PHILLIES crush Nationals by 12-2 in series opener...ODUBEL HERRERA homers for 5th straight game...PHILLIES are 40-33, 2nd place, 2.5 GB NL East.....BE BOLD ...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

What do the Phillies have at the back of the rotation?

Zach Eflin hopes to be long term member of Phils rotation
The Philadelphia Phillies have been experiencing a number of problems over the past two months. Since April 25, the team has struggled along with a 20-24 record.

Fingers have mostly been pointed at an offense that is now 12th of the 15 National League clubs in both OPS and Runs scored.

There have also been numerous critics of the constant lineup and positional juggling by rookie manager Gabe Kapler, including from yours truly.

One area where the Phillies have generally received solid performances on a consistent basis has been the front of their starting pitching rotation.

Aaron Nola has broken out to legitimate ace status. He is currently 8-2 with a 2.27 ERA, a minuscule 0.934 WHIP, and a fantastic 90/22 K:BB ratio. He has yielded just 63 hits over 91 innings across 14 starts.

Having turned just 25 years old earlier this month and not eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, Nola should be counted on as a key cog moving forward.

Veteran free agent signee Jake Arrieta has been less consistent than Nola, but has still been generally effective. Even after a poor outing last night, the 32-year old is 5-5 with a 3.33 ERA, and has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. He'll be fine.

It is the back end of that Phillies starting rotation the brings the most open questions. Is Vince Velasquez actually a starting pitcher long term, and not better utilized out of the bullpen?

Are either or both of Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin starting pitchers who can be counted on for the long term as the Phillies build toward true contention?

Velasquez, who came to the Phillies as part of the Ken Giles trade with Houston, is the most interesting. He clearly has dominating stuff at times, as he demonstrated in his most recent outing on Thursday afternoon when he surrendered just one hit to the Colorado Rockies over 6.2 innings.

But the problem with Velasquez, who turned 26 years of age earlier this month, has never been pure stuff. He has shown that kind of dominance before.

The problem is that the talented right-hander never carries it forward with any consistency, usually following up a great game or two with another three or four less-than-satisfactory efforts.

Pivetta, who arrived from Washington in a trade for Jonathan Papelbon, is a 25-year old right-hander. He is just 4-6 this season with a slightly elevated 4.25 ERA.

However, Pivetta also has a strong 81/21 K:BB mark, and has surrendered just 68 hits over 72 innings across 14 starts.

Pivetta cannot be a free agent until after the 2021 season, so the Phillies theoretically have a long time to measure his results and his future role.



At 24 years of age, Eflin is the youngest of this mostly young group. He came to the Phillies as part of the Jimmy Rollins deal a few years back.

This season, Eflin is 3-2 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.185 WHIP, both solid marks. He has a 40/10 K:BB ratio, and has allowed 37 hits over 39.2 innings pitched.

Eflin had a horrendous three-start stretch from mid-late May. Across those starts he was ripped for a dozen earned runs and 19 hits in 13.1 innings, losing two of the three. But aside from that he has performed well.



The only other pitcher to make a start for the 2018 Phillies was Ben Lively. The right-hander is currently battling back from an injury. While Lively is a nice pitcher who competes well many nights, I believe that he is a depth starter best suited to AAA and emergency fill-in status on a contender.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is wrong on use of Seranthony Dominguez

Seranthony Dominguez should be the Phillies closer
The Philadelphia Phillies have six relief pitchers who have recorded a Save at this point in the 2018 season.

But right now the Phillies don't have a closer, and their manager seems to believe that they don't need one.

None of those six relievers with a Save has more than nine, which is the total achieved by Hector Neris, the man who was once considered the team's closer.

That ranks Neris at 25th in Major League Baseball. As a team, the relief corps is in a six-way tie for 17th, or 22nd if you want to be a pessimist.

The bullpen as a whole has been, how shall we say, not good. Luis Garcia (24.2), Neris (24.1), Drew Hutchison (21.1), Tommy Hunter (17.2), and Yacksel Rios (17) have all been given significant opportunities. All have largely failed. Each carries an ERA above the 4.00 level of mediocrity, with four of them over or approaching the 5.00 mark.

A little more than a month ago the team promoted a lights-out reliever from the minor leagues to help right the ship. Seranthony Dominguez was dominant in stints at AA and AAA over the first six weeks. He had allowed just eight hits over 16.2 innings with a 21/3 K:BB ratio.

Dominguez quickly proved to be the Phillies best reliever. Opponents were unable to score on the 23-year old right-hander over his first dozen appearances.

To this point over his first 15 appearances, Dominguez has produced a 1.42 ERA and a 0.421 WHIP. He has surrendered just seven hits over 19 innings with a 22/1 K:BB ratio in the big leagues.

Dominguez is clearly the Phillies best option to close. But manager Gabe Kapler, a big "new age" baseball thinker, doesn't see it that way. Kapler revealed his thought process during an interview on Sportsradio WIP on Wednesday morning.




The problem with Kapler's line of thinking is simple when you think about it. Sure, there are going to be times when a critical point is reached in the 6th, 7th, or 8th innings. No arguing there.

However, you can say the exact same thing about the 3rd or 4th inning. The game is a high-scoring 6-6 affair in the 4th and your starter is getting knocked around. The opposition has the bases loaded and one out. Do you bring in your best reliever then to get out of the jam?

The fact is that you need your very best reliever available as the "closer", that hammer to nail the door shut on a game once the rest of your team has battled through eight tough innings to earn a lead.

Once you burn a Seranthony Dominguez in the earlier innings, now what do you do when the 9th rolls around and you need someone to close it out? Ahh, I know, you trust another one of your "lesser" relief pitchers who you weren't willing to trust earlier. Brilliant!

Part of the Phillies dilemma, as I see it: they don't want to trust the kids who are actually getting the job done over veterans who are getting paid more money and have more experience.



Kapler should be using 25-year old Edubray Ramos and 23-year old Victor Arano in the 7th and 8th innings to set up the 23-year old Dominguez for the 9th inning.

Ramos has a ridiculous 0.75 ERA mark and a low 1.167 WHIP. He has allowed just 18 hits over 24 innings with a 27/10 K:BB ratio. Arano has fashioned a 2.11 ERA and 1.031 WHIP mark, allowing just 17 hits over his 21.1 innings. He has a fine 23/5 K:BB ratio thus far.

Let the team battle through the first half-dozen innings as a whole. Use the veteran relievers to get through any tough situations that might pop up when the starters falter or tire. Then turn to the lights-out kids to hold down any leads you take into the late innings.

Despite what some try to say, baseball does not need to be reinvented constantly. What a baseball team that really wants to win needs is for the people running the ship to believe what their eyes are seeing. It request them to understand the formula that has been proven effective over decades of experience.

Seranthony Dominguez should be the Philadelphia Phillies closer right now, and hopefully for years to come. It is then up to the manager and the rest of club management to find the pieces and place them properly to get through tough innings that come up prior to the 9th rolling around.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Phillies sign top draft pick Alec Bohm

Alec Bohm becomes Phillies third baseman of the future
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced the signing of 2018 first round draft pick Alec Bohm to a $5.85 million contract. The 21-year old third baseman out of Omaha, Nebraska and Wichita State now heads down to Clearwater, Florida to begin his minor league development.

Bohm (pronounced "Bome") is an advanced college hitter whom the Phils selected with the third overall pick in last week's 2018 MLB Draft.

If you are thinking already about when he might get to Citizens Bank Park to make his big league debut in red pinstripes, it is wholly reasonable to think that could happen early in the 2020 season, if not sooner.

It is anticipated by scouts that Bohm will hit. He has a great eye at the plate, good patience, and big time power. The question has never been with his right-handed bat. What has concerned some with the 6'5", 225-pounder is where he will end up defensively.

Phillies director of amateur scouting Johnny Almanzar, addressed this question specifically in the aftermath of his selection. Per Matt Gelb at The Athletic, Almanzar stated the following:
“We loved the bat. We loved the offensive capabilities, so we would have taken him regardless [of] whether he felt he could stay there. But we don’t believe that. We believe he can stay there. He’s a very athletic player. He’s a good third baseman and, with some instruction, I believe that he’s got the chance to be an average to an above-average third baseman at the major-league level. Very, very athletic for his size at 6-foot-5.”
Bohm hit well at Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha, and won the Home Run Derby at the Connie Mack World Series in 2015. But he went undrafted out of high school and moved on to Wichita State.

During his collegiate career, Bohm blasted 40 doubles and 33 home runs, 16 of those homers in this past Junior season. He became an all-star in the Cape Cod League, and was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America.


Bob Brookover at Philly.com pointed out just how important it will be to the Phillies for Bohm to be able to stick at the hot corner: 

"...mostly third base has been a huge hole for the Phillies over the last 15 years. The Phillies have finished 21st or lower in OPS at third base 12 times during that stretch, including 28th last year. This year, the Phillies’ third basemen ranked 25th in OPS at .698 going into Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies."

Bohm was in attendance at the draft, and it was clear in his post-selection on-air interview that he isn't particularly comfortable in front of the cameras just yet. His answers to local reporters have been just as succinct.

“It’s been a wihirlwind for me,” said Bohm per Tom McGurk at The Courier-Post. “I’m excited to get started. I just want to get out there and get some at-bats, get back into playing, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve played.”

That's fine. Some of that hesitation will melt away the more he faces reporters questions and matures as a person and a ball player. More importantly to Phillies fans is that Bohm speaks loudly with his bat, and that he advances to play in South Philly as quickly as possible.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

My ideas to "Be Bold" and fix the 2018 Phillies

Machado is key to a "Bold" contending future for Phils
Anyone who has been following the Philadelphia Phillies on a regular basis knows simply by watching that this is an improved baseball team.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Phillies currently have more legitimate rising talent at the Major League Baseball level than at any point in the last half-dozen or so years.

However, partly because there is so much youth at one time, and partly because some of that youth is being mishandled, the team has not been maximizing its potential. This has begun to show up in the results and the standings over the last few weeks.

Four times the Phillies lifted themselves up to nine games over the .500 mark during the month of May. All four times they followed with a loss, never capable of pushing to the double-digit mark.

Their recent 3-7 road trip was disheartening. It added to what has been a month and a half of sub par baseball. The Phillies have now gone just 16-20 stretching back to an April 27th win over Atlanta. That victory gave them 15 wins in 20 games, and they simply haven't been the same ever since.

The club wakes up this morning at just three games over that .500 mark, three games off the pace in both the NL East and NL Wildcard races, and fading fast. This kind of thing has happened twice in recent years as well. A nice start over the first month and a half, followed by reality setting in.

How do these Phillies reverse this present-day skid? How do they keep themselves from becoming just another short-term tease and long-term disappointment to the fan base?

I believe there are things that can be done. Hard things for sure, at least based on the way that the club has chosen to conduct itself in the early months of the Gabe Kapler era.

And while some of it is indeed on the rookie skipper, he is going to need help from management if the Phillies actually envision a summer of postseason contention.

The most difficult thing can often be admitting that you made a mistake. That is especially so if that mistake actually cost you a large amount of money, and you still have years to pay on that mistake.

Signing Carlos Santana was such a mistake. The Phillies handed the aging first baseman with limited power a $60 million, three-year contract as a free agent this past off-season. This, when they already had that position answered for the long term with power-hitting Rhys Hoskins.

The Phillies need to recognize this mistake for what it was quickly, move Santana to anyone willing to eat a piece of that contract, and put Hoskins back at first base where he belongs. Toronto, Minnesota, and Colorado might fit the bill.

The second difficult move that the Phillies brain trust needs to make happen is also on the right side of their infield: a trade of second baseman Cesar Hernandez. He has always had empty offensive numbers, but right now is in his prime and playing well.

Some team (the LA Dodgers?) with a need and aspirations of contending might be willing to part with a half-decent pitching prospect (Dennis Santana? Dustin May? Caleb Ferguson?) for the 28-year old.
In my "Bold" plan, the Phillies would deal
both Santana (L) and Hernandez (R)

This would make room for Scott Kingery to get to his natural position of second base, where he is clearly the future at the position. Putting Hoskins and Kingery out as the regular, everyday starters at their natural positions should result in them becoming more comfortable. I believe it would result in increased offensive production and consistency from both players.

These moves would also result in clarifying the starting outfield roles for the time being. Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and Nick Williams become the starting outfield from left to right. This youngish trio should have the opportunity to grow and show what they can do against all pitching over an extended period of time.

The left side of the infield needs to be Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford - again, for the time being. Both players are still young enough, Crawford obviously so, that they need to be playing in secure, everyday roles. We'll get to the "for the time being" situation later in this piece.

The next move is to formalize what everyone already seems to know is the best move at the closer position: formally anoint Seranthony Dominguez to the role.

Also in the bullpen, give Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano key late innings roles. Move veterans Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia, and Adam Morgan to the earlier 6th and 7th inning roles.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Phillies will need another starting pitcher if they want to make playoffs

Aaron Nola has been a Phillies rotation bright spot in 2018
Last Friday night, the Phillies opened a weekend series with the visiting Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park with a 7-3 victory.

That win, behind the pitching of Aaron Nola, lifted the Fightin' Phils record to 17-9 in the early going of the 2018 MLB regular season. It also moved them within a half-game of first place.

As has happened in a couple of recent seasons when the Phillies got off to a hot start, there was talk among some in the fan base of possible Wildcard playoff contention.

Maybe you were one of them last season, when a six-game winning streak lifted them to an 11-9 start in the early going. Or perhaps it was just two years ago, when the club sat at 24-17 and just that same half-game out of first place on May 19, 2016.

Alas, it was not to be for either of those Phillies teams. The 2016 club would win 71 games and finish in fourth place. Last year's bunch sank to 66 wins and a fifth place finish.

This time it seemed to be different. The Phils had opened up their wallets and signed a true Cy Young-winning ace in Jake Arrieta. They had brought in a proven veteran on-base machine in Carlos Santana to tutor and provide an example for the gaggle of talented young hitters who peppered their lineup.

Surely this year, there would be no similar collapse to the last two seasons. Surely this time around, the ball club would fight to contention all through the summer for new skipper Gabe Kapler.

But now after a week in which the Phillies dropped five of six games against division rivals Atlanta, Miami, and Washington, the club has dropped to just three games over the .500 mark. In three of those losses the starting pitchers, Vince Velasquez, Arrieta, and Nick Pivetta were each bombed by the opposition.

After nearly six weeks of the season, the starting pitching has to be a genuine concern. That is especially so if club management actually believes that they can contend for at least a Wildcard berth over the course of the coming summer.

Nola and Arrieta are generally providing the Phillies with good work. Arrieta has allowed 23 hits over 28.1 innings with a 20/10 K:BB ratio. He has solid 3.49 ERA and 1.16 WHIP marks, with slightly better ERA+ and FIP marks.

Nola appears to be elevating himself to true 'Ace' level this season. He is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 0.920 WHIP, surrendering 31 hits over a staff-high 45.2 innings with a 35/11 K:BB ratio. His last four outings have each resulted in a Quality Start effort.



But behind those two, the starting pitching is becoming a true mess.

Velasquez continues to be an enigma, with fantastic stuff and unimpressive results, including a 5.70 ERA and WHIP of 1.467 to this point. While he has a strong 34/9 K:BB ratio over 30 innings pitched, the righty has also allowed 35 hits, including a staff-high five home runs.

After getting blown up by the Braves in his last start, he had this to say per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki:

"You're going to have one of these days and you shouldn't beat yourself up because it's just going to add up. I'll look back at some film and reflect back and go back to the actual first outings and maybe even reflect back to a couple years ago and how I was successful in a couple of games. This is the process of getting better and you utilize stuff like this to better you."

Problem is that his "one of these days" has become a regular occurrence. Just 16 of Velasquez' 45 starts with the Phillies over the last three seasons have been of the Quality Start variety. The argument that he would be more suited to a bullpen role is going to grow louder and louder if something major doesn't change quickly.

Friday, April 20, 2018

FOP Lodge 5 supplemental college scholarship selection process

FOP Lodge 5 offers supplemental college scholarships
Education has always been important to me. During my nearly three-decade career as a member of the Philadelphia Police Department, I was able to attend college, obtaining both an Associates Degree at the Community College of Philadelphia and a Bachelor's Degree from Saint Joseph's University.

That dedication to education extended to my career. I have always maintained and continue to feel that continuing and advanced education is important for police officers. My last decade as an active officer was spent as a teacher with the PPD's Advanced Training Unit.

I have been honored to serve on the Scholarship Committee for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 for all three years since the program was first instituted. The four-person committee met earlier this week to select the seven scholarship winners for this year.

Each year, the FOP awards $10,000 spread across seven college scholarships, two in the amount of $2,500 and five in the amount of $1,000 each.

These scholarships go to high school students who will be entering college in the fall. The applicants all have FOP Lodge #5 relatives either active, retired, or deceased.

The quality of the applicants was strong in Year One back in 2016, and the selection process was difficult. The number of applicants has risen each year since, growing from about a dozen and a half in that first year to two dozen last year, and then this year with more than 40 applying. The quality of those applicants has not dropped off.

Needless to say, it was not an easy task to whittle down these tremendous students. But that is the job, and I take that job seriously. It is my opinion from sitting in on the selection meeting that the other members of the committee take it seriously as well.

When we go through the application packages, we have little clue as to the race, or the religious or ethnic background of those applicants. Our only hint as to sex is usually their first name. These things are never a consideration in the evaluation process.

The applicants were all asked to supply an application form with some basic information. They were also advised to include high school grade transcripts, extra-curricular activities (both school and other), college acceptance letters, and recommendations from teachers and other influencers.

They are also asked to write a brief essay describing themselves, what they hope to get out of their college experience, and how they hope to help their community in the future.

The vast majority of the applicants have great transcripts. They are mostly 'A' students with a history of academic success that has continued to the present.

That successful academic profile often becomes the first step in separating the applicants for me. The discipline that it takes for a young person to succeed in their school work when faced with so many distractions in today's modern world is impressive when found.

Unfortunately, some applicants provide nothing more than the basic application. That is unfortunate, as an incomplete or "lesser" overall package is going to likely be a separator as well.



The best applicants for me, those who make it down to my final grouping, have it all: strong academic transcripts, community/activity involvement, adult recommendations, and an interesting essay.

Even then, I still went to the committee selection meeting having a dozen kids who I had difficulty separating from one another. I had gotten my personal selections down to a 'top group' of four, and then a secondary group made up of another eight students.

That is where the committee discussion process comes in to play. We all begin to compare our names and notes, and start to kick around some of the "positives" that we found raised some of those applicants above the others.

It is fairly amazing to me, at least over these first three years, how the committee members have frequently found many of the same names rising to the top of our individual lists. Getting to the seven overall scholarship winners is pretty much a process of finding those kids who stood out to all of us.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 Philadelphia Phillies preview and predictions

Gabe Kapler opens first season as Phillies skipper
The Philadelphia Phillies are set to open the 136th season in franchise history this afternoon. Down in Atlanta, Georgia, the Fightin' Phils will take on the NL East Division rival Atlanta Braves in the first of a scheduled 162 games.

There are a great many changes in the Phillies lineup and dugout from a year ago. In my Phillies preview piece a year ago prior to 2017 Opening Day in Cincinnati, I stated "The lineup taking the field next week at Great American Ballpark should look very different from the one that will come to Florida next winter."

That 2017 Phillies preview piece is well worth re-reading, because I was fairly dead-on in my assessment of where the team was at that point, and where they would be headed for this upcoming campaign.

Gone are the "placeholder" players, as I have been calling them over the last few years. Dom Brown and Cody Asche have been joined by Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, and Cameron Rupp in being shown the door.

While other writers and even some team personnel were lauding some of these players in recent years, I told you consistently that the club would not win until they turned the page from that group. I really do hate to say that I told you so, but...

So here we are, at the dawn of what should be the next era of contending Phillies baseball. The team is not going to win the World Series this season. They are not even likely to make the playoffs. 

But for the first time in years we have a group of talented young players who bring hope for a brighter future that is right around the corner. 

They are led by a new-era style skipper in Gabe Kapler who is in better shape than any of them, and who has already demanded that they must "Be Bold" when approaching each game, as well as in preparing off the field.

Let's take a look around the diamond at those players. Who is likely to start for the Phillies this season? What can we expect to see as the summer unfolds? How will the club finish? Will there be any big moves?





RELATIVELY SET LINEUP ROLES

There was much talk about lineup versatility and positional flexibility from Kapler this spring down in Clearwater. But as the regular season opens, I'm not really buying that we will see a lot of that from most of the lineup pieces.

Given health, Phillies fans are going to watch a lineup most nights that includes Carlos Santana at 1st base, Cesar Hernandez at 2nd, J.P. Crawford at shortstop, and Maikel Franco at 3rd base. Jorge Alfaro will be behind the plate. 

Across the outfield it will be Rhys Hoskins in left, Odubel Herrera in center field, and Nick Williams in right. 

Three players who will come off the bench are going to play pivotal roles. Talented rookie Scott Kingery could play almost anywhere. Aaron Altherr should see plenty of time backing up all three of the outfielders. And backup catcher Andrew Knapp will get plenty of work as well.

Kapler decided to keep versatile infielder Pedro Florimon on the opening roster. He can play second base, shortstop, and even some third base in a pinch.

That "versatility" and "flexibility" is likely to come from finding ways to get Kingery into the lineup, and in juggling the four main outfielders. You might also see Hoskins play some first base, giving Santana a break against some tough lefties.

I expect that the lineup might still struggle to consistently score runs in the early going. That is a product of a combination of factors, mostly their overall youth and the typically cold early weather.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season
The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher's mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It's that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB's six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball's most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it's time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.




2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ

CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN

Friday, March 23, 2018

Omnibus spending bill proves 'the Swamp' cannot be drained

Sen. Rand Paul holds a copy of the omnibus spending bill
President Donald Trump was elected to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. by eliminating waste and turning away from politics as usual.

But today, the president signed a massive $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that not only failed to help drain the swamp, but pumped more muck into it instead.

As reported by Dave Boyer at The Washington Times:
"The spending deal will increase the deficit for the current fiscal year to at least $850 billion, up from $666 billion in fiscal 2017. Starting in October, annual deficits are projected to top $1 trillion for the foreseeable future. On that course, the government would add roughly $12 trillion in borrowing over the next decade."
Of course, this one isn't all on the president alone. Congresspersons in the U.S. House of Representatives and members of the United States Senate crafted the bill, then voted it through to his desk.

The spending bill passed in Congress by a vote of 256-157, and then passed in the Senate by a 65-32 vote.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a vocal critic who voted against the bill, summed up the feelings of many conservatives very succinctly per Benjamin Brown of Fox News:
“Republicans control the government, yet Congress still follows the Democrats' playbook. Time and again, spending skyrockets, and conservatives are expected to fall in line to praise the party for making the big-spending status quo worse."
President Trump had stated as late as Saturday morning that he was considering a veto of the bill. However, in the end he signed off on it, claiming that it provided necessary increases in funding for the military as a primary reason.

Though a staunch supporter of the American military, I find this reasoning disingenuous at best, and a flat-out lie at worst.

After signing, the president referred to the bill as "ridiculous", and per S.A. Miller at The Washington Times stated that "I will never sign a bill like this again."

Unfortunately, by that time the damage was already done. He signed this one. Why sign this one, knowing while you are doing it that you allegedly will never sign one like it again?

What the president could have, and should have, done in my opinion was to veto the bill. While the bill had passed easily in both Houses of Congress, there was not enough support to override his veto.

With a veto, the Congress would have been forced to go back and make cuts that would allow for the president to affix his signature. That, or with no spending authorization in place, they could simply decide to shut the government down.

This president was supposed to be the one who did things differently. Who didn't play the same old political games. But here, when he had the chance to back up his tough talk and tweets with some real hardball action, he blinked and signed.



The Trump signature on this bill was a slap in the face to every conservative American who threw their support to him in November of 2016. It was a betrayal of those of us who believed that we finally had someone unafraid to stand up to the Deep State establishment.

There is no sugar-coating this one. President Trump caved in to politics as usual in Washington, D.C., and as a result we as a nation will sink deeper and deeper in debt.

There is no doubt that there is much to like in the spending bill, including those necessary increases for the U.S. military. But there is no funding to "build the wall" that has been promised by the president, and there is no fix to the DACA issue.

There is also no doubt that among the ridiculous 2,232 pages of this massive grab into taxpayer wallets that there is a great deal of money going out to special interest pork barrel projects that the government has no business being involved in funding.

Frankly, I'm tired of vocally backing a president and a party that, when push comes to shove, continually thumbs its nose at the people who elected them to office. They talk about Democrats spending like drunken sailors and promise that they will be different if given the chance. Then when given that chance, they drink the Dems under the table.

No more. I'll be taking a nice, long, happy break from politics after this piece. It's on to sports, faith, entertainment, and other less stressful topics in my writing. And that's a shame.

The election of businessman Donald Trump was supposed to mean an end to business a usual in Washington. Instead, we saw today that he is incapable of nothing more than talk in regards to draining the swamp.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Podcast: In defense of Donald Trump

First episodic podcast featured Donald Trump
The following was the script for the first topical episode of the Traditional Americans podcast: "In defense of Donald Trump".

-------------------------------
Hello America and welcome back to the Traditional Americans podcast. I’m your host, Matthew Veasey.

After using our pilot episode last time out to introduce you good folks to myself, the podcast direction, and its social media and internet resources, this will be our first real topic-driven discussion.

So what topic would be most appropriate, most important to you, the listeners? Well, with everything that has been in the news lately, the fact remains that one man dominates the news cycle, probably more than any previous individual.

Today we’re going to talk about the Presidency of Donald Trump over the undeniably controversial, but also undeniably successful first 14 months of his first term in the highest office in the land.

There are so many directions from which we can begin a discussion of the Trump presidency to this point: his social media usage. The large and frequent turnover among his key advisors. His battles with the Democrats and with their liberal media mouthpiece. And of course, the accomplishments of his administration.

Let’s start with the positive - those accomplishments. Now, of course, most of these are only truly positive accomplishments if you’re a supporter of the president and his policies. That would mean that you need to be a conservative, because frankly, this president has accomplished more for Traditional American conservatives than any of recent decades. And that includes our beloved President Ronald Reagan.

The list of Trump administration accomplishments is indeed impressive for those of us in the conservative camp:

On jobs and the economy, we’ve seen passage of the first tax reform bill in more than three decades. This measure will mean $5.5 billion in real tax cuts to American workers and businesses.

Bloomberg has reported that the unemployment rate is expected to fall below the 4% mark by this summer. The DOW ended last week at the 24,984.45 mark. That’s up from the 18,589 on the day that he was elected back in early November of 2016.

All of these economic victories mean real jobs, real money in the paychecks and pockets, and real increases in the pension plans and 401K’s of real working Americans. No wonder Barron’s just reported that the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey rose to the 102 mark, its highest level in 14 years.

Another big piece of the Trump economy success story has been the elimination of numerous stifling Obama-era regulations. The president has operated from the beginning on the position that any new regulation would have to be accompanied by the elimination of at least two. In 2017, the president actually cut 16 for every new regulation, saving an additional $8.1 billion per the Washington Examiner.

Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was grossly unfair towards the United States, put an end to even more looming stifling economic regulations. Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership helped forward the cause of fair trade for American businesses, as will renegotiation of American involvement with NAFTA and the president’s recent threatened tariff increases.

President Trump has freed up agencies to further loosen the regulatory environment, which includes the Department of the Interior making 77 million acres available for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president nominated and saw successfully seated to the U.S. Supreme Court an originalist justice in Neal Gorsuch, a move that should benefit Traditional Americans for decades to come. 

Also, President Trump has successfully placed 14 judges to the district courts, and another 14 to the courts of appeals. He currently has another 55 nominees to those two courts awaiting Senate action.

In the area of Homeland Security, the president has ended Obama’s practice of “catch and release” of illegal immigrants. He has started towards an end to DACA and chain migration. 

The president has added roughly 100 new immigration judges, and empowered ICE and local communities to boost the arrest of criminal gang members and other illegals. He has enacted a travel ban from nations that have refused to clamp down on terrorism.

He visited the southern border just this past week to examine proposed samples for the border wall. Though numerous conservative commentators, Ann Coulter chief among them, has criticized the president for not pushing ahead with actual construction, the fact remains that this is a major project which cannot be taken lightly. Trump knows construction projects. He’ll get this done, and done right.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jake Arrieta is the perfect player at the perfect time for Phillies

Phillies sign free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta
In a move that was rumored for weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies won the race to sign the top free agent on the market this off-season.

That signing not only bolsters the starting pitching rotation immediately. It also signals that the club is clearly ready to move towards a return to winning baseball right now.

Jake Arrieta, who turned 32 years old exactly one week ago, has been reportedly signed to a three-year deal worth $75 million total dollars.

However, as Wayne G. McDonell Jr with Forbes wrote, the deal is more complex than that:
"... it appears as if Arrieta’s contract is front loaded and includes an opt out...2018salary is $30 million, but drops to $25 million in 2019...opt out clause apparently is an option at the end of the 2019 season with a 2020 salary set at $20 million...the Phillies have the option to void the opt out and establish a two-year contract extension that begins at $20 million per year. It also appears there are various performance incentives as well. In total, the contract has the potential of reaching $135 million."
Arrieta immediately becomes the #1 starting pitcher in the Phillies rotation, the true ace that the club has lacked since dealing away Cole Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline.

A veteran of eight big league seasons, Arrieta broke in with the Baltimore Orioles. He battled mechanical and health issues with the O's, and it wasn't until a 2013 trade to the Chicago Cubs that the right-hander truly began to blossom.

Arrieta finished 9th in the NL Cy Young Award voting during his first full season in Chicago. Then in 2015 he won the award, honored as the National League's top starting pitcher after going 22-6 with a minuscule 1.77 ERA and 0.865 WHIP.

In 2016, Arrieta helped lead the Cubs to the franchise' first World Series championship in 108 years. He pitched gems in winning Games Two and Six, both times tying the Fall Classic after Chicago had fallen behind the Cleveland Indians.

That year, Arrieta was selected as a National League All-Star for the first time, again finishing 9th in the NL Cy Young voting. In his final season with Chicago a year ago, Arrieta went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA. He allowed  150 hits over 168.1 innings with a 163/55 K:BB ratio last year.

While with the Cubs, Arrieta tossed a pair of no-hitters, one each in 2015 and 2016. Per Ed Barkowitz at Philly.com, in that 2015 no-no against the Los Angeles Dodgers he struck out the side in the 9th inning to end it, becoming the first to accomplish that feat since Sandy Koufax.



What was an extremely young and inexperienced pitching rotation now has a talented veteran at the front to take on a leadership role.

Manager Gabe Kapler will still go with Aaron Nola on Opening Day in Atlanta. However, Arrieta is not really behind the other pitchers, despite joining the club in Clearwater for Spring Training nearly a month late. He addressed readiness in his introductory press conference:
"I've been throwing 50-65 pitch bullpens every two or three days, so my arm strength is there. The workload is there. My body is in tremendous shape. I feel like we'll probably sit down and game plan, and decide how quickly I get into a game, how many pitches I'm able to throw right away, and develop a program to get me ready for the opening week of the season."
The Phillies rotation, given health, will be led by Arrieta and Nola. It appears in the early going that the club will slot Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez behind those two. The fifth starter job would then become a battle between Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, and Mark Leiter Jr.

No one in that group, including Nola, has more than two full big league seasons under their belt. Arrieta's experience and leadership will be invaluable to the others as they watch how he goes about his business. That goes not only for how he handles the ups and downs on the mound, but also how he handles himself in the clubhouse, during the off-season, and away from the game.

Based on a reasonable look at the remaining Grapefruit League schedule, Arrieta should get at least two and possibly three chances to start games in Florida. He could then be ready to start during the opening series in Atlanta.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Why I joined the NRA, and why you should too

Attacks finally drove me, and many others, to join the NRA
The gun debate has once again heated up in America in the aftermath of the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting.

As usual, a major target for the anti-gun crowd has been the National Rifle Association (NRA), who those liberals see as being at the vanguard of gun rights in the United States.

The fact remains that the killer in Florida was, once again, not an NRA member. In fact, none of the school shooters who have reigned terror down on American children over the last couple decades have belonged to the NRA.

What the NRA does, what makes it the major liberal target, is resolutely fight for 2nd Amendment gun rights with few restrictions.

The NRA was chartered in New York state back in 1871 to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis", and even more specifically to improve marksmanship within the United States military. The organization really came to prominence in 1873 after its members won a marksmanship contest with the best riflemen of Europe.

Over the ensuing decades, the NRA spread to many other states and continued to expand in influence. The NRA gained further prestige when Civil War heroes Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan, the former also a United States President, served as the organization's eighth and ninth presidents.

In 1907, the NRA moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C. in order to improve its opportunities to advocate on behalf of gun owners. Those headquarters relocated to the current home of Fairfax, Virginia in 1998. In addition to its administrative offices, the Fairfax NRA headquarters is also home to the National Firearms Museum.

The museum is home to some 2,500 guns covering seven centuries of firearms history and development. Included are weapons which belonged to such historic figures as Napoleon Bonaparte, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, and 'Buffalo Bill' Cody.

A total of nine U.S. Presidents have been NRA members: the previously mentioned Kennedy, Reagan, and Roosevelt, as well as William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, and current President Donald Trump.

From 1998-2003, famed American actor Charlton Heston served as president of the NRA. At the organization's 2000 convention, Heston picked up a replica of a flintlock long rifle and stated:
"So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'"

Heston repeated the phrase at the end of each NRA convention over which he presided. When he announced his retirement in 2003, he concluded by repeating "From my cold, dead hands."
The NRA sponsors programs on firearms safety, including hunting safety. It trains firearms instructors and issues credentials for same. It hosts and sponsors a number of shooting competitions. The organization publishes at least a half-dozen regular periodicals as well.

Their own "brief history" of the organization at the official NRA website reveals both the size of its membership and its primary modern activities:
"While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the NRA has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly five million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs."
I first fired a gun as a small boy of about 10-11 years old when my father gave my younger brother and I a brief lesson in the woods of the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Dad was a Philadelphia Police supervisor at the time, and showed us how to safely use his service revolver.

I never fired a real gun again until I followed in Dad's footsteps, joining the Philadelphia Police Department in 1990. My brother had done the same the previous year.

I purchased my first private firearm a couple of years later, a small five-shot Smith & Wesson air weight revolver that I still own today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

There should be no debate: we need to talk about guns

AR-15's, such as the Parkland killer used, widely available
This past Wednesday was marked by the convergence of a number of happenings on the same day. Lovers and wannabe's were celebrating Valentine's Day. Western Christianity was marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. And at camps in Florida and Arizona, many Major League Baseball teams were opening their spring training.

But for many in America, those happenings were overshadowed by one of the worst school shootings in history which took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A former student, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, entered the school with an AR-15 in the middle of the afternoon and proceeded to murder 17, including three faculty members and 14 students. Numerous others were injured, many remaining hospitalized today.

Per a piece by Bart Jansen at USA Today, Cruz legally purchased the weapon himself in 2017.
"Cruz lawfully bought the semiautomatic rifle last February, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to the Associated Press. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database."
In the immediate aftermath, a number of students and others came forward making statements that they were not surprised if such a thing were to happen, that Cruz would be the attacker.

At least three students made reports regarding Cruz to adminstrators at the school, per Max Greenwood for The Hill. According to that report, the attack may have at least partially been set off by jealousy and a fight over an ex-girlfriend.

Cruz' mother had died back in November, his father years ago. The couple who took him in at the urging of their own son stated per a piece by Katherine Lam for Fox News that, though they knew he was depressed, they never saw this type of outcome.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead, 49, said. “We didn’t see this side of him.” James Snead, 48, added that he and his wife didn’t know what “everything, everybody seems to know.” “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” Snead said. “It’s as simple as that."

That is actually not very unusual, as Erica Goode, a visiting professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, wrote in a piece for The New York Times.
"Tony Beliz, a consultant to schools and corporations on violence prevention who for many years ran the mental health side of the Los Angeles program, which was started by the Los Angeles Police Department, has noted that parents often have no idea what their children are up to. In more than a few cases, a team visiting a home has found weapons or other indications of deadly intention."


The Federal Bureau of Investigation had received a tip regarding Cruz nearly six weeks prior to the shooting. You've heard of the public "See Something, Say Something" campaign, perhaps? Well, someone saw something and said something. And the FBI dropped the ball.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) made this very observation as related in a Kyle Feldscher piece for the Washington Examiner:

“We all say if you see something, say something. And Parkland community, we saw people reporting, there were 20 calls to the sheriff's department, they responded. The FBI received a legitimate, credible tip and it was not followed up upon. What we have seen in three major atrocities is that the system that was in place simply was not followed.”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The 2018 State of the Phillies

Phillies owner John Middleton plots the next steps forward
Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers reported for the official start of spring training on Wednesday.

While much of the Delaware Valley and broader Phillies Nation were celebrating Valentine's Day, the first steps towards the 2018 season were being taken down in Clearwater, Florida.

A year ago, the Phillies finished with a 66-96 record. It left them in last place in the National League East Division for the third time in four years.

The fifth consecutive losing season for the ball club then cost manager Pete Mackanin his job. The team went just 174-238 under the former skipper in roughly two and a half years.

It's hard to blame Mackanin, however. Fact is, no manager would have been able to win with the combination of subpar talent and youth with which he was asked to work in the entirety of his time at the helm.

In late October, the team hired Gabe Kapler as their new manager. The colorful and intense Kapler was a player for parts of 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. He also played in Japan for part of the 2005 season. Kapler was a part of the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series championship team.

After his retirement as a player, Kapler coached for Team Israel in the 2013 WBC, worked for a baseball analytics company, and then served as an analytics voice for the Fox Sports 1 network. He then worked as the Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development. He certainly brings a rare depth and breadth of baseball experience to the job.

What Kapler brings most is an intensity to the Phillies clubhouse and dugout not seen since Larry Bowa was relieved of those responsibilities late in the 2004 campaign. Heck, even the mercurial Bowa might not have been as intensely driven as Kapler appears.

It remains to be seen how Kapler's style will translate on the field and in the standings. The bottom line, as it is with almost all baseball teams, will be talent. Do the Phillies actually have the talent to finally make a move upwards in the divisional and league standings this season?

The short answer appears to be a firm "It's hard to say." And as non-committal as that may seem, it's simply the truth.

The Mets, who the Phillies finished four games behind a year ago, look to be improved this year. The Marlins, who finished 11 games ahead, have lost serious talent. The Braves, who ended up six games ahead of the Phillies, appear at a similar place in their own rebuilding plan. The Nationals remain light years away for the time being, clear divisional favorites once again.

Financially, the Phillies are in great shape moving forward. The club is operating with a $63 million projected payroll for the 2018 season per Cot's Baseball Contracts. That figure is between one-half and one-third of what they spent each season between 2008 and 2015.

What this means is that Phillies management has the ability to take on almost any contract at the trade deadline if the club finds itself in contention. In fact, they could take on multiple contracts without hurting themselves, especially if those are of the short-term variety.

The key will be in that fight for contention. The players who will be making the pitches and cracking the bats at Spectrum Field over the next six weeks will be the ones who have to make it happen if there is to be a surprise push this year.

The Phillies lineup will be intriguing if nothing else. Start with first base, where Carlos Santana was the club's big free agent signing. I was and remain critical of the signing, especially at roughly $20 million per year for the next three seasons during which he will go from 32 to 34 years of age.

Santana is lauded for his plate discipline and defensive prowess. He has a career .365 on-base percentage, and his K/BB marks have been very close over his career.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

Story of America's First Barbary Wars
I recently returned to my first love in reading topics: history and biography. While fiction can be extremely enjoyable, especially when done well, I have always found the true, non-fiction stories of real people and events much more interesting.

That return to true history results here in my latest book review. For the first time in nearly four years, it does not involve the topic of baseball.

"Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates" was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House's 'Sentinel' imprint. 

This joint effort of Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and author Don Yeager tells the story of "the forgotten war that changed American history."

That war is what many students of U.S. history know as the 'First Barbary War', which, as the book jacket explains, "is the little known story of how a newly independent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America's third president decided to stand up to intimidation."

America's first four Presidents played key roles in the events leading up to and during the conflict. But George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are largely secondary figures to the real military and diplomatic heroes and villains who took part in the action.

Following the War for Independence, the newly formed United States of America was saddled with enormous debt and had largely disbanded its military. This was particularly true in the area of naval force. 

America was protected from more established world powers of that time primarily by distance and trade agreements. It had little or no influence on the high seas.

In trying to further those trade efforts, American merchant ships would frequently come under attack in the Mediterranean Sea by the Muslim powers of North Africa. These 'Barbary States' nations practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers.

American ships would be raided, and their goods stolen by Muslim crews. At times, the ships and their crews would be taken and held hostage for large ransoms. 

The fledgling United States had no response other than to pay those ransoms. But this only further added to the national debt. Also, the problem wasn't being dealt with in any meaningful way. It just kept happening, with no end in sight.

The United States wasn't the only nation facing these issues. Wealthier countries with an actual naval presence in the region simply paid tribute to the Muslim leaders in order to ensure free passage of their ships.

Adams, a Federalist, and Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, were political adversaries. Those differences extended to their views on dealing with the Barbary powers. 

The second President of the United States, Adams thought it possible to continue to buy peace, as was done by other nations. Jefferson, America's third President, wanted to end that system permanently. He preferred a strong military response.



As Kilmeade and Yeager write:

"In response to events on the Barbary Coast, Jefferson, in 1801, had dispatched a small U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean. For the next four years, he responded to circumstances, expanding the fleet to a much larger naval presence. In the end, thanks to the bold leadership of men like Edward Preble, James and Stephen Decatur, and William Eaton, and Presley Neville O'Bannon, military force had helped regain national honor. Even the Federalists, who liked little that Jefferson did, came to accept that the United States needed to play a military role in overseas affairs."

The book is the story of those men: Preble, the Decatur's, Eaton, and O'Bannon and many more as they battled on land and sea to help a new nation stand up for itself on the world stage. 

The United States Marine Corps played a key role in the ultimate victory. This was the war from which came the USMC hymn line "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, we fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea."