Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Blow up the Phils Minor League System


    As the great Pop Fisher, fictional manager of the Knights in The Natural said " I should have been a farmer".  This Jekyll and Hyde Phillies team is infuriating. They go on a winning streak only to follow it up with a losing streak. They supposedly have the easiest schedule in MLB, yet they are 4-7 in September. The Phillies have actually been in 1st place for 24 games this season. How, I'll never understand, other than the NL East is complete horseshit. It feels like the team should be 10 games out. They just may by the time the season ends.

    The only real bright spots have been Wheeler and Harper. If the Phillies do not eke into the playoffs, Harper will not get the MVP. That is really his only chance and I think Tatis may already have the award in his pocket regardless of what the Phils or Bryce does...unless the Padres miss the playoffs and Phils get in. Fans tend to forget that Harper is ONLY 28 years old. He is entering his prime and his 2021 output should continue for the next few years. The issue is, does it really matter if the Phillies cannot put guys in the lineup to win.

    JT Realmuto is either playing hurt (and not really telling anyone) or he pulled the wool over everyone's eyes and his downside came much sooner than hoped. I tend to believe he is hurt. He is hitting terribly and his Caught Stealing % is much less than his career average. Opposing pitchers continue to pitch him high and inside, where he has a hole in his swing the size of the Grand Canyon. I applaud guys for playing hurt, but is he really doing the team any favors when he is clearly playing at WAY less than 100% health? 

    I was having a look at the Farm System, which is ranked 27th in MLB. They have 1 player in the Top 100, Mick Abel, who is likely 2-3 years from making the major leagues and has been on the shelf with shoulder woes for the latter part of 2021. Bryson Stott, Andrew Painter, and recently acquired Hans Crouse round out the top 4.  The Phillies lack a single impact player in the Top 30 of their minor league system. Mick Abel is not the next Cole Hamels, he is the next Kyle Drabek. Bryson Stott is not the next Jimmy Rollins, he is the next Luis Aguayo.

    Teams have to cultivate talent in the farm system to succeed. The Phillies have little to offer in trades to re-stock the farm. Why do other teams seemingly "find" breakout stars and the Phillies simply cannot? It is no coincidence that the farm has been terrible for 15 years. There is no "top prospect" from the last 10 years that is playing in the majors for the Phillies. Not a single one. Blow up the minor league system and pay dearly for free agents until the Minors can produce.


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Keep Hope Alive!



    If you live a life like mine, addicted to the Phillies and an eternal optimist that maybe just maybe the Phillies can make the playoffs, win, or just not plain suck...then you may also be living a life of deep regret and saving face when the Phillies do not do what you want or hope. Today is one of those days because I hope that Nola can be 2018 Nola. You remember that Nola right? The one who won close to 20 games and had an ERA of 2.37? 

    If you take 2018 out of Nola's stats, he would be 48-40 with a 3.97 ERA. That means that he is still above average, but nowhere near an ace of the staff. I take that into consideration, but today and for the rest of 2021 I really hope that 2018 Nola appears. If he does, the Phillies should make the playoffs. With a rotation of Wheeler, 2018 Nola, Gibson, and Suarez, who knows what can happen. 

    Sometimes you just have to be good enough to get in. Sometimes the stars have to align, Mercury can't be in Retrograde, the hitters hit, the pitchers pitch, and the fielders field. I am not asking for a dominant 100 plus win season at this point. I am simply asking for the playoffs and ATLEAST a series win. Stranger things have certainly happened. That is the magic of baseball.

    I initially named this group Drunk Phils Fans because baseball intoxicates me.  The amount of MLB games I have watched in my lifetime are definitely in the 5 figure area. I read somewhat voraciously and  most of my books are baseball-focused, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. I play Strat-o-Matic and have for 30 plus years. I long for the days of hit and runs, bunting a guy over, hitting the ball the other way and there is nothing better than a well-pitched low-scoring game that is played in under 2 hours. I am a complete and total baseball nerd. 

    I need the 2021 Phillies to make some noise in the playoffs. It stays off the doldrums of a long and cold baseball-less winter. I think we all need it. Keep Hope Alive Bryce & Company!

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Sad Story of Grover "Pete" Cleveland Alexander


  Grover Cleveland Alexander was named after the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. He played for the Phillies from 1911-1917 and then returned for a few games in 1930. His record while a Phillie was 190-91, 2.18 ERA and a WHIP of 1.075. Pete always wore a uniform that was extra baggy and the cap on his head was undersized and pulled down cock-eyed over one year. He won 31, 33, and 30 games in a three-year span, which included the Phillies first trip to the World Series in 1915. After the 1917 season, he was sold to the Cubs because Phillies owner William Baker said, "he needed the money". 

    Before Pete joined the Cubs, two major things happened that would change his life forever. He married Amy Marie Arrants and he was drafted into the US Army and he spent most of 1918 as a sergeant with the 342nd Artillery fighting in France. The war took an incredible toll on Alexander as he was exposed to mustard gas, had a bomb explode near him that caused partial hearing loss and part of his ear.

    "Ole Pete" had a love for the liquor for quite some time prior to his being drafted into the US Army. When he came back from the war, the drinking problem escalated, he was afflicted with epilepsy, which not much was known about the disease at the time, so he was perceived as having drunken episodes during a seizure.  

    From 1918-1925, Pete played for the Chicago Cubs, where he was 128-83 with a 2.84 ERA over his career there. His predilection for the drink consumed him. The Cubs even hired a bodyguard for Pete, whose sole duty was to stop Pete from drinking. His wife Amy also traveled with him, to keep his habit under somewhat of control. Neither option really worked and in the middle of the 1926 season, the Cubs Manager Joe McCarthy had enough of Pete and his antics and sold him to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Alexander played with the Cardinals from 1926-1929, where he would play in 2 World Series, winning one of them. The story of the ending of the 1926 World Series is maybe Pete's most famous. Pete had complete-game victories in Games 2 and 6. It is purported that Pete went on an EPIC bender after his Game 6 win, because he knew he would not be pitching again in that series. With St. Louis ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th, with the bases loaded and 2 men out against the Yankees, Alexander was summoned in to pitch. Pete was suspected to still have been drunk when he entered the game. He was definitely sleeping in the bullpen for the better part of the 7th game of the World Series. 

    The first batter Alexander faced was the feared Tony Lazzeri, who had 117 RBIs that season. Ole' Pete nearly gave up a grand slam on a very close foul ball, only to strike Lazzeri out to end the inning. He coasted through the 8th and first two batters of the ninth with the Cards still ahead 3-2 and Babe Ruth coming to the plate. Pete said after the game. "I walked Ruth, because there was no way I was going to let that fat bastard hit a Home Run and tie the game". Ruth inexplicably tried to steal 2nd and was caught to end the game and the series to give the Cards the 1926 title.

    He won 20 games again in 1927 and made it to the World Series in 1928, where the Cards were swept by the Yankees. "Alexander the Great" returned to the Phillies in 1930, his last year in the Major Leagues where he was 0-3 with a 9.97 ERA at the age of 43. Pete's next 20 years were beyond sad.

    His wife divorced him twice, once in 1929 and again in 1941. The final decades of Pete's life were tumultuous, to say the least. He was in and out of sanitoriums, worked various odd jobs such as a flea circus, bartender, and hotel help. It got so bad and he was seen as such an embarrassment to baseball and the National League, that Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, NL President Frick and Cardinals President Sam Breadon agreed to give Alexander a pension of $50 a month. Alex was not allowed to actually have the money, but it was sent to his "handlers" to pay for food and lodging for Ole Pete. They feared he would just drink the money, which he definitely would have.

    Alexander was able to gather himself for a short while when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938. When asked how it felt to be inducted, Pete said, "I’m in the Hall of Fame, . . . and I’m proud to be there, but I can’t eat the Hall of Fame.” Even the highest honor in the sport could not get him out of the doldrums where he continued to spiral for the next 12 years. He developed skin Cancer on his ear and had to have it amputated. For the better part of his last years, he was begging for change on the street to get enough money for alcohol.

    Alexander's last public appearance was at Yankee Stadium in 1950 against the Phillies. Pete died mercifully on November 4, 1950, in a hotel room in St.Paul. The official cause of death was listed as Cardiac Arrest, but it is believed either an epileptic seizure or drunken fall in his room were the true cause. Years of hard living and abuse of alcohol were ultimately his true demise.

    Pete was buried with full military honors and laid to rest in his family plot in Elmwood Cemetery close to St. Paul. Alexander still holds the National League career shutout record with 90, had 373( 3rd most wins on MLB history) wins and a lifetime ERA of 2.56. He allowed only 951 Walks in 5190 Innings Pitched. In baseball, Alexander was a believer that less was more. He often said, "What's the use of doing in three pitches what you can do in one?" Pete was not a fan of the strikeout but felt if he could put the ball where he wanted and the batter didn't he could induce outs on fewer pitches. Sportswriter Grantland Rice said of Pete, "He could pitch into a tin can. His control was always remarkable - the finest I have ever seen.".  Yet Pete was never able to control the bottle and he died broke and alone.




Thursday, September 2, 2021

What Should the 2022 Phillies Look Like?


  When a team has so many glaring deficiencies, a single off-season is often not enough to make that team a true playoff contender. The Phillies have desperate holes at LF, 3B, SS, 1B, and starting pitching. What stands out to me for the regular lineup is that most of the issues revolve around defensive liability. Hoskins and Bohm are absolute butchers in the field. Hoskins can hit, but Bohm has not shown the ability to consistently perform in the batter's box. Cutch has seen better days in LF and I honestly think if that position is below average in the field, they need to excel with the bat. Cutch does not and needs to be a bench player at best.

    Segura is a natural 2B, although he can play 3B. He is an excellent hitter, but the Phils require power SOMEWHERE in the lineup, so he should remain at 2B and 3B should be filled with a free agent (Arenado). Didi is done. He has always been a below-average SS, but this year he has been abhorrent on defense. It doesn't seem like Stott is ready, so Didi unfortunately may get a stay of execution since he has another year on his contract left.

    Starting pitching has ranged from a complete abomination (VV, Howard, Anderson, Moore) to glimpses of Cy Young prowess. There has been a regression in Aaron Nola as well. I think he is a #3 or #4 starter. Suarez also slots into a #4 or #5 starter, but certainly has shown glimpses of being a 2/3. The 2021-2022 Free Agent SP class is VERY strong. The Phillies should NOT look to fill in with back-end starters. They should look for a #1/#2 starter and the rotation should look like this: Wheeler, FA Starter, Nola, Eflin, Suarez.

    Relief pitching has been better this year than last (this is not saying much). There is room for improving and solidying the back end. Ian Kennedy is not the answer at closer. Re-sign Archie Bradley and consider signing a TRUE closer (Iglesias, Yates, Jansen). Supplement the pen either from the minors, trade or FA with another LH reliever (Andrew Miller?).

    You have to ask yourself, "Who is a true trade chip?". I immediately think of Hoskins to an AL team. The DH was made more Lead Hands Rhys. Is Hoskins enough to get a #2 Starting Pitcher, Power hitting 3B or LF? Can JT play 1B? Is Marchan good enough defensively to make up for his mediocre offense? 

    If I were sitting on Middleton's throne of cigars, this is what I would want to see:

C- Marchan

1B - Realmuto

2B - Segura

SS - Didi/Galvis platoon (Galvis late game defensive replacement too)

3B -  Arenado

LF - Mark Canha (can also play 1B)

CF - Odubel

RF - MV3

SP:   Wheeler, Kluber, Nola, Eflin, Suarez.

Batting Order: Odubel, Segura, Harper, Arenado, JT, Canha, Didi/Galvis, Marchan

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Random Past Phillies Game - September 7, 2005


    There was a time in the not-so-distant past that you used to receive actual physical tickets for Phillies games. Nowadays you print them out or have them on your phone. I want to take you back to a particular date in Phillies history. September 7, 2005, to be precise. The Phillies were the Wild Card team on the day before but were locked in a tight race with Houston and Florida.

    The franchise was 12 years removed from their last playoff appearance and since I was a season ticket holder, I had the option to purchase "first chance" playoff tickets. I did purchase them, but as well all know, there were never able to be used. The game that extinguished the Phillies playoff aspirations happened on 9/7/05.

    On September 6, 2005, I became a Dad for the first time. The highest of highs and one of my most memorable days personally. As Phillies fans, we often have the nagging feeling though. The feeling of imminent doom and where Murphy's Law will prevail a good portion of the time. Enter 9/7/2005, so let me tell you about that game.

    The Phils (73-67)  were playing (75-64) the Astros at Citizens Bank Park and the stakes were high. The Phillies were trying to gain ground on the Wild Card leading Astros. Stop me if you heard this before, but the bullpen was the culprit. The Phillies were down 5-3 going into the bottom of the 8th. Up stepped Bobby Abreu with one man on and he hit a 2 run HR to tie the game at 5. Shane Victorino then followed that up with his first hit in MLB in more than 2 years and his RBI single put the Phils up 6-5 going into the top of the 9th.  

    The Phillies closer in 2005 was Billy Wagner, the goat and villain. Wagner gave up a spirit and season-crushing 3 run HR to former teammate Craig Biggio to give the Astros a 6-5 lead. None of the 3 runs were earned because with 2 outs David Bell made a critical error that extended the inning for Houston and allowed Biggio to come up to bat. Future Phillies closer Brad Lidge came in to shut the Phils down in the 9th and seal the win. 

    The game on September 7, 2005 may not have been the only game the Phillies lost late in the game. However, losing in that fashion to a team they were trying to catch ended up being the last gasp for playoff hopes until 2007. I have ticket stubs from the 2008-2011 playoff run and they are dear to my heart. I do keep the unused playoff ticket as well though. It is a reminder of every game counts.