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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Weekend Wrap-Up: 6/21-6/23

Cole Hamels has fallen to 2-11 on the season.

Cole Hamels has fallen to 2-11 on the season.

The Phillies had yet another dismal weekend going 1-2 against the lowly New York Mets. The situation for the Phils is looking more and more dire as the team approaches July. One Eagles star took his talents to the diamond to raise money for a very worthy cause. The future of the Flyers’ top netminder is still in question as the team has yet to make his fate known. A potentially historical trade is up for league approval and could change the outlook of the Atlantic Division or the 76ers.

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Weekend Wrap-Up: 6/14-6/16

Justin Rose won his first US Open at +1 at Merion Golf Club.

Justin Rose won his first US Open at +1 at Merion Golf Club.

The US Open at Merion proved to be quite the test for a number of the world’s premier golfers but one player certainly ‘Rose’ to the occasion. The Phillies squandered an opportunity to pick up some ground against a weak opponent but once again came up short. DeSean Jackson spent Father’s Day unveiling a documentary that highlights his rise to the NFL and his relationship with his father. Several reports are speculating that the Flyers may be close to buying out goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. The Sixers worked out a crop of prospects on Saturday that included local Big Five star, Khalif Wyatt.

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Weekend Wrap-Up: 6/7-6/9

NBA TV will debut "The Doctor" tonight at 9pm.

NBA TV will debut “The Doctor” tonight at 9pm.

The Phillies returned to their losing ways over the weekend as they followed up a solid five game winning streak with a three game skid. The Eagles have wrapped up OTA’s and minicamp and will reconvene in late July for Training Camp. In the meantime, the team has unveiled some new renovation plans for Lincoln Financial Field that carry quite a hefty price tag. All signs are pointing to the 2013-2014 season being the final year for Flyer’s defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Two names have surfaced in connection to the Sixers head coaching search. Also, an all-time Sixers legend will be the subject of a brand new NBA TV documentary to debut this evening.

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Saving The Sinking Ship- How To Save The Philadelphia Phillies- PART I

Thirty-seven wins; Fifty losses. Last place. The ship is sinking. Your Philadelphia Phillies, our Fightin’ Phils, are on their death-bed and Ruben Amaro Jr. must decide wether or not to pull the plug. While you might think there still is a chance, try to look forward. Would you rather watch them put up a fight, only to come up short or start preparing for next year? I think it’s time to start clearing house for next season, but not to rebuild; but to reload. The Phillies can get younger, have a star-studded lineup, a decent bullpen, and Cole Hamels in the rotation in 2013. However, it won’t come without making sacrifices. Here is how they do it:

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Phour Phils Headed to 2011 MLB All Star Game: Is That Enough?

Three of the Phils five starters to begin the season will represent the Phillies on the NL All Star team.

The 2011 MLB All Star teams were announced today and the Philadelphia Phillies have four players representing the leagues best team. Placido Polanco, the Phillies starter at third base will assume the same role for the NL team. Polanco is batting .280 with 39 rbi’s and 4 homeruns. He also boasts a 1.000 field percentage. Polanco started off the season incredibly hot and led the Phillies through the first month of the season. Some say that he is benefiting from significant time missed by both David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman but Polanco’s contribution to the leagues best team cannot be taken lightly.

Polanco was the only position player on the Phils to make the All Star team but the team was certainly well represented when it comes to hurlers. The big three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will all represent the Phillies starting staff in Arizona.

Placido Polanco will start at 3rd for the NL team.

Roy Halladay has been stellar once again this season posting an 11-3 record with a 2.44 ERA, 131 strikeouts and 6 complete games in 18 starts. That basically means that he averages a complete game 1 in every 3 times he takes the mound.

Cliff Lee has come on strong lately. He has posted three consecutive complete game shutouts in his last three starts and entered today’s game with a career best 32 consecutive scoreless innings. Lee struggled for a stretch this season but overall he has proved why the Phils brought him back this season. He is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 4 complete games, three of which were in a row.

The final All Star for the Phils is former World Series MVP, Cole Hamels. Many forecasted coming into the season that this would be Cole Hamels’ best season with the Phillies and so far he is proving that even though the hype revolved around the other pitchers that the Phils acquired, he is also a legitimate star and Cy Young candidate in his own right. Cole Hamels is 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA with 110 strikeouts and a complete game.

Shane Victorino will have a chance to be voted onto the All Star team by the fans.

All of these pitchers proved undoubtedly that they deserve to be All Stars but did any other Phillies prove the same even though they were left off the roster? Shane Victorino is once again apart of the MLB’s final vote and has a chance to be voted onto the All Star teams by the fans, something that he was successful in doing in 2008. Victorino is hitting .299 with 9 homeruns, 34 rbi’s, 12 doubles, 9 triples, and 13 stolen bases. Victorino is up against SP Ian Kennedy of Arizona, OF Matt Morse of Washington, 1B Todd Helton of Colorado and OF Andre Ethier of Los Angeles.

Also left off of this year’s team was Phillies 1B Ryan Howard. Many have noted that the NL is becoming deeper at 1B but you cannot deny that Ryan Howard is one of the best hitters in the NL still. He is hitting .253 in a season where he lost his main protection behind him in Jayson Werth and in front of him for most of the season in Chase Utley. The lose of those two bats certainly weakened the type of pitches that Howard was seeing. Despite the drop in quality pitches he has still hit 17 homers and is second in the league in RBI’s with 67.

The All Star game is about having situational players on the roster. Are their players with better averages and who strike out less than Howard? Yes. But those players do not prosper in All Star games. Hitting singles and playing small ball does not win All Star games because the opposing pitching is too stellar. You need players on the roster with pop who can change the game with one at bat. Howard should be on the team for that reason as should Mark Teixera in the AL. Ryan Howard has also proved that he is taking his defense seriously posting a .996 fielding percentage. Ryan Howard certainly has shortcomings in his game. He is not perfect. But the Phillies, the best team in Major League Baseball, would not be where they are without his 17 homeruns and 67 rbi’s especially considering the struggles throughout the rest of the lineup. The MLB put in the DH for a reason for both All Star teams and that was for sluggers, homerun hitters, and rbi producers to make the team.

Ryan Howard was left off the NL All Star this season.

I do not agree with the MLB’s view of the role of the All Star Game. It should not count for anything. It should not include representatives from every team. It should only be about fun and that is it. But if you are going to make it mean something, the best players have to be there. Amongst 1st basemen in the NL Howard is 2nd in AB’s, 2nd in HR’s, 2nd in rbi’s, 4th in runs scored, 6th in hits, 4th in walks, and 3rd in fielding percentage. Say what you will about Ryan Howard, but that is still a relevant and very productive first basemen considering the fact that he faces multiple defensive shifts every night and gets pitched around more than any player in the league.

So Congratulations to Polanco, Halladay, Hamels, and Lee on their All Star selections and in the coming week we will se if any other Phillies get tabbed to make the trip to Arizona.

Countdown to Pitchers and Catchers- Rotation and Catcher Predictions

It is just 8 days until Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida in preparation for one of most exciting and potentially historic season of all-time. For the next 8 days, I am going to preview the Phillies from bottom to top, offering my predictions of the starting-nine. Today, we look at the Phillies’ rotation and catcher Carlos Ruiz:

1. Roy Halladay 2011 Predictions

19-6, 2.79 ERA, 220 K’s

The 2010 National League Cy Young award winner is no joke. He came to the National League with high expectations, and exceeded them. But, for an arm that logged 250 innings last season, and for an arm that’s about to turn 34 years old, most pitchers would be unable to duplicate such an incredible season. Well, there is only one Roy Halladay.

Throughout his career, Halladay has maintained an extreme work ethic, which has him up working-out vigorously before your morning news paper even hits your door. With such a regimen, Halladay has been able to be the active-career leader in complete games (58), shutouts (19), and winning percentage (.663). He is truly a baseball marvel; one of few pitchers in baseball who has every pitch he throws work for him. With that said, the Doctor should be operating with much precision in 2011, and will post yet another amazing season.

2. Cliff Lee 2011 Predictions

17-6, 3.25 ERA, 189 K’s

Cliff Lee is truly one of the games most dominant left-handed pitchers today. One clear indicator of this is that the Phillies gave him $120 million. They did it for a reason; because he has Cy Young type stuff.

Since 2008, when Lee won the American League Cy Young award, he has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, posting an ERA no higher than 3.22. He is able to achieve such excellence by doing the one job that some pitchers fail to do; throw strikes. But, just how many strikes does Lee throw? Well, last season, 71% of Lee’s pitches crossed the plate as strikes. A percentage like that surly means walks are a minimum. As a matter of fact, in 2010, Lee only walked 18 batters in 212 1/3 innings, giving him a 0.8 walks per 9 innings for the season. This kind of pinpoint-accuracy is sure to carry into 2011, as Lee has been an aggressive strike thrower throughout the last three seasons. With that said, Lee and his array of pitches, mixed-in with his sharp-shooter type accuracy, will baffle the National League in his return to the Phillies.

3. Roy Oswalt 2011 Predictions

18-9, 2.87 ERA, 203 K’s

This isn’t the first time Roy Oswalt has been paired in a powerhouse rotation, but this is his first time in a rotation that consists of four legit Aces. Opposing the number-three starter for the other team on most nights means the Oswalt will have a season more like his earlier days.

Oswalt, age 33, has been one of the NL’s premier starters over the last 10 years. Since, he first started back in 2001, Oswalt has maintained the 5th lowest ERA of any active pitcher today (3.18), and has won 15 or more games five times in his career. This included a two-year stretch in which Oswalt won 40 games, from 2004-2005. He has been able to be one of the games’ most winningest pitchers, by mastering a pitch that has baffled hitters since the start of his career; the curveball.

Matched up with a high 90’s fastball, an above-average change-up, and a good slider, Oswalt’s curveball is just another piece to a pitching combination that has brought him great success. His curveball, arguably the best in baseball, has kept opposing batters from hitting the ball. With his array of pitches, Oswalt held opposing hitters to a .213 batting average last season. Look for a big season out of the Phillies third starter (that feels so weird to call Roy Oswalt a third starter…)

4. Cole Hamels 2011 Predictions

16-7, 3.10 ERA, 194 K’s

Cole Hamels is just two season’s removed from being the World Series MVP ace of the Philadelphia Phillies. Today, however, he finds himself as the fourth starter, and on most days will be facing the likes of a Randy Wolf or a Chris Young. The days of seeing Hamels go up against power-pitchers such as Johan Santana and Tim Hudson are, for the time being, over. But, what Hamels now becomes is the best number four starting pitcher in all of baseball.

Last season, Hamels bounced back in a big way from his disappointing 2009 campaign. He did so by incorporating a cutter into his list of pitches, and by also improving his fastball placement and limiting his use of his mediocre curveball. Last season, Hamels finished the season with a 12-11 record and a 3.06 ERA. His poor win-loss record was not attributed to bad pitching, but to a lack of run support. In 2010, Hamels had a run support of 3.7 runs per games. If the Phillies get back to hitting like the Phillies, and they very well should hit the opposing team’s number four pitcher hard, then Hamels should have no problem putting together his best season of his young career.

5. Joe Blanton 2011 Predictions

12-7, 4.10 ERA, 154 K’s

Joe Blanton certainly will be pitching with less pressure this year because of the presence of the “Big Four.” But needless to say, he still is Joe Blanton. You can expect tough first innings, solid innings for the next four, and a 5th and 6th that will have your heart racing. That is just how Blanton gets stuff done.Nevertheless, the big man still gives the Phillies a lot of innings, and if healthy, can produce a solid year for a number five starter.

Last season, Blanton pitched horrible for the first-half of the season, posting an ERA of 6.41. But, as the page turned towards the second-half, Blanton too turned the page on his season, going 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Overall, he finished the season with a record of 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz 2011 Predictions

.281 AVG., 10 HR, 67 RBI’s

Carlos Ruiz is the man who will sit behind the plate for this rotation for the majority of the season, and a man who’s bat is going to be heavily counted on to produce. Last season, Chooch showed us all he is the man for the job.

Behind the plate, Ruiz is one of the best when it comes to working with his pitchers. When he was catching, pitchers had a 3.31 ERA last year. He also has limited the opponents running game better in recent years, allowing only 50 stolen bases last year and having a 29% caught stealing percentage last year. But, what is truly remarkable is how he has grown offensively. Over the course of his career, Ruiz’s batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage have all went up. He has become a reliable, and consistent bat in the Phillies line-up, hitting .293 with runners in scoring position. If the Phillies do continue to hit like last year, Ruiz’s bat is gonna be counted on more than ever, especially after the departure of outfielder Jayson Werth.

Tomorrow, I bring you my predictions for Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard.

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.