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Two Out of Three (x 2) Ain’t Bad

No, taking two out of three from both the Mets and the Braves ain’t bad at all; in fact, I’d say it’s very good.

(and darn it, now there’s another song stuck in my head! Last week, it was AC/DC, now it’s Meat Loaf)

In both series, the Phillies dropped the first game when one of the four aces wasn’t very ace-like. Cole Hamels stunk it up against the Mets last Tuesday (Note to Cole: Giving up two hits to the opposing pitcher in the same inning is never a good idea) as the Phillies lost 7-1. Cliff Lee obviously did not have his best stuff in a 6-3 loss to the Braves.

Cole was able to redeem himself yesterday, going seven strong innings against the Braves as the Phillies won, 3-0.

In the second game against the Mets, Joe Blanton very nearly managed to lose the game after blowing a seven-run lead (Note to Joe: Please don’t do that again. Ever.). Joe was saved from a loss by four scoreless innings from the bullpen, and some timely hitting from the offense for a 10-7 win.

Both series also featured the stress-relieving blowout, courtesy of the Roys. Well, stress-relieving for me, not fans of the opposition. Roy Halladay pitched the Phils to a 11-0 rout of the Mets, and Roy Oswalt got his first-ever regular season win over Atlanta in a 10-2 butt-whuppin’.

Let’s hope the Phils can maintain that momentum, as they head to Washington following today’s off-day.

Funny Photo of the Week

Brad Emaus looks like he’s trying to do a little dance last Thursday (Note to Brad: don’t try out for Riverdance anytime soon).

do a little dance copy.jpg

(photo credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Don’t know if he made a little love and got down that night.

Aack! More 70’s music is getting stuck in my head! Must…make it…stop!

He’s Got Big Balls

Well, a big ball.

big ball.jpgSaw this photo about a week or so ago, and for the rest of the day had that old 70’s-era AC/DC song stuck in my head. Did you know that none of their songs are available for purchase on iTunes? Annoying but true. They apparently believe that their albums are works of art meant to be heard in their entirety, and that if they allowed them to be sold on iTunes, people would pick and choose just the songs they wanted. Well, duh! Of course we would! There are some artists I could understand that argument from, but AC/DC is not one of them.

But back to the ball.

I didn’t even know Rawlings made them this big. I suppose the larger size does confer certain benefits – more room for autographs, easier to sign a really long name like Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

But how do you display it? It won’t fit in those little plastic cubes. And it’s not exactly the handiest thing to carry around with you – it would be a bit difficult to stow that baby in your pocket.

After yesterday’s off day, the Phils host the Mets tonight, so tomorrow I should (hopefully) have something more substantive to ramble about. :-)

Opening Weekend – Home Sweep Home

OK, so I borrowed that little cliche from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who informed us this morning that the Phils’ sweep of the Astros marked the first time since 1970 that the team has begun a season with three home wins.

What a great way to start off a highly anticipated season of Phillies baseball!

Last Friday, though, I was feeling more apprehension than anticipation. First, it was April Fool’s Day, which just doesn’t strike me as a good day to begin the baseball season. Second, upon awakening that morning, I was greeted not with warmth and sunshine, but with the sight of snowflakes falling outside. Not just any snowflakes – giant, mutant snowflakes that began sticking to things. Third, the Phillies were facing the Astros, who are – get this! – the only NL team with a winning record against the Phils since 2004, and owners of a gaudy 16-7 record at Citizens Bank Park during that span (!). OK, so now it’s 16-10, but still…

But we had Roy Halladay on the mound, while they countered with Brett Myers. This seemed like a good thing. Roy is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Brett Myers is, well, Brett Myers.

Halladay breezed through the first eight Astros batters, but then Brett Myers – Brett Myers! – singled for the first Astros hit of the game. Myers would get another hit in the fifth, so of the five hits Halladay surrendered, two of them were to the opposing pitcher.

As if that weren’t painful enough for me to stomach, Myers was the one who looked more ace-like, needing only 85 pitches though 7 innings, while Halladay threw 101 in 6. Still, Halladay had given up only one run.

Then the bullpen got into the game, and promptly gave up three more runs. With the Astros up 4-0 in the seventh, some of those watching at home may have given in to the urge to turn off the TV, thus saving themselves from further distress.

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O ye of little faith.

Make that me. Yes, it pains me to admit that I turned it off. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore! I later found out that the Phillies cut the lead in half in the bottom of the seventh, and then staged a ninth inning comeback with a barrage of singles to end up winning 5-4.

Thankfully, the next two games of the series were much less stressful to watch. :-)  Cliff Lee struck out 11 as the Phils won, 9-4; Roy Oswalt was victorious over his old team in a 7-3 win for the Phils.

Today is an off day, and tomorrow the Mets come to town, facing fourth ace Cole Hamels to start off a three-game set. C’mon, Cole, let’s keep that momentum going!!

Be Gone, Damn Bug!

The Phillies closed out their Grapefruit League play today with a 7-6 win over the Astros, and will now head north to prepare for Friday’s season opener against those same Astros. In addition to leaving behind sun and warmth (both of which seem to be in short supply around these parts), let’s hope they also leave behind the proverbial injury bug.

The Phils’ spring clubhouse seems to have suffered a heavy infestation – Domonic Brown is out following surgery on a broken bone in his hand; Chase Utley was sidelined the entire spring with a creaky knee, with no timetable for his return to action; and Brad Lidge is likely to go on the DL with pain in his shoulder.

Additionally, Jose Contreras missed a couple days with a scratched cornea, Placido Polanco hyperextended his elbow, and Shane Victorino and Roy Oswalt luckily avoided serious injury after running into Raul Ibanez, and being hit in the back of the neck with a line drive, respectively.

Enough already! Be gone, damn bug!

But “bug” is a vague word. Is the injury bug an insect-bug?
cartoon_bug.jpg
Or a bacteria-bug?
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Do we need to call in an exterminator?
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Or a vaccinator?
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At the moment, I don’t care which it is, I just want this team healthy! Right now!

Everybody Wants One

I want one too.

chooching owl.jpgI’ll ignore the blatant typo (“choocing”? doesn’t anyone proofread before they send this stuff out en masse to untold numbers of email subscribers?). I’ll also ignore the fact that the artist’s rendering doesn’t really look like an owl – maybe more like a feathered werewolf-Ruiz.

Speaking of feathers, here is how it is described in the email I received earlier today:

Ruiz, who has become a staple in the Phillies lineup, and one of the most popular players over the years, will look like an owl and will “Chooch” at the push of a button. The “Chooching Owl” will feature the face of Carlos Ruiz on an owl, complete with feathers, and the number 51 on its back. Normally, owls “Hoot”, but perhaps the best part of the giveaway is the fact that the “Chooching Owl” will say the word “Chooch” – Ruiz’s familiar nickname.

It’s goofy. It’s quirky. It’s kind of strange-looking. I must have it!

Note that this giveaway is not until August 2, and here they are, over 4 months in advance, already enticing us to buy tickets.

The Reading Phillies (or as they like to refer to themselves, the R-Phils) tempted me like this last year, with the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome. You may recall that my gnome-quest turned into a bit of a fiasco (for me, not the R-Phils).

[If you don't feel like clicking on the link to read about that particular experience, suffice it to say that my family left gnomeless that night.]

Will the Chooching Owl be this year’s version of the Ryan Howard Garden Gnome? Check back in August, and I’ll let you know how we fared.

The Pains of Being Kyle Kendrick

First came the elaborate prank in Spring Training of 2008, when Kyle was fooled into believing that he’d been traded to a team in Japan.

Then came trips to the minors, trips to the bullpen, and being left off the postseason roster.

Most recently, he was the odd man out when the Phils signed Cliff Lee, giving them six starters to fill five rotation spots.

Now comes this indignity:

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Really, Inquirer, you couldn’t find a picture of Kendrick that didn’t have the ball over his face?

Trying To Remain Calm / Not Who You Think It Is, Part 3

Just a couple of posts ago, at the start of Spring Training, I was, well, calm about the state of the Phillies. Of course, then I was blissfully ignorant of events that would transpire, and conspire to make me potentially lose my calm.

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Then, Chase Utley was taking it easy because of some vague reports of “soreness”. Now, Utley has been diagnosed with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, has received a cortisone shot in said knee, and has yet to appear in a Spring Training game.

Then, Domonic Brown was simply looking for his first hit of Spring Training. Now, although Brown finally got a hit over the past weekend, he broke a bone in his right hand in the process, something called the hook of the hamate bone.

broken hook.jpgA tiny bone, to be sure. Surgery was performed this morning to remove the bone, and the expected recovery time is 4-6 weeks.

[OK, if this bone can be totally removed, what possible purpose does it serve? Why do we have it? Must be about as useful as an appendix, tonsils, and wisdom teeth.]

I don’t even want to get into the fact that yesterday, the offense appeared to still be trying to awaken from winter hibernation, and Roy Oswalt allowed two home runs in 2 2/3 innings of work.

Yes, I know, it’s still early, sometimes pitchers are “working on things” and “getting their work in”, and hitters are still trying to get their timing down and working out the kinks, yada, yada. So I will take a deep breath, and try to remain calm.

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For the final installment (for now) of “Not Who You Think It Is”, did you know that the Phillies have had not one, but two legends of rock on their roster? Well, not really, just in name only.

PhilCollins_singer.jpgPhil Collins the rock star rose to fame first as the drummer for Genesis, followed by a very successful solo career. But being British, he likely never played baseball.

PhilCollins_baseball.jpgPhil Collins the ballplayer pitched for the Phillies from 1929-1935. The Phils of this span were mediocre at best, just scraping above .500 once (78-76 in 1932), and really stinky at their worst (52-102 in 1930). Collins himself was 72-79 with a 4.67 ERA during his stint with the Phils.

JimMorrison_singer.jpgJim Morrison the rock star was the frontman for The Doors from their inception in 1965, through 1971, when he died of a supposed drug overdose in Paris. There are some who believe that Morrison never actually died, and that he faked his death.

JimMorrison_baseball.jpgJim Morrison the ballplayer debuted with the Phillies in 1977, and during his two seasons in Philadelphia compiled a .174 batting average while appearing in 58 games. In 1979, he went to the White Sox as the “player to be named later” in a deal that brought the Phillies Jack Kucek.

Jim Morrison the ballplayer was last spotted managing the Charlotte Stone Crabs, a minor-league affiliate of the Rays.

Jim Morrison the rock star was last spotted with Elvis, buying Slurpees at a 7-Eleven in rural Georgia.

Not Who You Think It Is, Part 2

Programming Note: I tried to post this blog entry last night, but was prevented from doing so by “technical difficulties” (i.e., MLBlogs’ platform was being ornery, and wouldn’t let me upload any images. I can’t blog without visual aids!)

In my first installment of “Not Who You Think It Is”, I apparently jumped the gun a bit when I mentioned there were no Phillies injuries to worry about (yet). Note I did use that disclaimer “yet”. Because now it appears that Chase Utley has been hampered so far this spring by what has been diagnosed as patellar tendinitis.

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Patellar tendinitis is also known as “jumper’s knee”, which begs the question as to what Chase has been doing this offseason, hmm? Turns out it can be caused by many activities that don’t involve jumping, so I guess we can stop wondering what Chase was spending all his time jumping over, or on.

So to distract my thoughts from Chase’s knee, let’s get on with the next entry in the possible mistaken identity sweepstakes, Buster Brown.

If you’re of a certain generation, the first thought that pops into your head when you hear the name “Buster Brown” is probably a pair of shoes you had (or wish you had) as a child.

buster brown shoe logo.jpg[an aside: is this not the creepiest looking dog in advertising history? How on earth did they plan to appeal to children with a psycho dog that looks like it's about to shred you apart with a huge mouthful of piranha teeth??]

But just like Ethan Allen, there was no Buster Brown heading up Buster Brown shoes. There was, though, a George Brown, who started the Brown Shoe Company in 1878. In 1904, the Brown Shoe Company purchased the rights to the name Buster Brown, which was a popular comic strip that had debuted in 1902.

Blues fans may remember a different Buster Brown, who cracked the pop Top 40 and hit #1 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1960 with his song “Fannie Mae”, presumably not about affordable housing.

buster brown blues.jpg
Finally, we have Buster Brown the baseball player. A major league pitcher from 1905 to 1913, he appeared in 31 games for the Phillies from 1907 to 1909, compiling a 9-6 record with a 2.56 ERA.

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His career totals would be less than stellar at 51-103, which would probably be why we think of shoes first, and not him.

Next time, rock icons that played for the Phillies?

Not Who You Think It Is

It’s been almost two weeks since my last entry, and there just really hasn’t been much going on to motivate me to blog. This is a good thing, I suppose, because it means there isn’t any controversy in the Phils’ camp at the moment, and no injuries to worry about (yet).

So today I was idly browsing through a list of the all-time Phillies roster, and was struck by some of the names that made me do a double-take, thinking to myself “Huh, I didn’t know he was a Phillie”.

And that’s because they weren’t, at least not the person I first thought of.

Take, for example, Ethan Allen.

Most of us will probably think of the furniture company. Ethan Allen the furniture company was not founded by anyone named Ethan Allen, though. It was started by two New Yorkers who bought an old furniture factory in Vermont, and named it after an actual Ethan Allen.

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That would be Ethan Allen, the Revolutionary War hero, who was from Vermont, and led the Green Mountain Boys in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga.

Ethan Allen the baseball player was not from Vermont, but rather hailed from Ohio. This Ethan Allen was an outfielder for six different major league teams during his 13-year big-league career, including a stint with the Phillies from 1934-36.

EthanAllen_ballplayer.jpg
Over the course of his Phillies career, he batted .316, and led the league in doubles with 42 in 1934. His time as a Phillie came to an end in 1936, when he was part of a trade with the Cubs that brought future Hall-of-Famer Chuck Klein to the Phillies.

Next up: Buster Brown – shoe maven, bluesman, or ballplayer?

Spring (Training) Has Sprung

The Phils kicked off Spring Training 2011 today with a news conference to show off their much-ballyhooed-before-they’ve-even-thrown-a-pitch-together rotation. I’m not sure what the whole point was, really, as no new ground was covered. The questions were predictable, as were the responses.

All five starters were present.

Yes, five. Of course, the way the media have been hyping the “Four Aces”, one could be forgiven for forgetting that there is, in fact, a fifth starter. You know, the Other Guy, Joe Blanton.

At one point, one of the media members led off a question to Cole Hamels by stating that he was the “only one with a ring”. Uh, hellooo? Joe Blanton was on the ’08 staff too. Said reporter quickly corrected himself. I guess he’s been listening to all that hype a bit too much.

The pitchers themselves seem to be trying to downplay the whole “Four Aces” thing. When asked which of the nicknames for the rotation they liked best, Cliff Lee asked what they were. Someone out of range of the microphone rattled off a few. Kudos to Cliff for pointing out that all he heard in those nicknames were references to four guys, but there were five guys up on the podium.

Even after the conference had ended, Comcast’s Michael Barkann referred to the “Mount Rushmore” of rotations in his wrap-up.

Mount_Rushmore.jpgYo, Michael! Mount Rushmore only has four heads!

Mount_Rushmore copy.jpgHmm, not a bad image. But look! There’s a bit of space there to squeeze in a fifth head.

Mount_Rushmore_5.jpgOK, so it’s a wee bit smaller than the others. Let’s just hope that the starting five can live up to the “monumental” expectations already being thrown their way.

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