Phillie of the Week

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The honor of Ramblings Phillie of the Week goes to none other than center fielder Aaron Rowand. Aside form continuing his hit streak this past week, Rowand has come through in the clutch more often than not. A couple of key home runs, vaulting him further past Ryan Howard but not quite at Jimmy Rollins (how weird is that?), and showing patience at the plate, Rowand's bat has been the key ingredient in the recent success of the Phillies.

But as we all know his glove is his biggest asset. Rowand made some incredible plays in the outfield against Cincinnati and Washington that helped out the Phillies pitchers from facing any major problems on the mound.

I would like to see this continued play out of Rowand, so I am optimistic that this is the player they traded for in the Jim Thome deal. Rowand is in what they call a contract year, but he does seem to be playing more consistent of late. Here's hoping he remains injury free as well.

Congratulations Aaron Rowand! You are this week's Ramblings Phillie of the Week!

And now a recap/rant on Day One of the NFL Draft...

If you read my previous post then you are probably correct in assuming how delighted I was to see Brady Quinn drop so far. I was watching it wondering when the kid would get picked. When the first five picks went by I started looking at everyone coming up and pointed out that none of the teams were in a position to pick a quarterback. I started thinking that if he fell to the Kansas City Chiefs that they may take him, unless somebody trades up to get him. Sure enough, the Cleveland Browns did just that. I could have done without all of the ESPN "happy ending" story lines, showing a four year old Quinn wearing his Browns jersey and helmet. Reminded me of all of those young Manning brothers home videos.

As for the Eagles, I wasn't surprised that they traded down once their top two safety choices were already gone, however I was surprised they traded with the Cowboys. Once I saw what picks we got in return I was ok with the deal though. I wasn't too scared of the Cowboys drafting a defensive end out of Purdue, but I was stupefied when the Eagles drafted...WHAT?...a quarterback with their first pick?

The whole off season we scrutinized the dealings with Jeff Garcia and were emphatically told by the Eagles organization that they were 100% satisfied with what they have at quarterback, with the franchise QB in Donovan McNabb and a solid backup in AJ Feely. In the trade that brought in linebacker Takeo Spikes form Buffalo, quarterback Kelly Holcomb came with the package. Surely this meant that we were set at the quarterback position, no? The whole pick seemed like a waste of a pick to me. I would have picked up a linebacker or pass rusher with the pick, instead of wasting the pick. The Eagles are not at the point where they should start thinking about McNabb's replacement for years to come if you ask me. If it were not for their three other picks I would be criticizing them even more. Truth is I liked their three remaining picks from yesterday. They picked up a linebacker, a defensive end, and a solid running back.

Needless to say I am very pleased with the selection of running back Tony Hunt, out of Penn State. I don't say this because of my allegiance to the blue and white, but Hunt is a strong back who sees a hole and busts through it. He won't dance around trying to make pretty plays. HE also catches the ball well, so I can see Hunt jumping ahead of the likes of Reno Mahe and Ryan Moats before training camp even opens.

As for the other Nittany Lions, Levi Brown going fifth was widely scrutinized by ESPN, but the Arizona Cardinals need someone to protect their franchise quarterback Matt Leinart, and they couldn't run the ball to save their lives last season. Who else would they have taken? Brown is a physical lineman and he can move a pile. And Paul Posluszny going to the Buffalo Bills is alright. The Bills traded Spikes to the Eagles so they were clearly ready for a new linebacker. All Posluszny does is tackle guys. Defensive tackle Jay Alford going to the Giants was not a bad selection either. The Giants need help on defense, although I thought they'd take a linebacker before a lineman (I thought Posluszny would go to the Giants or Jets actually).

The second day is today (rounds four through seven), so if you're watching, watch the ESPN gurus try and pick out the next Tom Brady. It's the only thing they have going for them today. I'll be watching the Phillies conclude their series with the Marlins today instead.


Saturday Thoughts

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Those Philadelphia Phillies had a wild win last night. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions in the late innings. They were frustrating heading into the eighth inning, not scoring with men on base, and trailing 4-3. thanks to Jimmy Rollins' National League leading ninth home run and a blast from Chase Utley, the Phillies took a 5-4 lead into the final inning.

Then comes in Tom "Flash" Gordon who quickly gives up a pair of hits, allowing the Marlins to tie it right back up at five.

This was Gordon's third blown save of the season. An act like that should get the Brett Myers to closer role talk stewing a little faster. Now, I don't want to see Myers do a John Smoltz, because I want Myers to be in my starting rotation. The Phillies are in a tough situation because of the lack of action in the off-season to bolster the bullpen. But I digress, as I usually do.

The Phillies beat the Marlins and now must face Dontrelle Willis tonight, throwing out Adam Eaton in opposition. Look for a tough loss today, but a series victory with a win on Sunday afternoon.

Hey, did you hear about the NFL Draft? It's today. There are a lot of rumors flying around what the Oakland Raiders will do with the first pick (draft quarterback JaMarcus Russel from LSU, draft wide receiver Calvin Johnson from Georgia Tech, or trade the pick to someone else) so the drama should be interesting for the first few picks of the draft.

I've seen a pair of interviews with Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and I laugh at what he says most of the time. When Quinn gets questioned on how he responds to his critics he always points out the successes he's had at Notre Dame. He is quick to point out all of the undefeated teams they faced last year (when they played them). Here they are...
Georgia Tech was 0-0.
Penn State was 1-0.
Michigan was 2-0.
Michigan State was 3-0.
Purdue was 4-0.

Ok, Quinn, those teams were all undefeated when you played them. And I was giving you Georgia Tech as a freebie. How about when he responds to his criticism of playing in the big games. When he says that at Notre Dame every game is a big game, I scoff. He is defiant in pointing out that Michigan and USC aren't the only big games they play. They sure aren't Brady. Quick blitz recap!

2007 Sugar Bowl: LSU 41, Notre Dame 14
2006 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20
2006: Michigan State 44, Notre Dame 41 (Remember when Quinn pointed out MSU earlier?)
2005: BYU 20, Notre Dame 17
2005: Purdue 41, Notre Dame 16 (He pointed out Purdue earlier as well)
2005: Boston College 24, Notre Dame 23
2005: Pittsburgh 41, Notre Dame 38
2005 Insight Bowl: Oregon State 38, Notre Dame 21

Does it seem like I'm bashing Brady Quinn a little too much? It is more of a bash on the high exposure to Notre Dame football. Just because a football player comes from South Bend, Indiana does not make them the player that everybody wants to watch. Quinn may become a solid quarterback for a long time and have some success in the game (despite his arm strength), but the folks on ESPN seem to have a problem differentiating between themselves if they want Quinn to be a future Tom Brady (because, if you haven't heard, Quinn's coach also coached Brady at one point in time) or if they want to make Quinn the walking target for over hyped quarterbacks everywhere. Too me it is funny watching a college football season on ESPN and having them hype the guy for Heisman candidacy, and now entering the NFL draft they make big stories on how his stock has dropped and questioning how far he'll drop.

As for the Eagles, I hope more than anything that Paul Posluszny drops that far. Not that it matters, because I'm sure the Eagles won't draft him, but I love to have a shot at a solid linebacker who doesn't do anything but tackle players. Look for the Eagles to draft a secondary position, while Pos gets picked up by a New York team.

Hey, are Matt Schaub jerseys on sale yet? I have to get one.


Kevin McGuire and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ever have one of those days where you sort of wish you had just stayed in bed and called out sick? Of course you have. Well today was one of those days for me...

Now, I've had worse days in my life mind you, but today I just feel like venting a little bit. Perhaps you'll read this and think "He's just over reacting," and if you do, that is fine with me. However, I feel that I do a darn good job of staying positive in just about all situations at work and feel that if I keep my cool, everything will run smoother. Today it was kind of hard to do so.

It was a weird day at the office supply store in which I work (they're not paying me off the clock so I'm not mentioning their name - no free advertising in this blog!). Today is Tuesday so it was a day for a truck delivery. Never mind the fact that I skipped my lunch in anticipation of the truck coming during my normal lunch break. The truck came about an hour and a half late. Normally what we do is unload the merchandise from the truck and into our back room, and then if the truck is taking our returns to go to the warehouse, we'll load them up afterward. Well today we had an issue. Our store was supposed to send back two floor scrubbing machines (we were sent two new ones and told to send the two older ones back). Nobody told the truck driver and he refused to take them for fear he'd get in trouble for transporting stuff he wasn't supposed to be taking. I tried telling him that we received authorization and he fought me saying he couldn't do it. Finally he threw out the "Do you want to call my supervisor and see what he says?" line. Accepting his challenge I said "You bet!"

What a mistake that turned out to be.

The supervisor at the warehouse said he hadn't seen any paperwork for it, at which point I told him I could get our copies and fax it to him if he wanted. Right here let me teach you all a lesson; if you're going to rely on having paperwork to back you up, you better be sure there is paperwork. I was under the impression and was told that one of my managers had organized the authorization through our corporate office. Of course, said manager is on vacation, and said manager is known for not filing papers properly. Thus, I could find no paperwork and was looking like a jerk and a fool all at once to this truck driver and his supervisor. Luckily for me, the supervisor was willing to help me out and set up a new authorization.

Then there was "Little Ms.. Daisy" who called to tell me about a problem she was having with a safe, which she purchased at my 1999 (remember that key fact right there). She told me the whole story about when she bought the safe. When she purchased her safe she was told that if anything should ever go wrong with it, if she had her receipt that we (the store) would take care of it as our guarantee. A little time passed and she started having trouble closing the safe. Ok, no big deal, that can be taken care of. But she told me that someone from my store went to her house and fixed it for her as a way of backing up that earlier guarantee. Now, she doesn't remember who she talked to or who did that for her, but today she started having the same problem, and she was ready for somebody to come out and fix it for her.

"Mamn, I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm not authorized to send any of my associates out to someones place to fix a safe."
"But they did it before. The guy said if I had the receipt that they guaranteed you could fix it."

This loop went on for about five minutes. It went so far she said that her lawyer said that if somebody here guaranteed such a promise, then she could make a case out of it. I have no clue who she talked too, nor does she, but I know my store's philosophies and policies a lot better than most people I guarantee that. We never have put ourselves in a position to go out to customers' homes and fix things for them. Never. Whoever did that before, if it is even true, was violating policies and procedures.

I gave Ms. Daisy the customer support number for the manufacturer. Maybe she could blab their ears off for a while. But she called back twenty minutes later to say she had been on hold with them the whole time. I'm thinking to myself at that point, "so you got off of hold, to tell me that?" Mind you, she started calling the store asking for me directly now. She started to throw the lawyer card, threatening to take me to court over this "guarantee", given by someone who probably isn't even with the company anymore for all I know. She started giving me her address so I could stop by and take a look at it. The first call I was ok with, I've had this kind of issue before. But now she's starting to bother me. While she has me on the phone this second time a line starts to form at the registers, I'm being called up for a manager override, and I simply can't get off the phone. I'm now in the middle of the store trying to jump and wave my arms to grab the attention of someone else to go help out at the register but to no avail because I can't make eye contact with anyone until it gets really backed up up front. Finally I get the lady to try calling the manufacturer once more. Relieved, I sprint up to the front to find that someone has gotten up there to help out with an issue at the register, but now find that my customer service associate and the customer are being snippy with each other. The customer was agitated because of waiting so long and the associate was trying to apologize but getting frustrated with the bickering form the customer.

At this point I'm getting relieved that things are slowing down.

In comes a private investigator. A what? That's right. This guy approaches me and shows me his PI badge credentials and starts asking me about Joe Schmo who worked here from 2002-2003. At this point I'm wondering if this former employee was giving out guarantees about safes. He also asks to see our employee files and wants to know what I know about this guy. I flat out told the guy I'm not going to answer any of his questions or let him see anything because he has to go through human resources for anything that he wants. PI man seemed irritated and starts asking me where the human resources office is and the corporate office. I gave him that information and he jotted down my name and he went out the door. Thankfully that was the end of that.

RING! RING! "Thank you for calling 'said office supply retailer', this is Kevin speaking, how may I help you?"

"Yes, Kevin? I was just on the phone with you about a safe and I just wanted to tell you the people you gave me the number for were able to help me. The safe closes now! Thank you very much!"

Yeah, I'm serious. This lady called me to tell me it works now. Thanks, because I wasn't going to be able to sleep knowing your safe from 1999 wasn't closing. What a relief! And it would have been ok, if she didn't call me as I'm about to head home for the day. Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, that would be her fourth call of the day. I might as well give her my home and cell phone number at this point so she can reach me 24/7.

This time she is inquiring about a new safe and asks me for a price range and the space that each of those have. This is simple enough, I do this sort of thing just about everyday. So I grab a couple price tags and get back on the phone and tell her the prices and how much space is in each one.

"Is that with or without sales tax?"
"Without mamn."
"Oh, how much is it with sales tax."
"Oh, I'm not sure, I'd have to calculate that."
"Ok, I'll wait."

Oh, wait she did. It's simple math, although I admit I still had to write it down. Instead, I walked all the way up to the front of the store, told my manager what was going on and how this lady just won't leave me along, and then I grabbed a calculator and added it up for her. Then I walked into the office and took a sip of my drink. I wasn't in much of a hurry to be honest with you.

Then I got back on the phone and gave her the prices...with sales tax.

"Is that $230 one bigger than my safe that I have?"
"I couldn't tell you mamn. The safe you described to me is one we don't sell anymore so I'm not sure how big yours is."
"Well, is there anyway you could check it out for me?"

At this point we were right back to square one where she wanted me to come to her house and look at her safe.

I eventually got to a safe point where I could safely exit the building without fielding another call form her. It wouldn't surprise me the least if she's called the store again by now or will call at some point this evening. I am thankful for one thing though, and that is my patience. I can tell you that few people in my store could handle what I had to go through with this lady. But I just hope that if she decides to come in and look at our safes, that it's when I'm not there!


Phillie of the Week

Sunday, April 22, 2007

As the week went on I was ready to announce Jamie Moyer as the Ramblings Phillie of the Week, but manager Charlie Manuel's erratic method of switching pitchers so often and leaving Tom Gordon in for two innings instead of Brett Myers resulting in an extra innings loss washed away a beautiful performance by veteran pitcher. Then came along Cole Hamels, who ran away with the award after his stellar performance last night.

Hamels pitched a complete game, only yielding one run and striking out 15 Cincinnati Reds en route to a 4-1 Phillies victory. With Brett Myers in the bullpen and the wait to see how Freddy Garcia is going to be, Hamels is clearly the guy who seems to be the top arm in the rotation right now. Moyer provides some good game with his strategy, but Hamels is the kid who could be the ace of the future for us. In a game in which he struck out the most batters since Curt Schilling did it in 1997 (or 1998, I forget which year I read), Hamels provided a much needed spark for the floundering Phillies.

The game also featured a major lineup change, but just because they won 4-1, it doesn't mean it's the perfect solution. Shane Victorino doesn't thrill me as a lead off man, but I'm not too upset about Aaron Rowand in the 2 spot. Hopefully when Ryan Howard comes back form his injury he can fix his game and give this lineup some juice again.

Congratulations once again to Cole Hamels, this week's Ramblings Phillie of the Week!

I also want to give my Kevin Seal of Approval to the Penn State students and fans who wore their Virginia Tech colors to the annual Blue-White game yesterday. While the actions obviously won't change what happened down in Blacksburg, Virginia, the sentiment shown by Nittany Nation were unrivaled by any other school that I've seen thus far.

As for the Blue team, which had many starters, they better get their act together after losing 30-6 to the White team!


Eagles 2007 Pre Draft Season Predictions

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I figured it will probably be interesting to see how much my predictions change as we get closer to the start of a new NFL season. So here is the pre-draft predictions. Then I'll put together a new set in the middle of the summer, then come out with my final edition the week before the NFL season kicks off. Right now, my mind is set on a trip to Arizona for the Super Bowl. High hopes? Or just pure insanity?

Week 1 @ Packers - easy win because the Pack have no running game and Brett Favre doesn't know when to hang it up. Eagles' Westbrook steals the show in McNabb's first game back.

Week 2 vs. Redskins (Monday Night) - no way the Eagles lose to a Redskins team who will yet again fail to live up to higher than they should be expectations. I bet Joe Gibbs is contemplating retiring for good.

Week 3 vs Lions - It's only April and the Lions have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Week 4 @ Giants (Sunday Night) - Eli MAnning may have a good start, but he is still a long way form being older brother Peyton. Going into this game we will be hearing about how much Eli has matured and is making the next step. After this game we will all remember that the best quarterback in the NFC East wears green as the Eagles show that Tiki Barber has not been replaced effectively. 4-0 going into October.

Week 6 @ Jets - The Jets may be better this year and I'm going to go on a limb to say that the Jets pull one off on the Eagles in their second straight trip to the Meadowlands (after a bye week).

Week 7 vs. Bears - Sure Da Bears have a defense, but they have no quarterback unless they make a change by this point in the season. But the Eagles lost to the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS last week so there is no way they'll roll over against the Bears in the Linc. McNabb runs for a TD en route to a key NFC victory.

Week 8 @ Vikings - The Vikings are young and their head coach knows the Eagles naturally.
But the Eagles are playing well and establishing themselves as the top team in the NFC. 6-1.

Week 9 vs. Cowboys (Sunday Night) - The Cowboys' coach is Wade Phillips and they're playing in Philly, and the love affair with Tony Romo is dead. 7-1.

Week 10 @ Redskins - Joe Gibbs hasn't retired yet, but the Redskins have only won three games so far. And after this game they still only have three wins. 8-1.

Week 11 vs. Dolphins - The Eagles traditionally have trouble with AFC opponents, but I think they pull one out against a pesky Dolphins team in November. 9-1, but now it gets tough.

Week 12 @ Patriots (Sunday Night) - 9-2.

Week 13 vs Seahawks - The Eagles don't lose consecutive games. Rebound form a beating against the Patriots, 10-2.

Week 14 vs. Giants - Giants' wild card hopes take a huge hit in Philly as Eagles get some momentum going for homefield advantage. 11-2.

Week 15 @ Cowboys - The Cowboys' coach is Wade Phillips. 12-2.

Week 16@ Saints - The Saints are playing well and take one from the Eagles in a close game. Reid goes for it on 4th down coming down the stretch, but they miss and he says "Told you so" to Eagles critics.

Week 17 vs. Bills - The Bills will be out of it and the Eagles will wrap up at least a first round bye before the game even starts thanks to what happens elsewhere in the NFC. I'll put this one in as a loss right now just because I think the key players for the Eagles will be out of the game for a majority of the game, if not the entire game.

Final count? A 12-4 season for the Eagles.


And the Temperature is Rising

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Despite the recent Nor Easter weather issues, the temperature inside the Phillies club house has got to be rising to a boil now. After Charlie Manuel's widely publicized spat with WIP radio personality Howard Eskin, all the signs are leading more and more to a move that is looking long overdue; Charlie Manuel being fired.

I want to see things start heading in the right direction for the Phills, no doubt about that. I love baseball and have always been a huge Phillies fan. Seeing the things that go on with this club never cease to amaze and often confuse me. Today's move was to move Brett Myers to the bullpen. I appreciate the team player in Myers being able to look at the decision as a good thing for himself and the team (take notes John Lieber). Coincidentally enough, it is Lieber, who was not soft spoken about his move to the bullpen, who will be moved to the starting rotation. I'm not sure what to make of this. Myers definitely gives the bullpen some more reliable oomph, but I thought Myers was widely recognized as the top guy in the rotation. Sure, his last pair of outings weren't great, but if you're going to go into a season with a guy as your top arm, why even attempt to switch things up and move him to the bullpen. It's not exactly like we're talking about John Smoltz here. If nothing else, general manager Pat Gillick should see this as a desperate cry for bullpen help.

I mean, if he's not blinded by his hula shirts' bright colors in Toronto.

So, I started golf lessons last week and have completed two lessons thus far. I must say that already I have a much better appreciation for the game of golf. My instructor, a certified PGA coach nonetheless, has drilled me on my stance and extending my arms. During my second lesson I was much more consistent with making contact with the ball (something I was dreadful with my first lesson).

I'm by no means ready to go out on a course and play 18 holes of course, but I do find myself enjoying the progress I've made. I'm hooking a lot of balls off to my left right now, so I definitely need to work on extension and my follow through.

If anybody has any pointers, let me know!

Coming up in tomorrow's Blog post; the pre-draft Eagles game by game predictions!


Phillie of the Week

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Believe me, after this past week's worth of games it was somewhat difficult to make a selection for Phillie of the week. My early week pick of Cole Hamels fell apart with yesterday's performance against the Astros, in which he gave up five runs. So, despite what happened to him Monday night in Shea Stadium, Jimmy Rollins is the second Ramblings Player of the Week.

Sure, his critical error did lead to a Mets rally, turning a lead into a blowout loss along the way, but I credit the way he responded to the adversity the rest of the week. Rollins came right out and showed he wasn't going to let his one night performance hinder his ability to be a leader on the field. Like he has done many times before, he found a way to set the tone and attempt to spark his offense. A double into a triple and some home runs showed that he means business.

By week's end Rollins was leading the National League in home runs (how long do you think that will last though) and his average is now at .298. His strikeouts have dropped, although his walks are still not as high as you would like to see. He also notched at least one run in every game last week. Those are the kind of things you like to see out of your leadoff hitter.

I am really looking forward to this week of baseball as the Mets come to town come to town for two games and then the Phills go back on the road against the Nationals for two and a weekend series at the Reds. While I am frustrated to a high degree with the baseball club, I still realize there is a lot of baseball to play. A 5-2 stretch, including at least one win against the Mets, would make me feel better for sure. If they can pull that off before a stretch of home games to round out the month of April I think the tension surrounding the ball club will level off a little. Ryan Howard getting some hits a pair of strong showings by free agent pitcher Freddy Garcia could do a lot to pave that path.


Charlie Manuel About to Expire

Saturday, April 14, 2007

No, Manuel is not about to die, but his manager position is about too. I don't exactly have inside sources to cite or anything, but the Phillies are not doing anything to make me think otherwise.

The team was 2-8 heading into Saturday's game against the Houston Astros. After the series opener with the Astros, a game in which the Phills lost 9-6, Manuel was quoted to saying "If I knew would to do, I would definitely do it." If the manager doesn't know what to do, then how is he not fired?

I'm not even suggesting that firing Manuel would automatically make the Phillies NL Champs heading to the World Series, however a change is dangerously close to being overdue. Already the team is five games out of first place and it is not even Tax Day yet. The rumblings (not to be confused with this blog) are starting to point to why Chris Coste isn't with the team, the continuing stupid mental errors, the inefficient bullpen, the lack of run production with the bases loaded and more. A team leading the league in walks should not only have two wins.

What angered me the other night was the what Wes Helms said the other night after their 3-2 win over the New York Mets, a game in which Mets starter Oliver Perez had a line that two and two-thirds innings with seven walks. Helms stated that they really took advantage of the errors. Pardon me Mr. Helms, but how many hits did you guys get in all of those at bats with the bases loaded?

Zero. They didn't take advantage of anything, rather they were given a gift.

The game against the Astros is tied at 1 right now as I'm writing this and Cole Hamels is on the mound. Hamels has been the one constant bright spot in the roster so far in the early part of the schedule so we'll see if he can keep his stuff going to help his team.

Don't forget to check out my blog tomorrow when I announce the second Ramblings Phillie of the Week. A couple other things I'm going to get into detail about coming up include taking golf lessons and the Philadelphia Eagles schedule and the initial prediction (start thinking Arizona in February???).


When it Rains...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Flyers just finished off the absolute worst season in the franchise's history, scoring the fewest point total in the standings in the NHL by a landslide. So you would think the momentum would swing when they pick first in the NHL draft and start to regroup for a playoff run next year, right?

Wrong, thanks to the NHL draft. Having the second pick is still alright I suppose, it is just a matter what they do with it.

I don't know hockey prospects too well (does anybody?) but if I were the Flyers, my first inclination would be to get a speedy center with the ability to set up his wing men on the go who also possesses a powerful slap shot. My second thought would be to look over the goalie prospects out there and see if anyone would fit the mold of a franchise goalie for years to come (ala Ron Hextall). I get tired of seeing a revolving door of goalies every other year with this club. I haven't look it up, but I'm guessing the Flyers have had just about 20 different goalies in the time Martin Brodeur has been in net in the Meadowlands.

It would be nice to have one guy be the guy for once.

Side-note: Kudos to the NFL for suspending Adam "Pacman" Jones for the entire 2007 season. The league does not need problem guys polluting the headlines on their watch and it is about time they take a stand against thugs and punks like Jones.


Phillies-Mets recap

Monday, April 09, 2007

We all know by now the famous Jimmy Rollins quote form this spring. "We're the team to beat" (in the division). And we all know the joke going on now about how he was right and everybody is beating them. It is funny and it is frustrating all at the same time.

So when the Phillies rolled into Shea Stadium this afternoon for the Mets' home opener, you know those rude and smelly Mets fans were going to be ready for the Phillies' lead-off hitter. And you know they loved it when Rollins botched a ball in the 8th inning that let the Mets tie up the ball game at 5-5, and remain with one out. Six runs later the fans were chanting for Rollins in Shea and deservedly handing it to him. Now, I absolutely have no love for the Mets (or any New York team for that matter), but when the Mets blew open an 8-5 lead the Phillies broadcasters were saying that Billy Wagner would probably sit back down in the bullpen because it wasn't a save opportunity. That lead soon became 11-5 and going into the 9th the Mets still brought Wagner in. Part of me loved this move. The Mets were already pouring salt on the wounds of the Phillies and they brought their closer in to shut the door on Rollins' squad. Maybe it sends a message to the Phills that the Mets really are the team to beat in the NL East. If the Mets were trying to send a message to the Phills, then I applaud them for that. The Phillies need a message sent to them, because it's not coming from the clubhouse.

Today's game, form the parts that I saw, was just another one of the very irritating and frustrating games I have seen from the 2007 Phillies. Kudos to Ryan Howard for knocking his first home run of the season (a three run shot that gave the Phills a 5-3 lead). Hopefully that gets him going. Cole Hamels pitched yet another good game and definitely gave them a shot to win the game. His line shows six innings, two earned runs, six hits, three walks, seven strikeouts. Then the bullpen came in.

Three relief pitchers each pitched two thirds of an inning and gave up eight runs. I believe that is what lead to this quote by a Phillies fan on the Phillies' message board; " Next time Charlie comes to take Cole out of the game Cole should just kick him in the balls." I don't know if I could say it any better.

The team is now 1-6 and already four and a half games out of first. The fundamentals are nowhere to be found on this club either. This major league team is playing like a single A team, at best, when it comes to the fundamentals. I have to blame the managers. Not just Charlie Manuel, but the managers in the farm system too! These players are making mistakes that should be corrected on their way to the majors.

I had a conversation with my uncle, who loves the sport more than anyone I know of besides Joe O'Neil, and he told me the same things I have been thinking for a long time with the Phillies. You should never, in ANY situation, swing at the first pitch. He paraphrased something Lenny Dykstra said. Dykstra said that if you swing at the first pitch, you never get the opportunity to really watch the pitcher's release point or his entire motion. I have always thought that if you show you will swing at the first pitch, then the pitcher will always have the advantage over you. The pitcher so often will have the upper hand on you in every at bat because they will know you are a fool. Make the pitcher work the at bat. Make him throw a strike before you swing. If I were a manager I'd rip every one of my batters every time he swung at the first pitch.

And then there is the scary stat I heard on the radio before today's game. The Phillies, six games into the season, had left 51 batters on base and were 12-60 (.200) in those at bats. Fifty one! If they just got five hits in those at bats (which would be .283), they probably score at least six runs, right? Maybe then you win the two Braves games that go extra innings before it goes to extra innings! Then at least you are 3-3 heading into the Mets series. When, WHEN, will things change?

Perhaps Jimmy Rollins has the answer.


Phillie of the Week

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pat Burrell, right fielder, is my choice for Phillie of the Week, an honor I will try to bestow to someone each week of the season. Through the first four games of the season, Pat Burrell, in my eyes, has been one of the few bright spots. Hard to believe, no? The starting pitching from the likes of Brett Myers and Cole Hamels was stellar, but the bullpen washed away those gems en route to an 0-3 start at home. So when the Phillies traveled to Miami to take on the nemesis Marlins, it was Burrell who helped fuel the fire to get this team going.

(A quick disclaimer: This pick is being made before the game today against the Marlins and their pitcher Dontrelle Willis. I figured I probably wouldn't post on East Sunday so I wanted to make sure to get this post in while I had the chance today. So remember that just in case Burrell goes 0-4 with three strikeouts today against Willis.)

Burrell has done pretty well for himself in the five spot behind Utley, then Howard. He leads the team in runs batted in with five, and is second on the team in total bases (11) and on base percentage (.471). With a slugging percentage of .733 and a batting average of .400, you can possibly look past his five strikeouts (to be fair, is second highest on the team). It is Burrell who really came through on the first win of the season against the Marlins with some key at bats. Playing in a hitter's park like Dolphins Stadium always helps. And did you see the catch he made in the outfield? A diving catch is rare for him. I'm not saying it was Willie Mays over the back great, but his catch definitely helped his team in a clutch spot.

I said in my Phillies preview that Burrell is going to be the key player in this lineup. In the first week I believe that he has done alright for himself. The strikeouts definitely need to drop to no more than one a game though. But I haven't seen him giving his "Pat"-ented blank, defiant stare into space yet either.

So congratulations Burrell, you are the Ramblings Phillie of the Week!

Want to sponsor a Phillies of the week? One Phillie will be the Ramblings Phillie of the Week each Sunday of the season. Send me your pick with a description of why you picked them, and you'll get posted right here!

Unless of course, nobody writes in, then I'll continue picking them.

And if you're going to watch any Phillies game this weekend, Saturday's game is the one to watch. Brett Myers vs Dontrelle Willis. Could be the top pitching match up in the NL East. The Phills usually do pretty well against Willis too. They're not afraid of him. And you know Myers feels bad about blowing his game the other day. He can't wait to get out there. Should be a dandy.


100th Post

Monday, April 02, 2007

Can you believe this is my 100th post? I certainly can not. These short little bits sure add up over time. I noticed that my last post was my 99th, and figured that my 100th should be something special. Good thing for me that today just happens to mark a few significant events to write about! The NCAA basketball championship is being played tonight and Major League Baseball officially gets underway (forget the fact that the Mets and Cardinals played last night)! Does it get any better?

Let's start with the hoops, shall we?

I'm officially out of the running with my pool, which happened when UCLA was flustered by Florida once more. Florida and Ohio State for the national championship, only this time it is a legitimate, playoff oriented, no debates about it, national championship, unlike that facade of a championship these schools played for in January. Make no mistake about it, I don't like either program, but my disdain for DUH Ohio State State far outweighs my un-fondness (I know, not a word) for the Gators. I will therefore be rooting for Florida to become the first team ever to win back to back national championships with the same starting lineup. I love the fact that those kids all came back when some of them could have easily gone pro after last season, like the kids from North Carolina did a few years ago.

Ohio State has been finding ways to win this tournament without the huge presence of Greg Oden, and I commend them for that. But when they play Florida tonight, they will be going up against the deepest and most talented, and the biggest team they have faced yet. Don't forget, these teams played each other back in December in a #1 vs #2 match up in Gainesville and the Gators had no problem cracking the Buckeyes and exploiting them for what they are; pretenders riding the storyline of soon to be NBA top pick Greg Oden. When all is said and done tonight the Gators will etch their spot in history as one of the greatest teams while Ohio State will fall back to the sometimes power of the Big Ten as the guy who is the only reason Ohio State gets so much press is playing in the NBA. They may be a good team still, but nothing like a national champion caliber squad.

Florida wins against Ohio State...again...and I'll love it...again.

Now onto the Boys of Summer (with all due respect to Don Henley...or The Ataris for you emo kids who don't know your musical backgrounds).

Before spring training started I was so pumped for the Phillies and their prospects of making the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Ryan Howard comes in as the NL MVP, Freddy Garcia was supposed to bolster the pitching rotation, and Jon Lieber was supposed to be the guy to get traded in exchange for extra bullpen arm. Oh yeah, Pat Burrell was supposed to be in great shape.

Well, Howard struggled, Garcia is on the disabled list, Lieber is still here, and Burrell is still Burrell. Granted, you can't always take too much out of spring training results, but I always prefer to see some results as opposed to little or no results. There were some reasons to be optimistic though, and it begins with Brett Myers.

Myers has shown that he is ready to get going. He came into spring training in better shape than last year and his pitching has been very good. He is the #1 guy on this team and rightfully so. What happened to Myers in Boston last season was bad, but sometimes those kind of incidents can help in the long run. His wife is still behind him and Myers seems to have a new approach to his game and personality. He isn't as standoffish as he once was, and he seems to be the most motivated to help his team. Look for a 18 or 19 win season from this guy.

Chase Utley should not be forgotten about of course. He is the best second baseman in the National League. There, I said it. Howard may get the recognition for his power, but Utley is the guy who will lead this team to a championship run. If not this year, any year now. Utley is a threat to do just about anything at the plate and his fielding skills are not too shabby either. While Utley and Howard provide some threats at the plate, very few of the rest of the Phillies do.

Jimmy Rollins as a lead off man has yet to really please me, although he has shown signs of being more patient and getting better. He may be the best option on this team so I am ok with it for now. People love Shane Victorino. I do not. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy's energy and enthusiasm (I believe it is unrivaled on the club, except for maybe the Phanatic) but when Victorino comes to the plate, pitchers aren't exactly shaking in their cleats. The bottom half of the lineup has potential with Aaron Rowand and Wes Helms and such, but, to me, the Phillies season and chances of the post season berth so very much coveted, rests on the shoulders of Burrell.

This is the man who is slated to be in the dreaded five spot, behind Ryan Howard. If teams are going to give Howard the "Barry Bonds treatment" then it is up to Burrell to make them pay. There was a brief time in Burrell's earlier days that he could provide a deep threat, but ever since Jim Thome came through town Burrell's bat has had holes drilled in it or had super glue applied to his shoulders. He has been frustrating to watch for any Phillies fan who dreams of October ball. I'm not saying Burrell definitely will step it up this year, but I do have faith that he will provide some more punishment for the opposition after Howard trots down to first base.

Why? Meh, why not?

I have faith in the starting pitching but once the relievers come in I will be nervous, unless they can step it up like they did a few years ago. Trust me, the bullpen was indeed a strong point of this team. When Garcia and Lieber come back form injury Lieber will likely be placed in the bullpen, which would give me some more confidence.

So what do I think will happen with the team this year? I'm thinking about second place with a legitimate shot at the Wild Card. I think the Mets will start slow, but flex their muscle as the season goes, but all bets are off if Pedro Martinez (nobody seems to have mentioned his name this off season and spring training) misses another huge chunk of the season. The Phillies are notorious for starting off slow in April, and their first 40 games including a west coast trip aren't really all that favorable. Three off days if I'm not mistaken, which is not a lot for a team with two starting pitchers on the disabled list. Not to mention a number of games against the Mets, Braves, the nemesis Marlins and the pesky Nationals. Oh yeah, and those Astros roll into town early too.

So here is a glimpse at my predictions for the year:

NL East
1. Mets
2. Phillies (Wild Card)
3. Braves
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

NL West champs: Dodgers (no thanks to Mike Lieberthal though)
NL Central champs: Cardinals

AL East champs: Yankees
AL Central champs: Indians
AL West champs: Angels
AL Wild Card: Red Sox

NL Champ: Mets
AL Champ: Angels

World Series Champs: Angels

It pains me picking the Mets to go that far, just for the record.

And now some looking back.

When I started this blog I talked about the travesty of the NHL lockout canceling the entire season. A lot has changed since then my friends. The NHL is back and the game is better. But the results aren't exactly the most ideal. The numbers are still down and I still say the problems is overexposure. But I don't want to bash a game I am fond of right now, for this is a joyous post filled with happy thoughts (like TO having a bad pinky).

I want to thank anyone who has regularly checked the blog for updates, or saw an update announcement in my AIM profile, anyone who makes a point to read every post, and anyone who has ever commented on a post. The posts help me realize that people are reading or are interested. Actually I'd still be posting even without the comments (it's been a while since I got a post actually, not that I'm lonely and bitter about it)! But I love when somebody sees me and mentions a post in particular or encourages me to continue posting so they can read on. It really is a thrill for me. So the blog will continue as we begin to countdown to the 200th post! Feel free to send me your thoughts or ideas for a future conversation and thanks for checking out my blog!

Thank you all! Game on!


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