast their ballots for the career businessman. Much of America had frankly grown tired of politicians speaking out of the sides of their mouths, or flat out lying to our faces. We saw Trump, warts and all, as a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. If he said he was going to get something done, then we believed that he was going to get it done. And you know what? He has done just that.
 
Democrats are never, ever going to let up on Trump. Why? Not because he might have had an affair with a porn star years before he was ever in office. Not because he fired some member of his administration, or someone from the previous Obama administration.
Democrats and their liberal media mouthpieces, especially at places like CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, are going to continue attacking Trump all throughout his presidency for one reason only. He gets things done.
 
And the things that he gets done are, in the vast majority of instances, exactly those things that conservatives want done. 
 
No, he won’t simply cow-tow to the right. Anyone who is actually on the right, such as myself, knows full well that President Trump has numerous critics among the GOP establishment in congress and the senate. 
 
Some of those critics are towards his overall style and demeanor, some are towards specific individual programs or policies.
 
But as the litany of achievements which I ran down at the start of this broadcast outlined, this President has accomplished more for conservatives in 14 months than both Bush presidencies combined.
 
Staff turnover within the President’s inner sanctum is indeed an area ripe for criticism. The Brookings Institution recently released the figures: Trump’s first year turnover rate was 34%. That is twice as high as Ronald Reagan’s, who was the next highest among the last half-dozen administrations. His second year rate is an astronomical 43%, and we’re just in Mid-March. Bill Clinton’s 38% was the previous high.
 
However, what we need to remember is that this is a man who has never put together a political operation of this type before. He came in with a mandate from his electorate to “drain the swamp”, and it was inevitable that some who came along would not be able to hold up as he has, and would drown in that swamp.
 
 
 
My bet is that as the president really settles in further, he will figure out how to find the right people. Those who can not only push forward his message and agenda, but can also hold up under the D.C. spotlight.
 
I didn’t start out as a Donald Trump supporter. When 2016 opened and the GOP nomination process was still unfolding, I supported Texas senator Ted Cruz. I still think that Cruz can be a fine candidate in the future. My thoughts on Trump were that his populist message would resound until folks actually had to start voting. Then he would eventually get sorted out by that electorate. Instead, his message continued to ring true to many, including myself.
 
When the Pennsylvania Republican primary came around, I pulled the lever next to Trump’s name, something that I would never have believed just a few months earlier. 
 
When the November election came around, my wife and I happily went to the polls and cast our votes for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. We went to lunch afterward, not really sure that our candidate had a chance to win, but we both felt happy, that we had done the right thing.
 
That night, I was at work as the election results came in, and early on things didn’t seem too positive. However, there was still legitimate reason to hope. As the night wore on, those reasons to hope grew into possibilities. The possibilities turned into a genuine battle. The tide began to turn in that battle, and as I got home from work it was time to settle in for a long overnight election watch.
 
Very late at night (early morning actually), it was my home state of Pennsylvania that finally put Donald Trump over the top. By that time, it was a foregone conclusion. Everyone knew he was going to win PA, except that the networks were unwilling to make the call, possibly out of disbelief and shock.
 
The Democrats thought that they had this one in the bag. Hillary Clinton had celebrities in her corner, after all. The media, at least the media that they watched and read and listened to, told them that she would win, probably comfortably. When she lost, they were bitter and angry, and they remain that way today.
 
Donald Trump is an imperfect man. Frankly, there are no perfect men. I don’t need my President to be perfect. I don’t need him to be some articulate phony. I don’t want a person in that office who looks and sounds good, who makes folks feel good with flowery words, and then hurts my country with their actions and policies.
 
A Hillary Clinton presidency would have been a nightmare for America. A Bernie Sanders socialist presidency would have been even worse. The presidency of Donald Trump has been, thus far at least, a blessing from God to our nation.
 
My hope remains that the president will grow in office. That he will tone down his social media posting, that he will move away from his name-calling rhetoric. That he will become just a little bit more of a traditional statesman in style.
 
But if he does none of those things, in the end I will be fine with him as long as he continues to name conservative judges to the courts, continues to work to protect our security and business interests, and continues to put America first.
 
Later this coming week, our next episode of the Traditional Americans podcast is going to delve into the unmitigated mess that has become the FBI probe of the Clinton and Trump campaigns during the 2016 election. I’ll have the announcement on the availability of that podcast at our social media feeds later this week, so keep an eye out for that.
 
As always, you can find us on social media @TraditionalAmericans on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can write to us at TraditionalAmericans@verizon.net with any commentary or ideas. And if you think that you can bring something to the conversation, let me know there, and you may be invited on as a guest to a future podcast.
 
 
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Traditional Americans podcast. Make it a regular part of your intrawebs listening experience, and please share us with your family and friends, and on social media. 
 
That’s all for now. Until next time, God bless you and yours, and God bless the United States of America!

NOTE: the “Traditional Americans” podcast enjoyed only two episodes, a brief introductory episode and this on President Trump. 

Jake Arrieta is the perfect player at the perfect time for Phillies

Phillies sign free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta

In a move that was rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies won the race to sign the top free agent on the market this off-season.

That signing not only bolsters the starting pitching rotation immediately. It also signals that the club is clearly ready to move towards a return to winning baseball right now.

Jake Arrieta, who turned 32 years old exactly one week ago, has been reportedly signed to a three-year deal worth $75 million total dollars.

However, as Wayne G. McDonell Jr with Forbes wrote, the deal is more complex than that:

“… it appears as if Arrieta’s contract is front loaded and includes an opt out…2018salary is $30 million, but drops to $25 million in 2019…opt out clause apparently is an option at the end of the 2019 season with a 2020 salary set at $20 million…the Phillies have the option to void the opt out and establish a two-year contract extension that begins at $20 million per year. It also appears there are various performance incentives as well. In total, the contract has the potential of reaching $135 million.”

Arrieta immediately becomes the #1 starting pitcher in the Phillies rotation, the true ace that the club has lacked since dealing away Cole Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline.

A veteran of eight big league seasons, Arrieta broke in with the Baltimore Orioles. He battled mechanical and health issues with the O’s, and it wasn’t until a 2013 trade to the Chicago Cubs that the right-hander truly began to blossom.

Arrieta finished 9th in the NL Cy Young Award voting during his first full season in Chicago. Then in 2015 he won the award, honored as the National League’s top starting pitcher after going 22-6 with a minuscule 1.77 ERA and 0.865 WHIP.

In 2016, Arrieta helped lead the Cubs to the franchise’ first World Series championship in 108 years. He pitched gems in winning Games Two and Six, both times tying the Fall Classic after Chicago had fallen behind the Cleveland Indians.

That year, Arrieta was selected as a National League All-Star for the first time, again finishing 9th in the NL Cy Young voting. In his final season with Chicago a year ago, Arrieta went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA. He allowed  150 hits over 168.1 innings with a 163/55 K:BB ratio last year.

While with the Cubs, Arrieta tossed a pair of no-hitters, one each in 2015 and 2016. Per Ed Barkowitz at Philly.com, in that 2015 no-no against the Los Angeles Dodgers he struck out the side in the 9th inning to end it, becoming the first to accomplish that feat since Sandy Koufax.

What was an extremely young and inexperienced pitching rotation now has a talented veteran at the front to take on a leadership role.

Manager Gabe Kapler will still go with Aaron Nola on Opening Day in Atlanta. However, Arrieta is not really behind the other pitchers, despite joining the club in Clearwater for Spring Training nearly a month late. He addressed readiness in his introductory press conference:

“I’ve been throwing 50-65 pitch bullpens every two or three days, so my arm strength is there. The workload is there. My body is in tremendous shape. I feel like we’ll probably sit down and game plan, and decide how quickly I get into a game, how many pitches I’m able to throw right away, and develop a program to get me ready for the opening week of the season.”

The Phillies rotation, given health, will be led by Arrieta and Nola. It appears in the early going that the club will slot Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez behind those two. The fifth starter job would then become a battle between Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, and Mark Leiter Jr.

No one in that group, including Nola, has more than two full big league seasons under their belt. Arrieta’s experience and leadership will be invaluable to the others as they watch how he goes about his business. That goes not only for how he handles the ups and downs on the mound, but also how he handles himself in the clubhouse, during the off-season, and away from the game.

Based on a reasonable look at the remaining Grapefruit League schedule, Arrieta should get at least two and possibly three chances to start games in Florida. He could then be ready to start during the opening series in Atlanta.

However, the club might decide to pitch him in the following series at New York. There is also a chance that he could be the starter for the home opener at Citizens Bank Park on April 5th vs the Marlins.

The veteran began to display that leadership immediately, basically calling an end to the rebuilding program as quoted by Jim Salisbury with NBC Philadelphia:

“A message I want to send to not only the players but to Philadelphia in general and the entire Phillies nation is that what we’re going to do here is we’re going to promise a fight. There is no guarantee you’re going to feel good or you’re going to have your best stuff or you’re going to get a great night sleep the night before. But what we can promise is that we’re going to have conviction, we’re going to fight and we’re going to win at the end of the day. I couldn’t be happier to be a Phillie. I look forward to getting on the field with my teammates and winning some games.”
It will take more than Arrieta to actually win. It will also take a step forward from the extremely young group of position players who will take the field behind those pitchers. Some will meet the challenge. Others may not.
But another key point that should not be missed with this signing is that it is just the beginning. When looked at in combination with deals for veteran first baseman Carlos Santana and relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, the Phillies front office clearly appear to be sending signals to the mega-talented 2019 free agent class that they are ready and willing to open up the checkbooks to bring in real veteran talent.
The players available next off-season read as a long list of recent MLB award winners and all-stars. Outfielders Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, and Andrew McCutchen. Infielders Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Elvis Andrus, Daniel Murphy, and Brian Dozier. Pitchers Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrew Miller. 
Those are just some of the higher profile names. The list is extremely deep in veteran talent, depending on which players might ultimately agree to extensions before actually reaching free agency. The Phillies are in a financial position that will allow them to compete for 3-4 of those players, if they so desire. 
The Phillies are in transition. But now that transition is not from their previous glory years into a rebuilding stage. That happened over the last few years. Now the club is transitioning from rebuilding to winning. They are a financial powerhouse with a competitive controlling owner who legitimately hungers to win in John Middleton, a man who sat in Jeffrey Lurie’s private box as the Eagles went on their Super Bowl-winning ride.
The Jake Arrieta signing brings in the veteran leader at the front of the starting pitching rotation that the Phillies needed if they really wanted to take a step forward this season. The signing signals to other upcoming free agents that the Phillies are ready to win now. Especially for these reasons, Arrieta is the perfect signing at the perfect time.