Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Year’s resolutions

BY MATTHEW NADU, Contributor

It’s been one hell of a year for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. There’s no denying this. Dare I say this is arguably the greatest era, even decade, for the Phightins. But this isn’t about what the team accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) in the year that was. We’re already looking ahead to 2010.

And as it is a New Year tradition we must make some resolutions.

This year however I’ve put my own aspirations aside- getting a six pack while still being able to finish an entire case of beer; not ponies but pounders, and listening to my girlfriend for more than 15 seconds, since they’ll only last about a week (let’s be honest yours won’t last much longer.)

Instead, in 2010 I’ve taken the liberty of putting a list of resolutions together for the Phils as they enter the next chapter of their illustrious franchise.

The "Chasedo" on display. Clearly the key to Utley's success. (Photo: FOX Sports' Coverage of the 2009 World Series.)

6. The “Chasedo”

Nothing says slick fielding second baseman like the slick back and no one has perfected the “do” like Chase Utley. It’s right up there with Elvis and Conon O’Brian in the hairdo Hall of Fame. The Chuck Norris of hairdos, if you will. The damn thing’s flawless, the way it glistens in the light, how the gallon of gel never lets a hair break free. It’s quite possibly the eighth wonder of the world. With the success Chase has had throughout his career maybe some of the other guys should jump on the wagon and slick it back already.

5. The Death of Comcast SportsNet

For the love of Chuck, please stop the monopoly! Comcast cable is trash. High prices, crappy free movies and the only provider that offers Phillies game. Sure there’s the occasional MyPHL 17 ballgame but come on, why can’t I see the Wild Thing or Ricky Bo on Direct TV? As a potential resolution to actually save some money next year, don’t make me drop it before the first cable bill.

4. The Bridge to Now Where

Really Brad? There’s so much I want to say, but you’re such a nice guy it makes it too hard. Just get your damn pitch back, or any pitch for that matter.  It was like watching Henry Rowengartner out there. One minute you’re untouchable the next you’re 0-8 with a rock bottom 7.21 ERA. At least if you broke your arm we’d have some sympathy. Heaven help us if we face King Albert in the postseason. Come on brotha. Let’s get it together.

3. Cole Hamlet

Cole Hamels was like a Shakespearean tragedy in 2009. It was a horror story of self pity, blame and a flat fastball. You had the chance to be an ace, at 24-years old! Not saying you still can’t but you’ll have to wait four years. First step in regaining your confidence, take a glob of Chase’s gel, slick your mane back and rock and fire. You’ve been all the way at the top and all the way to the bottom and we liked you better on top. I think you did as well.  If the Mummers can avoid having their balls batted around for wearing dresses while prancing on Broad Street, you can hit the hill once every five days and avoid getting yours batted around too.

2. Halladay Swap

We’ve heard the reasons and we’re still confused with the trade. No lies this year, but promise us Roy Halladay will be as badass as Cliff Lee. No lies just promise us.

1. He can “make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.”

Hardly Hova. Although Jay-Z is the self proclaimed King of New York, Derek Jeter and the Yankees proved without a doubt they are the kings of the Big Apple and Major League Baseball. Unfortunately that crowning came at the hands of the Phillies. That’s it. That’s the last decade of success. Next year the Phils will start their run as baseballs bad boys. So we don’t have a theme song  or  a parrot mascot that sells cocaine to players or juice options in the dugout that don’t come in a Gatorade cup, but my God we’re still the King of Cheesesteaks, so why can’t we be the kings of baseball too?

So please Phils, do it for all the fans who have already given up on our own resolutions, because it’s easier to put the burden on you.

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Top Moments of 2009: Part 1

BY SHAY RODDY

Wow, it’s hard to believe 2009 is just about over. And what a year it was for the Phillies. For the first time since 1981, the Phils opened their season as World Champions, following an unpredictable, remarkable and “perfect season.”

But after that ridiculous 2008, it promised to be a letdown year in 2009. In some senses it was. We all know the Phils didn’t go all the way. We all know the reigning champs lost their throne on one forgettable November night. But what we often too soon forget is that 2009 was chock full of its own magical moments and is up there with the greatest seasons ever experienced in the history of one of America’s oldest franchises.

Allow me to take a look back at the top 25 moments of 2009. Be it on or off the field, this year was filled with unforgettable memories. Here is the first part of this three-part series.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Phillies sweep Mets behind Blanton’s gem (July 5)

Joe Blanton always gave you a chance to win. This time he did a little more. Blanton tossed a four-hit ball into the eighth and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins provided the offense, each solo-homering en route to a Fourth of July weekend sweep of the Mets.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 2 METS 0

“Utley’s Corner” (June 10)

Chase Utley sent a solo homer into the corner to the left of where the seats jet out in right field at  the new Citi Field in the fourth inning, which was kind of funny, because the night before he had hit one to the exact same spot. With things tied in the eleventh Utley again strode to the plate  and what was funny became rediculous, Utley again homered to the exact same spot, only this time it was the game winner and the Mets announcers labeled the spot the ball landed, “Utley’s Corner” on their broadcast. The name has stuck to this day.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 5 METS 4

King Cole shuts ’em down (September 1)

It was the first of September and things were really heating up for the Phils. But perhaps their biggest weapon from 2008 hadn’t looked too sharp in 2009. Cole Hamels had been anything but great so far this season and the once ace really needed a turnaround. And boy, did he look like he had it that night. Cole went the distance, pitching a complete game shutout giving us a little hope that he could turn things around.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 1 GIANTS 0

TOP 20 PART 1 (20-16):

20. Mets lose seven run lead and fall to Phillies in 13 (August 26):

In a stunning turn of events, the Phillies rallied back to score eight unanswered runs and overcome a seven-run fourth inning deficit at Citizens Bank Park. Chris Coste, who will spend 2010 in a Mets uniform hit a walkoff 13th inning single knocking the Mets out of first place.

The Phillies trailed 7-6 as they headed to the bottom of the ninth but an Eric Bruntlett double to the gap in deep right-center scored Jayson Werth to force extras. The Phillies ran out of players and Brett Myers was forced to pinch hit. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins homered in the effort.

After that the Mets never quite regained their stature as an elite team and the sold out Phillies crowd went home happy after a five hour 17 minute game.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 8 METS 7

19. Werth steals the plate! (May 12)

Photo: Delco Times

Jayson Werth got on base. He stole second. Still, Dodger pitcher Ronald Belisario ignored him, so he stole third. He danced down the line at third, but again Belisario ignored him. And so he did what any logical, aggressive ball player would do. He broke for home.

Werth then went on to steal another base in the Phillies victory.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 5 DODGERS 3

18. Howard and Ibanez’s salamis lead Phils to victory (April 27)

It’s very rare that you witness a grand slam in baseball. Witnessing two in the same game is unreal. But you shouldn’t put it past the Phillies lineup as they proved late in this late April slugfest.

It was an unseasonably warm day in Philadelphia, 87 degrees was the game time temperature. And as one might expect, balls were flying off the bats. The Nationals scored 11 runs, but it just wasn’t enough as Raul Ibanez strode to the plate in the eighth and with the bases loaded, sent a deep fly ball down the right field line, that cleared the fence and stayed fair putting the Phillies ahead.

Howard had already hit a fifth inning salami and a montage of other hits abled the Phils to win the slugfest on a memorable day in South Philly.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 13 NATIONALS 11

17. Werth hits 13th inning walkoff (July 21)

It was 1-1 when Jayson Werth strode to the plate with two men on and two outs in the 13th inning. A run hadn’t been scored since the fifth inning and Werth had a chance to play hero and send the fans home happy with a base hit. But Werth had something a little more in mind.

He sent the pitch over the outfield fence to win the game with a walkoff three-run homer, giving the Phillies their tenth straight victory.

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 4 CUBS 1

16. Cliff Lee shuts ’em down in first Phillies Start (July 31)

Photo: Sporting News

Cliff Lee answered all questions about what kind of pitcher he was. He left no doubt in our minds that he was a plenty adequate second option to Roy Halladay. And he did it all on he field with his first start in the red pinstripes.

Lee came to town just a few days before he was handed the ball and trotted out to the AT&T Park mound in San Francisco with plenty of expectations to live up to. He didn’t disappoint.

Lee toyed with Giants hitters tossing a near perfect ball, going the distance in a four hit, one run gem, letting everyone back home know, “I’m for real.”

FINAL SCORE: PHILLIES 5 GIANTS 1

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Tune in for parts two and three later this week, as we continue to remember 2009. Feel free to debate the selections below in the comments.

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Phils try to make Philadelphia history in 2010

BY NICK STAFFIERI, Contributor

As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we begin to ponder what 2010 will bring us.  And even as we still thaw from the blizzards of winter, I cannot help but look forward to the days of spring.  Yes, the hope of new beginnings as life and color bloom back into the air.  Oh heck, let’s get real.  Spring means a new baseball season.  But for the Phillies, this season is like no other in the 127 year history of the team.  That’s because the Phillies will attempt to reach the World Series for a third consecutive season.

In Philadelphia, that is a major accomplishment.  The last time a Philadelphia sports franchise appeared in three consecutive championships was the Philadelphia Flyers from 1974 to 1976.  The Flyers won the first two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 and fell short of a hat trick to the Montreal Canadians in 1976.

Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium), home of the Athletics (1909-1954) and the Phillies (1955-1970). Photo: Sports Encyclopedia

To find this accomplishment in Philadelphia before that, we have to travel back to the Philadelphia Athletics.  We all remember them, right?  The American League baseball team that now resides in Oakland began their existence right here in Philadelphia and played here from 1903 to 1954.  (They moved briefly to Kansas City prior to settling in Oakland, but who really cares.)  The Philadelphia Athletics were the only other sports franchise in this city to appear in a championship game three consecutive season.  They won the World Series against the Chicago Cubs in 1929 and repeated as World Champions of baseball against the Cardinals in 1930.  Their third straight World Series appearance was a loss in the rematch to the Cardinals in 1931.

With many baseball experts considering the Phillies still the team to beat in the National League, it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that they can win a third straight NL  pennant.  This can certainly begin to rival, or even surpass, the successful run of the Phillies team of the late 1970s through early 1980s.  That team, with the help of Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, won five division titles (’76, ’77, ’78, ’80 and ’83), two pennants (’80 and ’83) and one World Series (1980) in a span of 8 years.

With the 2010 Phillies being a legitimate threat for a third World Series appearance (hey, and how about winning it this year for a second time in three years), we may be jumping to considering this the best run in Philadelphia baseball history.  Well, not so fast.

Remember those Philadelphia Athletics?  Heck, they were a great team here in the city at one time.  Their success that started 100 years ago this season began with a 1910 World Series victory against the Cubs, a repeat as World Champions in 1911 against the NY Giants, a third World Series in 1913 against the NY Giants and a loss in the World Series to the Boston Braves in 1914.  Those four World Series appearances in five years makes it the most successful five year period in Philadelphia sports history.

So as we begin the 2010 season with our beloved Philadelphia Phillies, we begin to think: Can this team make Philadelphia history?  With players such as Howard, Utley, Halladay and Rollins on board for at least the next few years and an Ownership group that appears willing to spend to win, Philadelphia fans should be witness to the greatest sports team in the last 100 years of this city.

Heck, perhaps in a few years, we can even say the best Philadelphia sports team ever!

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The fans loved Halladay, and he loved them back

BY SHAY RODDY

Photo: KYW 1060

It’s rare that you see a player stay on one mediocre team for as long as Roy Halladay stayed in Toronto. For 11 years, Halladay served as hero, role model, and friend of the Blue Jays fans. The fans loved him, and he loved them back. Everyone saw a trade as inevitable, though, as Halladay readied for the final year on his contract. In a trade involving two Cy Young Award winners, Halladay came to Philadelphia, leaving a bittersweet feeling in his gut as he left Toronto and the fans he knew and loved.

But Halladay’s a classy guy, through and through. And Tuesday he showed the fans of Toronto his heartfelt appreciation in a full-page ad:

On Tuesday, Halladay once again thanked the Toronto fans with a full-page ad in the Toronto Sun. Here is the full text of his message:

My wife Brandy, sons Braden and Ryan and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, its incredible fans, and the City of Toronto.

I feel blessed to have been a part of the Blue Jays since 1995 and am extremely thankful for the opportunities it has provided. Thoughout the past 15 years, there have been so many people within the organization that have made a wonderful and significant impact on my life, it would be impossible to name them all.

I am sincerely grateful for the incredible support and compassion the Blue Jays fans have always shown me. I am in awe of your overwhelming passion and devotion.

Toronto will forever have a special place in my heart.

The memories will last a lifetime and so will my gratitude.

Best regards,
Roy

The number one thing I’ve heard from Toronto is that we’re a very lucky city. Halladay is a nice guy and a great pitcher. Welcome to Philadelphia, Doc. I think you might like these fans too.

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Programming Notice: Due to the holidays there will be a cut-back in content this week with various writers on vacation. Homer Plate’s Out of Left Field will return after the New Year, my column will be, at least, much more infrequent and contributors will submit only a few columns. Expect all regular content to return Monday, January 4, 2010. Thank you and have a happy holiday!

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Pitching remains a concern as April approaches

BY SPENCER REITER, Contributor

After an intense two weeks of winter meetings in the Phillies organization, with the signing of Roy Halladay, Phillies fans have yet to shift their focus from pitching. The team’s main focuses going into this off-season were their troublesome bullpen and shoring up the rotation, but as we get even closer to Spring Training, there is still plenty of work to be done.

With the signing of Roy Halladay the rotation for this season seems to be extremely dangerous, except for the few missing pieces, and what crucial pieces they are.

The Phillies still need to find the final  part of their rotation. Many have wondered what Jamie Moyer’s role will be with the organization this season. Moyer, 47, who has been an effective pitcher through his storied, lengthy big league career, had a somewhat rough season last year and was hurt for the end of the season and the entire postseason. Whether or not Moyer can bring himself to become healthy enough to become a starting pitcher again remains a question mark. Team doctors are saying his procedure should allow for him to fully recover and pitch with out issue this season. However, so far, things have gone far from routine. Moyer has been back in the hospital with complications from the proceedings since his postseason operation.

As of now it looks like Moyer could play an important role in the Phils bullpen. Moyer, who is known as a off speed pitch type of guy, could be helpful by switching up the flow of the game. With pitchers like Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ, who all have good fastballs, Moyer would be able to change the tempo of the game.

Finally a man we would all love to see in the final spot of the rotation, Pedro Martinez. Although he struggled after first joining the team, Pedro proved himself as a Phillie in the postseason, pitching a few wonderful games. If the Phils choose to sign Pedro again, he would continue to be a great help to the rotation, and definitely a reliable contribution to the team.

To then pen we go now, where the Phillies are looking to improve a shaky, to say the least, group from 2009. While there are no signs of the Phillies acquiring someone who could change the bullpen drastically, the Phillies still have some key players who can help improve the pen with experience. J.C Romero, who missed the first 50 games, for testing positive to banned substances and then battling an injury last season, could be a huge factor in the bullpen, and help secure the middle and late innings, which was the main problem for the team last year.

Ryan Madson, although put in at times as a closer last year to help the struggling Brad Lidge, could become a threat for late innings to set up Lidge. With closing pressure off of his shoulders, Madson will now be able to work on his pitching for the late innings, and therefor become more effective when it matters.

Finally, Lights Out Lidge will be back to join the Phils for another year. We all know how Lidge struggled all through last year, coming off a perfect season in 2008. Charlie Manuel showed the fans numerous times he had faith in Lidge. Faith is a good thing, but your gut feeling isn’t always going to work out. This season, Lidge needs to work on his mental preparation, and getting out of bad situations. If Lidge is able to accomplish this, we could see the old, perfect closer we had in ’08. The bullpen needs some work, but don’t doubt that the Phillies will do everything they can to improve on a talented nucleus.

If the Phillies can put together these two main factors, it should make for a successful season.

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Out of Left Field: All I want for Christmas

BY HOMER PLATE, Columnist

All I want for Christmas from each Phillie is…

Ryan: Please, I don’t mind the strikeouts every other at bat. But for Christmas this year, can you give me one where you don’t look like an epileptic on ice skates?

Chase: How about a smile? You have an $86 million dollar contract or so, get some dental implants and open up that yap. Also, for one game could you get a big giant perm? That whole Gumby character thing you got going on is a little creepy. If you ever crash into the Delaware on the way home from the Bank, Greenpeace is gonna be all over your ass for the massive oil slick you cause. Hell, I went to the Maine Moose Mating festival last year and it didn’t compare to your volume.

Mr. Rollins: All I want from you is to know what the hell your nickname is. Is it J-Ro? J-Roll? Jelly Roll? Jelly freakin Crimpet? Boston Creme? Chicken McNugget? How about if we call you “not hitting .179” 58 games into the season next year.

Placebo Polanco: Who the hell names there son Placebo? I mean, I have a brother named Pharmaceutical Trial but he was born in the Philippines.

Raul: The only thing I need from you is to show up after the 4th of July. I know we love ya brother but cha gotta do more than chew tobacco in August and September.

Shane: I doubt you will, but please don’t bitch about being in the seven-hole. Just think of yourself as the ugliest dude at a drunken orgy. Speaking of ugly dudes, as long as I’ve been alive I never thought I would see an uglier dude than Tom Petty. Then I saw the guy that played Vince Papale’s dad in Invincible. They mentioned his wife died of a disease. Marrying him, my guess is she blew her brains out when she got laser correction surgery.

Jayson: Could you just hit me one homerun without being one of the Three Little Pigs huffing and puffing and blowing my damn house down? Every time you swing I keep thinking Whitney Houston is about to move into the on deck circle reviving her role in “Waiting to Exhale.”

Carlos: Dude, you are so boring you’ve stumped the plate miester! But you are the man!

Doc: Welcome to the world of Homer Plate. I’ll keep this short. All I want from you is a record of 25-2, 13 complete games and be able to go every three days in the playoffs. We know ya got it in ya!!!

To all of you who have sent kind words since I joined High Hopes, thank you very much and I hope you keep reading. I will begin my annual holiday break after Christmas with my annual foray into the world of skanky naked chicks and massive amounts of drugs. Actually, I will be chillin’ with my cats, watchin’ the Owls win that bowl game, and hopefully, not shoveling any more snow. To the reader who wants a little less Camden Karen in his world I have met your demand. But she would like to offer this one line of a famous Yule tune….

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth….actually, she has them, they are just all black and funky and she can’t see them.

Holiday Note: Homer realizes that some of his word play can be offensive to some. Please understand that Homer is just having fun and understand that no one is perfect and Homer would never try to hurt anybody’s feelings. Except Howard Eskin’s, I suppose. But he is a dill cricket. Bye for now!

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Look around the Sports Complex

BY SPENCER REITER, Contributor

Philadelphia has done a good job of keeping the sports world on its heels this past year. This month itself, has been interesting for the city’s sports teams, and has caught the attention of fans everywhere. The moves, trades and pickups Philly has made this past year has made Philadelphia and the sports world talk like teenage girls gossiping at the high school lunch table.

Of course the Phillies made a huge trade this past week, shipping ace Cliff Lee to Seattle as part of a three-team trade to bring Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. While in Philly, there were mixed reactions, the rest of the country seemed to be a tad confused with this deal. Fans of course saw this past year how Cliff Lee pitched in the playoffs, and saw the deal as risky. Some wanted Lee to stay, and forget about Halladay, because he has already proved himself as an effective Phillie. Others hated the fact that Lee wanted to “explore” the market, which, for some, proved that his ego’s as big as Shaq’s bicep, and were just as ready to see him go. But whatever your stance is, Lee’s out and Halladay’s in and it’s got everyone talking.

Another move that has had people talking is the 76ers signing back old friend Allen Iverson. “The Answer” was loved in this city and when people heard he was coming back, they were again a mix of both enthusiastic and puzzled by the move. Fans wondered if this move was purely a stunt by general manager Ed Stefanski to plant more butts in the seats, which have been cold during Sixers games the last few years. And they were probably right, but he sure does entertain you.

One of the most controversial pick ups of the year is the Eagles picking up “The ConVICK”, Michael Vick. The entire sports world was shocked, especially Philadelphia, when the news broke on the Eagles signing the convicted dog fighter. No one expected Vick to get picked up so fast after getting out of jail, especially by a team who already has a solid number one quarterback and a backup who they selected with their forst pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. This news lead to a lot of publicity, mostly bad, however you know the saying, any publicity is good publicity. Of course, people were not happy with the signing of Vick, with the exception of a few fans who though he payed his debt and they might as well let him play. Either that or they were fans who just don’t care about what he did. At all. But not to get off one one of Homer Plate’s favorite tangents… However, as the year has gone on, people have seemed to come to ease about Vick. He has played well the past couple games and actually contributed to the community by helping out shelters and other community service projects.

The Flyers made the papers in Philly this season with a story other than them losing (ouch). In 2006, as the Flyers were at the very bottom of the NHL, they hired Jon Stevens, a coach who was supposed to help the Flyers get back to a place where they could win it all, but this season the organization made a surprising move in firing Stevens. Fans thought Stevens was doing a good job, and it was the players faults for not playing up to their standards. Now, Peter LaViolette has the reigns and hopes to steer the Flyers back on the winning track. Unfortunately, not all is going according to plan.

These four major teams in Philadelphia are always keeping us Philadelphians on our feet, as well as the sports world. So, while all of us baseball fans are bored during the off-season, we can be count on our beloved teams to keep up going and ready for April.

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