Friday, July 31, 2009

As Trade Deadline passes, Phillies come out winners

As the MLB Trade Deadline came and went today at 4 pm, one thing was for certain: the Phillies were the big winners. Their acquisition of Cliff Lee on Wednesday set the bar that the rest of the National League tried to get to, but none did. The Phillies got the best pitcher of any team at the deadline, and arguably the best player, setting themselves up nicely for a return trip to the World Series.

Let's take a quick look at what other National League contenders did at the deadline:

NL East:
Braves: Acquired Adam LaRoche from the Red Sox for Casey Kotchman
A peculiar trade that isn't much of an upgrade for Atlanta. LaRoche is the slightly better hitter, but this move doesn't really make the Braves any more of a threat.

Marlins: Acquired Nick Johnson from the Nationals for Aaron Thompson
Johnson is a patient hitter, something the Marlins definitely need (see every Jamie Moyer start against the Fish). Not sure what this does to Jorge Cantu, but not a bad move for the Marlins. Not earth-shattering, but not bad.

NL Central:
Cubs: Acquired John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from the Pirates for prospects

This move shores up the shaky Cubs bullpen, but how much can you trust anyone from the Pirates?

Cardinals: Acquired Matt Holliday from the Athletics for prospects
Like the Phillies, the Cardinals didn't make a move on deadline day, choosing to strike early and sit out the frenzy. Holliday gives them a dangerous lineup, especially when added with their other recent acquisitions of Julio Lugo and Mark DeRosa. Still, the Cardinals are a few pitchers short of being a complete team.

Brewers: Acquired Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers for Vinny Rottino
A minor move for some deep bullpen help.

NL West:
Dodgers: Acquired George Sherrill from the Orioles for prospects
This might be the 3rd best trade by any NL contender after the Lee and Holliday deals. Sherrill was a solid closer for the Orioles and slots in nicely as a setup man for the Dodgers. The Dodgers had several other talks to acquire big-name players, but they failed to get Roy Halladay or Adrian Gonzalez.

Giants: Acquired Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates and Ryan Garko from the Indians for prospects
The Giants offense is terrible, so they made two moves to upgrade it to mediocre. The Giants pitching will be dangerous if they make the playoffs, but there is still no reason to worry about them scoring any runs.

Rockies: Acquired Joe Beimel from the Nationals for prospects
Nice under the radar move by the Rockies. Biemel is a good situational lefty who could give the Phillies lefties some fits.

As you can see, no National League team made any moves that make them significantly better. The Cardinals probably did the most to upgrade their team, but, as we saw in their most recent series in Philadelphia, they still lack the pitching to compete with the Phillies. Probably the biggest moves that should worry the Phillies came in the American League, where the Red Sox were able to land Victor Martinez, a bat that greatly upgrades their offense. That move makes it even more likely that we will see a Red Sox/Phillies World Series this year. With Cliff Lee, the best pitcher traded this year, on the mound for the Phillies, I like the chances of a WFC repeat.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Flyers officially sign Tollefsen, goodbye Randy Jones?

As expected, the Flyers have signed defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. Tollefsen was in Philly a few days ago getting examined by the Flyers training staff, and as long as he checked out, the team was going to sign him. He signed a one year deal with the Flyers, but his salary has not been announced. Tollefsen made $675,000 with the Blue Jackets last season, so I would expect a number in that range.

The signing of Tollefsen likely means the end of Randy Jones as a Flyer. Jones is set to make 2.75 million next season, so moving him and allowing Tollefsen to be the 6th defenseman could free up 2 million bucks for the Flyers to sign another forward. Hockeybuzz has been hinting that the Kings are interested in Jones, so look for that move to come soon. There also have been several rumors out there about who the Flyers might add at forward, from Petr Sykora to Miro Satan to Todd Bertuzzi, none of whom impress me too much.

Tollefsen may not be much of an upgrade over Jones, but he will bring a ton of energy and give the Flyers another player no wants to find themselves alone with along the boards. The fact that the Flyers were able to get him rather cheaply and can now pursue another forward makes it look even better. With the moves the Flyers have made this offseason, they are quickly becoming a team that no one will want to play against. This will be a team that all Flyer fans will love but everyone else is going to hate.

UPDATE: Tollefsen signed for 600,000, good deal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Done Deal: the Phillies acquire Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco

The Phillies got themselves the rotation help they needed. Cliff Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner, was acquired from the Indians, along with outfielder Ben Francisco, for pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson.

Ever since Brett Myers went down, the Phillies needed someone to help them at the top of the rotation. While the Phillies would have loved to get Roy Halladay, when the price was determined to be too steep, the Phillies went to Plan B, getting a pitcher that wasn't quite at Halladay's level, but was still a top pitcher in the game. Cliff Lee immediately shores up the top of the Phillies rotation, giving them a great one-two punch with Cole Hamels.

To make the deal even better, the Indians threw in the right handed bench bat that the Phillies have been wanting, Ben Francisco. Francisco will be a nice piece off the bench, and his acquisition likely means John Mayberry is headed back the Triple A, where he belongs.

The Phillies did have to give up four prospects, but none figures to be a major loss. Carrasco was supposed to be an untouchable pitcher for the Phillies the last few years, but he has struggled mightily this season, posting an ERA over 5 in Triple A. Carrasco will probably turn out to be a decent back of the rotation starter in the majors, nothing more.

Donald was a solid minor leaguer with plenty of upside, unfortunately, his best two positions were second and short, two spots that are filled for the foreseeable future by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Having no position to play made Donald expendable.

Losing Marson and Knapp are the two bigger blows to the Phillies. Marson figured to be their catcher of the future, on course to be a backup to Carlos Ruiz next year and be a starter in the coming seasons. Knapp also has tremendous potential, but he is still very young and only in Single A, so who knows what the future will hold for him. You have to give up something good to get something good, so the Phillies rightfully parted with these two.

In all, an excellent move by the Phillies. They get their top of the rotation starter without having to give up J.A. Happ or Kyle Drabek, two players that the Blue Jays demanded in return for Roy Halladay. In addition, the Phillies didn't even have to give up their best two outfield prospects in Michael Taylor and Dominic Brown, so Ruben Amaro comes out looking great in this deal. Adding Lee to this team gives them a rotation of Hamels, Lee, Joe Blanton, Happ and Jamie Moyer, with Pedro Martinez waiting in the wings, although I wouldn't count on him contributing at all for the Phillies. While some may be disappointed with not getting Roy Halladay, you have to be happy that the Phillies got a great pitcher without mortgaging away their future. This move doesn't guarantee a return to the World Series for the Phillies, but it sure makes it much more likely.

Phillies close to "settling" for Cliff Lee

Roy Halladay is an excellent pitcher, one of the best in the game, and the Phillies were thought to have a great chance to acquire him. Unfortunately, as talks went on between the Blue Jays and Phillies, it became more and more apparent that the Jays wanted more than the Phillies were willing to give up to get Halladay. So, instead of hoping the price would drop, the Phillies began looking at other options. How about acquiring the 2008 Cy Young award winner instead?

Cliff Lee, who the Phillies saw as Plan B if they couldn't get Halladay, appears to be on the verge of being traded to Philadelphia. Reports vary on what the Phillies will give up in return, but it will take a package that includes some or all of the following players: Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Michael Taylor. Notice that the list does not include Kyle Drabek or J.A. Happ, two players the Blue Jays demanded that the Phillies were adamant that they didn't want to give up.

For that price, Lee is an absolute steal when compared to Halladay. If the Phillies were to get Halladay for Happ or Drabek, or both, they would be greatly compromising their future for a great shot at winning now. Instead, the Phillies jumped on the chance to get Lee, who still gives them a solid shot at winning a title, and gave up players that were going to have little impact on the team in the next few seasons.

Yes, there is a drop-off from Halladay to Lee, but the Phillies are smart to get a great pitcher without having to give up the farm. Lee hasn't been quite as dominant this season as he was in his career year in 2008, but he has still posted a 7-9 record with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. That ERA would place him second on the team, slightly behind Happ.

I'll post more later on the deal if/when it goes down. Losing out on Halladay and getting Lee might disappoint Phillies fans, but once they get over it, they will understand what the front office is thinking. Instead of mortgaging the next few years for a great shot at winning it all, why not risk very little for a slightly less great shot at winning? Cliff Lee would be a solid addition to a Phillies rotation that is shaping up to be the best in the NL.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jim Johnson has passed away

According to Brian Seltzer of ESPN950 and multiple other sources, former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has passed away. Johnson had taken a turn for the worse in the last few days and he finally lost his battle with cancer today. Johnson was 68 years old.

Another sad day in Philadelphia sports history. We've lost yet another great man. Our prayers and condolences go out to his family.

PhiladelphiaEagles.com has a nice statement up about Johnson.

Jim Johnson close to death?

After the joy of 2008, 2009 might turn into the saddest year ever for Philadelphia sports fans. First, the beloved Harry Kalas passed away. Now, it appears that former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has taken a turn for the worse in his battle with cancer and is fighting to stay alive.

According to J.P. Sartre of the DelCo Daily Times, Johnson's battle with melanoma is "coming to a sad conclusion". Johnson, who is 68 years old, was recently replaced by Sean McDermott at coordinator after being with the Eagles for 10 years. Let's hope that the best defensive coordinator in the business has one last blitz on cancer left in him.

Brian Seltzer of ESPN950 has also reported that the situation with Johnson is "very grave".

Monday, July 27, 2009

Projecting the 2009 Eagles 53 man roster, Ver. 1.0

With Training Camp getting under way shortly, it's time to start taking a look at how the Eagles roster will shape up. This post is my first attempt at predicting what the Eagles 53 man roster will look like for the first game of the season, and I will update it every week or so right up until the Eagles make their final cuts. Below the roster list I have also listed several players who are on the bubble and I gave reasons why they might not make the final roster. Feel free to help me out, as this is my first pass at predicting the roster this season, let me know if I'm leaving anyone off or if you agree or disagree with my choices.

Offense:
QB(3): Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, A.J. Feeley

RB(3): Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Lorenzo Booker

FB (1): Leonard Weaver

WR(6): DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, Reggie Brown, Jeremy Maclin, Hank Baskett

TE(3): Brent Celek, Matt Schobel, Cornelius Ingram

LT(2): Jason Peters, King Dunlap

LG(2): Todd Herremans, Max Jean-Gilles

C(2): Jamaal Jackson, Nick Cole

RG(2): Stacy Andrews, Mike McGlynn

RT(2): Shawn Andrews, Winston Justice

Defense:
DE(6): Juqua Parker, Trent Cole, Victor Abiamiri, Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Bryan Smith

DT(4): Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Trevor Laws, Dan Klecko

LB(5): Chris Gocong, Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, Joe Mays

CB(5): Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Joselio Hanson, Ellis Hobbs, Jack Ikegwuonu

FS(2): Quintin Demps, Rashad Baker

SS(2): Quintin Mikell, Sean Jones

Special Teams:
K(1): David Akers

P(1): Sav Rocca

LS(1): Jon Dorenbos

Possible to start the season on the injured list: Victor Abiamiri, Brian Westbrook
Both players aren't expected to be practicing with the team until mid-August. You can bet on Westbrook answering the bell when the season starts, but Abiamiri is injured so often that there is always a chance he misses time

Most likely to get cut/traded: Sheldon Brown, Reggie Brown
If he holds out, which he probably won't, or decides to be a headache, then the Eagles might entertain the idea of trading Sheldon. As of right now, that looks doubtful. Reggie Brown will probably make the team, but he is definitely low man amongst the 6 wideouts.

Players on the bubble:
FB: Kyle Eckel
There is no way that Eckel will beat out Weaver for the starting fullback spot, so it will be up to him to prove that he can be a valuable special teams contributor. Keeping two fullbacks is a waste of a roster spot, though, so Eckel might need to prove his worth at runningback.

WR: Brandon Gibson, Shaheer McBride
A numbers game will keep these two off the roster because there is no way the Eagles keep 7 recievers. Both are likely headed for the practice squad.

OL: Mike Gibson, Fenuki Tupou, Chris Patrick, Paul Fanaika
Not enough room to keep more than one backup at each offensive line position. I am interested to see how Gibson does this training camp, however. He was on injured reserve all last season and could beat out Mike McGlynn if he has a good camp. Tupou and Fanaika were both picked up in the draft, but the Eagles are too loaded to keep either one. Tupou has the better shot and would be great on the practice squad.

DL: Jervonte Jackson
Jamaal's brother is just a training camp body, nothing more.

LB: Tank Daniels, Moise Fokou
Tank is always valuable as a special teams guy, so he could earn a spot on the roster. Fokou was the last of the Eagles draft picks in the 7th round but figures to be a longshot at best.

DB: Macho Harris, Dmitri Patterson, Trae Williams, Byron Parker
Harris is a tough one to leave off the roster, the Eagles will surely try to put him on the practice squad, but he just misses the team because Ikegwuonu is healthy and acquitted of all charges. If the Eagles trade Sheldon Brown or someone gets hurt, Harris should make the team easily, although he could also beat out Rashad Baker if the two are close to even. Patterson also has a shot, since he spent the end of last season with the team, but it's going to be hard to budge any of the other DB's out of a spot.

That's the team as I see it. Did I leave anyone off? Who needs to be cut? Discuss in the comments section.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flyers to sign defenseman Tollefsen

The Flyers number one goal this offseason must have been to become a team that no one wants to play against. First, they added the big and bruising Chris Pronger, who will smash anyone that comes close to him. Then, the Flyers added Ian Laperriere, a pesky player who gets under the skin of any opponent. Now the Flyers are set to add another player with a ton of heart and character, free agent defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. According to Anthony SanFillipo, the Flyers will sign Tollefsen if he passes a physical.

Tollefsen, who is only 25, has spent the last four seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing in 145 games and amassing 10 points and 273 penalty minutes. He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, hence the need by the Flyers for him to pass a physical, but when he plays he is all grit and is willing to drop the gloves when necessary.

The signing of Tollefsen is a shrewd move for the Flyers. Tollefsen is not an AHL player and he is good enough to be a Top 6 defenseman in the NHL, meaning that the Flyers now have an extra d-man. SanFillipo speculates that this signing could mean the end of Randy Jones in a Flyers uniform, a move that would free up some money. If the Flyers sign Tollefsen to a contract worth about a million bucks a year and get rid of Jones, who makes 2.75 million, that frees up 1.75 million for the Flyers to use on another forward, presumably the rumored Petr Sykora or Miro Satan signings.

If Tollefsen is healthy, this is a solid move for the Flyers. Not only do they add some more grit to their blueline, they could also be freeing up some money to get themselves another forward. I had my doubts about Paul Holmgren after some questionable decisions this offseason, but after this move the Flyers roster is shaping up very nicely.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Condrey back to the DL, Kendrick, Register called up

Maybe the Phillies need to stop looking at starting pitching and start looking for bullpen help. Two days after the team placed J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin on the disabled list, the Phillies announced that they have added another bullpen piece to the DL: Clay Condrey. Condrey seemingly just came off the DL, but apparently his oblique strain is acting up again.

With the team up 5.5 games in the division, I still believe that now is a great time for the Phillies to rest their arms. If these injuries keep piling up, however, the Phillies will seriously have to look at adding an arm or two to a bullpen that is suddenly filled with very few pitchers that can be trusted.

To replace Condrey, the Phillies called up Steven Register from Lehigh. Register, who was claimed off waivers from the Rockies back in May, has very little major league experience, pitching in 10 games for Colorado last season. There can't be too much expected from him.

The Phillies also made one other move today, calling up Kyle Kendrick and sending Andrew Carpenter back to the minors. Not a very exciting move, since both bring about the same tools to the table, but perhaps the Phils wanted a fresh arm or someone with more MLB experience.

Once again, here are the latest bullpen roles for the team. There are definitely several guys in slots that are above their heads. Seeing Tyler Walker in a 7th inning role is frightening, the Phillies would be smart to look at Chan Ho Park in that spot.

Long relief:

Chan Ho Park
Kyle Kendrick

Situational Lefty:
Scott Eyre

6th inning:
Steven Register

7th inning:
Tyler Walker

8th inning:
Ryan Madson

Closer:
Brad Lidge

Is J.A. Happ the next Kyle Kendrick?

I hope the Toronto Blue Jays front office doesn't read this....

J.A. Happ is having a phenomenal rookie year. His record is currently 7-1 and has a 2.97 ERA and has been a pleasant surprise as he holds up the back of the Phillies rotation. There has been much debate amongst Phillies fans, however, as to whether Happ should be part of a trade that would bring Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. Many Phillie fans don't want to give up the rookie pitcher while others would be willing to pack his bags for him. As for myself, I just want to caution Phillies fans to not get too far ahead of themselves before they christen Happ as the next Cy Young. Rookie pitchers have a way of taking the league by suprise in their first season and then fizzling out, just think back to the last time Phillies fans were this excited about a rookie pitcher.

Kyle Kendrick burst on the scene back in 2007, rolling up a record of 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA down the stretch as he helped the Phillies get to the playoffs. By all accounts, Kendrick was going to lock down the number 3 spot in the Phillies rotation for years to come. Well, I don't have to tell you how that turned out: the league caught up to Kendrick in 2008 and he has since washed out in the minors.

So, why the cautionary tale about J.A. Happ? Let's take a closer look at his numbers. In three starts this season against what I would call "good" teams, the Cardinals, Red Sox and Yankees, Happ has been pretty bad, going 17 and 2/3rds innings and giving up 12 earned runs on 21 hits and 6 walks. That's an ERA of 6.11, and a record of 0-1. It's safe to say that Happ hasn't performed well against good competition. Then, when you look at the rest of his starts and notice that he has faced the Marlins, Pirates, Reds, Braves, Blue Jays, Orioles, Mets, Padres and Nationals, and you can begin to see that Happ was able to pad his stats against weaker competition. Of those teams, I would classify 5 as terrible and 4 as mediocre. It's pretty easy to look good against that kind of competition.

I do like J.A. Happ and if the Phillies find a way to keep him and still get Roy Halladay, that would be great. I just find it crazy that anyone would think he was an untouchable pitcher who is going to be a star for the next decade. The best possible future for Happ is likely as a 3rd starter on a decent team and a 4th starter on a good team. I think, and hope, his career turns out better than Kyle Kendrick's, but Phillies fans have to know: a half season of good pitching does not make you a great pitcher. A decade of good pitching does, and that's the resume Roy Halladay brings to the table.

Please don't forward this post to anyone from Toronto.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Point-less: Andre Miller bolts to Portland

West Coast here he comes. After the Sixers pulled their offer off the table, the obvious became fact: Andre Miller wasn't coming back to Philly. The veteran point guard wanted a multi-year deal, something the Sixers weren't willing to give him, and he made it clear he wanted to go back West and leave Philly in the dust. Miller got his wish today, signing a two or three year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers worth somewhere between 6 and 8 million dollars. Despite all the rumors of possible sign-and-trade deals for Miller, the Sixers will get nothing in return. The Blazers were far enough below the salary cap that they didn't have to move anyone.

Miller's story is much like the recently departed Flyer Martin Biron, he was a solid player that the team really liked, but he wasn't worth the money or the years that he wanted. Miller was a great veteran presence who will be sorely missed by the Sixers, who now face an immediate future of Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday at point guard. It will be interesting to see if the Sixers will be able to function as well offensively without a heady point guard like Miller running the show.

By all accounts, it's a pretty good signing for the Blazers, a solid team that isn't quite elite. They may not win a championship with Miller, but he's certainly an upgrade over Steve Blake. For the second time this week, the city of Philly loses a good guy and a good teammate. The Flyers at least had a plan for how to replace Biron, I'm less confident that the Sixers have any idea what they are doing.

New Poll: Do you think Ed Stefanski is doing a good job as Sixers GM? Vote in the poll to the left!

Sean McDermott is the new Eagles Defensive Coordinator

This move is hardly shocking, but that doesn't make it any less depressing. The Eagles have announced that Sean McDermott will be their new Defensive Coordinator, replacing Jim Johnson, who is currently battling cancer. While McDermott has worked under Johnson since 2001 and the Eagles defense shouldn't change much, it's still a tough loss for the Eagles to be losing one of the best coordinators in the game. When he gets healthy, Johnson will likely always have a job with the Eagles, but since he is 68 years old, there is no guarantee he will be back on the sidelines ever again.

While we are sad to see Johnson step down, McDermott is the perfect replacement. He has coached the Eagles secondary and linebackers off and on for nearly a decade and knows all about the Eagles attacking defense. I wouldn't expect any drop off at all in the play of the defense.

More importantly, I wish Jim Johnson well. Get healthy soon and get back to drawing up some crazy blitzes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do the Sixers know the offseason has started?

Someone wake up Ed Stefanski, I'm afraid he's napping through the offseason. The Sixers, coming off a .500 season and a few good playoff games, seem to have forgotten that now is the time to improve their team. Now, I know that the Sixers are hampered by the huge contracts they gave out last summer to Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, but if this team wants to improve on their medicority of the past few seasons they need to actually get some better players.

So far this offseason, the Sixers have made two additions to the team: Jrue Holiday and Jason Kapono. Also, you can add in a new coach in Eddie Jordan and the changing of their logo. As for losses, the Sixers will be without starting point guard Andre Miller and role players Theo Ratliff, Donyell Marshall, Royal Ivey and Kareem Rush. That's a lot of veteran players going, and not a whole lot coming to Philly.

So, what's the deal Stefanski? Letting Miller go was probably inevitable, he wanted more money and more years than he probably deserved. But what's the plan at point guard now? The only two players on the roster that can play point are Lou Williams and Holiday, neither of whom are ready to be the consistent presence you need running an offense. If the Sixers have no other plans to bring in a point guard this offseason, then why draft someone who is two years away from being a solid NBA contributor?

Like I said, I understand that the Sixers are loaded up with big contracts, making adding quality players difficult. Still, outside of the longshot possibility that they manage to pull of a sign and trade with Andre Miller, the Sixers might already be done maneuvering this offseason. Yes, the addition of Jason Kapono will give the team a three point threat, something they lacked last season, but is the team truly better today than it was at the end of last season?

Listed below is the Sixers current roster. I would say, besides a point guard, the Sixers also need to add another big man to the mix. This team is also loaded with too many quasi-shooting guard/small forwards.

Guards:
Jrue Holiday
Andre Iguodala
Willie Green
Lou Williams

Forwards:
Elton Brand
Thaddeus Young
Jason Kapono
Marreese Speights
Jason Smith

Centers:
Samuel Dalembert

There is still time for the Sixers to wake up and do something to upgrade their roster. It may take a trade, but it's time for Stefanski to get creative and get something done before this offseason is over, or it could be another long, mediocrity-filled season for the Sixers.

Click here to see How they were built: Sixers, a complete listing of salaries and how each Sixer was acquired.

There goes the bullpen: Romero, Durbin to the DL

The bullpen has repeatedly been taxed all season long, going multiple innings after one Phillies starter after another has a short outing. That heavy workload has already forced Clay Condrey, Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge to be out for parts of the season, and now two more Phillies will spend some time on the DL.

J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin have both been placed on the 15 day disabled list. Romero hasn't pitched since July 19th, so he could be placed retroactive to that date, while Durbin pitched yesterday. Officially, Romero is out with a left forearm strain and Durbin has a right lat strain, but both pitchers are likely dealing with tired arms. With the Phillies up 6 games in the NL East and cruising, it's the right time to give the bullpen arms a rest. Losing each stretches the bullpen thinner, especially with Durbin's versatility and Romero's left-handedness, but if there was a time to rest the bullpen, it's now.

Called up in their places were Tyler Walker and Andrew Carpenter. Walker was just recently sent down to Lehigh and Carpenter was up early in the year and made a start against the Nationals.

The Phillies bullpen has been taxed all season long, so all of these injuries aren't surprising. The starting pitchers need to pitch their way deeper into games, or this 'pen could be completely worn out come playoff time. Of course, the acquisition of Roy Halladay, an innings eater, would be perfect. The strained bullpen also makes the signing of Pedro Martinez, a 5 inning guy, look puzzling.

As I like to do from time to time, I have updated the Phillies bullpen roles. These are just my best guess at what the roles will be for the bullpen pieces, although things like using Brad Lidge in a game where you have a 3 run deficit can still happen.

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park
Andrew Carpenter

Situational Lefty:
Scott Eyre

6th inning:
Tyler Walker

7th inning:
Clay Condrey

8th inning:
Ryan Madson

Closer:
Brad Lidge

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So long, Marty: Biron signs with the Islanders

From the day the Flyers signed Ray Emery, we knew this day would come. Martin Biron, who spent two and a half years as the Flyers top goaltender, has signed with the New York Islanders. Biron was a victim of the Flyers running out of salary cap space and needing to find cheap alternatives in net. He signed a one year deal with the Islanders for 1.4 million.

Biron, who was originally acquired by the Flyers at the 2007 trade deadline for a second round pick, was an above average goaltender for the Flyers but lacked consistency. He will always be remembered for standing on his head as he led the Flyers deep into the 2008 playoffs.

He will now head to the Islanders, a team that will frequently play the Flyers, but his role there is unknown. The Islanders number one goaltender is the oft-injured Rick DiPietro and they recently signed Dwayne Roloson to be his backup, so, barring further injuries to DiPietro, Biron could be looking at very little playing time. It's safe to say this was likely his only contract offer, because he didn't take much money and it's hardly a great situation to be in.

Regardless of what happens to Marty with the Isles, I wish him the best of luck. He was always a great guy and played well in pressure situations. We will all miss the "Marty!" chants.

Phillies vs. Cubs Live Game Blog

A little day game action, a little Live Blog Action. Join us at 1:00 today for the Phillies/Cubs Live Game Blog!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flyers sign trio of low-cost forwards

In their search to add cheap talent, the Flyers have added three more forwards to the mix, signing Jason Ward, Krys Kolanos and Lukas Kaspar. None of the three are worth getting too excited about as they will likely spend a lot of time with the Phantoms, but each could get some time with the Flyers.

Ward is the most accomplished of the three players and therefore could spend the most time with the big club. Ward, formerly with the Lightning, Kings, Rangers and Canadiens, mostly played in the AHL last season but has played in 336 NHL games, putting up 36 goals and 45 assists. He signed a one year deal worth 500,000.

Kolanos was the 19th overall pick in the 2000 Draft, but never quite reached his potential in several seasons with the Coyotes, Oilers, Flames and Wild. In 136 NHL games, Kolanos has put up 20 goals and 21 assists. He had an excellent season in the AHL last year, notching 51 points in 41 games. He also signed a one year deal worth 500,000.

The most exciting of the three signed players is Kaspar. At almost 24 years old, Kaspar has spent the last few seasons with the Sharks, bouncing from the AHL to the NHL. He is also a former top pick, selected 22 overall in the 2004 draft, and moves well for a big guy. In 16 career NHL games, he has 2 goals and 2 assists.

None of these signings are worth getting too excited about, but this is about all the Flyers can do as they are right up against the cap. The signing of players like this and Mike Pyorala are to ensure that the Flyers have depth should injuries occur. Of course, should any surprise in camp, there will likely be a 4th line job open to them.

Phillies Rumor Update: Halladay talks, Cliff Lee an option

With 10 days to go until the Trade Deadline, things are starting to heat up for the Phillies in their search for a starting pitcher. While many are beginning to feel that the Phillies don't need to get another starting pitcher because of their huge division lead, the team knows that they need another pitcher to put into their playoff rotation. A staff of Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez is good, but shaky, in the playoffs.

The biggest name being thrown about is Roy Halladay, with all indications being that the Phillies are the favorites to land the Blue Jays ace. The Phillies would likely have to give up a package of three or four prospects to get Halladay, but word has come out today that they aren't willing to give up their best prospect, pitcher Kyle Drabek. According to Jon Heyman of SI, the Phillies have informed Toronto that they will not include Drabek in a deal to get Halladay, essentially making him untouchable. While this could kill any deal with the Blue Jays, it does show that the Phils are playing hardball with the Jays, who may not have any other teams making serious offers. The best package Toronto will likely get from the Phillies now is Michael Taylor, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and another prospect or possibly J.A. Happ. This may lead the Blue Jays to decide not to trade Halladay and wait until next season.

As a precaution if they don't get Halladay, the Phillies are starting to seek out other options. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies have also looked into getting Cliff Lee from the Indians. While I wouldn't be happy with a rotation that featured 4 lefties (Hamels, Lee, Moyer, Happ), Lee could be acquired for much less and he is nearly as good as Halladay. Lee also has another year on his contract and is set to earn 11 million next year, not a bad value for a top of the rotation guy. And, with Lee, you know the Phillies wouldn't even have to consider giving up Drabek, although the Indians could demand J.A. Happ, someone I'm sure the Phils are trying to hold onto.

With the deadline approaching, the Phillies will continue to work the phones to try and get a deal done. With so many quality prospects in their system, it seems pretty likely that the Phillies should be able to get a deal done, whether it's for Halladay or Lee or another top pitcher. Should that happen, I think it would be safe to say that a return trip to the World Series is in order. These should be an exciting 10 days.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Remember him? Brett Myers could return in August

He's the 12 million dollar forgotten man. Ever since his injury in late May, Brett Myers has basically been out of sight, out of mind for Phillies fans. With his hip injury likely to keep him out for the rest of the season and Myers set to be a free agent, most thought that he would never start a game for the Phillies again.

While Myers may not ever start a game for the Phillies again, there is a chance he will come back to the Phillies this season. As a reliever. According to Todd Zolecki, Myers is ahead of schedule on his rehab from hip surgery and is already set to begin bullpen sessions. He is so far ahead of schedule that doctors believe he could be ready to pitch for the Phillies again as soon as next month. Myers doesn't think he will be able to handle a 100 pitch workload again this year, but is willing to slide back into a bullpen role that isn't unfamiliar to him.

This news comes as a complete shock to me. Like many, I just assumed that was it for Myers with the Phillies, never once considering him a bullpen arm. The one thing we know about Myers, however, is that he is a gamer and he will do whatever it takes to help the Phillies win. While he wouldn't be the closer again, he would be a nice arm to have in the late stages of the game, alleviating some of the daily grind from Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero who seem to pitch almost every day. Of course, should Myers be added to the roster, someone else would have to be removed, and I don't think the Phillies want to just jettison Chad Durbin or Clay Condrey.

There is no guarantee that Myers will actually be coming back this season, but it is still an interesting situation for the Phillies, who all of the sudden are overloaded with quality pitching. With everyone healthy and the rumors of the Phillies adding pitching via a trade, there simply won't be enough roster spots for everyone. It's a nice problem to have, but one the Phils will need to sort out as they head to the postseason.

Phillies still favorites to land Halladay

The rumors are continuing to swirl around the Phillies and their possible acquisition of Roy Halladay, and now a deal appears to be getting closer to happening. According to Jon Heyman of SI, the Phillies and Blue Jays have begun discussing which prospects the Phillies would be giving up in the swap, with Carlos Carrasco, Michael Taylor and Jason Donald being likely included in the deal. Heyman also says that the Blue Jays want Kyle Drabek, although the Phils have been reluctant to want to deal their best prospect. If Drabek was included in the deal, according to Heyman, the Blue Jays would accept almost immediately.

The Phillies remain the favorites to acquire Halladay, with no other team a strong possibility. The Giants, who suddenly find themselves in the Wild Card hunt, are interested but won't want to give up on their young players. The Angels also want Halladay, but they don't have the prospects. The Yankees and Red Sox remain in the hunt, but there still has to be some reluctance by the Jays to trade within their division. The Rangers or Dodgers could be longshot candidates, but all signs point to the Phillies being the primary landing spot for Roy Halladay.

That's not to say this is a done deal. The Blue Jays don't have to trade Halladay this season, they can wait until the offseason or the trade deadline next season. What this does tell us is the Phillies are serious about getting a top starter, so perhaps if they can't get a deal for Halladay done, they would look at some of the other top pitchers available, like a Cliff Lee. Still, Halladay remains the best pitcher available so the Phillies better do all they can to get him to Philly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Time to start the J.A. Happ Rookie of the Year talk

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The Phillies aren't going to need Pedro Martinez, or Roy Halladay for that matter, if this keeps up. J.A. Happ, considered the Phillies 5th starter and likely a target by the Blue Jays in a trade for Halladay, put yet another solid effort together on Sunday, shutting out the Marlins in 7 innings to lead the Phillies to a 5-0 sweep over Florida. The win gives the Phillies a commanding 7 game lead in the NL East, their biggest division lead since 2001.

Happ gave up 5 hits and worked his way out of several jams to move his record on the season to 7-0. Couple that unbeaten record with a 2.68 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a batting average against of .222, and you have a pitcher who is having a great rookie campaign. Is it strong enough for Happ to be considered Rookie of the Year?

I would say yes. There aren't a lot of strong candidates in the NL this year, from Colby Rasmus to Andrew McCutchen, there isn't a rookie having a dominant campaign. Jayson Stark of ESPN felt that Rasmus was the first half NL Rookie of the Year, but looking at his numbers, 11 HR, 34 RBI and a .270 average, those aren't nearly as impressive as what Happ is doing with the Phils.

The only thing that may work against Happ is how difficult it is for a pitcher to win the award. Since 2003, only 3 pitchers have won a ROTY award in either league, and those three pitchers had to put up big-time win or save totals to even be considered. It's kind of like the MVP award, if a pitcher is going to win it, he has to be truly dominant above the rest of the candidates. Happ will need several more starts like today to be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

Of course, there is also the possibility that Happ is traded to the Blue Jays and never gets a shot at ROTY. As the Halladay to the Phillies rumors continue, you can be the Jays will insist that Happ is included in any deal. I would still be fine with Happ being dealt for a known ace like Roy Halladay, but it would be even better if the Phillies found a way to hold on to Happ and still got Doc. A rotation of Hamels, Halladay, Blanton, Happ and Moyer/Martinez would be phenomenal.

Now that the Phillies have a 7 game lead in the division, however, they may not feel the need to make any drastic changes, and who could blame them. With the emergence of J.A. Happ, possible Rookie of the Year, the Phillies rotation is looking better and better.

Click here to take a look at how the Phillies were built!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Old Man Moyer mows down Marlins

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Recognize the headline? I'm pretty sure I've used it before, possibly every time Jamie Moyer has faced the Marlins, a team he is now 13-2 lifetime against. Moyer once again led the Phillies past the Marlins in a 4-0 Phillies win.

Who needs Old Man Pedro when you still have Old Man Moyer, anyway? Moyer got his 255th career victory by pitching 7 innings of shutout ball, allowing only one hit and one walk and striking out 4 Fish. He just simply owns the young Marlins, who just aren't patient enough to wait out his pitches.

Offensively, the Phillies had a few fireworks. Raul Ibanez hit a pair of homers and Ryan Howard hit his 200th career shot, which turned out to be an historic one. Howard became the fastest player to reach 200 home runs when he did it in his 658th game, crushing the previous record of 200 homers in 706 career games by Ralph Kiner. Howard isn't the youngest player ever to 200, but this milestone is still quite an achievement.

The Phillies won their 6th straight, and their 10th of their last 11, and now have a commanding 5 game lead over the Marlins. With three left against Florida, the Phillies could really open things up in the NL East.

POLL: Don't forget to vote to the left for how many wins you think Pedro Martinez will have with the Phillies. For the record, I think he'll end up with 4.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Flyers offseason update: Are they a better team?

This Flyers offseason will be remembered for one big move, the acquisition of Chris Pronger, but the Flyers have made several smaller moves that will have big impacts on the club next season. With the offseason winding down and the Flyers unlikely to do anything else since they have zero cap space, let's take a look at what the team has done and determine whether they have made themselves a better club.

Here are the key gains and losses by the Flyers this offseason:

In: Chris Pronger, Ian Laperriere, Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Mika Pyorala

Out:
Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki, Andrew Alberts

The Flyers completely overhauled their goaltending situation, swapping Biron and Niittymaki for Emery and Boucher. It's difficult to say that the Flyers got better in net, but they certainly didn't get much worse. Emery, if his head is on straight, is capable of playing at an equal level with Biron, and Boucher will be fine in small spurts. Of course, goalies can look better if the defense in front of them is solid, and the addition of Pronger should help to make Emery look good.

The offense appears to have taken a step back this offseason. Losing Knuble and Lupul, two 20+ goal scorers, and not replacing them with anyone capable of putting the puck in the net will hinder the offense. On the positive side, Giroux figures to get more ice time on the top lines and Laperriere and Pyorala are both solid two-way players. Still, not having Knuble in front of the net on the power play is going to hurt.

Overall, I think the Flyers have made an effort to be a better defensive hockey club this offseason. While they are rolling the dice with Emery in net, the defense should be more sound. Let's hope they can still muster similar offensive numbers with fewer horses upfront.

Here is a stab at how the Flyers lines might look next season:

Forwards:
Gagne - Carter - Giroux
Hartnell - Richards - Briere
Asham - Laperriere - Carcillo
Cote - Pyorala - Nodl

Possible 13th forward:
Darroll Powe, Jared Ross, James van Riemsdyk, Jonathon Kalinski

Defensemen:
Coburn - Pronger
Timonen - Parent
Jones - Carle

Possible 7th defenseman: Danny Syvret

Goalies: Ray Emery, Brian Boucher

Don't forget to look at How the Flyers were Built!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NHL schedule released: Flyers begin season October 2nd

The NHL schedule has been released! Click here to see the Flyers schedule.

The season begins for the Flyers on October 2nd on the road against the Hurricanes and ends at home April 11th against the Rangers. The Flyers home opener is a big one, October 6th against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Of course, the highlight of the schedule is the Winter Classic, on January 1st, against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.

With training camp opening in September, hockey season is coming sooner than you think!

Flyers sign Finnish Forward Mika Pyorala

Being up against the cap means the Flyers can't afford to sign players we've actually heard of, or players that actually played in the NHL last season. In their quest to find cheap talent, the Flyers signed Mika Pyorala, a forward who spent the last two seasons in the Swedish Elite League, where he averaged 19 goals and 19 assists. Pyorala, 28, is Finnish and has spent some time on the Finnish National team.

Pyorala is described as a two-way player and could be the Flyers 4th line center. As of now, terms of the deal haven't been announced, but you can bet it's a one or two year deal worth around 1 million dollars a season. Having never seen the guy play, I can't say if this is a good signing or not.

Barring a trade, the Flyers are likely done signing players since they are right up against the cap.

Pyorala is scoring a game-winner in this clip:

Did you hear? Phillies sign Pedro

It was definitely the worst-kept secret and the most over-reported physical in the history of Philadelphia sports, so I will spare you the details here. The bottom line is the Phillies brought veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez to Philadelphia Tuesday for an extensive physical with the idea that, if he passed, he would be a Phillie. Well, Pedro passed, so now he will sign with the Phils.

The deal will be for the rest of this season for 1 million bucks plus another 1.5 million in incentives if he does well. Martinez will have to start in the minors as he works back into game shape, so it could still be a while before he pitches for the big league club. There is also the possibility that Pedro never quite gets where the Phillies want him to be and the team simply waives him.

While I am not that excited about the idea of signing a 37 year old pitcher who had an ERA well over 5 last season, I do see this as a low-risk, high-reward move for the Phillies. If Pedro stinks, they only invested 1 million dollars in him so it will be easy to cast him aside. If Pedro is the Pedro of a few years ago, then the Phillies got a huge bargain for a playoff-tested ace. Of course, the reality is that Pedro will be somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios, which is still a useful pitcher. He figures to slot into the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation and if he can put up an ERA of around 4.50, he figures to win a few games for the Phillies.

I'm not a huge fan of Pedro Martinez as he is an ex-Met and is known to be a bit of a me-first player. As long as he doesn't cause a stir in the Phillies locker room and at least pitches adequately, then this is a smart move for the Phillies. More importantly, Ruben Amaro has made it clear that this signing will not get in the way of any possible deal for Roy Halladay. Word from Toronto seems to be that the Blue Jays aren't likely to trade Halladay, but if they do, the Phillies better be first in line making offers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Phillies sign Pedro Martinez. Maybe.....Tuesday?

While Phillies fans were buzzing about Shane Victorino making the All-Star Game, another story broke: Pedro Martinez has signed with the Phillies. Or, at least according to a report from the Domincan Republic, he has. Candela Deportiva is reporting that Martinez has signed with the Phillies for the remainder of the season, with a 4 million dollar contract that would prorate to about half that amount.

When asked about Pedro Martinez, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro initially said he had no comment, but later it has been confirmed that the Phillies are speaking with Martinez and his agent, and a deal could be in the works, pending a physical. The Phillies were apparently very pleased with how Martinez pitched for them during a recent workout and are trying to lure the 37 year old to Philadelphia.

My initial reaction to these reports was sheer horror. Did the Phillies watch Pedro try to pitch last season for the Mets? Did they not see his 5.61 ERA and 1.57 WHIP? Thinking more about it, however, the Phillies essentially are buying a lottery ticket. Pedro Martinez may have nothing left in the tank, but at 2 million bucks, why wouldn't you take a chance that he has something left to contribute? He would slot in as the Phillies 5th starter right now, replacing the revolving door of Rodrgio Lopez and Antonio Bastardo, so how could he not be an upgrade? A rotation of Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez isn't great, but it's not terrible, either.

Plus, the signing of Martinez in no way hinders the Phillies from acquiring Roy Halladay. In fact, it might actually help bring Doc to town. If Pedro pitches well, then the Phillies would be willing to part with J.A. Happ, someone Toronto is believed to covet, to get Halladay. With Pedro in the rotation, losing Happ isn't as big of a deal and the Phillies can have a rotation of Hamels, Halladay, Moyer, Blanton and Martinez. That's a World Series rotation.

Of course, all of this talk is just talk if the Phillies don't actually sign Pedro. The speculation right now is that that Martinez is going to come to Philly and have a physical and then decide if he wants to play for the Phillies. While I initially won't like the sight of Martinez in a Phillies uniform, this is really a no-lose situation. If Pedro pitches well, the Phillies have made a hell of a deal. If he struggles, the Phillies simply wasted 2 million bucks. Of course, if this signing somehow leads to Roy Halladay being a Phillie, then this is a brilliant move.

POLL: Do you want Pedro in a Phillies uniform? Vote to the left!

UPDATE: Looks like Pedro will have an extensive physical Tuesday, and if he passes it, he will be a Phillie. I'm not that excited about the move, but Pedro should do just fine as a 5th starter. Hopefully he doesn't do anything to disrupt the clubhouse.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Paul Bako makes Phillies fans quickly forget Chris Coste

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Who needs Chris Coste when you have Paul Bako? The Phillies, entering the 9th inning down 7-3, pulled off a tremendous comeback, scoring 5 runs to pull out an 8-7 win against the Pirates. Paul Bako supplied the game-winner when he singled with the bases loaded, but he would have never had the chance to be the hero if it wasn't for homers by Matt Stairs and Ryan Howard. Stairs led off the inning with a homer, and then Howard hit a 3-run shot to tie the game after Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley got on base.

Here is the Fangraphs.com Win Probability Chart for tonight's game. Entering the 9th inning, the Phillies had a 2% chance of winning. Notice how quickly that green line jumps after Howard's homer!This game reminded me a lot of the 2008 Phillies, when no lead was safe and they constantly pulled out comeback wins. It's nice to know that the team can wake up after seemingly sleep walking through the first 8 innings of a game. No matter how disappointing a start is for a pitcher (get it together, Hamels), the Phillies bats can find a way to come back. With five All-Stars in the lineup, you knew it was only a matter of time!

Nice work, Phillies. Now go sweep the Pirates tomorrow and ride into the All-Star Game on a real high note.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chris Coste released, claimed by Astros

The writing was on the wall. Chris Coste had to know that the Phillies, who were keeping three catchers on their roster for some inexplicable reason, were eventually going to get rid of him. Coste hadn't started a game since June 27th and was relegated to pinch hitting duty, getting only two at-bats so far in July. He had to know that, sooner or later, he was going to be on his way out the door.

And that day has come. To make room for the return of Raul Ibanez, Coste was released by the Phillies and was subsequently claimed by the Houston Astros. Coste will now continue his unlikely career in Houston as a backup catcher.

Coste's story is well-known, how he spent many years in the minors before finally getting his shot as a 33 year old. He was a bit of a fan favorite in Philly because of all he had to overcome to get to the show, but as a player, it's hard to say he will be missed. Coste was having a mediocre season with the bat and clearly couldn't be relied upon behind the plate, hence the Phillies need to bring in Paul Bako. He's the kind of guy you could keep around on a decent team because of his great story, but, with the way he is playing this year, he wasn't going to be a useful player on a team with World Series aspirations.

Good luck in Houston, Coste. Hopefully they have some playing time for you so you can prove that you still belong in the big leagues. Oh, and thanks for helping us win the World Series last year!

The entire Phillies outfield is going to the All-Star Game

With Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran ruled out of the upcoming All-Star Game due to injury, NL manager Charlie Manuel needed a replacement, and he didn't have to look far. Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth has been added to the All-Star roster, meaning the entire Phillies outfield is going to St. Louis. The last time a team sent all three outfielders to the All-Star Game was 1995, when the Indians sent their starting trio.

While some may wonder why Pablo Sandoval wasn't added to the roster after he barely lost to Shane Victorino in the Final Vote, Werth is certainly a deserving selection. Werth hit his 20th homer yesterday and is on pace for a ridiculous 40 homer, 117 runs, 107 RBI season.

The All-Star news just keeps getting better for the Phillies. There is also talk that Shane Victorino may even be a starter for the NL since the team doesn't have anyone else who is a natural center fielder. Ah, the perks of being World Champs.

Antero Niittymaki signs with Lightning, will not go to Russia

Or not. Looks like Antero Niittymaki will be staying in the NHL after all. The former Flyers goaltender, who had reached a preliminary contract with a team in the KHL, changed his mind and instead signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, presumably to back up Mike Smith. The Lightning now have a very solid 1-2 punch in net.

Still nothing, not even a rumor, about where Martin Biron is going to play next year. There is a team in Russia that needs a goalie now, Marty!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thanks to us, Victorino is an All-Star!

The Vote for Victorino campaign worked! Shane Victorino, who was fighting down the stretch with San Francisco Giant Pablo Sandoval, has won the Final Vote and has been added to the NL All-Star team. The effort of all those thousands of Philadelphians constantly voting and refreshing their browsers paid off, nice work!

Now that he is made it, will we all be satisfied with the one at-bat he is going to get? Better make it count, Shane!

Antero Niittymaki is going to Russia

Unable to stay with the Flyers and unable to sign anywhere else in the NHL, goaltender Antero Niittymaki has decided to go play in Russia. The former Flyer, who played five seasons in net, signed with Ray Emery's old team in the KHL, Atlant Moscow Oblast. Think of it as an international trade, Emery for Niittymaki.

Niittymaki's career with the Flyers was filled with promise, starting with his strong run with the Phantoms in the AHL, but finished with a whimper as he battled injuries and inconsistency. At age 29, his career in the NHL is by no means over, if he can have a solid season in the KHL, there is no reason he couldn't come back.

In related news, Martin Biron remains unsigned. Most teams already have their starting goaltender in place, so Biron now appears to be searching for a backup role somewhere in the league. He will likely have to take a big cut in pay over what he was initially looking for.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

As if you needed another reason to Vote for Victorino

(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.)
Shane Victorino just keeps giving us reasons to vote for him to be on the All-Star team. After going 4 for 5 the other day with 5 runs scored and 4 RBI, Victorino topped himself tonight by being the hero for the Phillies, getting the game winning hit in the bottom of the 9th inning.

It's time, people. Shane Victorino needs to be in the All-Star Game. He is currently in second place behind Pablo Sandoval, who, according to several reliable sources on Twitter, does many salacious things and doesn't deserve your vote. Click here and go vote for Victorino. Time is running out, voting ends tomorrow!

Halladay to Phillies rumors are heating up but don't buy your "Doc" jersey just yet

The Phillies need help with their pitching staff. Ever since Brett Myers (remember him?) went down for the season, the team has basically had four starters and has been throwing out whatever they can find on the 5th day. And, while Antonio Bastardo, Rodrigo Lopez and Drew Carpenter have been adequate fill-ins, they are not the answer for a Phillies team with World Series aspirations. What the Phillies need is someone to step into the #2 spot in the rotation to replace Myers.

Enter Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays ace and former Cy Young winner would fit the bill of a top starter, one that would make the Phillies rotation one of the best in the NL. And, he is apparently available in the right deal: Toronto has made it known that Halladay could be acquired if they are blown away by an offer. Which means a team would have to give up a big package of top prospects and major league ready players to get Halladay.

Should the Phillies bite? Of course, if the price is right. Rumors are circulating that the Phillies are the early front-runners to get Halladay, given that they have a ton of prospects and the only other teams that are believed to have serious interest, the Yankees and Red Sox, reside in the same division as the Blue Jays. The Phillies are the perfect match for the Jays because they are desperate for pitching (they were scouting Pedro Martinez) and they have the kind of players Toronto wants, like a shortstop in Jason Donald.

Of course, the deal would require the Phillies to give up a lot more than just Donald, you would expect Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Drabek and Lou Marson's names to be thrown around, plus some major league talent like J.A. Happ and John Mayberry. I would be all for the Phillies offering most, if not all of these players up, if they can get a pitcher like Halladay back, although I would be wary of them giving up Happ. Trading Happ to get Halladay significantly improves the Phillies rotation, but it still leaves them with a hole at the #5 spot, one that will have to continue to be filled by guys like Bastardo and Lopez. My preference would be to keep Happ and then have a rock solid rotation of Cole Hamels, Halladay, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Happ.

Don't go out and by your Halladay jersey just yet, Phillies fans. The Blue Jays have made it very clear that they don't have to trade Roy Halladay. Halladay has another year on his contract, and the Jays would be smart to just hold on to him until next season and then try to pawn him off. The only way the Phillies would be able pull this deal off is if they overspend. If you thought the Flyers had to overpay to get Chris Pronger, just wait and see what the Phillies are going to have to unload to get Halladay.

That said, I am sure the Phillies will do whatever it takes to try to get Halladay to Philadelphia. As long as the Phillies don't completely mortgage away their future, I hope it gets done. Having a Hamels/Halladay one-two punch in the playoffs would be a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flyers sign Pronger to 7 year contract extension

Get used to that image of seeing Chris Pronger in a Flyers uniform, because he is here to stay. According to several sources, the Flyers have extended Pronger's contract, which would have ended after next season, seven more years in a deal believed to be worth 5 million per season. Pronger is 34, so this contract will have him playing out the rest of his career as a Flyer.

The details of the contract have yet to be released, but if the Flyers actually got him signed at 5 million per season, that's excellent value. Pronger is still an elite defenseman, and he will be for the next two or three years, so they are getting a great deal now on a star player. A few years down the road this deal might not look as good, especially if Pronger is turning 40 and starting to break down, but the Flyers likely had to get him to agree to a few extra years to get him a 5 million a year. This makes the trade for Pronger, where the Flyers severely mortgaged their future, look that much better. Having Pronger patrolling the back end in Philly for the next several years is going to be fun to watch.

Update: It looks like the contract is 7 years, just under 35 million. We now have the details of the contract, via ESPN.com. The contract starts out huge and then tapers down to practically nothing at the end. The NHL salary cap system works out such that the cap hit each year is just the average of the total deal, so Pronger will be about a 5 million dollar cap hit for the life of the contract.

Previous contract:
2009/2010: 6.25 million
Extension:
2010/2011: 7.6 million
2011/2012: 7.6 million
2012/2013: 7.2 million
2013/2014: 7 million
2014/2015: 4 million
2015/2016: 525,000
2016/2017: 525,000

Vote for Victorino!

We are in the final stretch! Be sure to vote as much as you can for the Flyin' Hawaiian!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Phillies show Reds real Big Red Machine in 22-1 rout

Wow, now that was an annihilation. The Phillies destroyed the Reds on Monday night, scoring 10 runs in the first inning en route to a 22-1 drubbing. Anytime you have a game like this, there are always crazy stats and records being broken. Here are just some interesting tidbits from the game:

-This win was the first time the Phillies won a game by more than 20 runs since 1894

-The 10 runs in the first inning tied a team record

-The Phillies scored 8 of their runs in the first inning with two outs

-The 22 runs were the most by a Phillies team since they beat the Mets 26-7 in 1985

-The 22 runs set a new stadium record for Citizens Bank Park. The previous high was 20, by the Phillies, against the Rockies last season

-The Phillies run differential before the game was +19. After the game, it more than doubled to +40

-Every Phillies starter had at least one hit, including Cole Hamels, who had two

-Every Phillies starter had at least one run or one RBI

I am sure there are many other interesting stats and records that came out of the game, but I'll stop there. By the way, Shane Victorino, who is currently in second place in the vote for the final spot in the All Star Game, went 4 for 5 with two doubles and a homer, 4 RBI, 5 runs scored and a walk. He needs to be in the All Star Game after putting up that line, vote now!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All is right in the world: the Phillies sweep the Mets

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
And just like that, things are starting to look up for our local baseball team. The Phillies, who were slowly losing their grip on first place in the NL East after a recent nosedive where they lost 14 of their last 18 games, seemed to turn everything around as they swept their rival, the Mets, in three straight games. Yeah, so the Mets, dealing with numerous injuries, aren't exactly a top club right now, but the Phillies turned them aside with ease, outscoring them 13-3 in the series.

The hero of the series? Dare I say Jimmy Rollins? Rollins, who was barely hitting over .200 entering the series, went 5 for 11 against the Mets and drove in 5 runs. He rose his average all the way up to .217, and even took a few walks in the process. Looks like the Jimmy of old to me.

The pitching was the real story against the Mets, however. Rodrigo Lopez, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton all had great starts, pitching deep into the games and allowing only a handful of hits each. The bullpen also closed the door, finishing out each game without giving up a single run. The slumping Brad Lidge even managed two perfect 9th innings to get a pair of saves against the Mets.

What a holiday weekend for the Phillies, they actually played like the World Champions that they are. Now we need to see if this series was just the team getting up to play against the Mets or if they have truly turned the ship around. They aren't out of the woods yet, because despite how well they played, the Marlins are still 1 game behind them in the standings. The Phillies have a pulse again, let's see how long it lasts.

Three Phillies named to the 2009 All Star team, Victorino needs our help

The World Champs will be well represented at the 2009 All Star Game. Two Phillies, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez, were voted in as starters to the game, while Ryan Howard was added as a reserve by NL All Star manager Charlie Manuel.

Utley and Ibanez are certainly more than deserving, but Howard's selection came as a bit of a surprise. The National League will have four first basemen at the game, which is definitely more than enough, but I guess Manuel wanted to make sure he got one of his players in there.

It is unknown as of now whether Raul Ibanez will be healthy enough to play in the All Star Game.

Shane Victorino also has a shot of making the All Star team, but he needs our help! He is in the Final Vote, where the fans get to pick the final player to make the All Star team. Click here to vote and get Victorino to the All Star game!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Phillies DFA Taschner, call up Lopez

So long, Jack Taschner, it was nice getting to know you on "The Pen". The Phillies designated the lefty for assignment today, making room for Rodrigo Lopez, who will start tonight's game against the Mets. Taschner, who was originally acquired from the Giants back in March, departs the team sporting an ERA of 5.20 and a WHIP of 1.95. He has been particularly atrocious lately, so this move comes as no surprise.

Here is the updated list of Phillies bullpen roles:

Long relief:

Chan Ho Park
Chad Durbin

Situational Lefty:
Sergio Escalona

6th inning:
Tyler Walker

7th inning:
Chad Durbin

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Ryan Madson

Closer:
Brad Lidge

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Braves sweep Phillies into tie for first

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I've got nothing to say about how the Phillies are playing right now. They can't hit, can't pitch and can barely field.

The sweep by the Braves drops the Phillies into a first place tie with the Marlins. The Phils upcoming three game series against the hobbled Mets looms large right now, and it should be huge, just like every Mets/Phillies series. How the Phils do this weekend could tell us a lot about whether this team is any good this year. If they don't take two out of three from a seriously banged up Mets team, this Phillies team is likely doomed.

At least they were World Series Champs last year!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ian Laperriere signs 3 year deal with Flyers

And the Flyers 12th forward is..... 35 year old Ian Laperriere, who signed a 3 year, 3.5 million dollar deal with the Flyers. Laperriere, a right wing, is an NHL journeyman, having played for 4 teams in his 15 year NHL career. He most recently played for the Avalanche, putting up 19 points in 74 games last season in Colorado. Laperriere is your typical 3rd or 4th line player who will muck and grind along the boards, and he is also known to get in a few scraps, having dropped the gloves 17 times last season, including once against Scott Hartnell:

Overall, I'm not that impressed with this signing. Laperriere plays with a lot of heart, but the Flyers didn't really need another checker with a tendency to drop the gloves, they already have Arrron Asham, Daniel Carcillo and Riley Cote. Of course, if this signing means the end of Cote on the Flyers, I would understand it more. The Flyers had greater needs at forward, like a center who could win some faceoffs, rather than yet another guy who is tough to play against.

This signing likely marks the end of the Flyers free agent moves. They have very little money left, so they would likely have to move a player or two if they wanted to sign anyone else. Here is the roster as of now, updated from the other day:

Forwards (12): Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, Claude Giroux, Arron Asham, Riley Cote, Darroll Powe, Ian Laperriere Possible 13th forward: Jared Ross, James van Riemsdyk, Jonathon Kalinski

Defensemen (6): Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Randy Jones, Ryan Parent, Matt Carle Possible 7th defenseman: Danny Syvret

Goalies (2): Ray Emery, Brian Boucher

With the recent loss of Mike Knuble, James van Riemsdyk might be counted on to jump onto one of the top three lines. He wouldn't be the 13th forward if he actually made the team.

Flyers bring back Brian Boucher as backup

Brian Boucher is back! The goaltender, who played for the Flyers from 1999 to 2002, signed a 2 year contract with the Flyers worth 1.85 million dollars. Boucher, who has also played for the Coyotes, Flames, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Sharks, will backup Ray Emery in net. He played for the Sharks last season, posting a 2.18 goals against average and a .917 save percentage in 22 games.

Boucher is best known in Philly for the being the goaltender when the Flyers made a deep run in the playoffs back in 2000. He should excel as a back-up, although I would be worried if he has to play more than 25 games or so. Should something happen to Emery, like an injury or a mental breakdown, Boucher isn't the answer for the Flyers in net.

The Flyers have now completely overhauled their goaltending situation, replacing Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki with Emery and Boucher. It's hard to say that the new goalies are actually better than Biron and Niitty, but they certainly come at the right price. The Flyers really need to figure out their long-term situation in net, going year-to-year with cheap veterans isn't a plan that wins Stanley Cups.

Mike Knuble signs with the Capitals

With the acquisition of Chris Pronger adding money to their payroll, we knew some Flyers where going to have to go to make room. Mike Knuble is the first, signing a 2 year deal with the Washington Capitals for 2.8 million per year. Knuble was an unrestricted free agent who could talk with any team, but he made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Flyers if they were willing to match any offer given to him. The Flyers smartly chose not to match, since signing Knuble at that price wouldn't leave them with enough money to sign a backup goalie and another forward.

So long, Mike Knuble. He spent 4 years with the Flyers, putting up nearly 30 goals a season. He is about to turn 37, so his best years are clearly behind him, but he will still be a tough player to replace. Knuble has a strong presence on the power play, so they will miss him battling it out in front of the net.

The Flyers once again lose a useful player due to salary cap constrictions. Let's see what they do with the little money they have to work with now.