Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1998 Pacific Invincible Gems of the Diamond #187 Kevin Jordan

Dodgers 3, Phillies 0
Game 131 – Late Monday Night, August 30th in Los Angeles

I only caught the first few innings of last night's game before succumbing to sweet, sweet slumber. I missed an off-kilter pitching performance from Roy Halladay (7 innings, 10 hits, 3 runs, 4 strikeouts) and another near no-hitter by an opposing pitcher. Dodgers' starter Hiroki Kuroda was 5 outs away from no-hitting the Phils when Shane Victorino hit a clean single to right. It was the team’s only hit.

The recently acquired ex-Phillie Rod Barajas continued to punish his old team, hitting a solo home run in the 5th.

Depressing Tweet of the Night: Once again, courtesy of Todd Zolecki - "The Phillies have been shutout 11 times this season, most since 11 shutout losses in 1998." What Zolecki's Tweet does not tell you though is the Phils' 11th shutout in 1998 came back on September 26th against the Florida Marlins. The Marlins won that game, 1-0, on an Alex Gonzalez walk-off home run in the 13th, surrendered by Phillies' reliever Ricky Bottalico. They didn't come close to getting no-hit that night, as 1st baseman Kevin Jordan singled in the 1st off Marlins' starter Jesus Sanchez. Jordan is currently the hitting coach for the Clearwater Threshers (A).

Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 Chachi #27 Charlie Manuel & Coaches

As I slumber tonight - that's right, I'm tired, it's late and I refuse to feel guilty about not watching every inning of every Phillies game, and everything's just fine (deep breath) - As I slumber tonight, I leave the Phils in the very capable hands of manager Charlie Manuel and his field leaders. They seem to have things under control lately and me talking to my TV screen and telling Jimmy Rollins to take a pitch every once in a while doesn't seem to be the main impetus behind the team's winning ways.

This was a fun Chachi card to make, #27 in this year's set, as it mimics the manager and coaches' cards found within the original '74 Topps set. Not all of the coaches' floating heads could fit on this card, so former hitting coach Milt Thompson and 1st base coach Davey Lopes ended up with their own cards. New hitting coach Greg Gross will also make an appearance (as card #46) in this year's Chachi set.

Phillies at Dodgers: August 30th through September 1st

Monday & Tuesday 10:10, Wednesday 3:10

Records: Phillies 73-57, 2nd Place in the NL East (2 games behind the Braves); Dodgers 67-64, 4th Place in the NL West (10 games behind the Padres).  The Phillies currently lead the NL Wild Card, with a 1½ game lead over the Giants:

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter
Baseball Highlight Sketches
Not Gonna Do It (Maybe):  I'm going to bed at decent hours on Monday and Tuesday nights.  I have a busy week at work, responsibilites to attend to, and I need my sleep.  I'm going to watch the first few innings, turn off the TV and be in bed by 11.  Unless it's a close game.  And then maybe I'll watch a little bit more, turn off the TV and be in bed by 11:15, 11:30 at the latest.  Unless the Phils are leading and there's just a few more innings to go and then maybe I'll get ready for bed, but watch another inning.  And then I'll turn off the TV and go straight to bed.  Unless the Phils are behind by less than 6 runs going into the 9th and the Dodgers are bringing in Jonathan Broxton.  Then I'll watch the 9th inning dramatic comeback and go straight to bed. 

I'm going to be tired at work this week.

(This baseball card of course features Jimmy Rollins' game-winning walk-off double in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS.  The hit came off Broxton, the Dodgers' closer.  I love that guy.)

Phillies Probables: Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, Roy Oswalt
Dodgers Probables: Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Monasterios, Clayton Kershaw

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 Upper Deck Pure Heat #PH-4 Cole Hamels

Phillies 5, Padres 0
Game 130 - Sunday Afternoon, August 29th in San Diego

Cole Hamels continued his dominating season, and this time the Phillies scored some runs for him, as the Wild Card leaders won this afternoon in San Diego.  The win completed a 3-game sweep of the team with the best record in the NL, following the Astros' 4-game sweep of the Phillies.  (The game's easy, Harry.)  Hamels won his 9th game of the year, allowing just 4 hits while striking out 6.  In his 10 starts since July 11th, Hamels is 2-3 with an extremely impressive 2.20 ERA.  If the Phils had just scored a few more runs for him in those games, he'd easily have 5 or 6 more wins than he does now.

The Padres' defense aided the Phils in their win today, coughing up 4 errors.  Jimmy Rollins started the scoring in the 3rd, driving home Carlos Ruiz with a single to right.  Mike Sweeney added a 2-run homer in the 7th, his first as a Phillie, to pad the lead.  Jayson Werth provided further insurance with a solo shot in the 9th, his 18th.

The Braves and Giants both won their games today, so the standings remain static.  The Phils are 2 games in back of the Braves in the NL East and a game and a half ahead of the Giants in the Wild Card standings as they head into a 3-game set in L.A.

Ready?:  Had the Phillies lost today, this post would have featured a Randy Ready baseball card.  My wife Jenna recently pointed out that Ready was currently serving as the Padres' hitting coach and she took great pleasure in the fact that I did not know this.  Frankly, I'm a little surprised at myself for not knowing this.  Ready had two stints with the Phils - the first from 1989 until 1991, when he was acquired from the Padres with John Kruk for Chris James, and the second from 1994 until 1995, when he was brought in to be a "veteran presence" for a team decimated by injuries to its aging roster.  He's been the Padres' hitting coach since July 2009, replacing the fired Jim Lefebvre.  And now you (and I) know what Jenna already knew.

Scrapbook Sunday: August 23, 1990

1990 Topps #489
Paul Hagen recently penned an article for the Philadelphia Daily News concerning the Phillies' run-ins with Sam Holbrook's umpiring crew during the Astros' series in Philly.  I completely agree with Hagen's assessment that it's easy to blame the umpiring for the Phillies' recent skid, but the team's continuing offensive woes are the real culprit.

What I found the most interesting in Hagen's article were his examples of two instances in the not too distant past when the Phils publicly voiced their displeasure at umpiring shenanigans.  The first example comes from the woeful '95 season and involves Darren Daulton and Curt Schilling.  The second example concerns the woeful '90 season and an incident between Cowboy Joe West and Von Hayes.  I pulled out my 1990 Phillies Scrapbook and found the page presented here for a little historic perspective.

The lesson here, as pointed out by Hagen at the end of his article:  Some things never change.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Topps Allen & Ginter Relics #AGR-SV Shane Victorino

Phillies 3, Padres 1
Game 129 - Saturday Afternoon, August 28th in San Diego

The Phillies needed just 3 hits, including an RBI-single and an RBI-triple from Shane Victorino, to defeat the Padres this afternoon, 3-1.  Victorino added an outfield assist to his impressive day, throwing out Nick Hundley at the plate to end the 5th.  The improbable win was made possible by the solid outing from starter Joe Blanton (6 innings, 6 hits, 1 run) and the perfect 7th, 8th and 9th innings thrown by Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.  The Phils go for the sweep tomorrow with Cole Hamels on the mound.

That's It?:  It's a short game summary, but there's not a whole lot more to say.  This was your classic, lazy late-summer afternoon kind of game.  It was a gorgeous day, and I listened to the radio broadcast while enjoying the weather outside.  I wasn't even that bothered that Chris Wheeler was filling in for Larry Andersen on the radio.

2010 Bowman #83 Jimmy Rollins

Phillies 3, Padres 2 (12 Innings)
Game 128 - Late Friday Night, August 27th in San Diego

If not for Brad Lidge's bases loaded balk with 2 outs in the 9th last night, I would have had a few more hours of much needed sleep and you'd be looking at a Roy Oswalt baseball card right now.  Lidge walked the tightrope again last night, entering the 9th with a 2-1 lead, but unlike his last few outings - he fell this time.  He allowed a single to pinch-hitter Matt Stairs to open the inning, intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez a few batters later with 2 outs and then drilled Ryan Ludwick to load the bases.  For some reason, Lidge started and stopped his delivery with Chase Headley at the plate and 2 strikes against him, forcing in the tying run.

Rollins Makes Mr. Miyagi Proud (AP Photo)
The next few innings were uneventful until Jimmy Rollins doubled to start the 12th.  He came around to score on Placido Polanco's single.  Rollins' slide at home to avoid catcher Yorvit Torrealba's tag was masterful.  He somehow managed to slide under Torrealba's tag, brushing the corner of home plate as he slid past.  Rollins called it his "Karate Kid fly catcher."  It capped a good night by Rollins, as he enjoyed his first 3-hit game since returning from the DL.

Other Game Notes:  Carlos Ruiz threw out 2 base runners attempting to steal 2nd base in the 2nd.  The Phils struck first in the 2nd with three straight 2-out singles (Rollins, Polanco, Chase Utley), but the Padres quickly tied it up when Torrealba homered to left in the 3rd.  Raul Ibañez drove in the team's second run in the 8th with an RBI-single to score Utley.

Lidge's balk erased Oswalt's chance at winning his 10th game of the season.  Oswalt worked 8 strong innings, allowing 5 hits, including Torrealba's homer, while striking out 6.  He was economical with his pitches - throwing just 62 pitches through the first 5 innings, 50 for strikes.  He was pinch-hit for in the top of the 9th, ending his night and setting up Lidge's latest implosion.

Jayson Werth made an amazing running catch in the 7th to take away a sure extra-base hit from Gonzalez.  Ryan Howard continues to struggle, going 1 for 5 with 4 strikeouts.  Both the Braves and the Giants lost, allowing the Phils to creep closer in the NL East and take a half-game lead in the Wild Card race.

Friday, August 27, 2010

2010 Phillies Team Issue 2

2010 Phillies Team
Issue 2 #26
Since the early '80s, the Phillies have issued an over sized baseball card set, for sale at the ballpark.  The sets feature the entire roster, coaching staff, the Phanatic and occasionally there's a card for a recent highlight or special event.  In certain years, even the broadcast team receives its own card.  The set has had a number of sponsors over the years (Tastykake and Medford to name a few), but in recent years the sets have been released without a sponsor.

The cards are difficult to store, as they're a non-standard size (usually 4 x 6) but I store the set in 2-pocket pages in the front of every year's Phillies' baseball card binder.  For years in which there is a notable player added, or when there's been a lot of player turnover, the team issues a 2nd Edition set or an update set.  In a typical year, the Phils would put out a 36-card set at the beginning of the season and issue an "update" set in August with these variation cards.  However, the bulk of the set remained unchanged, which means I have a lot of these sets in duplicate.  (Drop me a message if you're interested in any of these cannibalized sets.)

2010 Phillies Team
Issue 2 Phanatic
That was then.  In 2010, the Phillies made the bold move of releasing a completely new set, with a bold (?)new design.  This is unprecedented and I was somewhat stunned when I found this set for sale at the ballpark recently.  (My wife wasn't as impressed, as she completely failed to recognize the historic significance of such a monumental release.)

The "new" 38-card Phillies set added cards for Domonic Brown, Wilson Valdez and Roy Oswalt while removing the broadcasters' card found in the original series.  There are all new photos within this set, which means the entire set is being displayed at the front of my 2010 Phillies' binder behind the pages with the 1st Edition cards.  But just like any discerning baseball card collector, I found several flaws within this new set.

2010 Phillies Team
Issue 2 #11
Why is J.A. Happ in the new set?  He was traded for Oswalt, and Oswalt has his own card.  The Happ card could have been replaced with a Roy Halladay perfect game highlight card.  And why is Juan Castro in the set?  He was let go by the team in mid-July, a few weeks prior to Brown's promotion and the acquisition of Oswalt.  Why not replace the Castro card with a card of Cody Ransom?  Ransom was a decent fill-in for about a month and he had a few key hits to help the Phils win a few ballgames.  Also, had the team waited a week to print these, they could have included Mike Sweeney and replaced departed hitting coach Milt Thompson's card with a card for new hitting coach Greg Gross.  And I'm not even going to go into the design here. 

Message to the Phillies:  I'm happy to pay $5 for this new set, but please consult me next year with regards to player selection and design ideas.

Phillies at Padres: August 27th through August 29th

Friday 10:05, Saturday 4:10, Sunday 4:05

Records: Phillies 70-57, 2nd Place in NL East (3 games behind the Braves); Padres 76-49, 1st Place in NL West (6 games ahead of the Giants).  The Phils are now a half game behind the Giants in the NL Wild Card standings.

I'm going to be optimistic.  There are 35 games left on the Phillies' schedule for 2010, and they have 35 games to clinch one of two readily available play-off berths.  Coming off a 4-game sweep to the Astros, and on the heels of yet another multi-week offensive outage, it's easy to be down on this team and write them off.  But the one thing the Phillies have taught me since 2007 is that it's not over until the little "x" appears next to your team's name in the standings.  At the 127-game mark over the past 3 seasons, here's where the Phillies stood and where they ended up:

2007 - 66-61, 6 games behind the Mets in the NL East, won the NL East by 1 game over the Mets
2008 - 68-59, 2½ games behind the Mets, won the World Series
2009 - 74-53, 7 games ahead of the Braves, won the NL Championship

2010 Topps #134
Now I'd gladly trade places with where we were this time last year, but given that 16 of our players have been disabled this year and that most of the team appears to be playing hurt at this point, 3 games back with 35 to go isn't too shabby.  Are the Braves that good?  Are the Phillies this mediocre?  We'll find out over the next month-plus of games.  The schedule favors the Phils - After a West Coast swing with the Padres (3 games), Dodgers (3 games) and Rockies (1 make-up game), and a 3-game series with the Brewers at home, the team's remaining 25 games are against other NL East teams.  Most importantly, 6 of their final 12 games are against the Braves.

The offense is the key.  Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have got to get going - it's just that simple.  The starting pitching has been superb and the bullpen has held their own, but the big boppers have to start putting it together and putting it together now.  Let's go Phils!

Phillies Probables: Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels
Padres Probables: Mat Latos, Jon Garland, Clayton Richard

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1998 Phillies Team Issue #9 Brad Mills CO

Astros 5, Phillies 1
Game 127 – Thursday Afternoon, August 26th in Philadelphia

On a gorgeous day for baseball, I enjoyed the radio play-by-play of this game from the friendly confines of my fluorescently lit office. Turns out I didn't miss much, as the punchless Phils were overcome easily by Brad Mills' Astros, 5-1. The 4-game sweep by the Astros marked the first time the Phillies had ever been swept in a 4-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The loss dropped the Phils to 3 games back in the NL East and a half game in back of the Wild Card leading Giants.

The Phils continued their disturbing trend of allowing a 1st inning run to the opposition when Carlos Lee doubled home Anderson Hernandez with 2 outs in the 1st off starter Kyle Kendrick. The Astros manufactured their second run in the 2nd, scored again in the 3rd on a Carlos Lee solo home run and scored another run in the 4th on an RBI-single from pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros were building a nice little picket fence in the line score, and all the while the Phils had yet to collect their first hit.

Their first hit finally came in the 5th when Jayson Werth singled to left to start the inning. However, even with runners on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out, the Phils couldn't score a run. Werth was thrown out at the plate as he sheepishly tried to avoid the tag by Astros' catcher Jaston Castro. A Chase Utley double in the 7th scored Jimmy Rollins and the offense called it a day. Maybe there’s a batting cage on the plane to San Diego?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 Topps Heritage #77 J.A. Happ

Astros 3, Phillies 2
Game 126 - Wednesday Night, August 25th in Philadelphia

Tonight in Philadelphia, the Phillies' Roy Halladay squared off against the Astros' J.A. Happ in what promised to be an intriguing pitching match-up.  Happ of course was traded to Houston in July as part of the deal that brought pitcher/left fiedler Roy Oswalt to town.  The Astros struck first on a Hunter Pence solo home run in the 4th and Jayson Werth countered with a solo home run of his own in the 5th.  Both home runs were the first hits allowed by each of the starting pitchers.

Moments later, the Astros took the lead back when ex-Phillie and Phillie Killer Michael Bourn launched his second home run of the year into the right field stands.  The same pattern repeated itself when the the Phils tied it up in the 6th (Placido Polanco RBI-double) but the Astros retook the lead in the 7th (Humberto Quintero RBI-single).  Unfortunately for the Phils, both teams were finished scoring for the night.

A scoring opportunity was wasted in the 7th when Ben Francisco leaned too far off the 3rd base bag and was picked off by catcher Humberto Quintero.  (No word as to whether or not Brett Myers was making faces at Francisco from the Astros' dugout.)  In the end, Happ outdueld Halladay, and the Phils managed only 7 hits against Happ and 4 Astros' relievers.  The team will stumble into the series finale tomorrow afternoon, hoping to salvage at least one game of the 4-game set before heading off to the distant West Coast.

Depressing Tweet of the Night:  Via Todd Zolecki - If this score holds, Phillies will have scored two or fewer runs in six of their last seven games.

1971 Topps #192 Billy Wilson

Astros 4, Phillies 2 (16 Innings)
Game 125 - Tuesday Night, August 24th in Philadelphia

It started out innocently enough.  It was Carlos Ruiz Bobble-Head Night at Citizens Bank Park and the Phils were fielding their everyday starting 8 for the first time since May 21st and just the 6th time this season.  Starter Cole Hamels allowed a pair of runs in the 4th (another Carlos Lee 2-run homer) and the Phillies finally scored in the 6th when Raul Ibañez doubled home Jayson Werth.  It was their first run scored for Hamels since August 1st, following a 25-inning scoreless drought.

Trailing 2-1 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Jimmy Rollins blasted a 3-1 Wilton Lopez fastball into the right field stands to tie up the game.  And for the next 2½ hours, the score remained tied, 2-all.  The Phils exhausted their bullpen, as all 7 of their relievers combined to throw 8 shutout innings.  The last man standing was Rule 5 pick David Herndon, who pitched a scoreless 14th and 15th innings before faltering in the 16th and allowing 2 runs on 2 infield hits, a hit batter, a wild pitch, an intentional walk and a dropped relay throw by 1st baseman Ibañez.

2005 Topps Heritage #217
That's right - 1st baseman Raul Ibañez.  You see, in the 14th inning, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Ryan Howard was called out on strikes when 3rd base umpire Scott Barry deemed his check swing had crossed the plane of the plate.  It hadn't and Howard tossed his bat away in disgust.  He may have also lobbed an F-bomb in the general direction of Barry, who promptly tossed him from the game.  Ridiculous.  First - Howard should know better.  It's the 14th inning of a crucial game in August in which your team has depleted its bench.  Check your emotions, bite your tongue and jog back to the dugout.  Second - Barry should be disciplined for the quick hook given to Howard.  Barry baited Howard, plain and simple, and the replays show that Barry was clearly "umpiring" with a chip on his shoulder.  (Ross Gload was also ejected from the bench post-Howard eruption, which is impressive considering he's on the DL right now.)

2010 Upper Deck #235
In any event, the ejection left the Phils without a first baseman.  Enter Ibañez, who had previously played 135 games at first, but hadn't played the position since May 2005 with the Mariners.  This left the Phils without a left fielder.  Enter Roy Oswalt, who became the first Phillies' pitcher to play the field since Billy Wilson played third base for one batter on August 6, 1971.  And wouldn't you know it, the first ball hit into play in the 15th was a fly ball right to Oswalt, who effortlessly recorded the out and received a standing ovation from the remaining fans.  Just another F7 on the score card.  Ibañez recorded the final 2 outs of the 15th with putouts at 1st.

Unfortunately, the novelty of having Oswalt in left completely wore off in the bottom of the 16th, when his spot in the order came up with 2 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd.  It would have been an awesome story had Oswalt somehow managed to line one down into the right field corner to tie things up, but he grounded out weakly to third to end the game.

It's easy to blame the 3rd base umpire for this loss, but the truth is the Phillies scored a total of 2 runs in 16 innings.  The offense seems to be hitting the skids again and they'll try to get back on track tonight against their old friend J.A. Happ.

2007 Bowman Heritage #219 Micheal Bourn

Astros 3, Phillies 2
Game 124 - Monday Night, August 23rd in Philadelphia

Let's get this one out of the way before turning our attention to the 16-inning debacle that went down in South Philly last night.

Under overcast skies and in a steady drizzle, the Phils played down to the middling Astros on Monday night, losing to former teammates Brett Myers and Michael Bourn.  Radio broadcaster Larry Andersen called Joe Blanton's effort his best start of the year, as Blanton pitched 7 strong innings while allowing just 1 Astros' run and striking out 9.  Blanton turned the game over to Ryan Madson in the 8th and that's when things fell apart.

Jason Michaels singled to start the inning and then Bourn reached on a dribbler up the 1st base line.  Except he was out.  Twice.  He was out the first time when Ryan Howard tagged him, and he was out the second time when he left the base path.  First base umpire Greg Gibson and Charlie Manuel disagreed on this point and Manuel found himself ejected from the ballgame.  A few batters later, with 2 out and runners now on 2nd and 3rd, the Phillies opted to pitch to Carlos Lee with 1st base open.  Lee promptly lined a single to left to score the two former Phillies and that was pretty much the ballgame.

The Phils blew a chance to score in the 6th thanks to Jayson Werth picking a bad time to daydream on the base paths.  Following a 1-out double, Werth was somehow picked off 2nd by catcher Humberto Quintero following the 4th ball of an intentional walk.  (Let me rephrase that:  Myers had just finished intentionally walking Carlos Ruiz when the catcher threw down to 2nd base to pick off Werth.)  Werth later revealed he had been distracted by Myers making funny faces, including a Gene Simmons impression.  Seriously.

If the Phils fall short of the Postseaon this year, it will be games like this (and the soon be discussed Tuesday night 16-inning affair) that will stick out as games that had to be won.

Can He Still Pitch?:  Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter has been named to the Phillies' minor league staff as a roving pitching consultant.  His main objective is to teach pitcher Scott Mathieson the split-fingered fastball.  Cool.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Phillies Team Issue 2 #44 Roy Oswalt

Phillies 6, Pirates 0
Game 123 - Sunday Afternoon, August 22nd in Philadelphia

One of the benefits of having XM Satellite Radio in my car (and this isn't a paid endorsement) is that I can listen to entire ballgames during lengthy car rides.  On our way back from Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, we listened to most of the Phillies game, before a nearly 2-hour rain delay took away our entertainment.  The Phils were seemingly in control of this game from its outset, as Jimmy Rollins came around to score the game's first run following his lead-off double.  In the top of the 1st, Roy Oswalt stranded Nyjer Morgan at 3rd and the Nationals didn't show much sign of life after that.

Oswalt pitched 7 innings of shutout ball while striking out 8 Nationals on his way to his 9th win of the year.  Wilson Valdez (2-run, 2-out single in the 6th) and Raul Ibañez (2-run homer in the 7th) had the big hits in the game as the Phils kept their lead in the NL Wild Card race to 2 games over the Cardinals and the Giants.

1967:  It was the Phillies' 15th shutout of the season, and the team's most since 1967.  Jim Bunning (6), Larry Jackson (4), Rick Wise (3), Chris Short (2) and Dick Ellsworth (1) accounted for the team's shutouts back in '67.  (And it shocks me to discover that I have yet to feature baseball cards of any of these pitchers on this blog.)

1981 Donruss #254 Kent Tekulve

Nationals 8, Phillies 1
Game 122 - Saturday Night, August 21st in Philadelphia

We attended the Pirates-Mets game on Saturday night, and it was by far the best minor league baseball game I've seen all season.  (I kid, I kid!)  The Pirates-Mets game was delayed at its outset by rain, and before we had time to dry off our seats, the out of town scoreboard showed the Nationals had the bases loaded in the first inning in Philly.  I looked up again a few minutes later to see the top of the 1st had ended, but the scoreboard now read "WSH 3, PHI 0."  This Phillies game will be remembered more for the potentially devastating injury to pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg than it will be for the lousy pitching performance from Bad Kyle Kendrick.  Strasburg was forced from the game in the 5th after wincing and grabbing his right elbow following a pitch to Raul Ibañez.  Kendrick just never got it together, and the Phils phoned in a loss to the Nationals.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh:
  It was Heritage Day at PNC Park as the Pirates wore the Negro League uniforms of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, while the Mets donned the uniforms of the New York Cubans.  This confused my son Doug a little, since I had told him we'd be rooting for the Pirates - the team with the black hats.  The Crawfords' hats are a bright red so Doug understandably thought I was pulling a fast one on him.  Unfortunately, the bad guys beat John Russell's Pirates and everyone got a little soggy in the process.  The game was called after 6 innings due to rain.

I love PNC Park.  From the walk over the Roberto Clemente bridge to the cool little bars and delis on the outskirts of the stadium, to the statues of Clemente and Willie Stargell outside the park - it's a great ballpark experience.  Overall, it's a friendly atmosphere inside the ballpark too.  Pirates' fans seem to be by nature a reserved sort, as they haven't really had anything to cheer for since the early '90s.  The loudest fans in the ballpark were the ones wearing the blue and black of the Mets.  My one complaint?  There wasn't one single Kent Tekulve souvenir in the entire Pirates' gift shop.

2010 Phillies Team Issue 2 #34 Roy Halladay

Phillies 1, Nationals 0
Game 121 - Friday Night, August 20th in Philadelphia

We returned on Sunday afternoon from a quick weekend trip to Pittsburgh.  Without hesitation, I'd list PNC Park as one of my top 3 favorite Major League ballparks in the country - along with Citizens Bank Park (naturally) and Camden Yards in Baltimore.  (Quick caveat - I have yet to visit Fenway.  This embarrassing situation will hopefully be rectified within the next few years.)  The Phils were still playing on Friday night when we collapsed in our hotel room for the evening, after 6+ hours in the car with our equally exhausted boys.

I checked in on the game periodically and at one point I thought something was wrong with my Blackberry.  Each time I checked the score, it kept coming back as 1-0, Phillies.  Turns out it was just another masterpiece from Roy Halladay.  He combined with Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge for the shutout, winning his 16th game of the season.  In the process, he lowered his ERA to 2.16 - which is very good.

The Phils' sole run came in the 3rd when, with 2 outs, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth worked back-to-back walks.  Raul Ibañez doubled home Utley, and both teams traded goose eggs until Lidge recorded the final out in the 9th for his 17th save.

Astros at Phillies: August 23rd through August 26th

Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 1:05

Records: Astros 54-69, 4th Place in NL Central (17½ games behind the Reds); Phillies 70-53, 2nd Place in NL East (2½ games behind the Braves) and 1st Place in NL Wild Card (2 games ahead of the Cardinals and Giants)

1975 Topps #334
Just Gross:  It's Alumni Weekend Part II as Ed Wade brings his Phillies' West team to Citizens Bank Park for a 4-game series.  The Astros recently lost a former Phillie with the trade of Pedro Feliz to the division rival Cardinals, but manager Brad Mills will make do with the 5 former Phils on his roster, including 2 of his 4 starting pitchers this week.  (The other 3 are Nelson Figueroa, Michael Bourn and Jason Michaels.)

New Phillies' hitting coach Greg Gross started and finished his career with the Astros.  He was drafted by the team in the 4th round of the 1970 amateur draft, making his Major League debut 3 years later on September 5, 1973.  Following the 1976 season, and having spent the previous 3 seasons as either the Astros' starting right or left fielder, Gross was shipped to the Cubs.  For the bulk of his career, he served as the Phils' primary left-handed bat off the bench, enjoying a decade with the team (1979-1988) before making his way back to the Astros for the 1989 season - the final season in his 17-year playing career.

Astros Probables: Brett Myers, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Wandy Rodriguez
Phillies Probables: Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Curious Case of Dave Wehrmeister

Scrapbook Saturday (Special Report): June 3, 1984

The World Today
The college class of 2014 will soon start their fall semesters, and I recently read an article with regards to how much technology and life in general has changed since these new freshmen entered the world. With the advent of iTunes, they have no idea what it’s like to sit patiently by the radio waiting for your favorite song so that you could simultaneously hit “play” and “record” on your tape recorder for repeated listening. If they have a question about a specific scene within the Star Wars movie (which they now know as Episode IV), they can skip to whatever chapter in the movie they want on their DVD player, whenever they want. I saw Star Wars in the theater once, had to go off my memory of the movie to recall plot points and scenes, and I didn’t see it again until we brought home our first VCR five or six years later. Life was tough.

And they don’t ever have to ask the question, “Who in the world is Whrmster?”

The World Then
Throughout the 1984 baseball season, I’d spend every morning scanning and studying the newspaper’s boxscores for the previous day’s games. Occasionally, a name would appear with which I was completely unfamiliar. It was usually a rookie or a fringe player who had the misfortune of not appearing in that year’s Topps, Donruss or Fleer baseball card releases. This very rarely happened with the Phillies’ boxscores, as I was very much familiar with their players and the top prospects in their farm system. (I knew about their top prospects because their 1984 Yearbook contained a section highlighting these up and comers.)  I'd clip each day's Phillies' boxscore from the paper and happily place it in my 1984 Phillies Scrapbook.

But then one day, on June 3, 1984, to be precise, the name “Whrmster” appeared in the Phillies’ boxscore. This stumped me. There was no Whrmster in the prospects section of the Phillies Yearbook. No Whrmster existed within that year’s baseball card sets. Could this be a mistake? Was the boxscore editor of the Atlantic City Press messing with my mind (again)?   I figured that Whrmster was probably the same guy (Wehrmeister) who hit Gary Matthews with a pitch, just with a few extra vowels.  The name appeared again in a Phillies’ boxscore a few days later, this time with all vowels in place. Wehrmeister. What did this guy look like? Where did he come from? What is an 11-year-old obsessive-compulsive fan of the Phillies to do?  Wehrmeister?

The Wehrmeister Enigma
In today’s day and age, whenever a baseball team makes a move or thinks about making a move, there are hundreds of internet resources available to check on that player’s statistics and vital signs from Little League to Winter League to Minor League. Back in the day, back before Star Wars was available on VHS, I had the transaction blurbs of the Atlantic City Press to tell me the comings and goings of players. Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, I had missed the Phillies’ acquisition of the mysterious Mr. Wehrmeister. His name appeared a few more times throughout the month of June, and then it stopped appearing. Wehrmeister was gone.  Whither Wehrmeister?
1982 Topps #694

A Clue
Months later, I was thumbing through my 1982 Topps cards (as we used to do back then) and upon reaching card #694, I stopped cold. Dave Wehrmeister, pitcher, Yankees. Behold! He does exist and he’s been on a baseball card before! Maybe he'll be in the 1984 Topps Traded set!  He wasn't.  Well surely he’ll be featured in one of the Big 3’s 1985 baseball card releases! Again - nothing.  I plodded through the '80s and the early '90s without a clue as to how or when Dave Wehrmeister came to pitch for the Phillies and without a Phillies baseball card of Wehrmeister in my collection.  It was only after Al Gore invented the internet I was able to track down some vital information.

1986 Fleer #220
The Truth is Out There
A few years ago I discovered Dave Wehrmeister had been signed by the Phils as a minor league free agent in early June 1984. (I don’t know where he came from, as Baseball Reference indicates his team prior to the Phillies signing him was . . . the Phillies. Will all of your mysteries ever be completely known to us, Monsieur Wehrmeister?) He spent most of 1984 pitching with the Phils’ AAA team in Portland before signing with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. He bounced around the White Sox’ system in 1985 and 1986 before hanging up his spikes.

Finally, a Phillies Card
1984 Topps #PR16
Other than his appearance in the ’82 Topps set, Wehrmeister’s only other appearance in a mainstream baseball card set is his appearance in the 1986 Fleer set as a member of the White Sox.  Once I set upon creating baseball cards for every player to have pulled on a Phillies’ uniform throughout the ‘80s, one of my first subjects was the elusive Dave Wehrmeister. This card was created using the picture from his 1984 Cramer Portland Beavers baseball card (the big picture) and the picture from his 1982 Topps rookie card, now featuring a poorly edited Phillies hat.  (As a side note, I picked up the 1984 Cramer Portland set a few years back on the cheap.  I was absent-mindedly going through the cards in the set until I reached Wehrmeister's card.  The sight of his card brought a smile to my face, since, as a 10-year-old, I would have loved to have had this baseball card in my collection.  "Finally you're mine, Wehrmeister," I probably said under my breath.)

1977 Topps #472
Wherever You Go, There You Are
In conclusion, my message for the Class of 2014 is simple. Reach for the sky and chase your dreams.  But most importantly, count your blessings that you live in a glorious age when a Phillies baseball card of Dave Wehrmeister exists.

So I wrote this post, scheduled its future posting time and walked away.  The Dave Wehrmeister Phillies baseball card saga was now complete.  Or was it?  In my travels over the past few days, I came across Wehrmeister's true rookie card.  It's not his 1982 Topps card, but rather a 1977 Topps multi-player rookie card from 5 years earlier featuring him with the Padres - the team that originally drafted him back in 1973. 

Join us next time as we explore the Fascinating Fable of Steve Fireovid.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nationals at Phillies: August 20th through August 22nd

Friday & Saturday 7:05, Sunday 1:35

Records: Nationals 52-69, 5th Place in NL East (19 games behind the Braves); Phillies 68-52, 2nd Place in NL East (2½ games behind the Braves)

2002 Multi-Ad Lakewood
BlueClaws #12
Meanwhile, in Lakewood:  Ryan Howard will play in a rehab game tonight for the Low A Lakewood BlueClaws.  Prior to the game, Howard will take part in a pre-game ceremony to retire the #29 he wore as member of the BlueClaws back in 2002.  (The ceremony was scheduled for later in the season, but with Howard in town, why not move things up a little?)  In 135 games with the BlueClaws, Howard hit .280 with 19 home runs and 87 RBIs.  He returned for a 2-game rehab assignment in 2007, going 2 for 6 in 2 games with a home run.  His #29 will be the first number retired by the franchise.

Nationals Probables: Jason Marquis, Stephen Strasburg, Scott Olsen
Phillies Probables: Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, Roy Oswalt

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2007 Topps Heritage #387 Aaron Rowand

Giants 5, Phillies 2
Game 120 - Thursday Night, August 19th in Philadelphia

The Phils had gone 20-5 in their previous 25 games, so I guess they were just about due for a stinker.  Cole Hamels, who had recently been untouchable, was touched for 3 runs in the top of the 1st and the Giants never looked back.  Hamels' night was over after allowing 5 runs in 5 shaky innings and the Phils turned to seldom used long-man David Herndon to try to save the bullpen.  Herndon pitched 3 innings of shutout ball to keep the Phils in the game, but Giants' starter Jonathan Sanchez just kept shutting them down.  Sanchez allowed only 2 Phillies' hits in his 8 innings of work.

Giants' center fielder Aaron Rowand went 0 for 4, but he made an impressive running catch in the 4th.  Unlike a few years ago, Rowand didn't have to run face-first into the Citizens Bank Park wall in order to make the catch.

The Phillies avoided a shutout when Mike Sweeney hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the 9th.  The team will try to regroup with a 3-game series this weekend against Stephen Strasburg and the last place Nationals.

100 Straight:  Tonight marked the 100th consecutive sell out at Citizens Bank Park.  Manager Charlie Manuel addressed the masses before the game, thanking the fans in attendance for their support.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 Topps Heritage #103 Jimmy Rollins

Phillies 8, Giants 2
Game 119 - Wednesday Night, August 18th in Philadelphia

The Phillies are now 2-0 in games I've attended and kept score.  Coincidence?  I think not.

They made it look easy again, increasing their lead in the Wild Card race to 2 games over the Giants, while keeping pace with the NL East leading Braves, who also won tonight.  Jimmy Rollins fell a double short of the cycle and his 4th inning 3-run home run was the blow that sealed the victory for the Phils.  Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz all contributed multi-hit efforts.  And when was the last time the Phils had 3 triples in one game?  Rollins, Ruiz and Raul Ibañez all connected for three-baggers.  The icing on the cake was Domonic Brown's second-deck bomb of a pinch-hit home run in the 8th inning.

Phillies' starter Joe Blanton's 1st inning woes continued as he surrendered an Andres Torres solo home on his 6th pitch of the ballgame.  He settled down after that, and at one point he had retired 14 of 15 batters from the 2nd through the 6th innings before Pat Burrell's solo home run ruined the streak.  Blanton turned the game over to the bullpen with an out in the 6th.  Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras were perfect the rest of the way as the Giants folded easily.  The Phils go for the series sweep tomorrow night behind Cole Hamels, who has to hope the Phils saved a few extra runs for his outing.

And the scorecard shows how it happened.*  The scorecard also makes me hungry for tender pork, perfectly portioned.

* Phrase used without the express written consent of Section 36 and its affiliates. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2010 Topps Heritage #368 Placido Polanco

Phillies 9, Giants 3
Game 118 - Tuesday Night, August 17th in Philadelphia

With Pat the Bat and Chase Utley both returning to Philly, the Phils took game 1 of a key 3-game series against their closest Wild Card competition.  Utley was activated this afternoon, a few weeks ahead of schedule, after missing all of July and the first half of August with a strained thumb.  Burrell was making his return to Philly after being dumped by the Tampa Bay Rays in May and landing with the Giants.

The Giants jumped on the board early, scoring two 1st inning runs off Phils' starter Roy Oswalt.  The 2nd run came on Pat Burrell's solo home run, his 13th of the year.  The Phillies were held scoreless by Giants' starter Barry Zito until the 5th.  With 2 outs, Jimmy Rollins hit a clutch single to center to score Mike Sweeney and Carlos Ruiz after both runners had been advanced on a fine sac bunt from Oswalt.  In the 6th, they plated another pair after Placido Polanco singled and Jayson Werth doubled to start the inning.  Shane Victorino doubled them both home, chasing Zito in the process. 

A 5-run 8th inning, highlighted by Chooch's 2-run double, some sloppy play from the Giants and Giants' manager Bruce Bochy's ejection, made this one a laugher.  (And we haven't had many of those this year.)

Oswalt had another solid outing, scattering 6 hits and 3 runs over his 7 innings of work, while striking out 7.  And Polanco, with his 4 for 5 night, is now leading the NL in batting average, climbing over the Reds' Joey Votto and the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez with his .325 average.

Dobbs Era Ends, Part II:  For the 2nd time this year, Phillies Room favorite Greg Dobbs was designated for assignment.  His roster spot was needed due to Utley's activation from the DL.  Assuming he clears waivers and accepts a minor league assignment, Dobbs will be back with the big club on September 1st when rosters expand to 40 players.

Giants at Phillies: August 17th through August 19th

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday 7:05

Records: Giants 67-52, 2nd Place in NL West (3½ games behind the Padres); Phillies 66-51, 2nd Place in NL East (2 games behind the Braves)

1975 Topps #79 Gary Matthews

Former Giants with the Phillies: Of everyone currently employed by the Phillies, only Sarge Matthews formerly called San Francisco home, patrolling the outfield at Candlestick between 1972 and 1976. Current IronPigs Brian Bocock (2008) and Cody Ransom (2001-2004) also spent time with the Giants.

Of course, two-thirds of the Giants' starting outfield are former Phillies with Pat Burrell in left and Aaron Roward in center. I have a funny feeling that Burrell would like nothing more than to severely hurt his former team, especially since the Phils and Giants are currently neck and neck atop the NL Wild Card standings.

Giants Probables: Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez
Phillies Probables: Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 Chachi #39 Dane Sardinha

Dane Sardinha donned the tools of ignorance for 13 games back in late June/early July during Carlos Ruiz' DL stint. (I believe Paul Hoover was also recovering froma lingering injury for the AAA IronPigs, so Sardinha got the call.) He started 9 games for the Phils, hitting .205 with 3 home runs and 8 RBIs. Despite having played in very small parts of 4 other seasons since 2003, his home run on June 24th against the Indians' Hector Ambriz was his first in the Majors. Sardinha is card #39 in this year's Chachi set.

Phillies debut: June 24, 2010
Major League debut: September 6, 2003
How acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent formerly with the Detroit Tigers, January 6, 2010
Wore #4 in 2000s: Gary Bennett 2001, Matt Walbeck 2001, David Bell 2003-2005, Danny Sandoval 2006, Russell Branyan 2007, Pete LaForest 2007, Eric Bruntlett 2008-2009
Pictured: Sardinha takes it all in during Spring Training 2010, in a shot scanned from the 2010 Phillies Yearbook.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 Topps #474 Kyle Kendrick

Phillies 3, Mets 1
Game 117 - Sunday Night, August 15th in New York

At a soggy Citi Field, the Phillies manufactured their runs tonight in a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets.  The Good Kyle Kendrick showed up tonight, pitching into the 7th inning, scattering 6 hits and walking none.  His sole blemish was a 3rd inning home run allowed to Jose Reyes.

The Phils scored solo runs in the 3rd, 5th and 6th innings.  In the 3rd, Jimmy Rollins singled, promptly stole 2nd and 3rd and waltzed home on Shane Victorino's double.  In the 5th, Victorino singled, promptly stole 2nd and came home on Placido Polanco's single.  And in the 6th, Jayson Werth led off with a triple and came around to score on Carlos Ruiz' single.

Brad Lidge came on in the 9th for a 1-2-3 save.  The game's easy, Harry.

The win moved the Phillies percentage points ahead of the Giants in the Wild Card lead, as those two teams prepare to meet for a 3-game series in Philly starting on Tuesday night.

Mute:  I was happy to watch this game 100% ESPN announcer-free.  With the TV on mute, I listened to the Phillies' radio team of Larry Andersen and Scott Franzke call the game.  I don't know how Joe Morgan felt about Luis Castillo's bunt base hit in the 5th, when he was at least 3 steps out of the batter's box, but L.A. was livid.

Scrapbook Sunday: August 21, 1990

1990 Donruss Best NL #69 John Kruk

When the Phillies pulled off their unbelievable, improbable, amazing come-from-behind victory on Thursday night (after we had opted to leave the game early), I couldn't help but think back to August 21, 1990, to another amazing comeback.

Almost 20 years ago, with the Dodgers taking an 11-1 lead into the 8th inning, it seemed inevitable that the Phils were headed towards defeat.  Phillies' starter Jason Grimsley had been touched for 3 runs in his abbreviated 3-inning outing.  Relievers Bruce Ruffin and Darrel Akerfelds didn't fare much better, allowing the Dodgers to score 8 times in the 5th, aided by a key error from third baseman Charlie Hayes.

As the article points out, the nine 9th innings runs were the most by the Phillies since July 5, 1918.  The major blows in the inning came courtesy of Dale Murphy's 2-run double (11-8, Dodgers), John Kruk's 3-run home run (11-all) and Carmelo Martinez' go-ahead double off Jay Howell (12-11, Phillies).

The Dodgers finished 5 games back in the NL West behind the Reds in 1990, going 23-17 the rest of the year following this demoralizing loss courtesy of the mediocre, but at times exciting, '90 Phillies.

2010 Bowman 1992 Throwbacks #BT73 Roy Halladay

Phillies 4, Mets 0
Game 116 - Saturday Night, August 14th in New York

Once again, Roy Halladay made it look easy.  The ace of the staff worked 8 effortless innings, allowing 4 hits and no walks while striking out 7.  The win improved his record to 15-8, while lowering his ERA to 2.24.  That's good for 3rd in the NL behind the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (1.99) and the Braves' Tim Hudson (2.13).

The Phils snapped their 38-inning Citi Field scoreless streak in the 4th inning.  Halladay started things off with a single, the second Phillies' pitcher to have the first Phillies' hit in as many days.  He later came around to score on a clutch, 2-out single from Placido Polanco.  The Phillies' remaining 3 runs were all unearned, resulting from costly errors from Mets' second baseman Ruben Tejada in the 5th and from third baseman David Wright in the 6th.  The additional gift runs provided a nice buffer as Ryan Madson loaded the bases in the 9th, only to strike out the side and work out of the jam.

Meanwhile, in Florida:  Chase Utley went 1 for 3 with a triple in a rehab start with the High A Clearwater Threshers.  The quick-healing Utley could be back with the Phils by Tuesday night when the Phils open a series with the Wild Card leading Giants.

1992 Throwback?:  Why would we want to throw back to 1992?  This is an insert set featured within Topps' 2010 Bowman release.  There are 7 Phillies in the set, including this Halladay card.  I'm guessing Topps is starting to run out of vintage releases from which to recycle designs, so now we're starting to see recycled designs from the early '90s.  I have a bad feeling about this.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

1982 Fleer #253 Dickie Noles

Mets 1, Phillies 0
Game 115 - Friday Night, August 13th in New York

Cole Hamels was once again the victim of a complete lack of run support, as R.A. Dickey led the Mets to victory behind his 1-hit shutout.  Showing that he truly did everything he possibly could to help the Phils win tonight, the sole hit allowed by Dickey was a single from Hamels in the 6th.  The Phils have played 4 games at the Mets' Citi Field this season and they've now been shut out in all 4 of those games.

The Mets lone run came on back-to-back 6th inning doubles from David Wright and Carlos Beltran.  Both balls appeared to have been catchable, as Shane Victorino broke in on Wright's double allowing it to sail over his head and Beltran's double just eluded the outstretched glove of Raul Ibañez.

Back to Thursday:  Lost in all the hoopla from Thursday night's dramatic victory was the fact that I shook Dickie Noles' hand before the game.  It's not a very exciting story, but I was thrilled to have very briefly met and shook the hand of the man who knocked down George Brett in the 1980 World Series.

As Jenna and I were making our way throughout the Citizens Bank Park concourse to our seats, I spotted Noles walking towards us.  I did what any good Phillies fans would do, shouting, "Hey Dickie!" just as he was passing us.  He looked up, seemingly genuinely happy to be recognized, gave me a firm hand shake and said, "Hey!  Good to see you!" and then kept walking.  Jenna looked at me quizzically after the moment had passed, and I dreamily informed her, "I just shook Dickie Noles' hand."  And he said it was good to see me.  Pretty cool.