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How Long Before Ryan Howard Leaves Philly?

The big news of the day in the world of baseball — outside of the surprise that Jonathan Papelbon didn’t take the Red Sox to arbitration — was Ryan Howard’s submitted salary for the arbitration process. Howard has asked for an $18 million salary for the upcoming season while the club has offered 14 mil. He’ll receive one or the other, not something in between. Last year Howard won his arbitration hearing with the club, receiving $10 million rather than seven. That was his first year of arbitration eligibility given his status as a super-two player (most major leaguers need three years of service to be eligible for arbitration, Howard had played two and a half). My point is that Ryan Howard has already experienced the ugly side of the game once and will now have to sit through another round of his team arguing against him.

Players are humans too and there’s only so much criticism and negative sentament one can take. After his second year of arbitration with the club, particularly one after winning a World Series, he probably won’t have much love left for the organization and its front office. Imagine if Howard loses his arbitration case and is reminded how crappy his defense is and how many strikeouts he amassed? What will he think? Sitting behind Jim Thome in the minors all those years, Howard will be 29 this season and in his early 30s when he’s eligible to become a free agent and bolt town. He’s already seen the team extend Cole Hamels in order to avoid arbitration and no doubt can’t be happy about that. Now that he’s won the World Series, if the guy loses arbitration, I could imagine him asking for a trade. Keep your eyes on this case, because I don’t see Ryan Howard sticking with the Phillies any longer than he has to, the 2012 season being the earliest.

Video: Chase Utley Drops F-Bomb in Victory Parade Speech

For anyone who heard Chase Utley drop an f-bomb on the baseball fans that booed him in the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, the speech he delivered Friday in Philadelphia would not be surprising. For those who did miss that window into his personality, the following video is probably pretty astounding. This is All-Star second baseman and World Series champion Chase Utley addressing thousands of Phillies fans in person, and several more thousand on live TV. Warning: the language by Utley and the fans is strong.

OK, a few things. I’m not sure who has the balls (stupidity?) to say something like that in front of all the kids at the stadium, not to mention all those watching on TV. Secondly, judging by the way Jayson Werth jumped up behind him, it seemed as if Utley had won a bet with his teammates by saying the F-word. Lastly, is there anything more emblematic of Utley and Philly fans than those three words? I think not. The fans sure ate it up!

Vegas Getting its Wish: Phillies Won

One of the really interesting aspects of the World Series comes from the Wise Guy angle. With several futures tickets outstanding for daring soles who bravely bet money on the Rays to win the World Series at 200-1 before the season started, there’s no secret who Las Vegas and other online casinos want to win the Fall Classic: the Phillies. They opened the line with the Rays as the favorites even though the teams seem to be pretty evenly matched, so that they could try to spark betting interest on the Phils to help them hedge. What kind of impact could it have on sports books in Vegas if the Rays win?

“It’s a significant number for a futures book, but it’s nothing that’s going to shut down the book or anything,” Kornegay told The Associated Press. “It might dim the lights.”

“We have learned our lesson that we don’t open these teams at 500-1 until the season starts and we realize what they have and what kind of team they have,” Kornegay said. “This year, I’m going to guess it’s probably in the millions range if you accumulate all the liability across the state.”

They must be breathing quite a sigh of relief after seeing the Phils take a Game 1 lead. Could you just imagine a room of FOX execs and sports book managers huddled together hoping for the Rays to lose in the ALDS or the ALCS so they don’t lose too much money? Could there be any other team in there that people would be more unhappy to see? At least they’re getting their way so far. Wonder if the wise guys can somehow create a few artificial rainouts to get Hamels an extra start or two — they wouldn’t even have to sweat in that case.

Phillies Shilling for the Environment

You may have noticed the Philadelphia Phillies wearing green caps on Wednesday (which at least was better than Rick Pitino wearing his white suit). No, it was not some belated St. Patrick’s Day celebration. And I’d like to say that it wasn’t some ploy to market new gear to the fans, but I’d probably be wrong. I am certain however, that is was a nod to the Phillies becoming the first MLB team to join the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program. As part of the program, the Phillies have purchased 20 million hours of reusable energy or something like that. They are revamping their recycling program within the stadium, reusing everything from frying oil to fluorescent lamps. And good luck trying to bring some ketchup packets to your seat for those fries and the dog — they’re switching over to more eco-friendly dispensers instead.

That’s cool and all if this becomes the new trend in MLB considering how much energy is used up to power those ballparks. Maybe the Phillies can look into whether or not they can start recycling players, you know? Perhaps they can get back Adam Eaton pre-surgery, and maybe like Scott Rolen, too. OK, I’ll stop making fun because I want the world to be as nice of a place for the future generations as it is for me. And while we’re on the subject of improving Citizens Bank Ballpark, how about moving those fences back a few feet? I love Chase Utley and all, but come on, how many 338 feet pop ups do I have to see turn into home runs for Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard? If you can find away to reuse 20 million hours of energy, you can certainly afford to move back the fences a few feet, right?

(photo courtesy AP/H. Rumph Jr.)

When Tarps Take on Minds of Their Own, Phillies Assist

I saw the highlights of this yesterday, but luckily for us, FanIQ has video of the entire thing. I’ve truly never seen anything like this. Absolutely nuts. Just hang tight for about a minute, and brace yourself. You’ll see the tarp start to make motions like it’s a freaking tidal wave. Crazy. Adam Eaton said one guy flew like 10 feet in the air. No joke. So what did the Phillies do of course? They stepped in to help out. Check it:

The Phillies Are a Sad Story

First manager Charlie Manuel challenges radio talk show host Howard Eskin to a fight, then Brett Myers gets moved to the bullpen, and now it appears as if last year’s NL MVP, Ryan Howard, might be hurt.

Let me put aside the obvious problems with Manuel losing his emotional cool and getting outraged at a radio talk show host. The team decided that they could get better use from their best starter of the past few years, even if he’s an alleged wife beater, out of the bullpen, where he won’t even be the closer as long as Tom Gordon’s healthy. Right, because 65 innings out of your top pitcher is much more valuable to the club then 200 innings. I see.

Now, forget about the fact that Ryan Howard has been in a slump since Spring Training. We all know that Ryan Howard is capable of blasting 58 home runs in a season, all the while carrying a club to the playoff doorstep. So when news comes out that he’ll need an MRI, it doesn’t bode well for the club. And check out the comments from Shane Victorino following Wednesday night’s loss to the Nationals (5-10 Nationals!)

“Everything is bitter around here … Sometimes you’d rather just walk out there and lose by 15 and walk off the field in the ninth. It’s so frustrating. We’re one hit away, we’re one pitch away. It seems like we’re one thing away from doing what we need to do, and it’s just not falling into place.”

Everything is bitter around here — such is the sports world in Philly — so I’m told. Look, the Phillies aren’t 3-10 bad. They really aren’t that bad in general. But they’re certainly not a playoff team, especially with Myers in the bullpen, and Ryan Howard on the DL. Still, one last time, how can you move your best starter to the bullpen and expect to get better? What kind of sense does that make?

(thanks to The 700 Level for the pic)

UPDATE: Must see DC Sports Bog for more Manuel madness.

Baseball Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Philadelphia Phillies (85-77, 2nd in the NL East) +1 game

Get Crunked: After leading the majors in home runs last year, Ryan Howard has proven that he has some seriously sick power and that he’s one of the top power hitters in the big leagues. Chase Utley is by far the best second baseman in the game. He has the entire package — a complete five-tool player. Jimmy Rollins had the finest year of his career in ’06, and he’s continuously improving as a player, cutting down his strikeouts at the plate, raising his average and power each season. Brett Myers has become a top-line starter, and Cole Hamels probably isn’t far behind from over-taking the NL East with force. Flash Gordon still has it going on in the pen.

Party Foul: Aaron Rowand needs to shake off some of his jitters from the chance meeting with the fence in center to become the productive hitter he was in Chicago, and stay healthy the whole season. Pat Burrell still hasn’t lived up to his potential — I still believe one day he’ll hit 45 homers when he puts it all together, but when will that day come? Shane Victorino is a weak Rule 5 player in RF. Adam Eaton’s injury history concerns me, as does Freddy Garcia’s current arm injury.

Ryan Howard led the majors with 58 homers last year,
will he get intentionally walked this year?

What’d my GM do: He signed Adam Eaton to a pretty big free agent deal, $24.5 million over three years, for a guy who hasn’t put together a full season since ’04, and is coming off reconstructive surgery. Seems to me that it was a move out of desperation and really doesn’t have much upside. Rod Barajas was signed as a free agent catcher from Texas, probably an adequate replacement for the aging Mike Lieberthal. He traded one time hot prospect Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia to bolster the rotation with someone proven, but Freddy’s already hurt. He also signed Jamie Moyer to come back for another two years, at which point Jamie will be nearly 45, but heck, the guy can still pitch.

Lay it on me Straight: Last year they rode Ryan Howard to a near playoff birth. This year they probably won’t have to do that in order to come close to the playoffs, but they’ll need some serious support from Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand behind Howard in the lineup if they want to contend for the division. The lineup should be fine, but the ultimate finish of this team depends upon the rotation staying healthy and performing. I think at least two of these guys won’t be able to make it through the year, keeping the Phillies from making the playoffs.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: They’ll be in the wild card hunt, closer to the Braves than the Mets in my estimation. They really need the starting pitching to step up and be difference makers.

Can we be better than that: I just don’t see it happening. It would be too much of a “perfect world” scenario for this team to win the division, too many injury concerns in the rotation, and not enough protection for Howard who will get the Albert Pujols treatment.