Why PED Culture in Baseball Will Never Change

Ryan Braun denied any wrongdoing in connection to PED's.

Ryan Braun denied any wrongdoing in connection to PED’s.

Steroid use in professional baseball has been a hot button issue for the bulk of the last 15 years. The recent suspension of Brewers’ outfielder, Ryan Braun, has ramped up the discussion even more. It is safe to say that Braun’s suspension will be followed by more as several players including Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Bartolo Colon are facing suspicion as well.

Links to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida make it all but a certainty that these players will face penalties that will impact their teams and their wallets as well.

Major League Baseball is working quickly and diligently to get these players punished, evident through the fact that Braun’s 65 game suspension for the remainder of this season was reached in conjunction with the league. However, Major League Baseball is beginning to fight a battle with no clear end in sight.

You can continue to punish individuals who violate your drug policy after the fact, but how do you change the overall PED culture in baseball? If the presence of these punishments have not cleaned the game up in a significant way, what will?

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Hold or Fold for the Phillies?

Can Ruben Amaro Jr. swing a deal to get the Phillies in contention?

Can Ruben Amaro Jr. swing a deal to get the Phillies in contention?

It is just under three weeks until the MLB non-waiver trade deadline and rumors are swirling all around the Phillies’ clubhouse. With the team currently sitting at 45-47, it is hard to definitively peg them as buyers or sellers at this point.

Should a team that appears to have a quickly closing window blow things up now, or try to search for the missing piece(s) that could give them one more run at a World Series title?

That question will soon be answered because it is safe to say that after July 31, this Phillies roster should look somewhat different.

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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.

MLB Considering Realignment. Good or Bad for Baseball?

I have always been very outspoken about my disdain for a lot of the policies of Major League Baseball. It is not the sport itself that I do not like because I love baseball with a passion. However, when you step back and look at some of the particular nuances of Major League Baseball, sometimes you cannot help but scratch your head.

For example, why does the All Star game determine home field advantage in the World Series? This is the most backwards rule I’ve ever seen. How can you sell to the fan base that even if their team gets the best record during the regular season, they may still be at a disadvantage in the World Series on the grounds that the league they are in loss the All Star Game. You cannot base home field in the World Series on a game in which half the players’ teams do not even have a shot at the World Series anyway. I mean think about it. Are the required Pirates and Mariners All Star representatives thinking to themselves “we better play pretty hard out here today so that the Phillies or Red Sox can get their home field advantage in October?” That is not happening and it is not fair. It makes no sense. You make a rule that every team has to be represented which means that you cannot possibly make the best team because a better player is going to be left out for a guy who is only there because he is the best of the worst on his horrible team and then you tell the teams to go win. That is an extremely weird position to put a manager in.

The Astros may be jumping to the AL in 2012.

Or how about the classic debate of the DH. Why do 14 teams get to play with a guy who subs in for the pitcher at the plate and does not have to play a lick in the field while 16 other teams have to suffer through at bats from the pitcher? Simple and plan, if you play in the field you should have to bat and if you come off the bench you should have to be subbed in. However, if the league is going to insist on having a DH, at least give every team that advantage.

Then of course there are the little things like why do the parks vary so much in terms of size and why do the coaches wear uniforms. Are they planning on subbing themselves in at some point if they run out of players? And do not even get me started on Inter-league play.

Baseball is quirky and perhaps that quirkiness is what makes it America’s pastime but baseball could be taking a step to get somewhat less peculiar.

The league is discussing a plan to change the 16-14 format and go with 15 teams in both the NL and the AL. That would involve a National League team heading over to the other side and early indications are that if the plan goes into effect, the Houston Astros could be the team on the move. This would take one team from the 6 team NL Central and foster an obvious rivalry between the Astros and the Texas Rangers.

Under the plan the leagues would no longer be divided into divisions. No more Phillies vs. Braves NL East showdowns or Yankees vs. Red Sox AL East races in September. There would be two leagues and the top 3 teams from each will make the playoffs while the 4th and 5th place teams square off as wild cards for the 4th and final spot. The plan could go into effect in 2012.

There may be no more Phillies Braves NL East matchups under the current plan.

Under the plan, there would be many more inter-league games. Perhaps everyday. This would mean that there would be more occurrences of teams having to play a brand of baseball that they are not used to. This may make you ask then why not make the rules the same for both leagues if they will have to play so often. Perhaps the league will but that does not seem to be their intention at this point.

So the oddest professional sports league in America is seemingly trying to take a step toward normalcy but in all honesty it all sounds confusing and complicated in its own ways. Will evening out the leagues be a good thing. Yes, but the league has to make sure that the players, owners and fans are all on board with the parameters that will come with such a realignment.

The Cincinnati Reds are Scheduled for a Follow Up Visit with the Doc

Roy Halladay during his No Hitter against the Reds in the 2010 NLDS.

It was game 1 of the 2010 NLDS match up between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds. The game marked the first postseason game for that year’s Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay. It was also his first postseason appearance with his new team who won a world series two years before and who reached the world series the year prior. The atmosphere was incredibly intense for just the first game of the playoffs, but because Roy Halladay was on the hill, it meant so much more.

On that October evening at Citizens Bank Park, the Doctor was in. The Reds only base runner came on a 5th inning walk. Halladay was as tuned in as he had been all season long. The Reds, who had reached the postseason on their late season hitting prowess ran into a wall that evening. Halladay threw what became the 2nd no-hitter in postseason history. He also became the 5th pitcher all time to throw 2 no hitters in a season (last was Nolan Ryan in 1973) and became the first pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter in the regular season and the playoffs in the same year.

When asked about the no no afterwards, Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who caught both of Halladay’s no-hitters, said that Doc was on during the bullpen session prior to the game and had a feeling something special would happen. Doc will try to duplicate that something special tonight.

Travis Wood will take the mound against the Phillies tonight. He is 3-3 with a 5.17 era this season.

Tonight the Red’s will seek to return the favor at CBP coming off of a 6-3 win last night in which the Reds got to Phillies Closer Ryan Madson for 3 9th inning runs. They will send Travis Wood to the mound. Wood is 3-3 with a 5.17 era this season.

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.

How Cliff Lee’s Deal Changed Baseball Today

Its been a bit of time since Cliff Lee put his signature to a contract worth a guaranteed $120 million. Putting his name to such a contract meant that the Foxsports.com pick for “best left-handed starter” would be pitching under the bright lights of Citizens Bank Park for five-years, and maybe even more. It meant that he would be paired up with the Foxsports.com pick for “best right-handed starter,” the enigma of MLB pitchers today, known as Roy “Doc” Halladay. His signature to that contract meant much more solidifying the MLB’s most dominant rotation. If you think that this signing only effects the Phillies, think again. There is a lot of potential fallout to Lee turning down $30 million from the wide-open wallet of the New York Yankees.

For one, such a move signified that the Yankees don’t have the power to sign everyone. In baseball, if you are a big name free-agent such as Cliff Lee, the preconceived belief is that if the Yankees want you, they will get you. The Yankees wanted Lee; they wanted him bad.

However, Lee put this belief to sleep, by turning down the money he did, and joining a team that offered even less than the Texas Rangers. With Lee agreeing to play for the Phillies, it solidified that the Yankees are losing power on the free-agent market. Now, I’m not saying that the Phillies are becoming the new Yankees. But, after the offseason the Yankees had, specifically Lee snubbing them, one can’t help but see that New York isn’t a players guaranteed first choice on the market.

Another thing to look at is how the market for high-caliber pitchers has changed. Take a second to consider C.C. Sabathia’s contract with the Yankees. He signed for seven-years, $161 million. That set a market for ace-type pitchers that, when entering free-agency, will look towards a payroll that mimics that contract. For one, not many teams can afford a price tag such as that one; especially for a pitcher. As a matter of fact, the Yankees and Redsox are probably the only teams that could. But, Lee signed for  less than that; $41 million less to be exact. Lee, being arguably one of the top-three pitchers in the game, set a new market for pitchers. When a team comes up with an offer for a pitcher after Lee’s deal, they won’t be spending as much as they would have if Lee would have mimicked the Sabathia signing. Teams are gonna look at a pitcher and say, “well, Lee signed for $120 million and is one of the best, if not the best. Why should I offer any more than what he made?” So, as free agent pitchers hit the market, they can expect a smaller offers. Hey, if Lee can sign for less, why can’t a guy like Mark Buehrle, a free agent after the 2011 season?

Free Agent Alert- Former Met John Maine to Join Phils Bullpen?

 

Source: Flickr.com

   A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that former Mets pitcher John Maine might join the Philadelphia Phillies, to pitch out of the bullpen. Since that report first surfaced, there hasn’t been much news on the right-hander who gave the Phillies much trouble as a foe up North, posting a 5-1 career record with a 2.56 ERA against the Phillies; the best ERA of any team he has faced. So, obviously getting him in red pinstripes will benefit the Phils—not so fast.

   While Maine has a career 2.78 ERA at Citizens Bank Park, something Phillies fans like to see, it isn’t sure if he is healthy enough to be the “Maine Event.” He underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last July, but reports are he has recovered quite well. Also, he didn’t finish last year strong, posting a 1-3 record with a 6.13 ERA in 9 starts. Over the last two seasons, Maine has only started 24 games due to injuries, and has not yet returned to his ’06 form which helped the Mets achieve a trip to the NLCS, which ended so nicely as I remember.

Source: nydailynews.com

Maine, 30, is throwing bullpen sessions for multiple teams, according to Foxsports.com writer Ken Rosenthal. Are the Phillies in attendance, and if Maine throws good, will he be added as a right-hander out of the bullpen? Surely, something will surface in the coming weeks.