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Pat Burrell and Phillies Fans: Mutual Bond Lingers

Monday, March 16th, 2009

                 Pat Burrell     Pat Burrell

Pat Burrell, formerly leftfielder and #5 hitter in the Phillies lineup behind slugging 1st baseman Ryan Howard, went on to the Tampa Bay Rays in free agency, but the mutual bond between Burrell and Phillies Fans lingers on.

Maybe it was Burrell’s white-hot April and May, 2008, maybe it was his winning hit in game 5 of the 2008 World Series against the Rays, maybe it was 251 career homers, many of them in the clutch or maybe it was his ability to protect clean-up hitting Howard (despite many detractors of his ability in the media), or maybe it was all of the above and more which endeared him to the Phillies fandom.

Burrell seemed soo taken by a standing-O given him in Clearwater during spring training, as well as by his treatment by Phillies fans over the years, that he “thanked the fans for sharing a championship parade with him” in ads he bought in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News.

It may well be that Raul Ibanez replaces Burrell capably with the bat, from the left-side, and in leftfield and the Phils thus may not skip a beat in a march to repeat in the NL East, the NL and in the World Series.  But it seems that it may take him longer to fill Pat “the Bat’s” shoes with the fans.

Here’s wishing Pat Burrell great success with the Rays (except against the Phillies) — Pat “the Bat”: a class act!

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Piniella, Maddon Take Manager of the Year Honors

Friday, November 14th, 2008

              Lou Piniella         Joe Maddon

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella and Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon took Manager of the Year honors in an MLB announcement made on Wednesday.

Piniella, dubbed “Sweet lou” both for his hitting prowess (.291 lifetime BA with both the Kansas City Royals and Yankees over 18 seasons) and, sarcastically, describing his demeanor as a player and manager, led the Cubs to consecutive NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008 without reaching the next level having fallen in the division championships in 3 games in both seasons.

AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick notes;

Piniella beat out Charlie Manuel of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies to earn his third Manager of the Year award and first in the NL. The fiery skipper also won in 1995 and 2001 with Seattle.

This time, he got 15 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 103 points to 67 for Manuel, listed first on eight ballots. Florida’s Fredi Gonzalez finished third with five first-place votes and 48 points.

“I’m thrilled and I’m honored. I know there were a lot of managers in the National League who had good seasons,” Piniella said from his home in Tampa, Fla.

The 65-year-old Piniella earned a $100,000 bonus for winning, which he plans to donate to the team’s charity partner, McCormick Foundation’s Cubs Care.

“My good fortune can get spread around a little bit,” he said. “The kids in the Chicago area will benefit from this and I’m very happy.”

Frankly, I am disappointed with the choice.  Yes, Seattle reached the next level 3 times between 1995 and 2001 but Piniella never got higher, nor did he win anything during 3 seasons as manager of the Yankees in 1986,  1987, 1988. 

Charlie Manuel took over as manager of the Phils and kept them in contention in 2005 and 2006, before chasing, catching and overtaking the  NY Mets on the last day of the 2007 season to win the NL East and doing so again in 2008, this time going all of the way to the World Series title.  Manuel got jobbed, robbed and deprived of the award he so justly and richly deserves.

Meanwhile, in the AL, the Rays’ Joe Maddon, who never played a game in the Majors and who piloted the team to horrific finishes of 61-101 in 2006 and 66-96 in 2007, caught the Boston Red Sox midway through the season and then nipped them by 2 games at the end of the 2008 regular season for the NL East title with a 97-65 mark.

After advancing to the ALCS, the Rays took a 3 games to 1 lead over the  Red Sox, who have a proclivity for coming back from long deficits in championship play.  The Red Sox rallied in the next 2 games to tie the series at 3 games apiece before the Rays held on to edge them by 3-1 to win the AL pennant.

AP’s Fitzpatrick further noted;

Tampa Bay, which started play in 1998, had never won more than 70 games in a season before Maddon engineered an incredible turnaround. With his motivational quotes and phrases, the 54-year-old skipper led a young team that finished in last place a season ago… to… the AL East title.

Maddon used his versatile bench brilliantly and juggled a much-improved bullpen that lost veteran closer Troy Percival to injury. The stunning success continued in October, when the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox and defending champion Boston Red Sox to capture the AL pennant.

“It was all there for us. It was just a matter of time,” Maddon said. “It happened a little sooner than I thought.”

Tampa Bay’s postseason run ended with a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the World Series, but that hardly spoiled it for Maddon.

“He’s got a great mind, he’s a great communicator and he’s been remarkably consistent since the first day of spring training in 2006,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “That’s extremely difficult to do in an environment so full of emotion. He has maintained that through our low points and also our high points.”

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Phillies Edge Rays for World Series Title

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

           World Series      Cole Hamels

Following a 48 hour rain suspension, the Phiillies and the Tampa Bay Rays, tied 2-2 after the top of the sixth inning, renewed play by trading single runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh before 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz singled in the winning run. J.C. Romero and closer Brad Lidge were lights-out in the eighth and ninth innings as the Phillies bested the Rays for the World Series Title by 4 games to 1 and a 4-3 score.

Ace lefthander Cole Hamels, who didn’t get his 4th post-season win, was awarded the Series MVP award for having pitched a solid 7 innings in series game 1 as well as another excellent outing going 6 innings in game 5 under treacherous weather conditions.

Reliever Grant Balfour stayed in the game to begin the Phillies’ sixth inning and gave up an inning opening double to Geoff Jenkins who pinch-hit for Hamels.  Shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ sacrifice bunted Balfour’s 1st pitch to 3rd base moving Jenkins to 3rd with 1 out.  Rightfielder Jayson Werth followed by lining Balfour’s 2-2 pitch to centerfield scoring Jenkins to put the Phils up 3-2.   J.P. Howell took over from Balfour struck 2nd baseman Chase Utley out on 3 pitches and got 1st baseman Ryan Howard to pop out to 3rd base to end the inning.  But the Phils had taken a 3-2 lead and it looked like Hamels would actually get his 5th post-season win.

Ryan Madson took over pitching duties in the seventh inning and struck out catcher Dioner Navarro for out 1.  But then Rocco Baldelli nailed Madson’s first offering for a solo homer to left and the game was again tied.  Two pitches later, shortstop Jason Bartlett singled to left and advanced to 2nd base on a Howell’s sacrifice bunt to the pitcher.  Manager Manuel then went to J.C. Romero who was greeted with lead-off hitter 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura’s infield grounder over 2nd base. Bartlett went to 3rd and tried to score on the play when he was fooled on Utley’s alert bluff throw to first. Bartlett was a sitting duck being tagged out at home on the play as the Rays side was retired and Romero and the Phillies escaped a Rays go-ahead threat.

In the bottom of the seventh, leftfielder Pat Burrell led off by lining
Howell’s 1-1 pitch off the centerfield wall for a double.  
Eric Bruntlett ran for Burrell and stayed in the game to play leftfield in the late innings.
Pedro Feliz then lined Howell’s 1 strike pitch to centerfield to drive in what turned out to be the winning run.  Catcher
Carlos Ruiz and Romero both grounded out to end the inning but the Phils had the lead by 4-3.

After leftfielder Carl Crawford singled to open the eighth inning, centerfielder B.J. Upton grounded into a shortstop-to-2nd-to-1st doubleplay and 1st baseman Carlos Pena lined out to leftfield to retire the side.  Romero, who threw 14 pitches was credited with his 2nd win of the World Series.
The Phillies went down in the eighth as only Chase Utley reached on a 
David Price walk.

            World Series       Tug Mcgraw

Closer Brad Lidge, who went perfect for the season with 48 save in 48 opportunities through the World Series, rang up the Rays in the ninth inning.  Lidge only gave up a 1 out single to catcher Navarro and wound up the series in true Tug McGraw style — a swinging third strike on pinch hitter  Eric Hinske for the final out.  Then it was fireworks, horn-honking auto caravans and party-time in Philly with Harry Kalas giving another rendition of the Ole’ Blue Eyes tune — “High Hopes.”

Rays reliever J.P. Howell, who gave up the winning run in the seventh, was charged with his 2nd loss of the World Series and his 3rd of the post-season.

For the Phillies, 45 year old Jamie Moyer and all, it was their 2nd World Series title in the franchise’s 126-year history.  AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi noted for Yahoo sports;

The bullpen led the NL in ERA (3.22) and winning percentage (.589) during the regular season, and was even better in the playoffs. They were the biggest reason the Phillies were 89-0 this year when leading after eight innings— including 10 postseason wins.

MVP winner Hamels received both the MVP trophy and keys to a new sports car.

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Phillies-Rays Tied in Mid-Sixth of Controversial Suspended Game

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

UPDATE:  Tim Brown of Yahoo sports is reporting:

As rain and chilly temperatures rendered Citizens Bank Park unplayable again, commissioner Bud Selig pushed the continuation of the Philadelphia Phillies’ potential clincher to 8:37 p.m. (ET) Wednesday.

Wednesday is expected to be cold and wet with a possible break later in the afternoon.

Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman said by email Tuesday afternoon the Rays would leave the game in the hands of their bullpen, rather than come back with a starter. The Phillies are expected to do the same.

        Charlie Manuel     Rain Delay   

                        Bud Selig         

Lefthanders Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir faced-off in a rematch of game 1.  But after the Phillies loaded the sacks and notched 2 first inning runs on centerfielder Shane Victorino’s leftfield single, the Rays came back with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings to tie amidst increasing rain and increasingly torrid playing conditions before commissioner Bud Selig suspended the game in the mid-sixth inning.

The Phillies hoped to end the series on Monday in Philadelphia.

ESPN is reporting;

The game has tentatively been scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, weather permitting.

I’m not going to take Selig to task for the game suspension, or when the game was called.   I’m just dealing with the game as it is.  The Phils had scoring shots in both the fourth and fifth innings — bases jammed in the fourth, but couldn’t deliver.   Kazmir walked 6 Phils in 4 innings and the Phils had left 9 runners stranded through 5 innings of at-bats. 

After Hamels quickly disposed of the Rays in the first, the Phils loaded the bases against Kazmir with two outs as rightfielder Jayson Werth walked, 2nd baseman Chase Utley was hit by a pitch and leftfielder Pat Burrell was walked on 5 pitches.  Victorino then lined a 2-1 pitch to leftfield to put the Phils up 2-0. 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz singled to reload the bases as Phils fans chomped at the bit in eager anticipation.  But Kazmir coaxed a fly out to leftfield by catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had been clutch in game 3.

Both Kazmir and Hamels breezed through the second and third innings.

Tampa Bay scored its first run in the fourth inning as 1st baseman Carlos Pena doubled to rightfield and scored on 3rd baseman Evan Longoria’s single to centerfield.

Amidst continuing steady rain, the Phillies tried to rally in the fourth laoding the bases with 2 outs as shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Werth both walked after Hamels reached on a fielders’ choice grounder.  But Utley grounded out to 2nd base leaving everyone stranded.

The Phillies got their first two runners on as Kazmir walked both 1st baseman Ryan Howard and Burrell.  But reliever Grant Balfour replaced Kazmir and got Victorino to fly out to leftfield and got both Feliz and Ruiz to pop out to 1st base.  Kazmir had thrown 103 pitches through five innings,

As the Phils started the sixth up 2-1, it seemed obvious, rain or not, that they needed to score more runs to win this thing.

As the steady downpour of rain became heavier, the Rays tied the game in the sixth as centerfielder B.J. Upton singled and stole 2nd base as described by AP baseball writer Ben Walker for Yahoo sports;

Carlos Pena hit a tying, two-out single in the sixth for the Rays, and the umpires called it moments later. By then, every ball and every pitch had become an adventure because of the miserable conditions.

“The infield was tough. The ball would do funny things,” Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said. “It was in bad shape. It was not playable.”

There has never been a rain-shortened game in Series history, and this was the first suspension. Whenever this one resumes, it will pick up where it left off, with the Phils about to bat in the bottom of the sixth.

I hold that it was best that the game be called.  And Hamels, as I understand MLB rules, still would be credited with the win regardless whether he bats, or is replaced by a pinch hitter IF the Phils score in the sixth and hold the lead.  I would not want to conjecture or second-guess what could happen in the sixth when the game is resumed  were it to have been stopped after the first 2 outs.

Here is a citing of the MLB rules for determining the winning pitcher;


10.19 (a) Credit the starting pitcher with a game won only if he has pitched at least five complete innings and his team not only is in the lead when he is replaced but remains in the lead the remainder of the game.

(4) The winning relief pitcher shall be the one who is the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead and maintains it to the finish of the game.

EXCEPTION: Do not credit a victory to a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when a succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain the lead. In such cases, credit the succeeding relief pitcher with the victory.

(d) When a pitcher is removed for a substitute batter or substitute runner, all runs scored by his team during the inning in which he is removed shall be credited to his benefit in determining the pitcher of record when his team assumes the lead.

Whether Hamels bats, or a pinch hitter, and whether we see Ryan Madson, or Chad Durbin, or maybe even rookie lefthander J.A. Happ in the seventh — we’ll see what move Charlie makes.

I just hope that the Phils clubhouse gets over its’ anger and gets down to business.  Otherwise, curses are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Fans should remember that the Phils still hold a 3-1 lead in games.  We’re in the driver’s seat.  Regardless of how the final 2 1/2 innings go down, there are still a maximum of 7 games to a World Series.  I’ll just leave it at that. 

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Phillies Fans: The “One More” Finger Sign

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Four hours before the Phillies go out to try to end the series in Philadelphia, I sit in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel reminiscing about
Philly sports fans on the eve of winning a championship.

I saw six such eves in my nearly 51 years living in the Philadelphia are.  Now I am experiencing my sixth, from thousands of miles away.

But I can still conjure up, with inevitability, driving by and exchanging one-finger signs with other drivers and pedestrians. That 1-sign speaks volumes about how close these 2008 Phillies are to winning it all.

So I sit, conjuring up Greer, “Wally Wonder”, Kangaroo Kid Cunningham, Chamberlain, Van Brocklin-to-McDonald, “Lefty”, Bowa, Schmitty, the Bull, Clarke, Barber, MacLeish, “The Hammer” and more.

Four more hours until we begin to see if Cole Hamels, the heir to Lefty notoriety, wins a record 5th post-season game in 2008 and if the offense can bring this thing home.  Four more hours until it begins to emerge who tonight’s hero is; Utley, Howard, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian”, Lidge, Pat “The Bat”…

But don’t count out those Rays.  They got up 3 games to 1 on the Red Sox and ended up having to win the seventh game to make the Series.

However, it is nostalgic to recall the blaring of horns and dancing in the streets on the night that Philly won.     Go Phillies!

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Phillies Manhandle Rays, Go Up 3 to 1 in WS

Monday, October 27th, 2008

      Ryan Howard     Phillies    Joe Blanton

1st Baseman Ryan Howard pounded 2 homers and drove in 5 runs while going 3 for 4.  Starter Joe Blanton helped his own cause with a solo homer while holding the Rays through six fine innings as the Phils uncorked their offense.  Rightfielder Jayson Werth chipped in with a 2 run homer as the  Phillies pummelled Tampa Bay pitchers to win by a 10-2 score on Sunday and go up by 3 games to 1 in the series.

Joe Blanton was a horse out of the starting blocks, his fastball and off-speed pitches working to near perfection as the Phillies offense, working on nearly all cylinders, struck against Andy Sonnanstine for single runs in the first and third innings.  Blanton retired 11 of the first 13 Rays hitters he faced before leftfielder Carl Crawford went yard for a solo homer to rightfield on a 1-2 pitch with 2 out in the fourth.   The Phillies offense finally broke out of it’s doldrums of the first 3 games.

AP baseball writer Ronald Blum provides this note on the Phils’ offense for Yahoo sports;

The Phillies were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position and are 6-for-47 in the Series.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins opened the game for the Phils with a double to rightfield and advanced to 3rd base on rightfielder Jayson Werth’s fly out to rightfield.  Sonnanstine walked 2nd baseman Chase Utley on 4 pitches and went to 2nd base as Howard reached on a fielder’s choice to the pitcher that netted no outs as Rollins eluded a rundown between 3rd and home.  Sonnanstine walked leftfielder Pat Burrell on 5 pitches forcing in Rollins with the 1st Phils run.  Centerfielder Shane Victorino followed by grounding into a fielder’s choice with Utley out at home — bases still jammed.   3rd baseman Pedro Feliz flied out to centerfield to end the inning.  Rollins, like Howard, had a big game going 3 for 5 and scoring 3 runs.

Sonnanstine got through the second inning okay only surrendering a Rollins single to centfield.  But in the third, Utley led off reaching on a fielding error by 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura.   Howard pounded a long single to right sending Utley to 3rd.  Burrell and Victorino both popped out to shortstop.  Feliz singled to left scoring Utley with the Phils’ 2nd run.  Catcher Carlos Ruiz, the hero of Saturday’s game 3, singled through the hole at 2nd base to load the bases.  But Blanton fouled out to 1st base to end the threat.

After Crawford’s fourth inning homer narrowed the score to 2-1, the Phils struck Sonnanstine for 3 fourth inning runs as he struggled with his offspeed pitches throughout.  Rollins reached on a 2nd fielding error by 2nd baseman Iwamura.  Werth walked on 4 pitches as Rollins took 2nd.  After Utley struck out, Howard pounded a 3 run homer to leftfield as the Phils went up by 5-1.  Victorino ended the inning by popping out to 3rd base.

In the fifth Blanton got the first 2 outs before pinch hitter (for
Eric Hinske pounded a 2-1 pitch from Blanton for a solo homer to centerfield to cut the score to 5-2.

But with 2 out in the Phillies’ fifth inning, Blanton seemingly closed his eyes with the count 2-1 as reliever Edwin Jackson served up a pitch in his wheelhouse.  I can’t believe that rip.  I tell you, he looked like Greg Luzinski.  Blanton blistered it out to leftfield and the Phils’ lead was 6-2. 

Meanwhile, when Blanton was replaced after six innings inning having thrown 99 pitches, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson shutdown the Rays on 1 hit in the seventh with Madson retiring the side in order in the eighth on 9 pitches.  Madson had 3 strikeouts in his 1 1/3 innings of work.

Phillies Nations’ Tim Malcolm had these thoughts on Blanton;

Blanton pitched superb. He went six innings, giving up just two runs and striking out seven. He located all his pitches, never ever getting into much trouble while making the Rays look dead on arrival. The bullpen cleaned it up without a dent, per usual.

In the eighth, the Phils exploded on Rays’ relievers Dan Wheeler and  Trever Miller for 4 runs as Werth and Howard added icing on the cake each hitting a 2 run homer to cap a Phillies performance where they totally out-classed Tampa Bay in every component of the game. 

AP baseball writer Blum further notes;

Blanton became the first pitcher in 34 years to homer in the World Series…

Blanton, with a Greg Luzinski body type that’s a throwback to an era of pudgy pitchers, gave up four hits—including solo homers to Carl Crawford and pinch-hitter Eric Hinske—struck out seven and walked two in six innings.

Just 2-for-33 (.061) with one RBI in his career to that point, Blanton homered in the fifth off Edwin Jackson. It was just the 15th home run by a pitcher in the Series, and the first since Oakland’s Ken Holtzman in 1974.  No NL pitcher had homered since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in 1968.

If the Phillies win Monday, it would mark the first time the Series has gone five straight years without reaching a Game 6. The only other four-year stretch without a Game 6 was 1913-16. …  Lenny Dykstra (1993) is the only other Phillies player with a multihomer Series game.

On Monday, lefthanders Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir face-off in a rematch of game 1.  Hamels has a shot at sealing the Rays’ fate and ending the series in Philadelphia.  If need be, the teams have Tuesday off for travel to return to Tampa Bay where they would play games 6 and 7.

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