Friday, August 31, 2007

Soft Like Po

Are the Mets soft like Po? I don't know, but boy, didn’t some of that look familiar: horrendous relief pitching, questionable managing? But not just from the Phillies- the Mets too!

Look, it was a great week- but remember, a great week made totally necessary by the totally awful start of this homestand. The Phillies merely made themselves relevant- got back to two games in both the division and wild card. The math is still hard- with 29 games to go, if the Mets go a mere 16-13 the Phillies are looking at a very, very hard 19-10 to win the division. Nothing about the Phillies suggests they are a .640 winning team. A big part of any Phillies post-season scenario is probably a Mets’ semi-collapse. In short, due to their poor play against western wild card contenders last week, the Phillies still really don’t control their destiny outside of the coming series at Shea. This week only made them relevant- not determinant.

As to the series itself, the Phillies parlayed their long ball offense and pretty good defense into enough to overcome the increasingly terrible pitching situation. A real kink in any argument that the Phillies are “three games in September better” than the Mets is that New York’s starting pitching is so much better. While Hamels is on the DL the Mets arguable have FOUR guys in their rotation who are better than anything the Phils can slop out there: Moyer (decent), Lohse (bad), Eaton(horrid) J.D. Durbin (just the latest call up from AAA!)

Optimism is hard- but not obviously impossible after watching the games this week. Delgado is almost Burrell circa May! Very heartening. And Beltran is not scary anymore. If Reyes isn’t a factor, the Mets offense isn’t even average.

Of course, if Burrell continues to hit like an all-star corner outfield in the three hole, the Phillies offense is insane: Rollins, Utley, Burrell, Howard, Rowand- followd by legit sticks in the sith and seventh hole. That’s is like healthy Yankees good. Good bench depth with Victorino or Werth, Tadahito Iguchi, Coste, etc.

But they got to hit it to get it- and need help. The Mets probably need a .500 month for the Phillies to get this done.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meet The Mets! Sweep The Mets!

Why yes fans, I just swept four from the New York Mets!


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

World's Mightiest Human

Is Ryan Howard the mightiest human alive? Powerful evidence continues to emerge, particularly last night when Ryan lost one deep into the left field seats to bring glorious victory to the Phillies. Lost in the excitement was that Adam Eaton sort of looked like a major league pitcher for whole innings at a time- placing Jamie Moyer squarely on the pitch well or lose your spot carousel.

Mind you, we’re not cocky here at Frank Helps You Think It All Out. Four games is a lot to make up over thirty or so tilts- and the Padres increasingly look like they have their act together.

But we’re two sharp games away from putting some heat on those accursed Mets!

By the way, the last two nights are further testament to why Charlie is doing a good job. After a depressing start to this homestand- featuring very regular beatings in four of five games- they again put their spikes on, cobbled together whoever is healthy enough this week to pitch and play outfield- enough to salvage the last game with San Diego and turn the ballpark electric for tonight. No matter how far back or dead they look, the Phillies come to the ballpark again and again to try.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Driving in Circles

Obviously, the reconstruction of the Bristol Motorspeedway is a huge boon for the racing there. Even a cursory glance at the last thirty laps of the Busch race Friday night, where four racers swapped the top two positions again and again while racing three wide, would be proof that the “racing” is better. The picture represents how those three guys ran lap after lap after lap after lap. Everyone raved about the Busch and Truck race- and they were fantastic.

Conversely, I am not surprised that the Cup race has gotten a lot of thumbs down from fans. I think this guy and David Poole have a point killing the Cup race- similar to one I wrote about earlier this year.

Jim McLaurin wrote after the race: Bristol racing is not guys being able to pass each other, it’s two guys fighting over the same spot, usually to the detriment of one or the other. Like the plate races, Bristol was always more of a show- theater if you will. While NASCAR will always ultimately be about “racing”, the spectacle, the banging, shoving and temper tantrums- made Bristol a must see event, not the race itself. As this anonymous writer says (some of the comments are good too):
After all the hoopla, specially designed colored flash cards in the stands, testimonials of drivers all week...singing the praises of the most fantastic track surface in the universe and the promise that fans would witness one of the best races in history, the truth is things simply didn't pan out. The race was somewhat sedate and comprised mostly of green flag runs. The entire personality of the Bristol Experience was altered by the redesign and reconfiguration of the track surface and banking and the introduction of the vehicle that represents the future of NASCAR racing to it. Depending on the particular tastes of fans, those who desire aggressive, feisty, rowdy racing have seen the last of it. Tonight's race was anything but that, and was probably much enjoyed by the safety conscious and purists who love the sight of cars monotonously making left turns, especially side by side.
That theatrical scene is gone now in the showplace division. Right now, Bristol is not a rock’em, sock’em event at the Cup level.

The track is better (so far)- but unfortunately, winning at Bristol is no longer important to the Cup guys in the big scheme of things. It is no accident that the top guys in the Chase- Gordon, Johnson, Hamlin, Stewart, Harvick- spent the night content to merely make laps, stay out of trouble. Running twelfth, protecting their big advantages over the 13th place driver, crossing off another date until the Chase starts was a more-than-satisfactory day for those guys- particularly at a track that introduces so many chance variables.

It is not surprising that all the guys who ran well, or who were entertaining, were drivers either battling for the twelfth spot who needed to run aggressively with their competition to make up spots (Busch and Earnhardt) or guys so far back that only a win meant anything (Kahne, Yeley).

Frankly, there were just too many guys on the Speedway who were incentivized to run Top 15 and park it- then try to win. That is what the Chase regular season does- it distorts behavior in the guys who are comfortable in the Chase. Your best drivers and teams merely want to run eleventh and go home as quickly as possible- quite content to have knocked the schedule back another day.

The Trucks and Busch series will never have this problem- a top ten finish means you lose points to nine guys- the antithesis of securing your post-season run. Short of killing the Chase, NASCAR simply has to start really rewarding guys now more for winning, or finishing top five, in the first part of the season. The enticement problem fixes itself in the Chase- so I don’t care- as you got to chase the leader then. The old way rewarded consistency over the season and encouraged high car counts (important in the 1970-90s)- so a bonus was actually counter-productive. The current system clearly provides an incentive to happy with eleventh place- so you gotta do more to discourage that complacency.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pre-Season BlogPoll

Before I leave this afternoon for Bristol and the Sharpie 500, I will attend to an important piece of record keeping: this year’s preseason BlogPoll is out. For the third year in a row, I will be the vote representing Tulane. But I am not the lone C-USA voice- see here for Southern Miss’ Saturday Morning QB- a blog with the best tag line going: Second-guessing the split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress since 2005.

Anyway, below is my initial ballot. The poll encourages you to pick the best team(s)- rather than try to figure out who will have the undefeated regular season needed to advance to the BCS Championship Game.

Yes, my ballots have a bias toward the SEC. Absolutely I do. Now that might be because as a Tulane fan, I’ve been beat about the head by these factories since the day I enrolled. But very few BCS conference teams could navigate a full SEC slate without at least two, probably three losses- and the ones I think could do two losses or better are the dozen or so that join my Top 12 or so. USC is one of those teams. Some power Big 10 programs. Louisville and Rutgers are categorically not one of the those teams.

Florida and LSU are interchangeable at the top- the best teams in the by far best league- but Florida is the champ, and their coach just wins and wins, so I give respect. I put Wisconsin over Michigan only cause Michigan has got to go there- rather than vice versa. And of course, my predicted C-USA champion goes at #25

1 Florida
3 Southern Cal
4 Wisconsin
5 Texas
6 Michigan
7 Auburn
8 Virginia Tech
9 Oklahoma
10 Ohio State
11 West Virginia
12 Tennessee
13 Georgia
14 Penn State
15 California
16 Nebraska
17 Rutgers
18 Florida State
19 Louisville
20 Brigham Young
21 Arkansas
22 Miami (Florida)
23 Boise State
24 Alabama
25 Southern Miss

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Jeremiah Trotter, warrior and class act, was one of my favorite Philadelphia Eagles.

His outright release is being commerated like someone died on the Eagles’ website. But, there was an awful lot to like about the guy from a fans standpoint. He carried our flag. He had that motor. He went to Washington, ripped that team and fans as indolent, and returned to Philadelphia chastened and full of love for us.

But he had to turn 30- which is a no-no on Reid’s roster. He was making a ton of bucks- and his replacement, I imagine Omar Gaither, was younger and, while not maybe “better”, certainly not four million dollars worse. And that is what the modern NFL is about- you cultivate the young guy until he’s within a hair’s breadth of the veteran- and make the switch. The Eagles got “younger” and “cheaper”- which is part and parcel of success in the League now, right along with “better”.

With a cap, you can’t normally keep multi-million dollar players for depth (outside of quarterback) either. Plus, as a ‘backer, Trotter was going to have to play special teams- and his increasing lack of mobility made that problematic.

The Eagles, in the past, could survive that foible because they could afford to have Trotter sell out completely to stop the run with their plethora of quality DBs. But some of their worst match-up problems last season were TEs and pass-catching backs. There are obviously some good ones in the NFC East, repeatedly tormenting Trotter in bad down and distance situations: 1st and 10, 2nd and 5, etc. The Eagles were forced to use a lot more nickel than made sense normally- just to get Trotter out of there.

That is not to say Trotter was a bad player- just one you had to find a specific, limited role for. If he could play straight ahead, down hill, he was still a pretty good player (not a Pro-Bowl one though anymore). But the Eagles have a second year, first day draft pick, who played pretty well for the most part, on the roster. Omar figures to improve. If you aren’t going to play him- then why draft him? And if he plays close to Trotter’s level, well, Jeremiah has to go elsewhere.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Change In Status!

This blog has only a few obligations. Consequently, due to the circumstances surrounding yesterday’s events, this blog will have to take a series of important, shall we say, itemizations- to ensure its continued relevance and complete, total loyalty.

Because, you guessed it, the Philadelphia Phillies lead the chase for the National League Wild Card. Of course, the Phillies effort requires the requisite acknowledgment- just completed- and a resolute commitment to stay informed. To that end, the information is as follows:

With a degree of humility, the Magic Number is 42!

42! This morning, it almost seems do-able. Coupled with McNabb’s 6-for-9, 138 yards effort from last night, well, the glow washes over.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Goon School

I honestly can't decide if Canada needs more of this. Or less.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Boston Brave?

You can’t really call the Phillies 3-2 win over the Nats last night “lucky”. Both the starting and relief pitching were of high quality- keeping the stymied club in position to win on a mistake or two from a not-so-good Washington team. But it did have a shade of the fortuitous about it. A homerun from a just released bench player? Poor Washington. You simply can’t lose games like that at home- facing the opposition's fifth starter, winning late- if you really want to make a serious run at finishing 15 games under.

Phil Rizzuto’s death is all over the news here in New York. Not to speak ill of the dead- and he was a great human being who did tremendous work for the blind- but his induction into the Hall of Fame cements his reputation as one of the most overrated baseball players of all time- a .260 hitter? 1500 or so lifetime hits?- who was along for the ride as a charismatic elf-like character in one of baseball’s great dynasties. He wouldn’t be in the Hall if he were a Boston Brave. Period.

But you couldn’t fight the New York media circa 1980s on these sorts of issues. And his election, along with Pee Wee Reese, was a large part of corralling the more flagrant abuses- and there really were some abuses- of the New York media in awarding post-season and post-career honorifics.


Monday, August 13, 2007

John Kass: Crestfallen Dope!

This morning, I was feeling kinda good about things- a feeling that started with Ryan Howard’s three-run home run leaving the yard last night. Then I came in and read this nonsense by John Kass. Yes, it is terrible that Bonds used the “clear” John, but relax a little. There is no death in the arena. No one thinks baseball or football is a church or without blemish. We watch because sports are entertaining. They really are. The Leagues do a great job, on the whole, at putting a entertaining product out there.

And no John, no one gets stabbed, well most Sundays. If you were to hang children by their heels in front of hyenas, it frankly wouldn’t get the ratings needed to survive. The athlete on television is rich beyond all rational expectation- not violated by jackasses. In fact, it is the potential for tremendous wealth that has them playing for pay in the first place- not criminal covictions. There is a jackass here- but it ain’t sports. Equating the gladiatorial spectacle to the NFL is moronic. So think about it: who the jackass is John? Think hard.

Anyway, a satisfying weekend for the Phillies- an organization we have to keep taking as relevant even though the Eagles play tonight. Some might want to mark the result down, the Phillies did miss both Hudson and Smoltz after all. Not me so much. All the absence of the Braves’ top two rotation options meant to me was the Phillies simply had to get the series victory here. They did. They pass. Picking up a game on the Mets over the weekend is mere extra serendipity!

Now it is off to Washington and Pittsburgh- a road trip that takes on more meaning- as the schedule tightens up with a home stand against the western contenders. Washington is a hard place for the Phillies to play- their big bat strategy doesn’t play as well there. Candidly, the Phillies are simply not about pitching and defense. But the Nats are running out this collection of arms: righthander Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.70), righthander Tim Redding (1-3, 2.86) and righthander Joel Hanrahan (2-0, 2.76). That is a total of six big league wins this season- and all righthanders. Have to win this series too- particularly as the Mets figure to do pretty okay tangling with Pittsburgh.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Three Back

It never gets boring to whip those Braves- particularly on a night where Flash gets the save- and Billy Wagner blows up right up I-95. Three games back! Many left to play head-to-head. One bad series for the Mets. One good series for the Phillies. I am not saying the wheels are coming off the cart- Beltran is back, Pedro Martinez ought to be better than whatever they currently consider the back of the rotation- but any part of a Phillies comeback was predicated on the Mets playing .500 ball for months. And New York has obliged.

Come on Adam Eaton. Gosh, but wouldn’t it help if Eaton stepped up tonight and found a way to defeat Cormier (0-2, 15.58 ERA) and win this game tonight? I’ve spared Eaton the rod this year. He’s taken the ball, won nine games- probably win will fourteen or so- and the club is over .500 when he starts- so it is hard to say he’s been a disaster. But man, they really need him tonight. This is a very win-able game- and hard to lose if Eaton delivers a quality start. Vegas has the Phillies at 6-7. Win this tonight- and the Braves are really behind the eight-ball Sunday. Drop three behind the Phillies- and Atlanta needs three-four weeks of good play just to get square if the Phillies play even break-even ball.

As Pat the Bat’s last remaining defender in Philadelphia- in that while he is grossly overpaid, I believe his home run total, runs scored and OBP save him from being a complete minus. It is heartening to see another baseball mind has seen the light. As Conlin writes, I know Pat has got some issues- but look at last year? Since when is .258, 29 homers, a zillion walks and 95 RBI a complete disaster? His end of the season swoon was very unfortunate- but...

The Phillies never gave up on the Bat for two reasons. One he makes a zillion dollars to walk a zillion times. No one wants a part of that dollars-and-cents mistake. But the other is… well ,it is hard to quit on a guy who, when having a bad year, hits 30 home runs and boast an OBP of 40%. Makes you wonder what a good year looks like- and further wonder what it would look like with him wearing a Braves’ uniform.

Plus, he seems a good clubhouse guy- which makes it easier to swallow the mistake. I root for Pat. I like him. As Conlin alludes to in the article, I think he tries and works. And man, was he a player in college. Can you imagine if Pat finds himself for even two months?

Regardless, if he keeps this finish up- with just one year at big dollars left, Gillick will find suitors this off-season.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Talking About Quality

As I sit here observing both the Mets and the S&P lose big, today’s thoughts run to the Phillies veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer. Last night Jamie won his 226th big league game. You can’t even attribute that quality number to longevity- considering Jamie only had 34 wins at 30. Anyway, you can see Jamie’s numbers here.

Talk about quality. He’s been with the Phillies for about a year now: 31 starts- and he’s won a whopping 15 of them. I’m not sure the whole Flyers team beat that number? With apologies to Cole Hamels, he’s probably been their best starting pitcher, results-wise, over that span. And Moyer has gone a long way, along with dumping Abreu’s outrageous contract, to keeping Gillick’s record of player moves from being real questionable.

He’s easy to root for- and he has been a big plus around here- without getting a lot of credit.

More good news! With a win over Florida tonight- and a little luck in St. Louis- there might be a little magic here tomorrow! Be sure to check and see.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rushing defense does not matter!

Now, I have long been a proponent that rushing the football and defending the run doesn’t matter a whole lot in the modern NFL (the corollary- that rushing the football doesn’t matter much in college- in not true).

In the NFL the run is only good for three things: setting up the pass, tactically moving the clock and reducing the number of points you score. Teams waste too many snaps trying to “establish the run”. Put the ball on the thirty- and run four straight “successful” running plays- and you are looking at 2nd and 5 from your 47. Or run two good pass plays coupled with two incompletes- and it is 1st and 10 near field goal territory. Our Precious League is not the Big Ten- 12 plays and 75 yards doesn’t happen here- you gotta throw it (a lot) to score it.

Anyway, I was heartened by this. Note the worst is Indianapolis. The Champs. For two of their Super Bowls the Pats had the worst, then next to worst, rush defense.

I then took the rushing yards allowed and correlated it to each team's number of wins: -18%. Any number close to zero suggest a completely random relationship- so -18% ain't exactly surprising. If anything, it suggests that the more teams try to run the ball, the more likely they are to lose.

It is the most overrated factor going. Stop the pass and throw the ball is how you win in our precious League!


Monday, August 06, 2007


Over the past week, the Phillies completed a hard trip through Chicago and Milwaukee with a respectable 3-4 mark. Man, it felt worse- a hard week to be a fan. The Phillies were behind the eight-ball the entire trip. Their ace got beat, no Chase Utley, Victorino, Bourne- two starters and their best sparkplug player (well, maybe Coste). Down a catcher. A Vegas dog in every single game. They came into each series ultimate game needing to win to simply salvage the series- and to their credit they got both. They actually picked a game up on the Chicago Cubs for the week.

Basically, with the line-up, starting pitching and bullpen seemingly regressing each week, the Phillies do only one thing well right now. That is: show up and play hard for the manager. They try. Facing each and every week with both, apparently, yet another heart sucking loss and injury, forced to rely on guys like Burrell and Jose Mesa, they grimly take the field with the sort of determination you associate with the defense of Bataan.

For instance: Yo Brewers! Put that Cordero out there, who had closed Philadelphia out the two previous nights in a row, for a third time- and this club will cheerily dig in and hump it. And as a result, the Phillies are still within a pair of games or so of the play-offs.

If May and June were all about crawling back form the abyss, and July was about getting over .500, then August is about surviving Jose Mesa- as a concept- at least until the reinforcements arrive. No, I am not talking about Flash Gordon. But add Myers and Victorino and Utley- keep that current robot replacing Burrell in the line-up, find a similar Howard robot- and man, they gotta a shot. A little swagger. I still think the Braves and Mets are better than them- maybe a club or two out west too- certainly, over 162 games. But by hanging around, the Phillies are rapidly reducing the season to who is hotter over a month, or two weeks, or a series or two versus someone like Florida in late September.

Lastly, Aaron Rowand is having an unreal season, right? Now, I’m still not backing away from my feeling that his best utility to the team would have been moving him for a quality bullpen arm back in April- but you gotta admit, the guy is having an fearsome season. Big hit- what a catch in the seventh last night. I doubt Rowand makes them ten-twelve games better- very few major league players do- and conversely the ‘pen has taken them out of dozens of games this year- but that doesn’t denigrate his monster season. To even be thought to be making a eight-ten game difference means an unreal season- read your Bill James people!

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Back To Complain Some More

The paper’s have been tolling the dog-days- and I gotta admit, I having nothing to say about Donovan facing his first “live” rush. So maybe it was good to be away for a bit.

Easing back into things, the Phillies 15-10 July completed their comeback to relevance- erasing on paper the remnants of their brutal start. To come back from vacation and find them just one back in the Wild Card was pretty satisfying. But good things happen is baseball when you play tight on a west coast trip, followed by drilling perennial weak sisters Washington and Pittsburgh. That is why getting a split with the Cubs this afternoon is important. Three tries to get a split result- you have to get one. Play-off teams get road splits, average teams do not.

I think again the one guy who really has got to get some credit for this- and it will kill Phillies fans who have been braying for his head to say so- is Charlie Manuel. I was never a big fan of Charlie- let’s call it neutral. But let’s face it- the manager has kept the guys moving forward for about a year now: fire sales, injuries, bad starts, mis-cast players- the team just keeps playing. Lose three of the first four on a key west coast visit, come back to salvage the last three. They can be bad- but they just don’t tank.

The book on Charlie has always been he isn’t the best game-day leader. He makes mistakes, he plays weird hunches. But guys absolutely play for him- and man, no matter what has been thrown at the Phillies the last eleven months, the club definitely shows up.

And we all know that under Nick Leyva or Jim Fergosi this club would have been left for dead May 1st.

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