Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Random Past Phillie: Erik Plantenberg

Name: Erik John Plantenberg
Position: Relief Pitcher
Born: October 30, 1968 in Renton, Washington
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on November 20, 1996
Phillies Debut: April 3, 1997
Final Phillies Game: June 20, 1997
Uniform Number: 41
Career Elsewhere: Mariners (1993-94)
Unofficial Nickname: "Who the Hell?"

About Erik Plantenberg: There are many obscure players who pass through Major League Baseball. If you blink, you might miss some of them. There are some who manage to stick around for a little while, but you still don't remember much of anything about them. One such unmemorable player would be Erik Plantenberg, a lefty reliever who managed to sneak in 35 appearances for the 1997 Phillies before fading away from the MLB world.

Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 16th round of the 1990 Draft, Plantenberg was plucked by the Seattle Mariners during the minor league phase of the 1992 Rule 5 Draft. He would make his way to the big leagues during the 1993 season, making 20 appearances for the Mariners, posting a 6.52 ERA while recording one save. Plantenberg made six MLB appearances in 1994, tossing seven scoreless innings for Seattle. After the '94 season, Plantenberg was claimed on waivers by the San Diego Padres. He spent the 1995 season in the minors for San Diego, then pitched in the Cleveland Indians' system in 1996. On November 20, 1996, Plantenberg joined the Phillies on a minor league contract.

Most players who sign minor league contracts end up being nothing more than camp bodies, extra guys to carry around for exhibition games. During the spring of 1997, however, Plantenberg found himself in the right place at the right time. The Phillies were short on lefties, and Plantenberg pitched well enough to make the big club out of Spring Training. He would stick around until late June, not necessarily because he pitched so well, but more because there weren't any better options. Plantenberg did not record a decision in 35 appearances (in fact, the aforementioned save he recorded in 1993 was his only decision in 61 career MLB appearances) while posting a 4.91 ERA. On June 22, Plantenberg was sent to the minors, and would never make another MLB appearance. The final three seasons of Plantenberg's pro career were spent bouncing around the farm systems of the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Houston Astros, and Florida Marlins with a couple independent league stops mixed in.

Personal recollection: To be honest, I had no idea Erik Plantenberg pitched in so many games as a Phillie until doing research for this post. I can only recall seeing him pitch in person a couple times. Looking at his stats, Plantenberg only worked 42 and 1/3 innings in 61 MLB appearances. I guess he was what statheads now refer to as a LOOGY, or Lefty One Out GuY.

If you're wondering about the nickname, yeah, it's not very flattering. As I mentioned, I only remember seeing him pitch a couple times. Each time he came in, you were guaranteed to hear someone asking, "Who the hell is Erik Plantenberg?" or "Who the hell is this guy?" You get the idea.

That's my story on Erik Plantenberg. Not a long one, but a story nonetheless. If you have any recollections of your own, feel free to share

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



I'm Al and I joined up weeks ago, but just now sitting down long enough to intro myself. I've been a huge Phils Phreak since 1980, when I was a wee lad of 5 years old. I can pretty name any stat or player you need from 1980-1994 and 2001-2010 (from 95-01 were very bad years and kinda lost track of the world, let alone baseball.....don't ask, you don't wanna know).

In my 30's , I started to become a major Philadelphia baseball history nut. Phillies and Athletics. Upon many winter nights of reading up on Shibe Park, the Baker Bowl, Grover C. Alexander, Jimmie Foxx, and of course, Whitey...I realised we have just as rich of a baseball tradition as NY, Boston, or Chicago...and we should PROUD if it! It's good to enjoy the current "Golden Age" of Phillies baseball, but it's equally as good to know our great history. So for that reason, I will mostly ramble on about our baseball heritage, along with current affairs.

I am also a huge classic rock and metal fan. I also love our Flyers...and LOVE the fact that we now have a soccer team! As far as gruntball...I'm a Bengals fan and root for an 0-16 season for the Eagles every year...and always will....for a gazillion reasons I'd be glad to run off if asked.

I'm proud to be part the fam! Go Phightins!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Will Cole be King again...Ever?

Will Cole Hamels ever be a legitimate #1 starter? Will he ever be the opening day starter for the Phillies? The past two years 'Bad Load' Brett Myers was annointed the opening day starter and now for the next three years Halladay will rightfully get the nod. My contention is that Cole does not have the makeup to be a true #1 right now.

Hamels obviously has the stuff to be a #1, but I question his mental makeup. I have made up a list of a few criteria I consider essential for an ace:

1. The ability to consistently dominate a game. Not just occasionally but with regularity. This is a necessity.

2. Mental toughness. An Ace must be able to step it up during big games. He must have no fear when he steps on the rubber at any time.

3. On the flip side, he should be intimidating to opposing hitters. They should be afraid. Or if not afraid, there should be some type of mental edge that the pitcher has on them.

4. The most important criteria: They should win, win, win. A low ERA with a 14-14 record does not make one an Ace.

5. Some longevity at the above criteria.

Random Past Phillie: Sal Fasano

Name: Salvatore Frank Fasano
Position: Catcher
Born: August 10, 1971 in Chicago, Illinois
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on December 1, 2005
Phillies Debut: April 7, 2006
Final Phillies Game: July 2, 2006
Uniform Number: 13
Career Elsewhere: Royals (1996-99; 2001), Athletics (2000-01), Rockies (2001), Angels (2002), Orioles (2005), Yankees (2006), Blue Jays (2007), Indians (2008)

About Sal Fasano: It's odd how some players can become fan favorites. They don't have to have the most talent in the world, or really even play all that much. Sometimes a player comes along and for whatever reason, we can just relate to him. In 2006, Phillies fans found a soulmate in one Salvatore Frank Fasano, a Fu Manchu-sporting journeyman backup catcher who wasn't all that adept at the plate, but was adequate behind it. A group of fans dubbed "Sal's Pals" regularly flocked to the upper regions of Citizens Bank Park donning fake mustaches. Fasano himself occasionally rewarded the group by sending up some free pizzas, a gesture that was not out of character for a man often described as a class act.

Sal Fasano's MLB journey began in Kansas City. After being selected by the Royals in the 37th round of the 1993 Draft, Fasano made it to the show in 1996, spending parts of four seasons in Kansas City, before being sent to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations prior to the 2000 season. He would be sent back to Kansas City in another cash deal during the 2001 season, and later that same season was traded to the Colorado Rockies. After spending time in the farm systems of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Milwaukee Brewers, Fasano was dealt to the Anaheim Angels at the 2002 trade deadline, making two appearances as a September callup for the eventual World Champions. Elbow surgery sidelined Fasano for the 2003 season, and he would spend 2004 in the minors for the New York Yankees. Fasano would have his most productive MLB season in 2005 as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. In 64 games, Fasano hit .250, and 11 of his 40 hits were home runs. Looking for a backup catcher and some pop off the bench, the Phillies came calling, signing Fasano as a free agent on December 1, 2005.

Fasano entered the 2006 season with the Phillies as the backup for Mike Lieberthal, who would be entering the last of his 12 seasons in Philadelphia. While his long hair and mustache had people intrigued from the start, Fasano also made a quick impression on the field. His Phillies' debut was on April 7, 2006, in what would be a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. In Fasano's second at-bat with the club, he launched a mammoth two-run homer off Brett Tomko, and the legend was born. Though he was far from a star player, Fasano had his moments, and his humble, blue-collar demeanor made him an easy guy to root for. Unfortunately, as quickly as Fasano came into our lives, he was sent away just as swiftly. A knee injury put Fasano on the disabled list on the Fourth of July. By that time, the emergence of Chris Coste coupled with Carlos Ruiz waiting in the wings made Fasano expendable, and on July 22, he was designated for assignment. Four days later, the Phillies traded Fasano to the Yankees for Hector Made, an infielder who as of this writing is no longer playing professional baseball. In 50 games as a Phillie, Fasano hit .243 with four home runs and ten RBI.

After finishing the 2006 season with the Yankees, Fasano headed north of the border to Toronto, where he spent most of 2007 in the minors for the Blue Jays, making 16 appearances for the big club. Fasano would start the 2008 season in the minors for the Atlanta Braves, but was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for future considerations in mid-June. He would appear in 16 games for the Indians before heading back to Colorado for the 2009 season. Fasano would not make an MLB appearance in what turned out to be his final season as a player. On November 25, 2009, it was announced that Fasano had been named manager of the Lansing Lugnuts, the single-A affiliate of the Blue Jays.

Personal recollection: It is amazing how much a guy who only appeared in 50 games as a Phillie without making a real significant impact on the field can be thought of so highly. Sure, having a name like Sal Fasano screams "South Philly" but everyone loved the guy, this Northeast Philly resident included. He kind of fits into that Jim Thome mold of guys who you wish could've been with the Phils when they won it all. Then there was the Fu Manchu. Take it from a guy who has tried (and in all likelihood failed miserably) to sport that look on many occasions, you just have to respect a guy who can rock a Fu Manchu like that!

So that's my story on Sal Fasano. If you have any recollections of your own, feel free to share.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Past Phillie: Ken Howell

Name: Kenneth Howell
Position: Starting Pitcher
Born: November 28, 1960 in Detroit, Michigan
Acquired: From the Baltimore Orioles with Gordon Dillard for Phil Bradley on December 8, 1988
Phillies Debut: April 5, 1989
Final Phillies Game: August 5, 1990
Uniform Number: 43
Career Elsewhere: Dodgers (1984-88)

About Ken Howell: When it comes to starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, the term "ace" can often be used very loosely. We think of a true ace as a horse, a pitcher whose mere presence almost guarantees his team a win every fifth day. On the flip side, an ace can also just happen to be the best pitcher on a very weak staff. For the majority of the 1989 and 1990 seasons, Ken Howell fell into this category for the Philadelphia Phillies.

A hard-throwing righty, Howell spent parts of five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen. On December 4, 1988, Howell was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that sent Eddie Murray to the Dodgers. Four days later, the O's shipped Howell and minor league pitcher Gordon Dillard two hours north on I-95 in exchange for disgruntled outfielder Phil Bradley. Desperate for quality arms, the Phillies decided to put Howell in the starting rotation. While he wasn't spectacular by any means, Howell was the top pitcher for a 1989 Phillies team that went 67-95. He won 12 games, which was tied with reliever Jeff Parrett for tops on the team, maintaining a 3.44 ERA in 33 appearances, 32 of which were starts. The organization was so impressed with Howell's performance, they signed him to a three-year contract extension prior to the 1990 season. For a while, it looked like it might pay off, as Howell started the '90 season with an 8-3 record, winning six consecutive decisions between May 11 and June 12 of that year. But, as often seemed to be the case in those days, disaster would soon strike.

On June 12, 1990, Ken Howell allowed two runs in eight innings in a 7-2 victory over the Montreal Expos at the Vet. It would be the last victory in Howell's career. He would lose four consecutive decisions, while twice landing on the disabled list with shoulder problems. His final start would come on August 5, getting a no-decision in an 8-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Shoulder woes put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season and all of the 1991 season. Howell attempted to come back in 1992, but his right shoulder still hadn't healed, and he missed that season as well. After a last-ditch comeback effort failed in 1993, Howell was released by the Phillies. He would attend Spring Training with the Texas Rangers in 1994, but was released before the season began. Howell would make it back to the big leagues in 2008, as he was named bullpen coach for the Dodgers, a position that he still holds.

So was Ken Howell really an ace? No, not by a longshot. But for a time, he was the best the Phillies had to offer. Which probably tells you all you need to know about life for the Philadelphia Phillies in the late 80s/early 90s.

Personal recollection: If it seems like I'm using the word "ace" a lot in this post, there's a reason for that. The Phillies tried to convince everyone who would listen that Ken Howell was an ace. Times were tough back then. But times like those make you appreciate the current era that much more. Howell did have decent stuff. His control wasn't the best, though. He led the NL with 21 wild pitches in 1989, then threw eight in 18 starts in 1990. I remember watching one of the Phillies' end-of-year Home Companions (they avoided using the term "highlight film" for obvious reasons back then), and Howell was on trial in Roger McDowell's Kangaroo Court. McDowell fined Howell for a recent pitching performance. The total was three dollars, one for each wild pitch.

Another memory I have comes from a doubleheader that I attended. It was late in the long-lost '89 season against the St. Louis Cardinals. The previous night's game had been rained out, and since the Cards were still in the playoff hunt, they had a doubleheader that day. Instead of the regular 1:35 Sunday start, the first game was pushed up to 12:05. Howell was supposed to pitch the first game, but never showed up. Turned out he didn't know that the start was pushed up, and by the time he got to the Vet, the first game was about to start. Don Carman got the start instead, and the Phillies won the game, 9-5 in 12 innings thanks to a walkoff grand slam by John Kruk. Howell started the second game, losing by a score of 2-0.

That's my story on Ken Howell. If you have any recollections of your own, feel free to share.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Did Chuck Klein have the best Single Season Ever?

I went back. Way back. 1932 to be exact and found that Phillies own Chuck Klein had a monster year. Just across the board huge in every offensive category. I then went to see if any player came close to having the same type of season. I came upon Larry Walker's 1997 stats while with Colorado. They are close folks. Very close. Now you can complain about Coors Field being an offensive ballpark and the pitching was watered down. I agree. I also need to point out that Klein's home, Baker Bowl, had a right field fence only 281 feet away. I am going to call the ballpark issue even.

How I determined the winner was 12 offensive stats  Here is how it panned out:
                  Runs     Hits   2B  3B  HR   RBI
Klein           152      226    50   15  38   137              
Walker        143      208    46    4   49   130

At the halfway point it is Klein who won 5 of the 6 categories. Now onto the last 6:
                 SB   K   BA   OBP   SLG   TB
Klein          20    49  .348  .404   .646  420
Walker       33   90   .366  .452   .720  409

After 12 categories, Klein took 7 out of a possible 12. So to answer the question..Yes. Chuck Klein had the best single season of any player ever.



Thursday, March 11, 2010

Random Past Phillie: Ricky Otero

Special thanks to "the late" Joey Ballgame for the suggestion

Name: Ricardo Otero
Position: Outfielder
Born: April 15, 1972 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
Acquired: From the New York Mets for Phil Geisler on December 14, 1995
Phillies Debut: May 28, 1996
Final Phillies Game: August 17, 1997
Uniform Number: 15
Career Elsewhere: Mets (1995)

About Ricky Otero: Of all the players in the long history of the Philadelphia Phillies, few are looked down upon more than Ricky Otero. Of course, the poor guy can't help it, as he stands just 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Selected in the 45th round of the 1990 Draft by the New York Mets, Otero made his way to The Show in 1995, making the Mets' Opening Day roster. He would appear in 37 games over two separate MLB stints that season, hitting just .137 in 51 at-bats. On December 14, 1995, Otero was traded to the Phillies. Going to the Mets was Phil Geisler, an outfielder who in 1993 had won the Paul Owens Award as the top player in the Phillies' farm system, but had since seen his production drop significantly. Geisler would never reach the majors. Otero fared a little better, and after a hot start to the 1996 season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was called up to the Phillies.

At the time of Otero's recall, the Phillies were hovering around .500, but they would soon find themselves mired in a June swoon that put them in the NL East basement to stay. Back problems had put Lenny Dykstra on the shelf for good, although it would be another two years before he officially retired. On May 28, 1996, Ricky Otero made his Phillies' debut, leading off and playing center field. It looked like a star was born, as Otero went 3-for-5 in a 9-3 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Vet. Four days later, Otero again went 3-for-5, capping it off with a walkoff single to beat the San Diego Padres, 9-8. Otero's average stayed around .300 for about three weeks, but he soon leveled off, which raised doubts about his durability. Still, Otero managed to hit .273 in 104 games with a team-leading seven triples. Though he possessed excellent speed, Otero wasn't a particularly adept baserunner, as he was caught stealing ten times in 26 attempts. While Otero's 1996 performance was certainly respectable, it was clear the Phillies weren't making any long-term plans for him.

By the time the 1997 season rolled around, Wendell Magee had been anointed as the Center Fielder of the Future for the Phillies. Otero found himself back in the minors, but he would be recalled in early May when it became painfully obvious that the Magee experiment wasn't going to pan out. Otero's impact was far less significant in 1997, as he hit .252 in 50 games, incredibly collecting just three RBI in 151 at-bats, and was unsuccessful on all three steal attempts. He would be sent back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-August, never to make another MLB appearance. After two undistinguished seasons in the Baltimore Orioles' system, Otero made his way to the Mexican League, which is where his career and life took a wrong turn.

Otero spent three seasons playing for Cancun in the Mexican League. His numbers were solid, not spectacular there. Good enough to earn a living. But Otero longed for the day he could return to the majors. As the reality set in that it wouldn't happen for him, Otero fell into a deep depression, turning to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Sinking deeper into addiction, Otero not only lost his career, he lost everything. According to an August 30, 2009 article in El Universal, a major newspaper based in Mexico City, Otero was discovered to be homeless, living on the streets of Cancun. Otero called his situation "sad and shameful" and blamed nobody but himself.

Dreams can die hard, and it's not always the easiest thing to deal with when they do. Ricky Otero is a good example of this.

Personal recollection: I think my lasting impression of Ricky Otero is when I went to Photo Night not too long after he was first called up. I was a couple months away from turning 16. Those who know me know that I'm a bit vertically challenged myself, so it was pretty strange seeing a player shorter than I was.

I remember Otero hit a home run against the Cubs at Wrigley Field that was windblown into the basket in right field. I believe Chris Wheeler used the term "cheapie" about 47 times the rest of that game. I also remember Otero slamming his face into the Vet turf diving after a line drive hit by Dax Jones of the Giants. He didn't make the catch. It ended up being an inside-the-park home run, with Otero having to leave the game injured.

I didn't know about Otero's post-career issues until doing research for this post. I haven't seen any updates on his condition since the original article was printed. Hopefully he is able to get rehabilitated and get his life back on track.

So that's my story on Ricky Otero. If you have any thoughts, feel free to post them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ring stolen by Murderer

I think we all agree that Ruben Amaro has been very astute and calculated so far on who the Phillies sign, trade, or let go via free agency. The Phillies operations may need to take note and be more selective in who they hire. On August 31, 2009, Phillies Publicity Director, John Blazier felt a rumbling in his stomach and had to go drop a bomb like Saddam in the executive-suite level bathrooms. Blazier apparently felt the need to remove the $10,500 ring and place it somewhere in the stall before he took his big smash and the maroon left it there. This is where the story gets good.

In walks Anthony Mobley, part of the sub-contracted custodial staff to clean the bathroom and happens upon the ring. He took it of course and returned it to John Blazier. Not. He flat out took the ring and would have probably tried to pawn it or sell it for a case of Mad Dog, but bathroom cameras caught Mobley taking the ring and he has recently pleaded guilty. In a review if Mobley's past transgressions, it was uncovered that in the mid 1970s Mobley was found guilty of...MURDER. Now I have two big problems here.

The first: Why the hell is there a camera in a bathroom? To me that seems a bit creepy. That means the Phillies have in their archives me bad loading numerous times in the bathroom after an Adam Eaton gopherball or Bobby Abreu stopping right before the wall on a catchable ball. This is not to mention my yearly upper-decker in stall 2 in the bathroom behind section 233.

The second:What type of background check do the Phillies require of their staff if a convicted murderer was allowed to walk around looting? Does anyone think that this is the first thing Mobley has taken? Is the usher at the end of my aisle a Peeping Tom? Is the Escalator Nazi behind third base a cat burglar? I'll save my complete tirade on this guy for a later date, but at the end of the game he tries to make people walk the ramp because the escalator is too full. I am all boozed up, so I disregard him totally and walk right past. The issue I have is....the escalator's single purpose is to MOVE PEOPLE. Why the hell should I have to walk down 8 flights of a ramp when the escalator is right there and it takes me 2 minutes. This dude is a dick. I am guessing this is the year where him and me get into an altercation.

So what do you think about Mobley and the fact that he was working around your kids? Are bathroom camera's OK with you? The Phillies run a metal detector, checks bags, do a CT scan of me out front (they should actually do a blood alcohol level check), but they let a dreg of society on staff???

Monday, March 8, 2010

I mean I was the Mayor of the bar scene in Philadelphia....

The announcement was made yesterday as Pat Burrell stood in the visiting clubhouse at Bright House Field after checking out of the Tampa Bay Rays' exhibition game against the Phillies. With a crowd of 10,474 in attendance on a bright, sunny afternoon, the Phillies had set a team record for a Grapefruit League game.

It was further evidence that the Phillies have become one of those special teams that can draw a crowd any time, any place. Burrell, of course, already knows about the Phillies' transformation from afterthought to toast of the town. He got to raise a giant champagne glass during the 2008 parade down Broad Street before leaving for the Rays as a free agent. After one disappointing season with Tampa Bay, Burrell admitted that he missed the passion that can only be found in a handful of major-league cities.
"I don't know if there is any way of saying this without getting myself in trouble," Burrell said. "But there is definitely a different excitement level [in Philadelphia]. I think more than anything, there is a stronger tradition for baseball there. That goes without saying. Mostly though, Philadelphia has better '-tang' and places to get loaded up at. I mean I was the Mayor of the bar scene in Philadelphia."

"You talk to a lot of players and certain players don't like to play in Philly, they are all pussies. Scott Rolen is the King of Pussies." Burrell said. "Certain guys love it and I was one of the guys that really enjoyed it. I probably saw the full parameter of the good and the bad. But at all times you knew that people cared. They want you to win and they come out and support you. I'm not sure enough players appreciate that because there aren't many places like it. "
New surroundings and less ballpark buzz weren't the only adjustments Burrell had to make in his first season away from Philadelphia. He also had to learn how to become a full-time designated hitter and, by his own admission, he didn't do it very well.

"In the big picture, I'm here as a player and what they call upon me to do, I do," Burrell said. "I want to create as many options for them as I can if playing the outfield is an option. If it's not, it's not. It comes down to committing to the role and I know what to expect.

"When you realize how much time there can be between at-bats sometimes, you have to find a way to fill that time [other than going for a quickie in the clubhouse with Evan Longoria's girl]and still stay up to speed with the game. It doesn't sound that difficult, but it can be at times."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he'd be surprised if Burrell wasn't better in his second season with the Rays."You have to find a way to stay busy and stay loose as the DH," Manuel said. "That was all new to him and I think that played a part in Pat's year. I still think Pat is a very productive hitter. He's a better hitter than the year he had last year. I totally believe that. Pat Burrell is a .275 hitter who can hit you 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs." In a low estimation, Burrell is said to have tapped over 3000 women and drank over 10,000 beers during his 8 year stay in Philadelphia.

As posted by Bob Brookover

Friday, March 5, 2010


First off, METS SUCK, YANKEES SWALLOW!!!! As a lifetime Phillie's fan, I have seen the best of times (1980, 2008), and the worst of times (1988-1992, 1994-2002). I have witnessed Phillie's greats like Michael Jack, Lefty, Rose, Utley, Howard, Rollins, but was in the stands when they trotted out our Steve's to name a few: Jeltz, Lake and Ontiveros. I have also heard the best, Whitey and Harry, and now maybe the worst, Wheels and Sarge (loved you as a player, but damn...). These things are not news to any true Phan, but had to get these things off my chest. This year, I will be at about 30 to 40 Phils' games this year, which will add to my running total of about 1000.

In my posts, I will take you to the twenty six Major League ballparks that I have visited and usually the bars and establishments that are located in that city. I can also take questions regarding to roadtrips that anyone plans to take, except Muts fans. I have often found great hotels that are walking distance to the ballpark. Some, even have free "Happy Hours" before games! I have also found that Phillies Phans have the worst reputation, but when you talk to actual baseball people, they wish their fans had our passion. This season, I am also planning an August/ September trip to San Fran and Oak-town or Houston/ Texas. Maybe you guys can sway me either way. Well, lets play ball and...


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Prediction by a 4 Year Old Phils Fan

Meghan gives her opinion on how she thinks the Phillies are going to do in 2010 right here.

On the Road Load – Destination: Bradenton, FL

On March 6th the Phillies will travel to Bradenton to battle their home state companions the Pittsburgh Pirates. A few of you older Phillies fans may remember that the Fightins’ actually occupied this space from 1925 to 1927. McKechnie Park has hosted the Pirates since 1969. For a while the Pirates were the only occupant but starting this year the stadium will host a Florida State League team. While I can’t find out much information about what types of beer is served at McKechnie Park rest assured they do sell beer. One thing worth nothing is that the food is said to be of a high quality as it is not provided by a company like Aramark.

Beer Bar: Lost Kangaroo Pub
Location: 427 Old Main Street
Distance from McKechnie Park: 0.9mi/4minutes
Bottles: 85+
On Tap: 25+

This bar has been recently renovated however, renovated doesn’t always mean you’ll appreciate the atmosphere as it is a smoker’s paradise. Although seeing how this is the Sunshine State they have outdoor seating which may help for you non-smokers. If you can get past the smoke you’ll be rewarded with a fine selection of beer. Left Hand, Bell’s, and Shipyard make up for a nice selection in bottles. If smoking is your thing you should check out another featured bar below.

Beer Store: Beer Monster
Location: 4307 26th Street W
Distance from McKechnie Park: 2.6mi/6 minutes
Bottles: 300+

I’m starting to see a trend in the naming of beer stores in Florida. With names like “Big Town”, “House of…”, “World of…” I’m expecting to find a Beerzilla soon. So that brings to another big named beer store called Beer Monster. Big Monster has a vast selection of bottled beer as well as your standard liquors. The layout will make you feel like a kid in a candy store as the aisles are lined with shelves filled with bottles of beer waiting for you to snatch them up. You’ll even be able to procure something from Three Floyds Brewing Co. which is a nice treat as they’re hard to come by in Pennsylvania.

Beer Bar: The Cellar and Hookah Lounge
Location: 4307 26th Street W
Distance from McKechnie Park: 2.6mi/6 Minutes
Bottles: Unknown
On Tap: Unknown

Located right next to Beer Monster is something you might not expect to see across from a Walgreens, a hookah lounge. The Cellar and Hookah Lounge offers patrons the opportunity to sit at the bar smoking fine tobacco through a hookah all while enjoying a beer. You can expect all the same liquids found at the Beer Monster to be served at this bar because they share the same ownership. If you go here on a weekend you can expect a lot of entertainment as the Lounge hosts many musical acts.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Number One Draft Picks and Team Wins

I wanted to explore the Number One draft picks and how they panned out for 6 teams in the Major Leagues over the last 25 years. I considered a player panning out to be a starter or part of the bullpen for multiple years with at least average output. The teams I chose were Phillies, Braves, Red Sox, Pirates, Padres, and the Nationals/Expos. I did also look at the Yankees and their picks were BRUTAL. It just shows that they flat out buy players and championships. They only had 3 players they drafted in the first round since 1980 pan out. I wanted to take three upper echelon teams and then take three of the lower performers over the past 25 years and see if there was any correlation between having their number one pick work out and how good the teams were over those 25 years (1980-2005). Here is what I found…

The Braves had 8 out of  their 23                34.7%
The Red Sox had 6 out of 19                       31.6%
The Phillies had 7 out of their 23                 30.4%
The Nationals/Expos had 10 out of 36          27.8%
The Padres had 5 out of  their 21                 23.8%
The Pirates had 5 out of their 24                  20.8%

So then I took the above teams record for 25 years (1984-2009 to allow 5 years for the draftees to pan out) and here are the win totals:
Atlanta                                                                      2208 Wins
Boston                                                                      2193 Wins
Phillies                                                                      2036 Wins
Nationals/Expos                                                        1990 Wins
SanDiego                                                                  1984 Wins
Pittsburgh                                                                  1923 Wins

There is a definite and strong correlation between a team's number one pick panning out and how many wins that team has in the given time frame.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Random Past Phillie: Fernando Valenzuela

Name: Fernando Valenzuela
Position: Starting Pitcher
Born: November 1, 1960* in Navojoa, Mexico
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on June 24, 1994
Phillies Debut: June 28, 1994
Final Phillies Game: August 11, 1994
Uniform Number: 33
Career Elsewhere: Dodgers (1980-90), Angels (1991), Orioles (1993), Padres (1995-97), Cardinals (1997)

*-listed date of birth, but is widely believed to be older, perhaps significantly so

About Fernando Valenzuela: Surely you've heard of Fernandomania. It swept the nation during the strike-interrupted 1981 season, when a Los Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom lefthander from Mexico with an unorthodox delivery by the name of Fernando Valenzuela took the baseball world by storm. After going 2-0 during a September callup in 1980 (allowing just two unearned runs in 17 relief innings), Valenzuela won his first eight decisions in '81. In fact, the Phillies dealt him his first loss, when he was outdueled by Marty Bystrom, 4-0, on May 18. Valenzuela would end the abbreviated season with a 13-7 record, a 2.48 ERA, 11 complete games, and eight shutouts for the eventual World Champion Dodgers. Valenzuela's individual efforts were enough to bring home both the National League Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards. The hefty lefty would remain with the Dodgers through the 1990 season, being selected to six All-Star teams. Along the way, he won 21 games in 1986 and tossed a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 29, 1990.

Though Valenzuela certainly had his moments late in his stint with the Dodgers, his fastball had lost considerable velocity, and his trademark screwball lacked the bite it once had. After a poor spring training in 1991, Valenzuela was released by the Dodgers. After spending time in the Mexican League, Valenzuela signed with the California Angels on May 20, 1991, making his debut with the club on June 7. It proved disastrous, as Valenzuela made just two starts for the Angels, losing both while being lit up to the tune of a 12.15 ERA. After spending the entire 1992 season in Mexico, Valenzuela signed with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training in 1993. Though he lasted the entire season, Valenzuela's return was hardly triumphant, as he went 8-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 32 appearances, 31 of which were starts. It was back to Mexico in 1994, seemingly for good. Then the Phillies came calling.

After reaching the World Series in 1993, the 1994 Phillies were a mess. Injuries had ravaged the club, and many of the players who were healthy came nowhere close to repeating their '93 output. By late June, the pitching staff was in shambles. Desperate for help, the Phillies turned to Fernando Valenzuela. The reaction was understandably negative. Valenzuela was several years removed from being a star MLB pitcher, and nobody was really sure just how old he was. But sure enough, he officially signed with the Phils on June 24, and it was announced he would make his debut with the club four nights later against the Florida Marlins at the Vet. While everyone expected the worst, Valenzuela surprised everyone by allowing just one unearned run over six innings in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss. The lack of run support would be a recurring theme for the veteran southpaw. In eight games (seven starts), Valenzuela had a very respectable 3.00 ERA, not allowing more than three runs in any appearance, but only a 1-2 record to show for it. Valenzuela's final appearance for the Phillies also turned out to the the team's final game of the infamous strike-shortened 1994 season. He was again solid, holding the New York Mets to just a single run in eight innings of work, but the Phils needed 15 innings to come out on top by a 2-1 score.

Though Valenzuela pitched effectively in his brief stint with the Phillies, the club did not bring him back for the 1995 season. Instead, he returned to Southern California, signing with the San Diego Padres on April 5, three days after the strike finally ended. Valenzuela would spend two full seasons in San Diego, and part of a third. He would win 13 games in 1996, helping to lead the Padres to a surprising NL West title. After a disappointing 2-8 start to the 1997 season, Valenzuela was traded for the only time in his career on June 13, going to the St. Louis Cardinals in a six-player deal. After going winless in five starts, Valenzuela was released by the Cardinals on July 15. This ended his MLB career, though Valenzuela did pitch in the Mexican winter league as recently as 2006. Today, Valenzuela provides Spanish-language color commentary for the Dodgers on a part-time basis.

Personal recollection: I remember finding out the Phillies signed Fernando Valenzuela while watching Action News. The internet as we know it hadn't quite entered our lives, and my family didn't have cable until 1997. I remember my jaw dropping upon hearing the news. Gary Papa was doing his best not to burst into laughter or possible tears when breaking the news. They said that Valenzuela was 33 years old, to which my dad (who was 44 at the time) replied: "If he's 33, then so am I!" I wonder if we'll ever find out how old he really is. Fernando, if you're reading this, you can tell me. If you really were born in 1960, then I apologize.

Valenzuela's brief tenure in Philadelphia is largely forgotten, so I think a lot of people just assume he sucked as a Phillie. Obviously, that is not the case. He had a couple decent seasons with the Padres after leaving, and I always wondered if he would've done that well with the Phils. Of course, the team was pretty bad by that point, so I doubt it would've made much difference. Despite not having the greatest physique, Valenzuela is the kind of pitcher that Chris Wheeler would call a "good athlete." He won two Sliver Slugger Awards as well as a Gold Glove.

I happened to attend the only game Valenzuela won in a Phillies uniform. It was on July 17, 1994, a Sunday afternoon game, fittingly against the Dodgers. Valenzuela took a shutout into the ninth inning with a 9-0 lead, getting some run support for a change. He ran out of gas, allowing three runs without retiring a batter, then Paul Quantrill and Larry Andersen came on and proceeded to allow four more runs before Doug Jones got the final out with the go-ahead run at the plate. Just your typical 9-7 victory.

That is my story on Fernando Valenzuela. Feel free to add any personal recollections.

On the Road Load – Destination: Dunedin, FL

The Fightins’ first road game of the spring takes them northwest to Dunedin to face the only remaining Canadian MLB franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have been at Dunedin Stadium since 1990 and will be there for another 7 years on their current agreement. Since this is a team celebrating our neighbor to the north you can expect some Labatt Blue to quench your thirst. But nowadays you can only get Labatt in bottles as Budweiser and Bud Light reign supreme at the taps. There is even a Budweiser Select Lounge complete with a fully air-conditioned bar, televisions and leather couches. So if you need a break from the heat this would be the place to do it while enjoying the game.

Beer Bar/Beer Store: Dunedin House of Beer
Location: 927A Broadway
Distance from Dunedin Stadium: 0.7 mi/2 min
On Tap: 40
Bottles: Some but unknown amount

If you consider yourself a Craft Beer lover than look no further in Dunedin than the Dunedin House of Beer. With a tap list of 40 beers that change daily you will be amazed by the selection and quality. If you plan on spending a lot of time in this area make sure to sign up for there “Rail Card” which gets marked off after each tap you drink from. Drink from all 40 and you get t-shirt. Complete three of these cards and you get 20 free beers. They’ll even fill growlers if you happen to find that special beer to take home for the evening.

Beer Store: Luekens Big Town Liquors
Location: 944 Patricia Avenue
Distance from Dunedin Stadium: 1.8 mi/4 minutes
Bottles: a heck of a lot

Is it Rum you crave? Vodka? Brandy? Beer? They’re not lying when they named this place Big Town Liquors. The selection is so vast you’ll find yourself pacing back and forth trying to figure out what to and what not to buy. If you’re from the Philadelphia area you’ll certainly love the “mark-downs” on beer that is cheaper here than in the Keystone State. There is also a Luekens Big Town Liquors that recently opened up in Clearwater if you’re down there as well. They’re open early enough Monday-Friday (8 am) and late enough (10pm) for all your cravings. Stock up!

Bar: Flanagan’s Irish Pub
Location: 465 Main Street
Distance from Dunedin Stadium: 0.7mi/1min
Bottles: 15+
On Tap: 10+

Dunedin is a Scottish community but you don’t have to look far to find an Irish bar in town. Flanagan’s doesn’t overwhelm with the beer selection. But if you’re looking for a pint of the black stuff or some Magners you’ve come to the right place. They also serve beer from the local Dunedin Brewery so those of you who want some local flavor will have that to fall back on. Most likely you’ll want to partake in some of the Irish fare offered. From Shepard’s Pie to Bangers and Mash you’ll either be pining for the green landscapes of Ireland or thanking the Almighty you live in the US of A.