PHILLIES have now been eliminated from 2018 MLB postseason play following Sunday's 2-1 loss to BRAVES *** PHILLIES are 78-77 and must close season at least 4-3 to finish with a winning record in 2018 *** BE BOLD ***

Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 Philadelphia Phillies preview and predictions

Phillies should take a step forward in 2018 season
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 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

In defense of Donald Trump

First episodic podcast featured Donald Trump
The following was the script for the lone 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.