Cliff Lee pitched a complete game, struck out 13 batters and gave up just 1 run on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, but the Phillies were shut out in a 1-0 loss to the Braves. They’re now 6-8, four games back of division-leading Atlanta.
We’re 12 games into the season, and the Phillies are 6-6. In their first homestand of the year, they were swept by the Brewers — who are out to a 10-2 start, the best in baseball — but rebounded to sweep in the Marlins in turn. The Phillies have been outscored by 6 runs, and the team’s no longer a hot ticket: On April 11th, the Phillies drew just 22,483 fans, the lowest since July 31, 2006.
But there are reasons to be optimistic about the 2014 season. While the pitching’s shaky, the offense is humming along: Second in the NL in hitting, first in on-base-percentage, sixth in slugging. And a big reason for that is the work of Chase Utley.
Sometime next year, there won’t be any more Top 10 lists. There won’t be any more stupid human tricks or throwing items off a five-story building. (Okay, I don’t think David Letterman has thrown anything off a building in a while.) But, yes, after 21 seasons of the Late Show with David Letterman, he’s announced his retirement.
Even though I haven’t watched Letterman in some time, this is very much a changing-of-the-guard moment. Ever since I was nine — so, just a little bit before I was old enough to sneak viewings of late-night TV — the late-night hosts were Leno and Letterman. Leno finally retired for good last month (we can assume, anyway) and now Letterman will be gone in 2015. It just seems … weird. Letterman was the late-night talker I watched in high school — well, Letterman and Conan — and now he won’t be on TV any more. For people my age, Letterman may as well have been on since the start of television. It’d be like telling another generation that 60 Minutes has been canceled. This makes me feel old.
As a tribute to Dave, I grabbed some Philadelphia-related clips from Letterman from around the Internet.
Baseball is back! And yesterday was an incredible start for the Phillies, as they walloped the Rangers by a football-like 14-10 score. It was an incredible start to a season filled with low expectations.
So, why not recap it with a few animated GIFs! There was plenty to get excited about during Monday’s big win.
Yes, the first big highlight of the season was a walk. Ryan Howard has averaged 81 walks over a 162-game season for his career, so it’s not really surprising he drew a base on balls here. But look what it led to!
Yeah, it led to a run. And to the always-excellent scene of Ryan Howard rounding third base. Maybe Howard could’ve been a two-sport athlete: Get him going in open space and who’s going to tackle him? Howard finished 2-for-5 with 3 strikeouts.
The white board in the Phillies’ locker room — across from the tubs where the players dump their dirty clothes — was the spring training communications center.
It’s where the daily lineup and travel rosters were posted, along with reminders for players to get their visas and announcements about who had to show up for which practice.
One by one every morning, guys walked over to see if there was anything pertaining to them.
On the last Sunday of spring training, a message was written in green marker.
“Walking Dead Night Sunday,” the message read. “(See AJ about details).”
I never was able to pin down A.J. about the details, but I am guessing he wasn’t referring to the potential disaster which general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hath wrought.
Still, Burnett may just have well been forecasting 2014.
Sitting in “Whale Beach,” an outdoor section of stands at Bright House Field reserved for media and VIPs, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., talks to Philadelphia magazine about the Jimmy Rollins controversy, Freddy Galvis’s health scare, and whether he is feeling the heat going into his sixth year at the helm after two straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.
Ruben Amaro Jr.: No. Every year is a challenge. We always have to deal with DLs and issues that pop up. Like (former GM) Dallas Green told me from the very beginning, we are firemen. We have to try and put out fires and this is just another set of them, and we have to deal and go from there.
Philadelphia magazine: How is Galvis (who contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus after suffering a scrape on his left knee)?
Ruben Amaro Jr.: Galvis is doing just fine. We were concerned about the severity of the infection. I don’t know how long it is going to take him to be ready but I’m more concerned about his overall health and so far he’s doing a lot better.
If the Phillies had their way, each person in the Philadelphia area would have the ring tone on his or her phone changed to a sales pitch from broadcaster Tom McCarthy promising that things will be a lot better in 2014. That way, the team’s relentlessly positive message would have six months to sledgehammer its way into the collective consciousness, and average attendance next season wouldn’t dip below 30,000 a game.
About the only way the Phillies can possibly convince anybody that the 73-89 disaster that ended mercifully Sunday in Atlanta with–what else?–a loss is not a harbinger of worse things to come next year is with a full-on, all-out Soviet-style propaganda blitz designed to obscure this team’s substantial shortcomings.
With Chase Utley close to signing an extension for the Phillies, a contract for two years and — wait for it — $27 million, many Phillies fans are wondering the obvious: Will the rest of the underachieving 2013 lineup be wearing red pinstripes next season, too? But here’s a reminder that things could be worse — and have been worse. Here are five of the worst Philadelphia sports contracts.
5. Adam Eaton
Although he got a 2008 World Series ring, pitcher Adam Eaton did little to earn it — let alone his $24.5 million, three-year contract. In 2007, Eaton gave up 30 (yep, 3-0) home runs, finishing the season with an ERA of 6.29. The next year produced similar results, with Eaton being optioned to the minor leagues after the acquisition of Joe Blanton. As for the rest of his contract? Well, he was released during the off-season, meaning the Phillies literally paid him $8 million to go away.
4. Ilya Bryzgalov
If his job was cracking jokes or getting into fights with the media, maybe we could make sense of Ilya Bryzgalov‘s 9-year, $51 million ontract with the Flyers in 2011. But seeing as he was being paid to stop the puck from going into the goal, it’s a bit harder to justify. Given he’s taking up 10 percent of the Flyers payroll, Bryzgalov has been largely unimpressive (save single-handedly winning against the Red Wings with 37 saves out of 39 shots back in March 2012.) The Flyers bought out his contract in June, meaning that, under NHL rules, they’ll have to pay him $23 million, two thirds of the remaining $34.5 million, over the next 14 years.
3. Nnamdi Asomugha
Nnamdi Asomuga arrived in Philadelphia in 2011 as an All-Pro and an All-Decade cornerback from Oakland. Though he’s had some good games, his okayish-to-awful Eagles career makes it hard to imagine a time when he was ever a consistently useful professional football player. Of course, we discover this only after he’s signed a 5-year, 60 million dollar contract. At least “only” $25 million of it was guaranteed.
2. Shawn Bradley
For being 7’6″, second overall pick Shawn Bradley sure did manage to disappear on the Sixers team. While he did register eight blocks in his 1993 Sixers debut, getting all of our hopes as high as, well, him on tippy-toes, he managed to dash them quickly. After signing an 8-year, $44 million contract (the richest in Philadelphia history at the time) he was relative nonfactor in two-plus unsuccessful seasons here. Two years later, Bradley was traded to the Nets for Derrick Coleman, which is another kind of ignominy. We’ll forever remember The Stormin’ Mormon as the guy our opponents loved to dunk on.
1. Ryan Howard
Utley’s $27 million seems like Monopoly money when we compare it to Ryan Howard‘s 2010 five-year, $125 million extension for the Phillies — signed when he still had two years left on his existing contract. Mere months before his extension began, Howard suffered a career-altering injury to his Achilles tendon. Now, Howard is out six to eight weeks with a torn meniscus. Come 2016, one of the Phillies’ highest-paid players will be a 37-year-old, declining first baseman.
The biggest local sports news of the week — other than, you know, the latest chapter in the never-ending “did Donovan throw up?” saga — is another injury to Ryan Howard. The Phillies first baseman was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee, which will keep him out for 6-to-8 weeks.
The injury is the latest setback for one of the key players in the Phillies’ recent run of success, one whose production and ability to stay healthy have gradually declined over the last several years. Sure, Howard’s not exactly a scrub at this point, but he’s certainly not playing up to his $25 million-per-year salary, one he’ll be collecting through 2016.
But what I’m interested in is the fan reaction. Read more »