Cliff Lee

It’s July and the Phillies will listen to anything

15 Comments

Hello, July.

Hello, trading season.

The Phillies spent the last day of June recovering from an embarrassing 2-6 homestand that knocked them out of the NL East race for good. There was a smidgeon of hope for this team after it put together a 5-2 road trip earlier last month, but splitting a four-game series with the Marlins and being swept by the Braves at home has put an end to all the little far-fetched fantasies surrounding this losing team.

The Phils needed a good homestand to keep their hopes alive. They came up small. Time to move on.

The Phillies are back on the road Tuesday night to begin a 10-game trip that will take them to Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee before coming home for three games before the All-Star break against Washington.

The sweep at the hands of Atlanta left the Phillies eight games back in the NL East and on pace for 91 losses. Even a good road trip won’t turn this thing around. We won’t be fooled again. This team is just not good enough.

So what’s left for this club?

The coming months will be spent evaluating and giving experience to youngsters such as third baseman Cody Asche and relievers Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, Ken Giles and Justin De Fratus.

As for the rest of the crew. Well, make an offer. Just about anyone can be had in a trade — for the right price — as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches and a much-needed franchise re-tooling comes to the fore. The Phillies need this and they are headed in that direction. No, it won’t be a Sixers-like strip-down — Phillies management is loath to use the word “rebuilding” — but changes are coming.

Cole Hamels is the closest thing the Phillies have to an untouchable. They would prefer to build around the 30-year-old lefty. But blow them away, and yes, they will consider it.

You can believe all the word salad coming from Phillies management about not wanting to deal the club icons that helped them win the 2008 World Series, but why would anyone admit that changes are coming a month before the deadline? What good would it do to publicly shudder the season a month before you have to? It would hurt ticket sales. Better to focus on winning as many games as possible now and make moves right before the deadline.

If Chase Utley comes to management and says he’d like to move on, maybe be a San Francisco Giant, Phillies elders will try to make to it happen (for the right return). If Utley remains hush, he will stay with the Phillies. He drove the bus last summer when he told club officials not to entertain trade requests and focus on a contract extension. He still drives it.

If the Phillies get an offer they like on Jimmy Rollins, they will go to him and ask what he wants to do. Stay or go? Ultimately it will be Rollins’ call.

Both Rollins and Utley have full veto power over trades.

Ryan Howard? Untradeable because of his contract.

Cliff Lee? If he proves healthy in the three starts he’s expected to make before July 31, the Phils would move him for the right return. Otherwise, they will hang on to him and make him available in the offseason.

Mike Adams? There would have been interest had he not come down with a sore shoulder. It’s tough to see him getting moved before the deadline, but he could be an August waiver deal.

A.J. Burnett pitches Tuesday night in Miami. He has put together four good ones in a row. He is a candidate to move before the deadline.

So is Kyle Kendrick. Yeah, he’s just a No. 5 starter, but sometimes a marginal pickup can make a difference on a contending team. Kendrick could be appealing to a contender.

Jonathan Papelbon could be a fit in a number of towns, especially if the Phillies would pick up part of his $13 million salary for next season. The Phils were willing to do that over the winter. Papelbon, however, might not be the most attractive reliever that the Phillies put on the market. Antonio Bastardo, left-handed and having a solid season, could be the first reliever to go. In fact, he might be the first Phillie to go.

Looking for an outfielder? The Phils would move four of them — Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr.

July is here. It’s baseball’s trading season. The Phillies might not be ready to admit it — why wave the white flag publicly when there is a month to go before the deadline? — but they are open for business. It won’t be easy making trades, not with the money some of these guys are owed beyond this season, but deals are coming. This season is beyond hope (and the Phillies have no one to blame but themselves for that after that awful homestand.)

It’s time to retool.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
9 Comments

Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
21 Comments

ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: