Thursday, June 29, 2006

Losin' Two In Bawlmer

Seriously, I suck," Hamels said. "That's all I can say."

You can say that again Cole.

The lefty lost his fourth straight and fell to 1-4. Seven runs in five lusterless innings. Worse, today he’s probably the Phillies most reliable rotation option.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


As terrible as this season is for the Philadelphia Phillies, much of the pain is ameliorated knowing that Chipper Jones is also losing- day after day after day.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How did it come to this?

Sometimes you wonder how it all came to this?

The Phillies, needing a win in the worst way, fresh from a day off- and the best bullpen option they have to face the Red Sox order, up a run in the 12th inning, is some person named Condrey? And right there- as you watched Condrey slopped up his AAA-level sinker- you realized this situation is untenable.

I suspect the Mets and Cardinals and teams that win don’t run Condrey- or a guy like him- out there in that kind of spot. But, part and parcel, the Phillies are now a bad team for awhile- so I guess we'll have to get used to him. It is now like a maxim: As long as Condrey continues to get the ball in one-run games, the Phillies are not good.

And it is not like you can find solace anywhere else either. World Cup from yesterday: two games, one goal.

In sadder news, the world’s oldest living creature- Harriett- passed away after almost two centuries of life. During that time, she was witness to two world wars and one Phillies World Series’ victory. Learn more about Harriet here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Traditional Tactical Reasons

Sam Donnellon’s column in the PDN today is a good one. At least it beats Tiki Barber on FoxNews giving his take on USA-Ghana this morning. Now that was television.

Donnellson muses on trading Aaron Rowand for traditional tactical reasons. In summary, the Phillies have a slight surplus- but a surplus nonetheless- of outfielders, you probably don’t lose much having Victorino play instead every day out there for a tenth of the cost over half an increasingly lost season, and Rowand is a guy you can probably get something for.

I have been musing Rowand as well- on a somewhat tangential axis. I kinda like trading him because, well, I frankly don’t think he’s that good a player- or at least not the sort of good player the Phillies need.

Don’t get me wrong. I like his centerfield play- but let’s not go crazy there. He’s not an elite defensive player- the kind of guy who can change a game once a week with a dazzling play.

The Phillies bat him sixth- ahead of Fasano and Bell. And you know, not only does he just not hit enough to be an asset there but he's also probably a slight minus. He doesn’t have the second tier power (although his HR total this year is not bad- but that happens to a lot of guys at Citizens) or RBI bat (a mere 25 this year) you want there. He’s hitting just .279- and that is a good career number for him- in a hitter’s park.

You can’t bat Rowand lead-off as his OBP simply isn’t near good enough- although yes, he would be a plus over Rollins. The Phillies could survive with him hitting second. But a .270 hitter is certainly no plus there either- and where does Utley hit?

I don't care how much the fans like Rowand- a guy who is a plus hitting only in the seven hole or lower with a good glove is not a cornerstone player. And Rowand is a guy with some good value in some baseball circles (not mine) and has buzz around the league, featuring a not unreasonable contract. But he really brings nothing special other than some good defense to the Phillies every day line-up.

Accordingly, I’d be looking for excuses to shop Rowand. If the Phillies could add a pitcher or bat that actually helps day-to-day, I'd move him.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

C’mon Lester!

Musing about Tulane football in 2006, it is so hard to be optimistic. The defense, if anything, projects worse in 2006 than 2005. The offensive line is largely a mystery. Outside of the wide-outs, there is not one unit that projects above average.

It feels a lot like pre-season 2005- where the only real sources of optimism came from the conference schedule and the potential Lester Ricard joining his worthy predecessors as legit NFL talents.

And how I used to be bullish on Lester Ricard! Last year I wrote:
“In 2005, Ricard fortunately will play against a lot of teams that figure to be ‘comfortable’ to play against- and I imagine he’ll be good-to-great in eight or so games, up from three.”
An inkling to Ricard’s problems last year can be found in this “google” search. Note ostensibly every single freaking image shows him getting hammered by multiple defenders. So now- to be honest- no, I don’t believe, no longer suppose, Ricard will ever be a good quarterback in C-USA. I don’t think he’ll be drafted. I don’t think he’ll get a single vote for any of the three all C-USA teams. I don’t think he’ll give Tulane quality play, consistently, week to week.

You just can’t make either a fair or cognizant argument for improvement & increased maturity about a guy who not only can’t maintain the status quo but also seemingly regresses from start to start. It could happen- Ricard has the tools for sure, and you can point to some games where he was amazing- but the vast preponderance of evidence suggests he will never reach his potential. There is a chance. He wouldn’t be the first senior to find himself. And if it clicks, he has the arm, body and physical courage to make something real good of himself.

That is the whole nut, right there. And certainly too many Tulane folks are on this “Ricard for the Unitas' Award” kick.

The guy was great, really great, in three starts two years ago: UAB, Navy and Army- and either hurt, bad or a scary turnover machine in the other seventeen I-A games.

And, no offense, Ricard plays in a league that frequently generates undeserved cartoon-like offensive numbers on occasion- see Matt Forte versus Army two years ago- so maybe a slightly jaundiced eye is needed toward players with occasional explosions.

But Ricard did prove that at home (or similar comfortable environment), facing a team unable (the Academies) or unwilling (UAB) to commit to pressuring him, with talented NFL-quality wide out talent to throw to, he was capable of amazing things.

Take any of that away…. trouble and astonishing turnovers.

Friday, June 16, 2006

No More Inter-League Play Means More Mets

In today Philadelphia Daily News, Marcus Hayes makes a pretty good case for either losing the eighteen inter-league games or not having them count toward the Wild Card (in order to offset the scheduling anomalies).

When interleague play first was suggested, I leaned against it as a pure traditionalist. But I have to admit, I voted with my feet. I did go see the Phillies play the Yankees- even drove to Boston to see them play in Fenway. But candidly, the novelty has mostly worn off. I now find myself torn. The purist in me says get rid of it; the pragmatists says that anything that reduces the number of times the Phillies play the Mets is an overwhelmingly good thing.

The Phillies has a terrible week- mostly because the rotation had a terrible week. Every time you looked up, it was like the third inning, and the Nats and Mets were working on their second inning featuring a crooked number. They have won a mere twelve of their past thirty outings since pulling within a game of the Mets about a month ago. Its pretty grotesque.

I really don’t have the heart to start with the Phillies- but rumors in Tulane world have been even more vapid. There is some loose talk about another raid on C-USA by the Big East.

I don’t believe it for a moment. The Big East exists for two reasons:

- collect checks associated with being a BCS football conference- both tv and “true” BCS monies.

- conduct a big time college basketball conference in major television markets.

True, the Big East is not some hotshot football League. Totally. Thus, the last thing they need is more football cripples like Tulane and its brethren. And I am sure the Big East simply can’t wait to share its BCS/television monies with another couple of members who bring either nothing or next to nothing from a major college football perspective- the exciting Pitt-UCF match up would be a must see, or the UConn-Southern Miss burner- and, other than Memphis, bring zero media footprint to basketball.

And we’re not talking a small dilution either- for example, four new members cuts the take for the existing football members by a third. And for what? What possible advantage do our programs give to cut your television and bowl revenue by a third?

And it is even worse for basketball. Other than Memphis, they bring nothing there. No television, no programs, nothing.

They already took all the members of our League that bring even a smidgen of those attributes: Louisiville (football and good media footprint), Marquette (surprising media footprint), DePaul (great media footprint), and Cincinnati (good media footprint). That is enough mediocre football for any league.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Mets Are Just Better

The less said about the footie disaster the better. Clearly, the Czechs- emblematic of real quality European soccer- are still a big step ahead of the United States. We were humbled- but I bet they dig in a little against the Italians. They're not that bad.

On to more important observations.... vacationing on the Outer Banks, I really didn’t see any of the Phillies this weekend. They seemed to play a flat, uninspired series with the Nationals- certainly, they did Sunday. But they are not the first team to come back east, from a long trip out west, and look a little dull. They had no off day on either leg of the trip- going out or coming back. And the Nats are playing better as well. But it would have been nice to split there- and turn this pretty decent six win trip in a good, solid seven win one.

That is sort of the crux of it. I don’t think you can label any long road trip that ends with more wins than losses a “bad one”. On here, I ignorantly thought the Phillies would come back with a mere four wins. So I, for one, can’t line up to kill Philadelphia for the anticlimax in Washington.

Still, the trip felt lackluster. First, the Phillies fought through the crazy travel and some suspicious rotation options to get a split with a pretty good Dodger team in Los Angeles- and then followed that up with a strong sweep on the Diamondbacks. But frankly, they kicked away a lot of that progress by not pitching or hitting well in Washington.

Second- and worse- despite the Phillies’ winning trip, the Mets picked up two more games in the standings. They are now a seven games up in the loss column. How did the Mets pick up so much ground notwithstanding the Phillies’ decent trip? Increasingly, it is hard to argue a singular base fact: they are better than Philadelphia.

My base conclusion from two weeks ago, when the Phillies left for the west coast, remains probably accurate. This trip has probably ended any real realistic chance the Phillies have of overhauling the Mets. Barring big injuries to the top of the Mets rotation, this 2006 version of the Mets is pretty clearly the class of this division.

The season is not over, by any means. But it is Wild Card focused from here on in. The Phillies to me, since day one of spring training, have felt like an 84-win team. That is not enough to keep them in the NL East race- as we’ve seen- but enough to keep them on the fringes on the Wild Card.

Monday, June 12, 2006


All together now!

Do Americans care about soccer? NO!
Can Americans name two guys on the team? NO!
Can Americans confidently point to the Czech Republic on the map? NO!

And yet, here we are. Here we are.

There is some Euroweenie on FoxSports calling the USA the “mystery team”. Like a lot of “football commentators”, he’d look more believable wearing lipstick- but admittedly, I would like a consensus view that the Americans could do frankly anything from make the Final Four to not win a single game.

As to today’s contest, in a key match-up, I kinda like the Czech uniforms better. Truthfully though, the apperceptive fan cannot easily dismiss a straightforward, uncomplicated fact: frankly, have Czechs beaten Americans in anything ever?

That is a powerful, lucid argument for at least a tie. And heaven help the Czechs should we grab a 1-0 lead. That kind of advantage seems damned unsurmountable in this sport*.

The Czech could comfort himself with T.E. Lawrence, “The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God's stage”. Even the language barrier doesn’t really matter- as the average Czech speaks better English than I do. I mean- “unsurmountable”? What in heck does that even mean?

Kyoto! As a fan, I can see the Czech team, in their smart togs, as the Kyoto Environment Treaty- and the United States as the Senate. This is a particularly apt analogy- as according to “Earth in the Balance”, this is the last World Cup where the oceans won’t be boiling.

The countdown to Brazil is on baby!

* like ice dancing is a sport.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tulane Picked Fifth- and I'm Happy About It?

I am off to North Carolina and the Outer Banks for the weekend- and accordingly, I was out shopping for something to read. I settled on “Father Elijah” quickly- in order to turn my attention to more important matters. See, the first college football guides are out here in Manhattan.

Both Athlon and Sporting News pick the Wave fifth in the West- ahead of Rice. Rice must be horrid. The Sporting News also opines they are the eleventh worst team in the country (109th out of 119 total). Make of it what you will.

As to online projections, has a somewhat more optimistic profile of Tulane up. The best part is the forecast suggesting Forte goes for 1200 yards. No ding on Forte (for once)- but no back short of Earl Campbell at Tulane is going for 1200 yards in 2006. I wager right now Tulane will not have 1200 "official" yards rushing total for the entire season- and that teams will rush for 2000+ yards against.

The Sporting News ranks Notre Dame #1. I can’t find a link- so I am borrowing this one from a fellow BlogPoll denizen:

From their point-a-minute offense to one of the top X’s and O’s coaches in the game, there little not to like about the 2006 Irish,” wrote TSN, choosing Charlie Weis’ squad over No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 LSU and No. 5 West Virginia.
My fave quote:

If there is a negative in the review, it comes in the section where an anonymous opposing coach or scout evaluates the Irish. Said this individual: “Charlie Weis is arrogant as hell. I couldn’t even talk to him before the game last year. I tried to. It was a one-sided conversation…They don’t have a great team. They have a great quarterback…If Tyrone Willingham was their coach last year, they would have won eight games…The nine games they won, only three of the schools they beat finished with winning records.

Athalon has got the Irish at #2:

"Charlie Weis has got the Irish back in the national title hunt, led behind Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn at quarterback."

Consequently, may Our Lady of Victory keep all of you and Brady Quinn whole & sound. Play Like A Champion Today!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Loser's Bracket Always Means the End

Tulane’s season came to an end yesterday. While extended briefly by a rout of South Alabama Sunday afternoon, the Green Wave then apparently ran out of pitchers who could get outs against quality SEC teams, and Ole Miss smartly lowered the boom. An SEC team playing well is a tough out in tournament play- and Tulane did not look really ready to play at that level- particularly down a pitcher coming out of the loser's bracket.

Frankly, since the C-USA tournament started, there has really been little about this Tulane team that suggested it was a Top 16 outfit- deserving of a trip to the Super Regionals. They seem pretty squarely in that next grouping- in or out of the Top 25 depending on how well they are pitching or hitting in any given week. Candidly, that was the probable upside once JR Crowel went down. Not that he would have beaten Walters this week either. But JR was on a roll at one point last year- right after he won C-USA player of the week- where he had a 0.61 ERA over thirty or so innings. Had he gotten hot at the right time, he really could’ve put the Wave up a notch in competitiveness. Really, Tulane might have made a little bigger run in both tournaments with seven more quality innings of starting pitching.

Still, it is hard to critique a Top 25-ish team, right? It is all a matter of degrees. Tulane is by no means bad. Ask Smoke, right? Tulane is, again, the best team in the state- in a jurisdiction where saying that means something. And the head of Laval is wonderful testament to the recent changing of the guard in Louisiana baseball. The fired coach is the one whose program is chasing. When was the last time an LSU coach was fired for being both unable to beat Tulane and losing ground to them?

As to the weekend, I guess most of the brickbats are going to fall on the heads of the pitchers. Sean Morgan is a nice weekend arm- but probably not a guy who can anchor your rotation in real elite play. In big spots, you’re simply not going to beat the Walters or the Rices of this world with Morgan frequently. I can’t really fault him for the first round loss- they weren’t going to win that game regardless if Walters was on- but Morgan didn’t pitch well in that big spot.

They got gutty efforts from Mohl and Gomes- but that pair pitched against teams that really they ought to beat- fronting their Top 25-ish team as middling-to-plus starting pitchers in a good baseball league. Both had their numbers suffer- as they stretched more than they would normally- with Jones trying frantically to preserve his bullpen.

The hitting wasn’t so good though. Frankly, to win this region, Tulane needed some part of their game to over achieve: Morgan to come out and for one afternoon and look like Gerald Alexander on a good day, score a bunch of runs against a quality Ole Miss pitcher, or do anything against Walters. Accordingly, the hitting was just, well you know, the status quo. The Green Wave came into this tournament knowing they could punish the less than top line pitchers of programs like South Alabama & Bethune-Cookman. So could LSU- and they did not even make the tournament. But they needed to punish the next level.

Tulane couldn’t do it. Couldn’t get runs in spots where they arguably, probably, shouldn’t. Didn’t get the game of their lives from Polteir or Morgan. Since Tulane was not the best team in Oxford, they needed something special from somewhere to capture this regional- and it didn’t happen.

But no one underachieved either. So they got the result they deserved and probably actually were- the second best team in Oxford, the best team in Louisiana (again!).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Philadelphia Phillies Select P.J. Walters

Last year, Tulane roared into the NCAA Baseball Tournament as the #1 seed in the country- making it all the way to the College World Series- before falling in Omaha. This year they couldn't make it past South Alabama. Or rather, they couldn't make it past P.J. Walters.

Give tons of credit to South Alabama. After Tulane’s first two hitters, the Jaguars' "top of the rotation" starter totally looked like a "top of the rotation starter". They played a solid game of small ball: moving guys over, steal bases, working the count against an erratic Morgan who simply helped them again and again. In fact, you can pretty much stop your analysis of yesterday’s game right there. If P.J. Walters is able to mix that seemingly “okay” fastball with that amazing breaking stuff and spin a complete game, one run, four hit performance- coupled with South Alabama manufacturing three runs through five innings without really hitting the ball hard- well, nobody in Division I outside the Top Ten was probably going to beat that pitcher and that team yesterday.

Once you get past that... well, Tulane probably could have pitched great, gotten a few more breaks- and it almost certainly still would not have mattered much. Of course they didn’t do much of anything well yesterday. In fact, South Alabama is candidly better than Tulane with Walters pitching. Do you doubt that if Walters made ten starts against them, South Alabama would win seven/eight? But if the Wave can get by Bethune-Cookman today, we’ll probably find out if South Alabama is still better when Walters isn’t pitching. I, for one, doubt it.

The turning point was the first inning. The Green Wave gets two guys on- a real chance to hurt South Alabama’s only real angle to get to the CWS- that number one starter. And the Green Wave core hitters can’t even manage a decent at bat.

Once Walters wiggled out of that spot, he really only was threatened once after that- and he was up three runs, so who cares? I dunno. I guess it would have been nice to see Sean Morgan respond as if this really was the biggest start of his life- rather than a scared kid. But he is a sophomore- so how can you rip him for pitching like a scared kid in a big spot? He was a scared kid in a big spot.

I still think they’ll make the final against Ole Miss. They ought to take care of the Wildcats today- as I doubt the second tier Wildcat pitching can handle the Wave over nine frames. And South Alabama is not probably not good enough to sweep the Wave in an abbreviated single weekend. But Ole Miss?- and four straight wins? Not this team, not this year.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Lot of Problems

The Phillies punted another one against the Los Angeles Dodgers last night- really a terrible, uncompetitive loss seemingly from the get go. As I wrote Wednesday, this eleven game road trip is probably really the beginning of the end of this club’s chances for 2006. Nine starts by Madson, Floyd, Lidle and Brito in a week and a half equal a 4-7 trip- and a baseball team squarely at .500 returning home. Sure, they’ll be “around” the Mets- and certainly the Braves. But I’ve seen enough this May to really, really suggest the Phillies can’t hang with these clubs for another three months. It isn’t so much the six, seven games they’ll be out- but rather the sheer number of teams between them and a post-season spot.

That is not to say they’ll simply pull the plug. The Phillies will take a miracle second half or a Mets’ collapse cheerily if they happen- and plenty of games with the Marlins and Nats make falling below .500 impossible. So they’ll always be “in the race”. But be honest too, since Pat Gillick arrived, everything he does screams 2007.

The Phillies simply are not going to try to force things to contend this year- like the Mets will. The Phillies entered the off-season determined to clear eight figures from their bloated pay-roll of 2005- and not add to the bad contracts they have to eat. You can make a sensible argument for the departures of Thome, Padilla, Wagner, Urbina and Lofton- for example is $15 million plus for the back end of your bullpen really the best investment going? But it also isn’t like the Phillies went crazy sinking that money back into the 2006 on-field product or that some of those guys couldn't contribute had they wanted to really push this campaign. That is part and parcel of the reason Manuel is so safe. He is probably not going to be running this team when Gillick thinks it is time to contend- but his retention doesn’t retard the current mission of letting the clock run on some bad deals and getting a long look at some potential core players for the second half of this decade.

But if this is about 2007- and after a 4-7 trip it will increasingly be so- let’s totally play it out that way. Forget about removing Gavin Floyd from the rotation. What is more important- giving Brito or Floyd fifteen more starts to find out what they got? Let’s see Floyd for 100 more innings- find out what this guy is all about. And those of you who want to turn a good relief pitcher- Ryan Madson- into a mediocre starter- well, you win. If they punt this trip- let’s see if Madson can eat 100 innings throughout the summer in the rotation too.

And can we dismiss the idea of blowing up the farm system to bring in a pitcher like Jason Schmidt in here? This team is so not close to contention. I’m not in love with, say Cole Hamels. In fact, I totally support his departure to an organization who will give us a good major league player in return for years and years of arm trouble. But the idea that any sort of mortgaging the future in order to bolster this sagging rotation- to get from 83 wins to 86- is nuts.