Changing of the Guard in Philadelphia: Charlie Manuel Out

It was announced today that Charlie Manuel is out as the manager of the Phillies.

It was announced today that Charlie Manuel is out as the manager of the Phillies.

Charlie Manuel is out as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Manuel managed almost nine seasons in Philadelphia and set a franchise record for wins. He coached the team to five consecutive division titles and two World Series appearances with one win.

Manuel and General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr are characterizing this as an understanding from both sides.

Regardless of the circumstances, Manuel will never again wear his #41 Phillies jersey at Citizen’s Bank Park.

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Eagles vs Phillies. Eagles Acquire Asomugha and Phillies nab Pence

Nnamdi Asomugha signed a 5 year $60 million deal with the Eagles.

Tonight the biggest matchup in Philly has not been between the Phillies and an out-of-town opponent. It has been between the Eagles and the Phillies. Both franchises have acquired players that will put the teams in positions to perhaps do some big things in the immediate future.

This afternoon, Twitter, Facebook and pretty much every smart phone in the tri state area, exploded with the news that the Eagles somehow maneuvered themselves into the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, that seemed monopolized by the Cowboys and Jets, and were able to sign the most coveted free agent to a 5 year $60 million dollar deal with $25 million guaranteed. Asomugha signing with the Eagles is a clear-cut sign that the franchise feels ready to compete right now and are going all in on winning a Superbowl this year. Asomugha puts them into a position where they can either boast the best trio of corner backs in the league with Asomugha, Samuel and Cromartie or the team can look to trade Samuel to acquire another piece that they need perhaps at linebacker.

Hunter Pence is coming to Philadelphia in a 4 for 1 deal.

While news was being made in Bethlehem at a press conference with Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman, which was conspicuously scheduled at the same time as the start of the Phillies game, Phillies’ GM, Ruben Amaro Jr, was planning his next move. As the Phillies were racking up runs left and right against Pittsburgh news broke that Hunter Pence was acquired by the Phillies for Singleton, Cosart and two players to be named. The Phillies are acquiring the right handed bat that many think they so desperately need to balance the lineup and to position them to compete with the impressive pitching staff in San Francisco. The move shows the aggressive nature of Ruben Amaro Jr. who even with the best record in the league, knows that he cannot allow a minor hole in the lineup to hold this team up from winning a World Series. The crafty Amaro was able to pull off the deal without dealing away either Vance Worley or Domonic Brown and Pence was attractive due to the fact that they control him beyond this season. If there were any doubts about whether or not this was a World Series team before this move, there should be no doubts now.

Ruben Amaro Jr has gotten Charlie Manuel the right-handed bat he wanted.

These two major moves on the same day is a testament to the promising era of Philly sports we are currently in. Realistically, the city has three teams within reach of a championship run. The Phillies are there. With this acquisition, it is championship or bust for the Phillies. Nothing short will do. The Eagles are all of a sudden one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the NFC and they are in an interesting position to continue adding to this team. The Flyers have undergone major changes but judging by the way last season ended, they were warranted and it seems like they still view themselves as viable contenders. The only team without a title in their sights is the Sixers but that is not to say that they are not headed in the right direction because they certainly are. Smile Philly. A city that was once seen as a destination that no player wanted to play for, is now becoming a premiere destination for many sports. Look at the players recently acquired the last few years for Philly teams; Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Asante Samuel. The bottom line is that all of a sudden, Philly is an attractive destination and it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Head Coach Andy Reid and Eagles GM Howie Roseman kept negotiations with Asomugha quiet until the deal was announced.

Tonight was the battle of the GM’s in Philly and these moves were two aggressive moves made by two aggressive franchises.

Charlie Manuel on Dominic Brown Call Up via CSNPhilly

http://www.csnphilly.com/common/thePlatform/web/swf/flvPlayer.swf

Oops, There Goes Another Injury!

First off as a journalist, I am trained to give credit where credit is due so I must say that the title, which is a play on the lyrics from the song “High Hopes”, came from my friend Jim Dailey, so Jim, thanks for the title. We always enjoy contributions from the readers here at Brotherly Love Sports.

Joe Blanton appears to be headed for the DL. He is 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA in 6 starts.

Now to business. The injury bug has once again taken a bite out of the Phillies. “The 5th Ace”, Joe Blanton, was scheduled to start last night but was scratched during his pregame warm up due to soreness in the elbow that has been plaguing him over recent weeks. Blanton was replaced by Phillies reliever Kyle Kendrick who was anything but sharp last night, giving up 2 of Jason Giambi’s career high, 3 homeruns. There was speculation that perhaps the Phillies brought Blanton back too soon and some believed that it was because the Phillies wanted to showcase him to potential suitors in the event that they needed to deal him. In any case, the team might have done themselves a huge disservice by bringing Blanton back too soon, which may kill any chance of a team being interested.

Blanton so far has not been incredibly stellar at all this season which has prompted a clamoring from the fan base for Phillies prospect righty, Vance Worley, to get a shot at Joe Blanton’s 5th spot. The fan base may see another J.A. Happ type of player who can come up and be a stellar piece to the back of the staff that opposing teams are not familiar with. The Phillies recently sent Worley back down to Triple A after he made some stellar starts and bullpen appearances in the absence of Roy Oswalt. If the Phillies, like expected, put Blanton on the DL, Worley may get a chance to take the 5th spot in the rotation during that time and could certainly pitch his way into keeping it. The issue is that the Phillies only view Blanton as a starter. They do not see his stuff as being bullpen material and thus if he loses his spot he is $7 million of dead weight. The team also sees Worley as a key piece to their future being that there is a chance that Oswalt could leave after this season and therefore they do not want Worley to lose his starters mentality by pitching out of the bullpen this year. They would rather have him in Triple A starting which is evident by the fact that Scott Mathieson is in the majors while Worley isn’t even though Worley is clearly better right now.

Vance Worley seems like the likely top candidate to replace Blanton in the rotation. Worley is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA for the Phillies over 2 starts and 4 appearances.

The injury bug went back for seconds as it appears that Shane Victorino will also need a trip to the DL. Victorino had an MRI yesterday which revealed a Grade 1 to Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Victorino appeared in Wednesday’s game to bunt and Manager Charlie Manuel at the time did not realize how hurt Victorino was.

Shane Victorino seems poised for the DL. Victorino was second on the team out of the regulars with a .284 BA.

Dominic Brown has been stellar in Triple A this year batting .341 with 10 RBI's and 2 HR's in 11 games played for the Iron Pigs.

At first it appeared to be a few days off type injury but now it appears to be a little more. Some have taken this news to mean that highly touted prospect Dominic Brown, who got injured in Spring Training while Brotherly Love Sports was on location in Florida, would get called up. However, that does not seem to be the case. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear that he wants to

Chase Utley has been making rehab starts in Florida with the Clearwater Threshers and appears close to making his return.

call Brown up when the organization feels that it will certainly be for good. They do not want him to be a Phillie on a temporary basis. This does draw into question what position player will get called up if not Brown. Perhaps, the team plans on calling up Chase Utley who has played well in Clearwater. Some say that he looks in very good shape and playing condition. He has hit the ball well and at this point, the hold up to get him on the Phillies is not really clear. When the team is struggling to score runs so much, it would seemingly be a no brainer to call up two players in Utley and Brown who are known for their hitting prowess. However, the Phillies are remaining patient. In Brown’s case that approach may be okay, but considering that Utley is facing an injury that could flare up at any moment, running the risk that it could happen while he’s running out an in field single for the Threshers seems like a waste. If he’s going to get hurt, he might as well get hurt here. However, the Phillies seem adamant about making sure that Utley is 100% ready to go before he dons the pinstripes again.

So as the season rolls on, so do the injuries. The team however is still right at the top of the MLB and is still considered an elite team. The question is how soon until the Phillies reach full strength. When that happens, the team that we all envisioned may finally be unleashed on the league.

PhinalLEE

 

Cliff Lee returned to the Phillies this offseason after spending a year away with Seattle and Texas.

The long-awaited day has finally, sorry I mean PhinalLEE, come and gone. When the Phillies  made the shocking move of resigning Cliff Lee, April 2nd was circled on a number of calendars. Cliff Lee was presumed to be returning to Philly as the number 2 starter and he made his 2nd Phillies debut on the hill against the Houston Astros. The crowd was electric when he ran out to the mound before the game, when he was up to bat, and after each one of his 11 strikeouts. Expect every word that ends in “ly” to be converted to ending with “lee” for the forseeable future.

 

Cliff Lee got off to an excellent start in the game. He struck out two hitters in the first and looked quite sharp. He hit his spots for the majority of the game and was only rattled by Astros slugger, Carlos Lee who recorded a triple and a home-run off of Lee. Lee pitched 7 innings, recorded 7 strikeouts and more impressively walked none meaning that the Phillies starting staff has yet to walk a batter this season.

As happy as the fans were to see their lost son return to CBP, they must have been just as happy to see the play of the Phillies lineup. The Phils put up 9 runs on the Astros much in the fashion that they have when the offense was at its peak in recent years. Many experts and fans alike have been skeptical about the Phillies offense minus Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, but the early season returns have proven to the contrary. Jimmy Rollins has taken nicely to his new role as the number three hitter and Ryan Howard has looked comfortable at the plate. The Phillies scored their 9 runs on a stellar 14 hits and got to the Astros starter, Wandy Rodriguez, in the first inning for two runs, which is always a good sign for this team. Anytime the Phillies put up early runs, they have to be confident with the pitching staff that they have.

So far Ryan Howard has hit the ball well going 4-8 at the plate this season.

 

The middle of the lineup, which has been called “thin” by some experts, was anything but today as Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco, and Raul Ibanez all had 2 or more hits. Every starting position player had at least one hit.

On top of that, the bullpen combination of Danys Baez and Jose Contreras, was also quite stellar. Neither pitcher gave up an earned run in their appearance even though both appearances got a little interesting.

The game was not without some suspense. Shane Victorino and Ben Francisco collided in the outfield on a ball in the gap which resulted in Victorino being removed from the game. Charlie Manuel spoke afterwards and stated that he was not too sure of Victorino’s condition other than the fact that he claimed that his calf was tight.

In the end, the Phillies are 2-0. Cliff Lee’s return to Philly was indeed a success and the team will try to complete the first series of the season with a 3 game sweep as Roy Oswalt will take the mound tomorrow against his former team. Unfortunately for the Astros, they had to be the first team to encounter the Halladay, Lee, Oswalt series and they will try to salvage at least one win tomorrow.

Roy Oswalt will look to complete the sweep of his former team, the Astros.

 

Phillies Update: Manuel’s Contract, Utley’s Knee and the Outfield

Having been down to Clearwater earlier this week, and getting a good look at the team, it is very obvious that they are looking overall pretty sharp. The Phillies pitchers have not been perfect this spring but at the same time, they look pretty good. It is clear that they are working on things and fine tuning some pitches so there is really no need to worry about that aspect of the team. The three concerns for the Phillies this spring have been Manuel’s deal, Utley’s knee and the outfield situation.

Manuel certainly has reason to smile in light of his new contract.

Charlie Manuel, the 67-year-old Phillies skipper, has a brand new contract with the team. It was announced early Thursday and really only seemed like a matter of time. The contract will keep Manuel in Philly through 2013 and will pay him $3.5-4 million annually including a raise for this upcoming season. The contract will take Manuel into his 70’s where he can decide whether or not he wants to stay in the game. Manuel’s deal will now place him in the top-tier of managers as far as salary and that is where he belongs. Fans might say “why were the Phils so worried about paying that price”, but they have to understand that the Phillies have never paid this much for a manager, but at the same time, this team could be the best Phillies team of all time and that will certainly depend a great deal on their quality skipper. Manuel certainly played his cards right. He never wanted this to be a distraction going into the season and with this new contract in place, there is one issue to check off the list.

Amongst the other issues is 2nd basemen Chase Utley. Utley is 32 years old and is facing Patellar Tendonitis in his right knee. The reckless play that Phillies’ fans have come to adore Utley for, may finally be catching up to him. The injury has kept Utley off the field all spring training, relegating him to only batting practice. In my time in Florida, all I saw of Utley was batting practice and picking up balls and bats afterwards. He certainly seemed in a somber mood and that could definitely be a bad sign. He has not reacted positively to the cortisone shot he received and now there seems to be some bone inflammation. The team continues to insist that surgery is a last resort, but as the days go by it seems more and more likely. Utley will most likely start the season on the disabled list and surgery could either end his season or he could play through the pain and almost certainly see a major dip in production.

Utley has patellar tendonitis which has kept him out of all grapefruit league games.

The Phillies have internal options to replace Utley if need be. Wilson Valdez filled in admirably last year at a couple of spots and is capable of stepping in for Utley at 2nd. He has shown some good fielding this spring but his bat will not replace Utley’s stat for stat. Another option is Delwyn Young. The Phillies have given him a couple starts at 2nd this spring. He has shown some ability and definitely has a shot at a bench spot. Pete Orr was signed by the team this offseason and will also be a candidate.

If the internal options do not work, the team could explore a deal for disgruntled Texas Ranger, Michael Young. Young has requested a trade and the Phillies have popped up as potential suitors in numerous reports. A Phillies package would almost certainly involve dealing Joe Blanton and his $8.5 million annual salary although the team has insisted on keeping Blanton. Texas is short on starting pitching. Young would be closer to Utley as far as plate production than the internal options but what would the Phillies do if Utley is ready to return later in the season. Having Utley, Polanco and Young could certainly pose a problem. Although this seems farfetched, the Phillies have certainly surprised fans before (Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, Lee again).

In addition to being a great acting duo, Utley and Howard have been one of the league's best #3, #4 combinations.

Utley’s absence will be most obvious in the lineup alignment. If any two spots were set in stone, they were Utley at 3 and Howard at 4. Howard will definitely not see many good pitches with Utley out and with Werth gone. With Utley out, a new #3 has to be found. The candidates will include Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino. My vote however, would be for Ben Francisco.

Francisco has undoubtedly won the right field job. He won it even before Dominic Brown’s injury but now it is all but certain. Francisco could be a decent option in the 3 spot because of his combination of pop and speed. He is more than capable of taking the ball deep and can get on base and swipe a bag if need be.

In other outfield news, John Mayberry is making a strong case for a roster spot. Mayberry is 27 and is at that age where it is becoming time to make the major league club. He has been great this spring hitting .286 with 2 doubles, 3 home runs, and 4 rbis. A righty outfielder with that kind of pop is something the fans felt the team needed to acquire all off-season and it looks like they already had it in the fold all along.

John Mayberry is having an impressive spring and seems to be in line for a spot on the big league club.

These 3 issues certainly will not be the only ones that occupy the team this season since its only March and a meaningful game is yet to be played, but at least two of them seemed to be taken care of. The fate of Chase Utley’s 2011 is still up in the air.

Phillies Opening Day Rightfielder, Dominic Brown…Don’t Be Shocked

Spring time is on its way and that means the Phillies are at Spring Training. Soon the birds will be singing again and the flowers will bloom and winter coats will be put away for a while. All of those wonderful occurrences are synonymous with spring and therefore with spring training also. Anyway that is not what this article is about although after this treacherous winter I probably could go on about spring time forever.

Let’s get back on topic shall we. Spring Training means position battles. It is time for the players to fight over who should start vs. who should ride the bench and who should ride the bench vs. who should go to AAA. Although the Phillies major league club does not have a ton of position battles, there is of course one spot that certainly needs to be filled. That spot is right field.

There are two candidates to take over in right field for the bearded one, Jayson Werth. The matchup is Ben Francisco vs. Dominic Brown. You have the young major leaguer in Francisco who has some experience and who has definitely shown some flashes of good potential both as a bench player for the Phillies and as a starter in Cleveland. Francisco is a righty and seems to be most people’s pick to win the job on the grounds that he’s a little more experienced and that he would add a righty to a very left leaning lineup.

In the other corner there is the unproven one, Dominic Brown. The premiere prospect who showed Phillies fans a few glimpses of the potential that he has late last season. He showed that he can certainly put the ball in the Citizens Bank Park seats and he has a cannon arm that any outfielder would hope for. He has pop, speed and a good glove; all of which are attributes of any five tool player. He has also had his down times. He slumped a little bit at the plate with the Phillies but the organization chalked that up to too few plate appearances. He also struggled in the Dominican during winter ball but the belief is that he was a bit under the weather.

Now is the time to see who will emerge as the starter. Sure, a platoon situation is certainly possible but everyone knows that there is only one starter and that player will emerge eventually.

Do not be surprised if the player in right for the majority of games is wearing number 9. Why you ask?

Well, it is not something that you can exactly sum up in numbers and stats or examples. It is just a gut feeling. This is a Phillies team known for taking chances that other teams might not take for example, signing a stud pitcher when you already have a fantastic 1,2,3. If Dominic Brown has a spring training similar to the one he had last year, Charlie could very well start him and Charlie would not be opposed to leaning the lineup to the left.

Dominic Brown has been in Clearwater for 10 weeks already working on his game and tweaking his swing. The Phillies believe that they have found the problem. Remember that long swooping swing that Brown had last season? Brown and the team believe that was due to him holding his hands way too high and if you remember they were up around the top of his head. He has now brought his hands down a considerable bit and has admitted that he was unaware of how high they really were. If that kid had pop holding his hands in the wrong spot, imagine what he’ll do now.

Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News appeared on Comcast Sportsnet and voiced the opinion that he would start Brown in AAA if it were up to him. That may be the old fashion way to run a baseball club and there is not anything wrong with that. It may be the way that a team operates that is looking to win a championship 2 or 3 years down the line, but that is not the Phillies. The Phillies are ready to win now and they are going to put the best players on the field regardless of their level of experience. If Brown is the best, he will be on the field.

Brown also did an interview with CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury and he mentioned that he understands that he could end up in AAA but he is gunning for a spot on the big club. He said that “I’m ready to win this job. Physically and mentally, I’m ready to go. I’d run through a wall right now.”

All of those things are things that you want to hear from any young prospect. Dominic Brown is saying the right things, doing the right things and could certainly win that job in right field. Being that this is a nickname kind of town, how about UPS for Dominic Brown? Get it? “What can Brown do for you?” Phillies fans should get their answer soon.

Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner

This past Monday, The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association held their 107th Annual Award Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ. The event featured numerous awards handed out by the PSWA to deserving individuals from both the worlds of college and professional sports. Honorees included 76ers F Elton Brand (Good Guy Award), Phillies Ace Roy Halladay (Sportsperson of the Year), Phillies CF Shane Victorino (Humanitarian Award) and Ian Laperriere accepting the Best Team award on behalf of the Flyers. Also in attendance was Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. The evening also included honorees from Lasalle, Temple, Philadelphia University, University of Pennsylvania and other colleges in the area.

The night had many admirable awards including Matt Hoffman of Rowan University who won an award for saving the life of a young child by donating bone marrow to the young man. Hoffman’s story resonated with many in attendance and Hoffman’s achievements were spoken about numerous times including during Charlie Manuel’s speech when he talked about how honored he was to have met Matt Hoffman. Another amazing award was handed out to Mark Herzlich who took home the Most Courageous Athlete Award for overcoming cancer to eventually return to play his final season at Boston College. Herzlich said that battling cancer was not courageous in his eyes because he had to do it, otherwise he would not have made it.

The night also had many lighthearted moments. The funniest speaker of the night was certainly a toss-up between Phillies Skipper Charlie Manuel and Comedian Joe Conklin. Both took to the stage with the intent to make people laugh and both succeeded. Manuel ironically referred to himself as the “best speaker” of the night which brought the crowd to a rousing laugh. Conklin utilized his trademark impressions which included Charlie Manuel, Cole Hamels, Dan Baker, Merrill Reese, Mike Quick, Andy Reid, Bill Bergey, and Allen Iverson. Both did a wonderful job of entertaining the crowd.

Just as a side note to this article. I have to thank the PSWA for awarding me the Richie Ashburn Scholarship, which was the reason that I was in attendance Monday night. It was truly an honor to receive an award that contains the name of one of the most legendary figures in the history of Philadelphia Sports. I once again want to thank the PSWA and the Ashburn family for this honor.