Friday, February 28, 2014

2013 Topps Heritage Minor League #67 Ethan Martin

Blue Jays 7, Phillies 5
Spring Training Game 2 - Thursday Afternoon, February 27th in Dunedin
Record - 0-2

One Sentence Summary:  Home runs from Darin Ruf and John Mayberry, Jr. weren't enough to overcome the Blue Jays and the hot bat of Jose Bautista as the Phillies lost, 7-5.

What It Means:  Ruf and Mayberry are seemingly both competing for roster spots, and both delivered an impressive performance in this game.  But it's still very, very early.

What Happened:  Cliff Lee made his spring debut and allowed a run while striking out three in his two innings of work.  Ethan Martin got roughed up in the fifth and left the game with shoulder discomfort after not retiring a batter.  Ben Revere had a three-hit day.

Featured Card:  Topps revealed the final checklist for the 2014 Topps Heritage set yesterday, and I'm extremely excited for the set's release.  Compared to the tame 1964 Topps design, pictured here on Martin's Topps Heritage Minor League card from last year, the 1965 Topps design is much more exciting, colorful and just plain groovy.

Based on the official 2014 Topps Heritage checklist, Martin will share a Rookie Star card with catcher Cameron Rupp.

It's also timely that I'm sharing an IronPigs card in this post, as the team recently announced it will wear an alternate hat this year featuring a cartoon rendering of bacon.  Yes, you read that sentence correctly.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baseball is Back!

2014 Topps Upper Class #UC-26
Blue Jays 4, Phillies 3 (7 Innings - Rain)
Spring Training Game 1 - Wednesday Afternoon, February 26th in Clearwater
Record - 0-1

One Sentence Summary:  For the love of all things good and pure, baseball - sweet, sweet baseball - is back.

What It Means:  See above.  Also, for the fourth straight year, I'll be recapping each and every Phillies game from the Grapefuit League season.  These posts won't contain any breaking news or hard-hitting game analysis, but they will feature the occasional marginally amusing commentary and a baseball card somehow related to the game.

What Happened:  The Phils lost 4-3 in a rain-shortened game.  Pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Phillippe Aumont were touched for two runs a piece, while non-roster invitee Jeff Manship tossed two scoreless frames.  Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd contributed RBI-singles for the Phillies in the first.

New Phillies announcers Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs made their debuts in the booth, and I honestly enjoyed listening to a television broadcast for the first time in many years.

Featured Card:  I feel like I need to feature a newish 2014 baseball card in the first game summary post of the year.  This is Howard's Upper Class insert card from the Topps flagship release.  I really don't see the reason for this particular insert set, other than to perhaps take a subliminal dig at the departed Upper Deck?  Upper Class seems like an insert set name that Upper Deck would have used back when it was still producing baseball cards.

Camp Head Count:  57.  As the exhibition season begins, the Phillies sit at 57 active players on their roster.  They'll whittle that count down to 25 prior to the regular season opener in April.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 Chachi Preview #4 Tony Gwynn, Jr.


Tony Gwynn, Jr. may be a long-shot to make the opening day roster, but I didn't want that to hold him back from having his very own Chachi card.  I was browsing through the team's picture day photos posted on the ESPN photo wire, and once I saw that Gwynn's picture was included I knew he was going to get his first Phillies card - albeit a virtual one.  If Gwynn makes the club, he'll be the third son of a Hall of Famer to play for the Phillies.

Dick Sisler (1948-1951), son of George Sisler (HOF 1939)
Earl Averill, Jr. (1963), son of Earl Averill (HOF 1975)
Tony Gwynn, Jr. (2014?), son of Tony Gwynn (HOF 2007)

And I might as well post an updated list of non-roster invitees.  Pitcher Chad Gaudin failed his physical on the first day of spring training and was released.

Player (position) - 2013 Organization - Last Major Baseball Card Appearance
1.  Shawn Camp (rhp) - Cubs/Diamondbacks - 2012 Topps Update #US238 (Cubs)
2.  Leandro Castro (of) - Phillies - 2010 Topps Pro Debut #84 (Phillies)
3.  Cesar Jimenez (lhp) - Phillies - 2009 Upper Deck #857 (Mariners)
4.  Clete Thomas (of) - Twins - 2010 Topps #441 (Tigers)
5.  Reid Brignac (inf) - Yankees/Rockies - 2013 Topps Update #US206
6.  Andres Blanco (inf) - N/A - 2007 Topps #659 (Royals)
7.  Jeff Manship (rhp) - Rockies - 2010 Finest #141 (Twins)
8.  Tony Gwynn, Jr. (of) - Dodgers - 2012 Topps #284 (Dodgers)
9.  Lou Marson (c) - Indians - 2013 Topps #443 (Indians)
10.  Sean O'Sullivan (rhp) - Padres - 2011 Topps Update #US89 (Royals)
11.  Dave Sappelt (of) - Cubs - 2012 Topps #657 (Cubs)
11.  Jesse Biddle (lhp) - Phillies - 2013 Bowman Draft Top Prospects #TP-6 (Phillies)
12.  Maikel Franco (3b) - Phillies - 2013 Topps Heritage Minors #158 (Phillies)
13.  Ken Giles (rhp) - Phillies - None
14.  Mario Hollands (lhp) - Phillies - None
15.  Sebastian Valle (c) - Phillies - 2012 Topps Heritage Minors #144 (Phillies)
16.  Ronny Cedeno (inf) - Astros/Padres - 2011 Topps Heritage #270 (Pirates)
17.  Chad Gaudin (rhp) - Giants - 2013 Topps Update #US86 (Giants)
17.  Bobby Abreu (of) - None - 2012 Topps Heritage #H669 (Dodgers)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Burnett Joins Rotation

2014 Chachi Transactions #18
On Sunday morning, the addition of A.J. Burnett to the Phillies pitching roation for 2014 (and perhaps 2015) became official.  He has a one-year, $16 million deal with a mutual option for 2015, performance bonuses and a limited no-trade clause.  Burnett joins the rotation behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, who could start the year late due to shoulder issues.  Kyle Kendrick, Miguel Gonzalez, Roberto Hernandez and Jonathan Pettibone (also battling arm issues) will most likely round out the bottom of the rotation.

The move instantly makes the Phillies a better team.  But just how much better remains to be seen.  Burnett, 37, will be entering his 16th season in 2014 and his best season was back in 2008 when he went 18-10 with 231 strikeouts and a 4.07 ERA for the Blue Jays.  With the Yankees, he started two games against the Phillies in the 2009 World Series.  He pitched the Yankees to a Game 2 victory, but the Phillies knocked him out after just two innings in Game 5.  He's spent the last two seasons with the Pirates and he went 10-11 last season with a 3.30 ERA.

Manager Ryne Sandberg was particularly excited about the signing:
Burnett has worn #34 since the 2002 season with the Marlins, and he'll assume that  number with the Phillies in 2014.  This in spite of the number originally being unofficially set aside for the season to honor the recently retired Roy Halladay.  Lefty reliever Joe Savery was designated for assignment to make room for Burnett on the 40-man roster.  I would hope to see Savery to be back in camp shortly as a non-roster invitee.

Here's the latest list of offseason moves, and I'd have to think this list is pretty much complete at this point.  Let's play some ball!

Moving On
Steven Lerud (10/1/13) - Elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Atlanta Braves, 11/23/13)
Raul Valdes (10/2/13) - Claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros.
Tyler Cloyd (10/2/13) - Claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians.
Michael Martinez (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 12/18/13)
Zach Miner (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Seattle Mariners, 2/11/14)
Pete Orr (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers, 1/27/14)
Roger Bernadina (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Cincinnati Reds, 1/31/14)
J.C. Ramirez (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Cleveland Indians, 11/1/13)
Casper Wells (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Chicago Cubs, 11/23/13)
John Lannan (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the New York Mets, 1/18/14)
Roy Halladay (10/31/13) - Elected free agency.  (Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays and announced his retirement, 12/9/13)
Mauricio Robles (11/5/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and became a minor league free agent.
Erik Kratz (12/3/13) - Traded with Rob Rasmussen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Lincoln.

Coming Back
Cesar Jimenez (11/15/13) - Signed to a minor league contract and invited to spring training.
Carlos Ruiz (11/21/13) - Resigned by the Phillies to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year.

New Additions
Marlon Byrd (11/12/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brad Lincoln (12/3/13) - Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen.
Wil Nieves (12/5/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kevin Munson (12/12/13) - Selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Arizona Diamondacks.
Roberto Hernandez (12/18/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Tampa Bay Rays.
A.J. Burnett (2/16/14) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Friday, February 14, 2014

Jim Fregosi (1942-2014)

1992 Medford Phillies #11
I was very sad to learn of the passing of former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi earlier this morning.  By all accounts, Fregosi was a genuinely great guy and the baseball world is mourning his loss.

Fregosi came to the Phillies in May 1989, hired by his good friend Lee Thomas to be the GM's special assistant.  He spent the 1990 season as the team's minor league pitching instructor/special assignment coach before briefly joining the broadcast booth for the start of the 1991 season.  On April 23, 1991, Fregosi replaced the fired Nick Leyva as the team's new manager, inheriting a team that would see major changes over the course of the season.  His team finished in last place in 1992, but they shocked all of us, and won our hearts in the process, by defeating the Braves in the N.L.C.S. and advancing to the World Series in 1993.

Fregosi's next three seasons with the Phillies were rough, and he was let go following the 1996 campaign. His final record with the Phils was 431-463, placing him fourth on the franchise's list of all-time wins by manager behind Charlie Manuel (780), Gene Mauch (645) and Danny Ozark (594).

Fregosi appeared on a number of Phillies baseball cards between 1991 and 1996, with my favorite easily being the team issued card picturing him at the 1993 All-Star game surrounded by his players.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moyer and Stairs Join the Booth

2010 Phillies Fan Appreciation Day Postcards
You know it's been a slow offseason for your team when the two most exciting moves are the naming of a new coaching staff and the hiring of two new television broadcasters.  Yesterday, the Phillies announced the replacements for ousted broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews, bringing back 2008 Phillies teammates Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs.

It seems as if the team decided to go with the two most genuinely likable guys they could find, and it helps that both are legends in town thanks to their parts in the magical 2008 season.  Moyer and Stairs will join hold-over TV voice Tom McCarthy in the booth.  It should also be noted that Moyer's hiring most likely marks the official retirement from active duty for the 51-year-old southpaw.

Moyer and Stairs join a long, distinguished list of former Phillies who eventually joined the broadcast team.  As much as I love listening to Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen on the radio, I might just have to switch over to the TV audio every once in a while this season.

Richie Ashburn, 1963-1997
Robin Roberts, 1974-1976
Tim McCarver, 1980-1982
Garry Maddox, 1987-1996
Mike Schmidt, 1990
Kent Tekulve, 1991-1997
Jay Johnstone, 1992-1993
Larry Andersen, 1998-
John Kruk, 2003
Gary Matthews, 2007-2013
Jamie Moyer, 2014-
Matt Stairs, 2014-

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Chachi Transactions #16 Roger Bernadina

Whenever I get around to working on my 2013 Phillies Missing Links post, outfielder Roger Bernadina  will be listed as one of the unfortunate few to never have an official Phillies baseball card.  Bernadina was outrighted off the 40-man roster in mid-October and he signed last week with the Reds on a minor league contract.

The speedy outfielder was released by the Nationals in mid-August, after spending the first 5 1/2 years of his career with the club.  The Phillies picked him up and he proceeded to go 14 for 75 (.187) with two home runs.  He split time between right and center field, starting 18 of his 27 games with the Phils.

Bernadina had a base card (as a National) within last year's Topps Gypsy Queen set.  He received virtual Phillies cards from me (actually one of my favorite 2013 Chachi cards) and the Phillies, in the form of a giant-sized 2011 Topps-style card.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Chachi Transactions #15 Pete Orr

Infielder Pete Orr joined the ranks of former Phillies when he was outrighted off the team's 40-man roster in the week following the 2013 season.  He's since landed with the Brewers, where he'll go to spring training as a non-roster invitee.

Orr played in parts of three seasons for the Phillies, accumulating a .247 average over 96 games.  He made the team's opening day rosters in both 2011 and 2012, but spent the majority of last season playing for the Triple-A IronPigs.  His sole Phillies card can be found in the team's second postcard set from 2011, although I have four IronPigs cards of his in my collection.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2014 Chachi Transactions #14 John Lannan

We're just nine days away from pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Clearwater, which means I need to clear out some of the clutter in my draft post folder.  It's somewhat fitting that I equate the word clutter with John Lannan's last official Chachi card.  Lannan signed a minor league contract with the Mets last month.

Lannan will be remembered more by Phillies fans for breaking Chase Utley's hand in July 2007 than he will for going 3-6 in 14 starts for the 2013 club.  He earned one standard sized baseball card as a member of the Phillies, which can be found within the 2013 Topps Update set.  He also appeared in both team issued sets last year.

As pointed out in his comment to the Michael Martinez "tribute" post, Jim from Downingtown noted that there is an inordinate number of former 2013 Phillies who could only land minor league deals this offseason.  That's definitely a testament to the lack of actual Major League depth on last year's team.  Of the 13 players to depart the team since October, only two are currently on their new teams' 40-man rosters - catcher Erik Kratz (Blue Jays) and reliever Raul Valdes (Astros).  Roy Halladay retired, Zach Miner and Mauricio Robles have yet to find employment, and the other eight guys, including Lannan, have minor league deals.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Phillies Want List

2014 Topps #105
Bowman
Chrome Prospect Autographs - BCAP-MF Franco
Ice Autographs - AI-JB Biddle

Bowman Draft
Autographs - BCA-AN Nola
Initiation - BI-AN Nola/99

Donruss
Face to Face - 12 Lee
Jersey Kings - 27 Kendrick, 44 Mayberry
Turn of the Century Autographs - 69 Martin, 81 Rupp

Finest
Autographed Rookies - RA-EM Martin
Greats Autographs - FGA-MS Schmidt, FGA-SC Carlton

Panini Golden Age
Historic Signatures - 6 Carlton
Star Stamps - 11 Ashburn, 15 Roberts, 24 Schmidt

Panini Prizm
Fearless - 21 Lee
Signature Prizms - 43 Ruf

Stadium Club
Autographs - SCA-MS Schmidt

Topps Series 1 & 2
Class Rings Silver Commemorative Relics - CR-26 Schmidt
Framed Gold Label - GL-4 Schmidt, GL-8 Carlton
Trajectory Relics - TR-MS Schmidt, TR-RH Howard
Upper Class - UC-45 Sandberg

Topps Allen & Ginter
Mini (Rip Exclusive) - 370 Lee
Framed Autographs - AGA-DR Ruf, AGA-SCA Carlton
Relics - FSR-CL Lee

Topps Archives
Base Set - 235 Daulton

Topps Gypsy Queen
Base Set - 147 Burnett
Mini Relics - GMR-CR Ruiz, GMR-DB Brown
Relics - GQR-DB Brown

Topps Heritage
Clubhouse Collection Relics - CCR-MSC Schmidt
Real One Autographs - ROA-DG Green, ROA-ER Roebuck

Topps MLB Chipz
Base Set - Brown, Howard, Utley, Hamels
Teams - Phanatic

Topps Pro Debut
Autographs - PDA-KS Simon

Topps Stickers
Base Set - 161 Phillies Logo, 193 Hamels, 194 Rollins, 195 Utley, 196 Schmidt, 197 Howard, 198 Lee, 199 Ruiz, 200 Brown, 201 Phanatic, 243 Burnett

Topps Tribute
Base Set - 18 Schmidt, 35 Lee, 77 Hamels

Topps Update
Trajectory Autographs - TA-DB Buchanan
World Series MVP Patches - WSP-CH Hamels, WSP-MS Schmidt

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Michael Martinez Era (12/9/10 - 10/7/13)

2014 Chachi Transactions #13
On October 7, 2013, the long and painful relationship between Michael Martinez and the Philadelphia Phillies came to an end.  Now I don't have statistical proof to back this up, but Martinez will go down in the franchise annals as one of the worst players of this mostly glorious era.  In parts of three seasons with the club, Mini Mart hit .187 over 162 games.  It was a constant source of consternation to Phillies fans everywhere as to why this guy was taking up a roster spot.  For whatever reason, former manager Charlie Manuel seemed to have a soft spot for Martinez, and he kept coming back up from Lehigh Valley like a persistent summer mosquito that just won't go away.

And now he's property of the Pirates.  Which means he'll probably hit a huge, dramatic game-winning home run against the Phillies at some point this year.

Moving On
Steven Lerud (10/1/13) - Elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Atlanta Braves, 11/23/13)
Raul Valdes (10/2/13) - Claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros.
Tyler Cloyd (10/2/13) - Claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians.
Michael Martinez (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 12/18/13)
Zach Miner (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.
Pete Orr (10/7/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers, 1/27/14)
Roger Bernadina (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Cincinnati Reds, 1/31/14)
J.C. Ramirez (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Cleveland Indians, 11/1/13)
Casper Wells (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the Chicago Cubs, 11/23/13)
John Lannan (10/17/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency.  (Signed as a minor league free agent with the New York Mets, 1/18/14)
Roy Halladay (10/31/13) - Elected free agency.  (Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays and announced his retirement, 12/9/13)
Mauricio Robles (11/5/13) - Outrighted off the 40-man roster and became a minor league free agent.
Erik Kratz (12/3/13) - Traded with Rob Rasmussen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Lincoln.

Coming Back
Cesar Jimenez (11/15/13) - Signed to a minor league contract and invited to spring training.
Carlos Ruiz (11/21/13) - Resigned by the Phillies to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year.

New Additions
Marlon Byrd (11/12/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brad Lincoln (12/3/13) - Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen.
Wil Nieves (12/5/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kevin Munson (12/12/13) - Selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Arizona Diamondacks.
Roberto Hernandez (12/18/13) - Signed as a free agent formerly with the Tampa Bay Rays.

You'll notice I haven't added any of the players signed to minor league contracts to this New Additions list.  In an effort to keep the list semi-manageable, I've made the decision not to add the non-roster invitees to the list until after they've officially made the team.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The First Phillie of 2014

2014 Topps #90
First off, my wife rocks.

I mentioned to Jenna that it looked as if the 2014 Topps cards were out a few nights ago, as I was going through my nightly blog reading list.  She filed that information away and had a stack of various 2014 Topps packs waiting for me when I arrived home from work on Wednesday night.  She bought a few loose packs, a rack pack and one of those mini-blaster boxes from Target to make sure I had some variety in my pack opening.  I'm a lucky man.

Before tearing into the packs, I explained to my seven-year-old son Doug the concept of the annual "First Phillie."  My Dad and I would buy our first new packs of the year from Wawa and then simultaneously open the packs until one of us announced we had received the first Phillies card of the year.  It was a little silly, but it was fun and if I thought about it long enough I could probably recollect most of the First Phillies from the past thirty-plus years.

I let Doug open the first three packs until he came across the First Phillie, wanting him to have the honor this year.  The card seen here wins the award this year, even though Doug's initial reaction to finding an Ethan Martin card was, "Well I've never even heard of this guy."  As proof that the photo-selection team at Topps has pretty good taste, they used the same exact photo of Martin on this card that I used for his 2013 Chachi card.

* * *

The design of this year's Topps cards is decent, but it's not enough to make me want to go out and buy a bunch more of the stuff.  The card fronts are actually brighter than I thought they would be, and the player's position returns for the first time since 2011.  For the third year in a row the backs of the cards are very plain.  I've already decided to track down a Phillies team set from eBay and save my pack-buying money for Topps Heritage when it comes out next month.

Past First Phillies