Phillies Minor League Workgroup List-Updated as of 3/10/2014

This morning the updated workgroup listing for the Phillies minor league camp was released:

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A Great Time in Reading, Even Though They Lost

Twilight in Baseballtown
Twilight in Baseballtown

Back in Baseballtown, it was good to be home.  There’s something special about First Energy Stadium, to me. I love it’s brick, the way the players have to cross the concourse to get from the locker room to the field, the BEST hotdogs in all of baseball, the ostriches.

Wait! Ostriches?

The Ostrich

Ok, I’m not sure I like the ostriches. There’s a whole load of reasons and I’m not really into the “rebranding”, but I’m not going into that now. Let’s just look at this picture of a large bird in a little truck and leave it at that.

I really had a good time. I got to see my favorite players, Derrick Mitchell, Jesse Biddle, Kelly Dugan, Austin Wright, and Seth Rosin before the game.

Derrick Mitchell led off. Now before I start, I want to go back to two years ago this week. Back then Baseball Ross and I lived in Harrisburg, PA and we went to a lot of games in Reading. I had talked to Derrick Mitchell that night and had complimented him on his home run the night before and asked him to hit one for me for my birthday. He laughed and said, “It doesn’t work that way.” Well that night it did. He hit a home run for me for my birthday. I always tell Derrick that that was one of the coolest birthday presents I had ever gotten. (If you want to read the blog from that night and see the video, you can click HERE)

So Derrick was up to bat and then…it happened (again) he KILLED a ball right over left center near the 370 sign.

Derrick Mitchell sends one over the fence
Derrick Mitchell sends one over the fence

Another homer…and what is this week??? That’s right, my birthday.  After the game, I saw Derrick, he had remembered that my birthday was this week and he even said, “I felt really good after that first one, I’d have hoped to hit you a second for your birthday.” It blew me away, that he could remember! (And people wonder why Derrick is my favorite.)

I also have to mention a funny thing that happened after the game…I was talking to Derrick as I mentioned above and a kid about ten years old kept interrupting while Derrick and I were talking. When Derrick left to go back to the locker room, we said our goodbyes and he gave me a hug. The kid then looked at me and asked me if Derrick was my dad! (ROTFL) Considering that I had been feeling, err older since it is my birthday this week, that kid really made me feel good.

I got to see Kelly Dugan and Maikel Franco in their Fightins uniforms for the first time as well…

Maikel Franco
Maikel Franco
Kelly Dugan
Kelly Dugan

Another cool thing that happened was that I got to visit the press box. I had the privilege of becoming friends with a talented local writer who kindly invited me to visit him in the press box. It was my first time in a press box during a game. I found it quite cool and was grateful to have had the chance to check out the game from that very different perspective.

Something that Ross and I love is the Berks hot dogs. When you see as many games as we do, you get stuck eating a lot of food from the concessions. Over the years, you get to appreciate the places with good food and loathe others where the food is not palatable. I love the concessions in Reading. The Berks hotdogs are the best in baseball.

Reading lost that night, but while I wish they had won, I still had a great time. I saw my favorite players, had a homer hit for my birthday, saw my new friend in the press box, saw my favorite usher and had a great hot dog. We saw a beautiful sunset (picture at the top of the page).

It was an awesome night in Baseballtown.

2013 Spring Training Work Groups List Released

The 2013 Spring Training Working Groups list has been released:

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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.

 

 

 

Austin Wright is Alright With Me

It was a beautiful day for a baseball game in Daytona. We made the trip in about 3 hours and only sat for about 15 minutes in traffic and we arrived in time for the 10:30 a.m. start. We were amazed that we weren’t caught in more rush hour traffic.

The game started off on a high note, Pete Lavin got a single and two batters later Brandon Tripp smacked a triple to drive Lavin home.

Threshers Celebrate in the Dugout as Pete Lavin Comes Home with the First Run
Austin Wright Pitches in Daytona

While Austin Wright’s pitching was good in the bottom of the first, Daytona managed to tie it on a strange play. John Andreoli would have had only a double, but a throwing error by Anthony Hewitt allowed him to score. Game was tied 1-1 after Wright got the last Cubbie to fly out.

Wright was sharp until the bottom of the 4th. Greg Rohan managed a double, then got to third when Nelson Perez was thrown out at first. Wright then threw a wild pitch that allowed Rohan to score. It was just such a freak thing.

After that, the Threshers seemed to really buckle down. Earlier in the season, this would have been the moment where they would have sagged a little, lost their drive, but not today. They seemed to pull together and were ready to go back at it to even up the score.

D’Arby Myers was the first up and he smacked a homer to tie the game. It was as if he was saying, “Oh no you don’t!”

The next inning, two Cubs grounded out and  one struck out. The Threshers were back in form. The Threshers weren’t done. Jim Murphy was first up in the sixth and he too, started the inning with a homer.

In the seventh, Edgar Duran made it to first on a throwing error. Then Lavin got another single. Albert Cartwright laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Duran to third and Lavin to second. Murphy is up again and he hit a single to drive in Duran and Lavin.

In the eighth, the Threshers bats were silent and at the bottom of the inning Juan Sosa come in in relief of Austin Wright. Daytona managed to get one run but at the end of the 7th, the score was 5-3 Threshers.

The eighth was quiet, but in the ninth, the Threshers wanted to put the cherry on the sundae, Albert Cartwright scored on a double by Brandon Tripp.

Bottom of the ninth, Hector Neris came in and while Daytona managed another run, it wasn’t enough, Threshers win, 6-4.

Threshers Celebrate a Win in Daytona

As I said earlier, I think that the Threshers are starting to gel as a team. When the going gets tough, the suck it up and power through it. In the beginning of the season, it was almost painful to watch. They’d be behind and you just knew that it was over, they wouldn’t be able to power through…now they can. They just seem to find that extra effort when it’s needed. It’s a good thing to see.

If you go to Daytona, I recommend a quick run over to the beach. It’s only about a mile from the stadium. Once you leave the parking lot, you go to the corner and hang a right….a few blocks later you’re at the “World’s Most Famous Beach”, Daytona Beach.

Ross on Daytona Beach
Betsy on Daytona Beach

We really enjoyed our day trip to Day-tona.

Threshers might be turning a corner

I want to begin by apologizing for not blogging more this week, but it was just “one of those weeks” where life got in the way of writing.

Monday, Baseball Ross and I got to see Perci Garner really step up. The whole team seems to have begun to “gel”.

The game on Monday was a see-saw ride, with the Brevard County Manatees beginning with 2 runs in the first, then Clearwater answered with 3 runs on a fielding error in the bottom of the second. The score kept ping-ponging back and forth until it was tied 7-7 in the sixth.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the TWELFTH when Pete Levin and Albert Cartwright starting the inning with singles. Brandon Trip was patient and earned a walk to load the bases. Then “Big” Jim Murphy stepped to the dish and whacked one that Ross and I thought was going to go over the wall. It fell short of being a grand slam by only a few inches, but it did score the winning run.

I do want to mention Jordan Whatcott pitched the last three innings of the game in relief. He was amazing, growing stronger as he went, even striking out the last two batters he faced. After this stunning performance, Jordan was sent up to Reading where he got his first AA win last night. Congratulations Jordan!

I guess I can also mention that I was a winner too, I won the “Tweet Your Seat” contest and won a $20 gift certificate to Pete and Shorty’s!

Tweet Your Seat Winner Gift Certificate

Ross and I each managed to catch a Threshers’ softer ball.

Threshers' Softee Ball

What a night!

Jesse Biddle prepares to pitch

Thursday night, it was Jesse Biddle’s turn on the bump. He looked strong going six innings (his longest outing of the season so far) and he only allowed one earned run. He also worked himself out of a bases loaded jam.

For me, I saw something change in Jesse. It was this “click” where you could see him buckle down, dig deeper for that little “something” that helped to push him a little further, pitch a little harder or focus his placement. It was as if you could just see the change. It was amazing to watch.

This is what you get at the minor league level. Its what makes minor league ball, to me anyway, better than major league ball. That little something, that magic where you can see a guy get to that next level, that personal growth. It’s where they learn that they have that next gear or that place to draw the strength to overcome whatever adversity they are facing. I saw that growth in Jesse that night. Where he may have been shaky or not as focused earlier, that night, he took the next step and battled through.

The Threshers were ahead 3-2 at the top of the ninth when the Daytona Cubs rallied to tie. Garrett Claypool came in and pitched a scoreless tenth. Jim Murphy drew a walk and set the scene for Anthony Hewett who shot one over the fence to bring them a 5-3 win in 10.

 

Austin Wright

Friday night again, was a nail-biter. With Austin Wright pitching another solid outing,  they were tied with Daytona 3-3 at the top of the eighth. Anthony Hewitt managed a single and Chris Duffy, freshly promoted from Lakewood smacked a double to send Hewitt home.  Hector Neris came in at the top of the ninth and sent the Cubs down in order.

In these three games, I think we’ve seen them start to gel, to become a cohesive team. They may have a game where the lead will see-saw back and forth and where a few weeks ago, they would seem to sag and be beaten, this week, the seem to instead pull together and draw strength to battle back. It’s something they can be proud of and now that they beat up on the Brevard Manatees tonight, winning 10-3, they’ve made it back to .500. They just might have turned the corner.