Tag Archives: Yu Darvish

Confession of a Phillies fan who left the Harper walkoff slam game early

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I have a confession to make. I’m a lifelong Phillies fan. A partial season ticket holder. I write about the team frequently here at my website.

I was at Thusday night’s game in which the team rallied scoring seven times in the final two innings to come from five runs down and win on Bryce Harper‘s walkoff grand slam.

And I saw none of it. None of the runs. No part of the rally. Not live and in person anyway.

I gave up, and I left early.

To set the stage for you, this was perhaps the eighth game that I had been to this season. After an early season hot streak, things had deteriorated, for me and the ball club.

In each of the previous two games that I had been to, the Phillies had been blown out. Not only that, but they had not even shown up. Both times they were nearly shutout, had few hits, and the games were over by the middle innings.

Thursday night was much the same. The Phillies were down 5-0 when the top of the 8th inning rolled around. They had just four hits. Yu Darvish of the Cubs was dominating, striking out ten batters over seven innings.

So, as the 7th inning rolled around, I turned to my daughter with whom I was attending the game and told her that we would give it one more inning.

Really, I wasn’t hoping for much from the Phillies at that point. The club was down 5-0 on the scoreboard and showing no life. This night on the field appeared to be solely for the many Cubs fans in the stands, including one who was seated directly behind us and had been chirping all night long.

No, I was willing to stay through the 7th inning to see, of all things, the Phillie Phanatic. Hey, the big green furry guy puts on a nice show in that frame, dancing on the Phillies dugout roof. He didn’t disappoint, doing a nice number with a dance troupe from Temple University.

And so, as the action got underway in the top of the 8th, we left.

There was a good crowd at the ball park on a beautiful night. More than 37,000 showed up. Many left, both before us and as we were leaving. But there were still many who stayed. Those who stayed to the end would be the lucky ones. Well, at least those rooting for the home team.

We headed to the car, down towards I-95, and up onto the highway northbound. At somewhere between Bridge Street and Academy Road, the Phillies scored a run. I told my daughter, who was flipping through her phone in the passenger seat, that we scored a run. “Yay” she said, with sarcastic feigned enthusiasm.

I dropped her off at her house, and continued on to home. On the way, my wife asked me to make a stop at Wawa. As I drew nearer to our neighborhood, the Phillies had put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning, still down 5-1.

I slipped through the dark and quiet streets of our neighborhood, my headlights streaming out and the street lamps helping light the way, and as I pulled into the Wawa parking lot a base hit by Brad Miller scored Cesar Hernandez to make it a 5-2 ball game.

Things were getting a little interesting. Roman Quinn, who has been hot for awhile now, was coming to the plate. He would be followed by Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. Dare we dream?

As Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went to the mound to make a pitching change, I went into the Wawa.

Got myself a coffee, and the night manager, a nice guy who I’ve seen in there many times, saw my Phillies t-shirt and cap and said “I guess they lost, huh?

I told him that I had been down there, left when it was 5-0, but now they had a little rally going in the bottom of the 9th, down 5-2. He asked who was up, and I told him that it was Quinn. He kind of nodded with an “oh well” look on his face.

As I walked through the store to find an item for my wife, a notice came over my phone that Quinn had delivered an RBI single to make it a 5-3 game. I rushed back to Mr. Wawa Manager to let him know, and he said “guess I better find a place to listen.” I hope he did.

I got my items, paid, and left the store. Back in my car, I heard that Rhys Hoskins had somehow reached base – I just assumed a walk at that point – and that Bryce Harper was now up with the bases loaded.

Harper battled reliever Derek Holland during my four block drive home. I had just pulled in front of my house and was parking my car when…

You know the rest. Scott Franzke’s typically fantastic voice raised with the call “Swung on…hit high and deep…right field…and that…ball…is……goooooone!

Needless to say, finishing my parking job got a little bit tougher with that adrenalin jolt.

I got out of the car and hurried into my house. My wife, knowing that I was on my way and knowing her husband, had the game on, watched that ending, and had rewound it so that I could watch the end.

Watching it on TV was just as dramatic, even knowing how it ended. I rewound a little further so that I could enjoy the entire rally. When that TV coverage got to the home run, chills again thanks to John Kruk‘s now legendary “Oh my God!!” as soon as the ball left the bat.

So, I was there on Thursday night. I was at Citizens Bank Park for the game in which the Phillies rallied from down 5-0 in the 8th inning and 5-1 in the 9th to win on a walkoff grand slam by Bryce Harper.

I had a nice evening. My daughter and I ate and had a couple of beers before the game at Pass & Stow. We enjoyed each other’s company and chatted as we watched the game.

But we were not there at the end. We didn’t get to enjoy “the moment.”

You tell yourself a lot of things when you leave early, as I have done many times over the years. Gotta beat the crowd, the traffic being the main thing. I don’t believe that what happened last night has ever happened in a game that I left early before.

So, the question is – will I ever leave early again? Of course I will. Probably the very next game that I attend. And if the Phillies are losing, even losing big, I’ll hope and pray that I get to listen on the radio and/or watch on TV as they rally again.

 

Phillies could use another strong starting pitcher, and lefty Patrick Corbin fits the bill perfectly

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(Corbin has spent his first seven big-league seasons with Arizona)

There has been a great deal of warranted commentary regarding the upcoming Major League Baseball “Hot Stove” season here in Philadelphia.

Most of that talk has been understandably centered around the two biggest free agent bats, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
However, there is little denying that if the Phillies want to step up and contend over the next three or four years, they need to add another winning arm to their starting rotation.
Aaron Nola stepped up in 2018 to demonstrate that he can be the young ace for whom the franchise has been searching for a few years. Jake Arrieta was signed as a free agent early in spring training. He played a solid, veteran second-fiddle to Nola for much of this past season.
Behind those two, the trio of Vince VelasquezNick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin received the vast majority of starting pitching opportunities.
The level of major step forward that the club will require in order to successfully battle and overcome their National League East Division rivals next year cannot be expected to come from all three of them progressing.
Luckily for the Phillies there is a starting pitcher available in free agency who would perfectly slot in where needed, as a strong left-handed starting pitching option for their rotation.
During what was his sixth season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Patrick Corbin turned 29-years-old in mid-July. He was originally a second-round draft pick of the Angels back in 2009, and was dealt to Arizona a year later in a trade package for veteran starter Dan Haren.
As he reached his prime years over the last two seasons, Corbin began to show significant progress on the mound. This past year the New York native became a National League All-Star for the second time.
Corbin made 33 starts for the Dbacks, allowing just 162 hits over 200 innings pitched. He produced an outstanding 246/48 K:BB ratio with a 3.15 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, an ERA+ of 137, and an outstanding 2.47 FIP mark
There is no reason that Corbin should not be expected to deliver five strong seasons during his next contract, which would take him through his age 33 campaign. That is the same age Arrieta will turn during spring training next season.
Corbin made $7.5 million this past year and has earned just over $15.5 million during his Major League Baseball career. This will be his big contract opportunity, and it can be expected that his agents at ISE Baseball will be looking to maximize for their client.
David Adler at MLB.com commented just yesterday on Corbin’s repertoire, which is breaking-ball heavy:

“Corbin is slider-dominant…his most-used pitch by more than 10 percent over his sinker…Combining that with his curveball, Corbin threw breaking pitches 50.3 percent of the time this season. Only Clayton Kershaw threw more. They were the only regular starters who threw breaking balls on more than half of their pitches.”

A lefty with a great slider. I think Phillies fans may be familiar with a couple of those types. Do the names Steve Carlton and Cole Hamels ring a bell?
It is possible that Kershaw could opt-out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, that would mean giving up $70 million guaranteed dollars over the next two seasons.
If that doesn’t happen, then Corbin likely becomes the most attractive starting pitcher on the free agent market this off-season.
So what kind of deal are we talking? Last year, Yu Darvish got $126 million over six years. Three years ago, David Price landed a seven-year deal worth $217 million.
I would suspect that we would be talking about a six-year contract in the range of $150 million, which would pretty much split those two deals down the middle. However, if Kershaw is off the market and big teams like the Yankees get involved, it might take a seventh year to land Corbin.
I don’t know whether the Phillies are prepared to step up for a starting pitcher at that level. Maybe they would prefer to go cheaper and older, opting for someone like J.A. Happ or Dallas Keuchel.
But if they want a lefty who has a chance to be a difference-maker for a handful of  seasons, Corbin looks like the best option.

Phillies Andy MacPhail right not to spend money on roster

Phillies President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail

Andy MacPhail has just begun his third off-season as President of Baseball Operations with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

First hired by the Phillies as an assistant to Pat Gillick in June 2015, MacPhail has been an inside observer to the workings of the team as it finished with 63, 71, and 66 wins over the last three seasons.

Going back even further, the Phillies and their fans have now suffered through five consecutive losing campaigns. Not just barely losing, where your team is competitive. The Phillies best finish in that stretch was 16 games below the .500 mark.

It has been a long, dark period made even less palatable by the fact that it followed the greatest decade in franchise history. From 2001-11, the Phillies fielded just one loser, and that 2002 team finished just a game below the .500 mark.

Most fans, though frustrated, understood the circumstances that led to this current losing stretch. Our heroes of the previous decade pretty much all aged out together. Injuries cut short a few careers. A few poor decisions exacerbated matters.

The reality was that the Phillies needed to rebuild their farm system, developing a group of players who could form the next core of a winning ball club. That was going to take a few years.

Well, a few years have passed. The Phillies have indeed rebuilt that farm system. In the opinions of most respected evaluators, they have indeed developed a core group capable of special things in the coming years.

Despite the final standings, a number of those young players stepped up big in the 2017 season. The club played 23-19 ball over the last month and a half of the season as more of the kids were moved into prominent roles.

So when MacPhail sat down in front of the press in early October to discuss the Phillies off-season strategy, hope was in the air. It appears that “rebuilding” is over, or nearing completion.

Many fans and scribes believe that with just a couple of key additions, especially in the pitching rotation, the Phillies might even be able to push for a 2018 Wildcard playoff berth. Was the hierarchy of the team on board, ready to make a real push to start winning again?

My philosophy hasn’t changed,” MacPhail said per Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice. “There are times when you’re going to have to dive into that pool and just take a risk. But it’s not my favorite place to be. We get inundated with stories across the game about how everybody is looking for starting pitching. Just get two quality starters, and we’ll be all set. Well, you might as well look for a unicorn at the same time. It’s tough. You don’t want to be paying for past performance.”

The cumulative message in MacPhail’s presser was that the Phillies are going to be spending money this off-season, just not on immediate improvements to the roster. Instead, there will be improvements to the ballpark and to the behind-the-scenes organization, such as the analytics staff.

Lawrence also reported in his piece, however, that according to MacPhail, principal owner John Middleton is not necessarily on board.

When asked how Middleton and the ownership group responded to the idea of not spending on roster improvements, MacPhail stated: They did not react extraordinarily well in the beginning. Ultimately, they’re OK with it with one proviso: that if an opportunity presents itself, we do not exclude it. They understand the program.

Since the press conference, MacPhail’s statements and position have met with a mostly negative reaction from that frustrated fan base. It has also prompted some criticism from those in the press.

Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times was perhaps the most direct. McCaffery called the team president’s message “nonsense”, and characterized as “unacceptable” his position to spend on the park but not on the players. McCaffery opened his piece as follows:

“With the chance to use the Phillies’ slight, late-season, youth-driven improvement to inspire renewed fan excitement, Andy MacPhail instead made a recent retreat to the organization’s most humiliating modern-era moment.
Though the team president didn’t reprise the classic Bill Giles lament that he is running a small-market operation, MacPhail projected an identical message.”

While I may not be at the ballpark on a daily basis, I don’t need to be in order to have an educated, informed opinion on the Phillies roster and their organizational decision-making process.

As a Phillies fan for 47 seasons now, I have seen many ups and downs. There have been two glorious World Series titles, five National League pennants, 11 NL East crowns on the good side of the ledger.

More than half (24) have been losing seasons on the other side. This year’s team was the 12th Phillies ball club that I watched through a season in which they finished at least 20 games below that .500 mark.

As well as anyone, I understand the frustration. However, I don’t join in what I see now as a somewhat misguided rush to win in the short term. I want to win for the long term. I want another decade run, at least.

MacPhail was specifically alluding to the current off-season crop of available free agents when he spoke of keeping Middleton’s wallet closed for now.

That current crop includes a pair of arms that would be categorized by many as “aces”, #1 starter-level arms. Those would be Yu Darvish and Jake Arreita.

Beyond that, there are a number of interesting arms of various levels, all proven big league starter types. These include C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Francisco Liriano, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and former Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson.

Luring one of the two aces here by overpaying them, something that would most certainly need to happen in order to get them to choose the last-place Phillies over a contender, and adding one or two of the second-tier arms would absolutely improve the odds of a 2018 postseason run.

However, you aren’t getting either of those aces on a one-year contract. You aren’t even likely to get them on a three-year deal. You’re probably talking about a five year contract, minimum. Arrieta made $16.5 million and Darvish made $11 million this year. You can bet on them seeking, and likely getting, a five-year deal worth a total of $100 million or more.

Both pitchers are now 31 years old. Arrieta will turn 32 before the 2018 season opens. That is far from old in the real world. But you are committing big chunks of your budget to either arm through the 2022 campaign. MacPhail is not willing to do that, and I believe that he is right.

Spending $100 million or more on baseball players already in their 30’s is a fool’s contract in the modern game. It might work out once in awhile. But the vast majority of the time, you will be lucky to get a couple of good years before being saddled with three or more years of a contract albatross hanging around your club’s neck.

In a revealing piece on this topic back in 2013, Jonah Keri for Grantland told us to “beware the $100 million MLB man.”

if you want to avoid making a $240 million mistake you’ll regret for a decade, the answer’s simple: Assemble a bottomless well of homegrown talent and hire a GM with enough clout to talk his billionaire boss out of doing anything rash.

If the Phillies were already a proven contender, and they had plenty of budget room, maybe things are different. But that is not the case. This young group still has to prove that they are for real over the length of a full season.

MacPhail believes, and I am not sure that he is wrong, that the Phillies will not repeat the recent losing campaigns in 2018, even without a big outlay of cash to free agents.

If the youngsters are as good as we all believe them to be, if those last six or seven winning weeks were not an aberration, then 2018 will indeed be much more exciting.

And if that does indeed turn out to be the case, if the Phillies are hanging around the .500 mark at mid-season, there is nothing to preclude them going after a big ticket arm and/or bat as next year’s trade deadline approaches.

There is one interesting case that appears could meet the Middleton proviso of being able to pursue an opportunity. That would be the case of Japanese phenom Shohei Otani.

Otani is just 23 years old. He has been compared to Babe Ruth, and called “the world’s best player who isn’t in the majors.” It has been said that Otani has “the kind of extraordinary talent that could change the sport” due to his outstanding performances as both a pitcher and hitter.

The Phillies would be joined by at least a dozen other clubs in Major League Baseball in bidding on the young wunderkind. But the fact is that based on age and position, he perfectly fits what the club should be looking for at this time. He is that “opportunity presenting itself” of which Middleton speaks.

Short of a successful Otani bid, I am on board with the Phillies heading into the 2018 season with their current crop of youngsters. I believe they will be much better next year, that it will prove to be the real beginning of a step forward.

I also believe that the Phillies are on the verge of spending big. Not now. Not this off-season. But perhaps at that 2018 trade deadline. Certainly no later than next off-season.

I do not believe that MacPhail is dooming Phillies fans to a repeat of 2013-17 any longer. The kids are here, and they are good. MacPhail and I, and you as well if you are honest, believe they are ready to shine. If they do, then they will get help. It’s almost time. Almost.

Rejuvenated Phillies keep Dodgers stumbling towards NL West crown

Hoskins four RBI pace Phils past Dodgers (Photo: LA Times)

I had the pleasure of taking in the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Let me tell you, this was not the same Phillies team that sputtered through the 2017 season’s first four months. It also was not the same Dodgers team that ran away and hid in the NL West race.

The win was the fifth in the last seven games for the once-again Fightin’ Phils. Since just after the MLB All-Star Game break back in mid-July, the Phillies have a 31-31 record. They have been competitive for months.

“It was nice to beat the Dodgers with Kershaw and Darvish pitching,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said per Ben Harris for MLB.com following the game. “It’s a great way to start the series. The guys have come alive.

The once dominant Dodgers are in free-fall coming down the stretch. Los Angeles has won just five of it’s last 15 games.

On a night made extremely windy and at times wet thanks to Hurricane Jose spinning off the east coast, the Phillies got off to a cold start.

Dodgers’ starter Yu Darvish shut the Phillies lineup down over 5.1 innings, allowing no earned runs on four hits. He struck out seven and walked just one batter.

The recent trade acquisition from the Texas Rangers was staked to a 2-0 lead. Yasmany Grandal pushed a wind-aided home run just over the left field wall in the top of the 3rd inning. In the very next inning, Curtis Granderson was robbed of a home run by that same wind, but his double scored Cody Bellinger for that 2-0 cushion.

The Phillies finally got to Darvish in the 6th, and as usual of late, it was rookie sensation Rhys Hoskins doing the damage. Hoskins slashed an RBI down the left field line to score Cesar Hernandez, cutting the lead to 2-1 and chasing Darvish from the game after 97 pitches.

LA skipper Dave Roberts went to lefty Tony Watson out of the bullpen, and when Nick Williams beat out a slow chopper for an infield hit, the Phillies had the bases loaded with just one out.

Roberts then rolled the dice, leaving Watson in to face the righty swinging Aaron Altherr. The gamble paid off when Altherr bounced into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Down 2-1, the Phillies went right back to work in the bottom of the 7th against new Dodgers pitcher Pedro Baez. It was another rookie sparking the inning. Third baseman J.P. Crawford drilled a ball to an opening in center field. As the ball split the Dodgers outfielders and rolled to the wall, Crawford raced all the way around the bases, sliding headfirst into 3rd base with a leadoff triple.

Yet another rookie, catcher Jorge Alfaro, was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Maikel Franco followed by popping out easily to third base on the first pitch that he saw as a pinch-hitter for Phillies starter Aaron Nola. Fans have been frustrated with Franco’s failures for some time, and let him know it with some lusty booing.

Hernandez drew a walk to load the bases. Freddy Galvis then popped a fast-sinking fly ball to right field. Curtis Granderson was forced to slide to catch it, and it appeared that Crawford could have tagged to score the tying run. However, he instead raced down the line as the ball fell, and was forced to retreat to the bag when Granderson made the catch.

With that baserunning blunder, it appeared that for a second straight inning the Phillies might waste a bases loaded opportunity.

Instead, Odubel Herrera showed some uncharacteristic patience, drawing a four-pitch walk that forced home Crawford with the tying run.

That brought Hoskins to the plate again. Once again, the 24-year old cleanup hitter played the hero role to perfection. Hoskins worked a classic at-bat against Baez, battling to a full count. Then he crushed a clean hit down the left field line. All three base runner rushed home as Hoskins cruised into 2nd base with a double.


“He made some good pitches too with good strikes, not really anything in the middle of the plate,” Hoskins said per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “I was just lucky enough to put a good swing on the last one.

That quickly, the Phillies held a 5-2 lead. They would extend it out to 6-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning when Altherr drilled his 18th home run of the year through the teeth of the wind in left-center.

Hector Neris allowed a leadoff single to former Phillies hero Chase Utley in the bottom of the 9th inning. Utley had received his typical standing ovation from fans when he first came to bat back in the top of the 2nd frame.

Neris then settled in, retiring the next three Dodgers hitters in order to seal the victory for the Phillies.

Nola had given the club a strong start, nearly matching Darvish. The 24-year old Phillies righty surrendered just the two runs on five hits, striking out eight and walking a pair over seven innings. He would earn the Win thanks to that 7th inning rally, raising his record to 12-10 on the year.



“This is frustrating,” said Roberts per Ken Gurnick for MLB.com, as LA saw their division lead slashed from 21 games to 9 1/2. “That team over there with a good pitcher, they’ve got speedy guys, put the bat on the ball, they play hard. Teams that have nothing to play for but are trying to establish themselves, those are dangerous teams.

Despite their latest loss, the Dodgers ‘Magic Number’ to clinch the NL West Division crown lowered to just 2 when the Arizona Diamondbacks also lost. Los Angeles can clinch as early as Wednesday night.

The Phillies will try to continue frustrating Roberts and the Dodgers on Wednesday night. Despite playing well for over a month, the Phils will be trying to string together three straight wins for the first time in that span.

Dodgers remain atop 2017 MLB Power Rankings

Dodgers add Yu Darvish to help end 30-year title drought
My first MLB Power Ranking in early June found the Houston Astros of the American League at the top. In early July, the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League had taken over the top spot.
Now in early August those two ball clubs have clearly established themselves as still the top teams in their respective leagues. They were 1-2 overall a month ago, and they remain in those positions today.
Los Angeles has captured the NL West Division crown in six of the last nine years and the last four straight. But the Dodgers have not fared well in the postseason. The club has not even reached the World Series in nearly three decades, since last winning the Fall Classic back in 1988.
As the July 31 trade deadline approached, GM Farhan Zaidi took steps to give his ball club a better chance this coming October. Zaidi did so by acquiring starting pitcher Yu Darvish and lefty relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani to plug holes in the LA pitching staff.

HOUSTON CONTINUES TO DOMINATE IN AL

Meanwhile over in the AL, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow also brought in some help. He acquired lefty Francisco Liriano, who has been a starting pitcher for much of his career, to bolster the Astros bullpen.
Houston has emerged over the last three seasons as one of the top teams in baseball, but has reached the postseason just once. Still a young team on the upswing, the Astros are looking to capture their first AL West Division crown since the 2001 campaign. They remain one of just eight MLB teams to never win the World Series.
Following games of Saturday, August 6, the Dodgers lead the NL West by 14.5 games. Just 15-14 after the first month of play, manager Dave Roberts‘ squad has fashioned a ridiculous 63-18 records since.
Manager A.J. Hinch and his Astros shuffled out of the gates to a 4-4 start, but have gone 66-36 ever since. Houston also leads their division, the NL West, by that same 14.5 game margin that the Dodgers have built.

FOCUS TURNS FROM TRADES TO PENNANT RACES

While teams can still make deals during the month of August for players who have cleared waivers, that July 31 deadline can cause anxiety, even for contenders.
“I think July has turned into month where everybody pays attention to outside the clubhouse,” said Hinch per Tony DeMarco of Fanrag Sports. “Now that this has passed, I’m glad we can get back to focusing on who’s here, and what lies ahead.’’
Roberts team has been so good that they have become the team that all others need to measure themselves against this season. It appears that come October, the NL pennant will have to go through Los Angeles.
“We’ve got no problem being a target,” said Roberts per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. “And I think our record speaks for itself.”
His team’s record does indeed speak for itself. That 78-32 record and .709 winning percentage mark the Dodgers as the best team in baseball as we move through the dog days of summer. And once again, they are at the top of my MLB Power Ranking.
Now, after the Dodgers and Astros, where do the rest of Major League Baseball’s 28 teams rank? Who might emerge to challenge these two front-runners by the time the September ranking is released? Let’s take a look.