Bryce Harper Signs with the Phillies and Why It’s More than Adding Talent

Bryce Harper in Phillies uniform (Photo Courtesy of SI.com)

I’m glad it’s over. This “will he or won’t he” baloney. While I think, in the end, it’s going to be a good fit, theres more to this than just adding talent.

Let me take you back, just a bit. Baseball Ross and I started coming to Spring Training back in 2007, the year before the Phillies would go on to win the World Series. That year and the spring of 2008, there was very little in crowd control at the Carpenter Complex. No fences around the dugouts, no screen behind the catcher between the fields so you could really see everything the pitchers were doing. There were no “Phillies Personnel Only” signs on the fences. There wasn’t a need. There weren’t a ton of fans. I remember walking right up to the players and getting autographs and not needing to wait long to get them. I actually started to get to know some of the guys at least at a “Hi, how are you” level.

Then in 2009, it all changed. The fans turned out in droves. It was crowded. I still was able to get autographs, but a lot of that still depended on the fact that the guys still recognized me. Heck, we bought a condo that year and I missed a game and Cole Hamels called me out and asked me where I was since I wasn’t “there on Tuesday”.

The Phillies were on a run. The crowds came, more security measures were in place. You had to get to the Carpenter Complex early or you’d have a long walk to get there.

Then the dark years. The team struggled. They didn’t pick up a lot in free agency. They were picking up older, journeymen type players. They lost Jayson Werth, Roy Halladay gets injured and retires. Cliff Lee gets hurt and can’t finish his contract. They trade Cole Hamels. Charlie Manuel gets fired then Ruben Amarro, Jr, gets fired. It was the beginning of a downward spiral into mediocrity that left the stands with more and more free space. There was nothing spurring the crowds to come out.

I believe that a lot of it was fans losing faith in the fact that season after season, free agents would become available and we were never in the hunt. We would end up with a pitcher that showed up into camp overweight and out of shape and not pitching very well at all and we were supposed to get excited by that?

This season, with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper both becoming free agents, I looked at it with a jaundiced eye. Why get my hopes up? I mean, every year for the last 5 or 6 years, at least, I’d gotten my hopes up that we’d get that spark plug that one guy who would give us the kick in the butt we needed to really contend and we never did. Then there was a whisper, more of a shout when they said we are going to spend “stupid money” this year.

There was talk of both Harper and Machado, then adding may be Dallas Keuchel. I never believed in that. History told me that much. I was pretty sure we’d get a guy that had been in the league 10 years, played on 6 teams and would break down by May.

Then the whispers that something BIG was going to happen…and as I was expecting, Machado signed with the Padres. How the heck could a team like the Padres get Machado? Attention turned to Harper. When he didn’t sign by last Wednesday (the rumored date) I felt like it was over.

Then Friday, owner John Middleton flew on his private jet to meet Harper. I was skeptically hopeful. Then the weekend ended and there was no deal. My heart sank. Then word leaked out that the Giants and Dodgers were in the mix and one of the writers in the “know” said that the Phillies were out and there was no way that Harper would sign with an East Coast Team. I was on the way to accepting that this was going to be just another year that I was stupid enough to get my hopes up just to get let down again.

In fact, I’ll admit it, last night I even posted that I was over all the “BS” that I just didn’t want to deal with it. If he really was going to sign he would.

Then today, Baseball Ross and I elected to go to the Phillies game against the Jays here in Dunedin. The two biggest reasons being that with a split squad, they sent the majority of the minor league guys that we are friends with to Dunedin and secondly, we could walk to the game.

It was somewhere around the sixth inning, off to my left, a crowd of people started hooting and cheering…we couldn’t hear what they were saying we actually thought there might be a fight starting in the stands. Then one man stood up and shouted, “The Phillies signed Harper! We got him, boys!’ Given the fact he sounded like he’d been drinking and was college age, I thought he was trying to prank us. 2 minutes later my phone beeped, “Phillies reach deal with Harper”.

He wasn’t pranking us.

You could hear phones beeping, pinging and whistling all over the stands. Harpermania was beginning. It was funny, it may have been because it was like 78* and sitting in the sun could have been too much, or more likely the Harper signing, but soon the stadium (especially on the Phillies side) started emptying out.

As I’ve started to digesting the whole event, I’ve come to realize something…

It’s not about Bryce Harper. Not really. It’s about the Front Office saying “we are going to spend the money it takes” to get a player that will help the team. It could have been Machado…but the fact that they pulled out all the stops to get the biggest free agent in the game..that is what the real “big deal” is. It’s that they have finally come to the realization that you have to make that dramatic move, take the leap of faith and not “settle” but to push hard to get what you and the fans want.

Last season, the Phillies finished 2 games under .500. With the addition of Segura, Realmuto and Harper, the talking heads on the MLB Network are projecting a WAR that would give us 97 wins. It’s been a while since we’ve gone into a season with a realistic expectation of 97 wins.

Will it happen? Frankly, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter (well it does, but not as much as this:) the front office didn’t settle, they said they were going to fight to get the best available player and then did it. They have shown they are not going to settle for sub .500 ball.

In the end, Harper ended up impressing me, with his no trade, no opt-out addition to the contract saying that “he wants to end his career with this contract.” To me that means he’s “all in” and isn’t going to play anything less than all out. I mean he knows his career will end with the Phillies so he’s going to make the most of it.

And I hope he does…

Odubel Herrera Leaves Practice With “Slight Left Hamstring Strain”-Picture

I was making my rounds today and was watching the infielders practice running the bases. First time, I took video, second, stills.

It was during the second time around the bases when I noticed Odubel Herrera pull up short and tender as he came into third. I have that still picture below:

Odubel Herrera pulls up short after injuring his left hamstring

He walked around gingerly for a moment but as I focused in on the others who were running home, I realized he hadn’t continued on and “disappeared.”

During the afternoon presser, Kapler referred to it as a “slight left hamstring strain”. Herrera had reportedly been bothered by it earlier and and had an MRI that showed no damage.

With the injury, this could leave an opening for either Roman Quinn or Mickey Moniak as Moniak was added to the 40 man roster this season. Moniak has been hitting well as camp opened.

Ryan Howard Sells Belleair Home

Some of the most popular posts on my blog are the ones that are focused on the 39,000 square foot gulf front mansion of Ryan Howard.

Two weeks ago it was reported that Howard sold the home to a Tampa developer, Ben Mallah for $16.5 million dollars. You can read the Tampa Bay Times article HERE.

It seems like “The Big Piece” made a big chunk of change on the sale. Reports have the original cost around $3.5 million. There is no word as to where Howard has moved.

Please respect the privacy of the new owners.

You can read the original article HERE.

Scenes from Phillies Spring Training-February 15, 2019

It was a beautiful but windy day today here in Clearwater. Ross and I started the day a little late and dropped into batting practice at Spectrum Field.

We managed to catch the last group batting. In this group were Mickey Moniak, Austin Listi and Mitch Walding.

Mitch Walding looks on as Mickey Moniak bats

I have video of Mickey Moniak HERE.

Charlie Manuel looks on

Mitch Walding
Roman Quinn and Rhys Hoskins
Andrew McCutchen comes to sign autographs
Buster Olney was here

Austin Listi

Then we went over to the carpenter complex and saw Jojo Romero pitching to Scott Kingery.

Jojo Romero

Scott Kingery

Shortly after we arrived, the Major League camp broke for the day so we waited until 1:30 for the minor league players who have reported early to come out. For me, this is my favorite part of spring training, I know a lot of these guys and it’s great to see my friends again.

I have video of Carlos De La Cruz take batting practice HERE and Jose Pujols HERE.

Alec Bohm

I watched Alec Bohm field and bat as well.

Finally, we got to catch Jose Pujols bat. He hit one off the score board and hit a few more out of the park.

It was a good day, although a long one. Hope to be back at it tomorrow.

Pictures from Phillies Spring Training-February 14, 2019

Today was nearly perfect, sunny, light breeze, perfect temperature. Ross and I skipped yesterday’s 59°, cloudy and windy day-after today, I’m glad we did!

This is our twelfth spring training and the last two under new manager Gabe Kapler have been, different to say the least. It used to be that the players would come out at 9-930 and practice would begin at 10. They would practice until 12, major league would go in for lunch and the minor leaguers would report and hit the field about 1.

Now, they have batting practice in the stadium (no idea when they start) quit about 11, the pitchers are “supposed” to come out around 11 but it was after 11:30 and they didn’t start until almost noon. It can make for a long day as they didn’t quit until after 1:30.

That being noted: I did manage to get a few good shots as well as a little video.

Jake Arrieta

This first video is of Jake Arrieta who reportedly had knee surgery just a month ago. From what I could see, he looked just fine. You can watch it HERE.

Rhys Hoskins

The second video is of Rhys Hoskins taking live batting practice from Drew Anderson as Gabe Kapler looked on. That video is HERE.

And below I have posted some random shots from around the complex today:

Adonis Medina
Zach Eflin
Drew Anderson pitches under Kapler’s close eye
Edgar Garcia
Nick Williams
Manager Gabe Kapler

Toronto Blue Jays Close Spring Training Facility to Fans as Construction Begins

I’ve lived here in Dunedin, Florida, the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays for just over six years. I’ve been involved with a committee that works with the Jays as well as the City of Dunedin for over four years.

Welcome to Blue Jays Spring Training

This week begins the first step to the “end of the road” on the project that has encompassed keeping the Toronto Blue Jays here in Dunedin as well as finding a way to build them a complex that would make them happy. Sometime in the next week or so, shovels will hit the ground at the training complex on Solon. Due to the impending construction, the Bobby Mattick Training complex is closed to the public for both major league and minor league spring training. Visitors to the area may be able to watch some training at the downtown stadium on days where the team is away and the Jays store is open-Monday through Friday 10-3 and Saturday 10-2.

Meanwhile, in downtown, the stadium will operate as per usual. You can see the Jays’ schedule HERE. Practically the day after the team goes north, the stadium will close to the public and the renovations to the stadium will begin.

Both the training complex as well as the stadium are following an aggressive construction schedule and are expected to be open for the 2020 season. (Barring delays for weather and/or hurricanes. Pray for a calm hurricane season.)

For those who are fans of the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Jays’ Florida State League Team, it is expected that they will be playing this summer in the former Phillies’ home, Jack Russell Stadium. Details on this should be finalized in the next week or so.

Below I am linking to articles that will show the plans for the stadium and complex as well as some of the articles I’ve done over the years dealing with trying to get the Jays to stay as well as the process of getting the finances in order:

Tampa Bay Times Article with Pictures of the New Stadium and Training Complex

2018 Article Outlining Finalizing the Financing for the Stadium Renovations

2017 City Council Meeting Approving the Jays Deal

2016 Article Outlining Citizen Involvement getting Jays to Stay (Includes a picture of me speaking before Dunedin City Council)

 

 

 

Another Fan Killed by Foul Ball at Dodger Stadium

I found this article today reporting that the LA County Corner has revealed that Linda Goldbloom died in August as a result of head trauma received from a batted foul ball at an LA Dodgers game. You can read ESPN’s article HERE.

Linda Goldbloom was a long time fan, mother of three and grandmother of seven.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I wrote about another post about ANOTHER fatality at Dodgers stadium, Alan Fish. You can read that article HERE. That came after Freddie Galvis complained after one of his fouls hit a small girl in the face. I also wrote about the fan injured during World Series play in 2016 HERE.

Those are not the only fatalities. There is another, Clarence Stagemyer was killed in 1943 when he was hit in the head by a thrown ball.

Ross and I saw a similar situation in Lakewood back when Carlos Carrasco was with the BlueClaws. In this situation, part of the problem was inattentive parents who allowed their toddler to wander down the row. The toddler was a few seats away in the 2nd row when a ball was over thrown from third to first and it sailed into the stands. It hit the toddler square in the back, right between the shoulder blades.

I will never forget the sick “pop” it made as all the air left the toddler’s body. He didn’t scream. He didn’t make a sound. That’s why it was so scary. Luckily there was a doctor in the next section, who jumped into action. It took a few moments before there was a huge sucking sound and the toddler took a huge gulp of air and then started to cry. I was never so glad to hear a baby cry as I was that night.

As technology advances and players become stronger, foul balls will become faster, harder and more dangerous. Protecting fans has to be priority one.

I was glad that the Phillies raised the net behind home and extended it over the dugouts. It’s a great first step. Before the raising of the net, Ross and I would get hit by foul ball ricochets a few times a year and have several near misses. Last year, just one and it was straight up.

I get that snagging a free foul ball is part of the excitement, who doesn’t like to go home with one? For me, it lost its luster a bit when I saw an elderly woman lose an eye.

The ballparks are trying to cater more to millennials, making Instagram spots and other social media events to drive in the young ones. While this is great, they also need to realize that when people are looking at their phones and socializing, they are not watching the game and keeping an eye out for balls and bats that enter the stands.

Hopefully, MLB will take a look at spectator safety and increase the netting. It took one death for the NHL to act, in just a few months, they added more netting to protect fans. MLB has three deaths and not much has changed.