Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:47 pm
LOS ANGELES -- All credit to the all-world Phillies rotation. With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading the way, it is pitching for a place in history.
And we've all seen the damage wreaked by a highly decorated lineup led by Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
But you don't compile baseball's best record based behind just eight or nine players. And as such, the Phillies are getting plenty of help from these easily overlooked parts in their machine:
-- Reliever Antonio Bastardo: With closer Brad Lidge on the shelf for most of the season, Bastardo has played a key, late-innings role and currently is holding opponents to a .128 batting average -- second lowest among NL relievers. His 1.49 ERA is fifth-lowest among NL relievers.
-- Starter Vance Worley: With Joe Blanton done for the year, Worley is 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA and currently has won six consecutive decisions. He's fanned 66 hitters against only 28 walks in 84 1/3 innings.
-- Infielder Michael Martinez: With third baseman Placido Polanco hurt again, it is Martinez, plucked from the Nationals as a Rule V pick last winter, who is providing steady relief. Martinez's 15 RBI during the month of July ranked third among all NL rookies, behind Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (18) and the Padres' Jesus Guzman (18).
-- Outfielder John Mayberry Jr.: Acquired from Texas in a trade in November, 2008, Mayberry, 27, continues to develop into a serviceable backup outfielder with an intriguing future. Of his past 23 hits, 17 have gone for extra bases (and overall, 52.5 percent of his major league hits, 31 of 59, have been for extra bases).
-- Infielder Wilson Valdez: He's plugged in at second base, third base and shortstop at various times this season and, in an extra-innings pinch against the Reds on May 25, became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to start a game in the field and then become the winning pitcher. Though light-hitting overall, Valdez is batting .390 with runners in scoring position this season.
Shane Victorino, twice a Rule V pick himself (the Phillies took him from the Padres in 2004 after the Padres took him from the Dodgers in 2002), raves about Martinez and the "energy" he brings.
"Little pieces," Victorino says. "It always takes 25 guys. Somebody gets hurt, somebody else steps in."
Recalling when the Phillies signed pitcher Pedro Martinez for the stretch run in '09, Victorino said he was extremely wary of Martinez because of the reputation the pitcher brought as a fiery headhunter. But Martinez went 5-1 for Philadelphia in nine starts, pitched the Phillies into position to beat the Dodgers in a key NLCS game and Victorino now calls Martinez "the greatest teammate I've ever had."
"Here, it's all about winning, and winning right now," Victorino says. "If you don't care about winning, don't show up.
"We have so many superstars in here -- MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers. But Martinez is no different from me because it's all about winning."
That's the way it is throughout the Phillies' clubhouse right now, an impressive culture that is steamrolling everything in its path.
Likes: With the trade deadline having passed and at least a little more free time in August, looking forward to a big date night with my wife to see Crazy, Stupid Love sometime soon. ... Lots of TV to catch up on as well: Last couple episodes of Treme, last five episodes of Friday Night Lights (that's only with trepidation, though, because it's the last season and while I can't wait to see the last few FNLs, I don't want to get through them because then one of my favorite shows in recent memory will be done, sniff, sniff) and the first few episodes of Entourage. ... Haven't gotten all the way through it yet, but I'm liking Sky Full of Holes, the new Fountains of Wayne disc.
Dislikes: I realize there are plenty of parents out there who disagree with me, but man I hate to see summer dwindle down to its last few weeks before school starts again. Summer is never, ever long enough.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Then she wakes me with coffee
"And kisses my head
"And she starts to explain
"About something she's read
"I say, 'Darlin', you haven't heard a word that I've said'
"And I love that girl."
-- John Hiatt, I Love That Girl
Tags: Antonio Bastardo, Babe Ruth, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Fountains of Wayne, Friday Night Lights, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, John Hiatt, John Mayberry Jr., Michael Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Vance Worley, Vance Worley, WIlson Valdez
Posted on: May 20, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 2:26 pm
A few tears (farewell, Harmon Killebrew) and a few laughs (hello again, Bronx Zoo), it's good for the soul. ...
FROM: Ed K.
Your tribute to Harmon is terrific. My 10-year-son is starting to learn baseball history, and I will share your story with him. I once met Killebrew in Vegas. He was selling autographs, with ALL proceeds going to a children-based charity.
Cool thing is, you could read his autograph. One of my favorite things is how the Twins' Michael Cuddyer and the Angels' Torii Hunter tell stories that, when they were young, they both scribbled autographs until corrected by Mr. Killebrew. "If you're going to take the time to write your name, write it so people know who you are," Killebrew schooled them. Pure class.
"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday." Really? A man loses his life to cancer and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.
For a man who devoted his life to baseball ... you really think it's a stretch to use a baseball metaphor in tribute to him? What should be used, good metaphors?
FROM: Chris H.
I am a 48-year-old Twins fanatic, and Harmon was and always will be my hero. You did a wonderful job capturing the essence of my hero. Thank you so much for this article. Simply put, you did Harmon justice and being who Harmon was, that is quite a feat!
Thanks, Chris. I think it's our job to educate some of the younger fans who maybe don't know much about Killebrew as to just what a humble and class act he was.
FROM: Mike F.
This story may be apocryphal, but I once heard that the scout Bluege sent to look at Harmon Killebrew as a 17-year-old reported back to Clark Griffith as follows: "He has absolutely no weaknesses as a hitter. In my opinion, he is the best first base prospect since Lou Gehrig."
I just learned that Killebrew was passed over several time in the Hall of Fame voting. How is that possible? I know there are a few HOF voters who will not vote for anyone, but how could any sane person who knows baseball not see this guy as a first ballot Hall of Fame selection?
Especially because, as he was being passed over three times before being voted into Cooperstown, he ranked second all-time among right-handed home run hitters behind Hank Aaron. When he retired in 1975, he ranked second to Babe Ruth all-time among American League home run hitters. Utter nonsense he wasn't a first-ballot HOFer.
FROM: Bob D.
Thanks Scott. You understand.
FROM: Kevin M.
Thank you so much for this article about Harmon Killebrew. He was such an inspiration to me while I was a boy. I loved listening to the radio and watching him play.
We've always gotta remember our inspirations, don't we?
Great piece, Scott. A classic. History ... gracefully.
One thing you learn when writing a piece like that: How many Yankees fans lack a sense of humor.
Your column that the Yankees do not grow old gracefully is pretty interesting. Are the quotes accurate from these past managers and owners?
Uh, no. The tipoff was in the fact that I said the old Yankees diaries were grabbed by Navy SEALS at the YES Network fortress. Almost all of the historical information in the column is factual: The Yanks dumping Ruth, management leaning on Joe McCarthy to remove Lou Gehrig from the lineup sooner than he did because Gehrig's production was down, Steinbrenner forcing Reggie Jackson to take a physical ... all true. I had some fun with the "quotes" and what they were "thinking" at the time.
FROM: Eric S.
Really liked the concept, Scott. Was completely thrown off when I saw you were going make-believe, and not funny at that. The real dagger was the Gehrig stuff, though. That is just tasteless. I am hard to offend and think I have a well-developed sense of inappropriate humor, but there are some things that will never be funny. With all that Yankee material in your hands, trying to instead get laughs out of a debilitating disease is kind of pathetic. You could have done what it seemed like you set out to do -- tell the actual stories, not a corny, LOL nimrod version and had a great column. You can do far better.
Oh come on now. You can't tell me you didn't at least chuckle at the Joe Pepitone line.
You're an idiot. I want the 30 seconds of my life back that I wasted reading this drivel.
We just completed an old-fashioned baseball trade: I dealt your 30 seconds for the 30 it took to read your drivel.
FROM: Lee P.
Ah, 1939: A four-game Yanks sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, and Dahlgren contributed a homer and two RBI.
Funny, I do that about twice a year. Usually with pizza, Mountain Dew and National Lampoon's Animal House playing.
Cheesy? Cheesy? America's game should not wear Red, White and Blue on the most important days of the country? While Jackie Robinson's efforts were tremendous -- big Dodger fan here -- it was only in this country could that have happened in the western world. The only country to elect an African-American and did not have colonies in Africa. But it would seem history is not your forte, Ass!
If 100 percent of the profits from the red, white and blue caps went to the troops, I'd be fully in favor of it.
Wow ... banging on the Yankees with Tampa as the new flavor of the week. What guts, Scott. But I guess who would read what you write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees? I know I wouldn't. And congrats on one thing: You didn't even mention New York's bloated payroll. Oh but I forgot, you're a pro. You will save that one for next week when the Bombers have turned it around again.
Sorry, I stopped reading when you said you wouldn't read what I write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees. Was there anything pertinent after that?
Dislikes: Farewell to Harmon Killebrew, one of the great human beings the game has ever seen.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"When the Senators stopped playin’ ball
-- Terry Cashman, Talkin' Baseball (Twins version)
Posted on: December 4, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2010 5:29 pm
The archangels -- not the Angels -- are merrily blowing the trumpets in heaven. The sun smiling and planning to shine on the earth.
Derek Jeter and the Yankees have reached a deal.
And thank heavens that's over.
Rarely is there such huffing and puffing over a non-story.
Seriously, there was a greater chance that Babe Ruth would be reincarnated and come back to run a hot dog stand in the new Yankee Stadium than there ever was that Jeter would leave.
I don't care how "contentious" the negotiations became. It didn't matter who was asking whom to drink a "reality potion."
That it ever became this much of a story was absurd in the first place. There will not be a bigger non-story story this winter.
Anyway, the terms are three years at an average of somewhere between $15 and $17 million a season, with a fourth-year option for 2014.
Judging from the column I wrote the other day, there are many of you who think Jeter will be wildly overpaid at this rate, and that The Man (Hank or Hal Steinbrenner) should have stuck it to him.
There are others of you who agree with me, that a declining Jeter still deserves more than market value because of his iconic status with the Yankees.
If this were Pittsburgh, where every penny counts, I'd be a lot more critical of this contract.
But the Yankees print money. It's not like overpaying Jeter for his value on the field is going to hamstring the Yankees elsewhere as they put this year's team together ... or next year's team ... or their 2013 team.
We're talking about an all-time Yankee here, whose value to the franchise will extend even after Jeter joins Ruth for a hot dog lunch with the Great Yankee in the Sky however many years from now.
Whatever the salary, this was always going to happen.
Now can we move on to things that were not foregone conclusions, please?
Posted on: October 18, 2010 1:54 am
Edited on: October 18, 2010 1:54 am
PHILADELPHIA -- Looking like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds rolled into one, San Francisco right fielder Cody Ross belted another home run in the Giants' 6-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series here Sunday, giving him three home runs in two games.
That ranks second-most in Giants history in LCS play. Jeffrey Leonard holds the record with four in 1987.
Meantime, with four homers in his last three postseason games, Ross is one of four players in Giants history with at least four in single postseason. The others: Barry Bonds hit eight in 2002, Rich Aurilia six in '02 and Leonard four in '87.
So, how might Phillies starter Cole Hamels want to approach Ross in Game 3 at AT&T Park?
"Don't throw it down and in," said Roy Oswalt, who did just that in surrendering Ross' fifth-inning blast Sunday. "The last three balls that he hit were in the exact same spot. Just bad pitches."
True. Each of the homers Ross smashed against Roy Halladay in Game 1 also were middle-in.
"I mean, throwing it right into his bat, pretty much," Oswalt said. "If you can make your pitches, you are going to do well. But if you miss down-and-in, that's pretty much where he's hitting them."
In Ross' third plate appearance Sunday night, he nearly got another one. He drove center fielder Shane Victorino all the way back to the warning track before Victorino hauled it in.
That was a fastball over the plate, too, but not quite as inside as the three Ross drove over the left-field fence.
Does Ross pretty much figure he's seen the last of the inside fastballs for awhile?
"I'm not really worried about where they're pitching me," Ross said. "I'm just trying to see it."
He's been doing a good enough job of that that the Philadelphia crowd has started giving him the business. Playing the villain isn't exactly a role Ross is familiar with, given his heretofore nondescript days with the Florida Marlins, but it's a role he'll take.
"That's what you want as a player," Ross said. "I know they're not going to cheer for me. It definitely doesn't make me feel like I should stop.
"I want to keep going. It's kind of a weird feeling."
Posted on: June 9, 2008 11:27 pm
Think about this for a minute:
It took Ken Griffey Jr. a total of 1,722 at-bats to move from career homer No. 500 to career homer 600, which he slugged on Monday night in Florida.
It took Barry Bonds only 710 at-bats to cover the same distance from 500 to 600.
Each man hit No. 600 when he was 38.
Think there was a level playing field?
Granted, Griffey has had his share of injuries, which is why nearly four years elapsed between No. 500, struck on June 20, 2004, and 600. He missed the second half of the 2004 season with a torn hamstring, and he missed nearly a month of the 2006 season with a strained knee.
It took Bonds barely more than one year to move from 500 to 600 -- from April 17, 2001, to Aug. 9, 2002.
The years can be skewed. Say one player stays healthy and the other is injury-plagued -- well, of course it will take longer for the player battling the disabled list.
But at-bats are a pretty good barometer.
I knew Bonds moved along at a breakneck clip in the early 2000s. But when I contacted home run guru David Vincent, who tracks homers for the Society for American Baseball Research and is the country's premier expert on the subject, even I was stunned.
The fact that it took Griffey roughly 1,000 more at-bats than Bonds to move from 500 to 600 is staggering. Even suspecting what most of us suspect about Bonds and the Steroid Era.
A junkie (home runs, not human growth hormone) could spend hours poring over Vincent's fascinating spreadsheets.
A handful of other relative home run numbers gleaned from Vincent's numbers:
Of the six members of the 600-homer club, nobody was even remotely as quick as Bonds in moving from No. 500 to 600. It took Babe Ruth 1,120 at-bats to do so, Sammy Sosa 1,605, Hank Aaron 1,402 and Willie Mays 1,981.
Time-wise, it took Ruth barely more than two years (Aug. 11, 1929, to Aug. 21, 1931) to go from 500 to 600, Aaron a little less than three years (July 14, 1968, to April 27, 1971), Mays nearly four years on the nose (Sept. 13, 1965, to Sept. 22, 1969) and Sosa a little more than four years (April 4, 2003, to June 20, 2007).
Of course, Sosa was out of the game in 2006 -- partly for reasons beyond suspicious -- else he would have gotten there more quickly.
Bonds finished -- if he is indeed finished -- with 762 home runs in 9,847 at-bats.
Griffey currently is at 600 in 9,045 at-bats. And had he not lost an estimated 450 games to the disabled list from the time he arrived in Cincinnati in 2000 through 2005, his number today undoubtedly would be far higher than 600.
Probably not as high as 762.
But at least Griffey almost certainly can look himself in the mirror today and know he is the first clean guy to join the 600 club since Aaron in 1971.
In a statistics-driven game that is still wiping the steroids muck off of the record book, some things are more important than the raw numbers.