Phillies Finally Sign Baseball’s Premier Catcher, JT Realmuto

Let’s be honest, even die hard Phillies fans were sweating this one out, no one knew if the Phillies would cough up the dough to make (in the words of the Inky’s Matt Breen) “Baseball’s Premier Catcher” JT Realmuto stay in Philly.

I know I bit my nails to the quick. I really didn’t think they could come up with enough money to give Realmuto his dream to be the highest average annual value for a catcher in the history of baseball. The “magic number” they agreed upon was $23.1 million per season over five years for a grand total of *drumroll* $155.5 MILLION DOLLARS.

For the next three years, the Phillies look to have a rather beefy team with Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. They also just inked Rhys Hoskins to keep him at first…hopefully, “Rookie Season Rhys” will return and be a bigger contributor this season.

After the abysmal year that was 2020, both on and off the field, may be, just may be, there’s a light at the end of this long tunnel between championship wins. Let’s just hope it’s not the headlight of an oncoming train.

Meeting John Middleton-Phillies Owner

Today I was enjoying my free ticket to the Phillies game. Threshers season ticket holders are given a chance to see the Phillies one game a year. Part of a section is reserved and tickets are dispensed on a first come, first served basis. It’s a great time as you get to see a lot of your friends you haven’t seen since September.

Ross and I arrived early and walked around. I saw that there was someone garnering a lot of attention. It wasn’t a player. Phillies owner John Middleton was signing autographs. By this time, we were eating lunch and I had just sat down, so it was either abandon lunch for an autograph or let it go. Lunch won. I was sad about not getting the autograph but I really didn’t have a choice.

After lunch, I was feeling good as I’m recovering from my foot surgery so we walked a lap around the field. When we came back around Mr. Middleton was almost to the concourse and still signing.

I grabbed my “limited edition, only available for 24 hours” Topps Now card of Bryce Harper’s debut for the Phillies and asked Mr. Middleton to sign it. He did and said he hadn’t seen one nor did he have one and that he thought it was cool.

After he walked away, I realized I had a second copy in my bag. So I ran back and caught up to him and gave him the copy.

He grabbed my shoulder, smiled and said, “thank you so much that is unbelievably kind and thoughtful of you!” He shook my hand a couple times before thanking me again and heading to the owners suite.

I think so many people ask him for things that he really appreciated that someone would think to make such a gesture. I was glad to do something for the man who brought us Bryce Harper….

Speaking of Bryce Harper…stay tuned for my report on the game tomorrow…Here’s a hint…

Bryce Harper’s first home run as a Phillie

What Does it Take For A Warning to be Issued? Jays’ Pitchers Take Shots at Phils

What does it take for a warning to be issued? Does someone have to be permanently injured or disfigured? Don’t get me wrong, I live in Dunedin so I do support the Jays, but I’m seriously reconsidering that after what I’ve seen in the last two games.

Is it because of Harper? The Jays didn’t play like that the first game–which was the day the Phillies signed Harper.

Then during Harper’s debut, the brush-backs started. First, Jean Segura:

Jean Segura barely dodges a pitch

Then during Rhys Hoskins’ second at bat, his first after his 2-run homer, he was nearly got nailed in the face:

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Today, Harper was nailed in the ankle. See Harper getting hit HERE.

Harper after getting hit (Photo courtesy of Sports Center)

I know that after Hoskins was nearly decapitated no warning was issued…and not today after Harper got hit.

After the game a steaming Hoskins said he Elias ready to back up Harper if he would have charged the mound.

I’ll be at the last matchup VS the Jays next week. Hopefully, there won’t be a repeat of this kind of behavior.

Bryce Harper Takes Batting Practice And Signs Autographs Before Phillies Debut

Hello Fans!

I managed to get my hands on a much-coveted ticket to today’s game where Bryce Harper will Make his Phillies debut. It’s a sell-out!

I got in as soon as the gates opened and managed to get to see Harper take 2 at bats before heading into the locker room.

Afterwards they lead him out through the Hooters Diamond Dugout to avoid the crowd.

He did come to sign for those of us standing there…I didn’t ask since I got one Thursday..but I did say to him, “Hey, Bryce thanks for the autograph on Thursday, I really appreciate it!” He stopped, looked to see who said that, met my eyes and said, “you’re welcome, glad to.”

He’s defiantly not “who they said he is”. He’s thoughtful and appreciative to his fans. So much better than I could have expected.

The Side Of Bryce Harper You Don’t Hear Much About

“He’s arrogant!” “He’s such a jerk, flipping his hair!” Don’t forget the famous quote, “That’s a clown question.”

That’s the sort of impression you get from the media about Bryce Harper. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled at the prospect of getting Harper, I mean who needs that kind of attitude? I was happy for what he could do for us, but that attitude? What I’ve witnessed over the last few days seems very much different from what I thought Bryce Harper was like.

Bryce Harper walking into batting practice

Today, was something 180° from the “image” the image media foists on him. The Harper I saw was soft-spoken, thoughtful and giving of his time.

Bryce Harper hit a home run to left with the very first pitch during BP.

Harper took live BP off of several minor league pitchers on Roberts field. Video of Harper vs Trevor Bettincourt is HERE. Harper vs Addison Russ is HERE. After each pitcher finished his set, Harper went over, shook their hand and told them what they did well or if there was something that could be improved. He was generous with his knowledge and time.

Bryce Harper shakes Addison Russ’ hand after batting practice.

This doesn’t sound like the guy the media told us he was…does it? He seems so invested in making everyone around him better. That’s not the “selfish jerk” image that was given to him. It’s ANYTHING BUT.  I always try to believe the best in everyone which is why I went into the whole Harper thing this week with an open mind. At the press conference to introduce him to the team he said everything you’d want your new franchise player to say. Then to see him today, spending time and sharing knowledge with these young, up and coming pitchers…that’s class. It’s pure class.

Bryce Harper

After practice, there were may be 15 people there waiting for autographs, myself included. He came and signed for everyone. I told him, “Thank you for coming to Philadelphia, we are glad to have you here.” He looked at the ball he signed for me and said, “Same.” A simple, one word answer that was soft and unassuming. He simply is glad to be here. What more do you need?

Bryce Harper signed my ball!

I think my favorite story of the day, however, is this one. Standing next to me was this man. he was there with his baby. A year ago his wife gave Harper the sonogram to show her husband and that’s how she told him they were expecting! He had the picture from last year on a poster…

Bryce Harper’s biggest little fan…

It was the greatest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Before you ask, Harper did sign the little guy’s jersey for his bedroom wall. Just one more bit of proof that Harper is NOT what they want you to think he is, he actually is what we need him to be, a decent soft spoken leader that is kind and respectful to the fans that love him. Welcome to Philly, Bryce, welcome to Philly.

The Good and Bad Today-Bryce Harper Edition

Well, we got to the Carpenter Complex and hoped to see Bruce Harper taking BP with the minor leaguers or in the stadium again today. Sadly, the field conditions were poor due to a strong thunderstorm overnight so all practice was limited.

Story was that Harper walked over from the stadium, ate breakfast at Carpenter with the minor leaguers and worked out back at Spectrum Field.

He did not appear again until he left, though with my long lens I managed to snag a picture:

Baseball Ross and I then headed to the ticket office and snagged some of the last tickets for Harper’s debut as a Phillie on Saturday!

Then I got the last Harper shirtzey in my size!

So while I didn’t get the autograph I wanted to see BP, I did get a shirtzey and tickets to the debut…so all in all it was a good day!

BRYCE HARPER Is in Clearwater!

I just saw BryceForceOne fly over my home in Dunedin! I have the close-up of Middleton’s plane complete with Phillies logo as well as the flight tracker data as proof!

ETA: Ross had just left to walk our dog when the plane was due to fly over. If you know him, you know he’s rather stoic…imagine my surprise when I heard him yelling from about 3 houses down, “YOU SEE IT? IT’S THE PHILLIES’ PLANE! YOU SEE IT!”

That was worth $330 million right there.

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…

My Jerry McGuire Moment

I apologize for not blogging this week. It’s not that I haven’t been to any games or watched them on tv/internet, it’s that I just haven’t felt well, inspired to write.

I find myself feeling like Jerry McGuire in the beginning of the movie where he’s sort of rushing all around doing what he needs to do because that’s what he does, not what he wants to do. Then that one night he is hit by that bolt of inspiration that causes him to write his mission statement. Seeing that I’m starting this post at 1:30 a.m. I’d likely get fired by my boss too if I were writing this for a company that actually paid me to write. Heck, depending on where I end up, may be I’ll fire myself. (Ha!)

I think the thing that sent me into my funk was the whole Cole Hamels/Bryce Harper “incident”. It just got the wheels in my head running and I couldn’t get them to stop.

I look at the Phillies roster and how EIGHT of the 40 men on the roster are on the DL. EIGHT. These kind of things happen, granted usually not eight at a time. The Phillies are hurting for players that can produce at the major league level. Then Cole goes and makes, frankly, a bonehead move like hitting Harper ON PURPOSE with a 93mph fast ball.

How do you justify that? They are hurting for players and Hamels goes and gets himself suspended. So that made NINE guys that couldn’t play. If you ask me, he got off easy. He essentially only had to push back one day in the rotation. I honestly think if a player gets a five game suspension it should be five games where he could actually play. With a pitcher it equates to just delaying their start one day. Not much of a punishment for intentionally hurling a ball 93 mph into a guy’s butt.

Hamels contract is up for renewal at the end of the season. Howard Eskin was reporting that Hamels is asking for a seven year contract. Now, if he wants a contract that’s comparable to the 5 year deal that Cliff Lee got, Lee got 11 million the first year, 21.5 this year and for the next three years he gets 25 million dollars. Some sources are estimating that Hamels will ask for approximately what Lee is getting. If Hamels gets the 25 million a year that Lee is getting the next three years, for his contract: that’s ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. Think about it.  I’m not saying he can’t produce but after his questionable behavior this week, would you feel comfortable investing that kind of money in a guy who might just make a decision on a whim that could harm the team without thinking about the consequences? Will he still continue to play to his fullest ability?

Look at all the money the Angels put out for Albert Pujols. INSANE money. He just got his first home run this weekend. What’s his incentive to keep playing as hard as he can? His money is guaranteed. He played hard last year because he wanted the big contract, this year? Can you say the same?  If he never hits another homer, he still gets paid the same. There’s no bonuses for playing hard and it’s just human nature to do only what you have to to get by. That’s where the problem lies, there’s just no incentive. I’m not by any means suggesting he’s tanking on purpose, but I’d wager he just doesn’t seem to be playing all out every game like he did last year.

Then look at the money that’s tied up in long term contracts. Chase Utley is down to only one more year, but will he ever be able to play again? If he does, at what level? I can actually say, I have had patella problems including surgery to thin the tendons to lengthen them. I did the therapy. My knee is good, but it will never be 100% and I can tell you from experience that it’s the stopping and turning that make it hurt. Not running/walking. I can walk for days and it doesn’t bother me, but if I stop quick and turn, that’s a different story. Isn’t that what a second baseman does? Grab a ball turn and throw? If it’s arthritis, there isn’t a lot that can be done to keep the pain from returning.

Howard’s out. Hopefully by the end of the year he’ll be back. He’s in the first year of a five year deal. 20 million this year and next and the last three years 25 million dollars.

Amaro’s got so much money tied up in some of these major contracts it doesn’t leave a lot for them to get players to add depth to the roster so that when injuries occur there’s someone to step in. They get players like Wiggington, a player who’s former team wanted to get rid of him so badly, they were willing to pay half his salary while he played for someone else. Laynce Nix’s contract wasn’t renewed with Washington. He was “cheap” at 1.15 million this year, but no one else wanted him. If so much money wasn’t tied up they might have been able to get some one, err, a little more playable?

Then when disaster strikes, and how can you not call eight of your players on the DL not a disaster, you could turn to your farm system for replacements. I personally think that the Phillies have one of the best farm systems in the league. There is a great deal of talent in the pool. So many guys who could step in and help. There might be a learning curve while they adjust to playing at the top level, but I’d rather lose a few games to inexperience than because the guy playing is past his prime.

I really like Jim Thome. He’s a super nice guy. I wish him no ill will, but I think there’s a problem when he can’t practice taking ground balls without needing to sit on a step stool. I saw him in spring training. They had him next to Bright House on the short field sitting on a step stool fielding ground balls. You can’t tell me that there was no one who was more physically able to fill first base. At the time we still had Matt Rizzotti. He had played with the  Phils last spring training. This year? They didn’t bring him up and soon dealt him to the Twins. Darrin Ruf is leading the Eastern League in batting average, Cody Overbeck is in Lehigh Valley and don’t count out Big Jim Murphy who’s 2nd in the Florida State League in RBIs. I’m not saying that these guys are truly ready to play as good as Howard the first day but they’d be making a third of what Thome is and may be they’d grow into the position and frankly, I’d be willing to bet that they could slide into second without throwing their backs out. Give the young guys a chance.

Shane Victorino’s contract is also up at the end of the year. Who’s going to replace him?

I’m fairly certain that they’ll either pay way too much for too long for him or they’ll bring in another guy over 33 to take his place.

What about all the good outfielders in the farm system? You’ve got guys like Derrick Mitchell and Tyson Gillies (Gillies is currently ON the 40 man roster though he’s playing in AA Reading) or even Rich Thompson who should at least earn a shot at winning the spot.

Look at all the players that the Phillies didn’t want who went on to have  success somewhere else: Michael Borne, Gio Gonzolez, Jason Donald, Adrian Cardenes, Michael Taylor, Lou Marsen…they’re somewhere else and making an impact and that’s just the guys that are in the majors.

They spend all that time to develop the talent then ignore it. It’s so frustrating.

As a fan, the majors are getting more and more out of reach as well. To make the money to pay these huge salaries, they have to charge more for tickets, souvenirs cost more, food, everything. It’s getting to where the average Joe can’t afford to take the whole family out. What about getting your kid an autograph? Unless you go to a charity event or pay for it, it’s likely not going to happen (unless you’re at spring training).

Then I look at the farm system. That’s where I as a fan, look for my investment.

The whole minor league system is set up to not only be fan friendly, but affordable. MiLB was running a promotion, “A family of four can go to a minor league game for 46 dollars” or something like that. It included a hot dog and drink for everyone too. Heck, on dollar Tuesdays in Clearwater, you can get a berm seat for a buck, a hot dog for a buck and a small soda for a buck. Heck add an ice cream sandwich in for desert and a bag of popcorn and that’s still just five bucks. You can take a family for dinner and a game for just twenty bucks. If you’d go to Citizen’s Bank Park, that’s what? Half of an upper deck seat?

The players may not make much money but they don’t mind saying hi or even waving on occasion if they see you at the games often enough and heck you can afford to go often when the prices are so low.

Saturday night we went to Dunedin to see the Threshers play the Blue Jays and we sat right behind the Threshers dug out. Cost six bucks a ticket. (Friday night it was only 3 bucks a ticket!!!) I don’t think most people have the money or connections to get seat like that in Philly. Here you can sit close enough that you can feel like you’re actually supporting your team and may be heckle the umps too.

That’s something the average person can’t do in Philly. With the salaries going up, I’m going to imagine the ticket prices will too.

I guess I’ve just been thinking too much, I just feel so jaded. It’s not that the Phillies don’t have talent, it’s just that so much of it isn’t “what it used to be” and to keep getting older guys without at least giving their young talent a chance is just so frustrating to me. They keep losing so many games for not having any offense and I look at the farm system and there’s so many young guys that just might be able to contribute if just given half a chance. They’d want to be there so much that they’d put in the effort, push so much harder that may be they could put together a few wins without worrying about throwing a back out, or pulling a calf muscle.

I don’t know. At least for now, I’ll spend $30 a month, sit at home with my dogs on my comfy couch and watch the Phillies that way. I can eat my own food and drink my own drinks. I can do that for a whole month and also watch MiLBtv too. All of those games as well for the same $30 bucks. If I’m going to go to a game, I’ll go to the minors. At least I know that these are guys with something to prove, a reason to play hard and may be sign a ball or two.

This is just my ramblings, the ramblings of a tired (it’s now 3 am when I’m finishing this) and frustrated fan. My mission statement if you will, to find good baseball wherever I can…or at least can afford.