Phillies, NL East: 14-Day Backup Plans for 2020

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Whether this is a lost or found season, health will determine the Philadelphia Phillies fate, like injuries had reduced 2019 to a .500 record. But this 60-game adventure has the additional possibility of virus-related absences plus limited-preparation injuries.  

 

Bridge to October:

Even though doctors have scientific knowledge, the Phillies and the other nine organizations in the National League East and the American League East must deal with the new challenges presented by COVID-19. Limited virus cases are 2020's luck!                        

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Science is about predictions based on predictable fact. Life is about surprises based on the unpredictable reality.” - Ori Hofmekler

For Mike Trout and Zack Wheeler, a first child will be a bittersweet experience because of the coronavirus. Either or both could opt out with concerns of infecting newborns and/or their wives. To illustrate, if either parent catches COVID-19, they would self-isolate for 14 days before seeing their baby. 

While Trout has publicly agonized over this decision, Wheeler has also expressed concerns without mentioning the quarantine aspect. For the hurler, though, he may only miss his first start in the best case scenario. But the Fightins won’t have an off day until Aug. 3 after playing 10 consecutive days.

Keep in mind, Aaron Nola had to self-isolate for a week and test negative before joining the squad. But others must firstly quarantine for at least 14 days, provide two negative tests 24 hours apart, and pass the MLB intake protocols to join the team in summer training and/or the truncated campaign.    

Many franchises have players who are a week back or 10-14 days behind the first camp arrivals. And while some had test results delayed due to the July 4 holiday, others had to quarantine because of contact with an infected person or having the virus. 

For the red pinstripes, Nola, Hector Neris and Adam Haseley are a week behind their teammates, but that could mean only missing the first series against the Miami Marlins for Nola and Haseley. Meanwhile, Scott Kingery could be 10 days back, and Tommy Hunter might be two weeks behind.                                                    

Phillies players cleared to enter camp:

  • Aaron Nola: July 8.
  • Adam Haseley: July 8.
  • Hector Neris: July 9.

Phillies players waiting for clearance:

  • Scott Kingery: Must record a second negative test and an MLB intake protocol. 
  • Tommy Hunter: Must record two negative tests and an MLB intake protocol. 
  • Ranger Suarez: Must record two negative tests and an MLB intake protocol.

Nola could start the fifth game against the New York Yankees at the Bank, which would shorten his absence by four days. Then, he can follow Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta in that order because Joe Girardi and Bryan Price want a fast start and have their four best arms facing the Yanks.                    

Phillies probable rotation:

  • Marlins at home: Wheeler, Eflin and Velasquez.
  • Yankees at home: Arrieta and Nola.
  • Yankees in New York: Wheeler and Eflin.

Relievers require less time to be ready because they only pitch an inning or two: 15 to 30 pitches instead of 100 to 110. So, Neris like Nola will probably be part of the original 30-man roster on Opening Day, and he’ll probably be ready to close in --if not after-- the Miami series.         

Against the Fish, the Phils could set up with Adam Morgan, Victor Arano and Jose Alvarez. Barring ineffectiveness, they could carry Robert Stock, Bud Norris and Blake Parker for late frames because Hunter will likely miss the first week. And Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos could begin in long relief.  

While Hunter has recovered from his coronavirus symptoms, there has been no word on Suarez. Just a guess: He still has the virus and may miss the first two weeks of this shortened campaign. As for David Robertson, his projection was for July’s second-half to early August. Ergo, not ready to ramp up.     

Until Haseley is ready in center field, Roman Quinn could start the first 5-7 contests, and Nick Williams could be a reserve outfielder if Haseley needs a week. But Quinn might take advantage of this opportunity to claim the position by producing hits and stolen bases out of the nine hole.

With Kingery behind by a week, Jean Segura can handle second base, and Alec Bohm can man the hot corner. Or one of two utility infielders making the club can fill in at the keystone for Kingery: Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and/or Logan Forsythe.  

The Divisional Competition:

Unlike the IL (injured list), the COVID-19 IL is unpredictable with infectious degrees from no symptoms to hospitalization. And the best any local writer can do is offer an estimate because general manager Matt Klentak only provides slightly more. Ergo, minimal!                  

The Atlanta Braves could be without Freddie Freeman and new closer Will Smith until August. Apparently, Smith is asystematic, but he’ll need two negative tests and pass the MLB intake protocols, which could take 1-2 weeks before he possibly begins camp near season’s beginning. 

In their rotation, Cole Hamels hasn’t pitched live batting practice yet, while some hurlers elsewhere have worked 3-6 innings during intrasquad games. Ergo, he like Nola could start 2020’s game five, but one difference is the former Phillies ace is returning after shoulder inflammation in spring training.   

Freeman, meanwhile, still had the virus as of July 7 but was improving at home after having multiple symptoms. And since he must be symptom-free before passing two tests and the MLB intake protocol, he could miss 2-3 weeks of the abbreviated schedule.           

With Nick Markakis opting out of ‘20, Austin Riley, Adam Duvall and Johan Camargo can platoon at first base until Freeman returns, but Riley or Camarago must also handle third base. So, Atlanta’s offense will be without Markakis and Josh Donaldson from ‘19 and Freeman perhaps through mid-August.                

The Fightins will have four contests with Atlanta from Aug. 7-10 (games 14-17) after playing only four difficult matches out of their first 13. Fortunately, the first two of the Yankees matchups will be at home, and all four Braves contests will also be at the Bank.  

The Washington Nationals won’t have first sacker Ryan Zimmerman and five-slot starter Joe Ross due to opting out. And although outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles are experiencing delays due to COVID-19, their conditions aren’t available beyond self-isolation. Yes, they could begin training just before or after July 23.   

Closer Sean Doolittle has vocalized concerns about playing because his wife has a lung condition. And if he opts out, Daniel Hudson --who excelled after his trade here-- will close. However, he’s had an up-and-down career, so no organization wanted to sign him for two years except the reluctant Nats.   

Closing will be problematic and critical for the four NL East contenders. And while Washington has two iffy possibilities due to the pandemic and an effectiveness concern, Atlanta was going with Mark Melancon, barring struggles. Now, they may have no choice until Smith is ready.   

Although the New York Mets will be without Noah Syndergaard, they still have Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman. Meanwhile, relievers Brad Brach and Jared Hughes haven’t reported to camp, plus closing isn’t a Mets’ strength. As a Yankee, Dellin Betances couldn't close, plus Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia aren’t reliable.                                 

While news --good or bad-- on David Robertson isn’t available, Neris will probably be ready because he only needs two weeks to ramp up from July 9. Yes, Neris will close until Robertson arrives, but the first 20 games will be manageable.  

In those first 20, the Phillies will face the Yanks and Braves four times each with six here. And the other 12 contests will be against Miami (6), the Baltimore Orioles (3) and the Toronto Blue Jays (3): six at home. So, what is their 20-game potential if Atlanta is without Freeman for that first series? A solid winning record! 

 

NEXT:  Phillies: August’s Rotation Wrinkles

 

Rsz_1rsz_2haseley


2020 Phillies: August’s Rotation Wrinkles

Front Four:


After he recovers from COVID-19 symptoms, Nola, a warm-weather pitcher, should be effective from game one, but don’t expect more than three innings regardless of the pitch count and his line. Basically, his second appearance could be 4-5 frames with only the pen working the final innings.                                        


When he signed during the offseason, Wheeler was only going to miss one of roughly 32 opportunities, and this minor point drew little or no attention. Now, it could be one to three starts out of 10 due to the coronavirus. Plus he could miss three outings and return for seven outings.             


Injury-wise, Arrieta usually has his difficulties in June after 10 appearances, but the lighter workload could boost it to 14 for this abbreviated season. Plus he may not have an injury-related problem for one of his three summers here especially in his walk year. 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In a normal 162, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful would be considering Joe Girardi’s hurlers for the five spot, but television spectators should prepare for some options during each starter’s first two or three outings, unless they go on the COVID-19 IL (injured list). 

Multiple Choices:

For the Phillies and 29 other franchises, how long will it take for each pitcher to go 6-7 innings? Translation: This is a golden opportunity for an ambitious moundsman to force management’s hand because summer training is only three short weeks before multiple appearances through mid-August. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Novelty serves us for a kind of refreshment, and takes off from that satiety we are apt to complain of in our usual and ordinary entertainments.” - Joseph Addison

In past camps, hurlers had six weeks to increase their arm strength to 80-100 pitches. But now they have roughly 21 days. So, their own working out for the last 3-4 months could determine if they need two or three starts before being in April shape. And keep in mind, a virus-related situation can instantly change availability.         

Some organizations are considering a six-man staff for a lighter workload and stress on their arms. Therefore, 10 starts are their thinking regarding injury possibilities due to the March break in preparation continuity to a half-reduced camp.

Others believe a piggyback configuration will be more appropriate if a starter can only handle 3-5 innings for their first two opportunities. So, 9-10 hurlers will initially cover five contests from six to eight frames depending on the pitchers.   

Phillies starters:

  • Group one: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta and Zack Eflin.
  • Group two: Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta.
  • Group three: Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin and Spencer Howard.

Phillies relievers:

  • Group one: David Robertson (The Phils will add Robertson after they green-light his arm.)
  • Group two: Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Victor Arano and **Robert Stock. 
  • ** On the 40-man roster.  * non-roster invitees.
  • *Group three: Bud Norris, Blake Parker and Francisco Liriano.
  • Group four: Hector Neris, Ranger Suarez and Tommy Hunter (on COVID-19 IL).

With an active 30 and a DH (designated hitter), 13 players equal eight regulars and five reserves: two infielders, two outfielders and a catcher. Eventually, 17 arms will be down to 13 after four weeks.                     

Unfortunately, Wheeler could miss Opening Day for his first child’s birth, and COVID-19 protocols may involve more than a three-day paternity leave. So the best option between Velasquez and Pivetta will hold down the five slot, and the other will fill in for Wheeler. Seize the day!                            

Including Scott Kingery, the virus has now claimed Neris, Suarez and Hunter. But the front office hasn’t revealed their status: testing positive, showing symptoms, or self-isolation due to contact with a confirmed exposure. Ergo, Suarez now won’t have a starting opportunity but will join Neris and Hunter.    

If you state give so-and-so a chance, remember the players understand this situation differently. Girardi and his contemporaries will make quicker decisions in August. In a full campaign, yes, the leash is longer through May but much shorter after the All-Star break.   

Basically, camp will probably break down into three categories. The Fightins will dedicate the first seven days to assessing the arm strength of their hurlers and getting ready physically for ‘20. In the second and third weeks, intrasquad contests will precede three exhibition games before Opening Day.

Front Four:

Returning from self-isolation and testing negative, Nola, a warm-weather pitcher, should be effective from game one, but don’t expect more than three innings regardless of the pitch count and his line. Basically, his second appearance could be 4-5 frames with only the pen working the final innings.                                        

When he signed during the offseason, Wheeler was only going to miss one of roughly 32 opportunities, and this minor point drew little or no attention. Now, it could be one to three starts out of 10 due to the coronavirus. Plus he could miss three outings and return for seven outings.             

Injury-wise, Arrieta usually has his difficulties in June after 10 appearances, but the lighter workload could boost it to 14 for this abbreviated season. Plus he may not have an injury-related problem for one of his three summers here especially in his walk year. 

Arrieta’s first 10 starts:

  • 2018: 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA.
  • 2019: 4-4 with a 3.60 ERA.

Before the high-fastball experiment brought his 2019 into question, Eflin was 7-7 with a 3.34 ERA for 16 appearances. And many considered him the top starter due to Nola’s early struggles. However, the reason to tamper with his success was he literally had two good outings and a clunker for every three starts.                   

Due to this truncated campaign, Nola will toe the rubber in hot weather like an ace, and Wheeler could be a second-half star for a third straight year if he only misses one appearance. Moreover, Arrieta will be a solid three in a 60-game season, but Eflin won’t have the time to develop his third pitch to join Nola and Wheeler at the top.     

Arms Race:

Here’s where the wrinkles are in the Phillies five-man staff without Suarez. For the bottom rung, Velasquez and Pivetta will probably have two shots to impress Girardi and pitching coach Bryan Price. And one outing must be decent to get a third chance. Translation: It’s do or die!                

For extended periods, Velasquez had worked six innings in 2018, but Gabe Kapler had a shorter leash in 2019 with playoff expectations. Pivetta, though, is a flamethrower with below-average control, and they usually become setup men and closers.   

Early on, De Los Santos, Irvin and, perhaps, Howard must make every opportunity count because the red pinstripes may be without Wheeler. But general manager Matt Klentak may not immediately burn a roster slot for Howard --who only logged 30 ⅔ frames at Double-A in ‘19-- but add him in September.     

As for the long shots, De Los Santos and Irvin could work in long relief after the first two weeks. And if they don’t produce, they --depending on Howard’s status-- won’t make the cut when Wheeler returns. 

Unless the Phillies carry Nick Williams as a sixth outfielder, they will have 13 position players and begin the shortened campaign with 17 arms. So, four hurlers will eliminate themselves due to ineffectiveness.     

Velazquez or Pivetta will be in the bullpen: five starters and eight relievers. Ergo, the four cuts --barring complications-- could be Howard, De Los Santos, Irvin, and Stock plus the three relievers replacing Neris, Suarez and Hunter. Though, nothing is a safe bet for even a superstar. 

This one-of-a-kind season won’t feature slow starters in April and May, won’t have June slumps, and won’t have choking in early September. No, if there’s a script to this year, it could be a new beginning or a finale depending on a potential 2021 campaign.                       

The Phillies and the nine other teams in the National League East and American League East will be experiencing the first month of the season and the stretch drive simultaneously. So, what does the Magic 8-Ball predict for 2020? April in August!   

NEXT:

Striking In 1994-95 vs. Struck-down 2020 Phillies

Eflin2


Striking In 1994-95 vs. Struck-down 2020 Phillies

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With hope on the horizon, the Philadelphia Phillies could be days away from televised exhibition contests, but can the stars align with the baseball gods for 60 games? Yes, but the 20-contest schedule against the American League East will be one four-game series, and --location-wise-- it might benefit a National League East rival. 

 

Nature's Fist: 

After seemingly non-stop pandemic coverage competed with binge-watching for the eyeballs of the Phillies faithful, 60 contests won't be 2020’s top baseball issue. No, the national pastime will be a welcomed relief from this appearingly endless factor.     

IN OTHER WORDS:       

"Human destiny is bound to remain a gamble because at some unpredictable time and in some unforeseeable manner nature will strike back." - Rene Dubos

Phillies Schedule:

  • 60 games: 10 each against four NL East teams and four apiece versus five AL East clubs.

For the lords of baseball, the 1994 campaign was their attempt at initiating a salary cap to reduce spending and limit free agency. But the players went on strike and refused to accede even if there would be no 1995 games. Translation: no way!                           

In ‘94, the Fightins played 115 contests with a 54-61 record on August 11 for fourth place. They were 20.5 games behind the first-place Montreal Expos (74-40), who had a six-game advantage over the Atlanta Braves (68-46). So, the Phils missed 47 contests in an October with no World Series.     

Even though the ‘95 red pinstripes finished in second place after the campaign had begun on April 26, they were 21 games behind the Braves. Atlanta had a 90-54 mark to the 69-75 Phillies who tied the New York Mets for second place. Ergo, missing 21 contests did not affect the Fightins.      

The MLB and the MLBPA demonstrated their positions through orchestrated leaks. Occupation-wise, unions and management are confrontational by nature, and the majors are no exception. But although these tensions and strategies exist elsewhere, here the timing and publicity were brutal.

Needing an escape, fans instead received a preview of the debate over the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) expiring after the 2021 season. Hopefully, ‘21 won’t be another abbreviated campaign with unpopular rules for traditionalists, but fate will be in the government’s hands: federal, state and local. 

For now, MLB’s COVID-19 rules involve players being in a bubble. To illustrate, they pertain to more than air high fives and other celebrations: locker spacing, no after-game showers, and no hanging around after the contest. Yeah, totally different!                         

Because the situation is fluid, locations, rosters, and plans can change between now and July’s Opening Day. Presently, each organization will have 30 active players reduced to 28 after two weeks and 26 after another two weeks. But each team will also have a 30-man taxi squad with three men available due to an in-game injury.   

While some franchises may use two facilities before game one, 60 players will require training in staggered shifts regardless. And the Fightins will carry one catcher on their taxi squad with J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp on the active roster. Ergo, the extra receiver will always be available for an emergency.     

Some minor league facilities could have games for players who don’t even make a 30-man taxi squad, and Nashvillie has already been floating their city as a possible destination. Plus if Arizona and Florida can solve their current infection rate by the fall, they could have leagues for some youngsters missing MiLB action.     

Teams to Beat:

With a shortened camp and a two-month schedule, players will be fresh. And it won’t be a marathon, it’ll be a sprint to October. Meanwhile, firemen like David Robertson will be ready for the stretch drive in late July, and Joe Girardi may signal for him against the New York Yankees. 

The Phillies will have one four-contest series versus the Yankees. However, starter Luis Severino is out for the year, and slugger Aaron Judge has recovered from his injuries. But one was a collapsed lung, and the coronavirus is primarily a respiratory illness: He could opt out. Nah, he won’t!  

After 96 victories in 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays annually find a way to be competitive, and they’ve benefitted by some trades and free agent signings. Unfortunately, you won’t be familiar with many uniformed regulars and starters, but don’t take them lightly because they frequently discover a winning path.             

The Boston Red Sox have a cautionary tale for the Phils faithful because their president had paid top dollar for free-agent talent and captured the 2018 Fall Classic. Problem-wise, Boston had exceeded the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) of $197 million by over $40 million for ‘18 and then missed the postseason in ‘19.  

Despite not re-upping Craig Kimbrel, they were still $35.5 million over the $206 million CBT in 2019. But their supporters had expected more victories even with the tax penalties: They were none too happy. Well, the owner moved free-agent-to-be Mookie Betts after firing the president, and now ace Chris Sale is out for 2020.    

Compared to the Red Sox not being as dangerous, the Toronto Blue Jays will be interesting to watch from a surname perspective:  Biggio, Guerrero and Bichette. Yes, the sons of stars will be fun to eye if they don’t imitate their famous fathers in the games, but they’ll have growing pains.                 

And, lastly, the Baltimore Orioles will be without right fielder Trey Mancini: .291, 35 bombs, 97 RBIs, a 132 wRC+ and a 3.6 fWAR. Last summer, they suffered 108 defeats with his bat and power in the heart of the order. But don’t sleep on these youngsters because they have nothing to lose and a lot to prove.  

For social distancing, some players will be in the stands, and there will be no cheering or booing from fans. Plus the regulars will hear their home team’s broadcasters praising and criticizing them. In fact, those players could be aware of a mistake due to a friendly critique.    

According to Charles Barkley, the crowd propelled him with energy he was unaware of. However, that will be missing even if some fans are in the stands eventually.  

Charlie Manuel stated the game is 40 percent luck, but ‘20 must have a higher percentage: 50-60 percent? Unfortunately, I can only wonder what the former skipper thinks regarding the COVID-19 X factor.       

At any time, the virus or an injury --including unreported ones-- can claim a victim and change the season’s course if luck isn’t on your side. Favorably, though, the playoffs will mostly have NL and AL clubs who have not played each other since 2019 and a potential World Series with the same possibility.   

The old adage is you’ll see something in baseball you’ve never seen before, and it happens a handful of times during the standard 162. In 2020, though, when do I believe you’ll experience this phenomenon from Opening Day through October? Twice in July!   

 

NEXT:

Phillies, MLB: 2020’s Baseball Purists’ Nightmare

 

Rsz_1rsz_strike_struck_down_photo


Phillies, MLB: 2020’s Baseball Purists’ Nightmare

Embed from Getty Images

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful watch in horror as the summer days dwindle into July for the MLB, the pandemic-abbreviated season itself could spark fears for 2021 and beyond. Yes, the slippery slope of rule changes to accommodate economic and health concerns offers differences in the game you love.       

 

Bitter Ingredients:

The closure of the Phillies Clearwater facility was the proverbial tap on the shoulder for their front office and the entire MLB. In fact, this remember-me flare-up is impacting the locations and competitional elements for 2020’s contests, but whom will the rule changes also affect? The fans!                       

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” - William S. Burroughs

If baseball has the wrong changes for purists, they will rail against it relentlessly and never forget the offending rules ruining the national pastime. But improvements or potential ruinations have been part of the sport from the beginning. And when you think about it, most fans have experienced changes even since 2010.   

To illustrate, hitting one back through the box was when there was a chalk box drawn on flat ground.for the hurler. With the introduction of the mound, though, the home team raised or lowered it depending on the starter, but eventually baseball established a uniform height.         

According to Chris Landers of Cut4, batsmen could tell the moundsman they wanted a low or high strike zone before every pitch. Low was from the knee to the belt, and high was from the belt to the shoulder. So, the Phillies followed this rule from 1883 through 1887 and its discontinuation.      

In my lifetime, 16 franchises have expanded to 30 organizations, and the postseason has grown from a possible seven games to a maximum 20 contests. Ergo, a club needed only four victories, but 12 triumphs is now the winning total for a wild-card team.                

For 2020 and maybe 2021, COVID-19 and government leaders will influence the MLB’s locations and seasonal length. Plus outbreaks, quarantines, and other restrictions will probably be mere detours for the lords of baseball.                       

Initially, roster construction involved the three-batter rule and a maximum of 13 hurlers on an active 26. But the pandemic will affect Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his MLB contemporaries more when or if training camp begins again on July 1 at home parks.

Well, the sticklers will be none too happy with the DH (designated hitter) in the National League, and they will be extremely vocal if the DH is in place for ‘21 as well. Imagine their threats of no longer watching baseball because they blame commissioner Rob Manfred for the NL’s DH.             

What would push purists over the edge? Perhaps, the extra-innings rule for ‘20 is a real possibility because the 10th frame will start with a man on second base. He will be the last batter who made an out, and the ruling will be an error and an unearned run on the reliever’s line if he scores.          

If a knotted-up contest completes 12 innings, a tie game could be the outcome. Yes, Richie Ashburn and every deceased member in the Hall of Fame would be turning over in their graves. Oh, the horror!                 

It could be worse than suspended games for rainouts instead of makeup doubleheaders being seven-frame contests. So, a squad with a solid rotation and a top-tier closer won’t really have the advantage over their weaker-armed opponents. But day-night doubleheaders are still a possibility for complete washouts.        

Fortunately, sticklers won’t be able to grumble because the six divisions will still be the same, and the playoffs will as well. In fact, the Fightins will play their divisional rivals for 10 games apiece (40 total) and the American League East for four contests each (20 total).         

Will the Phillies play from Canada to Florida, or will the virus force the MLB to form a bubble-type configuration in southern California? Well, Florida and Arizona may have problems due to the present COVID-19 situation for three organizations and the Toronto Blue Jays if they can’t play there or their Florida camp.    

A bubbled-location MLB would need five sites to host three games per day or 15 contests involving 30 clubs. Basically, Los Angeles has three stadiums, and San Diego has two facilities: a doable backup plan! Moreover, they could be neutral sites if the coronavirus is problematic in Arizona, Florida and/or Toronto.           

Other possibilities involve two-team cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Translation: It may be safer in Queens than the Bronx, in Chicago’s south side than their north side, or in San Francisco than Oakland. Ergo, they can switch arrangements on the fly.                

Since only change is 100 percent, I’m not a purist and don’t believe in being upset over something I can’t control. But those who believe the opposite will have a difficult time deciding between a 2020 with multiple first-time rules or no baseball. Pick one!         

NEXT:

Phillies: A Sluggers Curse from 1951 to 2020

                             

BITTER STEW


Phillies: A Sluggers Curse from 1951 to 2020

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, their aces and most stars receive cheers, but their sluggers and closers will always fail to achieve 99 percent success. And power hitters mostly shoulder the blame with the coaches, skipper, and general manager.       

 

No Early Title, No Praise:

Although huer (French for boo) is correct, perhaps, for hockey, baseball has added the English word boo to their Canadian brethren’s vocabulary along with the game’s other terminology. Now, when a Toronto Blue Jay boots a hard-hit grounder, he hears a chorus many Phillies fans will recognize.               

IN OTHER WORDS

They (Expos fans) discovered 'boo' is pronounced the same in French as it is in English.” - Harry Caray

According to Richard Rys of Philadelphia Magazine and Johnny Goodtimes of Philly Sports History, heckling dates back to the ancient Greeks. And jeering or cheering playwrights was almost a civic duty.

Continue reading "Phillies: A Sluggers Curse from 1951 to 2020" »


6 Roster Surprises for 2020’s Phillies

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Approaching Opening Day cautiously, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans are hoping for televised-only games because something is still better than a lost season. In ‘20, six players will have the chance to earn a 2021 role.

Six New Opportunities:

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak could need one or two DHs (designated hitters), a third catcher, a right-handed bench bat, two bullpen pieces, and/or a pair of rookies. However, this situation isn’t routine because some players may pass on the abbreviated campaign due to health concerns. Or seize the day?  

IN OTHER WORDS:

One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” - Benjamin Disraeli

Because of numerous loose ends, most GMs will not be active regarding acquisitions. So, don’t expect Klentak to do something significant if he does anything. He’ll have three weeks to sort out which players he’ll carry. 

With nothing certain, the likely offer from the lords of baseball to the MLB players association could be for 30 active players and a 40-man roster on hand. Or each franchise could have a 20-player taxi squad: another floated possibility. For top MiLB prospects, only Arizona and Florida fall leagues are considerations. 

Phillies Schedules:

  • 48 games: 7 each against 4 NL East teams and 4 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.
  • 52 games: 8 each against 4 NL East teams and 4 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.
  • 54 games: 6 each against 4 NL East teams and 6 apiece vs. 5 AL East clubs.

The problem with 54 contests is too many games against AL organizations, while 48 contests equal three at home and four away for five franchises. Moreover, 52 contests have the exact number for all 10 teams. And even though 52 games decreases revenue, the MLB prefers more time for those lucrative playoffs instead.    

With a possible active 30, the below list reveals 24 potentially filled slots. And even though one reliever on this list is questionable, he could be ready. Yes, David Robertson.

Phillies Roster Slots: 24

  • Rotation (6): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Ranger Suarez or Vince Velasquez.
  • Bullpen (7): Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Nick Pivetta, and --if healthy-- David Robhertson.
  • Lineup (8): JT Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Adnrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley and Bryce Harper.
  • Bench (3): Jay Bruce, Andrew Knapp and Roman Quinn.

When Robertson cut loose his fastball in February, manager Joe Girardi wanted to slow down his likely second-half closer. But the hurler’s display matches his expectation of a July return. Now, he won’t be behind the other relievers, and he’ll push Hector Neris into the eighth-inning setup role.                      

Seranthony Dominguez had a solid first spring outing, but his elbow problem immediately resurfaced. Unfortunately, the recommendation was Tommy John surgery without the preferred second opinion due to the pandemic. Dominguez, now, will have the procedure and may miss 2021 as well.

In this abbreviated campaign, players or those having an immediate family member with underlying conditions could decide not to compete this summer. One could be Sean Doolittle, the Washington Nationals closer, who has repeatedly voiced concerns and wants proactive remedies, not reactive measures.                  

On the Fightins, Zack Wheeler could miss early August because his wife is due with their first child. And he insists he will be there for the joyous occasion, but must he self-quarantine for 14 days or longer? Moreover, he may not be the only star on the Phils or the other 29 organizations with concerns.   

Because the MiLB will be inactive this season, the red pinstripes may carry top prospects they don’t want to miss a developmental year. However, Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard are not on the 40-man roster, could prematurely burn two of 40 slots, and activate their MLB service-time clocks. An exception for only 2020?                             

Bohm could DH and make an occasional start at the hot corner to give Jean Segura a breather. Basically, his fielding is still a work in progress, but he moved to Clearwater in October to work on his defense for four months with the coaches. And his obvious plan is to star in the Show sooner rather than later. 

With Jay Bruce from the left side, Bohm could be the right-handed DH to face southpaws, while the other would be available to pinch-hit. But the Fightins have other alternatives like switch-hitter Roman Quinn, who is out of options. Perhaps, he could stay healthy for 48-54 contests.            

As for Howard, the Phillies will need a reliever to replace Dominguez, and employing a rookie in the relief corps is something the Los Angeles Dodgers have done for years. But Bohn’s teammate at Double-A with mid-90’s gas worked only 30 ⅔ innings with a 2.35 ERA. Criterion: Double-A success equals MLB-level talent.

While Howard could earn an opportunity to start or handle a setup function, Klentak may gamble on him as the staff’s 14th arm. He was a college reliever before becoming a starter there. However, management would expose two players with 40-man spots to waivers to promote Howard and Bohm.                              

If Klentak burns two roster slots, he has only Robert Stock on the 40-man roster for a tenth reliever and 15th pitcher. Otherwise, the higher-up must burn a third slot to add a non-roster veteran reliever, barring an injury. So don’t expect Bud Norris, Drew Storen, Francisco Liriano or Anthony Swarzak. 

The 28th player will probably be the third catcher presently on the 40-man roster: Deivy Grullon. Realistically, the Phillies will need a third receiver for emergencies, and J.T. Realmuto won’t leave many at-bats for Andrew Knapp as it is.          

With the rotation and pen accounted for, three reserves have a 40-man slot: Nick Williams, an infielder, and an outfielder. Yes, Williams could get enough at-bats as a DH to keep him sharp and ready to pinch-hit as well. But Klentak could also burn a spot for Neil Walker, Josh Harrison or Logan Forsythe.  

Even though the eastern division clubs will play each other, one wrinkle was a report the Pirates and Braves would switch divisions: puzzling! Perhaps, the lords of baseball feel the central division needs some additional competition, or they shelved the idea.              

To play in October, a team must have a top-16 record. And 2019’s Phillies were 16th at 81-81 despite multiple injuries and were three games behind the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox with their 84-78 marks. Yes, most clubs could win the 2020 World Series, but what wouldn’t be in the record books? An asterisk!

Bohm 2

NEXT:

Phillies: Dick “Crash” Allen’s HOF Chances in 2020


Phillies: Dick “Crash” Allen’s HOF Chances in 2020

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With fire in his eyes, Allen hammered a titanic blast through the wind and into the center field upper deck, and even Philadelphia Phillies broadcasters couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.  

According to Orlando Cepeda in a take elsewhere, Allen had fire in his eyes. Moreover, the spectators on that night rose to their feet in appreciation, plus By Saam and Richie Ashburn demonstrated the same excitement. Ashburn’s radio commentary: Whoa! Whhooooa!  

Continue reading "Phillies: Dick “Crash” Allen’s HOF Chances in 2020" »