Tag Archives: Robbie Ray

NL East Division position comparison: shortstop

Continuing my examination today looking over the rosters of each team in the National League East Division and breaking them down with a comparison and ranking of the shortstop position.

Earlier this week, I covered the first basemen and second basemen. Those evaluations found the Atlanta Braves on top, clearly fielding the best right-side infield in the division and one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies finished third in both of those rankings.

I’ll finish up the infield with third basemen and then move behind the plate to cover the division’s catchers over this coming weekend. Next week, I’ll work across the outfield. That will be followed by separate pieces covering each team’s projected starting pitching rotation, bench, bullpen, and managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once this process is complete you should have a far better understanding of where the Phillies stand entering spring training. Pitchers and catchers are due to begin reporting to camps on February 11.

NL EAST – 2020 SHORTSTOP RANKINGS

 

1) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals: The one position on the infield where the defending world champions come out on top. Turner is a true impact player in his prime, turning 27 years of age in the middle of the 2020 season. Last season he slashed .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs, 61 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 96 runs scored, and 35 stolen bases. He put up those numbers despite missing six full weeks with a broken finger suffered when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Phillies starter Zach Eflin on a bunt attempt during an April 3 game at Nationals Park. The injury would bother Turner all year even following his return. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $7.45 million deal with Washington for the 2020 season. If the Nats don’t extend him before that point, Turner can become a free agent following the 2022 campaign. At least until then he will terrorize opposition lineups from the top of the Nationals batting order.

2) Amed Rosario, New York Mets: Playing the full 2020 season at age 24, Rosario is the youngest current starter on this list, will not become eligible for arbitration until after the season, and is under Mets control for the next four years. During his second full season a year ago, Rosario hit .287 with 15 homers, 52 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs, 75 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases. He is also a solid defensive shortstop. Rosario should be a key piece for the Mets as they try to become legitimate contenders over the next few years.

3) Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies: Gregorius came up with the Cincinnati Reds and was dealt to Arizona as part of a three-team, eight-player deal in December 2012 in which Trevor Bauer went to the Cleveland Indians and Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds. Arizona dealt him to the Yankees almost exactly two years later as part of another three-team deal in which Robbie Ray went to the Dbacks and Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers. In December 2019 the Phillies signed Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal. He hit 16 homers with 61 RBIs in 2019 with the Yanks after missing the entire first half of the season following October 2018 Tommy John surgery. Over the prior three seasons, Gregorius slammed 72 home runs and drove in 243 runs in the Bronx. He will turn 30 years of age just after spring training opens in mid-February and will be attempting to earn a long-term extension with the Phillies or a multi-year free agent deal with some other ball club.

4) Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves: Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Vanderbilt University. He was dealt by Arizona along with outfielder Ender Inciarte to the Braves in December 2015 for pitcher Shelby Miller as part of a five-player deal. Swanson’s offensive production has steadily improved over each of his three full big-league seasons. In 2019 he produced 17 homers, 46 extra-base hits, 77 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. He will turn just 26-years-old as spring training opens in mid-February, so may have another level to his game. If he regresses at all, Swanson could fall lower on this list in the future. He has a $3.15 million deal in place for 2020 and, like Turner, can become a free agent following the 2022 season.

5) Miguel Rojas, Mami Marlins: Rojas is by far the best defender of all those mentioned above, ranking fifth on the Fangraphs defensive rankings for the position a year ago. Unfortunately for Miami, he is also by far the weakest offensive producer. Last season, Rojas slashed .284/.331/.379 with five home runs, 35 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs, 52 runs scored, and nine steals. Jazz Chisholm is one of the organization’s top prospects. Turning 22 years of age in early February, the Fish hope that Chisholm fully reaches his potential, which would vault him high up this list over the next couple of seasons.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

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.

 

How Phillies GM Matt Klentak channeled "Hoosiers" at the trade deadline

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In the classic 1986 film “Hoosiers”, Gene Hackman stars as basketball coach Norman Dale, who takes the reigns of a rural Indiana high school team in the early-1950’s.

Hackman/Dale is an old-school coach, even for those long-ago days. He uses a number of tough-love methods, trying to mold his team into a winner despite a highly skeptical and passionate fan base in the local community.
In one such incident, Dale’s Hickory High School team begins a game with just six players. He benches one for disobeying his rules, and when another player fouls out, Dale refuses to allow the benched player to take the floor.
The referee approaches and says “Coach, ya need one more,‘ to which Dale replies “My team’s on the floor.
In this analogy, Phillies fans are the referee. Matt Klentak is Norman Dale.
Sure, leading up to Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline, Klentak had added lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, bumping both Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the bullpen.
But Phillies fans wanted more. They wanted a co-ace to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. Or at the very least, someone who would slot in as a legitimately talented, proven #2-type starting pitcher behind the right-hander.
Those Phillies fans wanted someone such as Zack GreinkeMadison BumgarnerRobbie Ray or Alex Wood.
And so, on trade deadline day, the fan base sat staring at their laptops, pads and phone screens thinking “Ya need one more.
But there would be no new ace added to the Phillies starting rotation on this day. And since are no longer waiver trades allowed during the month of August, there will be no new aces at all during the 2019 season.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweeted out that, in summary, Klentak’s position was that “We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players.

 

 

Matt Klentak, summarized: We’ve been adding for the last two months. We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players. Dickerson has a groin injury and will be “eased” into action.

 

 

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In other words, Klentak answered those Phillies fans as Dale answered the referee: “My team’s on the floor.
It remains to be seen what will happen over the final 8 1/2 week of the regular season. The Phillies rotation is certainly deeper, has more experienced arms in it, and now has a pair of southpaws. But will that be enough to help push the club to the postseason for the first time in eight years?
Dale’s methods worked. His team won the Indiana state high school basketball championship in the film, which was inspired by the real-life Milan High School team which had won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.
But Dale won thanks not only to his methods, but also to the return and excellence of a genuine great player to the team. Will any such player step up, stand out, and lead these Phillies to the promised land? Or at least into October baseball?

Matt Klentak has improved the Phillies, but club remains two big pieces away from contention

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Former NL MVP McCutchen becomes new Phillies left fielder

The Philadelphia Phillies have made some nice moves this off-season. But so have their top division rivals. Though the Phillies seem to be improved, enough has not yet been done to make the club a genuine contender in the coming 2019 season.

The defending National League East Division champion Atlanta Braves will field a lineup that includes veteran stars Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson on the infield corners.
Those two lead a group that also includes 2018 NL Rookie of the Year outfielder Ronald Acuna, a perennial Gold Glover in center fielder Ender Inciarte, and an exciting up-the-middle infield duo of second baseman Ozzie Albies and shortstop Dansby Swanson.
The Braves also brought back a Phillies-killer in veteran catcher Brian McCann, who should team with Tyler Flowers to give Atlanta a tough left-right catching tandem.
Combine the Braves lineup talent with one of the top young pitching staffs in baseball, and you have a formidable challenge to overcome.
The Washington Nationals bolted past the Phillies last September to finish in second place. Over the last seven seasons the Nats have won the division four times and finished as runners-up the other three, never ending more than 10 games off the pace.
You could make an argument that even if they fail to lure free agent Bryce Harper to return, the Nationals may be even better in the 2019 season. Washington will see two of the game’s more talented youngsters play a big role in their outfield for years to come in Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
The left side of the Washington infield is as good as any in the game, with third baseman Anthony Rendon and shortstop Trea Turner as two of baseball’s most underrated stars.
The Nationals also have a pitching rotation led by Max ScherzerStephen StrasburgPatrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez, with talented youngsters Joe Ross and Erick Fedde waiting in the wings.
Up in the Big Apple, the New York Mets have a new general manager intent on turning things around quickly for a franchise that has disappointed for years. The Mets began the month of September trailing the Phillies by 10 games in the standings but closed with an encouraging 18-10 month to finish just three games away from third place.
Brodie Van Wagenen has already brought in shutdown young closer Edwin Diaz to finish games that were begun by the likes of Jacob deGromNoah Syndergaard, and Zach Wheeler.
Added to the Mets position player mix was second baseman Robinson Cano. He’ll provide veteran experience to a group of talented youngsters that includes outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, shortstop Amed Rosario, and first baseman Dominic Smith.

PHILLIES GETTING CLOSE

So where does that all leave the Phillies? They are close, for sure. Assuming health, the duo of Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta can compete at the top of the rotation. The bullpen, as pointed out here at Phillies Nation just yesterday, is now deep and talented. It may be the best relief pitching group in the division.
The lineup with McCutchen in left field, Segura at shortstop, and Rhys Hoskins at first base is better than a year ago, both offensively and defensively. Those defensive improvements cannot be understated. The Phillies were one of the worst fielding teams in all of Major League Baseball a year ago.
The Phillies do not have the starting pitching depth of talent that Washington or New York puts on the mound. They also don’t have the position player talent that the Braves or Nationals can field. But they are just two pieces away from being on a par with any of those top three divisional contenders.
One piece that the Phillies still need is a proven, impact, middle-of-the-order run producer for their batting order. We don’t need to go into it ad nauseum. Everyone knows the names. Harper and Manny Machado are both still out there. Either one would fit the bill.
Perhaps just as important as signing either Harper or Machado would be the effect on the rest of the lineup. If Harper is signed, he and McCutchen make at least one from among the holdover Odubel HerreraNick WilliamsAaron Altherr and Roman Quinn mix expendable.
If Machado is signed, where does he play? If third base, then Franco becomes expendable. If shortstop, with Segura moving to second base, then Cesar Hernandez becomes expendable.
The second piece that the Phillies still need is a more proven, veteran starting pitcher, preferably a left-hander. That pitcher remains available in free agent Dallas Keuchel.
This seems like a perfect fit. The problem right now is that Keuchel is holding out for a five-year contract offer, one that he has apparently not yet found. One fallback option could be a trade, with the Phillies previously linked to Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray.
For the Phillies, everything else is likely on hold right now as the club finishes off the Machado-Harper battles, both of which they remain involved in as front-runners. They need to win one of those big free agent prizes, then go after the southpaw rotation piece. Finish those off, and you have a true contender for the upcoming season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies two big pieces shy of true contention – but those remain available

MLB Spotlight Series: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado visits Arizona in big NL West series
The weekend series that is about to take place between the host Arizona Diamondbacks and division-rival Colorado Rockies is extremely important.
These have been two of the more surprising contenders of the 2017 season. The Dbacks lead the NL Wildcard race. Arizona has a 9.5 game cushion on one of those postseason berths.
The Rockies currently control the second NL Wildcard berth. Their nearest pursuer for that spot, the defending NL champion Chicago Cubs, are six games back.
But while these have indeed been two successful clubs over the course of the season, each is struggling of late. Colorado has dropped eight straight games. Arizona comes in after dropping the final two of their last series with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Both teams have fallen behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the NL West Division crown. The Rockies led the division for most of the season until the current losing streak. Arizona has been playing catch-up, spending just one recent day tied atop the division back on June 1.
The desperation factor is clearly a check mark on the Colorado side. Already fully immersed in a losing streak, the team needs to wake up and reverse the skid before losing becomes habitual. No time like a big weekend series with a division rival to do so.
The Dbacks have lost three games in a row just three times all season. They haven’t dropped four in a row all year. The club certainly doesn’t want to slip in to such a losing skid now.
The series has plenty of talent for MLB fans to enjoy. That includes two of the top superstars in the game today in Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Dbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

WEEKEND PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Jon Gray (COL) vs Robbie Ray (ARZ)
SATURDAY: Tyler Chatwood (COL) vs Zack Greinke (ARZ)
SUNDAY: German Marquez (COL) vs Taijuan Walker (ARZ)
At age 25, Gray is the Rockies best starter. He has made just three starts this year, however, due to a stress fracture in his left foot. The righty is expected to be activated for Friday night’s game, his first appearance since April 13.
He will be opposed by the 25-year old lefty Ray, who has drawn at least even with Greinke as the Dbacks top starting pitcher. Both clubs will be looking to get off on the right foot in the Friday night matchup.
Both teams are already experiencing major improvement in the standings from a year ago. In 2016 they finished third and fourth in the NL West. The Rockies went 75-87 in what was their sixth consecutive losing campaign. Arizona went 69-93, narrowly avoiding last place.
The rivals have already met nine times this season. The results have been fairly even, with the Rockies capturing five of the nine games thus far. Just over a week ago, the Dbacks took two of three at Coors Field.

STATISTICAL COMPARISON

The Diamondbacks rank fourth and the Rockies sixth in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored this season. That is no surprise. Chase Field, host to this weekend’s matchup, ranks second among all ballparks in the MLB Park Factors ranking for run production. Coors Field is at the very top of the list.
Arizona shows a bit more power. Their cumulative .782 OPS mark is fourth-best in MLB this year. The Rockies .757 is tied in the 11th spot.
The Dbacks are also more patient, ranking 13th in all of MLB compared to Colorado’s 24th in the Walks category. Speed also shows as a huge Arizona advantage, with the Diamondbacks ranking sixth in steals and the Rockies only in 25th place.
Arizona has the statistical advantage on the mound as well. The Dbacks staff is tied for third with a .235 Batting Average Against. The Rockies .256 mark ranks 16th in baseball. Arizona is 7th and Colorado 15th in Quality Starts.
One of the major factors cited by many following this year’s Arizona turnaround has been the positive influence of new manager Torey Lovullo. This is the first big league managerial opportunity for the long time bench player and coach.
Bob Baum of The Boston Globe recently quoted Lovullo on his journey. ‘‘I started to sit on the bench a lot and I started to pay attention a lot. I started to realize there was something inside of me that felt like I could manage. … I thought about being the leader of a team that could win a World Series. That became a goal of mine.’’
It appears that Lovullo can indeed manage a big league ball club. If he continues to push the right buttons in the clubhouse and dugout, he could very well end up leading a team to win the World Series, far sooner than he may have ever believed was possible.