Philadelphia Phillies v  Washington Nationals

The Phillies schedule isn’t helping them at the moment

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A factoid from Buster Olney’s column this morning:

The Phillies had one of the easiest schedules in the majors in their first 30 games, playing only seven games against teams that had records over .500 — and they did a great job taking advantage, starting 21-9. Since their schedule got more difficult, they have struggled, winning four of 11.

That kind of stat, at least this time of year, is potentially misleading, inasmuch as with relatively few games having been played, one of the major reasons those teams have losing records is because they played, in this case, the Phillies, whose victories over them helped make them losing teams.

But it is the case that the schedule is simply brutal for Philly right now. This bad stretch has come against Atlanta, Florida (who they actually beat two of three) and St. Louis, each of whom has taken a turn as “the hottest team in the NL” at some point in the past couple of weeks.  They’re coming home today to face a Rockies team that seems to be rebounding from an early-May swoon. And then they host the Reds and the Rangers.

So I guess what I’m saying is that while the current stretch is depressing the heck out of Phillies fans, the combination of the schedule, the injuries and the offensive swoon could very well mean that this is a low point, not some indicator of a new reality.

Pretty soon the Mets and Pirates will be on the schedule. Pretty soon Chase Utley will be back.  Pretty soon Domonic Brown — who went 1 for 2 with a couple of RBI last night — will be in the outfield every day.  Like every other otherwise strong team that hits the doldrums, it’s just a matter of holding out until the wind picks up again.

Video: Undercover David Ortiz drives a Lyft in Boston

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David Ortiz did one of those “Undercover Lyft” spots for, well, Lyft, in which famous people disguise themselves while driving passengers around. Yes, they’re ads, but they’re still pretty funny. At least this one was.

Best parts: (1) the woman who says she has two David Ortiz shirts to which Undercover Ortiz responds, “actually, all my shirts are his shirts”; and (2) when Ortiz agrees with someone that baseball games are “so loooong.” Oh, and at one point he tells a woman who said she was going to the Red Sox game that night that he was too. After he unmasked himself, she explains his own joke to him. Which, ooohhkay.

In other news, people who take Lyfts in Boston either don’t watch much baseball, because Ortiz’s costume is NOT very concealing, or else they simply don’t look at their Lyft driver while in the car, at all.

Scouting in Venezuela: “Someone is going to get killed. It’s just a matter of time”

MIAMI - MARCH 14:  Venezuela fans cheer with a country flag while taking on the Netherlands during round 2 of the World Baseball Classic at Dolphin Stadium on March 14, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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Ben Badler of Baseball America has a story about how major league scouts who cover Venezuela are unhappy with the rules imposed upon them by the league. Rules, they say, which unreasonably prohibit them from scouting Venezuelan players in centralized, team-controlled locations or, alternatively, flying them to team facilities in the Dominican Republic or elsewhere.

The result: international scouts are forced to travel all over Venezuela to evaluate prospect. And, given how destabilized and dangerous Venezuela has become, they believe their safety is at risk:

“MLB’s rules that limit our ability to travel a Venezuelan guy to the Dominican Republic, that limit our ability to get them in a complex at different ages, all these rules are solely contributing to the risks that all of us are taking traveling from complex to complex, facility to facility in the streets,” said one international director. “Someone is going to get killed. It’s just a matter of time, and it’s on MLB when it happens, because they’re the ones who created these rules.”

As Badler notes, Major League Baseball itself has moved its annual national showcase out of the country due to safety concerns. It will not, however, relax scouting rules — which seem arbitrary on their surface in the first place — in order to make the job of international scouts safer.

It seems that Rob Manfred and the league owe their employees better than this. Or at the very least owe them an explanation why they don’t think they do.