Posts Tagged ‘Cliff Lee

07
Apr
11

PHILLIES: Starting Off Strong

So, it appears that the era of the 4 aces and overwhelming expectations has gotten off to a pretty solid start.

With the first week of the MLB season coming to a close, the Phillies are sitting at 4-1 in their first 5 games, with Thursday’s series-finale rubbermatch against the Mets hanging in the balance.

Yes. I am well aware that we are only 5 games, or roughly 3%, through the season.

But, considering Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, and top prospect Domonic Brown have been out action since the first pitch was thrown at Citizens Bank Park last Thursday, the opportunity to win five out of their first six games would go a long way to silencing any critics who said that the Phillies season was doomed from when Cliff Lee signed that dotted line in December.

Speaking of Lee ( 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER. 11 K’s in a 9-4 win over the Houston Astros), he was just one of quite a few Phillies that have stood out so far.

(Statistics accurate as of 4/7)

Ryan Howard: For all those who were worried that the Big Piece’s production would suffer with the absence of Utley in the lineup, let’s just hope the first week was not just an admiration. Howard is what baseball scouts would like to call “locked in” at the plate right now. So far, the Phillies 1B and cleanup hitter is 11-for-21 (.524) with 2 HR, and is already leading the National League in RBI’s with 8. The only blemish for Howard is that, like usual, the strikeouts are not hard to come by (6 in 5 games).

Placido Polanco: Was a little worried about Polly going into the season. Getting up there in age, had off-season elbow surgery, production diminished greatly at the back end of the 2010 season. However, like last season, Polanco has gotten off to a scorching hot start. However, in contrast to 2010, where a power was the story for Polanco, a .450 BA with 4 RBI’s and a .522 OBP has made him quite the catalyst in the early going for the Phillies.

Ben Francisco: Talk about making the most of an opportunity. In the absence of Domonic Brown, who is scheduled to return later this month after undergoing surgery for a broken hambone, Francisco has absolutely been tearing the cover off the ball so far during this 2011 campaign. While his .333 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI’s says a lot, it is impossible for a simple statline to include 2-3 balls hit that were knocked down by the wind at Citizens Bank Park that would have been as good as gone if they were hit in June or July.

Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Rollins (.368 BA hitting out of the 3-hole), Raul Ibanez (.300 BA, 4 RBI’s), Wilson Valdez ( .294 BA, 2 RBI’s), Roy Oswalt (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K’s in first start), Antonio Bastardo ( 1-0, 1 Hold, 2.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 K’s)

15
Feb
11

PHILLIES: Week 1 Notes From Clearwater

With the national media departing finally from Clearwater and moving south to Jupiter, Florida where the whole Albert Pujols fiasco is starting to sort out, it’s time to finally time to get down to talking about some, you know, actual baseball stuff instead of the subjective discussions that have recently coincided with the hype and expectations surrounding the Phillies.

– For all those worried about Dom Brown’s winter, don’t be. Apparently, in addition to spending the last two months completely changing his stance, he also added about 10 pounds of muscle according to Phillies Daily News Writer David Murphy, transforming his arms into “pythons”.  I’m now sure how the latter translates into all-around baseball success, but the fact that their is visible proof of Brown’s hard work in the off-season leads me to believe that he’s in the mindset that the RF job is his to lose. And it’s a correct mindset at that.

– A noticeable absence from Clearwater this past week has been longtime Phillies reliever Chad Durbin. Durbin, who was one of the longest tenured Phillies before the organization failed to renew his contract after last season, is still a topic conversation in the clubhouse. For example, players such as Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson have publicly taken time this week to lobby for his return in the media. You don’t see that very often. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen right now. Those to look out for that are in contention for his 7th inning role and spot in the bullpen include Kyle Kendrick (who doesn’t quite have place in the starting rotation now with the evolution of R2C2), the much-maligned Danys Baez, and a couple relatively new names such as Vance Worley and Michael Schwimer.

– Ok, here is one thing of note surrounding all the Phillies hype. As I was peering through Twitter yesterday, I noticed that the highly-regarded FOX Sports baseball insider Ken Rosenthal predicted  that one of the Phillies “Fab Four” of starting pitchers would win the 2011 NL Cy Young Award. However, it wasn’t the incumbent NL Cy Young Roy Halladay. Or Cliff Lee. Or even Roy Oswalt. It was actually the Phillies projected 4th starter, 27-year old southpaw Cole Hamels. While it may not be the popular choice amongst the group, do not forget, this guy owns the most recognizable hardware out of any of the four aces. A World Series ring.

For anything else you want to know, just click on the following video.

14
Feb
11

PHILLIES: Top Ten Starting Pitchers Debate

In the wake of the R2C2 + Big Joe press conference today at Brighthouse Field, I just want to touch on something that Phillies MLB.COM Beat Writer Todd Zolecki wrote about during his initial coverage down in Clearwater.

With the start of Spring Training action looming, the MLB Network recently released their list of the “Top Ten Starting Pitchers” for the 2011 season.

While it was with no real surprise that two particular Phillies were able to land spots on the lists, the order of which they appeared was a bit perplexing.

Halladay is the cream of the crop of Starting Pitchers in baseball.

Well, one of them at least.

Take a look for yourself.

(From MLB Network)

10. Josh Johnson
9. Justin Verlander
8. Adam Wainwright.
7. Cliff Lee
6. David Price
5. Jon Lester
4. CC Sabathia
3. Tim Lincecum
2. Felix Hernandez
1. Roy Halladay

First off, the case against Halladay is almost unarguable. Being the proud owner of a perfect-game, another no-hitter in his first ever playoff appearance, and an NL Cy Award in 2010 provides way too much evidence to the contrary.

However, where Lee sits can certainly be argued.

To give MLB Network the benefit of the doubt, on paper, Lee hasn’t been able to match up statistically with the others on the list, especially over the past two season.

Since his 2008 AL Cy Young Award winning season with the Indians, he has a 26-22 overall regular season record while spending his time in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Texas. To put that into perspective, those with just as many wins or more over that time span include Ricky Romero, Jon Danks, and even ex-Phillie Vicente Padilla.

Obviously not bad company, but not elite by any stretch of the imagination.

With that said, taking into account hype generated about Lee with his production in the playoffs and the way he decided to go back to Philadelphia, ranking him behind both Jon Lester and David Price is a little difficult to comprehend. Do not get me wrong, Price and Lester are TREMENDOUS pitchers. They are the clear aces of their respective rotations, and are more than worthy of a spot on this list. All I am saying is Lester’s lack of postseason success (2-3 record, 4.00+ E.R.A) combined with the fact that Price only has one full season of being a MLB starting pitcher under his belt should be put under a much greater microscope in my opinion.

Well, at least more than Lee’s subpar regular season win total over the last 24 months while he was a part of two struggling franchises for a large majority of that time.

Besides the Lee ranking, the utter disrespect of Josh Johnson (should be considered a top 5 pitcher) and the notable absence of Ubaldo Jimenez (read the names three times to make sure I didn’t just miss him) on the list could also make for great discussions and further blog posts.

For another time.

14
Feb
11

PHILLIES: A Preview Before the Preview

As pitchers and catchers have made their way down to Clearwater and the friendly confines of Brighthouse Field, most who care about such a movement would also take that as a sign that the 2011 baseball season is finally starting to take form.

From the perspective of a certain baseball enthusiast/blogger, there isn’t much in the way of news that could be considered more of a breath of fresh air.

In fact, that could probably the best news in, give or take, three months and 13 days.

For those who are wondering and are too lazy to do some simple math or a google search, that was when the 2010 Baseball campaign officially ended as the San Francisco Giants were crowned as World Series champs.

With that said, a Spring Training preview will be up shortly, breaking down everything from..

Beautiful sight, isn't it?

1. Is Joe Blanton going to remain in the fold as the Phillies 5th starter behind R2C2?

2. Will Dominic Brown be able to beat out Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. for the everyday RF job?

3. How will the bullpen shape up without Chad Durbin?

4. Expectations, expectations, and more expectations..

5. Everything else.

Such a breakdown, however, will all come over the span of some six odd weeks before the Phillies take the field against the Houston Astros on April 1st.

In the mean time, if you want to take a look at a couple blogs that will have Spring Training coverage to a capacity much larger than this particular college senior who is roughly 700 miles from any Grapefruit League action whatsoever, a combination of Todd Zolecki’s “ZoZone“, David Murphy’s “High Cheese“, and Matt Gelb and Bob Brookover’s “Phillies Zone” should do the trick.

With that, enjoy the arrival of baseball season.

26
Dec
10

Happy Holiday’s Philadelphia Sports Fans

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, we all should be thankful this holiday season. Many of you got the latest technology, vacations and even an ugly sweater or two, but the City of Philadelphia received a number of wonder gifts this season.

The Philadelphia sports complex is seeing a lot of exciting action

Philadelphia Eagles:

I think you know how this story goes by now. The New York Giants placed a beautifully wrapped present under this year’s tree. It came in the form of a 28 point comeback and the first punt return ever to end an NFL game. DeSean Jackson danced his way along the goal line, celebrating the holiday season and another bid to the postseason.

Quarterback Michael Vick raised his arm high into the sky, thankful for another chance that he has proven to be well deserved. He was the catalyst in the holiday gift for Eagles fans, as his performance in the fourth quarter was one of the most dominant in the history of the league. Best of all, head coach Andy Reid can celebrate his holiday knowing that his Eagles are the hottest and most feared team in football. They define the term relentless and proved that they can get out of any hole possible. I’m sure he is celebrating with a nice Christmas ham today.

Philadelphia Phillies:

The 32-year-old, 6-foot-3 lefty from Arkansas made his second appearance under the Christmas tree in Philadelphia. Cliff Lee stunned baseball two seasons ago after his dominance with the Phillies and is back for more in 2011. He delivered what may have been the best gift of the season for Philadelphians, solving any starting pitching questions heading into next year.

Something about this city brought him back. He was slapped in the face by the organization and shipped away after being one of the main reasons the Phillies made it to the World Series. However, a part of him never left and now he is back to prove why he denied the Yankees and Rangers. He wanted to be part of something great; something that he even coined the most dominant and most feared foursome in the history of baseball.

And the best part, he even allowed his city to save a few bucks for next season.

Philadelphia Flyers:

What a wonderful gift

The 2009-2010 Philadelphia Flyers brought hockey back on par with football and baseball in the City of Brotherly Love. Even though they fell to the Blackhawks, they put together one of the most exciting post seasons in the history of the NHL. Now in 2010 and 2011, they are on a mission. They’ve battled injuries and a very tough division, but still have found a way to remain atop the NHL heading into the holiday season.

The orange and black have won seven out of the last nine games, including wins over the Penguins, Rangers, Bruins and Devils. Even though they will be without Pronger for the next month and a half, they are still one of the most feared teams in the league and one that is expected to make another run at Lord Stanley’s Cup next spring.

Philadelphia 76ers:

Certainly not the most exciting team in Philadelphia, but their young core might just make a push at the playoffs this season. As we have seen in the last decade, sub-500 teams tend to sneak in to the playoffs and the Sixers are no exception this season.

They are 6-5 in the month of December with all five losses coming against playoff teams. Despite their 11-18 record, they sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference, which is one spot out of the playoffs. Led by head coach Doug Collins, their young and aggressive style could enable them to make a run at the postseason.

Philadelphia has four teams that are all playoff contenders in their respective sports. There’s not much more you could ask for this holiday season (except maybe a championship). The Eagles are the hottest team in the NFC, the Phillies are only expected to maybe lose every fifth game this season, the Flyers smell another chance at the cup, and the Sixers are well on their way towards rebranding their old-school logo. It sure is nice to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday’s Philadelphia, we are well on our way to some more trophies in the near future.

20
Dec
10

The Week Philadelphia Was New York’s Daddy

Listen, as Philly sports fans, we all love every single event that transpired over this past week.  Let’s face it: we beat New York in EVERYTHING.  Here’s a video I put together to commemorate this awesome week.  Check it out!

14
Dec
10

PHILLIES: The Return of the Cliff Lee Saga..

Before I start, I just want to let you all know this is not a repost of something I have previously written.  In fact, this is more of a during finals procrastination tool that further shows me that baseball news takes precedent over any dedication to my academics that I might have at this time.

But for good reason.

Under some pretty, well, unforseen circumstances, the bidding war that is the free agency process of Cliff Lee has become quite a wild ride. Since free agency started a week after the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series, there has been plenty of speculation on where the most heralded free agent in recent memory may go. That speculation, as of early Sunday evening, has reached an all-time high.

Here is where it currently stands.

RANGERS: First, it was Texas. Much like he was in Philadelphia, Lee had just been an integral part of a historic run in franchise history, a run that ended without a ring after a trip to the World Series. Viewed as somewhat as a savior to the the Rangers after a midseason deal sent him to Arlington last July, many people in baseball circles thought if the Nolan Ryan led organization were willing to give him a contract with enough years (7+) to allow him to raise his family Texas, he would stay.  As it stands now, the years are not the issue. The Rangers brass eliminated that part of the equasion by offering him that duration in their formal contract offer. The issue is, does Lee want to be the face of a franchise for the rest of his career that may not have enough depth within the farm system, enough talent on the big league roster, and most importantly to compete with the traditional powerhouses of the AL for a pennant year in and year out. Remember, for all the accolades Cliff Lee has, a World Series ring is not one of them. Yet.

Where will Cliff Lee call his new home?

 

YANKEES: Yes, I know it’s a shocker that the Yankees are involved in the process of trying to sign a highly priced free agent, but try to contain yourselves. While there is plenty of the negative that is associated with playing baseball in the Bronx, you can not deny the positives of wearing the uniform with the most famed pinstripes in all of sports. First, there is a little something called money. As shown in years past, the Steinbrenner led front office is willing and ready to outbid any team, in both years and actual money per year, for Lee’s services. For a player who is approaching his last opportunity for a maximum contract, there is not much more security for a guy of his age with his resume can ask for.  In addition to the dollar signs, what comes along with the fame of fortune of playing for the Yankees is the opportunity to compete in the postseason virtually every year. Now I know Lee enjoys beating the Yankees in that spotlight, but for a guy who spent a good majority of his professional career playing for rather unsuccessful franchises such as the Montreal Expos and the Cleveland Indians, the lure of playing for a team that will literally buy him a championship has to be somewhat attractive. Well, at least more attractive than moving to New York, a city that has caused the Lee family their own headaches when they verbally harassed the wife and kids last year. Don’t be surprised if that’s one of the main deciding factors that pulls him away from the bright lights of New York City. Besides If Lee was going to sign with the Yankees, the team clearly willing to offer the most lucrative contract, don’t you think he would have signed the dotted line already?

PHILLIES: And last but not least, the reason I am even taking the time to even write this. As of late Sunday night, the  “mystery team” that has rumored to be lurking around during these sweepstakes is in fact the Phillies. As most you know from following baseball for the past 2 years or reading this blog for the same amount of time, there is a prior relationship between Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Summed up quickly, the Phillies traded for Lee at the trade deadline during the 2009 season. He then sparked a run, especially in the postseason, that left the Philadelphia two wins away from winning their second consecutive World Series title. After all was said and done, the Ruben Amaro and company then returned the favor by trading him to the Seattle Mariners in fear that he wouldn’t sign a long term deal and wouldn’t be able to co-exist with a newly acquired player named Roy Halladay. With that, it is quite understandable that Cliff Lee may still harbor some anger and resentment towards the Phillies organization. This is a business though, and from a business and a baseball standpoint, Lee seems to be considering the Phillies once again.

Why?

The combination of a successful and competitive franchise along with a sports town that he is beloved by if he would decide to step into the home clubhouse of Citizens Bank Park for at least 81 times a season has to be the main factor. However, will that along with a sense of selflessness that is so rare among professional athletes these days make up for the lack of money (20 mil a year) and guaranteed years (3 or 4 years) he’d be able to get from the Phillies in contrast to his offers from the Rangers, Yankees, or any other mystery teams out there.

Oh do I sure as hell hope so..

_________________________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE (12:10 AM)

So I guess miracles do happen.

According to Jon Heyman of SI.com has reported that Cliff Lee will spurn both the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees for a second tour of duty with the Philadelphia Phillies.

More to come when this becomes official.




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