Game time is 6:30 p.m. EST, and it will be carried live on Florida State's official sports page. First-round pick Kyle Drabek gets the ball for the Phillies. Play ball! (Hat tip to alert reader, Brian, for the heads-up.) [Link]
Game time is 6:30 p.m. EST, and it will be carried live on Florida State's official sports page. First-round pick Kyle Drabek gets the ball for the Phillies. Play ball! (Hat tip to alert reader, Brian, for the heads-up.) [Link]
According to the AP, manager Bobby Cox is aligning his spring rotation to make sure his 39-year-old ace takes the mound when the Phillies host the Braves April 2.
If fans are hoping Pat Burrell will silence skeptics by making an immediate splash opening day, they may be in for a long afternoon. Burrell is 1-for-23 lifetime off Smolz. Maybe Karim Garcia or Chris Coste should get the start in left. After all, Garcia is 1-for-3 with a homer off the Braves’ right-hander, and Coste shocked everyone when he put a charge into a hanging Smoltz fastball last season.
Meanwhile, Mike Hampton discouraged by discomfort
Braves left-hander Mike Hampton, who missed the entire 2006 season recovering from ligament transplant surgery, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution he still isn't where he wants to be after having discomfort in a recent batting practice session. Hampton reportedly hadn't thrown a breaking pitch since fall. Mananger Bobby Cox, who's more optimistic in the story, expects five innings from Hampton when the season opens.
Jim Jackson joining broadcast team
After broadcasting Flyers games for 14 years, Jim Jackson should have an easy transition pronouncing names like Greg Dobbs, Ryan Howard and Wes Helms instead Dmitry Afanasenkov, Antero Niittymaki and Lasse Kukkonen.
Jackson, 43, will host the pre-game and post-game shows, a role handled last year by Scott Franzke, who will be doing play-by-play exclusively this year. Jackson once called games for the Trenton Thunder (Double-A, Yankees), and does a nice job calling the Flyers.
Foam head update
Daniel McQuade from Philadelphia Weekly takes a look at the latest in bizarre Phillies merchandise, including a terrifying replica of the Phanatic's head and a "non-violent" Phillies-themed memory game, which can only mean one thing: Ugueth Urbina is not included in the game.
Featured on the cover of the New York Daily News, the limited-run card includes a Photoshoped picture of George W. Bush waving from the stands, and Mickey Mantle in the dugout waiting to take a swing.
How’s this for turnaround. I bought three packs over lunch at the local comic book store for $1.59 per pack, and landed the Jeter card, which is fetching top dollar on eBay. If you wish to buy this card, drop an e-mail or comment and we’ll work out a price. I have no great affection for any of the individuals featured in this card. FWIW, I’m also willing to part with the Mark Grudzielanek Rawlings Gold Glove Award card I received, and Casey Fossum, since I got doubles of both. Both are red hot, I hear ...
More importantly, it’s time to belly up to the bar for another season of Beerleaguer in-game discussion. Game starts at 1:05 p.m EST.
It’s baseball time again, and for readers of this space, time to get back to what we do best, and that's chat about Howard, Cholly, the Sausage Assassin, Weird Beard, Donut Taster, that thing on Wheeler's head, your favorite Bobby Scales fantasy, the human trash acquired in the Abreu deal. Whatever. The batboys could scrimmage Bill Conlin and the media all-stars and it wouldn’t matter. Beerleaguer is running well below Typepad's alloted monthly bandwidth, so the floor is your's. I hope the missing posters return: Maverick; SamDracula; Ed; Bloodstripes, etc. All except the bored guy who kept posting as Bailey, the exotic dancer from Show 'n Tel.
First up: An early March treat when the hometown nine entertain A-Rod, Jeter and that whole circus. It’s the first of two consecutive televised games against the Yanks, the other is on March 17, also at 1:05 p.m. And good news for out-of-market readers: ESPN is slated to broadcast back-to-back weekday games March 22 and 23, which is good news if you work in a home office. Here’s the complete EST spring schedule.
March 4, Yankees at Phillies, CSN, 1:05 p.m.
March 17, Yankees at Phillies, CSN, 1:05 p.m.
March 18, Devil Rays at Phillies (ss), CW, 1:05 p.m.
March 22, Red Sox at Phillies, ESPN, 1:05 p.m.
March 23, Braves at Phillies, ESPN, 1:05 p.m.
March 25, Twins at Phillies, CSN, 1:05 p.m.
March 31, Red Sox at Phillies (From CBP), CW, 1:05 p.m.
Baseball America rated right-hander Mike McTamney as a top five independent league talent after the season, and called his fastball the best in the Golden Baseball League.
Most of you have already read Phil Sheridan’s piece on Phillies special scout Mal Fichman, who specializes in digging under rocks and soil to find overlooked talent in the independent leagues. The Phillies recently signed four pitchers to minor league contracts as a result of tryout camps, lefties Jake Ociesa, Corey Willey and righties Mike McTamney and Jason Wylie.
Sheridan focused on Ociesa, who’s added five mph to his fastball since college, but McTamney was actually catching the eye of scouts even earlier. In October, Baseball America published a list of the top prospects in independent baseball. The 23-year-old undrafted graduate of Wagner College (go Seahawks) was one of just three pitchers to make the list, labeling his fastball the best in the Golden League, "touching 94 with a free and easy delivery." To compliment his fastball, McTamney throws a knuckleball and is working to improve his breaking pitch. Don't get excited about the knuckler; BA said it has little potential.
These signings represent the latest in long list of players acquired by unconventional means this off-season. Outfielder Greg Jacobs, former roommate of Aaron Rowand at Cal State Fullerton, was signed from the Northern League, and right-hander Charlie Weatherby became the first Lancaster Barnstormer (Atlantic League) to sign with the Phils back in November.
In general, the Phillies system is now stacked with cast-offs, including several who are competing for jobs on the 25-man roster. Say what you will about resorting to these tactics, but you can no longer blame the front-office for having a close-minded approach to the "unaffiliated."
Right-hander Joe Bisenius entered the off-season as an unheralded prospect. Today, he’s considered a future closer and darkhorse to break camp with a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen.
For a guy who's appeared in 16 games above A-ball, Joe Bisenius, the 24-year-old reliever with the "hammer curve," is generating an awful lot of hype. Beerleaguer first reported on the right-hander back in September, en route to going 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA and seven saves in 51 games between Class-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading.
Bisenius was the subject of two stories this weekend, one in the AP and one by Randy Miller of the Bucks County Courier Times, and I’ve got to be honest: It's a little crazy. And I know I've been pumping this guy. Truthfully, it doesn't even sound like Bisenius believes he's ready.
Obviously, he's got some tools, and the Phillies have fast-tracked his development. Scouts are calling him a future stopper. But let's not be hasty. How about making him Ottawa's closer first? Then, when Philadelphia needs an arm in September, bring in the hammer.
What about Fabio Castro?
Continuing the discussion from Friday's thread, from everything I've gathered from Phillies GM Pat Gillick in interviews, Castro's command isn't where it needs to be. However, the pint-sized southpaw has carried a hot hand for months, making him tough to ignore. If Castro shows better control, he could force his way into the bullpen as the second lefty.
What about Clay Condrey?
Everyone except Beerleaguer regular kdon is counting out Condrey. Let's not forget the Phillies reached for him a couple times last season and he didn't disappoint. Unless Antonio Alfonseca turns out to be the bomb, allowing Ryan Madson or Geoff Geary to bump down, they’ll need a mop-up man like Condrey to devour early IPs. They can't afford to tag Geary with 91 innings again. Condrey appeared in 21 games, and was typically quite good for an inning or two in B-list action. He might be a reliable, safe alternative, depending on how he performs this spring.
What about the rest?
Clout called Rule 5 pick Jim Ed Warden an extreme longshot to make the team in the last thread. The trouble with that is he’s competing against a handful of inexperienced longshots with options. An extended tryout with the big club isn’t out of the question.
Beyond that, Brian Sanches can throw reasonably hard, but figures to be on the outside looking in. Zach Segovia probably needs to get his feet wet in Triple-A, perhaps as a reliever. I'm still intrigued by junkball left-hander Brian Mazone and his 2.04 Triple-A ERA, but have a feeling he would get killed in a Major League bullpen. Eude Brito is nursing a neck injury, which is a shame since he had a positive winter in the Dominican.
Instead, keep your eye on talented left-hander J.A. Happ as a possible emergency starter/late-season call-up. Good poise, great command, they say. He may be the reason the Phillies appear confident with their starting depth. Happ probably has more natural ability than any of the possibilities mentioned above, and he's receiving real instruction this spring. If not this season, his time will surely come in '08.
Bobby Madritsch last pitched in the Mariners’ starting rotation before a torn labrum knocked him out of action in early 2005. The Phils would reportedly offer the 31-year-old left-hander a minor league deal.
Few remember Madritsch was Seattle’s best pitcher in the second half of 2004, so effective that manager Bob Melvin pitched him relentlessly until his arm fell off. He’s pitched only 4 2-3 innings since. He was released by the Mariners after 2005, was claimed off waivers by Kansas City before '06, and didn’t pitch an inning. Looking for another chance, he showed up in Clearwater last week, according to the Times.
In 2004, his only real taste of the Majors, Madritsch went 6-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 15 appearances, 11 as a starter, posting a 60/33 K/BB ratio. He will rely on a late-breaking fastball that hits 91 on the gun.
Baseball Prospectus called him “totally unflappable” in their 2005 primer, back when he was considered Seattle’s only true lock at a spot in the rotation. Nicknamed “Mad” Madritsch, the Native American is a true intimidator and a fighter, complete with a giant tattoo of a medicine wheel on his neck.
Nothing's been easy. According to a 2004 profile in USA Today, he grew up in a gang-filled area on Chicago's South Side, dropped out of college, pitched for four independent league teams and recovered from reconstructive surgery, all before making it to the majors as a 28-year-old rookie. Here’s the profile. [Link]
His arm has been his own worst enemy. Soon after the Reds drafted him in the 6th round of the '98 draft, he severed his rotator cuff. He added a torn labrum on top of it, and continued to pitch ... and pitch ... and pitch. As a minor league signing, he’s worth a flyer – out of courtesy, if nothing else. It’s a miracle he's made it this far, and it would take a miracle for his journey to continue.
Low arm-slot reliever Jim Ed Warden, plucked away from the Indians in December’s Rule 5 draft, held right-handers to a .155 batting average last season in Double-A.
Scott Lauber of the News Journal offered the very first look at the 6-7 reliever in bloodstripes yesterday during competitive batting practice.
"(Warden) has a funky side-arm delivery that can be tough, particularly on right-handed hitters. Just ask Jayson Werth. After watching Warden saw off Jason Hill's bat, Werth gingerly stepped into the batter's box. Just then, Warden walked off the mound, having thrown his allotment of pitches. Werth blew a kiss skyward at having been spared from facing Warden."
Beerleaguer: The Indians were reportedly reluctant to part with Warden, but ran out of room on their 40-man roster. The rules of the Rule 5 indicate that Warden must remain with the Phillies (on the 25-man active roster or the DL) for all of 2007 or they must attempt to return him to his original club. However, since a returned Rule 5 pick must first be placed on waivers, a third club could claim him, which is probable, considering teams like Kansas City and Tampa Bay are in desperate need. But of course, they, too, would need to keep him in the majors all season, or offer him back to the Tribe.
The Phillies may be forced to work out a compesatory trade if they like what they see, but elect not to bring him north at this time. It may be worth it; Baseball America actually has him rated as a better prospect than fellow 27-year-old Matt Smith.
Development-wise, the former Division I scholarship athlete turned a corner in 2005, when the Indians switched his arm slot to a low three-quarters angle, according to BA’s annual prospect report. After that, Warden found better consistency with his fastball and his slider became plus. His best pitch is a good, "deep" changeup. Now, it’s a matter of finding consistency in his release point and gaining confidence. A full spring with the big club will certainly help.
Scott Lauber of The News Journal in Delaware offered the first report of competitive batting practice yesterday, with a couple of key pitchers looking sharp early. [Link]
Antonio Alfonseca, a candidate for setup man, "blew fastballs by outfielders Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino and Pat Burrell," according to Lauber’s report. Pitching coach Rich Dubee also said Alfonseca's stuff was reminiscent of his years in Florida, when the big right-hander was the Marlins' closer. In addition, manager Charlie Manuel said he likes what he sees from sixth starter Jon Lieber, who is reportedly on the trade block. Then again, what else is Cholly going to say?
In the box, Ryan Howard hit his first home run of spring, going deep off reliever Brian Sanches. Lauber maintains a comprehensive blog, with three or four daily entries from Clearwater. Well worth a visit.
We've got our first option of spring, and an injury setback to a bullpen hopeful. Yoel Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa. The 26-year-old right-hander missed most of last season with a bum shoulder. Also, left-hander Eude Brito is on the shelf with injuries he suffered in a car wreck a month ago, according to the Inquirer. That would almost certainly guarantee he will not break camp with the Phils. He has not pitched yet. In addition, Matt Smith agreed to contract terms, as did outfielder Shane Victorino.
Abreu: Back on the Phillies, I was ‘The Man’
Bobby Abreu was interviewed on Yankees.com and had this to say: "Everyone in this lineup is a star," Abreu said. "Back on the Phillies, I was 'The Man' -- the one everyone pointed to over the years. It's a good thing to be here, because sometimes you'll make a mistake, and you can deal with that. On the other side [with Philadelphia], when you made a mistake, everybody pointed at you." [Link]
The reigning National League MVP is the new face of Topps Baseball Cards, now shipping to stores across the country. How do you get your hands on him? Ben Henry of The Baseball Card Blog tells us how.
Ryan Howard may be without a new contract from the Phillies, but the popular slugger roped another lucrative deal earlier this winter. Howard signed an exclusive contract with Topps, granting the New York-based company exclusive rights to autographed cards, game-used memorabilia and Howard’s image use on packaging and advertising.
Ben Henry has been an avid collector since 1986 and started The Baseball Card Blog over a year ago. I connected with him over e-mail to ask about Howard, advice for casual collectors and the state of card collecting today.
Beerleaguer: Topps is now shipping their 2007 cards across America, with Ryan Howard as the new cover boy. What are your thoughts on Howard as the new face of Topps?
Ben Henry: I think it’s brilliant that Topps was able to get Howard. Topps is finally ‘getting it’ with their spokesmen: lock up fun guys when they’re young and they won’t have a chance to jump over to the infinitely cooler Upper Deck. It’s also great for Howard. He’s cementing himself in the minds of the newest generation of card collectors.
Beerleaguer: Which Howard cards are hottest; which hold the most value?
Ben Henry: It used to be that you couldn’t get a hotter card than the player’s rookie card. Then card companies starting making cards for anyone who graduated the 8th grade, in hopes that someday one of them would make it out of Double-A. Fortunes were lost on these cards. Trying to find an edge, card companies limited production runs. They tore up jerseys and gloves and shaved down bats, inserting them as "relic" cards.
So my answer is if Ryan Howard debuted 30 years ago, his rookie card would’ve been his most valuable card for his entire career. It would probably cap somewhere around $200, and that’s if he ends up in the Hall of Fame, which is no easy task. Just ask Jim Rice, a guy with a $5 rookie card.
Instead, here are four of Ryan Howard’s most valuable cards, according to March’s Tuff Stuff, which, coincidentally, features Howard on the cover:
1. 2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres $50 (RC)
2. 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects $75
3. 2003 Bowman’s Best $600
4. 2003 Donruss Rookie & Traded Elite Turn of the Century Autograph $1,000
Will these cards hold their value? That’s the real question I have for the hobby. I go to shows in the New York area and see relic and autographed cards selling for $3.
Beerleaguer: Which sets would you recommend for casual collectors, and where can one find the most comprehensive collection of Phillies cards for the 2007 team?
Ben Henry: I would recommend the basic Upper Deck and Topps sets. Both borrow heavily from early ’90s Score, as each set is comprised of roughly one billion cards. Upper Deck has a ton of cards, with a checklist that resembles the baseball encyclopedia. Topps is more manageable at 660 cards and includes special cards like they used to back in the '60s.
Plus ... and this may be something new if you haven’t collected in a while: There are only two card companies now. Major League Baseball denied Donruss its license and Upper Deck bought up the Fleer nameplate after Fleer bought the farm a few years ago. So while you may see many of the same brands (Bowman, Fleer, Topps, Ultra, SP, Upper Deck), there are only two Goliaths battling it out: Topps and Upper Deck.
Beerleaguer: I've been collecting Topps Heritage because I like the nostalgic look. Which sets would you recommend for appearance, display, etc.?
Ben Henry: It’s funny you bring up Heritage, because when I got my first full-time job after college, I decided I’d collect the Heritage set modeled after 1954. God, that set’s totally awesome. For design, you really can’t get better than Topps Heritage. A ton of collectors also love Topps’ Allen & Ginter product from 2006 (Chase Utley's Allen & Ginter pictured right). It’s clean, with turn-of-the-century barroom portraits of ballplayers and famous people like Thomas Edison and Orville Wright. I was also a fan of 2005 Bowman Heritage, modeled after 1951 Bowman, one of the pillars of post-war baseball card design.
Beerleaguer: Without getting too broad, what are your thoughts on the modern era of collecting compared to the past? Did Upper Deck and the glossy card ruin the industry? And is the industry on a rebound?
Ben Henry: It’s easy to blame UD for what happened to cards. They were the first to insert an autographed card into packs (Reggie Jackson Heroes, 1991), and what they did right as a company — from the start — inflated the hobby, giving false hope to a legion of other companies. While other companies have fallen by the wayside, UD carries on.
If 1952-1981 was the Topps Dynasty, 1982-1988 the Fleer/Donruss Interloper Years, 1989 to the present is definitely the Upper Deck Era: autographed cards, memorabilia cards. Many sets now have these cards checklisted amongst the regular base cards. You need these cards to complete the set. To a collector like me, this is crazy: I’m never going to get all the cards I need.
And yet, baseball cards are getting back to being in a good place. There are sets, like those I mentioned earlier, where packs don’t cost too much and there are a wide variety of players. Little kids and old guys with pot bellies are still interested. If card companies can manage to do that, they must be doing something right.
Beginning this morning at 7:30 a.m. ET, fans can purchase single-game tickets for all 81 home games using Phillies.com.
Fans can also call the Phillies' phone center at 215-463-1000 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit the ticket window next to the team store at Citizens Bank Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tomorrow, tickets go on sale at the walk-up windows at the first-base gate. Hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During the first 24 home games, the Phillies will host the Braves, Mets, Nationals and Marlins. Three NL Central clubs (Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee), one NL West club (Arizona) and one American League East club (Toronto) will also visit during this span. The Tigers and White Sox also visit from AL this season. A full list of promotions, including dollar dog nights, is available here.
Right-handed reliever Bubba Nelson and second baseman Juan Francia will provide farm depth. Francia is listed on Ottawa’s Triple-A roster, and Nelson could pitch from the pen in Ottawa or Reading.
Nelson, a former second-round pick of the Braves in 2000, holds a career 43-49 record and 3.67 ERA over seven minor league seasons. The 25-year-old righty was part of the Chris Reitsma deal of 2004, which landed him in the Cincinnati organization.
It was all downhill from there. He was arrested for DUI in February of 2005, struggled through a hip injury and was eventually released. He signed a minor league contract with San Diego before 2006 and went 5-7 with a 3.84 ERA for Double-A Mobile, becoming a free agent after the season.
At one point, he was considered a sleeper candidate for a spot in Atlanta’s rotation, but it never materialized. In an archived Baseball America chat from 2003, the Braves farm analyst called him "a stud." (If I had a nickel for every Atlanta "stud" prospect, rotting away in the minors somewhere ...)
Francia is a speed demon, and Scout.com calls him the classic slap hitter. In seven seasons, all with Detroit, the 25-year-old switch-hitter has a grand total eight homers and a career .333 SLG, but also an impressive 233 stolen bags. Other positives: He makes contact, has the potential to hit for average, doesn’t strike out and will be useful as speed or defense off the bench for any affiliate. He split time last season between Lakeland (High-A) and Erie (AA). Baseball Cube has him listed at 5-9, 145, which might make him the smallest player in the organization.
WLYC airs in Williamsport, Pa., but you can listen to a live stream on their Web site.
Radio should have been hitting me up for interviews eight weeks ago when the Internet trade winds were roaring and Beerleaguer was a red-hot battleground. Instead, comments are down to single digits, the beat reporters have all the latest from camp, and bloggers are left writing about Phillies marketing. Anyway, expect a flurry of questions about Ryan Howard’s contract status, the latest Jon Lieber trade rumors and my take on the starting rotation.
Update: Live streaming is down on WLYC's Web site. You'll just have to take my word I was on Williamsport radio. Also, I've finally changed my minor league Batavia link to Williamsport, which is the new short-season affiliate of the Phils, in case you didn't know.
Update 2: Streaming may go live once local programming kicks in at 3 p.m., so check back then. Also, archives of past shows are available. When today's show is posted, I will provide the link.
If Jayson Stark’s report on Jimmy Rollins and the new, confident Phillies sounds familiar, there’s a reason: We read the same report every spring. [Link]
One GM summed it up best: "I've been picking the Phillies for three years. I really like that team. Howard and Utley are unbelievable. Jimmy Rollins is a really good player. They've got the best rotation in the division. Like I said, I've been picking them for the last three years. I've got to be right one of these years, don't I? "
Winning builds bridges. The rest is razzle-dazzle.
For the first time in years, a member of the Phillies is the most popular athlete in the city. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are actually 1 and 1A. Donovan McNabb has too many detractors to topple icons this spotless. Sure. The excitement of spring training helps. A pair of comatose winter franchises helps. An annoying, self-righteous football team helps. But there’s more, and it can be illustrated this way: The Phillies have erased 85 wins, 77 losses, the Brett Myers' scandal, only two good months of baseball, another late-season choke and yet another playoff miss.
Bottom line: The marketing department is getting the job done.
Since Howard's arrival and Jim Thome's departure, the Phillies have shifted away from grassroots nostalgia, and have instead made a push for the college-age fan using modern players. And it's working. Anticipation is high, and player personality has been allowed to shine. Nights with a youth-oriented promotion, like dollar dog night, pushed attendance higher than expected, while prime-time players like Howard, Utley and Jimmy Rollins are generating gobs of exposure and becoming new fixtures in the Philadelphia scene.
On Friday, the Phillies announced their list of 2007 college promotions, separate from the "regular" promotions, including online discounts, dollar dog schedule, a T-shirt giveaway and the return of "Rooftop Thursdays."
As a fan only a few years removed from college, I never liked being lumped into "Gen X," and I’m sure today’s 20-somethings feel the same, but the Phils have managed to avoid the hard sell, despite the volume of college-age promotions.
Take a look at the new series of commercials on the Phillies Web site. Shot in a Cinema Verite style, they resemble scenes from NBC’s "The Office" or "30 Rock," and the humor is of the same vein. Subtle spots like these go a long way to create that approachable, affable reputation the team seems to be gaining. Even Charlie Manuel comes out on top.
We’ve heard it a thousand times: "The Phillies don’t connect with fans." But right now, the Phillies are having more success connecting than any team in town, and they haven't won a thing.
When it comes to writing a report card for Phillies GM Pat Gillick, the measure of a man is the way he assembles a bench.
Hypothetical question: If the Phillies win it all, how much credit can be placed at the feet of GM Pat Gillick? Many of the key pieces were already in place before Nov. 2005. To Gillick's credit, locking down three quality starters and extending another is no small feat in this market. But neither is the development of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels, which had nothing to do with him.
Let's go back to the beginning. Gillick’s first order of business was to ship Jim Thome to Chicago, clearing room for Howard while acquiring center fielder Aaron Rowand. Most agreed it was the right call, and of course, it was. But then came a series of small misfires, which added together, became a significant problem: Alex Gonzalez; Sal Fasano; Julio Santana; Vicente Padilla traded for Ricardo Rodriguez; Ryan Franklin. Many of them had standing ties to Gillick. It wasn’t until late spring when Gillick finally acquired a worthwhile piece in David Dellucci. Along with Tom Gordon and Jamie Moyer, Dellucci represents the best, proven acquisition of the Gillick era. Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton and other recent additions remain to be seen, along with the remaining two years of Gordon’s contract and Moyer's extension.
Bench is much more important in the National League, a lesson Gillick found out the hard way. The reservists were a major reason for the team’s first four months of futility. Gonzalez was so bad, he retired, and Fasano was the worst possible solution for backing up Mike Lieberthal’s broken body. Abraham Nunez couldn’t get his batting average above .140 until he became an everyday player. As a pinch hitter, he was embarrassing.
Bench is one area where Gillick has had some flexibility, especially on a team with as little minor league push as the Phillies. Usually, fourth and fifth outfielders become available with low price tags, much more than, say, bullpen, where the pickins were even worse than in 2006.
This year, Gillick shopped at the clearence rack. Jayson Werth was non-tendered by the Dodgers after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. Versatile reservist Greg Dobbs was claimed off waivers. There’s a chance both of these players could work, but there’s an equal chance any number of non-roster invitees around baseball could perform better. Either way, Werth and Dobbs are staring at wide-open opportunities.
In addition to Dobbs, Randall Simon, Karim Garcia and Chris Coste are the names mentioned most for the two openings; Werth is a lock if healthy. Simon and Garcia must be seen to believe, as will Coste's ability to play third base and outfield. Toolsy outfielder Michael Bourn may need more seasoning in Ottawa, but not much. His path to the majors rests on Pat Burrell’s foot and Jayson Werth’s wrist, which is to say, Bourn will arrive by mid-season, and slide into a significant role. Mark my words.
-- Dobbs was the subject of an AP article that ran over the weekend. Here’s the link, and a highlight:
"While he is a contact hitter, Dobbs doesn't possess much power or base-stealing ability. That's why his ticket to the majors must be punched as a player who can play multiple positions (he can play both corner infield and outfield spots) and come off the bench late in games and make solid contact.
"Phillies general manager Pat Gillick believes Dobbs can do those things. Gillick was the G.M. in Seattle when Dobbs was signed in 2001, so when he saw Dobbs on the waiver wire, he took action.
" ‘I view him more as an N.L. player than an A.L. player because he can adequately play four positions," Gillick said. "I'm sure when he started his career he wanted to be a regular in the American League. But when it becomes apparent that it isn't meant to be, then this situation becomes more attractive here.’ "
Beerleaguer senior correspondent Martin Smith offers his annual "have bat, will travel" report, a look at some veterans still chasing a paycheck in the Major Leagues.
This season, there are enough noteworthy invitees to fill two rosters, thanks in large to the rebuilding Washington Nationals. The Nats are holding tryouts for 33 invitees, which is downright expansion-like. I’ve split them into two groups: Regular and ex-Phillies. Here are your 2007 non-roster invitee all-stars by position.
1B: Erubiel Durazo, A's, & Travis Lee, Nats 2B: Tony Womak, Nats, & Tomas Perez, Cubs SS: Rey Ordonez, Mariners, & Desi Relaford, Rangers 3B: Tony Batista, Nats, & Jose Hernandez, Pirates C: Mike DiFelice, Mets, & Sal Fasano, Blue Jays OF: Sammy Sosa, Rangers, Richard Hildalgo, Astros, Ruben Sierra, Mets, & Ricky Ledee, A's, John Mabry, Rockies, Lou Collier, Phils. SP and RP: Sidney Ponson, Twins, Damian Moss, Giants, Aaron Small, Mariners, Luther Hackman, Brewers, Dan Kolb, Pirates, & Bruce Chen, Rangers, Brandon Duckworth, Royals, Adam Benero, Red Sox, Arthur Rhodes, Mariners, Felix Rodriguez, Marlins.
The Phillies agreed to contract terms with six players today, but the reigning National League MVP was not one of them.
Cole Hamels, Fabio Castro, Clay Condrey, Alfredo Simon, Greg Dobbs and Chris Roberson are the recipients of new deals, assistant GM Ruben Amaro announced today in a statement. Four players on the 40-man roster still need contracts. According to my calculations, they include Ryan Howard, Matt Smith, Brian Sanches and Justin Germano (Correction: According to today's paper, the last player is Shane Victorino, not Germano). The first date to renew contracts is March 2.
Camp Howard may be seeking Alfonso Soriano-type money, according to a recent report, but the Phillies are expected to agree on a $1 million-plus raise over last year’s salary. Howard is five years away from free agency, but will likely become a super-two after the season, meaning, he'd have four years of arbitration eligibility.
What does a guy need to do to earn some respect? Being one of the best relievers in the National League wasn’t enough for right-hander Geoff Geary, whose signing went largely unnoticed.
Typically, I can count on a nice, prepared news release from Phillies.com when a player signs a new deal, including stock quotes from assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. After all, even Anderson Garcia, a lowly waiver claim, earned several graphs under company letterhead when the Phils signed him back on Jan. 5. In all likelihood, you may see him pitch once or twice in spring training and never see him again, unless you’re planning a trip to Ottawa.
But Geoff Geary is hardly replacement level. They’d be in big trouble without him. All he did last season was exceed expectations and become the most dependable pitcher out of the bullpen. On Tuesday, Geary and the Phils avoided arbitration and agreed on a 1-year, $837,500 deal, several thousand less than what Ryan Madson, a player of better pedigree, received earlier. Geary had been asking for over $900,000, but the two sides settled somewhere in the middle.
Geary led the team with 81 appearances, tied for 5th most in the NL, and went 7-1 with a 2.96 ERA. In four seasons, the 30-year-old former 15th-round pick is 10-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 159 appearances, quietly becoming one of the best home-grown relievers of the last decade.
The company’s new live mapping feature serves two purposes: fun toy and handy tool for Phillies fans.
Yesterday, when a Microsoft representative delivered a note to my inbox, I figured their telescreen surveillance had caught me in some unbecoming act, like when I told a coworker that Zune™, Microsoft’s foray into the portable mp3 arena, might go bust.
Instead, the rep was pumping their new Live Search Maps™ tool, similar but more comprehensive than Google Maps. Microsoft recently made the Philadelphia region available through their high-res "Bird’s Eye" imagery, including a bright, crisp shot of Citizens Bank Park on a sunny, snow-free day. Viewers can also access their live traffic report overlay, a useful tool if you’re headed down to the sports complex for any event. For example, tonight’s Flyers/Maple Leafs game begins at 7 p.m., so expect delays, and that earlier accident on 95 is now clear. Besides its functional use, viewers can get a full 360-degree look at the park and the surrounding region. Check it out [here].
Today’s top story isn’t Geoff Geary, avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a 1-year, $837,500 deal. It’s the return of passionate, thoughtful writing to the Philadelphia baseball scene.
This could be a big year for the Phillies, and for the men who cover them. With more people getting their news from alternative sources - television, radio, phones, internet - expect a surge in comprehensive print coverage, as the Philadelphia papers try to reinvent themselves in the new information age.
Columnist and connoisseur Bill Conlin got the ball rolling with a superb piece about the lineup in today's Daily News. I seldom post about the batting order, and view it as sort of a writing dead end, but Conlin managed to make it fun and thought-provoking. I see the logic behind hitting Aaron Rowand second, and have always advocated for Chase Utley to be cemented into the No. 3 hole. When it comes to Rowand - an odd fit any way you slice it - there’s simply no solid rebuttal not to bat him second. [Link]
In the same paper, Marcus Hayes listed his five burning questions, and they’re also worth a look. Fantasy baseball nuts will perk up knowing Hayes believes Antonio Alfonseca has the inside track at the setup job, and therefore, emergency closer. Hayes also has Brett Myers listed as the rotation’s top starter, followed by Cole Hamels, Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton. That’s how I’d line ‘em up. [Link]
Finally, Jim Salisbury’s piece is all about guys being guys. It's like summer camp for players getting an early jump on spring. Great piece. [Link]
From various sources, here is the list of remaining free agents and commonly mentioned trade candidates, including outfielder Jacque Jones (pictured).
Pitching – free agents: Roger Clemens, Jason Bulger, Mike DeJean, Dustin Hermanson, Kent Mercker, Ron Villone, Mark Redman. Pitching – trade candidates: Carl Pavano, Jon Lieber, Mark Hendrickson, Brad Penny, Mike Maroth, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Akinori Otsuka, Armando Benitez, Chad Cordero, Scott Linebrink, Josh Fogg, Byung-Hyun Kim, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Paul Byrd, Derrick Turnbow. Infield – free agents: Ronnie Belliard, Jose Vizcaino, Brian Jordan, David Bell. Infield – trade candiates: Todd Helton, Orlando Cabrera, Scott Hatteberg, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Michael Barrett, Joe Crede. Outfield – free agents: Todd Hollandsworth, Eric Young, Steve Finley, Jeromy Burnitz, Michael Tucker, Bernie Williams.Outfield – trade candidates: Jacque Jones, Rocco Baldelli, Ryan Church, Chone Figgins, Jay Gibbons, Reggie Sanders, Ryan Langerhans, Brady Clark, Geoff Jenkins, Kevin Mench, Aaron Rowand, Eric Byrnes, Torii Hunter. Big names commonly bandied about: Manny Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Dontrelle Willis, Johan Santana, Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell.
Did you see it? The most important words of 2007? Did you read it this morning in the Inquirer? If you missed it, get ready. Here it is:
CLEARWATER, Fla. –
Last year, broke college student Nelson Baitzel solicited advice on how to experience spring training without spending money. A year later, he offers tips on how to stuff your bindle if you're heading down to Clearwater.
My roommate and I set out from Albright College in Reading and pulled an all-night drive to Florida. We lodged at Hillsborough River State Park, where they offer primitive camping for $4 a night. Campers must hike a mile each night to get to the site and there is no bathroom, running water or electricity. The park is about 40 minutes from Clearwater, but it's an easy drive.
We bought tickets for the whole week. Outfield seating is $4 to sit in the grass. A couple of times, we took over empty seats, and for our last game, an old lady offered us free tickets. Parking was not an issue, either. While the strip mall across from the park tried to charge for parking, the frisbee golf course offered plenty of room and was only a five minute walk away. This worked well; we usually played a quick round of golf after baseball. Once, I saw Randy Wolf jog by.
As for food, we emptied our cupboards before we left and took some extra food from the school cafeteria. That covered breakfast. Lunch was usually one item from the dollar menu. Dinner was usually at a Mexican restaurant called Chipotle, which offers huge burritos for $6. Our daily food allowance was $8, so we could save enough to stop at the World of Beers, which according to the owner, is the fourth largest beer distributor in the U.S.
We did the whole trip - seven days, four games and a legends’ game - for about $250 including gas, camping, golf, food, tickets and trips to the beach.
- Nelson Baitzel
The off-season draws to a close, as pitchers, catchers, coaches and equipment trucks trickle into Clearwater. Here are some final thoughts as Beerleaguer transitions into Spring Training.
It’s become an annual Beerleaguer tradition to return the Phillies to the general public right around Feb. 15. I’ll miss the uncharted territory of winter, me and my metal detector, combing the beach long after the summer rentals board their windows. Now, the attraction moves to Florida, and the gray shore couldn't feel colder.
It's the same jolt every season: The sun-bleached photos; the reports; that first glimpse of red; the authenticity of it. For months, we’ve disassembled the pieces and built them back up, playing architect to a season unfolding only in the margins. Games have been won and lost, success has been measured, failure debated. It no longer matters.
I look toward the season with guarded optimism - because there’s no other way to look at it. Specifically, it feels like 2004 all over again. One-by-one, passive fans begin to growl about the likelihood of a playoff birth, citing better starting pitching perhaps, new faces, like the ones they saw in ‘04. The bats will take care of themselves
The rest of us hesitate to plunge into the pool so soon after lunch. Beerleaguer is like adult swim. We’re waterlogged and pruned, but content to sip hot toddies and moan about the bullpen and bench. Then the whistle blows and it’s a free-for-all of children and inflatable SpongeBob. Like a great man should have once said: Kids ruin baseball.
The 33-year-old right-hander will sign a one-year contract with New York, according to a Korean newspaper. He will compete for a job in the starting rotation.
Park went 7-7 with a 4.81 ERA (88 ERA+) in 24 appearances for the Padres last season, serving the final year of a notoriously bad five-year, $65 million contract he received from the Rangers in December of 2001. Although Park maintains a lifetime 113-87 record (4.31 ERA), he has been soundly below average for five consecutive seasons.
The good news is 2006 might have been his best concentrated showing in those seasons. He can still touch the low-90s on his fastball to go with good second and third pitches. He actually had a respectable first half before suffering intestinal problems which caused him to miss almost the entire second half. It will be interesting to see how he pitches under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
It’s a move the Mets probably had to do in some form. Odds are Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber won’t be ready, Oliver Perez is a dice roll and Juan Sosa is better served in that Darren Oliver role of last season.
As for the Phillies, it's an opportunity to pounce on the Mets early. Twenty-two of the Mets' first 28 games are against NL East teams, including five against the Phils. A rotation of Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Perez and Park could look completely different by the all-star break. If the Mets indeed line up that way, the Phillies would hit their 2-3-4 pitchers on April 9-12, then their 3-4 again the following week. That would mean a couple good looks at below average pitchers.
Update: According to the AP, the deal is worth a guaranteed $600,000, with $2.4 million in performance bonuses based on innings pitched.
Tuesday’s show on 610-WIP brought a healthy dose of optimism to radio listeners, especially when it comes to the starting rotation.
Brian Startare kicked off our interview by asking about the rotation and how they rank among the rest of the National League. I knew to prepare for this; during Glen Macnow’s earlier show, some were calling it the best rotation in the NL. I wasn't so sure, and spent an hour before the interview browsing depth charts and reading the latest reports. I’m not ready to call them the best, but they’re certainly in the mix. Here's how they shape up:
They look good, but they're no 1939 Yankees, 1993 Braves or 1979 Orioles. This year, I like the Dodgers and Padres better, and possibly the Brewers and Diamondbacks. What are your thoughts, and how do you like my sweet graph? It only took two hours to create, thus zapping any ambition to comment further on this subject.
The Florida Marlins have been out of the headlines for most of the winter, and it doesn’t help when the local beat writer buries the lede.
Palm Beach Post staff writer Joe Capozzi waited until the bottom third of his story to pass along that the Marlins were trying to trade for Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, but word is Marlins’ General Manager Larry Beinfest is unwilling to relinquish LHP Scott Olsen.
I watched Olsen probably three times last season. He struck me as another in a long list of brash, young Florida hurlers who pitch pissed and throw as hard as they possibly can (A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny come to mind). I’ve never seen a group of pitchers throw as hard as the Marlins did in the 2003 World Series.
Once again, the pesky Marlins are sitting on a stockpile of live arms, many of whom were successfully pushed into action last season. The Marlins set the record for most at-bats by rookies in 2006, and had four rookie pitchers win 10 or more games. After a mid-season surge, they charged into the Wild Card hunt, but ultimately fell back to 78-84 on the season.
By now, most of you have read the reports that no-hit winner Anibal Sanchez and 12-game winner Josh Johnson are having arm problems. This may be one reason why Beinfest, ’06 Executive of the Year runner-up, is clinging to Olsen, otherwise there’s a lot to like about Rios. The 26-year-old right fielder could be around a long time. On Friday, he avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal after a season that saw 302/.349/.516 with 17 home runs, 82 RBIs, 15 SB and his first career All-Star nod.
By inserting Rios and subtracting one of the unheralded center field hopefuls, Florida would become even more dangerous, with breakout 28-year-old Josh Willingham in left, a healthy Jeremy Hermida in right and Toni Colette-lookalike Joe Borchard off the bench. At the moment, this is a weaker collection than the Phillies outfield, but adding someone like Rios or Rocco Baldelli would definitely change that. Baldelli was mentioned in earlier hot stove rumors, but speculation has cooled.
For now, Beinfest’s main focus is on center field and closer, with internal candidates looking like the short-term answer. "We think we have a closer in camp," Beinfest told an MLB.com writer yesterday. "I'm not sure he's been a closer, or he knows who he is, but I think in the next six weeks, someone will step up." The Fish have recently been linked to rumors involving Armando Benitez of the Giants, and also made a play for Antonio Alfonseca before the Phillies pulled the old six-finger discount. But unless they get a proven pitcher, they will again turn to young, hard-throwing prospects, a strategy that worked well in ’06. Right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco and left-hander Taylor Tankersley may be the front-runners. Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens, two hard-throwing prospects they acquired from the Mets in November, are also in the mix.
One always questions the motives of owner Jeffrey Loria, and whether they have deep enough pockets to keep their own stars past a certain point. They’ll take two players to arbitration hearings next week: right-hander Kevin Gregg and All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, considered among the five best players in the National League (third in Win Shares and ahead of Ryan Howard), asked for $7.4 million. The team came in considerably under that at $6.7 million.
Stadium-wise, the most recent talks have centered around the City of Miami, when the city offered nine acres of public land for an urban ballpark.
Get the coffee started. Beerleaguer will be on Brian Startare's show tonight at midnight to discuss some of the below-the-fold signings of the Phillies' offseason. I've got my Rule 5 draft report and non-roster invitee sheet printed and ready to go. Now, I've just got to find a house with a land-line phone and I'm in business.
Update: Download now available! Tom G. of Balls, Sticks & Stuff was kind enough to record a clear, crisp version of last night's 10 minute interview. The file is located at the bottom of his latest entry. [Link]
What happens when a guy who gets "40 good swings a year" goes through a journalistic spin cycle for five months? He goes from an overpaid, part-time, blue light special to reasonably priced 100 RBI threat, and indispensable part of the Phillies’ lineup.
All things considered, Pat Burrell had a much better off-season than regular season.
The next time the 30-year-old slugger runs into Kevin Roberts of the Courier Post, he owes him a drink. Roberts’ November column, published amidst swirling rumors the Phils were seeking a right-handed bat, defended Burrell and doused the lineup protection myth, enough to make skeptics alter their opinion of the situation, or at least save it for next season. Roberts used statistical evidence to prove Ryan Howard’s production actually increased with Burrell batting behind him.
Others joined the chorus. Resident talkshow host Michael Barkann -- never known to be grounded in a discernible reality -- started using Roberts’ walk stat on Daily News Live. Then, famed statistician Bill James stepped in and predictably backed Roberts’ claim. "It is overrated," James told the Inquirer. "I know people talk about it, but there is no evidence anywhere that proves that having a more capable hitter behind a hitter in a lineup will dramatically improve that hitter’s performance."
Last week, Daily News columnist Paul Hagen added "eyeballs" to the list of problem body parts, a list that already includes head, heart, wrist and foot. Some might say that when it comes to the personal happiness of Pat the Bat, only one body part matters. But that’s another story. Hagen polled an expert who said Burrell isn’t seeing the ball properly.
Nevertheless, Hagen may have a tough time linking eyesight with a collapsing back leg. On the subject of Burrell’s unorthodox swing, Marcus Hayes wrote a probing piece in September suggesting that Burrell might have been resisting Charlie Manuel’s advice to make adjustments to his stance. Meanwhile, even casual observers could identify "that thing with his butt," asking such practical questions as "Why doesn’t he shorten up with men on base?"
The glass-half-empty crowd used to include the man at the top, Phillies GM Pat Gillick. In September, Gillick briefed season ticket holders and said Burrell was not performing, and couldn’t answer whether he’d be back in 2007. After failing to land a better bat, Gillick has been heard ruefully reciting Burrell’s 2006 home run total in radio interviews ever since.
Columnist Bill Conlin still leads the old-guard naysayers by counting the ways in which the "Midnight Mayor of Center City" can hurt you, including clogging up the sacks and lumbering after ropes down the left field line. Conlin even proposed a speed-first outfield that included more time for rookie burner Michael Bourn.
Last week, Philadelphia favorite son Chase Utley joined Conlin as a guest on DNL and defended Burrell’s presence as enough to scare pitchers into facing Howard. And that settles it. Chase will likely become the last distinguished voice to sound off on the subject until Burrell arrives in Clearwater ... smelling as fragrant as a mountain spring.
The former fifth-round pick pitched with Double-A Jacksonville last season, going 8-5 with a 3.29 ERA. He became a free agent after spending seven years in the Dodgers' organization.
The 6-3, 210-pound Texan spent the winter in Venezuela, going 6-2 with a 2.74 ERA over 62 1-3 innings, then struggled in the round robin. In seven minor league seasons, he’s 55-55 with a 4.26 ERA and 572/160 K/BB ratio, almost entirely as a starter. Totten was suspended in May of 2005 for violating baseball's drug policy and missed 15 games. He finished that season 7-9 with a 7.29 ERA with Triple-A Las Vegas. Scouting reports say he’s a control pitcher; he's never walked more than 29 in a season. [Stats]
In other news, the Phillies re-signed outfielder Gary Harris, who saw time with Reading and Clearwater and is a former 2002 draft pick of Seattle. The team also released right-hander Matt Linder.
Former White Sox closer Dustin Hermanson will throw this week, with team officials expected to be in attendance, according to Philadelphia Inquirer scribe Jim Salisbury.
The White Sox declined Hermanson’s $3.85 million option back in December, opting for a $500,000 buyout. The 34-year-old free agent made only six appearances last season, missing most of the year with back problems. Hermanson saved 34 games for the World Champs in 2005, going 2-4 with a 2.04 ERA.
Beerleaguer: The bullpen-thin Phillies cannot afford to pass on Hermanson, even if he's not expected to be 100 percent by opening day. Realistically, there’s no guarantee a quality arm will shake loose in spring training, which starts in just 10 days. Primary trade chip Jon Lieber, expected to audition in Clearwater for other teams, could be just as wretched as last spring.
Philadelphia would present a first-class opportunity for Hermanson. The set-up job is open, the closer is 39 and the Phillies should be right in the hunt. While most clubs filled their bullpen early with high-price free agents, Hermanson could become a late-winter steal. Health-wise, this appears to be a matter of rebuilding strength in his back, but it's entirely possible team doctors will waive a red flag, as they did with Joe Borowski back in December.
In other news, the Phillies offered former Cleveland reliever Paul Shuey a minor-league deal, but he signed with Baltimore, according to the same report in the Inquirer. The 36-year-old last pitched with the Dodgers in 2003 before breaking down. Beerleaguer reader, Mike, scooped this story last week.
Baseballtown could see a mixed bag of prospects and veterans next season, including the addition of Northern League star Greg Jacobs. R-Phils beat writer Mike Drago provides the details.
Last week, Drago spoke with Phillies minor league director Steve Noworyta to get the early word on young players penciled for Double-A Reading. The list was topped by third baseman Mike Costanzo, the club’s top draft choice in 2005, a possible job for center fielder Greg Golson, their first-round pick in 2004, touted pitchers Matt Maloney and Kyle Kendrick, and perhaps a slot for Rule 5 reliever Alfredo Simon as closer, should he be retained. I asked Drago to follow up on returning veterans.
Drago: "The Phillies have been busy loading up on minor league veterans, and I see several of those guys spilling back to Reading this season.
"I don't see enough room in that Ottawa outfield for everyone, which means guys such as Greg Jacobs, Matt Padgett, Victor Hall or even Ryan Fleming could end up back in Reading -- or with another organization. Same goes with the pitching staff. Reading will see Allen Davis return, this time strictly as a reliever, as well as Tim McClaskey, who could end up as that stop-gap guy in the rotation again. I see Chris Key and Talley Haines having a hard time making the Triple-A roster, so, if they're playing for the Phillies it likely would be in Reading. Joey Hammond's a versatile guy, and could help at the Triple-A level, but might have trouble finding a spot on that roster, at least permanently.
"For the first time in a while, the Phillies have some depth in the upper minors. It's older guys, not prospects who have come up through the system, but at least they won't have to be trolling the indy leagues on a regular basis like in the last few seasons."
Read Mike Drago’s daily take on the Reading Phillies all season long, exclusively in the Reading Eagle.
Citing sources close to the situation, Jim Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that pitcher Brett Myers will earn $25.75 million plus incentives over three years, taking him a year past free agency.
The 26-year-old right-hander went 12-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 31 starts last season, and is 54-40 with a 4.34 ERA over his career. The deal is pending a physical, Salisbury reports.
Beerleaguer: This one surprised me. I had doubts all five arbitration players would be retained, and never believed the Phillies had the money or stones to extend Myers past 2008. All the same, the Phils guarantee another season from a rising pitcher. Myers ended the 2006 season strongly, going 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA when it counted in September. After the self-imposed turmoil of mid-season, it was an impressive rebound.
Three-years, $25.75 is a generous show by the Phillies. Myers was rated as the 12th best starting pitcher in the National League, according to Hardball Times pitching win shares. That falls to 26th overall when you factor in hitting; Myers was the third-worst hitting pitcher in the NL.
Nevertheless, he's got more upside potential than most of the pitchers ahead of him. However, a number of those pitchers, young and old, now earn less. In order to meet the demand of this deal -- which is awfully similar to what veteran free agents are getting -- he cannot go backward. If anything, the Phillies have every right to demand more.
Update: Phillies confirm deal (From a Phillies news release) - Righthander Brett Myers agreed to a three-year, $25.75 million contract extension with the Phillies, Assistant General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced tonight.
"We're very pleased to have gotten this deal done with Brett, who is arguably one of the premier pitchers in the National League," said Amaro. "He's a proven top-of-the-rotation starter and he will certainly play an even bigger role for us going forward."
Myers, 26, lead the Phillies' pitching staff in wins, ERA, starts, innings (198.0), strikeouts (189), winning percentage (.632) and opponents' batting average (.257). He finished fifth in the National League in strikeouts (189), compiling an NL-leading 107 in the second half of the season.
"I've grown up in this organization and this is where I want to stay," said Myers. "I love pitching in Philadelphia, I love the ballpark, I love the fans and having Charlie as the manager and guys like Chase Utley around for the next few years was a big part of my decision."
Myers continued, "I've played with these guys - Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell - for the last few years and I couldn't imagine myself playing for another organization or with another group of guys. It would probably be a culture shock."
Over the past four seasons (2003-06) Myers ranks among the league leaders in starts (128, 6th), strikeouts (656, 7th), innings (782.1, 9th), strikeouts per 9.0 innings (7.55, 10th) and wins (50, T-10th).