Tag Archives: Carlos Beltran

With Gabe Kapler out, what’s next for the Phillies?

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Kapler was let go after two seasons as the Philadelphia Phillies manager

 

Under tremendous fire from their fan base after a disappointing 2019 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had to make some type of change at the management level. Today, that change was announced.

The Phillies have fired manager Gabe Kapler after two seasons as the skipper and with one year remaining on his contract. The club went 80-82 in 2018 and then finished at 81-81 in the recently completed campaign under his guidance.

Telling in the decision is that it reportedly did not come from club management in the front office, but instead was made by ownership.

Per Bob Nightengale and Chris Bumbaca of USA Today: “The decision was made by Phillies owner John Middleton, and not general manager Matt Klentak, a high-ranking Phillies executive told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity.

Middleton then released a statement himself, as reported by ESPN:

Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city. I will never waver from that commitment. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.

Just last week, I wrote that the Phillies should bring Kapler back. I felt that, while he indeed made mistakes, the injury situation was bad enough that he should be given the final year of his contract in 2020 to see if he could push the club forward.

However, Middleton reportedly took the time to not only consider the situation in his own head, but also sought out the opinions of a number of his team’s key players. It can now be assumed that those players did not aggressively back their manager.

So, the owner made the decision that most of the problems with the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies were in the clubhouse and the dugout, and not in the front office. That much became clear when Middleton also let it be known that Klentak would “lead the search” for the new manager.

Be sure of this, while Klentak sorting through the candidates during the search and lining them up for interviews may indeed be the case, no manager will be hired at this point without input and likely final approval from Middleton.

I believe you can also be sure of another thing as well – the new manager will have some real experience in that role, unlike Kapler when he was hired.

That would leave out candidates such as former Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez and the recently retired Carlos Beltran, two hot names being bandied about to fill one of the open MLB managerial positions this off-season.

While I believe he would make a perfect candidate, I do not believe that Joe Maddon will be the man. A big-league skipper for parts of 16 seasons, Maddon has an overall 1,252-1,068 record.

He has taken his teams to the postseason eight times, and won a World Series with the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Maddon was also the Tampa Bay Rays manager when they captured the American League pennant in 2008 before dropping the Fall Classic to the Phillies.

However, Maddon is widely seen as the front-runner for the open managerial position with the Los Angeles Angels. He has history there, spending more than three decades from 1975-2005 as a player, coach, scout, minor league manager, and big-league coach.

Maddon also served previously as the Angels interim manager in both 1996 and 1999. It is hard to believe that he wouldn’t take that job, hoping to help make Mike Trout and company into legitimate contenders.

So, let’s get right to it. Who do I see as the leading contenders to become the new Philadelphia Phillies manager beginning with the 2020 season? I have three leading candidates.

Buck Showalter

Now 63 years of age, Showalter has been the manager with four different organizations: New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000), Texas Rangers (2003-06), and Baltimore Orioles (2010-18).

Showalter has an overall record of 1,551-1,517 and won a division title with three of the four clubs. However, his teams had winning seasons in just 10 of the 19 full years that he was at the helm, and only reached the postseason five times.

It may be in his favor that he was hired for the Orioles managerial job during the time that current Phillies club president Andy MacPhail was serving in that position with Baltimore and while Klentak was their Director of Baseball Operations.

Joe Girardi

Turning 55 years of age this coming weekend, Girardi was the man in the dugout as the New York Yankees skipper when the Bronx Bombers took out the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He put together an overall 910-710 mark in the Big Apple over 10 seasons from 2008-17.

Girardi’s teams reached the postseason six times, and reached the American League Championship Series four times. Just two falls ago, his Yanks held a 3-2 lead in the ALCS vs Houston before the Astros rallied to win the final two games.

He also won three World Series rings as a member of the Yankees late-1990’s dynasty. Girardi was the NL Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006 after keeping a low-budget team in Wildcard contention for much of the summer. But he was fired following that one season after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria.

Mike Scioscia

A local product who was born in Upper Darby and attended Springfield High School and Penn State University, Scioscia will turn 61 years of age in late November.

He was the manager with the Angels for 19 seasons from 2000-2018, leading that franchise to their only World Series championship in 2002. During his tenure the Angels won six AL West Division titles, including over five of six seasons between 2004-09.

Scioscia had an overall 1,650-1, 428 record at the Angels helm and seven of his teams reached the postseason. However, despite having the game’s best player in Trout for most of that time, the Angels made the playoffs just once over his final nine years.

He had a 13-year playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the starting catcher on their 1981 World Series championship team. Scioscia was an NL All-Star in both 1989 and 1990.

Other possibilities who fit the bill of an experienced big-league manager who might be open to consideration for the position would include John Farrell, Dusty Baker, John Gibbons, Clint Hurdle, Brad Ausmus.

Whomever gets the job of trying to guide the Philadelphia Phillies back to the postseason from inside the locker room and dugout, both Klentak and MacPhail should now consider themselves as being squarely on the hot seat.

The Phillies have not only failed to reach the postseason during the four full seasons of the MacPhail-Klentak front office regime, but the minor league system is widely regarded as among the weakest in the game.

That comes after four years of their leading the draft and international signing process. If the Phillies cannot become winners on the field, and should that minor league organization not begin to display legitimate depth of talent, heads in the front office should be the next to roll.

ALDS Prediction: Houston Astros over Boston Red Sox

One ALDS opens this afternoon with Houston hosting Boston

The Division Series open today in the American League, and each series features a strong AL East contender.

I’m picking both of these “beasts of the east” to go down at the hands of what like slightly more talented opponents.

In one ALDS, the Houston Astros, champions of the AL West, will be facing the Boston Red Sox, champs of the AL East. In the other series, the Cleveland Indians, champions of the AL Central and the defending American League champs, will be taking on the wildcard New York Yankees.

Let’s take the Houston-Boston matchup first. The Astros won 101 games during the regular season, running away with the AL West crown by 21 games.

It was the franchise’ first division title since 2001, and puts them into the postseason for the second time in three years. In 2015, Houston was edged out in a five-game ALDS by the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

The Red Sox went 93-69, and held off the Yankees down the stretch to capture their second consecutive division title, their third in five seasons. The Bosox were swept out of the ALDS a year ago by Cleveland.

Left-handers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz are scheduled to pitch the first two games in Houston for Red Sox skipper John Farrell. Veteran righty Doug Fister is slated to go on Saturday in Game Three back at Fenway Park in Boston.

For the Astros and manager A.J. Hinch, taking the mound will be trade deadline acquisition Justin Verlander in the opener. The veteran righty will be followed by lefty Dallas Keuchel in Game Two at home.

Hinch has not yet announced his starter for Game Three. That choice will likely come down to veteran Charlie Morton or young righty Lance McCullers.

The Red Sox feature one of the most exciting young lineups combos in baseball. That lineup, with ages in parentheses, includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (25), third baseman Rafael Devers (21 later this month), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), center fielder Jackie Bradley (27), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25 in two days.)

Each of those players is likely to contend for AL All-Star berths and league awards for years to come. Their presence virtually assures that Boston will continue to contend into the next decade.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and DH Hanley Ramirez bring veteran leadership and experience, as well as continued offensive production as they move towards their mid-30’s.

Farrell won’t hesitate to use normal starters David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Rick Porcello out of his bullpen, especially in the first couple of games. Joe Kelly, Addison Reed, and lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel, all righties, could allow Farrell to easily go to a “bullpenning” game strategy.

For Houston, the lineup also features a group of dynamic youngsters. Second baseman Jose Altuve (27), shortstop Carlos Correa (23), third baseman Alex Bregman (23), and center fielder George Springer (28) give the Astros their own core group for years to come.

One reason that I like Houston to win this series is their veterans. Catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, DH Carlos Beltran, and outfielder Cameron Maybin are part of a versatile group that has been through the wars.

The Astros also have one of baseball’s top “X-factor” players in Marwin Gonzalez. The 28-year old switch-hitter can literally play every position on the diamond. He played 19 games at third base, 22 at second, 31 at first, and 38 games at shortstop, as well as 47 games in left field.

On the mound, Hinch can turn to righties Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, and closer Ken Giles. From the left side, former starter Francisco Liriano is his lone option. Also, he may opt to use McCullers out of the pen.

The Astros ran away and hid in their division. This was a team assembled with a deep October run in mind. I think they get at least into the middle of the month. The veteran lineup options make a difference for me in predicting Houston to win in four games.

Astros threaten to make a mockery of AL West race

The rampaging Houston Astros are threatening to make a mockery of the American League West Division race, and we’re only six weeks into the 2017 Major League Baseball regular season.
The Astros have jumped out to a 25-11 record through games of Friday, May 13. That is the best record in baseball, and leaves the club eight games in front of their nearest divisional rivals.
Since their Saturday afternoon matchup with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium was rained out, Houston will take that mark into a makeup day-night doubleheader on Sunday.
Part of the equation in building such a huge lead has been that their chief expected challenger for the AL West crown, the in-state rival Texas Rangers, have been decimated by key injuries.
However, that takes nothing away from what Houston has been able to accomplish of their own accord. With 173 runs scored, the Astros are third in the American League. The cumulative pitching staff Batting Average Against is just .226, the best mark in all of baseball.

TOP OF THE ROTATION A TOUGH 1-2 COMBO

“We know what we’re capable of,” said pitcher Lance McCullers, per Mike Fitzpatrick of the Associated Press. “We can do some pretty cool things if everyone does their job.
McCullers comments came after the righty had tossed six shutout innings to help Houston to a 5-1 victory over the Bronx Bombers on Friday night. New York had entered that game tied with the Astros and the Baltimore Orioles with 11 losses, fewest in MLB to this point.
The 1-2 punch at the top of the starting pitching rotation has been a leading reason for Houston’s dominance. McCullers is 3-1 with a 2.92 FIP and 1.117 WHIP with a 57/13 K:BB ratio over 48.1 innings. And the 23-year old hasn’t even been the Astros top starter.
That distinction goes to 29-year old Dallas Keuchel. The lefty was the American League’s Pitcher of the Month for April. Keuchel is 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.869 WHIP, and has a 50-17 K:BB ratio. He has yielded just 37 hits over his first 58.2 innings.

ASTROS VERSATILE OFFENSIVE ATTACK

The Houston offensive attack is extremely versatile and deep, led by an AL All-Star in three of the last five years. With three straight Silver Sluggers in his trophy case, second baseman Jose Altuve is off to another strong start. Altuve is hitting .298 with a .367 on-base percentage. His nine steals lead the club. His 21 runs scored are tied for the team lead.
Talented 22-year old shortstop Carlos Correa also has scored 21 times. His 20 RBI are second on the team, and his 15 extra-base hits lead all Astros hitters.
Center fielder George Springer has 21 runs scored as well. His seven home runs are tops in the lineup, and his 20 RBI leave him tied for second with Correa.
Veteran catcher Brian McCann was a big off-season trade acquisition from those Yankees. The 7x All-Star and 5x Silver Slugger winner is proving that he is still a threat at 33-years of age. McCann has a .381 on-base percentage. He is third on the club with a half-dozen homers, and leads Houston with 21 RBI.
Josh Reddick signed a four-year, $52 million free agent contract this past off-season. The 30-year old right fielder has hit for a .291 average. Reddick has produced 10 extra-base hits, 18 runs scored, and 16 RBI.

IMPORTANT BENCH PIECE

23-year old third baseman Alex Bregman got off to a cold start to the season. But since April 11, Bregman is hitting .293 with a .383 on-base percentage. However, the youngster has yet to prove that he can deliver any pop from the hot corner. Bregman is still searching for his first home run of the year.
Bregman and high-profile Cuban signee Yuli Gurriel have been producing modest numbers at the corner infield positions.
Into the breech has stepped Marwin Gonzalez, providing tremendous versatility and unexpected offensive production. Gonzalez leads the Astros with nine home runs. His 21 RBI have him tied for the club lead with McCann. On defense, he has stepped in at five different positions.
“I can pinch-hit for anybody because I have Gonzalez,” manager A.J. Hinch said per John Perrotto of Fan Rag Sports“If Carlos Beltran’s on the bench and Marwin is on the bench, I can hit Beltran whenever I want because Marwin can cover. He can cover center, right, left, all infield positions.”

SOME BULLPEN INCONSISTENCY

Chris DevenskiWill HarrisMichael Feliz, and Brad Peacock (before the latter’s recent demotion to AAA) have all been reliable options out of the bullpen for manager A.J. Hinch.
Meanwhile, closer Ken Giles, setup man Luke Gregerson, and top lefty Tony Sipp have been the most inconsistent pieces to that bullpen mix. If they can become more consistent, Houston may never be challenged in the division all season long.
In their just released new Top 100 Prospects ranking, Baseball America placed five Houston youngsters among the top 67 on their list. With four starting position players, three starting pitchers, and four members of the pen all in their 20’s, the Astros figure to remain contenders for a long time to come.


Everything is going right so far for the Houston Astros in the 2017 season. Every team hits some bumps in the road over a long 162-game season. But if Houston doesn’t start hitting a couple real soon, they may make even more of a mockery out of the AL West race than it has already become.


2016 Winter Meetings: Houston Astros

When the Winter Meetings open in National Harbor, Maryland next week, look for the Houston Astros to be one of the big players in free agent deals, big trades, or both.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement could soon be announced between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. If that happens, the Astros could strike even more quickly.
The two biggest free agent names tied to Houston at the moment are a pair of veteran bats, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Beltran.

ENCARNACION AND BELTRAN HISTORY

Encarnacion has spent the last eight seasons of his 12-year big league career with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was an AL All-Star for the third time in 2016 when he hit for a .263/.357/.529 slash. He also produced 42 homers, 34 doubles, 127 RBI, and 99 runs scored.
Beltran was with the New York Yankees for the last three years before moving on to the Texas Rangers this past season in a trade deadline deal for three prospects.
Encarnacion will turn 34 years old in January. In addition to his DH work, he has made first base appearances in anywhere from one-third to one-half of the Blue Jays’ games over the last five seasons.
Beltran turns 40 years old at the end of April. In addition to his own DH work, Beltran has seen plenty of outfield action. He could still play at least part-time on a corner.

ASTROS HAVE ALREADY ADDED FOR 2017

Houston has already made a handful of moves this offseason as the club seeks to return to the postseason. After a 2015 AL Wild Card berth and narrow ALDS loss to the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals, the Astros finished in third place in the AL West in 2016.
Featuring a tremendously talented young core which includes second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, center fielder George Springer, and third baseman Alex Bregman, the team is looking to add veterans for a serious 2017 push.
To that end, general manager Jeff Luhnow has already added catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki, Cuban defector Yulieski Gurriel, and pitcher Charlie Morton.

LUHNOW MORE AGGRESSIVE THIS OFFSEASON

At the GM meetings in early November, Luhnow was quoted by Jeff Kaplan for the Houston Chronicle.
“We’ve always had more of an attitude of wait and see how the market develops and figure out where we can get some value and where we can get players that are complementary,” Luhnow said, per Kaplan“But now we need to be more aggressive. We need to try and get out in front of some things and secure some players to help us win.”
Luhnow has already demonstrated that new aggressiveness. Expect the Astros to add at least one more big bat in the coming days or weeks.
Such a move could also signal further dealings, such as a trade of Evan Gattis. There is even some speculation that Houston could try to move one of its top kids, perhaps Correa, Bregman, or Springer, in a move to land a big arm such as Chris Sale.
The Astros are not conceding the AL West Division to the talented Texas Rangers. They will be doing everything possible to not only make a run at the division title in 2017, but to position themselves for a run at the first World Series championship in franchise history.

World Series 2013: The Best in Baseball

If over the next 2-3 days someone tries to tell you that they have some kind of special insight into who is going to win the 2013 World Series, then they are simply lying. These are clearly the two best teams in baseball, and you’d do well to simply toss a coin to pick a winner.

Most pundits and talking heads, as well as tons of amateurs and partisans, will indeed try to pick a winner. Some will inevitably end up correct. But going into it, these two teams are so evenly matched that legitimate arguments can be made for either.

The 109th MLB World Series will feature the best team, based on regular season record, from both the National League and the American League for the first time since 1999. Both the Boston Red Sox and the Saint Louis Cardinals won 97 games to pace their respective leagues.

Also, each of the two teams will have reached the Fall Classic after having battled through similar paths, first vanquishing divisional rivals, and then arguably the 2nd best teams in their respective leagues. Saint Louis beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and then the LA Dodgers, while Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Detroit Tigers.

This will also mark not only the 2nd World Series meeting between the NL’s Cardinals and the AL’s Red Sox in the last decade, but will be a matchup between a pair of franchise’s that have each won two World Series titles within this past decade.

The Red Sox finally vanquished “The Ghost of the Bambino” by sweeping past the Cards in the 2004 World Series, then won again in 2007 when they also swept the Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals blitzed the Detroit Tigers in five games in the 2006 Series, then won a dramatic 7-gamer over the Texas Rangers in 2011.

I am personally rooting for a long, dramatic series featuring the kinds of moments that live on in baseball lore: Don Larsen’s 1956 ‘Perfect Game’, Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 Series-winning homer, Carlton Fisk’s Game #6 homerun in 1975, Kirk Gibson’s Game #1 walkoff in 1988, the Clemens-Piazza bat-throwing showdown of 2000, Chase Utley’s fake-and-throw-home in 2008.

This 2013 version of the Fall Classic features the “Fear the Beard” Bosox coming at you with a multi-dimensional offense and a worst-to-first, something-to-prove chip on their shoulders against the Redbirds, the most consistently excellent organization in the NL. I’m picking Boston, and call it in 6 or 7 games.

Much is made, and rightfully so, of the Cardinals vaunted 1-2 postseason pitching tandem of Adam Wainwright and rookie sensation Michael Wacha. Both of these arms can shut down any offense in the game. If they do it early at Fenway Park, and take each of the first two games in Boston, the Cards could steamroll to victory in the series. But I don’t believe it will happen.

The Red Sox lineup is the difference for me between the two teams. Each have excellent hitters, with grizzled, proven veterans and talented youngsters. Each has outstanding starting pitching. Boston will throw Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in those first two games, and those two are just as capable of shutting down the Cards as vice versa. And the two bullpens seem evenly matched to me as well.

It’s that multi-faceted Red Sox offense that I will give the slight edge to, enough of an edge to win the World Series. Boston can bash you with Big Papi, Mike Napoli, and Jonny Gomes, and they can run you ragged with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Shane Victorino. And those last two are not one-dimensional, as “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” showed once again with his ALCS-clinching grand slam vs. Detroit.

The Cardinals have tremendous run-producing clutch hitters of their own in Matt Holliday, David Freese, and perhaps the best postseason hitter of recent years in Carlos Beltran. But Jon Jay led the club in steals with 10 this season. Running is simply not a part of their game. Meanwhile, Ellsbury swiped 52 bags, Pedroia stole 17, and Victorino took another 21 for Boston. These guys run, and they will challenge the great Saint Louis catcher Yadier Molina at pivotal points of games. His ability to shut them down could be the difference.

An ‘X-factor’ for the Cardinals will be Allen Craig. The 1st baseman who has been out of the Saint Louis lineup nursing a sprained foot is listed as probable, and is expected to DH in the first two games at Fenway. With his bat in the lineup, the Cards have 5 players who each hit at least .296 during the season. They can wear down a pitching staff. But the Red Sox also have 5 such players, at least when Daniel Nava is in left field rather than Gomes.

The pitching matchups have not been announced for every game, but logic and prior use would seem to point to Lester vs. Wainwright in the Opener, followed by Buchholz vs. Wacha in Game #2, both at Fenway Park. Back at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis it should then be John Lackey for Boston vs. Joe Kelly for the Cards in Game #3, Jake Peavy vs. Lance Lynn in Game #4, and then a return to the top of the respective rotations for the balance of the series.

There is not likely to be any edge in the dugout that will decide this matchup. John Farrell in his first year as Bosox skipper has been exactly what his team needed, and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals played in that 2004 Series between the two clubs. Both are talented skippers who have the respect of their teams, and have strong coaching staffs supporting them.

Two storied franchise’s battling it out on the diamond in front of two of the best and most knowledgeable and passionate fan bases in the game. It’s hard to ask for anything more from a baseball purist standpoint. The Boston Red Sox should come out of this with a hard-fought, beard-pulling title. But the real winners should be fans of the game everywhere. Sit back and enjoy the 2013 World Series between two talented teams, the best in baseball.