2) Oh right, Roy Halladay has been dependably great. At 11-3 with a 2.44 ERA, he seems to be cruising along toward another Cy Young award. He might even get to start another All-Star Game. But not if the Phillies coaching staff has anything to say about it. They are miffed about his possbily having to pitch two innings in a game, when they routinely trotted him about to complete games in May and June. If I were the guy running the National League squad, I would pitch him three innings just for their annoying hypocrisy and excessive griping.
3) I might have to eat some crow about Cole Hamels. I didn't like the guy. Didn't like his girly voice. Didn't like his perfectly groomed hair. Didn't like his griping about the team's need for a chiropractor on staff so he could have his solar plexus massaged after every start. Even NLCS and World Series MVP trophies did not convince me that the dude was for real. I thought he was soft as mashed potatoes actually. This year, he is 10-4 with a 2.40 ERA, and might be Halladay's chief competition for the Cy Young, along with Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens. If that is mashed-potatoes-soft, I'll take two helpings.
4) As for Cliff Lee, he has also been brilliant (9-6, 2.92 ERA, 128 strikeouts). He has been a little more prone to the blow-up inning than the other two guys, but that is OK because I really like how he runs off the field after every inning. And the way he swings the bat. And I like his stubble. Oh hell, I just have a serious man-crush on Cliff Lee. Call me, Cliff! We'll go out for pizza!
5) Hopefully, Roy Oswalt will not be on the team next year. He will probably be retired and landscaping in Mississippi or Arkansas or South Carolina or something, but if he does decide to come back let's make sure it isn't for the Phillies. The guy talks about baseball being his third or fourth priority, but he does make sure to collect that $16 million check on the first of every month. Hurray! Your family is your first priority. Join the club, jackarse. Just not our baseball club. Take your humanitarianism someplace else, or just hang 'em up and go storm-chasing below the Mason-Dixon full-time.
6) I like this Vance Worley. He's got swagger and, since he has participated in two consecutive 1-0 victories, obviously a decent amount of skill. Sure, his mouth got him in trouble when he talked shizz about the Phillies yanking him from the minor leagues to the rotation to the bullpen. The guy hasn't had enough success to expect a first-class ticket to Four Aces territory. But I would rather have a guy with some confidence in there than ol' five-innings-and-take-a-shower Joe Blanton any day of the week.
7) Jimmy Rollins has been on a bit of a tear as of late. He has hit 10 for his last 22, and his average is now up to a respectable .264. This being said, he is a free agent at the end of the year. So is the New York Mets' Jose Reyes. If you had an opportunity to pick up Reyes, who is having a career year, wouldn't you have to cut bait on the franchise's fifth in all-time hits? I would say "Yes".....but instead I will say "No," because Hamels is a free agent at the end of the year and you will need all your money to sign him. So let's hope that Wilson Valdez will be willing to start at shortstop for the salary of a ditch digger.
8) Charlie Manuel has helped bring this team some serious success, and for that we should all be appreciative. But he makes some curiously dumbarse moves. To wit: Last night, he takes Kyle Kendrick, who isn't Greg Maddux, I know, out of a game with 80 pitches thrown. The Phillies were leading 6-3. Who comes in after Kendrick? David Herndon, then Drew Carpenter. Why take out mediocre only to follow it up with pathetic and who-the-f*ck is this guy? The move made no sense. Manuel does a lot of that.
9) This team is in first place with a bullpen currently made up of guys named Drew Carpenter, David Herndon, Danny Baez, Juan Perez, and Scott Mathieson. It boggles the mind. These guys don't belong in the majors let alone on a World Series contender.
10) Meanwhile, Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes look absolutely electric out there. When Madson comes back, I will be absolutely confident allowing those two to handle the seventh and eighth innings. At that point, I guess you have to ask what you want to do with Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge. If it were me, I would keep Contreras, who is less likely to be upset with a non-essential bullpen role (if healthy). Showcase Lidge and hope someone in the American League will give you a righthanded bat for him.
11) John Mayberry Jr. cranked two dingers last night and he plays a very efficient outfield, which leads me to beg the question, "What the hell is Michael Martinez still doing on this team?" I know you can't send Martinez down to the minors without offering him back to the Washington Nationals, and he also plays multiple positions, which is key when you have banged-up old guys like Placido Polanco and Chase Utley in your infield, but the guy is hitting .182 with zero pop to speak of. I would drive his azz to Washington and take your chances with Valdez as the utility guy.
12) I have to admit that coming into this season I thought Ben Francisco was going to make us all forget about the Washington Nationals' amply bearded rightfielder. He just looks like a hitter up there. I saw him spraying doubles into the gap all season and helping to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup. But the guy can't hit a breaking ball. He is challenging Rollins and Shane Victorino for the title of most infield pop-ups. And he is quite simply a horrific fielder. The Francisco Experiment most likely ends at the conclusion of this season (if not sooner).
13) Speaking of leading the league, Raul Ibanez must be setting some kind of record for weak groundballs to second base. It's become sad to see the guy spinning his wheels for five seconds as the second baseman gloves the ball and throws him out by a mile. Last night, he grounds one up the middle. It's gloved by Omar Infante, who fails to get the ball out of his glove, then rotates and throws a grounder to first base...that beats Ibanez by a stride. I was shocked. But then I remembered that Ibanez is 80 years old.
14) Now for a little section about the TV coverage: I never used to get too upset about the broadcasters. I used to listen to people rail about Chris Wheeler and wonder what all the fuss was about. But it is getting difficult to listen to him night in and night out through the season. Example: Last night, Hanley Ramirez hits a single up the middle to tie the game. He raises his hands in exultation, being that, you know, the Marlins have won like five of their last 30 games. Wheeler reacts as if Ramirez pulled his pants down and told the pitcher to give him manual relief, saying he was "acting like they had won the World Series." If a Phillie had done the same thing, he would have lauded them for playing with passion. Give the guy a break. Examples of his homerism and kiss-ups to players and management abound. Tom McCarthy sucks too, but he is so boring and white-bread that I can't remember any of his ceaseless goofs.
15) Gary "Sarge" Matthews on the other hand is quite enjoyable. Then again, he will always have a place in my heart for the greatness of this play-by-play.
16) I really wish New York Life would cease being an advertiser. "Safe at Second. Safe and Secure with...SHUT THE F*CK UP!"
17) I would also appreciate it if Comcast Sportsnet would stop using that bat on ball/crowd reaction sound effect every time they come back from commercial. Every time I hear it, I think someone hit a home run, only to look and see someone digging into the batter's box. They could also stop employing any former player with a pulse to work their pre-game show. Get some standards, guys! Chris Coste is an absolute horror show.
18) That dude from the Herr's Chips commercial has to have the most annoying voice of all time. How the hell does "chips" become "chipshhhhhhhhhh?"
19) Also W.B. Mason. Have these guys yet to make a commercial that doesn't rank as a top-of-the-line fail?
20) The Citizens Bank commercials with Alexander Hamilton and the forefathers on the other hand are consistently enjoyable. I crack up every time I see the one where they talk to the guy about the glories of home ownership just to find out that he lives at home with his parents. The latest one however was a bit of a bust though because they give away the punchline before it happens. They say he should have jimmies with his sushi, they show him walk away, and then he comes back with the jimmies. Thud. Poor writing and directing there. It's OK. I have high hopes for subsequent editions of these spots.
21) Back to the field: Last night, Dominic Brown a) butchered a ball in right field, allowing two runs to score, b) failed to go hard after a liner into right field, allowing a guy to extend a single into a double, and c) missed the bag as he was rounding second base on his way to a triple (McCarthy, company man that he is, pretended that it was clear that he hit the bag when it was pretty obvious that he missed it). How long does his audition last before he is included in a deal for a strong righthanded bat and an All-Star bullpen man? I say he gets the rest of this year and most of next to prove that he has what it takes to star in the big leagues, and then all bets are off.
22) Does Ross Gload do enough as a pinch hitter to merit a spot on the team? I mean, is he even able to play a position in the field? It isn't like he is Big Papi. Get rid of him at the end of the year and he can spit chewing tobacco on somebody else's bench.
23) As a person who watches pretty much every game this team plays, I find it hard to believe that anyone can consider Shane Victorino an All-Star. He is a terrific center fielder, but he consistently registers stupid at-bats. He's a tiny guy who consistently swings for the fences and couldn't put down a bunt to save his life. I know; he's hitting .300, he has nine triples, and he is leading the team in slugging percentage. But I would lose him in a heartbeat for the right deal.
24) Also, this Victor/Victorino thing the Phillies are doing to try and get Victorino to get the last spot on the National League All-Star team is kind of lame. First of all, their management will whine if he does make it, saying that he shouldn't play with a sprained thumb, and second, the marketing ploy, asking fans to vote for both Victorino and Detroit Tigers star Victor Martinez, is based on a movie that was made in 1981. Maybe a lot of Phillies fans watched the movie because Mary Poppins shows her breasts?
25) And then you have Ryan Howard, who somehow isn't an All-Star? He leads the league in RBIs, has racked up a ton of big hits all without the benefit of a serviceable five man in the lineup, and he has been playing a noticeably better first base. I guess that is what happens when you share a position with Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Gaby Sanchez...
26) You know, if I were not a gigantic Phillies fan, I would totally hate this team. You've got the coaches that whine about their players participating in the All-Star game because it might hurt our chances in the stretch run...
27) You've got the management who lies about injuries on a consistent basis and generally treats the fans like pariahs despite the fact that they fill the stadium on a daily basis. Think about it. First, Chase Utley had some slight knee pain, then it turned out he was going to miss a couple months. Then Brad Lidge was going to miss a month, then he was out until after the All-Star break. At this point, it is impossible to believe anything Ruben Amaro has to say. Is Placido Polanco suffering a little back pain, or does he have spinabifida? Did Victorino sprain his thumb on a recent fall in Toronto, or is the thing going to be amputated? I guess only time will tell...
28) And then you have the fans (like me), who consistently whine every time the team goes through a dry spell at the plate, or want to trade Cliff Lee because he is only recording a 3.50 ERA, or second-guess the management for letting Jayson Werth walk even though he is hitting .218. I wish these folks would take a breath and realize that the team is in first place, they are going to go to the playoffs, and maybe they should remember that the organization used to be a perennial also-ran who played their games in a concrete mausoleum. In other words, these people need to chill the F out. The bats are going to go to sleep. An ace might have a bad start. They might lose two games in a row. Still, would you trade this roster for any team in the National League?
29) The Phillies are now 3 games in front of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the national League East. They have a three-game series with Chipper's team coming up this weekend. The lead will be 2.5 or 3.5 games based on the results of the Braves game tonight against the Colorado Rockies. With Halladay, Lee, and Hamels going for the Phillies in the Braves series, I predict their lead going into the All-Star break will be either 5.5 or 6.5 games. The Braves are very good. But that trio of pitchers are very nasty. They sweep this series and go into the break on a serious high.
30) I still predict that the Phillies will be celebrating a World Series victory at the end of October. And that Philadelphia's fans will then take two months off before talking about why the team will be so horrible in 2012.