On The Edge Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Nearly 46 hours after game five was suspended, my girlfriend and I stood at our seats in section 428 of Citizens Bank Park. One of us was very confident, and one of us was not even close. If you have been reading my columns for the last year, I always give reasons why we should win, I’m just never sure that we’re actually going to win.

Suddenly, during the pre-game festivities, version 2.0, a quick chill ran through my body, and I was feeling it! At 8:26, just 11 minutes before the first pitch, I sent a text message to my dad saying, “I couldn’t feel it all day, but I can feel it right now!”

I don’t know what caused it, but my psyche spun 180 degrees, and all of the pessimism that I was feeling throughout the day had been wiped out and replaced with the most confident feeling imaginable. I could feel it. Tonight was our night.

Before I knew it, Geoff Jenkins was stepping into the batter’s box and we all expected the Rays’ manager, Joe Maddon, to call for a lefty, but he stuck with Grant Balfour.

As soon as Jenkins hit the double to right centerfield, every pitch became a matter of life and death. Every ball or strike resulted in either a flurry of high fives or a chorus of boos. Every heart in the ballpark stopped when Jayson Werth’s blooper disappeared between the glove and the body of Rays’ second baseman Akinori Iwamura. As the ball re-appeared on the CBP grass, Jenkins made a mad dash for home, and the place went into a frenzy. As the inning ended, we realized that we were just nine outs from a city erupting.

Then came Rocco Baldelli’s solo shot into the leftfield seats, and we went silent…until the next pitch, when we were as loud as ever, but then a single to left and a sacrifice put the go-ahead run in scoring position, and Ryan Madson’s night was done.

Our confidence was dropping until the defensive play of the series (with Carlos Ruiz’s 60-foot dribbler in game three being the offensive play of the series). Iwamura grounded it up the middle, and Utley faked a throw to first and gunned down Jason Bartlett at the plate to keep the game tied. You could literally hear hundreds of Harry Kalas impressions of “Chase Utley, you are the man!”

With the exception of the final out, the bottom of the seventh brought the most poignant moment of the night, as Pat Burrell crushed a double off of the left centerfield wall, registering what could be his final hit as a Phillie. Eric Bruntlett, as he has all season, pinch ran for Burrell and stepped into Phillies history as he crossed the plate with the winning run on Pedro Feliz’s RBI single up the middle. Pat Burrell's career as a Phillie was ending, but we were now just six outs from victory.

After an easy 8th inning by J.C. Romero, and 49 hours after the first pitch of the game by Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge walked through the bullpen door, ready to complete his perfect season, our dream season, and the city’s first championship in 25 years.

Fans throughout the section were slapping high five, reciting each perfect statistic from the season – 86-0 in the regular season when leading after 8 innings, 47 straight saves by Lidge including the playoffs – hoping Lights Out Lidge would set off the biggest celebration in our history with one more perfect outing.

Evan Longoria pops out. Two more!

Dioner Navarro singles, and a pinch-runner swipes second. A little bit of doubt creeps in as Rocco Baldelli’s spot is due up next, but Maddon sends out a pinch-hitter up to the plate despite Baldelli’s solo homer in the 7th inning.

Ben Zobrist sends one to right that looks like a hit, but it falls right into Werth’s glove. One more!

Eric Hinske steps in for Jason Bartlett, and visions of his pinch-hit solo shot in game four flash through our minds. With two strikes and a runner on second, Lidge sets from the stretch and delivers his best slider of the year, and sends 46,000 people into a degree of jubilation that I have never seen before in this town.

Not only had we won the World Series, but a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Gone was the stigma of 25 losing seasons. Gone were the days where we couldn’t talk back to the fans of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, New York Mets, Baltimore Ravens and of all the other teams who had won titles while we choked away opportunity after opportunity. Gone were the days where a 10-year-old boy sitting with his dad in the row in front of us would only be able to hear stories about the glory days, because he now had lived a glory day of his own. Gone were the days where a 24-year-old would only feel dread and doubt while walking into the ballpark on a night where his favorite team had a chance to clinch a World Series title.

Suddenly everything seems possible. Thanks to Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge and 20 other players who each played a pivotal role (yes, even So Taguchi…think back to an important Mets game late in the season), fans in our city will no longer have to wait with fear for the other shoe to drop. Now, we can walk into the Wachovia Center and have confidence that a call against us won’t ruin the Flyers’ season. Now we can think an Eagle receiver will come down with a deep ball by Donovan McNabb, rather than wait for the crippling interception.

Suddenly, and by suddenly, I mean 49 hours later, Philadelphia is a town for winners, and we have a World Series title to prove it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Game 5 tonight!! (hopefully)

We are just six hours from the first pitch of the second half of the fifth game of the 2008 World Series, and my emotions are traveling through unchartered waters right now.

The only way to describe the last 2 days is like sitting through an extended intermission between overtimes in an NHL playoff game. Going into these final 21 outs of the game, it's almost at the point where you feel like the next run wins. Really, this game could be over by 9:30 tonight. Baseball games have a natural build up as the game goes on, but this is rediculous! We're being thrust into the most crucial part of the game right away, and every pitch is another live and die moment.

So from a strategic point of view, what are the Phillies' next moves? With a righthander on the mound for the Rays, Charlie Manuel will send a lefty to the plate to pinch-hit for Cole Hamels. My guess is that Geoff Jenkins goes to the plate and stays there regardless of whether the Rays bring in a lefty to replace Grant Balfour. You don't want to waste Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs against a lefty that they can't hit, especially when you can save them for later in the game and force a pitching change. More importantly, you don't want So Taguchi anywhere near a bat or a glove in this game, and Eric Bruntlett needs to be saved for replacing Pat Burrell in the field about 15 or 20 minutes into the evening.

On the mound, I would start with J.C. Romero against the Rays' 6-7-8 hitters. Then bring in Ryan Madson in the 8th. I want no part of Madson starting a game, regardless of what inning the scoreboard says it is, and I certainly don't want Chad Durbin working us into a jam with his wildness and inconsistency.

Prediction: No predictions! I'm going back for more tonight and I'm not jinxing anything!

On a side note, tonight is a new day, so beer sales will not be stopped after the 7th inning. That means whenever the game ends, a lot of people are going to have beers in their hands to celebrate with or to throw at Bud Selig. (Not that I am condoning either of those.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Raining on my parade

I went to game five of the World Series hoping to see history, and now I have, just not the type of history I was hoping to see. With a “suspended” game, my chance to see the first championship in Philadelphia in 25 years—a full year longer than I have been alive—has been washed away, or at least put on hold.

So what am I feeling just hours after my girlfriend and I made our drenched exits from Citizens Bank Park? At this point, I am more frustrated than anything. I went to the ballpark ready to have my dreams come true, but also prepared to have them dashed, whether temporarily with a loss in game five, or completely with a three-game collapse. I certainly never expected to see them put on hold by rain.

Forgetting about the rain, I’m frustrated that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning. I know that he didn’t allow the tying run, but after Jimmy Rollins misplayed that popup in the fifth inning, due to the wind, rain, and puddles on the infield, Selig should have suspended the game.

He told the coaches and general managers that the game would be played in its entirety no matter what, so there was no reason to risk the players and the integrity of the game while waiting for an “easy” moment to suspend the game.

From the 400 level, I could see just as well as Selig could that the groundskeepers’ Diamond Dry wasn’t helping the situation.Why didn’t he just suspend the game after the fifth inning? The Phillies were up 2-1, and he knew that the rain wasn’t going to let up, so why risk it? Or at least let the Phillies bat in the bottom of the sixth inning before suspending the game so that each team had to deal with the elements equally.

Now, whenever the game resumes, the Rays’ pitcher will have a pristine mound, and their fielders won’t be treading water while going after ground balls. Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins had to deal with that slop for six innings, and so should the Rays.

Now that my rant is over, I will admit that under the thick, cold, rain-soaked layer of frustration is 24 years worth of hope and excitement, as my ticket to game five was still good for the next day, or the next, or even Thanksgiving, as Selig suggested.

Looking ahead, in four of the five games so far this series, the Phillies have started pretty quickly, or at least faster than the Rays did, so I’m expecting the Phillies’ hitters to reclaim the lead whenever the bottom of the sixth inning gets underway. And when it turns to the top of the seventh inning, Charlie Manuel gets to hand the ball to his bullpen, which has allowed just two hits all series, while the Rays’ manager, Joe Maddon, has to turn the ball over to a bullpen that looked very hittable in game four, and has allowed 20 baserunners in 13 1/3 innings.

In the end, I wouldn’t want to end this championship drought by winning the first World Series game that was cut short. However, I certainly hope that Commissioner Selig’s indecision didn’t cost us our chance at history, but we’ll have to wait and see. You know, Tom Petty is right, the waiting really is the hardest part. I have waited 24 years for this moment, and the next day is going to feel like 24 more.

Like the “On the Edge” Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk more our Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, and have a preview of the Eagles/Seahawks upcoming battle.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Game 2 preview: Myers vs. Shields

Despite an 0 for 13 night at the plate with runners in scoring position, the Phillies' offense did just enough to back up Cole Hamels' brilliant performance. The 3-2 victory last night puts the Phillies in perfect position, now that the Rays' home-field advantage has been negated.

Tossing seven strong innings, Hamels improved to 4-0 in the playoffs, with a 1.55 ERA, and hopefully has opened the eyes of the front office, who should lock him up in a long-term contract in the offseason.

Looking ahead to tonight's game, this one will not be a pitchers' duel. I like Brett Myers, and I like James Shields for the Rays, but with two hittable pitchers on the mound tonight, I expect both teams' bats to wake up.

I'm expecting Ryan Howard to come up with a few hits, and the Phillies to use Greg Dobbs to help send a more potent lineup out there tonight. I would prefer to see Dobbs as the DH, and Pedro Feliz at third, because after seeing that bases loaded double play that Feliz started, I am convinced that in this situation, the better fielder needs to be out there. However, my guess is that Charlie Manuel will start Dobbs at third and Matt Stairs at DH, with Feliz able to pinch hit for Dobbs when the Rays bring in a lefty.

My main question with tonight's game revolves around the starting pitchers. Here are the home/road splits of two starters:

Pitcher 1 -- Home: 6-4, 4.62 ERA ... Road: 10-3, 2.92 ERA
Pitcher 2 -- Home: 7-5, 3.01 ERA ... Road: 3-8, 6.21 ERA

Which pitcher would be the more logical choice to start game 2 on the road, and which pitcher would be the smarter choice for game 3 at home. Obviously, Pitcher 1 should pitch tonight, while pitcher 2 should pitch at home for game 3. Well, pitcher 1 is Jamie Moyer, and pitcher 2 is Brett Myers.

If Myers is so much better at home, and Moyer is so much better on the road (not including game 3 of the NLCS), why wouldn't they swap the two pitchers, especially considering the Phillies already got their win down in Tampa to shift the home-field advantage in their favor?

Prediction time! My heart says the Phillies win 7-5, but my gut says that Rays win 7-5. I know that's a lame prediction, but I think this one goes to the Rays, and I hope Moyer doesn't put us in a 2-1 deficit after Saturday night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Game 1 is almost here!

Here we go! Game 1 of the World Series is less than three hours away, and the majority of the "experts" are picking the Tampa Bay Rays to make short work of our Fightins, using such enlightened reasons as the National League "got smoked in interleague play" or "the difference between the leagues exposes the weak side of Philly's roster."

Well I've got news for those experts: The Phillies are going to win the World Series in six games, but hopefully just five games, so it happens in Philly.

More importantly, what is the weak side of the Phillies' roster? They hit well, using a balanced lineup, their starting pitchers match up well with the Rays' pitchers, and the Phillies bullpen is the best in the Majors.

I'm not sure what the weak side is, but nonetheless, just like in the NLCS, when most experts picked Manny Ramirez to play all nine positions and defeat the Phillies, the experts are picking the shiniest object they can see. For the World Series, that's the Rays, which are led by apparently the greatest young players of all time, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.

The experts must have forgotten that NLCS MVP Cole Hamels is the best pitcher in the playoffs, and could make three starts if necessary. The Phillies' bullpen is stronger than the Rays' bullpen, which is missing its closer, Troy Percival, due to injury. The Phillies also have Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Pat Burrell in their lineup, which the Rays are unable to match.

In the game 1 match-up, Cole Hamels goes up against Scott Kazmir (yes, the same pitcher that the Mets traded away for pretty much nothing). Hamels has been brilliant in all three of this starts this postseason, while Kazmir has been up and down in his three outings.

Kazmir has the ability to shut down lefties, which is bad for Utley and Howard, but the Phillies still have Rollins, Victorino, Burrell, and Jayson Werth from the right side.

Prediction: Phillies win 4-2. Cole Hamels tossing 7 strong innings.

Seven down, four to go!

This is what I have been waiting for.

Eight months ago, my friend Tony and I drove down to Clearwater, Fla., and spent five days watching, examining and critiquing our way through Spring Training, and we came back convinced that this year’s Phillies were better than the team that got swept in the NLDS just four months earlier.

Even the players knew they were better than that team. Jimmy Rollins told me his goals for the season were to simply keep fighting for that ring.

“Personally? Do Better. As a team? Do much better,” said Rollins back in February after the first game of Spring Training. “If you haven’t won a ring, you’re empty, and right now, I’m working on that ring.”

J-Roll was right about the Phillies being the team to beat in 2007, and with 92 regular season wins along with seven postseason wins, he’s just one win shy of his 100-win prediction from this offseason. If they can reach 103 wins, J-Roll won’t feel so empty anymore.

So how do the Phillies get those last four wins? Honestly, I have no idea what will get them those last four wins.

The Tampa Bay Rays do a lot of things right. They had the third best pitching staff in baseball, with a 3.82 team ERA, which was just slightly better than the Phillies during the regular season. Their bullpen was among the best in baseball, just like the Phillies. Their hitters are young and dangerous, just like the Phillies.

So what could get the Phillies to that final celebration of the season? The same things that have gotten the Phillies to this point. It sounds cliché, but to win the World Series, the Fightins will need to get at least six strong innings out of their starters, and follow that up with a few more flawless performances by the best bullpen in baseball.

National League Championship Series MVP Cole Hamels should continue his postseason roll, while Brett Myers and Joe Blanton will hopefully continue giving the Phillies quality innings.

The key to the World Series might be the left arm of 45-year-old Jamie Moyer. The ageless wonder pitched like a 45-year-old in his first two playoff starts, but I have a hunch that he will do better against the Rays.

Throughout his career, Moyer has dominated the Florida Marlins, going 11-1 against them. Why? Because the Marlins’ lineup usually has a lot of talented, but young, hitters, who Moyer easily out-smarted. Against the Dodgers, Moyer was knocked around by a group of patient, veteran hitters.

The Rays, while extremely talented, are like the Marlins because they have a lineup full of young hitters, who all sport a free-swinging approach at the plate, which I believe Moyer will be able to exploit.

With an expectation of the Phillies getting solid pitching, the next question is whether or not Philadelphia will score enough runs to win.

Coming into this season, we all figured that the Phils would have to slug their way to victories, but now their pitching is carrying the team, while timely hitting is giving them enough runs to win.

That philosophy was fine against teams in the National League, but now the Phillies are going up against the best that the American League has to offer, so timely hitting won’t be enough. Philadelphia will need to score runs in bunches, which will mean that Rollins, Howard and Utley need to start hitting. So far, the Phils have been using a balanced attack on offense, but the big three will have to step up if the Phillies are going to end the championship drought that plagues Philadelphia.

Looking back once again at Spring Training, the biggest thrills of the week were meeting Michael Jack Schmidt and Darren Daulton, who are heroes of past Phillies teams. These Phillies—Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, and 19 others—have a chance to engrave their names onto the collective heart of Phillies fans everywhere, so that 20 years from now, a 24-year-old fan will appreciate the memory of shaking hands or drinking a beer with them.

Prediction: Phillies in 6, although I hope the Fightins can finish them off in five games so they celebrate in front of the 46,000 rally towel-waving phanatics at Citizens Bank Park (including me!).


Like the “On the Edge” Blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk more our Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, and have a preview of the Eagles/Falcons week 7 battle.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eagles need to find their heart during the bye

Three wins and three losses.

The Eagles should have a better record than that considering they held leads of 9 points and 14 points against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, respectively. Heck, if they could have scored on any of those four runs from the 1 yard line against the Chicago Bears, they could be 6-0 heading into the bye week.

But alas, as the great Bill Parcells once yelled, “You are what your record says you are,” and these Eagles are 3-3, and sitting at the bottom of the NFC East.

So heading into the bye week what do we know about this team, which I think has yet to play its best football?

At this point, the Eagles’ offense has yet to play with a full hand. Westbrook has been in and out of the lineup, Kevin Curtis hasn’t stepped on the field, and Reggie Brown has essentially missed four games. Shawn Andrews, who when happy is one of the best guards in the NFL, has missed several games as well.

Despite all of those key injuries, Donovan McNabb is having another stellar season, tossing eight touchdowns and posting a 93.2 quarterback rating. If McNabb can do this well without Curtis and Brown, imagine what he’ll be able to do when they are lining up out wide with DeSean Jackson.

On defense, the Eagles haven’t being playing with heart, at least not until the end of the 49ers game. In that game, the defense gave up negative-6 yards in the fourth quarter, and forced three turnovers in the process, essentially saving the season, or at least delaying the coffin lid closing.

So what does this all mean for the Eagles? Hopefully, after the bye week, the Birds will have all of their weapons on the field at the same time and can gain momentum for the Giants game on Nov. 9 by picking on the Falcons and the Seahawks in their next two battles.Whether everyone is healthy or not, the Eagles need to start playing with heart, or else they are essentially the New York Mets—a lot of talent, but no heart. And those two qualities add up to no postseason.

Revised predictions for the division:

Giants 11-5: They have played very well so far this season, but their remaining schedule doesn’t include any cupcakes like the Rams, Seahawks, or Bengals, which have accounted for three of their four wins. Also, Eli Manning is still bound to have those bad games, such as tossing three interceptions against the lowly Browns.

Eagles 10-6: The Eagles have several easy games after the bye week, and should be healthy by the time they hit the toughest part of their schedule in mid-November.

Cowboys 9-7: Things were starting to go south with Terrell Owens complaining and Pacman Jones fighting people in the bathroom, but with Tony Romo out with a broken pinky, and Felix Jones out for a few weeks with bad hamstring, things could get downright ugly in Big D.

Redskins 9-7: The Skins aren’t as bad as I thought they would be, and a healthy Clinton Portis can win a game all by himself, but this team is still a year or two away from being a major player in the division.

Quick thoughts:

* Back in August, I wrote that the Eagles might finally be willing to use Hank Baskett’s 6-4 frame inside the red zone. After numerous failures around the goal line, Andy Reid finally called for a jump ball in the end zone and Baskett came down with it. Of course, he came down with it! He’s got six inches on the cornerback covering him, and he was a high jumper in college! It’s almost as if we find a strength on our team, or a weakness on the other team, and think it is unfair to exploit it.

* How huge for the Eagles were the last second wins by the Rams and the Cardinals on Sunday? When the Eagles trailed the 49ers, 26-17, the Eagles were looking at a three-game deficit to the Redskins and the Cowboys, but instead are now just one game behind each team.

* Why aren’t the Eagles playing more press coverage? I watched a 3rd-and-6 from the Eagles 11, and everyone knew that a quick slant route was coming, but Asante Samuel played off of the wide receiver, and even backpedaled after the snap. Blitzes don’t work if the quarterback can make quick throws, so why allow the wide receiver to get off the line easily?


Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk more about the Eagles heading into the bye week, and of course, our Philadelphia Phillies heading into the World Series!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Game 5 preview

With a chance to wrap up a trip to the World Series tonight, Cole Hamels is ready prove his mettle as a big league ace. With two wins already this postseason, Hamels is looking to shut down the Dodgers for the second time in less than a week, but this time should be tougher.

In game 1 at Citizens Bank Park, where the fences are closer in most spots making home runs easier to hit but the outfield is much smaller making doubles harder to come by, Cole shut down the Dodgers, surrendering just 6 hits over 7 innings. However, at Dodgers Stadium, the spacious outfield has helped the Dodgers in games 3 and 4, as their hitters have subscribed to the "hit 'em where they ain't" school of baseball. Cole probably will have one bad inning, but if he can limit the damage that inning, he should be able to give the Phillies 6 or 7 strong innings before Charlie Manuel turns it over to the best bullpen in the National League.

On the other side, the Phillies get to face Chad Billingsley, who they roughed up in game 2 to the tune of 8 runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Phillies' hitters love facing righties who rely heavily on their fastball, so look for Billingsley to have a rough start, and Joe Torre to have a quick hook in favor of either left-hander Clayton Kershaw or righty Greg Maddux.

Prediction: Phillies win 7-3...Bring on the Devil Rays...Rays...D-Rays...whatever

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fightins keep fightin!

Okay, I don't have the ability to write a coherent column after that 7-5 come from behind win over the Dodgers, so here's some random thoughts...

* Charlie Manuel is a genius...A bunch of friends and I all wondered why So Taguchi was pinch hitting in the 6th inning, but Charlie was just saving his professional hitter, Matt Stairs, for a big spot against a guy who throws mostly fastballs. I still don't know why Taguchi is on the roster, but if there was any time to actually bring him into the game, that was it, and he almost got a hit, but Andre Ethier made an outstanding diving catch.

* Speaking of Matt Stairs, I love that in his post game interview, he said that he "Just swings for the fences"

* How amazing is Chase Utley...not only did he go 3 for 5 from the plate, his unassisted double play kept the game close after Chad Durbin tried to let the Dodgers blow it wide open.

* Why did Joe Torre pull Kuo? He was dominating the Phillies and suddenly he gets yanked and the Phillies have new life. More importantly, why did Joe Torre make a lot of the pitching moves he made? Derek Lowe was cruising along and was under 80 pitches, yet he was pulled for Clayton Kershaw, who gave up the tying run. In addition, he blew through all of his lefties, which allowed Shane to hit from the left side, and then Matt Stairs to pinch hit from the left side instead of Chris Coste.

* Manny Ramirez is quite good...

* Why can't Ryan Howard make a throw to any base? His throws are terrible and the latest error nearly cost the Phillies dearly.

* Brad Lidge sure likes to make things interesting, but his ninth inning was certainly easy. He goes through weaker hitters like a hot knife through butter, but he has started struggling against better hitters. We'll have to watch that as the playoffs go on.

* Initial thoughts about game 5...Hamels will throw a gem and the Phillies will end it out in L.A.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Game 4 update...more thoughts...

Ruiz is only in the game for defense, and that's the second strikeout he has let get away from him. I guess his hit in the top of the 8th inning is more important than anything else...

...Anyone think maybe Brett Myers pitches the ninth after Lidge threw a lot of pitches in the 8th? If he had to face one more batter I would say maybe, but I think he'll go out there for the ninth with a day off tomorrow.

Wow...Game 4 update

Shane Victorino just said don't throw at my head again!
Then, Matt Stairs comes to the plate, and as we all know from numerous editions of Baseball Tonight, his occupation is "Professional Hitter"

Let's see if the bullpen can hold this lead...

Phillies/Dodgers Game Three...Quick Thoughts

*Why does Fox love the Dodgers more than the Phillies? Will baseball cease to exist if the Phillies and the Rays are in the World Series, ruining the Manny/Torre/Garciaparra vs. Boston battle that the television networks want? As a result, I'm putting the over/under on nice things said about the Phillies at 4.

*Joe Buck is the worst announcer I have ever heard, and there will be no further discussion about that.

*Jimmy Rollins will break out of his slump tonight, but sadly Ryan Howard will continue to struggle.

*Greg Dobbs starting at third base will be great for the Phillies' offense. He is a much better hitter than Pedro Feliz.

Prediction: Phillies win 5-3

Thursday, October 9, 2008

They think they're better than us!?!?

I have officially just read the worst column of my life, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.


Columnist T.J. Simers starts out by ripping on everything Philadelphia, from our Liberty Bell to our Broad Street Bullies.

Simers writes, "The Dodgers have the better team, a destiny date in Boston, and while that might make the folks in Philly miserable, they don't know how to act any differently here."

Excuse me? I think Simers needs to slowly back away from the computer before he hurts himself.

The Dodgers have a better team, yet have a worse regular season record, while playing in the weakest division in baseball. In fact, as I wrote earlier this week, the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, all had a better record than the Dodgers, yet are sitting at home.

So let's break down Simers' lack of intellectual reasoning.

First, he says that because Dodgers' game 1 starter Derek Lowe is playing for a contract, he'll beat Cole Hamels, who in his last 11 starts, including his NLDS gem, has surrendered more than 2 earned runs just 1 time.

Moving on, Simers suggests that Myers' 10-13 record this season means he'll automatically lose game 2 of the series. Hey Simers, did you happen to see that Myers is 9-4 with 11 quality starts since being recalled from the minors? Or does that information simply not reach Los Angeles between the fourth and seventh innings, you know, when Dodgers fans are actually at the game.

Next, Simers rips on "100-year-old softball pitcher" Jamie Moyer. Apparently Jamie's 16-7 record, which would be tops on the Dodgers, and his 3.71 ERA aren't going to be a factor in this series. That's a sure win for the Dodgers, according to Simers. But what about Jamie's road numbers this year? As if his overall statistics weren't good enough, Jamie is 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA away from CBP this year. But that's not important at all, right T.J.?

And finally, "just another guy" Joe Blanton. The Phillies are 10-4 when Joe Blanton pitches this year, and personally, Blanton hasn't taken a loss yet in a Phillies uniform.

Conveniently, Simers fails to mention the bullpens. The Phillies have Brad Lidge saving every game he walks into, while the Dodgers have lost faith in their closer Takashi Saito, and now use Jonathan Broxton, who blew eight saves in the regular season.

Simers also forgets that the Phillies clubbed 77 more homers than the Dodgers, scored 99 more runs, and out hit the Dodgers when just comparing road games, which takes out the impact of our bandbox and their spacious park. He also fails to mention that the Phillies had the best road record in the league, while the Dodgers were nine games under .500 on the road.

I don't about you, but I'd start sending Simers some Philly love. His e-mail address is on the link above. Let him know what you think!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three down, eight to go!

The early read on the Phillies/Dodgers National League Championship Series battle has the “experts” saying that the Dodgers are the better team and should go on to represent the National League in the World Series.

Did I miss something? The Phillies had the second best record in the league, while the Dodgers, who had the seventh best record, only made the playoffs because the rules say that someone from the NL West has to be involved in the postseason.

Yes, the Dodgers swept the Chicago Cubs, who had the best record in the National League, but everyone beats the Cubs in the postseason! They have 100 years of futility! Ryan Dempster walked seven batters in game one, and each Chicago infielder committed an error in game two.

I’m not impressed.

Yes, the Dodgers have Manny Ramirez, who hit .500 against the Cubs, and has hit at least .300 in five different postseasons coming into this year. But, he was just 2-for-14 in the Dodgers’ four games at Citizens Bank Park in August. Plus, it’s easy to pitch around one slugger, as we saw the Brewers do with Ryan Howard, and it took four games for Pat Burrell to make them pay for it.Still not impressed.

Yes, Joe Torre manages the Dodgers. Uh-oh! I don’t know about you, but knowing that Joe Torre is in the opposing dugout scares the bejeezus out of me. Joe Torre has four World Series rings as a manager.

Then again, he did oversee the biggest playoff collapse in history, when his Yankees surrendered a 3-0 series lead to the Red Sox in 2004. Still, as much as I love Charlie Manuel, the idea of seeing Fox showing a split screen of Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel worries me.

Other than the managers, I would take the Phillies in any other category.

We start, as always, with pitching. I don’t know if you noticed, but the Phillies’ starters gave up just five runs in four games, and effectively shut down the Brewers’ top sluggers, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. And even better, the weakness of the Phillies’ starters, which is surrendering home runs, is the weakness of the Dodgers’ hitters, who clubbed just 137 homers all season.

Amazingly, the Phillies are suddenly one of the better pitching teams in the league, especially since trading for Joe Blanton in July.

The one team that could compare to the Phillies, however, is the Dodgers, especially in the bullpen, as the Phillies and L.A. had the top two relief crews in the National League. As good as the Dodgers’ pitchers have been, their staff is very right-handed, which plays into the Phillies’ strength on offense. Because of the right-handed pitchers, the Phillies won’t have to split up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup, and they’ll be able to use their top pinch hitters—Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs—in any situation.

Speaking of offense, the Phillies scored 99 more runs than Los Angeles, and smacked 77 more homers this year. At any point in time, the Phillies can score runs in bunches, while the Dodgers have been plagued by long droughts on the scoreboard.

There is no debate over which team has the better offense, as the Phillies have sluggers at nearly every position on the diamond, while the Dodgers have just Manny Ramirez keeping opposing managers up at night.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is going to be a tough battle, but I’m not as impressed that Los Angeles swept the Cubs as everyone else is. On the hill, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton are better than what the Dodgers can throw at the Phillies. At closer, Brad Lidge is better than Jonathan Broxton. On offense, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino are better than Manny Ramirez and company.

Don’t look now, but I’m predicting that the Phillies are headed to the World Series.

Prediction: Phillies in 6.

Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk about the sad state of Philadelphia Eagles football after back-to-back losses, and the Phillies’ National League Championship Series battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Phillies head to Milwaukee...

After two wins over the Brewers at the Bank, the Phillies are doing infinitely better than last year's dismal playoff appearance against the Rockies, and everything seems to be going Philadelphia's way so far.

And that all starts with the pitching staff, which has been the most consistent part of the team since the Joe Blanton trade in July.

Through the first two games, the Phillies' two horses, Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, have allowed just one run over 15 brilliant innings of work. In total, the pitching staff has allowed just seven hits this series to a team that is known for its sluggers.

So far, Ryan Braun is the only Brewer with more than one hit this series, and Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron, Bill Hall, Rickie Weeks, and Jason Kendall are all hitless. As a team, the Brew Crew is hitting just .115 and has struck out 16 times in two games.

On the flip side, while Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell have just one hit for the Phillies, they have also drawn seven walks, which is more than the entire Brewers team after two games. Speaking of walks, how awesome was Brett Myers' walk against C.C. Sabathia in the 2nd inning of game 2? It's the second time that he has done those theatrics at the plate, and each time he has psyched out the opposing pitcher. Last time, against the Mets, he struck out, but it led to Chris Coste's game-winning hit, and this time it led to Shane Victorino's grand slam. Maybe he should pinch hit a few times in the playoffs because something good always follows.

Looking ahead to tomorrow night, Jamie Moyer will throw against Dave Bush, and that has to make Phillies fans feel good because Jamie has been brilliant at 45 years old, going 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA during the regular season, while Bush was under .500, going 9-10 for the Brewers. If the Phillies can't close it out on Saturday, their hitters will get a chance to tee off on Jeff Suppan, who went 10-10 with a 4.96 ERA, on Sunday, with Joe Blanton taking the hill for the Fightins.

After seeing how Hamels' change up mystified the Brewers, I can't imagine Moyer struggling tomorrow night, which means that the Phillies would have a few days off, and would be able to start the NLCS with the same starting rotation, meaning Hamels and Myers in games 1 and 2 in the next round.

Let's go Fightins!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Phillies aren't satisfied yet

I’m not satisfied. Neither are the Phillies.

Last year, after going more than half my life without playoff baseball, I was content with the Phillies winning the National League East, and helping to erase the 1964 Phillies from the record books as the biggest choke-job in baseball history.

Don’t get me wrong. I was disappointed that our playoff stay only lasted three games, but I was quite happy to see a meaningful baseball game in October.

This year, I expected the Phillies to win the division, so at this point, I’m not ready to call this season a success. Based on the subdued celebration on Saturday, my guess is that the Phillies’ players aren’t ready either.

Now that the Mets have officially finished off Shea Stadium with back-to-back September collapses, we can turn our attention to the Milwaukee Brewers and the National League Division Series.

Much is going to be made of the Phillies four-game sweep of the Brewers in September, and how the Phillies’ season was saved by those four wins, but I don’t think those games really matter anymore.First, the Phillies didn’t face C.C. Sabathia in that series, and second, the regular season doesn’t matter once the calendar turns to October, as the St. Louis Cardinals proved in 2006, going from an 83-win team to world champions.

Despite the Brewers’ recent hot streak, I am pretty confident heading into the playoffs.I know that with guys like Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Chase Utley, Ryan Braun, and Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies and the Brewers can certainly rake, but this series, like so many in October, will come down to pitching.

Other than C.C. Sabathia, the Phillies have a much stronger starting rotation for the playoffs, with Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and Joe Blanton prepared to go deep into games against the Brew Crew. In addition, the Phillies bullpen, with a 3.19 ERA, has been the best in the National League this year, while like the Mets, the Brewers have seen their share of struggles, despite a respectable 3.83 ERA from their relievers.

More important than statistics are the potential pitching matchups. Manny Parra, who the Phillies knocked out after recording just four outs a few weeks ago, is the only left-handed starter that the Brewers can throw at Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Out of the bullpen, the Brew Crew can only send Brian Shouse to the hill for late inning left-left situations. Also, if Ben Sheets isn’t healthy enough to start (he didn’t make it out of the third inning Saturday), the Brewers will be forced to use Yovani Gallardo, who made his first start in five months last week, and some combination of Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra.

My only real concern in the playoffs is with Hamels. I know that he is supposed to be our ace, but he is the one that worries me the most. After seeing Sabathia take the ball three straight turns on short rest, and seeing Johan Santana toss a 2-hitter on short rest for the Mets, I wonder how Hamels would perform in those situations.

Santana’s coach, Jerry Manuel, called his 2-hitter “gangsta.” Early in September, Hamels whined that he wasn’t getting an extra day off, and struggled through a 6-3 loss to the Mets on regular rest. That certainly wasn’t “gangsta” at all.

I really believe that Hamels will do very well this postseason, but if game seven of the World Series falls on a day that Hamels isn’t scheduled to pitch, will he answer the bell and deliver a “gangsta” performance?

I know that I’m just nitpicking, but my biggest fear is Charlie Manuel having to beg Hamels to pitch on short rest at some point this month. Hopefully, with Moyer, Myers and Blanton behind him, the Phillies won’t be that desperate.

Prediction: Phillies in four.

Like the “On the Edge” column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show, where, this week, we will talk about the Eagles/Redskins upcoming battle, and the first two games of the Phillies’ NLDS series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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