Closing Time, Spring Training Comes to an End.

As I drove to the Carpenter Complex Closing Time by Semisonic was playing in my mind. Especially the following:

Closing time
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
Closing time
This room won’t be open till your brothers or your sisters come
So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

The end of Spring Training is always bittersweet. Some of the guys get promoted and that’s always amazing, some of the guys are held at the same level as the year before and sadly, a few are given their outright release. For me, the releases are especially hard. I’ve known some of these players 6, 7, 8 years and have grown fond of them and to see their dream end always makes a little piece of my heart die.

This year, it was the release of Perci Garner that broke my heart. I’ve known Perci since his days here in Clearwater. I got to know his beautiful son as he spent time around the Complex this spring. When he was released, it hit close to home.

I was also stunned by the release of Kyle Bogese. 24-year old Kyle Bogese was one of my favorite stories of the last year. Bogese, a Trinity University Alumni, went undrafted. He appeared at a “walk-on” tryout held in Williamsport and pitched himself into a contract. I thought that he had been doing rather well considering his short time with the team, however, he was released at the same time as Garner.

It is my hope that they can be picked up by another team looking for pitching, even if it is in independent ball. That’s what happened to Jiwan James. James, an outfielder, was released at the end of last season by the Phillies after spending considerable time on the DL in Reading after abdominal surgery. James first signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish, an independent team, before signing with the Detroit Tigers. As of today, he has yet to be assigned to a team within their organization.

While I was able to talk to my friends and I know where they are headed, there has been no official rosters released as of when this blog was posted, so I’ll have to wait for that. I’m glad that my friends seem to be ok with whatever their lot was and they all realize that a lot of changes happen in the first month or so of the season as some players’ dreams will end as they cannot play at the level they are assigned, some are injured, some players over perform and get promoted.

Personally, I think that with the large number of older pitchers that were picked up in the off-season, there may be a few that do not measure up or become injured which will allow some promotion of the younger pitchers. It’s inevitable and I know that those younger players are hungry to progress.

That’s why I try to focus on the last line of the section of Semisonic’s “Closing Time”… Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…

spring training closed

It is the Spring of my Discontent

To paraphrase Steinbeck (and badly at that), it is the spring of my discontent. I love baseball, I do, but I’m so frustrated with it, so discontent.

There’s so many reasons…almost too many to count, but I’ll try.

1. The injury bug bit early, often and viciously. Roman Quinn, Jiwan James, Cole Hamels, Ethan Martin, Cameron Rupp, Kelly Dugan, Tommy Joseph, Mitch Walding, Adam Morgan, Hugo Arrocha, Josh Warner, Steven Inch, Nic Hanson, Chase Numata, Cory Bass, Darin Ruf, Rivar Angulo, Delvy Francisco, Mike Adams, Chris Bootcheck, Yoel Mecias, Anthony Phillips, Colin Klevin, Hoby Milner, Ryan Demmin, Aaron Altherr, Larry Greene, Zach Green, Brandon Short, Drew Anderson, Freddy Galvis, Andres Blanco and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. These are the guys I can think of right off the top of my head! While some of them have returned or are scheduled to return, there are still others that have no timeframe for return.

2. It’s barely a month into the season and Tyson Gillies was suspended for three games for destroying a bat rack in the clubhouse. To me this is a symptom of a larger problem, both with Gillies and the entire system. Gillies is developing a reputation as a guy with anger management issues. Another example happened just two weeks ago here in Florida. Kevin Walter was unhappy with the way things were going during a game in Tampa. He left the field, stormed into the locker room behind the dugout and from where I was sitting I could hear him swearing and a loud thump as if something was either thrown or a table tipped over. Just after that another Thresher player came out of the locker room with a worried look on his face. He stopped another player from going into the locker room saying “You DON’T want to go in there!”

It also is a symptom of how players (and fans) are frustrated with the lack of production and success in the organization. (Read on to number 3 for an example.)

3. The lack of wins. The records speak for themselves:

Phillies 13-12
Iron Pigs 11-13
Fightins 11-10
Threshers 5-19
Lakewood 7-16

Of the five teams currently playing in the organization, only TWO are above .500 and both of those teams are only ONE GAME over.

4. Misusing players. I have a prime example of this and it’s the one that had me totally stymied. Last season, there was only ONE Gold Glove winner in the entire Phillies system, Carlos Alonso. Carlos played 2nd for the Threshers and only made TWO errors all YEAR. ALL YEAR. He was promoted to Reading (and rightly so) and where did they have this Gold Glove winning second baseman play? Third and THE OUTFIELD! Really?!? REALLY?!? I’d have loved to sit in on the coaches meeting where they thought up that gem.

5. Bad umpiring. Last night was the end-all, be-all of bad calls. If you read my Twitter feed last night, you could tell how I was seething. The Threshers had been losing (again) and had battled back and had the winning run was at the plate. Pete Lavin had homered earlier in the game to spark the comeback and had come close to a second homer after that. Lavin came to the plate and Bright House Field was buzzing with anticipation. One foul, two fouls, three fouls, four fouls, it was easy to see that Lavin was pushing hard to be the hero. On the final call he checked his swing and from where Ross and I were sitting (and I later confirmed with another season ticket holder with another point of view) we did NOT see him break his wrists and the bat head did not cross the plate. The home plate ump called him out and didn’t even call the base ump to confirm! The game was over! Lavin was livid. If you know Pete, you know he rarely says anything to an ump, he’s fairly laid back. Last night, Lavin walked after the ump to discuss the call. The ump just walked away.

At that point, Nelson Prada got involved. When he started he seemed more in disbelief that the home plate ump didn’t even check with the base ump. I was just turning to leave when I heard Prada go ballistic! (While I am “censoring” this he used the full words) “That’s F*ing BS! That’s a F*ing BS call!”

I have to say, I was right there with Prada. While I’ve been known to occasionally heckle an ump and sitting behind home is great for that, I do not swear. There’s kids and it’s just not “proper”. Last night was the closest I’ve ever come to losing my cool and joining Prada with F-bombing the ump. My blood boiled! To end a game on a bogus call and not even check with the base ump when the winning run was at the plate was just bogus. I was so frustrated and angry. It took me a good hour after the game to cool off. I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry at a game.

I must admit I’m still sort of angry, angry and discontent enough that if Ethan Stewart and Colin Kelvin (returning from the DL) were not pitching today and tomorrow, I wouldn’t go.

If you want to see me try to decide if I’ll go tonight, watch this video, it’s pretty accurate as to how I’m feeling…

Starting Thursday, the Threshers are on the road, so I’ll get a break then, but man, I’ll be dragging myself in tonight. It’ll almost be like trying to drag myself into work on a “Monday morning”.

Let’s hope that Stewart and Kleven use this misfortune as a jumping off point so that we do not end the first month of the season with only 5 wins. If they do, we would be on pace to go 25-115 (assuming they’d continue with winning 5 games a month).

Final Workout Group Posting

Here it is…

20140324-113837.jpg

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:

20140311-111222.jpg

The Gulf Coast Phillies Start the Season against the GCL Blue Jays

It’s summer here in Florida. Yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of the Gulf Coast League season with the GCL Phillies playing the GCL Blue Jays at the Carpenter Complex.

As it often happens here in Florida, we left our home just a few miles from the Complex and the sun was out and there were only big fluffy clouds. Three miles later, the sky had opened up and as we neared the Complex it was obvious that they had had a good amount of rain. The drainage culverts that were usually empty were more than half full and there was standing water in both the outfield and infield at the Complex. We were informed that the game was cancelled and that a double header would be held on Saturday at the Blue Jay’s Englebert Field. We went to a local eatery for lunch and they were without power–which may show how much worse the weather was in Clearwater as opposed to Dunedin.

Today started out beautiful, sunny and a light breeze and since we had rain last night, the temperature was good.

Cord Sandberg

Draft pick Cord Sandberg led off for the Phillies….unfortunately, he struck out. Sandberg is from nearby Bradenton and he had several fans there to see him in his first professional game. (Next week the GCL Phils will head to Bradenton to play the Pirates and I will bet that there will be a large contingent of fans to see their hometown boy. Ross and I will also hope to make the trip over the Sunshine Skyway to see Feliberto Sanchez pitch again.)

Jiwan James was up next in a rehab appearance and he singles. Followed by Tommy Joseph who was also making a rehab appearance.   There’s a pass ball and James goes to second.  Joseph walked and James to third.  Next was Nick Ferdinand…

Nick Ferdinand
Nick Ferdinand

Ferdinand hit one to center that SHOULD have been caught, but as it wasn’t  he goes to first, Joseph to second and James scores!

Next up was Robinson Torres who popped up. Next was Jose Pujols. The pitcher for the Jays throws another ball that gets by the catcher and Tommy Joseph runs home, but is tagged at the plate. (I thought he was safe, but what do I know?)

The opening day pitcher for the Phillies was Feliberto Sanchez. He’s a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic.

Feliberto Sanchez
Feliberto Sanchez

Sanchez was impressive in his first start. By the end of his 3 innings, he gave up 2 hits, no runs, no walks, hit one batter and 2 strike outs. When he left the game the Phils were up 5-0.

Next to pitch for the Phils was Mark Leiter. His line 1 inning, no hits, no runs, no walks and 1 strike out.

In the fifth, Matt Soren came in to pitch and the wheels came off for the Phils. Soren looked great for the first two batters then fell apart. Soren’s final line was 2/3 of an inning, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk and 1 strike out. Phils still up 5-3. Ronald Mendez came in to finish the inning and pitched the sixth and gave up a run, but it was unearned as it was the result of an error. Phils up 5-4.

In the seventh, Cody Forsythe, gave up 3 hits, one run and no walks or strikeouts. So what was supposed to be the last inning of the first game of a double header…wasn’t and not by long shot. The game ended up going FOURTEEN innings.

Ricky Bielski was the highlight of the next two innings.

Ricky Bielski
Ricky Bielski

Bielski went 2 innings 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 3 strike outs. He had good command and when he started the 2nd he got behind with a 3-0 count, he got the batter to ground out to second. What impressed me is that after that 3-0 count, he struck out the next two batters.  It was good to see that during this first game of the season. I was impressed.

In the fourteenth, the Jays managed to score and ended the game. It was a hot one, 92 degrees and sunny with little to no breeze. I called it a day. I was fried by the sun, very hot and downed almost 80 ounces of iced tea to cool off!

I left game two to more hardy folk, like Baseball Ross.

In the end, it was a day that supposed to be the second game of the season, then a day with two 7 inning games and by the time it was done, TWENTY innings of baseball were in the books…I’ll bet those guys will sleep well tonight. (Sadly, the GCL Phillies also dropped the second game 3-1)

Updated Work Group

The most recent work group list is in. This is after this weekends cuts.

20130318-132254.jpg

2013 Spring Training Work Groups List Released

The 2013 Spring Training Working Groups list has been released:

20130303-171146.jpg

Elevator Day–What can it mean?

It’s a day of moment in the pharm system. Some going up, one coming down. Jordan Whatcott, Frank Gailey and Ryan Duke were all promoted from Reading to Lehigh Valley. Pat Misch was sent from Lehigh to Reading.

So what does it mean?

Personally, between trading Thome (especially without consulting Manuel, who was quoted as saying that he didn’t know that they had traded Thome until after the game) the rumors rabidly circulating that they are looking to deal Cole Hamels to the Rangers OR that the Reds, Dodgers and Yankees are all interested in Shane Victorino and now, all these moves….

I think they are floundering, they are desperate and hopelessly flailing, trying to find something, anything to staunch the bleeding.

As much as I’ve questioned Amarro’s actions over the last year or two, this is the most concerning to me. He obviously knows that his job is on the line. He bet everything that the veterans on this year’s team would be able to pull him through. He spent every dime he could on older players, making a team for now, but the problem is that he over paid and gave older players long term contracts that keep them tied to the franchise. The contracts are also so large that very few teams could afford to inherit these contracts IF we could convince them to take them in a trade.

I’ve come to think of Ruben as “Rabid Ruben”, foaming at the mouth and running around and biting at anyone and anything trying to find something to work. In the meantime, the team is floundering, foundering and nothing will get better until Rabid Ruben is “cured”. By cured, I mean excised like a cancerous tumor.

At this point, it’s OBVIOUS that he’s grasping at straws, throwing in not only the towel but every other piece of laundry in the basket too. Let’s stop the cancer from growing, excise it now, get someone else in there and stop the damage before it gets any worse. Why not do a wholesale housecleaning at the top and also replace Manuel with Hall of Famer, Iron Pigs’ Manager Ryne Sandberg?

They need to keep Hamels. We do not have enough pitching talent for next year without him. I think we have pitchers coming up that might be ready in the future, but not this year and not next year.

As far as Victorino, I like the guy, BUT as I’ve written before, we are flush with young talent that could grow into the position, Derrick Mitchell, Tyson Gillies, Jiwan James, Steve Susdorf, Domonic Brown (if he ever gets healthy) and those are just the guys I can think of off the top of my head. We have to look to these young, talented guys for the future; Rabid Ruben’s habit of looking outside the pharm for senior talent obviously isn’t working, let’s use the talent we’ve home grown and let them lead us into the future and stop looking back.

Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe it.

I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel right now. I’ve always been known for my loquaciousness and for me to be speechless is beyond the pale.

There are so many problems, where can I start?

1. Injuries. The Phils weren’t hit by the injury bug, it’s more like a plague of injury locusts. Howard, Utley, Thome, Martinez, Galvis, Halliday, Stutes, Nix when will it end? At one point, we had NINE guys on the DL.

2. Age. I’m starting to think they might go faster on one of those Hove-arounds you see advertised on TV… You can go, go, go in your Hove-around! Ok, I’m kidding, but age does contribute to reason #1.

3. Lack of Consistency. Not just on the field, but also in the clubhouse. On the field, Uncle Chuckles keeps changing the line up. How can anyone get into a groove when they never get to bat in the same position? In the club house, with all the injuries there’s never the same guys in the line up so again, how can they get into a groove?

4. Contract Uncertainty. Hamels and Victorino’s contracts are up. With the problems we’ve been having with Blanton, Kendrick and the floating fragment in Worley’s elbow can we afford to let Hamels go? No. The problem is that to keep Hamels and stay under the luxury “tax” payroll limit, there has to be some concessions made…and it looks like Hamels importance will outweigh Victorino’s so unless Vic is willing to lessen his demands; we will have to let him go.

That being said, if Vic goes, there are plenty Pharm Hands willing and capable of stepping in: Derrick Mitchell, Domonic Brown, Steve Susdorf, Tyson Gillies, Jiwan James, they’re all just waiting. I know they are lacking in experience, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’d rather lose some games as part of a learning curve rather than because Amarro went to a fire sale and picked up the first over 40 player he could find.

5. Attitude Adjustment Needed. Antonio Bastardo had to miss games because he threw a temper tantrum and punched an exercise machine which ironically punched him back. Now he’s got stitches, swelling and as Uncle Chuckles mentioned today, an infection to boot. Wonderful.

Shane Victorino also seems flat. I swear it seems like he’s given up. This goes right back to #4.

This bad attitude just seems to be spreading like a cancer.

I’m at such a loss. Sadly, there’s nothing we as fans can do. It’s so hard to sit here and watch our beloved Phightins suffer. Will it get better?

We’ve lost so much, players, games, spirit, I’m not sure that getting Howard, Utley or anyone else back will do enough to change our failing season.

I just don’t know and frankly I’m not sure that Manuel or Amarro do either.

Gillies will be ok!

It was just reported that while Tyson Gillies is not line up today, he only suffered what is being characterized as a “contusion”.

Last night in Harrisburg, both Tyson and Jiwan James were running for a line drive. They were both running all out and collided at full speed. Tyson was removed from the game. It was reported that he was taken to the hospital for X-rays.

I follow both on Twitter and knew as of last night that Jiwan was ok as he tweeted as such. I was growing worried about Tyson because he had not tweeted.

So things are looking better. Here’s to Tyson for a speedy recovery.