E60's "Imperfect" Sheds Light on Issues Faced By Athletes Like Roy Halladay, Brandon Brooks

E60 Doc

By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Last Friday night, ESPN released a mini-doc on Roy Halladay with E60's "Imperfect".

The show was excellent and should be watched by all Philadelphia sports fans and really those interested in sports in general.

If you haven't seen it, Halladay's family, mainly his wife, discusses many issues that Halladay himself dealt with, but were never really discussed in public.

The reasoning behind this: Roy felt as though he had to be perfect or else he would let everyone down and his life would be over. The need to keep any issues out of the spotlight, including major injuries, likely contributed to his tragic death in November 2017.

At it's core, the story is meant to help alleviate the stigma around mental illnesses and the need for professional athletes to be superhuman.

Continue reading "E60's "Imperfect" Sheds Light on Issues Faced By Athletes Like Roy Halladay, Brandon Brooks" »


82 Games? Here's How the Phillies Fared in 2019 After 82

As Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association begin to work towards an agreement to resume play, it appears likely that the baseball season will be somewhere around 82 games.  Just a tick over half of a major league season, the number of games might make for a very different outcome for teams like the Phillies.  We turn back the clock just under a year ago to consider what 82 games meant in 2019 and what they might mean in 2020.

The Standings at 82 Games in 2019

Game 82 took place for the Phillies on June 28.  Here is how the Phillies fared in the National League East after all teams played 82: 

NL East Division Table
Tm W L W-L% GB
ATL 48 34 .585 --
PHI 43 39 .524 5.0
WSN 41 41 .506 6.0
NYM 37 45 .446 11.0
MIA 32 50 .388 16.0
 
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2020.

The Atlanta Braves had a sizable lead against the Phillies.  However, the Phillies were still ahead of the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series Champion.  But would the Nationals have made the playoffs at all?  Would the Phillies?

Under the 2019 MLB Playoff arrangement, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago Cubs would have been division winners.  The Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies would have been the Wild Cards:

NL Overall Table
Tm W L W-L% GB
LAD 55 27 .671 --
ATL 48 34 .585 7.0
CHC 44 38 .537 11.0
COL 43 39 .524 12.0
PHI 43 39 .524 12.0
MIL 43 39 .524 12.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2020.

That means there would have been no playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series Champions.

Under some proposals, the playoffs could expand to 14 teams, with four Wild Card berths in both leagues.  That would mean that the San Diego Padres would be the fourth and final wild card at 42-40.  The Washington Nationals would have missed out at 41-41.

Advantages for the Phillies: Rotation Health

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta did not make it through the entire 2019 season.   On June 25,  Arrieta pitched for the last time.  At that point, he was still pitching every day.  Arrieta would have closed the regular season 7-6 with a 4.33 earned run average.  That might not have been stellar, but it would have been helpful for him.

Arrieta would make eight more starts for the Phillies, though there was a clear decline.  When pitching until at least the sixth inning, the Phillies had a much better chance to win.  However, Arrieta was not the same during the month of July and into August, when his season ended.

Rhys Hoskins Would Not Have Slumped Badly Yet

At the 82-game mark, first baseman Rhys Hoskins was batting .266.   At that point, Hoskins had 18 home runs and sported an OPS of .921.   Hoskins would hit .161 in August and .170 in September, contributing the Phillies fading out of the playoff race.  Hoskins batted .244 in July, where he would not have had as big of a falloff.

Jay Bruce in his Prime

When Jay Bruce joined the Phillies, he went on a home run tear.  Bruce played 19 games beyond the 82-game mark, and they were some of his most productive, before heading to the injured list after July 16th's game.  The Phillies would have ridden Bruce's hot bat into the playoffs.

Aaron Nola Was Becoming Dominant Again

It's easy to remember that Phillies ace Aaron Nola struggled out of the gate.  A devilish 6.66 earned run average for Nola was out of character.   But Nola would be strongest in July and August, in which he had a consistent 2.52 earned run average each month.  Nola's first July start was arguably his most dominant; he went eight innings against Atlanta, not surrendering a run.  Could that have been the first playoff game for the Phillies? 

Segura Awoke from a Slump

Much was made about how Phillies shortstop Jean Segura struggled after the injury to Andrew McCutchen.  Segura felt badly about it and at the same time lost a dynamic leadoff hitter in front of him.  But July was a different story for Segura.

Segura's most productive month was July, when he batted .346.   With the Phillies season reaching its 82nd game after June, this would have been the right time to get hot.

The Bullpen

The Phillies ended up piecing together a bullpen down the stretch, adding Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Jared Hughes.   The Phillies often had rookies Edgar Garcia and J.D. Hammer pitching in big moments.  But the Phillies had the emerging Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan was still pitching well in the bullpen.  That said, there was little beyond Hector Neris.  It's hard to say that the Phillies were better-suited in the bullpen after 82, but it might have been a wash.

Summary: 

Had the season in 2019 ended at 82 games, the Phillies would have been a Wild Card winner.  With Aaron Nola pitching the Wild Card game, there's a real chance that the Phillies could have won a one-game playoff.  However, would the Phillies have stumbled down the stretch?  Were the struggles related to the aforementioned issues or was it the leadership?

The Phillies ultimately fired Gabe Kapler after 162 games. Would they have fired him if there were 82? It's fun to think about.

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Phillies Reportedly Will Train in Philadelphia for Resumed Season

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On Friday, news broke than Pennsylvania might be ready to move to the "Yellow" phase of the COVID-19 guidelines by June 5.  Could baseball return to South Philadelphia soon thereafter?  It might not be too much longer, at least in Spring Training form.

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that the Phillies appear ready to choose to train at home in Philadelphia rather than return to Clearwater:

It is likely that the Phillies will train in Philadelphia, according to multiple sources. Nothing is certain because there are still many big-picture details to work out, but that is the plan being discussed.

MLB, provided it reaches agreement with the union on safety and salary matters, and receives approval from government and health officials, would like to start the season in early July. The general consensus is that players would need three weeks to get ready. That means camps would open in the neighborhood of June 10-15. Of course questions would remain about how that would work. Salisbury notes that teams can use both clubhouses to spread out further.  Other rooms not currently in use for other purposes of course could be converted to places for players to keep their belongings.  The Phillies could even use facilities at FDR Park, First Energy Field in Reading and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.

Spring Training games could be played against the Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, and New York Yankees - provided they are training at home.

But much is left to be worked out, including an agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Read Salisbury's full piece here on NBC Sports Philadelphia.


WE SHOULD APPLAUD BASEBALL’S ATTEMPT TO RETURN, NOT CONDEMN IT

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

Until a few days ago I was on the other side.  Baseball -- and basketball, football, hockey, whatever – ought to remain on the sidelines and not jump the queue.  Sure, I missed the games but why should professional sports return now and receive the benefits of enhanced testing while millions of Americans can’t even get hand sanitizer? 

Then I saw MLB's proposed safety plan and realized that this is how we’re all going to figure out how to return to some semblance of normalcy.  And when I say “normalcy,” I’m not referring to attending baseball games.  I’m referring to returning to school, work, shopping, everything.  MLB is volunteering to be the guinea pigs here and we ought to stand up and applaud.  Because better them than us, I think we’d all agree.

Let’s face it, we’re going to need guinea pigs.  When the head of the federal government responds to a nationwide death toll approaching 90,000 by tweeting “Obamagate!” you know you’re on your own here.  It’s going to be up to state and local governments, along with big businesses and universities to figure this out.  And state and local governments lack the resources and financial incentives to lead.  Which leaves the private sector.  For the first time in my life, I’m thankful that American professional sports have become the enormous revenue behemoths they are.  Because they’ve now got too much to lose here by doing nothing.  They’re going to act.  They’re going to experiment.  They’re going to save us all.

MLB’s 67-page document, already referred to as baseball’s “2020 Operations Manual,” is subject to negotiation with and approval by the Players Association (MLBPA) and contains numerous provisions specific to baseball – replacing game balls after they've been handled by multiple players, rules relating to indoor batting cages, locker room saunas, etc. – but also many that could translate to a university or work setting.  If they prove successful, they show us the way out of our homes and back into a functioning, but safe, society.

Pursuant to the Operations Manual, every player and individual at the stadium would be temperature-checked, subjected to a viral test, and have blood drawn to check for antibodies.  Anybody with a temperature above 100 would be banned from entering the stadium and quarantined until cleared by a medical professional.  Contact tracing would also be performed on anybody testing positive. Those passing the initial screening would still be subject to twice-daily temperature checks, regular coronavirus testing, and monthly antibody testing. 

The protocols go on, covering recommendations regarding spitting, social distancing, and other things.  They’re impressive in scope as well as depth.  Will they work?  Who knows?  That’s the thing – nobody knows.  And given that the federal government doesn’t seem to care, somebody has to take a chance.  Somebody has to try SOMETHING.  Right now that somebody is MLB.  If you feel like getting up from your couch and applauding, I’m not going to tell you not to.

Of course, as I mentioned above, none of this will go into effect until approved by the MLBPA.  And that’s not going to be easy.  Blake Snell isn't wrong when he said that returning AND taking a pay cut might not be worth it given the risk.  And Bryce Harper isn’t wrong for agreeing with him.  Yes, these guys make a ton of money, and yes they still stand to make a ton of money even with the proposed pay cut.  But MLB is asking them to literally risk not only their lives and health but that of their families.  All for a reduced salary.  Raise your hand if you’d take that deal where you work.  Didn’t think so.

Anyway, MLB and the MLBPA are going to have to work this out but because they’re both terrifically incentivized to do so, they very well might.  And if they do, we – the fans – reap the benefits two-fold: we get to enjoy live baseball while trapped in our living rooms while at the same time remaining safely cocooned while others assume all the risk for rewards that will run to each and every one of us. 

MLB is taking the first important steps toward showing us the way back.  If it works for baseball there’s a good chance the protocols outlined within its 2020 Operations Manual will dictate how universities welcome students back to campus in the fall.  We all ought to be rooting for baseball here. 

But fear not – it’s still okay to root against the Yankees.

Mitch Nathanson's biography of Jim Bouton is out now.  You might as well buy it; you've got nothing better to do


MLB Owners Approve Plan to Play, Pending MLBPA Approval

IMG_0596

We learned from Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic that Major League Baseball owners would meet to discuss a plan to resume play.  That meeting occurred today, and a big first step has been taken.  According to many published reports, including Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, Major League Baseball's owners have approved a plan that would lead to the resumption of play in 2020, pending the Major League Baseball Player's Association's approval.

Among the items in Blum's report:

  • The designated hitter will be universal in 2020
  • Teams will play in home ball parks with no fans, but pivot to Spring Training sites, if necessary should a geographical area be at risk for a COVID-19 outbreak
  • Spring Training would resume in mid-June
  • There will be 82 regular season games played
  • Games would be played regionally (NL East vs. AL East, for example)
  • Playoffs will expand to 14 teams
  • The Toronto Blue Jays might have to play out of Dunedin, Florida

The biggest challenge to the proposal, however, would be what the players agree to.

According to the Associated Press report, baseball owners are proposing a 50-50 revenue split.

Upon the original agreement with the Players Association, MLB would have paid players on a pro-rated basis.  In other words, 81 games of a 162-game season would have been 50% salary.  But, without fans in the stands, this could be a tricky proposition.

Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, who reported many of the above aspects of the plan prior to the reports today, Tweeted that there would be a meeting with the Major League Baseball Players Association tomorrow to discuss the proposal.

Should they agree, we may be headed towards baseball.


Report: Latest MLB Plan May Include Regional Play, Half Schedule

2020-03-04 12.56.35

Major League Baseball suspended operations on March 12, as did much of the world.  Since that day, we have heard an all-Arizona proposal for baseball to return.  Then we heard a proposal for a Florida and Arizona plan, followed by one with Texas.  But yet another proposal came to light on Saturday: teams playing their own division and opposite division in 2020.

Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported on Saturday evening that Major League Baseball officials will meet on Monday to discuss a new potential plan, which is different than all of the other rumored options.

According to Rosenthal, the 2020 season would include the following:

  • A season about half of the normal games, somewhere between 78-82 regular season games
  • Teams would play their division as well as the opposite division (such as the NL East and AL East playing one another)
  • Playoffs would include seven teams from each league
  • Expanded rosters as many as 45 or 50 players

But there will be challenges to make this work.

According to Rosenthal, some of the remaining issues include:

  • Travel. The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, might have to play elsewhere due to travel between the United States and Canada being restricted
  • Safety. Should a heavily-populated city such as New York be too risky, teams could play either at Spring Training sites or elsewhere
  • Compensation.  Players agreed to take salaries equal to a pro-rated levels, but that was before the idea of playing in front of empty stadiums became a thought

When Spring Training was suspended, the Phillies left their lockers intact, minus a bat or glove they might have wished to work out with during the suspension of play.  Other reports have called for a "Spring Training 2" before play resumes.  But can MLB and the MLB Players Association work out the compensation issue?  That might be the toughest issue.  


ESPN Documentary "Imperfect" Will Look at Roy Halladay's Life

Halladay
(Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

We are approaching the 10th anniversary of former Phillies ace Roy Halladay's perfect game against the Marlins in Miami.  On that anniversary, May 29, ESPN's E60 documentary series will tell the life of Roy Halladay.  It is entitled, Imperfect: The Roy Halladay Story.

The documentary trailer shows Halladay's widow, Brandy Halladay stating simply, "I hate that word perfect".

As we learned from our interview with Todd Zolecki, author of the upcoming Doc: The Life of Roy Halladay, Halladay had some personal struggles that were often unseen during Halladay's career with the Phillies.  Zolecki's book is already released in digital formats, and is set to be released in print on May 19.

Watch the trailer here:

If you missed the episode of "Powder Blue" with Todd Zolecki on Tuesday, you may listen to it here:


MLB is Reportedly Working Toward Proposal to Play Ball

Spectrum
Could Spectrum Field host Spring Training 2.0 soon? (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

Yesterday, former Phillies utility player Trevor Plouffe took to Twitter to break his first news: Spring Training 2.0 would begin on June 10 and the baseball season would begin on July 1.   The news seemed to be corroborated by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who reported that there is no deal close, but at least one team has talked about starting July 1.  Plouffe said in response that players from six teams have texted him about this.

So what's the latest?

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that MLB was "ramping up" their efforts to start the season:

By the beginning of next week at the latest — perhaps even before this week is concluded — MLB is planning to present to the Players Association a proposal that will include what is currently the most optimistic hope: What would a season look like if spring training 2.0 began in June and the regular season in July?

This seems to indicate Plouffe was onto something.  But Sherman was not the only one to report on some potential plans.

Passan of ESPN reported on Wednesday evening that teams are asking their players to be ready for such a scenario:

General managers and managers from at least a dozen teams have reached out to players and suggested they ramp up baseball activities, those familiar with the conversations -- including executives, players and agents -- told ESPN. Some teams have suggested players prepare for a spring training that would begin as early as June 10 and a season that would begin July 1, dates first suggested publicly by former player Trevor Plouffe.

So what is the holdup?

The Major League Baseball Players Association would have to agree to any proposal.  There was some disconnect about player salaries in recent weeks.  The MLBPA seemed to agree that being paid on a pro-rated basis.  However, should baseball be played without fans in attendance revenues will be significantly less for teams, and the MLBPA may have to agree on a new compensation structure in order to play.

Some teams have suggested playing without fans would cost them money and therefore they cannot pay a pro-rated salary.

But it is not about money for some.  Passan notes that players want to feel secure playing, without great risk of contracting COVID-19. And, remember, Mike Trout worried about what a quarantined existence would mean for his family, expecting a child in August.   There is much to work out.

So while nothing is decided officially, it looks like Major League Baseball is moving ahead, hoping to flip the switch soon as they can.  It may be dependent upon testing