Jonathan Papelbon on Phillies: ‘I haven’t seen any leadership’

Thanks in large part to unfortunate injuries, the Philadelphia Phillies had an extremely disappointing season in 2012. On paper, Philadelphia looked like the best team in the league prior to the season. With pitching that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as starters and closer Jonathan Papelbon at the back end of the bullpen, the Phillies were picked by many to win it all.

What followed was an 81-81 season in which Philadelphia finished 17 games behind the NL East champion Washington Nationals. They missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. According to Papelbon, a lack of leadership has been an issue.

“Since I’ve been here I haven’t seen any leadership,” he told Mandy Housenick of the Allentown Morning Call (via NJ.com). “Every good team that I’ve been a part of has had a good core group of veterans and an influx of a good group of young guys and I think that’s a recipe for success. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have success. In my opinion, this team has way more to lose than to prove. I think a lot of guys on this team have proved a lot. But I think this year if we don’t go out and do what we’re capable of and supposed to do, then we have a lot more to lose.”

Ryan Howard played in just 71 games last season. Chase Utley was only able to play in 83. Those two guys have been the core of the Phillies’ lineup, so having them for only half a season crippled the team. Philadelphia will need better luck with injuries in 2013 to be successful. Papelbon also feels they need more guys to step up and lead the team, starting with himself.

“I felt like I could have been a little bit better leader than what I was, and I held back at some times,” the closer said.

He certainly didn’t hold it back when he was blasting the umpires, so perhaps Pap needs to do a better job of channeling his emotions. The Phillies can still be dangerous. Like any other team, they simply need some good fortune.

Fist pound to Hardball Talk
Photo credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Delmon Young has $600,000 in incentives to make weight with Phillies

Delmon-Young-PhilliesDelmon Young signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason, but there are incentives in the deal that will allow him to earn up to $2.75 million in bonuses. Some of those are performance-based incentives, but $600,000 of it has to do with the former Detroit Tiger watching what he eats.

According to an Associated Press report, Young will be weighed on six different occasions throughout the season. Each time he makes weight, he earns $100,000. The first three times, he must weigh no more than 230 pounds. The second three he can weigh up to 235.

“You can get carried away with the clubhouse food and late-night room service watching a movie,” Young told reporters on Wednesday. “Some ice creams and good luck cakes and stuff like that. Going back out in the outfield you have to stay lighter and everything. DH’ing, you know, you can be big.”

Young, who was named the MVP of the American League Championship Series for Detroit last year, primarily served as the team’s designated hitter. Now that he is with an NL team, he will have to play the field almost every time he’s penciled into the lineup card (aside from interleague play).

Young reportedly lost more than 30 pounds between the 2009 and 2010 season when he was with the Minnesota Twins, dropping from 239 to 207. He ended the 2012 season weighing in at 240, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to get down to 230 — assuming he didn’t stock up on Hostess products and stuff them down his gullet for the past three months. Who knows, maybe dropping a few pounds will prevent Young from making embarrassing throws like this.

H/T The 700 Level

Jimmy Rollins: NL East still goes through Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies may have only finished third in the NL East with an 81-81 record last season, but that’s not stopping Jimmy Rollins from saying that the division still belongs to his club.

Rollins, who is no stranger to expressing confidence in his club, doesn’t care that the Washington Nationals were the class of the division last season.

“It still runs through Philly,” Rollins said at a benefit earlier this week, via The 700 Level. “[Washington] had one year to win it. It was just like when the Mets took it from Atlanta, it was still up for grabs. I’m sure Atlanta felt it was still theirs, but fortunately we were able to come in and take it the next five years.”

Rollins offered some fair reasoning. He says that the team was “on the mend,” and points out that guys like Roy Halladay will be back. For some reason, he also thinks Cliff Lee performed poorly last season. Someone should tell him that just because Lee couldn’t get a win until July (he finished 6-9) doesn’t mean he didn’t pitch well.

Rollins also said something that should make the fans optimistic about next season.

“Everyone’s a little angry,” Rollins said, “which is good to get a chip on your shoulder and just go back out there and prove that this is still our division, but not only that, but that we’re still World Champions.”

The Phillies are older and breaking down, but they did finish the season strongly. Cole Hamels, Halladay, and Lee in the rotation should keep them competitive, but they need hitting. Their offense has gone downhill and could use a boost.

Terry Francona Suggests Managing in Philly was More Difficult than Boston

Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined FOX’s broadcast booth as an analyst for Game 1 of the ALCS. He was filling in for Tim McCarver, who had a minor heart procedure. Francona was extremely enjoyable as an analyst. His opinions were honest, he didn’t speak in cliches, and he provided commentary based on what unfolded in front of him, rather than what he had pre-determined as talking points.

Towards the end of the rain delay in Arlington, Joe Buck brought up an excellent question for Francona. He asked whether it was more difficult managing in Philadelphia or Boston.

“Philly was tough,” Francona admitted. “We were so bad, that was tough.

“Boston, they’re emotional and they care, but they want you to do well so bad. In Philadelphia, they want you to do well, but you better throw strike one, or they’re going to get nasty in a hurry.

“Those are two tough places,” he concluded.

Even though Francona said both cities were tough, you could tell by his response that he felt Philadelphia was tougher. Of course, it didn’t help that his teams in Philly didn’t have much success (they never won more than 77 games in his four years), but you figure if anyone has a proper perspective to answer the question, it would be a man who managed in both cities.

And even though Boston fans are difficult to please, given all the questionable behavior from Phillies fans, his answer was not too shocking.

Nationals Bullpen Advertises False Lottery Figures at Citizens Bank Park

When you look at the above photo, does anything strange jump out at you?  That sounds like a little too much money, no?  Yes.  For whatever reason, the lottery signs above the Nationals bullpen during their game with the Phillies Tuesday night were juiced more than Barry Bonds circa 2001.  I think the lottery is a massive scam and even I would consider playing if the winnings were upwards of $500 million and $700 million.  Big League Stew shared the photo with us and pointed out that Nationals Enquirer believes the Nats relievers may have tinkered with the numbers out of boredom.  Perhaps they were joining in on the fun of making fun of Jayson Werth.

The real Powerball prize is $25 million while Mega Millions is $70 million. My question is will this become a major problem? This has to be illegal, right?  If thousands of people went out and bought a ticket and claimed they believed the winnings were $521 million and $705 million, I would think they could argue that they were duped.  Then again, asking for your money back from the lottery is probably like asking Bill Belichick for an injury update.

Charlie Manuel Calls Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain Good But not Great

The Philadelphia Phillies just lost a three-game series to the San Francisco Giants. They were beaten by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain who held them to one run apiece. The series loss comes after the Giants knocked out the Phillies in the NLCS last year with Cain and Lincecum going 2-1 against them. Needless to say, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel fielded his share of questions from the media that wondered if Lincecum and Cain had taken proverbial ownership of them.

Manuel wasn’t willing to concede an inch.

“They’re good pitchers. You say they’re great pitchers. To me, I don’t know how great they are. I think as they move on into their careers, there’s the longevity part and things like that. I think that’s when the greatness might come by. This is a consistent game. When you say somebody is great … tonight I saw 90 fastball, 92 at the best. I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that. I’ve seen us do that.”

“We can beat them. I know we can.”

Sounds more like a pep talk than statement of fact, no? It really comes across as if the Giants are in the Phillies’ heads after beating them this series. The teams meet again next week for a four-game set and you know the Phillies will want to make a statement. If their bats don’t come alive, prepare to hear more chants about the Giants being poised to repeat as NL champions. Besides, we all know what Manuel thinks deep down. He just is afraid to admit it.

Brad Lidge: Ryan Madson Best Closer in NL

When the injured Brad Lidge returns to the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen, he will not be fortunate enough to resume duties as the closer. While he’s been out, Ryan Madson has done so well manager Charlie Manuel says things won’t change. Even with the loss of duties, he has no problem applauding Madson for his season thus far.

“I think, honestly, that he’s the best closer in the National League right now,” Lidge told reporters recently. “And I have no problem saying that.”

Madson has been outstanding for the Phillies thus far. In nine save opportunities, he has successfully closed out ball games and posted a 0.47 ERA with 23 Ks in 19 innings pitched. One has to wonder if his success will make Phillies fans forgive his wife.

Madson has been solid, but has he been the best closer in the NL? Maybe not. Here are a few NL closers who have arguably been better this season:

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