Tag Archives: Ricky Bottalico

Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Free agent signing of Jose Mesa helped Phillies springboard to 2000’s contention

Rumors continue breaking nearly every single day during this off-season that the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to make some big moves.

Today came rumors that the club had put relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter on the trade block, joining Carlos Santana there. The team was also once again linked strongly to the two biggest free agent names, shortstop Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper.
It was with all this current activity in mind that just yesterday I began a regular ‘Phillies Hot Stove History’ series in which I plan to re-visit some of the big free agent signings, trades, and other transactions made by the club on this date in off-season history.
That first entry took a look back at a 1981 three-team trade in which the Phillies sent outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Saint Louis Cardinals and landed catcher Bo Diaz from the Cleveland Indians. Within weeks that deal would have permanent ramifications for two of the team’s 1980 World Series heroes, catchers Bob Boone and Keith Moreland.

Today we’ll take a look at a big free agent signing from this date in the year 2000. To fully understand the signing and the reasons that it took place, you need to go back and recall what was happening at that time in Phillies history.

The organization was struggling mightily at that point. From 1987 through the 2000 campaign the Phillies had finished with a winning record just once, in the magical 1993 run to a World Series appearance.
Aside from that 97-65, first place and pennant-winning miracle, the Phillies had fashioned a horrendous cumulative record of 912-1,128 over the other prior 13 seasons.
To say that it was a long, dark dry-spell would be an understatement. The sustained losing would eventually cost five managers their jobs: John FelskeLee EliaNick LeyvaJim Fregosi, and Terry Francona, as well as general manager Lee Thomas.
But things began to change for the better as a new millennium dawned, even though it hadn’t yet shown up in the win-loss column. The Phillies finished the 2000 season with a 65-97 record, the second-worst during that stretch.
However, new and talented young players were beginning to make their way into the lineup. At age 25, third baseman Scott Rolen would win his second Gold Glove Award that year and was better than a 4-WAR player in each of his first four big-league seasons.
The Phillies first round pick in the MLB Draft just two summers earlier, 23-year-old Pat Burrell busted into the lineup with 18 homers and 79 RBI as a first baseman/left fielder. He would finish fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
26-year-old right fielder Bobby Abreu had his second straight 20-20 season with 25 homers and 28 stolen bases. He slashed .316/.416/.554 with 77 extra-base hits and 103 runs scored and was emerging as a premier offensive threat in the middle of the Phillies lineup.
The catcher was 28-year-old Mike Lieberthal, a future Phillies Wall of Famer who just might be the best all-around backstop in franchise history. A year after capturing the NL Gold Glove Award at the position he had made a second-straight National League All-Star appearance.
In mid-September of 2000, the lineup made room for an exciting newcomer. 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins hit .321 over 14 games and 55 plate appearances and flashed serious leather. That performance set the stage for a career that would see him become the greatest shortstop in Phillies history.

Phillies GM Ed Wade made the decision to bolster his emerging club’s bullpen for the 2001 season, a decision that paid off big-time.
Though the Phillies finished last in Major League Baseball with 708 runs scored and next-to-last in OPS, 44-year-old third-year general manager Ed Wade correctly surmised that he had the position player core to grow into a winner.
Where the Phillies were really lacking was on the mound. The mercurial ace of the staff, Curt Schilling, was dealt away at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2000. In exchange the Arizona Diamondbacks sent first baseman Travis Lee and three pitchers who Wade hoped could help the pitching depth in Vicente PadillaOmar Daal, and Nelson Figueroa.
The team’s second round 1997 MLB Draft pick, lefty starter Randy Wolf, was coming off his first full big-league season and appeared to be at least a long-term mid-rotation mainstay.
After four losing seasons, the notoriously tough Philly fans had seen enough of Francona as the manager. To be fair, this was the future multi-World Series winner’s first chance at an MLB managerial gig, and he wasn’t given much depth of talent to work with.
It was deemed time to give a new voice a chance to wake up both the players and the fan base, and there was one logical choice for the job: Larry Bowa. The former longtime World Series champion Phillies shortstop and coach, Bowa was hired as the new skipper.
Wade believed that if the position players continued to develop as he expected, then one way the Phillies could quickly begin to win was by bringing in major reinforcements for the bullpen.
The Phillies closer during the 2000 season had been 13-year veteran righty Jeff Brantley. He had recorded 23 Saves, but also had unsightly 5.86 ERA and 1.681 WHIP marks. The 36-year-old surrendered 64 hits over 55.1 innings and yielded a dozen home runs.
The primary setup men for Brantley on that 2000 Phillies team were righties Chris Brock and Wayne Gomes. After the Schilling trade, Padilla was used out of the pen on a regular basis as well. To call their performances poor would be an insult to the word.
Brock had a 4.34 ERA and 1.350 WHIP, allowing 21 home runs and 41 walks over his 93.1 innings which included five starts and 68 relief appearances. Gomes had a 4.40 ERA and 1.452 WHIP and had a poor 6.0/4.3 K:BB per nine innings rate. In 28 games, all out of the pen, Padilla had a 5.34 ERA and allowed 40 hits over 30.1 innings with a 21/18 K:BB ratio.

MESA GOES FROM STARTER TO CLOSER THROUGH FIVE TEAMS

 

Mesa had originally signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as, believe it or not, a 15-year-old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 1981.
In early September of 1987, Mesa was sent by Toronto to the Baltimore Orioles as the player-to-be-named-later in a deal that had netted the contending Jays a veteran starter in Mike Flanagan.
Mesa received a cup-of-coffee with his big-league debut that very month, making a half-dozen appearances for a horrendous Orioles team that was playing out the string. He would return to the minors for the next couple of seasons, working as a starting pitcher.
From 1990-92, Mesa made 43 appearances with the Orioles, 42 of those as a starter. Then on July 14, 1992 came what would become his big career break. Mesa was dealt by Baltimore to Cleveland for speedy outfield prospect Kyle Washington.
With the Indians, Mesa remained in the rotation at first, with 48 of his first 49 appearances in the Tribe uniform coming as a starting pitcher. It was in 1994 that Indians manager Mike Hargrove made the decision to switch the big right-hander to the bullpen. It would prove to be a career-making move.
His 1994 switch to the bullpen was successful but was also cut short by the player’s strike. When play resumed in 1995, Mesa was made the closer for an Indians team on the rise.
Cleveland would capture the next five consecutive American League Central Division titles. Mesa became an all-star, representing the Tribe in both the 1995 and 1996 Mid-Summer Classics.
In that 1995 season, Mesa would have a career year. He led all of baseball with 46 Saves and 57 games finished. His other numbers were tremendous: 1.13 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, 49 hits surrendered in 64 innings over 62 games. For that performance he finished as runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award voting to Randy Johnson.
The Indians would lose the World Series that year to the Atlanta Braves in six games, shut down in the opener by future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and then twice by future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. Mesa earned the win in Game 3 out of the pen.
After being knocked out in the ALDS by the Orioles in 1996, the Indians returned to the Fall Classic in 1997. This time they would face the upstart Florida Marlins, who had a pair of 1993 Phillies heroes on the roster in Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich.
The two teams battled through seven epic games, and that final Game 7 went to the bottom of the 9th inning with the Indians ahead by 2-1. With Cleveland just three outs away from their first World Series championship in nearly a half-century, Hargrove motioned down to the bullpen and called for his lights-out closer.
Mesa surrendered a base hit to Moises Alou, but then struck out Bobby Bonilla swinging. Two outs away. The next batter, Charles Johnson, dropped a line single into right field with Alou rolling around to third base as the tying run.
On a 1-1 pitch, little second baseman Craig Counsell lined a ball to right field. It was caught for the second out but was deep enough to score Alou for a tie game.
Hargrove had his horse in the game and decided to ride him longer. Mesa got the lead batter, but then surrendered two more hits in the bottom of the 10th. After striking out John Cangelosi for the second out, Hargrove made the decision to pull Mesa, who had thrown 39 pitches.
Veteran starter Charles Nagy came on to get the last out in the 10th and end that threat. With the score still knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the 11th, Nagy continued on.
The Marlins then put together another threat without hitting a ball hard. A ground single, an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs. Up stepped 21-year-old shortstop Edgar Renteria. On the second pitch, he lined a clean single to center field and Counsell gleefully scampered home with the series-winning run.
The following year, Mesa seemed to fall apart. After 44 games his ERA had more than doubled and his strikeout rate was falling for a third straight season. As the non-waiver trade deadline approached, Indians GM John Hart decided to deal the pending free agent, sending him along with veteran infielder Shawon Dunston to the San Francisco Giants.
After finishing the season with San Francisco, Mesa became a free agent and signed a two-year, $6.8 million deal with the young and talented Seattle Mariners.
In the second year of the deal, the 2000 Mariners led the AL West Division from late June through late September but fell a half-game short of the Oakland A’s for the division crown. As the American League Wildcard team, they swept the Chicago White Sox 3-0 in an ALDS, but then were eliminated by the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
Mesa wasn’t really wowing anyone at that point in his career. After recording 33 Saves his first season in Seattle he lost the closer job. Over the two seasons with the Mariners, Mesa had a cumulative 5.18 ERA and 1.701 WHIP.

MESA BECOMES PHILLIES RECORD-SETTING CLOSER

This was the man who Wade signed to anchor his new bullpen. Mesa would take this new opportunity to close as a re-birth, and he would prove to be born-again-hard, at least for the first two seasons of his deal.
In the 2001-02 campaigns with the Phillies, Mesa saved 42 and 45 games respectively. In 2001 he registered a 2.34 ERA over 71 games. In 2002 his ERA was at the 2.97 mark across 74 games. He yielded just 130 hits over 145 hits during the two seasons with just nine home runs allowed.
Wade didn’t stop his bullpen rebuild with Mesa alone. On November 30, 2000, he added a veteran left-hander to the mix by signing free agent Rheal Cormier. The 33-year-old became the primary southpaw out of the pen, pitching in 60 games and allowing just 49 hits over 51.1 innings.
On December 15, 2000, Wade would further bolster the pen, bringing back former Phillies all-star closer Ricky Bottalico to serve as Mesa’s primary setup man. Over 66 games, ‘Ricky Bo’ would allow just 58 hits across 67 innings.
Adding this new trio of veteran pitchers to the maturing position player mix worked perfectly. The Phillies very nearly went from worst-to-first. They led the NL East at the MLB All-Star Game break and as late as July 16.
The club continued to fight, never falling more than 3.5 games behind the six-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves. After winning the opener of a key three-game series in Atlanta on October 2, the Phillies were just a game out.
However, the Braves recovered to win the next two straight and open a three-game lead. Despite the Phillies sweeping a season-ending three-game weekend series in Cincinnati, the club would finish two games shy of Atlanta for the division crown.
Still, the Phillies 86-76 mark was their first winning season since the 1993 team. They would slip slightly to 80-81 during the 2002 season, Mesa’s second as closer, but would then begin a string of nine consecutive winning campaigns that would include the second World Series title in franchise history.
The 2003 Phillies would win 90 games and finish just five games off the NL Wildcard pace after a late September swoon. But in the final season of his contract, a now 37-year-old Mesa would prove ineffective.
In that 2003 campaign his ERA swelled to 6.52 and he allowed 71 hits over 58 innings. During an injury-riddled September, Mesa appeared in just a half-dozen games and was awful when he pitched, surrendering nine earned runs on nine hits over four innings.
Mesa’s contract was up, but his career was not yet over. Neither, in fact, were his days in Philadelphia. Mesa would again emerge as a strong closer in the 2004 season, saving 43 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent the 2005 season again in Pittsburgh, recording the 300th Save of his career. He then hooked on with the Colorado Rockies for the 2006 season at age 40.
In 2007, Mesa signed with the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers to bolster their bullpen as a 41-year-old veteran. However, after 16 ineffective appearances, the Tigers released him. Six days later he re-signed to give it one more shot with the Phillies.
The 2007 Phillies were a team on their way to the first of what would be five straight NL East Division crowns. Mesa, who had been there at the beginning of this great era in the team’s history, was back as it was finally all coming to full fruition.
He became a regular piece out of manager Charlie Manuel‘s bullpen over the rest of that season. In 40 games, Mesa allowed just 34 hits over 39 innings and surrendered just two home runs.
On August 5, 2007 in Milwaukee he registered his lone Save of the season, the 321st and final of his big-league career. He is currently 20th on the all-time MLB career Saves list. On September 18 at Saint Louis he earned the Win, the 80th and final of his career.
Mesa did get to take the mound for one final postseason appearance that year, but it was not a successful swan song. The Colorado Rockies swept the Phillies out in three straight games.
During Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park, Mesa came on top pitch the top of the 6th inning with Colorado already on top by 6-3. He lasted just four batters. After walking the first two, Yorvit Torrealba drilled a two-run double, upping the Rockies lead to 8-3. Mesa then retired pitcher Josh Fogg on a sacrifice bunt. It would prove to be the final batter he would face in the big leagues.
Prior to Mesa signing with the team back in December 2000, the Phillies all-time career Saves record was held by 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian with 103. Over his first three years in Phillies pinstripes, Mesa broke that record by saving 111 games. The one more that he tacked on in 2007 left him with the Phillies record of 112 career Saves.
That record would last for more than a decade until another big free agent closer signing, Jonathan Papelbon, would set the new and current Phillies career Saves mark of 123 over his three seasons with the team.
It was on this date 18 years ago that Wade’s plan to push the team forward by bolstering his bullpen began to take shape with the free agent signing of Mesa. That signing has to be considered a complete success with Mesa becoming the club’s all-time Saves leader.

With Mesa as the closer and the subsequent additions of Cormier and Bottalico, the Phillies 2001 bullpen was indeed greatly improved. That trio was a major reason that the team finally emerged from more than a dozen years at the bottom of the standings. The Phillies would use that 2001 contending season as a springboard to a decade of success.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies Hot Stove History: The 2000 Jose Mesa free agent signing

Phillies MLB All-Star Games: 1996

There were many differences between the 1976 and 1996 MLB All-Star Games, which were held two decades apart at the same venue of Veteran’s Stadium in South Philadelphia.
For the host Phillies, the biggest difference was that the ’76 game had come while the team was emerging as a contender with a number of talented players throughout the roster. 
The team would win the NL East in that Bicentennial season for the first of three consecutive division crowns.
By contrast, the ’96 Phillies team was a losing squad in every way you could define such a team. 
They would finish 67-95 in last place in the NL East, and aside from the oasis provided by the 1993 ‘Macho Row’ NL champs, the franchise was in the midst of 14 out of 15 losing seasons.
My own life situation had changed drastically as well. Back in ’76, I had enjoyed many of the Bicentennial events in Philly as a 14-year old, and had watched that year’s All-Star Game on TV.
By ’96 and the 25th anniversary of Veteran’s Stadium, I was a grown man of 34, and was able to attend the MLB All-Star Game FanFest held at the new Pennsylvania Convention Center. It was a wonderful event
, with numerous displays and activities for all baseball fans.
Jul 26, 2015; Cooperstown, NY, USA; Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. waves to the crowd during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies at Clark Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
As for the game itself, there were a number of notable events prior to and during the game. 
First, as the American League team picture was being taken, a mishap resulted in Baltimore Orioles ‘Iron Man’ shortstop Cal Ripken Jr breaking his nose.
Typical of Ripken, who was still in the midst of his record consecutive games played streak that he had set the previous September and that would ultimately reach 2,632 games, he was patched up and played on.
During the pregame introductions, the 62,670 Phillies fans on hand in true Philly fashion playfully and lustily booed Toronto Blue Jays’ slugger Joe Carter, who had beaten the Phils with his famous walkoff home run in the 1993 World Series.
Jun 27, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Hall of Fame pitcher unning throws a first pitch prior to a game with the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
The honorary “first balls” were thrown out by the living Phillies Hall of Famers, led by pitcher Jim Bunning, who was elected that year. Joining Bunning were Robin RobertsSteve CarltonMike Schmidt, and Richie Ashburn.
This was also the 15th and final MLB All-Star Game for “The Wizard of Oz”, Saint Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith
The crowd gave Smith a rousing ovation when he entered the game as a substitute in the middle innings, chanting “Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie” in respect for the future Hall of Famer, the best defender to ever play the position.
Only one Phillies player was selected for the National League team that season, closer Ricky Bottalico. ‘Ricky Bo’ had 20 Saves at the break, with a 49/19 K:BB ratio, and had allowed just 29 hits over 42.1 innings to that point in the season.
The NL starting lineup featured what may one day turn out to be as many as 6-7 Hall of Famers, one of whom would not be the leadoff hitter, center fielder Lance Johnson of the New York Mets.
Following Johnson in the order for the senior circuit were shortstop Barry Larkin of Cincinnati, left fielder Barry Bonds of San Francisco, and 1st baseman Fred McGriff of Atlanta.
Local native, catcher Mike Piazza of the Mets, hit 5th and was followed by right fielder Dante Bichette of the Colorado Rockies, Atlanta 3rd baseman Chipper Jones, and 2nd baseman Craig Biggio of Houston.
Apr 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinal former player Ozzie Smith waives to the fans before the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
The starting pitcher for NL manager Bobby Cox of the Braves was his own John Smoltz
Among the NL reserves was future 2009 Phillies pitcher Pedro Martinez, who was just starting out on his own Hall of Fame career.
For AL skipper Mike Hargrove of the Cleveland Indians, two of his own were in the starting lineup, leadoff man and center fielder Kenny Lofton, and cleanup hitter and left fielder Albert Belle. He also had four future Hall of Famers to write in.
The AL starters also included Wade Boggs of the Yankees hitting 2nd, with 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar of the Orioles batting 3rd, and Mo Vaughn of Boston hitting 5th at 1st base. 
The man known as ‘Pudge’, catcher Ivan Rodriguez, was batting 6th. Ripken would bat 7th, while his Orioles teammate right fielder Brady Anderson hit in the 8-spot.
On the mound, the assignment to open for the American League went to Tribe starting pitcher Charles Nagy, who was in the midst of five consecutive seasons winning 15 or more games. 
Coming out of the AL bullpen would be a pair of future Phillies relievers in Jose Mesa and Roberto Hernandez.
Much as with the 1976 game at The Vet, the NL jumped on top early and never looked back. Johnson led off the bottom of the 1st with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and scored the game’s first run on an RBI ground out by Bonds.
Piazza, an area native from Norristown, PA who had roamed the aisles and ramps at The Vet on numerous occasions as a kid, led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a mammoth solo homer to left field.
Four batters later, Henry Rodriguez of the Montreal Expos, pinch-hitting for Smoltz, would score Jones with an RBI single and the NL had a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the 3rd with Chuck Finley of the Angels on to pitch, Piazza laced an RBI double to right-center, scoring Larkin with a run that opened up a 4-0 lead for the National League.
Bottalico came on to pitch the top of the 5th inning, giving the Phillies fans something to cheer in the midst of a bleak summer. The Fightins’ closer struck out Rodriguez swinging to start off his appearance, then retired Ripken on a fly ball to left.
With two outs, Anderson grounded to new 3rd baseman Ken Caminiti, whose error put a runner on base. But Bottalico then got pinch-hitter Jay Buhner to line out to center field, ending his lone inning with no damage.
Pedro came on for the top of the 6th and allowed two hits, as well as a stolen base from Lofton, but got through his inning unscathed as well.
Caminiti made up for his error when he led off the bottom of the 6th with a solo homer. Bichette doubled one batter later, and would score on a Biggio ground out that upped the NL lead to what would prove to be the final 6-0 margin.
This would turn out to be the only MLB All-Star Game in history in which no batters were walked. In the end, the hometown kid Piazza would be named the Most Valuable Player off his 2-3 performance.
This would also mark the first MLB All-Star Game in which that award was presented by Bud Selig, who was then the Chairman of baseball’s Executive Committee. He would not be named the formal Commissioner until 1998.
That was the fourth and final time to date that Philadelphia has played host to the MLB All-Star Game. The city has hosted twice at Shibe Park, and twice at Veteran’s Stadium. Now, when will Citizens Bank Park get its chance to finally host the midsummer classic?

Phillies Broadcasters Get Mixed Grades

As the play on the field has deteriorated over the last few seasons, the performance coming from the Philadelphia Phillies TV broadcast booth also deteriorated. Long gone were the glorious days when fans were able to enjoy the sounds of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn during the majority of the Phils’ TV and radio broadcast innings. Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler, and Gary Matthews made listening to TV less than enjoyable for many.
Despite changing some of the personnel on the TV broadcasts this season, the performance has remained uneven at best. Radio, on the other hand, has emerged with an incredibly enjoyable team. This all makes for an overall mixed bag. Here is a look at some of the key broadcasters, with a grade on their performance:
TOM MCCARTHY: ‘C’ – McCarthy only even gets this high of a grade for one reason, and that is his obvious love of the team. I don’t want my broadcasters being a downer, and I can’t stand the negativity that often comes from local sports talk radio. But McCarthy is way too far on the other end of the spectrum. He is not just a “glass half full” kind of guy, he is a Pollyanna. His jokes are not funny, and he tries to put a positive spin on almost everything, often when criticism of a player or the team is what is warranted. He seems like a really nice guy, and my gut tells me there is no way that decision makers will make a change. But as the lead man on TV broadcasts, he is a problem the longer he is kept. The Phillies would do well to find a better day-to-day baseball voice.
MATT STAIRS: ‘D’ – I will always have a warm and fuzzy place for Stairs in my fan’s heart for two reasons. First and most obvious is the homerun. You know which one. The 2-run moonshot crushed deep into the California night off Jonathan Broxton that gave the Fightins a 2-run lead in the 8th inning of Game #4 of the 2008 NLCS vs. the Dodgers. You may not remember the second though. I was driving home from the Jersey shore in early April of 2009 when Stairs crushed a homer at the end of a road game in Colorado. It would be the final homerun call in the career and life of Harry Kalas, who would pass away the following day. Stairs does not come across as personable on the air, and though he has the anecdotal stories required of an ex-player in the booth, he does not have the story-telling ability to relate them well enough. At this point, he looks like a mistake hire for the job, ala Gary Matthews, and we had to put up with Sarge for years.
JAMIE MOYER: ‘C’ – I preface this by saying that I love Jamie Moyer. He is a Philly guy, born and raised. He graduated from my Saint Joe’s alma mater. He helped pitch the team to a World Series victory. He was the last player my age to play for the Phillies. He does tremendous charity work, loves the organization, and is a likeable guy in so many ways. But on the air he seems to be forcing it. I think that over time, and with the right professional broadcasting partner in the booth, Moyer could be a longterm gem. For now, he gets the midling ‘C’ grade. But I believe there is more here. Because of who he is overall, I am much more willing to give him the chance to prove that than I am with Stairs.
Jamie Moyer, usually observant, fails to notice as Raul Ibanez's t-shirt begins to explode. (Image courtesy of 1.bp.blogspot.com)

Jamie Moyer joined the TV broadcast team this season. (Image courtesy of 1.bp.blogspot.com)
MIKE SCHMIDT: ‘A’ – The greatest position player in the history of the franchise was brought in this season to provide a player’s perspective for Sunday home games. For the most part, Schmitty has been excellent. He has great stories to tell from glory days of my youth. He is a fantastic conversationalist. He does a nice job of analyzing what a player or pitcher may be trying to do at a certain point in a game. At times he takes over the broadcast too much. My guess is that’s a natural outcome of the limited home-game Sunday opportunities he gets. If he were a regular, working every game, my bet is that he would be not just good, but great. I doubt the Phillies could get him to give up his life in Florida to do the traveling it would take to be a regular broadcaster. Shame.
RICKY BOTTALICO: ‘B+’ – Ricky Bo is not the greatest studio analyst and commentator in the history of pre and post-game shows. Not by a long shot. He can be too animated at times, and at times he just comes off as a buffoon. But I still like him. Why? Because Ricky Bo is one of the few associated with broadcasting this team who isn’t reluctant to call a spade a spade. He is not intimidated by bad circumstances, and doesn’t get carried away with good. He gives his opinion, usually strongly. I like that, even if he lacks polish. He needs to stay around in-studio.
BEN DAVIS: ‘A’ – Does it get any more handsome and chiseled than this guy? But let’s put aside his movie star good looks. The man was a baseball player, one from our area, born and raised a Phillies fan. And he does a really nice job on-air of expressing his opinion. Another one who is, like Ricky Bo, not afraid to hand out criticism when warranted. he’s sometimes a little stiffer, but he does the job with just a bit more polish than Ricky. Another one who needs to stick around in-studio.
JIM JACKSON: ‘B+’ – It’s so hard for me to listen to Jim Jackson and hear a Phillies game coming out of that voice, after hearing him broadcast so many Flyers games on the radio over the years. The guy is an excellent broadcaster, that isn’t the problem. He just doesn’t, for me anyway, have what I am looking for in an everyday baseball voice. As a Flyers broadcaster, I would give him an ‘A’ grade. Nice backup guy and post-game show guy, which is usually his role anyway. He is worlds better than Chris Wheeler or Gary Matthews, so that’s also a plus.
SCOTT FRANTZKE: ‘A+’ – The simple fact is that Frantzke is a great baseball radio broadcaster. The further fact is that his personable, natural chemistry with regular radio partner Larry Anderson is as tremendous as it is rare. Whether delivering the play-by-play, where his voice is perfect for the job, or commenting on issues surrounding the team on-field and off, or in bantering with Anderson, he is personable and professional. He also has a tremendous, understated humor. I didn’t think it would be possible to ever again experience a Kalas-Ashburn type enjoyable performance. With Frantzke and LA, it may not be quite at that legendary level – yet – but it is much closer than I ever thought I could hope to enjoy again. The team must keep him on board.
LARRY ANDERSON: ‘A’ – His work with Frantzke is the stuff that legends are ultimately made of in a baseball broadcasting team. Together they enjoy an on-air chemistry that is impossible to force. Their timing and humor together is impeccable. LA brings the former player perspective, and continues to display passion of the game and the team. I only gave Frantzke the slightly higher ‘+’ designation because of Scott’s play-by-play abilities. But when Frantzke and LA are together it’s magic. As I already said, they are as close to Kalas-Ashburn as I ever had a right to hope to expect to enjoy again in my lifetime. The powers-that-be need to be sure to commit to this team as long as possible. Wouldn’t it be awesome to get them on TV for at least a few innings each game as well? If Harry and Whitey could do it, why not Scott and LA?
The Phillies get other regular contributions from Comcast folks such as Gregg Murphy, Neil Hartman and Leslie Gudel. All three of them do a tremendous job of hosting, interviewing, analyzing, and commenting on the team. I refrain from giving them grades simply because they are neither former players, nor everyday game broadcasters. But all are professional, personable, and do a nice job in whatever role they are asked during any particular broadcast.
Overall, the Phillies broadcast team would get a ‘B’ grade, with an ‘A’ for the radio guys and a ‘C’ for the TV broadcasters. Replacing McCarthy with a better everyday baseball play-by-play voice would vastly improve that TV end. Maybe figure out a way to have that new TV guy and Moyer switch off a few innings each game with Frantzke/LA in the radio booth, ala with the old days of Kalas/Ashburn. Those would be my main suggestions for improvement going forward.