*** PHILLIES HOLD ON FOR 3-2 WIN OVER BOSOX AT FENWAY PARK ON TUESDAY NIGHT *** PHILLIES REMAIN TIED WITH METS, TWO GAMES BEHIND CUBS FOR THE SECOND NL WILDCARD PLAYOFF SPOT ***

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 was a year of ups and downs for the Philadelphia Phillies

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Aaron Nola broke out to become the Phillies 2018 top story

It’s New Year’s Eve, and as the sand runs out in the hourglass of the year 2018, this would be a good time to take a look back on the year as it played out for the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies entered the calendar year of 2018 with the echoes of their successes in the previous decade, successes which had spilled over to the first years of the present decade, growing fainter and fainter.
After finishing in last place in the National League East Division standings in three of the previous four seasons, the Phillies began putting a roster together they hoped would begin reversing that trend early in January.
On January 3, the Phillies invited 10 non-roster players and newly signed free agents to spring training. Among those players were Pedro Florimon, who would appear in 50 games during the regular season, and Mitch Walding, who would appear in the first 13 games of his big-league career.
Before the month of January was out, eight more non-roster players or new free agent additions would also receive invitations to join the Phillies in Clearwater. Among those were Scott Kingery, who would end up as the Phillies starting shortstop for much of the coming season.
Once spring training got underway, changes to the roster continued to shed the players who had contributed as regulars during the recent losing history when Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp were each designated for assignment during March.
The Phillies made a big, late free agent addition on March 12 when the club came to agreement on three-year contract with Jake Arrieta. The 32-year-old right-hander had won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and would bring a much-needed veteran presence to the team’s rotation.

2018 SEASON OPENS WITH HOPE

As the season opened, the club had little hope. Most fans would have considered a .500 finish during a season in which young players made strides towards the future as a positive step forward. But the club played well early, bolting out to a 14-7 mark over the first three weeks.
A hot stretch in early May pushed the Phillies record up to 29-20 and into first place in the division on May 26. However, the club began to slump at that point, losing seven of eight games to open the month of June. They continued to fight, and at the MLB All-Star Game break the Phillies were 53-42 and back in first place by a half-game.
That All-Star break was a fun one for Phillies fans, with starting pitcher Aaron Nola rewarded for a phenomenal first half by being named to the National League squad for the first time.
Nola would prove the best individual story of the season, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA and 0.975 WHIP. He allowed just 149 hits over 212.1 innings with 224 strikeouts. For that performance, Nola would finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Former Phillies Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement

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Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year with the Phillies

Just a little more than three weeks from now, on January 22, 2019, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the names of those voted in to the Class of 2019.
Based on publicly revealed ballots making up 1/3 of the total eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, it appears certain that Mariano RiveraEdgar Martinez, and former Blue Jays and Phillies ace Roy Halladay will certainly make the cut.
It will be a close call for former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees stud pitcher Mike Mussina. And a pair of players still be punished for their involvement with PEDs, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are also receiving strong support but are likely to fall just short this time around.
Two players who will not get in this year, but who each deserve to be enshrined, are former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling and third baseman Scott Rolen.
Schilling was running at around 72.9% of the votes received and made publicly available by early on Saturday afternoon, January 29, 2018 as tabulated by Ryan Thibodaux. Rolen was at just 19.4% of those publicly announced votes. It takes a minimum of 75% support for a player to be elected for enshrinement.
Under the current voting rules, players must have completed participation in ten seasons in order to become eligible for consideration. The player must then have been formally retired from Major League Baseball for five full seasons. Players who pass away within that five-year period are eligible six months after their death.
If a player does not receive the 75% of the votes needed in order for election, they can remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for nine more years. However, if a player received less than 5% support in any voting year they are dropped from the ballot and will received no further consideration until a special committee process can evaluate them.
For Schilling, this marks his seventh year on the ballot. A year ago, he finished with 51.2% of the vote. That was up from 45% in 2017, and just 39.2% in 2015. This is just Rolen’s second year on the ballot after receiving 10.2% of the vote a year ago.

THE CASE FOR CURT

Schilling enjoyed a storied 20-year career in Major League Baseball. He began as a reliever with the Baltimore Orioles (1988-90) and Houston Astros (1991) before receiving his big break.
Just as the 1992 season was set to open, the Philadelphia Phillies obtained Schilling in trade from Houston in a straight-up deal for Jason Grimsley. Phillies skipper Jim Fregosi would insert him into the starting rotation in mid-May, and there he would stay.
Over nine seasons with the Phillies from 1992-2000, Schilling would go 101-78 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.120 WHIP. He allowed just 1,444 hits over 1,659.1 innings with 1,554 strikeouts across 242 appearances, 226 of those as a starter.
Schilling was an NL All-Star for three consecutive seasons from 1997-99 while with the Phillies. The big right-hander also finished fourth in the 1997 NL Cy Young Award voting after a season in which he won 17 games and led baseball with 319 strikeouts for a team that won just 68 games.
It was with the 1993 Phillies magical NL pennant-winning team that Schilling took the first steps in what became one of baseball’s all-time greatest careers as a postseason performer.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Searching for a lefty rotation option, Dallas Keuchel could be perfect fit for Phillies

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Keuchel, a lefty, would bring Cy Young and world champion experience to the rotation

The last couple days are about to tick off the 2018 calendar and many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies remain underwhelmed by the team’s off-season moves thus far.
This Hot Stove season opened with the promise of a new impact bat for the middle of the order in either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Those players remain available, and one could still land in Philadelphia.
For now the Phillies additions are Andrew McCutchen in left field and Jean Segura at shortstop. Also, the trade of Carlos Santana has freed up Rhys Hoskins to return to first base.
The lineup now feels more solid. Given health, there is reason to have confidence in both a more consistent offense as well as a more competent defense.
But without major improvement by incumbent players the lineup and bench are still probably not strong enough to overcome the defending National League East Division champion Atlanta Braves, or either the Washington Nationals or New York Mets.
Should they lose out on both Harper and Machado, many of those same underwhelmed fans would likely throw up their hands in surrender. However, the Phillies still have a reasonable chance to compete if they can improve their starting rotation.
In recent days the Phillies have been mentioned as being among the teams involved in trade discussions for Cleveland Indians right-handed ace Corey Kluber. But the team is believed to really want a strong left-handed option to add to the current all-righty mix.


MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports stated today via his Twitter account that the Phillies are involved in negotiations for free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel. The major holdup appears to be the club’s unwillingness to meet the player’s desire for a five-year contract.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Phillies reportedly still involved in Corey Kluber trade discussions

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Kluber is one of baseball's few genuine ace-caliber starting pitchers

Phillies Nation was rocked by a report on Boxing Day that the two high-profile free agents who the club has publicly pursued with big contract offers this off-season, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, may hold a negative opinion of the city, the Phillies organization, or both.
MLB insider Joel Sherman made the statement, writing the following in the New York Post: “Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia…
That statement must be taken with a bit of a grain of salt for a number of reasons. The biggest, of course, is financial. The odds are that if either superstar turns down the Phillies, they would almost certainly be leaving tens of millions of dollars and multiple years of security on the table.
Then you have the source itself. Sherman is a New York guy. Of course, he would prefer to have Machado or Harper playing in his town, where he could enjoy watching them play and reporting on their exploits.
Finally, you have the statement itself. “Word is?” Where does this “word” come from exactly? And neither guy “particularly likes Philadelphia?” What does that even mean? Do they both hate Philly? Do they hold such a negative opinion that they would never play here? Do they even have a negative opinion at all, or are they simply ambivalent about our town?
Set aside the extremely questionable nature of the report, and let’s assume that it is completely accurate on its face. Neither Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly. Both go to a place they really do want, neither deciding to take the “stupid money” that John Middleton is offering. What next for the Phillies?
As Sherman’s report came out on the day after Christmas, at the same time another report was being released by Jon Paul Morosi at MLB.com that again linked starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Phillies. The Cleveland Indians have been dangling their ace, hoping to land a package of younger players and prospects in return.
While Morosi’s sources have the San Diego Padres as the current front-runners and the Dodgers perhaps a close second in a possible Kluber deal, the Phillies are indeed again lurking and involved.
Tribe GM Mike Chernoff is reportedly looking for a package led by a young, MLB-ready player with upside potential and a couple of solid prospects. Nick Cafardo at The Boston Globe stated the following on the Kluber situation last week:
“…from what we’re hearing, the Indians won’t deal him unless they get value-plus. There would have to be an overpayment of prospects and young players to get a deal done.”
While Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery would certainly be off the table, a Phillies package could lead with any or a combination from among Maikel FrancoNick WilliamsOdubel Herrera, and Roman Quinn.
Any starting pitcher not named Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta could go. From the prospect ranks, anyone below top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be in play.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My 2019 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

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Former Phillies star Jim Thome was among those voted into the HOF last year

As a lifetime member of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association), I have the honor of being involved in the organization’s annual Hall of Fame voting process. This is my fifth year with a ballot, and my selections were turned in about two weeks ago.
The IBWAA voting process does not earn a player a plaque at Cooperstown. It does, however, allow a group of well-informed voters to express their opinion as to which players are deserving of the ultimate honor for their baseball career. You can consider it a formal endorsement from baseball writers and bloggers who represent dozens of internet sites.
I had decided over the last couple of years to break my ballot down into three segments. “Hall of Fame” players are those who, for me, are obvious, or whom I evaluated from previous years and decided were worthy.

“Future Consideration” names are not so obvious to me, but are strong enough candidates that I will continue to evaluate them moving forward. Finally, “Not Hall of Famer” guys are those who just don’t make the cut for me and will not in the future.
In 2017, eight players received my IBWAA vote: Barry BondsRoger ClemensTrevor HoffmanMike MussinaManny RamirezIvan RodriguezCurt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Both Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, who I had on my “Future Consideration” list that year, were voted in by the full IBWAA membership.
Last year just five returning players received my vote as a “Hall of Fame” player: Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling once again, as well as two newcomers to the ballot: Jim Thome and Chipper Jones.
On my “Future Consideration” list from the 2018 ballot were Hoffman, Mussina, Walker, Ramirez, Scott RolenGary SheffieldBilly WagnerLee SmithJohnny DamonSammy SosaJeff KentFred McGriffOmar VizquelJamie MoyerAndruw Jones, and Johan Santana.
The IBWAA membership honored six players in the final vote a year ago. Bonds and Clemens each finally got in, joined by Thome, CJones, Mussina, and Hoffman.
While the BBWAA only allow their eligible Hall of Fame voters to cast ballots for up to 10 players, the IBWAA has a 15-player limit. I decided after looking over the names to cast a wide ballot this year. Bottom line, I simply felt generous.


MY 2019 IBWAA BALLOT

My list for the 2019 IBWAA ballot was led by Schilling, the only player who has been a definite, no-doubt “Hall of Fame” player for me in both of the last two years but hasn’t made it as yet.
Two newcomers on this year’s ballot were considered by me to be no-doubt “Hall of Fame” players. Both Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay thus received my vote as well.
I had decided early-on to bump up two players from last year’s “Future Consideration” list who were back on the 2019 IBWAA ballot, Walker and Rolen, to receive my vote.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Phillies off-season moves will mean goodbyes for some current position players

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Altherr, Franco, Herrera (L-R) among current Phillies who could be gone in 2019

Most of the talk during this current Major League Baseball off-season where the Philadelphia Phillies has been concerned has revolved around new players coming to the team.
A new shortstop was brought in via trade in Jean Segura. A new corner outfielder signed in Andrew McCutchen. A couple of new bullpen pieces in left-hander James Pazos and right-hander Juan Nicasio.
In the deal with the Seattle Mariners that saw Segura, Pazos, and Nicasio all arrive, two holdover infielders left in Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford. That deal made room for the return of Rhys Hoskins as the everyday first baseman.
But a number of Phillies position players remain on the roster in limbo. Moves still to be made could well determine the immediate future for each of them.
The Phillies are one of the finalists for the services of infielder Manny Machado. If he chooses to play his home games at Citizens Bank Park for most of the next decade, that could have an effect on Maikel FrancoScott Kingery, and Cesar Hernandez.
If Machado comes and agrees to play third base, then Segura is at shortstop. Hernandez, if not traded himself, would then open spring training as the starting second baseman with Kingery as a super-utility player. If Hernandez is dealt, Kingery starts at second base.
In that scenario, Franco is clearly out. The Phillies would be aggressively shopping the 26-year-old prior to or during spring training.
Franco could survive, if Machado insists on shortstop and the Phillies slide Segura over to second base. If that happens, then it would likely be Hernandez who is shipped out before the season. The team could also decide to play Kingery every day at third base. Then we are back to Franco leaving town.
In the outfield the Phillies are one of the finalists for Bryce Harper. The likelihood is that they will see what happens first with Machado. If they land him, then they probably drop out of the Harper bidding. If the miss out on Machado, the Phillies may then become even bolder in trying to land Harper.

Franco and Hernandez could be joining their former Phillies infield mate Galvis in soon wearing a different uniform.
So, let’s say Machado chooses the New York Yankees or Chicago White Sox. And then let’s say the Phillies are able to outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers and other for Harper’s services. Then what happens in the outfield? Two of the three starting spots would be taken by him and McCutchen.
That would leave a glut of holdover outfielders scrambling for a final starting berth, or for the opportunity to become part of a platoon. Those players would be Odubel HerreraAaron AltherrNick Williams, and Roman Quinn.
The Phillies would probably be best served playing Harper in right and McCutchen in left, with Quinn playing center field in between them. However, Quinn’s injury history may always prove a question mark. That might make Herrera the lead option in the short term.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Harper and Machado may prefer Yanks, Dodgers to Phillies respectively

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The Dodgers appear to have passed the Phillies as leaders for Harper

It has long been speculated that the Philadelphia Phillies would be spending big money this off-season. The primary focus of such speculation has been on the two biggest free agents available, outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado.
The Phillies have tons of available cash and a desperate need to add impact offensive punch to their lineup. Each of these 26-year-olds will be looking for monster financial deals. Seems like a perfect match.
Problem has always been that the Phillies are not the only team interested in the two players. They are also now increasingly looking like a second choice, at best, for each superstar player.
Machado is rumored to have long held a desire to play for the New York Yankees. Jim Bowden at The Athletic reported today the following:
“Machado has told friends in Miami that his preference is the Yankees, and if the offers are close, he’ll be headed to the Bronx.”
However, Bowden and others also believe that the Yankees are not prepared to make the same commitment in years and dollars, possibly as much as $350 million over 10 years, that the Phillies are believed willing to spend.
If that is indeed the case, then the Phillies may slip past the Yankees and win his services. Machado has reportedly told the three teams with whom he met this week – the Phillies, Yankees, and Chicago White Sox – that he won’t be making his decision until 2019.
Of course, 2019 is now just over a week away. It is very possible that the Phillies made the best financial offer, and that he and his wife now have to decide whether to accept less, perhaps tens of millions less, in order to fulfill his Yankees dream. That could well  be what is taking place over the next couple of weeks in the Machado power circle.
Harper may also have the Phillies as a second choice. He appears to have more options than Machado, with the Phillies joining the White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers as the leaders of a group that could also include the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers just completed a major trade this afternoon with the Cincinnati Reds. In that deal, Los Angeles sent starting pitcher Alex Wood, outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and catcher Kyle Farmer to Cincy in exchange for pitcher Homer Bailey and two prospects.