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Tag:Philadelphia Phillies
Posted on: May 12, 2010 8:10 pm
 

Two Billmeyer friends amused by accusations

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As word of Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer getting busted with binoculars and allegedly stealing signs boomeranged around the game Wednesday, two men who worked with Billmeyer a decade ago found the idea of Billmeyer doing such a dastardly deed laughable.

"I hate to throw him under the bus but, knowing him, I'm sure it had nothing to do with signs," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who, during his 31 years in the Angels' organization, became friends with Billmeyer (who was the Angels' bullpen/workout coordinator from 1994-1999).

"I'd bet on it. I can say that because he's a single guy."

Across the field here Wednesday, one of Billmeyer's former roommates -- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher -- chuckled and agreed.

"I honestly believe he was either checking out the scenery," said Butcher, who lived with Billmeyer for a time when Butcher was pitching for the Angels (1992-1995), "or checking out his own catcher.

"I know he's the catching instructor there. I wouldn't be surprised if he was bearing down on his own guy."

Evidence uncovered by the Rockies was incriminating enough that major-league baseball delivered a stern reprimand to the Phillies on Wednesday.

The Rockies noticed Billmeyer with binoculars in the Coors Field bullpen during a game earlier this week looking in at Colorado catcher Miguel Olivo from the center field bullpen with the Phillies batting in the first inning. The Rockies asked their television network to zoom in on Billmeyer, and television cameras caught him looking in at Olivo in the second.

"Sign-stealing is going on all the time, and I think it's one of the lost arts of the game if you doing it the right way," Maddon said. "If you're doing it with technology, I totally disagree with it. But if you're doing it through observation ... binoculars, I'd say, are technology."

First generation, apparently -- though Maddon did not elaborate on that part of it.

"When you can get the other side's signs through old-fashioned detective work, it can really impact a game," Maddon said. "If some people are upset with that, then I'd say shame on them for not concealing their signs better."

Even with binoculars in Billmeyer's hand and video evidence, though, Maddon still found it difficult to believe that Billmeyer was studying Olivo's signs.

"I'd love to know what was [in the stands] behind Olivo," he quipped.

Likes: Nothing like a good, old-fashioned, sign-stealing controversy. ... The Phillies have been accused of this before (see Dodgers coach Larry Bowa's radio comments from last October when the Phils were playing the Yankees in the World Series). But a couple of things to remember, for those thinking Billmeyer is the culprit: While you can see the catcher from the bullpen in Philly's Citizens' Bank Park, it's hit-and-miss on the road. Not all bullpens would give Billmeyer (or anybody else) a clear line of vision to the catcher (Coors Field does). Also, the Phillies scored more runs on the road than at home last year, and the same is true so far this year.

Dislikes: The pair of binoculars I have at home have been broken for two years.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply
"So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
"He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do
"So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
"Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
"Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign"

-- Five Man Electrical Band, Signs

 

Posted on: April 5, 2010 1:41 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Halladay the Phillie

Roy Halladay had barely set foot into the National League on Monday when the Nationals sent him a tell-tale sign that he's no longer in the AL East.

Then, Halladay sent word that he really could care less, thank you very much.

On Halladay's first two pitches, Nats speedster Nyjer Morgan poked a single  -- and then swiped second base. Five pitches after that, Ryan Zimmerman boomed an opposite-field, RBI double. And two batters later, Halladay walked Josh Willingham.

For a pitcher who sets a goal of fewer walks than games started each year, it was rough waters.

Which just goes to show you: Even the best pitcher in the game isn't invincible. Whether it was Opening Day, President Obama's appearance or the Nationals' approach -- maybe a bit of all of the above -- Halladay's Philadelphia debut was memorable after only one inning. 

Not surprisingly, though, by the end of Philadelphia's 11-1 rout of the Nationals, he made it memorable for all the same reasons he made so many nights in Toronto memorable.

That noise in the first was the last anybody heard from the Nationals. Halladay breezed through seven innings, holding the Nats to that one run while scattering six hits. He fanned nine and walked two, and his ERA after one NL start stands at a tidy 1.29.

That already miniscule ERA will be worth watching. Facing weaker lineups than he faced in the AL, there is every reason to believe that Monday's start will be step one for Halladay toward winning his second Cy Young award.

Posted on: April 5, 2010 12:37 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 4:08 pm
 

Beckett: Four more years (in Boston)

Fresh from their Opening Night pounding of the dreaded Yankees, the Red Sox this afternoon formally will announce a contract extension for ace Josh Beckett, $68 million over four years.

As colleague Danny Knobler chuckled when we talked not long ago, not bad for a pitcher with a 9.64 ERA. That's where Beckett's stands now after the Yankees clubbed him for five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings Sunday night.

In all seriousness, though, the larger meaning of this beyond New England's boundaries is that it continues to emphasize the most important thing in today's game: You'd better build your team with young pitching, because less and less of it is available on the free agent market. At least, fewer impact pitchers are getting out there.

Beckett and Roy Halladay each was supposed to be a free agent next winter. Not now: The Sox have locked up Beckett, and the Phillies over the winter acquired Halladay from Toronto then signed him to a three-year, $60 million deal.

Two other key pitchers had their free agency delayed over the past several months, too, with Detroit signing Justin Verlander to a five-year, $80 million extension and Seattle signing ace Felix Hernandez to a five-year, $78 million deal in January.

Posted on: February 18, 2010 3:54 pm
 

Anger management with Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player who never lived up to the hype in '09, is working hard this spring on perfecting his change-up and developing a cut fastball.

But what's really important, according to his pitching coach, is that Hamels control his demeanor in 2010.

"The biggest problem with Cole last year, in my opinion, was that he pitched with a lot of anger," Rich Dubee said Thursday after the first workout of the spring for Phillies pitchers and catchers. "With himself, mostly.

"He's such a perfectionist. You don't pitch with anger, especially with yourself."

Dubee and various Phillies, including veteran lefty Jamie Moyer, talked with Hamels about it as '09 rolled on, but once the struggles began with a sore elbow in the spring and then spilled over into lack of results on the field, Hamels never could catch up. He finished 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA -- more than a run higher than his 3.09 ERA in '08.

"His approach wasn't very good last year," said Dubee, who added that "it's been addressed."

Hamels' anger and frustration was evident in the way he snapped at the ball on the field when it was being returned from the catcher, and in the way he stomped around on the mound at various times between pitches after serving up a key hit or missing on an important pitch.

"I think that's where the expectations come into play," said Hamels, who never came close to living up to Cy Young predictions in '09. "You have a lot more expectations, and I let that get to me. I became emotional instead of relaxing and letting it happen."

Hamels laughed when told Dubee said part of the fix might be in Hamels viewing video of his churlish behavior.

"I was there. I remember those times," he said. "I don't need to watch the video. I understand what I did wrong."

Among other things, Hamels started throwing much earlier this winter than he has in the past. Dubee said that's evident simply from watching him play long toss during workouts this week.

"You watch him long toss, and he's far beyond where he's ever been in spring training," said the pitching coach, who added that he's quite impressed with Hamels because, after struggling last year, Hamels "could have gone home and sulked."

"I'm a lot more in shape arm-wise than in recent years," Hamels said.

With new ace Roy Halladay aboard, if Hamels pitches the way the Phillies know he can, then they again think they'll be the team to beat in the NL this season.

"I think what he needed was a breath of fresh air in the off season," Dubee said.

Sunblock Day? Yes because the sun was out, but what was really needed was a wind block. "I'll tell you something: I've got three shirts on," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said following Thursday's workout. "And I needed a jacket."


Likes: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel down 56 pounds from last year, proudly exhibiting his jeans in the clubhouse the other day and calling them "my Nutrisystem jeans". ... Now we see why Indians assistant general manager Chris Antonetti spurned interest by other organizations when they wanted to interview him when they had GM openings. Congratulations to Mark Shapiro's hard-working assistant on being named GM-in-waiting Thursday. And given the cratering economy and attendance, Godspeed, Chris. ... Chien-Ming Wang, Washington National. ... How about the double-overtime Notre Dame-Louisville game Wednesday night, a 91-89 Cardinals win? What a great, great game. ... Early Seger Volume 1 is a terrific -- and lacking -- CD. Lacking because, Bob Seger has got to have far more in the vaults than one small disc. Somebody needs to talk with Seger's manager, Punch Andrews, and scold him to release not only more music, but a DVD of Seger's last concert tour a couple of years ago. That there isn't more available -- video and audio -- from one of the all-time masters is criminal. ... The grilled grouper with mango salsa at Bonefish Grill the other night was very tasty.

Dislikes: Get ready for some serious lobbying for a new stadium for Tampa Bay. Rays president Stuart Sternberg said on local radio the other day that the club's $70 million payroll definitely will be chopped next year and insinuated that it would be below $60 million. Commissioner Bud Selig followed that up with an appearance at the annual Florida Governor's Baseball Dinner on Wednesday, during which he said "It almost boggles my mind that there's a debate. They need a new stadium."

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It may be raining
"But there's a rainbow above you"

-- The Eagles, Desperado

Posted on: December 16, 2009 6:51 pm
 

Blockbuster breakdown

Nine players, four teams, two Cy Young winners, one three-minute breakdown of what undoubtedly will be THE blockbuster trade of the offseason:

Seattle

Gets: Lefty ace Cliff Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner and ace pitcher in this fall's World Series.

A clear winner in the deal, in conversations with scouts and executives. Especially in the context of what general manager Jack Zduriencik already has done with the Mariners last year (improved their pitching and defense) and this winter (signed sparkplug Chone Figgins). How would you like to have Lee and Felix Hernandez as Nos. 1 and 2 in your rotation?

At 85-77 after losing 101 games in 2008, the Mariners were baseball's most improved team last year. With Lee and Figgins, that trend continues and should make Seattle instant contenders in the AL West.

The Mariners gave up three prospects in the deal, none of whom is projected to land anywhere near Cooperstown. Lee is a free agent following the 2010 season which, as colleague Danny Knobler notes, could make Seattle winners in one of two ways: Either he can pitch them into the playoffs, or, if the Mariners pull a surprise and flop early, they can trade him in July and probably receive better prospects than they traded.

Philadelphia

Gets: Roy Halladay from Toronto, prospects Phillippe Aumont (right-handed pitcher), outfielder Tyson Gillies (outfielder) and Juan Ramirez (right-handed pitcher), and $6 million from Toronto.

The overriding question being asked by baseball people everywhere in the aftermath of this exchange of Cy Young winners is this: For Philadelphia, back-to-back NL champs with an eye toward a third consecutive World Series appearance in 2010, are the Phillies better off with Halladay than Lee?

Well, are they? It's a very close call, but the answer has to be yes. Lee has bad back-to-back sensational seasons, but Halladay not only has done it longer, but he's the big, powerful horse that most often comes up as the answer to this question: If you could pick one pitcher to win the most important game of your season, whom would it be?

It may seem absurd to go against Lee, who was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts for the Phillies this year (including 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the World Series). But while Lee beat the Yankees in October, Halladay has made a career of doing it: Lifetime, Halladay is 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA against the Bronx Bombers.

Not that he'll be facing New York regularly in the NL East, but that's the point: In this game, right now, you measure yourself against the Yankees, and go from there. Halladay can handle them -- as Lee did -- in October. Meantime, Halladay should chew up the NL the way a Toro mows through tall grass.

The clincher, of course, is that the Phillies signed Halladay to a three-year extension with an option for year No. 4, while Lee is headed for free agency. Halladay, for the Phillies, is a better answer both short-term and, especially, long-term.

Toronto

Gets: Three former No. 1 draft picks, right-hander Kyle Drabek (from the Phillies), catcher Travis d'Arnaud (from the Phillies) and  third baseman Brett Wallace (from Oakland).

Take good notes, because this is the last you'll be hearing from the Blue Jays for awhile. They should be nowhere hear contention in 2010. This trade is about stockpiling prospects and, from there, attempting to come up with a core group of controllable, young players who will mature roughly the same time.

It's a fine plan under Toronto's young (32) new architect, new GM Alex Anthopoulos. And whether it works or not, let's just say this up front: This Halladay deal likely will be Anthopoulos' signature moment as Jays' GM. If these prospects produce, he has a chance to look brilliant. If not, the Jays will become even less relevant.

Drabek is a power arm whom the Jays were looking at last summer in the Halladay talks with Philadelphia. Anthopoulos views him as an eventual front-of-the rotation type starter. The GM's hope for d'Arnaud is that he will develop into an All-Star catcher. And the Jays view Wallace as an eventual impact, middle-of-the-order hitter.

Anthopoulos is on record as calling Halladay the greatest player in Blue Jays' history, and to get only one pitcher back in a package for him seems awfully light. Odds are that he will not develop into half the pitcher Halladay is (and that's no knock against Drabek -- there aren't many youngsters who will develop into the next Halladay, or half a Doc).

The Jays do need a catcher and a third baseman. For them, the final evaluation of this deal likely is at least a couple of years away.

Oakland

Gets: Outfield prospect Michael Taylor from Toronto (via the Phillies).

The Athletics pretty much being the afterthought in this deal, good, sneaky work by GM Billy Beane to move in and snag an outfielder he took a liking to awhile ago.

Why it took so long: For one thing, the Phillies required a negotiating window to enter into a multi-year contract agreement with Halladay, who was on track for free agency following the 2010 season.

Also, and this is why you hear of so many trades anymore that take several days to be announced, contracts are so big now that medical reports never have been so important. Teams anymore are incredibly diligent about making sure the players they receive are healthy, risking humiliation if they don't. It's why the deal between Boston and Texas sending third baseman Mike Lowell to the Rangers essentially was agreed upon eight days ago and still hasn't been completed -- the Rangers are triple-checking Lowell's medical reports.

In this deal, there was concern from Toronto on third baseman Brett Wallace's shoulder due to a previous injury.

Lastly, rules state that the Commissioner's Office needs to approve any trade in which $1 million or more changes hands. That's pretty much become a formality anymore, but it still slows down the process.

What got the deal done: Several facets, but the overriding one was the fact that Halladay clearly wanted to pitch for the Phillies. No small part of that is because Halladay's home is in Odessa, Fla., not far from Toronto's spring training base in Dunedin, Fla. Which is only about 10 minutes from Philadelphia's spring base in Clearwater. Halladay essentially gave the Phillies the old "hometown discount" in signing on the dotted line for $20 million a year and waiving his free agency rights next winter. Remember, CC Sabathia set the bar last winter by signing with the Yankees for seven years and an annual average value of $23 million a season. Next to that, Halladay looks downright generous in the deal he gave the Phillies.

Winners: Seattle, no question. Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik, who, in barely more than a year on the job, has established himself as one of the most creative minds in the game. Philadelphia, which stands an excellent chance to play in its third World Series in three years in 2010.

Losers: Toronto's fans, at least in the short term.  It's just too bad that the Blue Jays never could win when they had Halladay, because he gave his blood, sweat and tears to that franchise and to that city and he desperately wanted to win there. For his sake and for that of the franchise and its fans, its sad that it never came to pass.

Posted on: December 2, 2009 3:09 pm
 

Weiner: Postseason schedule needs tightening

On his first day as executive director of the Major League Players' Assn., Michael Weiner agreed that the postseason schedule needs to be tightened and, at the same time, said that there is sentiment among the players' executive board to increase the divisional round to best-of-seven series.

Commissioner Bud Selig said last month that he is personally going to take a swing at tightening the postseason schedule for next fall after complaints this year of too many days off.

The Angels, for example, played only eight games in 20 days going into Game 6 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees. Beginning on Oct. 13, the day after they eliminated St. Louis, the Phillies played only 12 games over 23 days through the end of the World Series.

"I think everyone is in agreement that the postseason schedule is in need of adjusting," Weiner said on a conference call Tuesday formally unveiling him as Don Fehr's replacement. "I'm a hockey fan as well as a baseball fan, and the [postseason] pace is what you would expect in hockey, not baseball."

Weiner said he is happy that Selig said he intends to look into tightening up the postseason schedule.

"We have to be respectful to our television partner, but we have to be concerned with the competitive aspect as well," Weiner said.

That said, Weiner acknowledged that expanding the divisional series from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven format was another issue raised by the executive board of the players' association at its meetings this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"There's a lot of sentiment for a seven-game series," Weiner said. "I think, if properly constructed, we could accommodate a seven-game series [in the first round] and still have it end in a shorter period of time."

Weiner said that his feeling is that if there is to be a change in format, that would not be addressed until the next round of collective bargaining with the owners (the current agreement expires following the 2011 season).

The condensing of the postseason schedule, however, could -- and should -- come as early as 2010.

In other assessments during Tuesday's call with reporters, the 47-year-old Weiner:

 Acknowledged that the union is continuing to monitor the free agent market for signs of collusion among the owners. Some agents thinks there were some questionable maneuvers in 2007 and 2008, and Weiner said he's watching the slow pace of free agency this winter.

"Yeah, I’m concerned a little bit. It's been a little slow," Weiner said. "But it was a little late starting by virtue of when the World Series ended [Nov. 4]. That's something we may want to consider in bargaining, given that there are now three rounds of playoffs."

Weiner said with arbitration offers having been extended to players on Monday, the "landscape is a little more clear" now. "It's too early to draw any conclusions on how this will play out," he said.

 Said he and the union are open to a worldwide draft but continue to oppose a salary slotting system that owners want.

"We're willing to have all players without regard to their country of origin be subject to the same rules entering the game," Weiner said, nothing that it would mean an amateur player "from Texas as well as a player from the Dominican Republic" be governed by the same policy.

But as for a slotting system, he noted "we call it a salary cap" and said that's a different issue.

 Said he believes the current performance-enhancing drug testing system is "working great". And as for the continued concern over human growth hormone, he noted that "if a reliable urine test for HGH is developed, it would automatically go into place. It would require no modification in the agreement."

So far, that test has not been developed.

Posted on: November 4, 2009 5:12 pm
 

Victorino in the lineup tonight

NEW YORK -- Shane Victorino, whose right index finger was badly bruised when he was hit by an A.J. Burnett pitch the other day, is starting and playing center field for Philadelphia in Game 6 of the World Series tonight.

"He's fine," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says.

As usual, Victorino is hitting second behind leadoff man Jimmy Rollins.

Manuel also said that every pitcher other than Cliff Lee is available tonight in Game 6, and he again declined to say who would pitch Game 7 Thursday if the Phillies can extend this series.

Posted on: November 4, 2009 10:00 am
 

Hot Game 6 question: Who closes for Phillies?

NEW YORK -- Now clinging to their season by Pedro Martinez and a very creaky bullpen, one of the most pressing questions surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies heading into tonight's World Series Game 6 is this:

If the Phillies carry a slim lead into the ninth inning, does manager Charlie Manuel trust Brad Lidge to close it out?

"I don't want to sound like smart or nothing, [but I'm] probably going to use him the way I want to [depending on] when we get there and how I feel," Manuel said late Tuesday. "I'll do a lot of talking in the dugout with [pitching coach Rich] Dubee, and we'll decide on which one we want to put out there."

Lidge is either the Phillies closer or former closer, depending on how you read the tea leaves.

His struggles this season already well documented (he blew a major-league leading 11 save opportunities), the Good Lidge was 1-0 with three saves and no runs allowed in five postseason appearances before the Bad Lidge re-emerged in Game 4 of the World Series.

Looking to protect a 4-4 game in the ninth and give the Phillies a chance to win it Sunday, the Yankees scorched Lidge for three runs and tagged him with the loss.

Tellingly, Manuel summoned Ryan Madson to close Philadelphia's 8-6 Game 5 victory on Monday night, leaving Lidge in the pen.

Afterward, Manuel noted Lidge's high pitch count from the night before -- 30 -- as one reason he didn't use him.

On Tuesday's off day in New York -- the Phillies elected not to work out -- Manuel repeated that his still has confidence in Lidge.

"I sure do," Manuel said. "I think the only thing I'm trying to do with Brad Lidge is get him right. You know what, I'll always have confidence in him. He's got a lot of talent, and he proved that last year when he goes 48 for 48 in save situations. I've seen him work out of some tough jams. I've seen him go bases loaded, nobody out and get right out of it. ...

"I said last night, he is our closer, and basically what we're trying to do is get him as good as he was, or somewhere in between."

If the Phillies lead by a run or two or three heading into the ninth tonight, we'll find out whether Lidge is still the closer. He's had two days to rest after throwing those 30 pitches in a tough Game 4 loss.

He will be fresh.

 
 
 
 
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