May 18, 2011
U need 2 come home. Now. Plz. LOL. RAJ. You know it is there somewhere in Ruben Amaro Jr.'s BlackBerry, the text message he so desperately wants to send Chase Utley down in Florida but knows he cannot. Not yet. Not now. Utley needs time. He needs to turn more double plays. He needs at-bats. He really needs to play a full nine innings; and then do it again; and then maybe, just to be sure, do it again. But if the Phillies' offensive woes get much worse, if Ben Francisco and Michael Martinez and Dane Sardinha have to play again, heaven forbid in the same game, well, let's just say Amaro is not making any promises.
May 1, 2011 |
The sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park was still celebrating John Mayberry Jr.'s tying home run in the seventh inning Saturday when Wilson Valdez swung at a 90-m.p.h. Jonathon Niese fastball. Twelve days and 26 plate appearances had passed since Valdez had hit a ball out of the infield. "I knew, I knew," Valdez said. "I kept putting it on my mind. " This swing created a line drive that landed on the outfield grass, just in front of rightfielder Carlos Beltran, for a single.
August 17, 2011 |
Wilson Valdez makes it a priority to change his hair style on a biweekly basis. He dyes it blond or red or keeps the natural brown, depending on his mood. Usually he dons a mohawk, with some wonky pattern shaved into the back. This week, he buzzed it short. "Because," Valdez said, without elaborating. He is a strange character in a game that happily breeds them. So there was Valdez, in the seventh inning of Wednesday's 9-2 Phillies victory over Arizona, admiring a deep fly to center.
April 26, 2011 |
PHOENIX - This is the part where you remember the Phillies have failed to score more than four runs in a game for two weeks. All it took was a rather human night from one of the starting pitchers - Cliff Lee allowed four runs in seven innings - to remember that the best team in baseball has plenty of current holes. In Monday's 4-0 defeat to the hapless Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies were punchless. In 2 hours, 4 minutes they rolled over to an Arizona team reeling from a sweep at the hands of the last-place Mets.
April 8, 2011 |
IT IS THAT time of year when every statement requires a qualifer, when every win or loss comes attached with a reminder of the marathon that is a baseball season. If the Phillies were an NFL team, they would be somewhere in the third quarter of their first game, well short of any juncture at which reasonable evaluation is possible. As Charlie Manuel addressed the media in the wake of his team's 11-0 thrashing of the visiting Mets, he made sure to remind them how quickly fortunes can change over the course of a 162-game schedule.
April 20, 2011 |
MOMENTUM ON a baseball diamond is a fickle mistress, dispensing her favors seemingly at random. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been in baseball for nearly 50 years, so he knows that games seemingly won can be lost on a whim whenever Lady Mo suddenly decides to change sides, and the reverse is just as possible. If no ballclub can ever permanently solve the mysteries of momentum, the next best thing is to harness it and enjoy the ride for as long as possible. Sometimes a late rally on a sun-kissed afternoon offers just such an occasion to turn what had been a negative into a positive.
March 11, 2011
AT THE RISK of losing an appendage or two to the terrible swift sabermetric sword, the task on a rainy day was this: to try to figure out just how much the Phillies miss Chase Utley when he is out of their lineup. At least, that's how it began. Then the task grew into a consideration of the rest of the players in the Phillies' lineup, and how much their absence affected team performance in 2010. The numbers are a little bit rough. This is more about starting a conversation than it is about splitting the atom.
April 2, 2011 |
As Ben Francisco danced across home plate with the winning run in the Phillies' last-gasp first victory Friday, teammates engulfed him in one of those bouncing celebratory circles that are mandatory exclamation points after walk-off wins. For Francisco, who must replace Jayson Werth after rarely performing in public over the last 11/2 seasons, the mass hug could be symbolic as well as real. If he can fill a key role in a Phillies offense with many question marks, he will be embraced by the manager who seems to have given him the right-field job, by his teammates, and by a baseball-crazed city.
May 24, 2011 |
SHORTLY AFTER they arrived at Citizens Bank Park for their National League Division Series rematch with the Phillies, the Reds announced they had demoted struggling starter Edinson Volquez. This was significant because Volquez was the pitcher who started Game 1 for Cincinnati last October. It was also significant because a few hours later, Game 2 starter Bronson Arroyo walked off the mound after allowing nine runs in 2 innings en route to a 10-3 shellacking. The evening reinforced a couple of key observations about the long-term prospects for this Phillies roster.
May 23, 2011 |
Trailing by two runs in the ninth inning of an entirely forgettable Sunday game against the Texas Rangers, Ryan Howard attempted a bunt. Yes, the Phillies' cleanup hitter and $125 million man decided his best chance of reaching base was to drop one down against the shift. It rolled foul. Two pitches later, Howard struck out. "We're going to bottom out one of these days," Charlie Manuel said after a 2-0 loss. "Hopefully, it was today. " The manager can say that, because Monday brings optimism: Manuel will fill out a lineup card that includes Chase Utley, playing second, batting third.