August 2006

Tension Time

Tension Time

September 1 is here: back-to-school time, end of summer vacations and tension time during pennant and wild card races. 

As has been mentioned over and over, the Phillies haven’t tasted post-season cheese steaks since 1993.  Yes, that’s a long dry spell.  No, it hasn’t been 13 consecutive losing seasons.  Yes, the wild card has been there for the taking in recent years and slipped by Philadelphia.

As tension time arrives it has been pointed out the Phillies have the easier schedule because they play teams under .500.  True, but that can be a lot of Lebanon bologna. 

Sure, the Braves are under the .500 water level, but they still carry 13 straight division titles.  That’s a lot of trophy case hardware.

Next, the Astros.  All they’ve done since May 18, 2003, is go 12-0 against the Phillies.  In each of the last two years, the Astros have been the National League’s wild card winner. 

The Marlins are hotter than Florida weather, steamy hot.  There are 10 games left for the Phillies with those southern Florida kids.  Twice the Marlins have advanced as the wild card team, 1997 and 2003, and each time they won the World Series.

The Cubs and the Nationals are struggling big-time but there’s no greater joy for those teams than to play the spoiler’s role.

Someone once said, there are no vacation games in baseball.  How true.

As has also been mentioned, the National League wild card race is up for grabs among “imperfect teams,” “a weak league” and “on and on”.  A race is a race, whether it is kids on tricycles in the neighborhood or men in souped-up racing cars in Daytona. 

       Teams with .500 records or under qualify for the playoffs in the NBA and NHL every year.  Imperfect teams?  Weak league?  In those two sports, the format is for a lot of teams to make the playoffs.  In baseball eight teams out of 30 qualify, only two being wild card teams.

The Phillies have been to five World Series in their history.  Circumstances were different.  In 1915 and 1950, you had to be the league champion, no divisions or wild cards.  In 1980, 1983 and 1993, the Phillies were Eastern Division winners who advanced following one round of playoffs.  The wild card came into being in 1995 when the leagues were spilt into three divisions.  It was one of the best moves baseball made.

Five NL wild card winners have advanced to the World Series. 

There’s a lot of interest in baseball as the final weeks approach because of the wild card race.  That’s good for the soul and hard on the nerves.

Minor League Notes

Players of the Week (August 21-27)

Player: LF-DH Jacob Dempsey, Batavia.   Batted .485 for the week, getting 16 hits in 8 games.  Scored 11 times and drove in 12 runs. He’s also on a 13-game hitting streak, boosting his average from 222 to .275.  He leads the Batavia club with 7 homers.  The 22-year-old was drafted in the 21st round this summer out of Winthrop University.

Pitcher:  LHP Joshua Outman, Lakewood.  Was 2-0 for 2 starts, allowing 8 hits, 1 run and 4 walks in 12 innings.  He struck out 15.  He is 5-0 for August with a 0.28 ERA, allowing 1 earned run in 32 overall innings.  Teams are batting .148 against him this month. For the season, he is 14-6, winning his last 6, with a 2.89 ERA.  His 153 strikeouts rank 2nd in the South Atlantic League to teammate Matt Maloney’s 172. The 21-year-old was drafted in the 10th round in 2005 out of Central Missouri State University.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
6-1 week, all against Buffalo, boosted North Division lead to 4.5 games . . . LHP Matt Smith picked up 2 saves . . . RH reliever Clay Condrey, a win and a save . . . RH reliever Ryan Cameron also picked up a win in a big week for the bullpen . . . LH Brian Mazone (12-3) allowed an unearned run in 8 IP in Thursday’s 4-1 win . . . C Carlos Ruiz hit 14th and 15th HR . . . LF/DH Gary Burnham hit in last 9 games at Reading before Wednesday promotion to SWB; he hit in all 4 AAA games (.389) . . . LF Bobby Scales had 9 hits and scored 6 runs . . . CF Pedro Swann had a 14-game hitting streak end on Wednesday . . . Regular season ends Monday, September 4.

Reading Phillies
2-4 week pretty much eliminated Reading from a climb to a wild card berth in the Southern Division . . . LHP Chris Key recorded 19th save for Allen Davis (5-6) on Wednesday . . . C Jason Jarmillo had 5 doubles among his 7 hits; he’s hitting .313 for August . . . 1B Brandon Gemoll had 10 hits and 5 RBI . . . Season ends on Monday, September 4.

Clearwater Threshers
2-5 eliminated the Threshers from a second-half title in the West Division . . . RHP Kyle Kendrick (8-6) hurled a 7-inning shutout on Tuesday, 1st game . . . RHP Nathan Johnson (8-3) won in relief on Saturday . . . RHP Patrick Overholt fanned 7 in 5 IP in 2 relief appearances . . . 2B Tim Moss had 10 hits and saw a 10-game hitting streak end on Friday . . . Season ends Sunday, September 3.

Lakewood BlueClaws
5-1 week ended with North Division second-half title following 8-3 win on Sunday at Lake City, first playoff year in six seasons for the BlueClaws . . . Once again the big three starters produced: LHP Joshua Outman won twice to improve to 14-6; LHP Matt Maloney (15-8) was a Tuesday winner; RHP Carlos Carrasco (11-6) won on Thursday . . . Maloney’s 168 strikeouts are 2nd in all minor league baseball . . . Outman’s streak of 37 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run ended when he gave up a 4th inning HR in the clinching game on Sunday . . . Opposing hitters are batting .184 against Carrasco for the season . . . RHP reliever Wilfrido Laureano (2-0) won on Friday, 2 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO . . . RH reliever Brett Harker picked up 16th save on Monday . . . LH reliever Michael Zagurski has 71 SO in 53.1 IP . . . LHP Zachary Cline (7-3) was promoted to Clearwater; LHP Daniel Brauer (3-4, 1.96 ERA) joined Lakewood from Batavia . . . Regular season ends Monday, September 4.

Batavia Muckdogs
5-3 week kept their playoff hopes alive.  Batavia is in 4th place in the Pinckney Division, just 2.5 games out of 1st . . . RHP Reymond Cruz recorded 3 saves (4 for season) . . . RHP Andrew Carpenter, 2nd round pick in 2006, was promoted from Gulf Coast League; he had 2 no decisions, 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO . . . DH Jacob Dempsey extended his hitting streak to 13 games.  He drove in 12 runs with 15 hits . . . Season ends September 7.

Gulf Coast Phillies
Ended 18-31 season with a win in the final game on Monday . . . LHP Antonio Bastardo fanned 5 of 6 hitters in relief that afternoon . . . SS Adrian Cardenas led club with a .318 average.

Minor League Playoff Picture (through August 27)
**International League . . . 3 Division winners and 1 wild card team in best of 5 round . . . Governors’ Cup championship, best of 5.
**Eastern League . . . Top 2 teams in each division in best of 5; championship also best of 5.
**South Atlantic League, season ends September 4 . . . First half champ meets second half champ in best of 3; championship, best of 5.
**New York-Penn League, season ends September 7 . . . 3 Division winners and 1 wild card team in best of 3; championship, best of 3.

E-mail Responses

Answering e-mails……

Is there any chance the Phillies could put up a name banner for Ed Delahanty?  He is one of the 5 best Phillies ever and it seems like he is ignored because he played at the turn of the century.

Jack: You are correct, Ed is one of the best players in Phillies history. 

As you are probably aware, the Phillies have retired several numbers and they are on display at Citizens Bank Park.  There are three Hall of Famers, Delahanty. Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein who aren’t recognized in this area because they didn’t wear uniform numbers when they played.  (In Klein’s case, he wore six different numbers throughout his career).

Delahanty, Alexander and Klein are recognized in two other areas in Citizens Bank Park.  All three are pictured in the illustrated history of baseball in Philadelphia that is located in the Memory Lane section of Ashburn Alley.  We also have oil paintings of them in the Cooperstown Gallery of the Hall of Fame Club.  In each case, information is included with the photo or painting, which helps educate fans more than a banner containing their names.

The history of the Phillies is very important to the organization.  We have been in the National League since 1883 and we are very proud of the tradition.

If you are not allowed to use saliva to throw a spitball, why can Roberto Hernandez use sweat on the baseball?

Fred: Allegedly Roberto is not wiping his sweat on the ball, just using his fingers in rubbing the ball and not the palm of his sweaty hand.  That is an issue our coaching staff watches carefully.  If they feel there is an infraction, they let the umpires know.

I’m curious if you folks happen to know who is the oldest living member (obviously now long retired) of my favorite hometown team.

Brian: Up until last summer, Bobby Stevens, a shortstop in 1931, was still alive and he was 98 years of age. We invited him to our Alumni Night last August but he was unable to attend because of poor health.  He has since passed on.

As best we know, 1B-2B-3B Gene Corbett (1936-38) and RHP Bob Allen (1937) are the oldest at 92.

If your or anyone else has other information, please e-mail me. 

Hey, Larry, about the flexibility of payroll—how does the team plan to use that money?  I hear the payroll will be cut to around mid 70’s next year. 

Derek:  Yes, we shed payroll around the trading deadline to provide some flexibility for the future.  First of all, we will have certain players eligible for arbitration and others that are due raises in the current contract.  Dollars can also be used for free agents, the international market and the amateur draft.  I don’t know where this $70 million payroll figure came from. 

Flexibility also enabled us to acquire Jamie Moyer and Jose Hernandez and explore more options for improving the team.

Winning a championship remains our number 1 goal.  I know we haven’t been in the post-season since 1993 and that frustrates us as well as the fans.

The Phillies are my new favorite team now that they have acquired a true professional, Jamie Moyer.   He and his family will be one of the finest additions the people of Philadelphia will ever get. Poor Jamie was runless in Seattle and is still one **** of a pitcher.  He will give NL batters fits trying to adjust to his off-speed stuff.  I am sad as a Mariners fan, but am excited for the Phils and Jamie.

John:  Welcome to the land of Phillies passion.  Your comments have been echoed by other Seattle fans.  Jamie was huge for the Mariners both on the field and off.  We’re glad to have him in the clubhouse daily and on the mound every fifth day.

Some day, Jamie will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.  He most certainly deserves the honor.

Minor League Notes

Players of the Week (August 14-20)

Player: LF Gary Burham, Reading.  Hit safely in all 7 games last week, .500 (12-24 with 4 HR, 9 RBI.  On Saturday night, he hit his 54th home run in a Reading uniform, break the club record held by Dan Held (1995-97).  For the season, he is hitting .342 with 16 homers and 57 RBI in 80 games.  Burham, who first played in Reading from 1999 through 2001, was signed as a minor league free agent on May 24, 2006.

Pitcher:  RHP Julio De la Cruz, Clearwater.  Pitched a 9-inning, 5-0, no-hitter against Sarasota on Friday (Aug. 18).  He walked 1 and struck out 5, facing 2 batters over the minimum.  He threw 94 pitches, 66 for strikes. His last pitch was 96 mph, a soft liner to second base. For the season, De la Cruz is 6-9 with a 4.04 ERA.  The 25-year-old missed the last two seasons because of an elbow injury.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
3-4 week, including 4 straight losses . . . Lead over Rochester is 1 game . . . RHP Gavin Floyd (7-4) split 2 decisions, allowing 4 total runs in 15 IP . . . RHP Justin Germano (1-0) had a win and a no decision; 1 run in 14.1 total IP . . . RHP Clay Condrey had a loss and 2 saves . . . C Carlos Ruiz had 9 hits, including 12th and 13th HR . . . CF Michael Bourn hit a grand slam on Tuesday in his final game before reporting to Team USA that will be competing in the Olympic tournament next month in Cuba.

Reading Phillies
4-3, 5.5 games behind 2nd-place Altoona and a wild card playoff berth in the Southern Division . . . RHP Joe Bisenius had a win, loss and a save . . . RHP Tim McClaskey (4-6) and LHP Allen Davis (4-6) each won . . . LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-10) won on Saturday, 9 SO in 6 IP . . . LHP Chris Key recorded 17th and 18th saves . . . Burnham was also named the Eastern League Player of the seek.

Clearwater Threshers
4-3 week . . . Fell to 3rd place, 1.5 games out of 1st place in the West Division . . . Wins went to Patrick Overholt (4-2), Derek Griffith (9-8), De la Cruz and Luke Lockwood (2-2) . . . Overholt has 25 SO in 17.1 IP over 11 appearances since joining Clearwater from Lakewood . . . LF Branden Florence had 12 hits and 8 RBI.

Lakewood BlueClaws
5-2 . . . Increased Northern Division lead to 7 games . . . RHP Ben Pfinsgraff (1-0), LHP Zachary Cline (7-3), LHP Joshua Outman (12-6), RHP Carlos Carrasco (10-6) and RHP Wilfrido Laureano (1-0) were the winners . . . Saves for Brett Harker (15) and William Savage (3) . . . 3-1 win behind Outman on Wednesday was Lakewood’s 10th straight win at home . . . In last 4 starts, Outman has allowed 1 earned run in 27 IP, while striking out 29 . . . SS C. J. Hendry had 6 hits and 5 RBI in 5 games . . . LF Jeremy Slayden had 5 doubles among his 9 hits;  40 doubles lead the South Atlantic League and tie the Lakewood club record (Jake Blalock, 2004).

Batavia Muckdogs
2-3 week . . . 5th place in Pinckney Division, still only 4 games out of 1st place . . . RHP Andrew Cruse (3-4) picked up a win . . . RHP Reymond Cruz had his first save . . . RHP Mike Dubee won his first pro game with 5 shutout innings on Friday . . . 3B P. J. Antoniato had 7 hits and 3 RBI . . . LHP Daniel Brauer, Cruse, SS Jason Donald and 2B Zachary Penprase were named All-Stars for Wednesday’s game.

Gulf Coast Phillies
1-3, 5th place in the Northern Division . . . RHP Andrew Carpenter, 3rd round pick this summer, made his pro debut with 1 scoreless relief inning on Monday.  He came out of Stanford U. with a tired arm.  The Phillies decided to ease him into pro ball  . . . . RHP Kyle Drabek had a no-decision on Thursday, 5 IP, 1 unearned run . . . CF D’Arby Myers had 7 hits, including 3 doubles . . . SS Adrian Cardenas continues to lead the club with a .318 average.  He had 6 hits in 3 games.

Minor League Playoff Picture (through August 20)
Three of the Phillies teams are in the running for playoffs and two other clubs are still mathematically in the hunt:
**International League, season ends September 4 . . . 3 Division winners and 1 wild card team in best of 5 round . . . Governors’ Cup championship, best of 5.
**Eastern League, season ends September 4 . . . Top 2 teams in each division in best of 5; championship also best of 5.
**Florida State League, season ends September 3 . . . First half champ meets second half champ in best of 3; championship, best of 5.
**South Atlantic League, season ends September 4 . . . First half champ meets second half champ in best of 3; championship, best of 5.
**New York-Penn League, season ends September 7 . . . 3 Division winners and 1 wild card team in best of 3; championship, best of 3.
**Gulf Coast League, season ended August 21.

Moyer Comes Home

Welcome home, Jamie Moyer. 

As a youngster, he played sports at Souderton High School in Souderton, PA.  He won 16 games at St. Joseph’s University and had his baseball uniform number (10) retired there.  As a nine-year-old, he won the Phillies Home Run Derby championship.

A left-handed pitcher, his idol was Steve Carlton.

Now, 43 years of age and an 18-year major league veteran, Moyer is coming back home to step into the Phillies starting pitching rotation.  Say what you want about the National League wild card race, but there is a race and GM Pat Gillick took a step forward to make the Phillies better.

A rotation at the beginning of the season that had no left-handers, now has three in Moyer, Randy Wolf and Cole Hamels.  Add Brett Myers and Jon Lieber and suddenly the rotation has five big league starters.

Twice while he was a free agent, the Phillies tried to sign Moyer.  Each time he opted to stay in Seattle, where he and his family have deep roots.  Now, he’s back in his original roots.

A year ago, Moyer turned down a deal that would have sent him to the Astros because Houston wouldn’t talk beyond that season.  The Phillies negotiated a mutual option for 2007.

“I have an opportunity to go to a team in contention for the last five weeks of the season and hopefully beyond that.  That’s the exciting side of it.  The downside is leaving,” he told Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times. 

When asked what he would like to say to the city of Seattle, where he’s pitched since 1996, “I can do nothing but say thank you.  They’ve opened their arms, they’ve opened their hearts, they’ve supported our teams and we have a lot of friends outside of baseball.”

In case you aren’t aware, he’s an accomplished major league pitcher and an outstanding human being.  Three years ago, he won the Roberto Clemente Award.

When the deal was announced after Saturday night’s game, the Phillies players had pretty much left Citizens Bank Park.  There was a buzz in the clubhouse and among the writers on Sunday morning.

Moyer brings experience to a staff and a race, someone who has been there before.  He’s not going to blacken anyone’s eyes with his fast ball.  “He has never been a pitcher with a good heater,” said Dallas Green, who was the GM with the Cubs when they drafted him in the sixth round in 1984.  “He’s a breaking ball, change-up type of guy, who has command of those pitches. He also prepares for a start as well as anyone you will find.”

With the Mariners this season, Moyer was 6-12 but Seattle averaged just 3.52 runs in his starts, the second-lowest run support in the American Leagues.  He’s stepping the rotation of a team that leads the NL in runs scored. 

Back to the wild card race in the NL.  Yes, it is bunched.  That shouldn’t be looked as a negative. 

Just check history of the 1980 and 1983 Phillies pennant-winning seasons.  In ’80, there were two divisions, no wild card.  As September 1 rolled around, the Phillies were second among three bunched clubs, ½ game behind the Pirates.  In ’83, four teams were bunched with the Phillies trailing the Pirates by one game.  I don’t recall those division races being labeled negative.

During the 1980 World Championship season, a rookie named Marty Bystrom joined the rotation and went 5-0 in September.  He wore #50, same as Moyer.

Will history repeat?

"Lieby" Stands Alone

Sixteen years after being drafted by the Phillies, Mike Liberthal stands alone among Phillies catchers.  “Lieby” on Friday night caught his 1,125th game, breaking the Phillies all-time record set by Red Dooin during his 1902-14 career.

       Lieberthal made his major league debut on June 30, 1994, getting a single off Pedro Astacio at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.  He was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre the day before when Darren Daulton went on the disabled list after fracturing his right clavicle.

“Lieby” was an outstanding high school catcher at Westlake High School in LA.  He was heavily scouted by all clubs, despite his size.  Back then he was around 155 pounds, pretty slim for a 6-foot frame.  Many questioned that he could hold up as a catcher.

       Several Phillies scouts followed Lieberthal, including David Sirak.  He filed the following report on February 19, 1990:

       “Slim-bodied player with growth potential. Will probably get much stronger. During the off-season, played nearly every day with one team or another.

       “Outstanding receiver and has a very strong throwing arm.  Has very good release and consistently blocks balls in the dirt.  Quite a competitor.

       “Will be watched and written about more than any other high school kid in my area this coming season.  Many have called him a first rounder.  I saw this too on 2/14 when he hit a ball almost 500 feet and saw aggressive play in him that I had never seen before.

       “Has verbally committed to Arizona State but his father has told me time and again that his son will turn pro.  I think you could be looking at a future All-Star.”
      
       Sirak was correct.  Lieberthal became a two-time All-Star.  All the critics who questioned his size, were wrong.  His record stands for itself in Phillies history.

Minor League Notes

Players of the Week (August 7-13)

Player: 3B Mike Costanzo, Clearwater.  Hit .391 with 9 hits, 2 doubles, 3 homers and 7 RBI.  For the season, he is hitting .250 and leads all Phillies minor leaguers with 13 home runs.  The 22-year-old was the Phillies second-round pick in 2005, their first overall selection.

Pitcher:  Co-winners, RHP Carlos Carrasco and RHP Andrew Barb, Lakewood.  The pair combined for a 2-1 no-hitter vs. Lexington on Sunday.  Carrasco worked 7 innings and allowed a second inning run on a BB, BB, HBP, BB.  Barb pitched the last 2 innings.  It was the third no-hitter in Lakewood history. Carrasco is a 19-yer-old signed out of Venezuela in 2003.  Barb, 21, was signed as an amateur free agent in 2004.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
6-1 week . . . 2-game lead over Rochester in the North Division . . . LHP Brian Mazone (11-2) picked up 2 wins, allowing 1 run in 14.2 IP; he leads the league with a 2.05 ERA.  He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week . . . LHP Matt Smith recorded 2 saves . . . RHP Gavin Floyd (6-3) won on Wednesday . . . 2B Joe Thurston had 8 hits and 5 runs . . . CF Michael Bourn left the team to participate on the USA 2006 Olympic qualifying team that will play in a tournament in Havana, Cuba, August 25-September 5.

Reading Phillies
6-0 week to pull within 6 games of second-place Altoona and a playoff berth . . . LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-10) won his second straight and then had a no-decision; his 143 SO are tops in the league . . . LHP James Happ (6-2) pitched 6 shutout innings on Wednesday . . . RHP Zach Segovia (11-5) won his final start; he’s joining Bourn on the USA team . . . LHP Chris Key pitcked up his 15th and 16th saves . . . RHP Joe Bisenius had a win and 2 saves, strikeout out 6 in 4 hitless relief appearances . . . LF-DH Gary Burnham had 8 hits, 2 HR (Thursday’s game) and 6 RBI.

Clearwater Threshers
2-4 week, falling .003 behind Ft. Myers in the Wet Division . . . RHP Kyle Kendrick (7-5) allowed 1 run in 7 IP in a Friday win . . . Costanzo homered in 3 straight games . . . RHP Adam Shafer recorded his 15th save.

Lakewood BlueClaws
4-2 week, winning the last 4, to increase Northern Division lead to 6 games . . . LHP ZacharyCline (6-3), LHP Joshua Outman (11-6), LHP Matt Maloney (14-7) and RHP Carlos Carrasco (9-6) were winners . . . Carrasco lost a perfect game and the game on Tuesday when he walked a batter after retiring the first 22 Asheville hitters . . . Barb added 2 saves; 18 saves are a club record . . . Outman pitched 7 shutouts innings on Friday, Lakewood’s minor league-leading 17th shutout.  His last 3 games: 21 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 26 SO . . . 3B Welinson Baez had a 2-HR game on Saturday . . . LF Jeremy Slayden had a 10-game hitting streak stopped on Sunday . . . Lakewood has the top 3 strikeout pitchers in the league: Maloney, 151; Carrasco, 143; Outman, 135.

Batavia Muckdogs
5-3, wining 3 of their last 4 . . . Batavia is in 5th place, just 4 games out of first place in the Pinckney Division . . . LHP Daniel Brauer (3-3) fanned 11 in 6 shutout innings on Thursday . . . RHP Alexander Concepcion (4-4) followed with 6 shutout innings the next night . . . 2B Zachary Penprase stole 6 bases . . . 3B Pasquale Antoniato had 7 hits, 6 runs.

Gulf Coast Phillies
1-5 . . . 5th place in Northern Division . . . RHP Kyle Drabek (1-2) won his first pro game with 5 shutout innings on Monday. two days later he was 1-for-3 as the DH; he gave up 8 runs in 3.1 innings of Saturday’s loss . . . RHP Carlos Monasterios (0-2) lost on Friday, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 5 innings . . . SS Adrian Cardenas continues to lead the team in hitting (.290), runs (20), hits (40), triples (3), RBI (18) and stolen bases (12).

Alumni Weekend

Dallas Green and Jeff Copper, two Delaware natives, two University of Delaware graduates and two long-time Phillies, were the highlights of this weekend’s Phillies Alumni events.

Dallas was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame on Friday night during ceremonies that included past winners Robin Roberts (1978), Jim Bunning (1984), **** Allen (1994), Greg Luzinski (1998), Garry Maddox (2001), Tony Taylor (2002) and Bob Boone (2005). 

Dallas, whose gray hair has turned white, joked that he didn’t get in the Wall of Fame based on “my 20 wins….my career total.”  You are correct big guy.  You got there because of the track record you and Paul Owens put together in building the dynasty of the 1970s and then managing the Phillies to their lone World Series championship in ’80.

“The two biggest moments of my baseball career happened here, winning the World Series and this honor tonight.”

Following the ceremonies, the Wall of Famers, friends and other Alumni dined in the Executive Dining Room and then watched the Phillies big win from Hall of Fame Club suites.  Seated at a round table in the corner of the dining room were Bunning and Roberts and family members.  Wow, 510 wins at that table…..490 more than Dallas!

Cooper has been in the Phillies organization as an athletic trainer since 1970.  Like the players, he worked his way up through the minors before reaching the majors in 1976.  He’s been the Phillies head athletic trainer since 1982.   He’s the most respected athletic trainer in all of baseball.

Prior to tonight’s game, Cooper, who is stepping down after the end of the season, was saluted as part of Alumni Night.

Surprises included a Cadillac SRX from the current players, a trip to Italy for Jeff and his wife from the Phillies, appearances by past and current contemporaries and a parade of 31 Phillies Alumni, from Allen to Vukovich, John, that is.

Among the Alumni was one of Coop’s tormentors, **** Ruthven.  Over the course of 162 games, dozens of plane rides and hotel lobbies, tormenting is needed to maintain sanity.

Vukovich tells the story: “I was riding with Jeff to the park in Clearwater early one morning and he had to stop at the grocery store.  He came out with limburger cheese.  ‘Got to get even with “Rufus” (Ruthven’s nickname),’ Coop said.  When we got to the park, Coop put the limburger cheese in Ruthven’s hair dryer.

“After the workout, Coop grabbed me, ‘Wanna hear something?’  Rufus came out of the shower, dried himself and turned on his hair dryer.

       “All of a sudden Ruthven screamed, ‘DAM IT COOP!’  Coop looked at me and dead-panned, ‘seems as if Rufus has a mental problem.’”
      
       Saturday’s group filled the dining room.  Dinner, stories and laughter filled an hour.  Eventually the Alumni went to various suites to check out the action. 

They’d watch intently, then reminisce.  Cheer, then chat.   Needle and laugh. 

What has always amazed me in being around Alumni, they have the greatest memories from their playing days.  Listening to them reminisce is priceless.

A Classic

Dallas Green, in his Phillies Wall of Fame induction speech in pre-game ceremonies, talked about the passion of Phillies fans.  Well, passion was there tonight in a Citizens Bank Park classic, a 6-5 Phillies win in 14 innings.

Aaron Rowand sent everyone home happy with a bases-loaded one-out single to right-center.  He was mobbed by his teammates at first base.  The Phillies continue to hang in the National League wild card race.

Rowand was just one of many Phillies heroes in a dandy of a game.

Jon Lieber pitched well again, Jimmy Rollins hit a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth and Pat Burrell followed with his first triple since, July of last season, a blow over Ken Griffey’s head that capped a three-run eighth and gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  Burrell pumped his right fist in the air after sliding into third base. The Phillies copied his emotion.

Tom Gordon proved he was human when he gave up a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to pinch hitter Javier Valentine, putting the Phillies down, 5-4.

But, Chris Coste doubled to start the Phillies ninth, Chris Roberson pinch ran, took third on an errant pick off throw by David Ross and scored on a sacrifice fly by Shane Victorino, sending classic into extra innings.

Other Phillies heroes were veteran relievers Arthur Rhodes and Rick White.  They pitched out of a bases loaded jam with one out in the eighth.

The classic also featured:

**The Reds used nine pitches, including their 12-game winner, Aaron Harang, in the 13th and Saturday’s scheduled starter, Elizardo Ramirez in the fateful 14th.

**The Phillies used seven pitchers, with a six-man bullpen giving up just two runs over the last eight innings.

**Ryan Howard was intentionally walked three times, one moving the winning run to second with two out in the 10th inning and again in the 14th, loading the bases with no out.  How many times has that happened?  Aaron Fultz had a chance to be the hero.  He lined a 2-2 pitch to short for the first out.  Rowand followed and it was “put this one in the win column.”

**Randy Wolf struck out as a pinch hitter in the 12th.

**Eric Milton, Cincinnati’s Sunday starter, got an infield single as a pinch hitter in the 13th.

**Todd Hollandsworth, struck out as a pinch hitter, remained in the game, fanned twice more and then made a spectacular diving catch in the 13th inning, robbing Rollins of a game-winning hit.

**448 pitches were thrown.

**The Phillies are the only undefeated team when leading after eight innings, 50-0.

**An advanced sale of over 35,000 was swelled by 5,786 walk-ups, producing a crowd of 41,461 on a perfect August evening.  It was a game many will be talking about for a long time.

Parity, please

Gillickmontgomery

The Phillies player moves–from designating C Sal Fasano for assignment to trade deadline deals– have been called a purge or salary dumpings. 

Yesterday’s USA TODAY had an article about the Giants who have eight potential free agents.  They could shed $58 million in payroll, according to the article.  Notice the word shed, not salary dumpings.

Gillick
As Pat Gillick said, this group hasn’t won and it was time to change the mix.  One expensive long-term contract and five potential free agents (Fasano, David Bell, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier and Ryan Franklin) were involved in Phillies transactions.  For most of the free agents, the Phillies would have received no compensation this winter.   Eight more potential free agents are on the current roster, Dave Dellucci, Mike Lieberthal, Randy Wolf, Rick White, Aaron Fultz and Arthur Rhodes.

When Gillick arrived last November, he inherited a roster that included three multi-year contracts complete with no-trade clauses.  Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu have been moved, giving the Phillies are lot more flexibility, roster-wise and financially.

The deals triggered the word “rebuilding”, especially when Pat said it may take longer than next year to produce a winner.  The next day, he made it clear that rebuilding isn’t the proper terminology.

Rebuilding means completely tearing apart.  That isn’t the case because there are still a lot of good players on the club.   Three-fourths of the infield, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, are All-Stars, all around 27 years of age, meaning their best years are ahead.

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The deals are providing more playing time for Dellucci and Shane Victorino (Abreu), Abraham Nunez (Bell), Chris Coste (Fasano), Scott Mathieson (Lidle), Brian Sanches (Franklin) and at some point, LH reliever Matt Smith (Cormier). 

The deals also brought some very young prospects and that is important to the overall picture. Dallas Green just returned from four days in Clearwater where he saw the Class A Threshers and the Gulf Coast League kids.  He saw 20-year-old RHP Carlos Monasterios, one of the four players acquired for Abreu.  “He’s got a good arm.  I really liked what I saw,” said Green.

The future isn’t bleak.  As Pat said, a lot will depend upon the maturity of the young arms like Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Mathieson and the return of Wolf.  Ryan Madson still has potential as a starter but has shown effectiveness in the bullpen. 

Parity is a word coined by the National Football League to describe balance.  The Phillies are still in the wild card race, which has been described as the “weak National League wild card race.”  Make that parity, please.

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