Charlie Manuel questions whether Phillies can make run

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After wrapping up one of the most frustrating homestands in recent memory with an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of the New York Mets, Charlie Manuel said he questions his team’s ability to put it together for a second-half surge. Via CSN Philly’s John Gonzalez:

But what if the team further decomposes during the road trip? It’s hard to imagine the Phillies grabbing new pieces if they don’t peek their head above .500 and keep it there for a while. If you have your doubts about their ability to do that, you have some company.

Does Manuel question whether these Phillies can go on a run?

“I wonder if we can do that,” Manuel admitted. “Yes.”

This afternoon’s eight-run loss moved the Phillies’ run differential to -58, the second-worst in the National League and third-worst in all of baseball behind the Marlins (-90) and Astros (-96). They are only four games under .500, but their expected record based on run differential pegs them at 12 games below .500 at 32-44. In other words, the Phillies are fortunate to even be where they are, and shouldn’t expect their current level of play to keep them within arm’s reach of contention going forward.

With a barren Minor League system and a host of veterans eligible for free agency after the season, it is looking unavoidable that the Phillies go into the deadline as sellers. If they do, they will do so for the first time since 2006, when they traded away franchise cornerstone Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.