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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Phillies Don't Blow It Up; Week-in-Review: WIP Back in Play? Olympic Snore, more

          August 1 used to feel like the beginning of the sports year in Philadelphia while the Phillies were mired in irrelevancy. Some people think they are headed back to the days of being forgotten once the Eagles start training camp. But I’m not buying into the panic.

          I actually heard Chris Wheeler on the Phillies broadcast talk about yesterday’s trade deadline deals as a huge day in franchise history. I believe he compared it to the day they got Lenny Dykstra.

          Most people believe the Phillies threw in the proverbial towel by trading away Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino for an outfielder, reliever, and prospects. But the biggest deal is the one they didn’t, or more likely couldn’t, make.

          All indications are that the Phillies wanted to trade Cliff Lee, but couldn’t get anybody to take on the $100 million-plus that he’s owed for the rest of his contract. It’s kind of tough to do when the guy had one win on the season going into last night.

          Trading Lee would have been the wrecking ball. It would have been the clear indication that the recent Phillies run of great baseball from about 2004 to 2011 was over and the Phillies were rebuilding. Without trading Lee it remains to be seen if 2012 is just an interruption of their run or the end of an era.

          While this season is “over” in terms of contending for a championship barring several miracles, it’s not because Victorino and Pence are gone. It’s over because Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed half the season. Roy Halladay’s trip to the Disabled List didn’t help either.

          I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid when I say I’m glad the Phillies did not “blow it up.” That’s hard to say when they just traded 2/3 of their starting outfield. I get it. But moving Victorino and Pence were salary dumps.

          I think they will miss Victorino. He is a solid 2-hole hitter, brought some quite frankly underused speed to the base paths, and is a very good centerfielder. I’d be happy to see the Phillies steal him back in free agency next season, but for the money he wants it made sense to try to get something for him now.

          Pence was ok behind Utley and Howard last season, but without them in front of him it just wasn’t working for him this year. I was surprised to learn that he lead the team in home runs, hits, and RBI. In fact, I’m shocked. But the Phillies have had little or no offense all season, so it’s a bit of a misnomer to say he lead the team in three big statistical categories.

          I think Lee and Halladay can return to form next season. In fact, I’m not convinced Lee isn’t already finding his groove, and not just because of the 7 shutout innings he threw against the division leading Nationals last night. He had one bad game in July. For the month, he gave up 2 earned runs in 8 innings at New York, 3 in 6 at Colorado, 1 in 8 at LA, 6 in 7 versus Milwaukee, and 0 last night. He had a rough June, but in April and May he had 5 games in which he gave up 3 or less runs, going at least 6 innings in all of them, 7 twice, 8 once, and 10 – I repeat 10 – in one game in which he didn’t give up a run and the Phillies lost.

          Halladay was reportedly injured, or ailing, since spring training. In his 3 games since returning from the DL he certainly hasn’t been stellar, but he’s not exactly getting rocked. He gave up 2 runs in 5 innings at L.A., 6 in 6 versus Milwaukee, and 3 in 6 at Atlanta. If I’m Phils’ general manager Reuben Amaro, I have no problem standing pat on Halladay and hoping he bounces back.

          I wouldn’t have traded either guy for anything short of a near all-star caliber bat and a prospect or two.

          As far as the offense, there’s no reason to think Howard can’t return to being a great power hitter with more time to recover from his ruptured Achilles. On the other hand, Utley’s knees will make him a question mark again next season.

          Yes, meaningless baseball lies ahead for the next two months. But with a couple decent moves in the off-season, there should be October baseball next season.


·       I’m always amazed at the number of hits the blog receives on posts or tweets about sports talk radio. I guess I shouldn’t be. It’s really the vehicle for the public chatter on sports.

          Once again 97.5 The Fanatic shook up it’s lineup, and I don’t get this move at all. Harry Mayes, easily the second strongest voice on the station who may actually rival Mike Missanelli, has been moved to 10 PM to midnight. Active on Twitter, he made it clear he wanted the solo gig. But this is a complete blunder for the station. He carried Brian Baldinger from 10 AM to noon and Tony Bruno from noon to 2 PM. He even made it tolerable to just leave the radio on 97.5 through the last hour of Mike & Mike (for those of us who still have dials on our kitchen radios). Now, midday sports talk radio is back to being a wasteland of boredom or just plain stupidity. The one day I listened before I realized Mayes was permanently moved, Bruno suggested another change is coming. I still assume he’ll be doing more since he did move back to Philadelphia.

          I understand Mayes wanting his own gig. He’ll never admit it, but working with both Baldinger and especially Bruno had to be a grind. Baldinger is lost outside of football, and has become a bit pompous about his football knowledge. And, I’m sorry if this is ageism, but Bruno needs to retire. He gets confused, does shtick radio, and constantly goes off on tangents.

          But I can’t imagine 10 to midnight is a big time slot for a radio station. Maybe it’s temporary until they can get out of certain contracts, but 97.5 is wasting Mayes. At the very least he should be 10 AM to noon, and they should make Baldinger a weekly guest during the football season.

          For me, the WIP morning show is back in play, and maybe I’ll just accomplish more without sports talk in the midday. (I heard some of Rob Ellis and Ike Reese this morning on WIP. It was a huge upgrade from Michael Barkann, who was shockingly bad with Reese. Apparently, it’s only temporary, though. I still heard “Mike & Ike” advertised. I’m guessing Barkann is on vacation.)

·       Uhm, am I allowed to say that the Olympics have bored the hell out of me? Even swimming is putting me to sleep. I tried to watch cycling, a sport I actually love participating in, but it just seems pointless to race for hours when everybody ends up seconds apart. After you watch one kayaker, there’s not much to see. Handball looks like a game we made up in the basement when we were kids, and the officiating seemed just as random. And someone needs to explain how the hell table tennis and synchronized diving became Olympic sports, yet baseball got dumped. I’m hoping track and field will revive my interest level.

·       With the Phillies about to sign a new TV deal, they really need to do something about the delay FiOS customers get. It’s impossible watch the game on TV with the sound muted and the radio broadcast of the game on. The television broadcast is behind (at least at our house). For all their inside jokes, I could use a little Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen over Tom McCarthy and Wheeler / Gary Matthews.

·       One more thing about the trade deadline – it has taken on a life of its own. It’s a classic example of the media changing sports, or at least the perception of sports. Teams have to be buyers or sellers. There are winners and losers at the trade deadline. No one can just like their team as is, or be waiting out a bad season.

·       I’ve talked about this before in other places, but the venom that comes from anonymous comments on the internet is out of control. The Sixers recently signed Royal Ivy – an unbelievably minor signing – and people on Deep Sixer just ripped into it. Sarcasm about the move bringing a championship just poured out of people. People just need to chill! They signed a backup point guard! It wasn’t heralded as some major move.

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