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…

Phillies Acquire Ambidextrous Pat Venditte!

Today the Phillies acquired AMBIDEXTROUS reliever Pat Venditte from the Mariners for Joey Curletta. We were there when Joey Curletta was told he had been traded. At the time, that was all we knew. Curletta was sitting on the bench during the minor league intrasquad game. He didn’t even know where he was going, he was only told he had been traded and that he needed to go pack.

I hadn’t gotten to know Curletta who was acquired in the Carlos Ruiz trade. I’d seen him around this year but never got the chance to talk.

I was, however, very excited that the Phillies have acquired Venditte! I, like Venditte, am one of those rare people who are ambidextrous. I first became aware of Venditte when an associated press article ran the headline, “Amphibious Pitcher Makes Debut”.

Pat Venditte, Amphibious Pitcher (photo courtesy of the SportingNews.com)
Being ambidextrous isn’t common. According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of the population is right-handed with the remaining 10% being left handed, or a mild combination of left and right handedness. They estimate that only 1% of the population is actually, truly ambidextrous. I was raised “right” and only discovered that I was ambidextrous when I hurt my right hand in an accident. It took less than a week to be able to sign my name with my left similarly to my right handed signature. Full-blown legible writing didn’t take much longer. I’ve gotten to the point that I can sign either way and it usually is dependent on what hand is free to grab the pen. It really comes in handy when painting. I’m an amateur painter and there are times where being able to paint with the “other” hand is just easier so that you don’t drag your hand through paint or you can get a better angle with the brush.

Right hand

Left hand
 

Venditte is currently playing in the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy and will join the Phillies here in Clearwater as soon as they are eliminated or the tournament is over. I’m excited to see him and hope I can get his autograph. Us 1%-ers need to stick together, or is that walk hand in hand in hand in hand?

Josh Tobias goes to Red Sox for Clay Buchholtz

It was announced this morning that former Clearwater Thresher Josh Tobias has been traded to the dreaded Boston Red Sox for RHP Clay Buchholtz.


Tobias started with Lakewood and ended with Clearwater. He is young but showing strong potential. Buchholtz is on the downside of a good career. He has one  year (and 13-million dollars) remaining in his current contract. He may be ok as a temporary stop gap measure while waiting for some of the minor league pitchers continue to develop and mature. That being said, Buchholtz has had issues in the past, ending up in the bullpen on more than one occasion.

Tobias, while young, has shown signs of great potential, with a strong bat. Tobias has a .301 batting average while in the Phillies’ system. You can see his bat strength in this video from the final game of the Threshers season where he hit a strong homer to right. See HERE.

Will the gamble of giving up potential talent for a stop gap pitcher pan out? Only time will tell.

Phillies Trade Pitcher Chris Leroux to Toronto Blue Jays

The Philies have traded pitcher Chris Leroux to the Toronto Blue Jays for “cash considerations”. Leroux is expected to join Triple-A Buffalo. Leroux had been listed on the Phillies extended spring training roster.

Chris Leroux
Chris Leroux

Jorge Alfaro plays in GCL game-pictures

Jorge Alfaro, the new catcher acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, played today in a Gulf Coast League game.

Alfaro played three innings–hit two strong line drives that might have gone out, if the wind didn’t blow it back in.

  

Alfaro hits hard line drive to the warning track
 

New Aquisition John Richy Makes Clearwater Threshers Debut

John Richy, the newly acquired RHP from the Dodgers, made his debut with the Clearwater Threshers tonight.

Here are some pictures:  

    
 
  

Richy went 7 innings, 4 hits, no runs, 1 walk, 3 strike outs and a pick-off. A rather impressive debut for our new pitcher.

My only regret is that I won’t get to see more of him before the end of the season. Well, there’s only approximately 165 days until spring training….

Out of the wind

We left the game in Dunedin to escape the 30mph winds.

We went down to the Carpenter complex.

I got here just in time to see Ronnie Welty, whom we acquired from Baltimore for Julio Rodriguez, bat.

20130325-142859.jpg

He struck out.

I can say it’s a lot nicer here, we’re out of the wind and that makes all the difference.

FYI the new work group list is not out, while I do notice some changes, I will not comment until I can confirm them.