Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Phillies Five Key Developing Youngsters

The Philadelphia Phillies have spent the last two to three years rebuilding the farm system, and introducing youngsters into both the lineup and pitching staff.
This upcoming season should prove to be one of major transition for the club. Five of the eight players in the everyday lineup may not be around, at least not as starters, the next time the team is a contender.
The 2017 starting pitching rotation will feature at least two arms who similarly are not expected to be around when the Phillies again challenge for an NL East crown.
There are a number of young, developing players and near-ready prospects who have a chance to impact the club for years to come.
Five players in particular seem to be keys to any chance that the club might have to legitimately challenge for a .500 season as soon as this year.
One of those players is out on the mound, a former number one draft pick. Two of the players roam the outfield, trying to break through from highly-regarded prospect status. And two young left-side infielders have as much developing talent as anyone in the organization.

Friday, February 24, 2017

White Sox to Retire Mark Buehrle's Number

The Chicago White Sox announced that they will retire the jersey #56 in a special ceremony this June. The jersey number is being retired in honor of longtime pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle was the ChiSox’s 38th round pick in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft out of Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri.
He shot through the club’s minor league system, making his big league debut on July 16, 2000, with an inning of relief against the Milwaukee Brewers at Comiskey Park.
Just three days later, Buehrle drew his first starting assignment at the Metrodome against the host Minnesota Twins.
In what would become a typically efficient Buehrle outing, he earned the win that night. The lefty lasted seven innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out five and walking just one batter.
It was the beginning of a fantastic career. Buehrle would pitch out of the White Sox rotation for the next 11 seasons. He made the AL All-Star team four times during the period, and won a pair of Gold Glove Awards.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Buster Posey Leads Another Contending Giants Team

Last fall, the San Francisco Giants put a major scare into the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs. 
The Giants dropped the NLDS to the Cubs in four games, but not before coming within an inning of forcing a decisive fifth game.
That loss put an end to the Giants “even years” magic. The club had captured the Fall Classic in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
There were a number of key factors that allowed San Francisco to remain such a consistent threat during this decade. A handful of strong starting pitchers. Versatility with a deep bullpen. Outstanding defense.
One of the biggest keys, perhaps the most important, irreplaceable player during this run, was the club’s catcher.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Phillies 2017: Rotation Depth a Strength, But There's No Ace

The Philadelphia Phillies have officially begun the six-week spring training process down in Clearwater, Florida. 
One of the likely areas of strength for this year’s version of the Fightin’ Phils would appear to be the starting pitching rotation.
A pair of veteran arms on short-term deals, a bulldog surprise, and a handful of talented youngsters give the club enviable depth on the mound. 
The numbers and talent potential are the most impressive to don red pinstripes in a number of years. However, the fact remains that the club still does not have a true ‘ace’ caliber starting pitcher.
There are some fans who say that a pitcher who takes the top spot in a given rotation is the ace of a staff. I believe that they are defining  the term improperly.
When Phillies fans want to think of a true ace, they don’t have to search very far back in their memory banks. Some of us can slip easily back to memories of Steve Carlton winning four Cy Young Awards. But the Phillies have had a number of true ace-caliber starting pitchers of very recent vintage.
As all but the very youngest fans will remember, the 2011 Phillies team set a franchise record by registering 102 regular season victories. Those wins were largely made possible by the club running four aces out of their rotation. We all remember “The Four Aces”: Roy HalladayCliff LeeRoy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
None of the current Phillies rotation contenders has that kind of consistently excellent talent. Which is not to say that they aren’t good arms. Again, the rotation is likely to be a strength of this team.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cole and Taillon are Keys to Pirates Contending in 2017

The Pittsburgh Pirates reached the MLB postseason in three straight seasons from 2013-15. But last year the club finished five games below the .500 mark in third place in the NL Central Division.
There were any number of factors that contributed to the downfall of the Bucs a year ago. But despite missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record, a bounce-back is possible in the coming 2017 season.
Catching the young and multi-talented Chicago Cubs in the division race is probably not within reach this year. But winning the division is not the only route to the postseason.
Pittsburgh finished just 8.5 games in back of an NL Wildcard berth, even though nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
“I think he’s going through an absolute metamorphosis in terms of his physical understanding, how to really manage his body over the course of a 162-game season, what the greatest red flags are for him that could sideline him or take him down,” said Ben Fairchild, the owner of Fairchild Sports Performance near Taillon’s hometown of Houston, Texas per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink.
I don’t know that I’ve seen a pitcher of his prospectus at his young age that had endured so much severe injury, frankly,” Fairchild said.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Phillies 2017: Who Leads in the Clubhouse?

It’s a question that, for a few years now, has had no legitimate answer: who is the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse leader? Or which players comprise the leadership group?
Past generations would have answered that question with names such as Pete RoseLarry BowaDarren Daulton, and Jimmy Rollins. Players who excelled on the field. Players who were willing to stand up in the locker room to help motivate their peers when difficult challenges loomed.
For me, a truly legitimate clubhouse leader needs to embody two major characteristics.
First, they need to be someone who is performing at a standout level in Major League Baseball terms.
Second, they need to be someone who is foundational. They need to be someone who is going to be around for at least the next few years.
There is a third characteristic that becomes vital, assuming the player can meet those first two basics. That would be that the individual needs to have the respect of, and preferably the affection and admiration of, his fellow players.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Phillies 2017 Corner Outfield: Talented Kids vs Mediocre Veterans

The Philadelphia Phillies opened spring training this week to begin what should prove to be an extremely interesting 2017 season.
The team has suffered through five consecutive non-winning seasons on the field. The front office has now completely turned over the roster of players from their previous winning era.
It is clear to every true Phillies fan, as well as to any honest member of the media covering the team on a regular basis, that it is time to let the kids play.
Those “kids” are the young prospects who have been accumulated by the club through trades and the draft in the last few years.
However, it appears that, at least at the outset of this coming season, the Phillies are planning to play mediocre veterans over upside youngsters at the corner outfield positions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Phillies 2017: Club Missing a Bullpen Opportunity

On the first day of workouts for Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers, manager Pete Mackanin took the opportunity to make a public announcement regarding his bullpen.
The substance of that announcement is, for me, a sign that this may not be the man to lead this team into contending status.
“When you look at Jeanmar Gomez’s year last year, although he had a poor month of September, he saved 37 games and I think blew only six saves,” Mackanin said per Ryan Lawrence at The Philly Voice.
“Premier guys have those kind of numbers. You don’t see very often a guy like Brad Lidge save 48-for-48 in 2008. He had a hiccup but at the same time I believe that he deserves to be called the closer at this point.
Gomez had more than a hiccup. He completely collapsed over the season’s final six and a half weeks. And the fact is that he was never a classic “closer,” never dominated opposing lineups at the end of games.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Sermon: A City Set on a Hill

The 'Sermon on the Mount' was delivered by Jesus Christ shortly after he had chosen his original twelve apostles and begun his public ministry. It is covered most famously in chapter five of the Book of Matthew within the New Testament of the Bible.

One of the most influential, inspirational speeches in the history of mankind is widely believed to have been delivered at or near what was once known as Mount Eremos, a hill located between Capernaum and Tabgha in northern Israel.

During this speech, Jesus delivers three of the most famous teachings of his life: the 'Golden Rule', the Lord's Prayer (Our Father), and the Beatitudes.

Another key element of what I personally believe to be the greatest speech ever given is a section that has become known as the "Similes of Salt and Light", which appears at Matthew 5:13-16.

The simile of light section specifically reads as follows:

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."

On January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan delivered his Farewell Address to the Nation. In it, he famously referenced this passage as it had been adopted by John Winthrop.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Philography: Red Dooin

My off-season series of Philadelphia Phillies mini bios has featured some of the most popular players and other individuals in team history.
At the catcher position, “Philography” has already covered the relatively recent careers of Bob BooneDarren Daulton, and Mike Lieberthal.
Daulton was the first catcher covered in the series, featured back in December 2014 while I was still with the “That Ball’s Outta Here” site here at FanSided.
Wanting to feature the catcher position more during this current off-season, the careers of Boone and Lieberthal were added to the series in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively.
Now the series continues with a look back at the career of Red Dooin. Over 134 seasons of play, Dooin is second only to Lieberthal in the number of games behind the plate for the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

MLB 2017 Power Ranking: Pre-Spring Training

The 2017 MLB season is slated to kick off with a trio of games on Sunday April 2. After those six clubs get things started, the other 24 teams are scheduled to begin their regular season the following day.
In preparation for the season, Spring Training camps will be opening in both Arizona and Florida approximately two weeks from now.
This initial 2017 Major League Baseball Power Ranking of teams will serve as my baseline. A jumping off point from which the season will unfold. I will provide the next ranking around Opening Day, and then continue on a weekly basis throughout the season.
My version of the MLB Power Ranking will include a brief writeup on the Top 10 teams, including any recent highlights. The other 20 clubs will then be ranked numerically.
Since no games have been played, this initial Power Ranking is simply how I see the teams of Major Leaugue Baseball on a 1-30 basis as we enter Spring Training.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why SCOTUS Pick Should Be Pryor

It has been announced that President Donald Trump is going to publicly announce his nominee for the opening in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Monday evening.

The announcement is to take place during a live television broadcast at 8:00pm EST. This is a high profile time slot, and is entirely befitting the important nature of this vital nomination.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest federal court in our nation. Established in 1789 by our original U.S. Constitution, the SCOTUS has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all courts in the land. 

Thus, SCOTUS is the final arbiter on nearly all court cases of vital national interest. Decisions are rendered by a majority vote of the Chief Justice and eight associate justices, all of whom serve a lifetime term.

That last part is vitally important. Once a justice is appointed to the SCOTUS, they serve until they either die, retire, resign, or are impeached and convicted by the U.S. Congress. Since no SCOTUS justice has ever been successfully impeached and convicted, appointees are almost certainly going to serve as long as they wish.

The only U.S. President to serve a full term in office and not have the opportunity to appoint a justice to the SCOTUS was Jimmy Carter. Now, less than two weeks into his first term in office, President Trump gets that opportunity.

Trump's pick is vitally important for a number of reasons, but primarily because the court vacancy that he is filling has been open for nearly a year. Last February 13, longtime noted SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly in his sleep at age 79.

Monday, January 30, 2017

For the Pittsburgh Pirates, No News is Bad News

For the Pittsburgh Pirates and their passionate fan base, the 2016 season was one of extreme disappointment. After three consecutive playoff appearances, the beloved Bucs missed the postseason party.
The Pirates struggled to a record of 78-83 last season, good only for third place in the National League Central Division.
In each of the prior three years, Pittsburgh came in second place, with the team repeatedly falling just short of a division crown. The club finished within two games in 2014 and 2015 after falling three games short in 2013.
In 2016, the Bucs fell 7.5 games short of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. But that was not their biggest concern heading into the offseason. Pittsburgh also finished a distant 25 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the division race.

Colorado Rockies All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Colorado Rockies were born when the city of Denver was granted an expansion franchise by Major League Baseball in 1991. The club then began play in the National League West Division in the 1993 season.
Over the ensuing quarter century the franchise has not experienced very much on-field success. They have yet to capture a division crown, and there have been just three trips to the MLB postseason.
Early in their history, from 1995-97, the Rox treated their fans to three consecutive winning seasons. This has been the only time they have produced that long a stretch of winning baseball.

THE BLAKE STREET BOMBERS

The 1995 team was an offensive juggernaut that finished in second place, just a game short of a division title. But those Rockies captured the NL Wildcard to become the first Colorado team into the playoffs.
Nicknamed the “Blake Street Bombers”, they were led by four men who each cranked more than 30 home runs. The Rockies would lose in that 1995 NLDS by 3-1 to the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
After that brief run of success it would be a long decade before Colorado would contend once again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Are Catholic Schools 'Better' Than Public?

"See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ" ~ St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians (New Testament, Colossians 2:8)




It's a question that does not have a simple answer: are Catholic schools "better" than public schools here in the United States?

You will hear and read many Catholic school parents and students make the claim that they are indeed better in every way.

But you can also find many proponents of the American public school system who will claim that there is nothing inferior about the education they provide.

There have been a number of formal studies made on the issue. Mai Miksic with the CUNY Institute for Public Policy took on the question in his June 2014 piece "Is the 'Catholic School Effect' Real"?

Miksic's piece concludes that "there is no lack of rigorous research...indicating a possible Catholic school advantage."

However, Miksic also correctly points out that many proponents of Catholic schools point to simplistic statistics such as higher standardized test score results achieved by their students.

Education is, in the end, about much more than test scores.