Thursday, June 30, 2016

MLB Power Ranking: End of June 2016

In the first Power Rankings of the season back at the end of April, a surprising Philadelphia Phillies ball club was sitting in the #9 position. 
The club would continue to perform well over the next couple of weeks, leading to speculation that perhaps this would be a miracle season.
That miracle has disappeared, and the Fightin’ Phils are nowhere to be found as the team plummets towards the bottom of the MLB standings for a second consecutive season.
How long will it be until we are discussing the Phillies again as a legitimate contender, which is what you would have to consider every single team that you will find in the current TBOH Power Rankings of the Top 10 teams in Major League Baseball?
As of this ranking, we are almost exactly at the halfway point of the 2016 regular season. Three months are in the books, and the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are now upon us. It will all lead up to a dramatic final month of September, and the Divisional and Wildcard playoff races.
Another highlight is change. Half the teams from my Memorial Day Top 10 have dropped off the list, though most are still close and were considered. 
The five new teams will have to fight to remain on the list, because any slippage and someone will be driving into their spot by the next time we check back in two weeks.
If your favorite ball club did not make this current TBOH Power Ranking, well, they may yet have a chance. 
But they had best get going, because the clubs who are on here have found a way to play and win consistently enough for a long enough stretch of the season to demonstrate that they are for real.
On the morning of June 30th, there are six teams within three games in the AL Wildcard race, and four teams within four games in the NL Wildcard race. 
All of those clubs have to believe they at least have a fighting chance at the postseason if they can make the right moves and/or get hot.
The 10-6 spots are presented in a countdown capsule format

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Phillies Minor Leaguers Receive All-Star Honors

The Philadelphia Phillies minor league system is greatly improved, and a number of the players have received invitations to All-Star games for their individual performances.

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game just a couple of weeks away now, there has been some speculation as to who might represent the Phillies in the Mid-Summer Classic.
The way that things are currently unfolding for the team, it would appear that the two players with the best chance to represent the Phillies are center fielder Odubel Herrera and closer Jeanmar Gomez.
Whatever happens regarding the All-Star situation at the big league level, the improvement in both talent and competitiveness at the Phillies’ minor league level is now being rewarded with All-Star recognition for those players and prospects as well.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview: Larry Shenk

"The Fightin' Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits" is the second book from the former head of the Phils' public relations department, Larry 'the Baron' Shenk.
Following on the heels of 2014's "If These Walls Could Talk", which took Phillies and all baseball fans inside the club's locker room and behind the scenes for many pivotal moments in team history, this new effort makes the perfect companion piece.
This past week, I did a full review of "The Fightin' Phillies", and now will be presenting an interview with the author. 
I was privileged to have the opportunity to ask Mr. Shenk questions on a number of topics related to the book and his long history with the team.
This latest in my series of Phillies related interviews, and the first of 2016, covers a number of topics that should be of interest to any fan of those Fightin' Phils.

As usual, will present it in a simple "Q&A" format.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: "The Fightin' Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball"

The next in my book reviews feature specifically deals with the Philadelphia Phillies and the 133-year history of the ball club.
No one alive today is more qualified to dig through that history and present it to the fans than the man who has been around to see more of it first-hand than anyone else, the former head of the Phillies' public relations team, Larry 'the Baron' Shenk.
In his second book on the team, "The Fightin' Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits", Shenk delivers by presenting story after story that will hold the interest of any true Phils fan.
Shenk has been a Phillies fan since his youth in the early 1950's, when Baseball Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts were leading the club in the post-Whiz Kids years.
He first applied for a public relations job with the team in the same year that I was born, 1961, and eventually landed that position a couple of years later. We'll explore more of Shenk's background in a separate interview piece here at TBOH coming soon.
"The Fightin' Phillies" is broken down into eight sections, with a foreword written by Phillies broadcaster Larry Andersen in which the former player briefly covers his own career in the game

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Phillies Current Losing is Not a "Streak"

You are going to hear about the Phillies current seven game losing streak in news and sports broadcasts, and read about it on the internet.
You are also going to hear about how the Phils have now lost 11 of their last 12 games. 
But as bad as these two losing periods would be, the reality is that this is no losing streak.
No, what the Phillies are experiencing right now is a major, overdue course correction in their season that has taken them back to where the active roster talent level says they truly belong.
This was never going to be a contending team, despite the fact that a 4-3 win on Saturday, May 14th against the Cincinnati Reds lifted them seven games over the .500 mark at 24-17.
On that afternoon, for a brief few hours, the Phillies actually found themselves tied with the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East Division.
The Phillies had not reached these heights since the start of June in 2012. Not the winning record and the place in the standings. For those you would have to reach back to the end of the 2011 regular season.
But the last time that Phillies fans could legitimately be excused for being fooled into thinking that their team was a real contender would have probably been on Friday, June 1st in that 2012 season.
Kyle Kendrick beat Mark Buehrle with the help of a Hunter Pence home run. Pence was joined by Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz with three-hit nights as the Phils downed the Fish by a 6-4 score.

On that night at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies were returning home to open a seven game homestand. They had just won five of seven on a tough road trip through Saint Louis and at the division rival New York Mets.
It was the streaking Phillies’ 7th win in 9 games, and raised them to a season-high three games over the .500 mark. They were in last place in the division, but were now just 2.5 games behind the leaders.
Fans not only saw the winning streak and the return towards the top of the division race, but were also comforted by the fact that their team had won the previous five consecutive NL East crowns.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Phillies Father's Day Connections

To all of my fellow fathers out there, I would like to wish you a Happy Father's Day. 
In the history of the Phillies franchise, there have been a number of father-son combinations that have played in Major League Baseball.
One that immediately springs to mind for many modern-day Phils fans would be former GM Ruben Amaro Jr, who played for the Phillies in 1992-93, and then again in the 1996-98 seasons. HIs father, Ruben Amaro Sr, played with the club from 1960-65.
Jun 14, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Francona (17) watches batting practice before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Former Phillies manager Terry Francona, who guided the team from 1997-2000, was raised in the game by his dad, Tito Francona, who appeared briefly for the 1967 Phillies. Tito had a 15-year big league career from 1956-70, and the Phils were one of nine teams for whom he played.
All Phillies fans are well aware that Pete Rose was the catalyst to the franchise' first-ever World Series crown in 1980, and is MLB's all-time Hit King. His son, Pete Rose Jr, made 16 plate appearances over 11 games with the 1997 Cincinnati Reds.
Catcher Bob Boone is on the Phillies Wall of Fame, and called games for nearly every pitcher who donned the red pinstripes from 1973-81. His father, Ray Boone, played with six different organizations over 13 seasons from 1948-60.
As most know, it doesn't end there for the Boone clan

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Book Review: "Diehards: Why Fans Care So Much About Sports"

If you are a baseball fan like me, you enjoy all aspects of the game. Not just the more analytical, statistics-based evaluations of recent years, or the classic excitement of a dramatic game, series, or season, but the whole enchilada.
The history of the game and the background stories of the players and other individuals involved fascinate me. 
The best resource to obtain information of this type can often be a well-written book on a particular subject.
All of the reading that I have done over decades following the game finally led me to this idea for the introduction of a "book reviews" series, with coverage of both the Phillies in particular and baseball in general.
In moving forward with the series, I will mostly focus on material written about the Fightin' Phils specifically. But if something influences me enough while only barely touching on the team, will highlight those as well.
I wanted to begin the series with something that  included the Phillies, but also would be of interest to the wider audience of baseball fans. I believe that I may have stumbled upon the perfect choice.
As a big fan of the team and the game in the passionate sports town of Philly, the aspect of fandom itself has always fascinated me. This led to my interest in introducing you to the 2015 book "Diehards: Why Fans Care So Much About Sports" by Chip Scarinzi.
Chip is one of us, a self-described "lifelong, diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan" who grew up in New Jersey

Friday, June 10, 2016

Jimmy Rollins DFA'd by Chicago White Sox

Jimmy Rollins, the leader of the 2008 World Series championship Phillies team and the franchise' all-time Hits leader was designated for assignment today by the Chicago White Sox.
Rollins had been mired in a deep slump, hitting  just .156 over the past two and a half weeks with just one extra-base hit, one RBI, and one stolen base in 38 plate appearances.
On the season, the now 37-year old 'JRoll" was hitting for a .221/.295/329 slash line with two homers, eight RBI, and five steals across 166 plate appearances in 41 games played.
Rollins was traded by the Phillies along with cash considerations to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December of 2014 in exchange for pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle
Last August, Rollins was joined in the Dodgers' lineup by longtime Phillies doubleplay partner Chase Utley in a move that LA hoped would help them advance in the postseason.
It didn't work out. Rollins eventually lost his job to hotshot rookie Corey Seager. He became a free agent last November, and was left out there all winter.

He finally signed with the White Sox just before spring training

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Phils Place Six on Baseball America's Midseason Top 100 Prospects List

In ranking released today, the strength of the Phillies minor league system was revealed once again, as a half-dozen of the organization's prospects were ranked within the Top 100 in the game by Baseball America.
Following on the heels of yesterday's announcement that four of the club's prospects had made the Top 50 as ranked by Baseball Prospectus, this continues to reinforce that Phillies fans still have a number of supremely talented youngsters on the way.
The six prospects ranked by Baseball America are led by shortstop J.P. Crawford, who was placed at the top by BP, but who is rated in the #3 slot by BA behind 2nd baseman Yoan Moncada of Boston and pitcher Alex Reyes of Saint Louis.
Crawford has been hot of late as he adjusts to the highest level of the minor leagues with AAA Lehigh Valley. Just a step away now from the big leagues, it would surprise no one to see him debut with the Phillies during the second half of this season.
Outfielder Nick Williams was ranked in the #40 spot by Baseball America, the only other Phillies prospect listed among their Top 50 overall.


Rounding out the Phillies contingent on the Baseball America Midseason Top 100 are right-handed starting pitcher Jake Thompson (62), catcher Jorge Alfaro (67), catcher Andrew Knapp (80), and pitcher Franklyn Kilome (96).
To be eligible for the BA list, players had to be in the minor leagues still as of June 21st, which was the midway point of the minor league season. 
They also had to not have exceeded MLB rookie eligibility of 130 big league at-bats or 50 innings pitched, or 30 appearances in the majors by a reliever.
It is also important to note that 2016 draftees, such as the Phillies' Mickey Moniak, or July 2nd signees were not eligible for the list because BA wanted this list to reflect a preview of the upcoming July 31st MLB non-waiver trade deadline. All of the players ranked are eligible to be dealt this year.
Next week, ESPN's Keith Law is expected to release his own midseason top 100 ranking. As the Phillies continue to move forward in their rebuilding program, I will continue to bring you all of the exciting, relevant content needed on these emerging future stars,