All in the Family, Season Preview: Chasin’ the Dix

Back in February, I talked about my hatred of fantasy football, but my love of “The Dix.”  The Dix is an idea by frequent BSB correspondent, Andy Waters, to start a fantasy football team consisting entirely of players with the surname “Johnson.”  They were okay at the start, but the team blosssomed and it came to a point where his players were so in demand that it was impossible to even field the team because so many Johnsons were going in the first round.  Though right now might be a little past the hay-day, there is still some talent there, and now they have legit challengers.  Doogan and I, along with another frequent BSB correspondent, J, have challenged Waters’ beloved Dix to a season this year.  Bry will be managing the Jack-O’s (all Jacksons), Doogan will be managing Jonesin’ (all Jones), and J will be at helm of the Blacksmiths (all Smiths).  It is a small four-team league, but it is going to be a WAR.  And, each battle of this war will be recapped on BSB throughout the season.  For now, let’s preview the upcoming season, using NFL.com’s Top 200 list.  Interestingly, no team in the league has a Top 30 tight end.

The Dix
This is clearly the team to beat, but hey, that’s why we founded this league, right?  This team actually has 44 players from which to choose (roster limit is 40)–and is the only team that can actually “choose.”  There are holes, on this team, though, so it’s going to be interesting all year, but in the end there is just a ton of top-level talent on this team.  They have the #1 RB and #1 WR in the entire league in Chris and Andre, with Chris being the #1 overall player in the whole league.  They also have Calvin, who is the #5 WR and #23 overall.  But, they only have one other player on this list and that is Larry at #150 (#49 RB).  There was a major scare in the offseason when “Titans RB Johnson” was placed on IR, but it was Stafon Johnson, not Chris.  Any loss of a Johnson is major, but as long as Chris is still a healthy Johnson, then The Dix are strong.  We are also doing defense in this league, where you get points for sacks and INTs and tackles, etc.  As good as the Dix are on offense, they are even better on defense.  They clearly have the best defense in the league.  At D-line, they have superstar Jarret from Baltimore, along with Tank in Cincy, Antonio in Indy, and the other Charles in Carolina.  They also have a lineman Michael in Cincy and a safety Michael in New York.  The other prominent DB’s are Oakland’s Chris and Minnesota’s Tyrell.  At linebacker, they have Brandon from Cincy, Derrick from KC, and a rookie Jerome in Carolina.  This defense is stacked.

Jack-O’s
This team took a beating in the offseason and have the fewest players in the league with only 26.  They had a shot at having a quarterback of a Top 5 offense, but then Brett Favre came back, sending Tavaris to the bench.  They looked real good at WR coming into the offseason, but with their two big-time players both holding out and missing practice (DeSean and Vincent), they were set back there too–plus Vincent is still unsigned and regardless of his contract is suspended for four games to start the season.  Also, Fred got hurt in the preseason and lost his starting spot to T.J. Spiller in Buffalo.  Still, they have 6 players on the NFL.com list.  QB Tavaris is the #37 QB (though he didn’t crack the Top 200 overall).  At RB, they have #9 Steven (#13 overall), #40 Fred (#88 overall), and the dark horse, #67 Brandon (didn’t make the Top 200 overall).  And, at WR, which was supposed to be their strength, they have DeSean at #8 (#26 overall) and Vincent who is still at #35 (#99 overall), despite a rocky offseason.  This defense also took a beating with injuries in the offseason, as Marlin, who was supposed to start for the Eagles in the secondary was placed on IR with a torn achilles.  They do have a star safety in Tampa Bay in Tenard.  They also have promising young D-linemen in Tyson in KC and Lawrence in Detroit to go with the grizzled vet, Grady (not currently on an NFL roster).  They are very thin at LB, as Cleveland’s D’Qwell (tied for the best name in the league with Le Kevin Smith) is the only one on the team.

Jonesin’
This team will win and lose on the backs of its running game because there is not much else there–with only 26 rostered players.  But, this corps of running backs is deep and solid, led by #3 Maurice Jones-Drew (#3 overall), who was given the go-ahead to play exclusively for Jonesin’, despite his split loyalties with Team Drew.  They also have Felix at #28 (#63 overall), Thomas at #41 (#90 overall), and Julius at #63 (#195 overall).  They also have a pair of serviceable wide receivers in Jacoby at #62 (#170 overall) and James at #75 (#198 overall).  If there receivers produce, this could be a solid team.  This is, however, the only team in the league that doesn’t even have a QB on its roster, as at least The Dix (Josh) and the Jack-O’s (Tavaris) have backup QBs on the roster that could play if the starters go down.  As for the defense here, they have three Bengals (Dhani, Pacman, and David), who all could produce.  They also have Sean in Tampa, Nate in Denver, and Jason in Oakland, who are all defensive starters for their teams, so the defense might provide some decent points.

The Blacksmiths
This team actually has a full roster of exactly 40 players, but beyond that it might be the most complete team in the league simply because they actually have a starting QB.  Alex is the #19 QB and is #129 overall.  But, this is huge because he will provide points at the highest-scoring position, which cannot be matched by any of the other teams.  However, he will need to supply a lot of points because the rest of the roster is a bit thin.  They do have two really solid WRs in Steve (#13 WR, #38 overall) and Steve (#14 WR, #43 overall).  They also have a serviceable RB in Kevin (#54 RB, #163 overall), but there is no one else on the NFL.com list.  The strength of this team might actually be on defense, as they have an absolutely stacked D-line, led by stars Will (NO) and Justin (SF), but bolstered by Aaron (Pit), Antonio (Hou), Robaire (Cle), and Le Kevin (Den).  Daryl (Jac) leads a thin linebacking corps, but the secondary is pretty solid, with Anthony (Jac) and Eric (NYJ).

All in all, it’s going to be a fantastic inaugural season, as we’re all chasing The Dix.  The Black Smiths probably have the best shot with an actual starting quarterback, but watch out for the Jack-O’s if Favre gets hurt or Jonesin’ if any of those running backs goes off.  We’ll be back with weekly updates on the league, so you’ll get your fix of All in the Family.

BSB In-Attendance: Phils go down to Astros in 16

Living in New York City, I don’t make it to many games at Citizen’s Bank Park, but I was in attendance on Tuesday night, for what the Inquirer’s Matt Gelb called “arguably the strangest game in the park’s history.”  My night was stranger than most.  Thanks to an overturned tractor trailer on the Jersey Turnpike, my bus ride to Philly took over four hours.  I didn’t get to the stadium until the 5th inning, and I was in line at Tony Luke’s when the Phils’ got on the board with a run in the 6th.

Settling into my seat in left field for the start of the 7th, I figured I would at least get to catch three innings of a tight game, and enjoy a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, in the process.  Everything was going along as expected until Jimmy Rollins came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and no one on base.  The way the Phils’ offense has been going, it was impossible to see what was coming next:  a game-tying home run deposited into the right field seats.  It was the kind of moment that has you turning to high-five complete strangers after you high-five your friends.

You probably know the debacle that ensued in the extra-innings.  Ryan Howard was bogusly ejected in the 14th.  After the commotion, we suddenly realized:  we have no bench players left!  A pitcher’s gonna play first?!  Oswalt’s the best athlete, right?  Sure enough, Oswalt did come into the game, but he came out to left field, right in front of our seats.  We were all cheering like crazy as he jogged out to start his warm-up throws.  Of course, the first batter of the inning hit a flyball into left, and Oswalt smoothly made the play.  The next batter sent a flyball down the left field line and we all held our breaths as Oswalt gave chase, stopping in front of the wall as the ball went foul.

With the Phils down two in the 16th, the Astros intentionally walked Utley to get to Oswalt.  As Dan Baker announced: “Now batting, LEFT-FIELDER, Roy Oswalt!”, the roughly 20,000 fans (impressively) still in the stadium started to chant, “Let’s Go, Oswalt!!!”.  Of course, Oswalt grounded out to end the game.  It was obviously a tough loss.  Not only did the Phils burn through their pen, but they lost a game in the heat of a late-August pennant race.

But, if there’s a silver lining to take away from it, I think it will be the fans reaction to Oswalt, both when he came out to left field, and when he batted at the end of the game.  It was much publicized that Oswalt was hesitant to come and play in Philly.  He’s a rural Mississippi guy who was worried, for whatever reason, about coming to play in a major East Coast city.  I have to think he was impressed by the fan support he got in that game, and it may have been the moment where he was both accepted by Phillie fans and where he came to realize that Philly is a pretty cool place to play.  What impact that may have on his performance is impossible to say, but if it can help morale and help cement him as a part of the organization, that can’t be a bad thing.  As for me, if I was going to see a loss in person, it would have been hard to pick a better one.

Tuesday’s Top Twelve: The Contenders

This is one of my favorite (and maybe the only) regular Top Twelves.  About this time in the baseball season, it’s interesting to start thinking about (a) the races and (b) what teams are best suited for fall baseball, as opposed to spring or summer baseball–and I’m not talking about the weather here.  Some teams are just flat-out better suited for postseason baseball than they are for regular season baseball.  Just look at all those Braves teams that won 14 straight NL Easts, but only 1 World Series.  That was not a fluke, it was because they had a deep, consistent pitching staff that feasted on mediocre and bad teams, but weren’t always equipped to go through the best offenses.  They also had just mediocre bullpens, which can really hurt you in postseason series because one blown game could mean your season.

That being said, it’s time to see who has, in my opinion, the best chance to win the 2010 World Series.  I honestly think we can narrow the field to a dozen (6 from each league), without leaving anyone out who truly has a shot–with all apologies to the Rockies, Dodgers, and Tigers.  Oh, and the Mets are not on this list, in case you were wondering.

12). Chicago White Sox.  The ChiSox are currently 4.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central, which is probably their only chance to get in, considering they are 9.5 games out of the wild card.  They are on this list because it’s not unreasonable to think that they can catch the Twins in the Central to make the playoffs.  And, as the 2006 Cardinals showed us, you just have to get in and anything can happen.  It was a hard call between 11 and 12–mainly because I don’t think either really have a shot–but I went with these Sox as having the longest odds just because I don’t really see them built for either the regular season or the postseason.  Their offense is just okay, and they are counting on guys like Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia.  As a Phillies fan, you can probably guess my level of trust in those two guys.

11). Boston Red Sox.  Look, the Red Sox may just be the third best team in baseball, despite all their injuries.  But, it doesn’t matter if the first two are in your division.  The Sox are a real longshot to even make the playoffs right now, but if they can put it together, they do have the talent to make a run at a title (though, that run is much less likely now with the season-ending injury to Youkilius).  And, they are only 5.5 games behind the Yanks and Rays–and they only have to catch one of them to get in, most likely.  So, despite their incredibly long odds to even make the playoffs, they are still on the list of possible contenders.  Consider this:  they have been ravaged with injuries and have played a combined 20+ games against the two best teams in baseball, but they are still only one-half game behind the Twins and a full game ahead of the Rangers in the standings.  Plus, there is always some fight left in this team.

10). San Francisco Giants.  Now, we’re into the ten teams that really have legitimate shots at this year’s World Series title.  The Giants do have a shot to win this year’s World Series.  They are only one game back in the wild card race, and they have a pitching staff built beautifully for the postseason, if they are running on all cylinders.  Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez would be a devastating trio in any postseason series, plus they probably have the best closer in baseball that no one’s ever heard of, in Brian Wilson.  Honestly, I have them as the longest shot among contenders from the NL because I have no trust in their offense to score any runs when needed, but I certainly wouldn’t want to face them in a playoff series.  All of this, of course, is completely dependent upon Tim Lincecum actually pitching like Tim Lincecum and not Tim Belcher.

9). Minnesota Twins.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Twins have an excellent team, but there are a couple reasons why I have them as low on this list as I do.  First of all, it’s still unclear whether or not Justin Morneau will really get back to 100% this year.  Without a fully-healthy Morneau, this offense is just a bit light in the middle.  Yes, Joe Mauer is absolutely blistering hot, but, as you saw last year, they need a little bit more than just Mauer to really make any noise.  The second big reason is that the front of their rotation is not exactly Koufax and Drysdale.  Francisco Liriano has become a really good pitcher and is clearly their ace, but he is a distant fourth among the likely four aces that will be in the AL playoffs (Sabathia, Price, and Lee).  Plus, after Liriano, there is a pretty big dropoff to the likes of Kevin Slowey (might not be healthy) or Scott Baker or even Carl Pavano.  That means that the Twins might not have a pitching advantage in any playoff game they enter all October.  And, finally, think about the road for Minnesota.  They will most likely have to go through both the Yankees and the Rays in order to get to the World Series.  And, unless they beat out the Rangers, they might have to play that first 5-game series without home-field advantage.  It’s a long road for the Twins.

8). Cincinnati Reds.  Yes, the Reds have a 2.5 game lead on the Cardinals in the NL Central, and a 1.5 game lead over the Phillies, should they need the wild card to get in.  So, chances are the Reds will be playing in the postseason for the first time in a very long time.  However, I really don’t see them built to win in October.  Harang and Arroyo are nice pitchers for 25-30 regular season starts.  They keep you in every game, but are they really stoppers?  Johnny Cueto is a nice piece, but Mike Leake looks like he’s completely hit the wall (not surprising since he didn’t spend a single season in the minor leagues).  Joey Votto is a dark horse MVP candidate, but the rest of the offense is mediocre, and Votto hasn’t proven that he can do it when it matters.  It hurts because I root for the Reds (great fans in a good baseball city that are mired in a long stretch of futility right now), but I have to say that they are more of a longshot than a couple teams they are looking down upon in the standings, including a team in their own division…

7). St. Louis Cardinals.  This team is dangerous.  They are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, as we sit today, and, to be honest with you, I don’t have a ton of confidence that they’ll get there, but if they do, they’re gonna be a tough out–that’s for sure.  With Wainwright, Carpenter, and Garcia, they are built for the postseason.  Plus, they are seasoned on how to play in big games, and they have one of the game’s best managers in Tony LaRussa.  Oh, and by the way, they have the best player on the planet sitting in the middle of their order.

6). Texas Rangers.  If you’re a Rangers fan, how thankful are you that Cliff Lee fell into your lap?  He is the only saving grace for the World Series chances of the Texas Rangers.  Again, don’t get me wrong here, I think the Rangers have a really solid team, top-to-bottom.  They have a very potent lineup with the likes of Hamilton and Vlad and the eternally underrated Michael Young and Ian Kinsler.  They have solid pitching even after Lee in Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson.  And, they have a decent bullpen bolstered by probably AL Rookie of the Year, Neftali Feliz as the closer.  But, just like the Twins, they are going to, almost assuredly, have to beat both the Yankees and the Rays in the AL playoffs just to get to the World Series.  I’m not saying this can’t happen; I’m just saying that if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t exactly put the farm on this inexperienced team winning 7 playoff games against the beasts of the AL East–even with the great Cliff Lee.  Plus, you can throw on the Angels theory from the past couple of seasons.  The Rangers probably won’t play a meaningful game for a good three weeks before the playoff start because they lead the division by so many games, so who knows if they’ll be on top of their game? 

5). San Diego Padres.  I really struggled with #4 and 5.  I am going to go with the Padres here at #5 just because I’m not totally sold on the depth of their talent.  Yes, they have the best record in the National League (third best in all of baseball), and yes they are well on their way to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs (which is big for a team so perfectly suited for its ballpark), but how much faith can you possibly have in a team that will probably be throwing Jon Garland out there in Game One.  I like Latos and Richard behind Garland, but they are just kids.  Plus, they have already given more than 250 at bats to the following marginal MLers:  Wil Venable, Chase Headley, Tony Gwynn, Jr., and a couple of Hairstons.  Yes, Adrian Gonzalez is an absolute monster and David Eckstein is a proven winner (albeit incredibly overrated), but this team is still not immensely talented.  Right?  If it were not for the gigantic additions of Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick recently, I would have them a lot lower.  Well, that and the fact that they have, by far, the best bullpen in baseball.  This might actually be the best bullpen baseball has seen since the Wetteland-Rivera days of the mid-90’s Yankees.  And, bullpens win in October.  But, we’ll see.

4). Atlanta Braves.  The Bravos have been playing some really good baseball lately, and they added a proven hitter in Derek Lee to address their biggest problem–run production at firstbase.  They also have a fantastic pitching staff, led by the immensely underrated Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens, the recently blossoming star in Tommy Hanson, and the ole veteran who’s been there before in Derek Lowe.  However, despite all of this, they do have some question marks.  Chipper is done for the year, so they really don’t have a big-time run producer (unless Lee can provide that or someone like Brian McCann or Jason Heyward can step up and fill the void).  Plus, they also do not exactly play the best defense in the league with guys like Melky Cabrera, Martin Prado, and Alex Gonzalez in key positions.  Billy Wagner has had a really nice year, but he might be tiring down the stretch, as he has struggled as of late.  The one reason, however, that I have the Braves ahead of San Diego in this order is because of the Bobby Cox Factor.  It is the swan song for one of the best managers of a generation, and you never know what kind of motivation that will provide.

3). Philadelphia Phillies.  I have been accused of being a homer before, and I’m sure I will be accused of it again, but I can assure you that I tried as hard as I could to find a reason NOT to make the Phillies the odds-on favorites to win the National League for the third straight year…but I couldn’t.  This team is loaded again.  There are two big question marks (health and the bullpen), but all in all, this team has to be considered the favorite to win a third straight pennant, and possibly a second World Series in three years.  In 2008, this team won the World Series with Cole Hamels as their ace.  Cole Hamels is pitching just as well as he did then, and he is their #3.  In 2008, this team won the World Series with Pedro Feliz as its thirdbaseman.  Now, it’s the amazing Placido Polanco.  Everything else is the same.  Throw in the fact that this team is on their way to 90 wins having only had their starting lineup play together SEVEN TIMES!  Ya, that’s right SEVEN.  Six of the 8 everyday players have spent extended time on the DL this year.  The bullpen has  been in shambles, due to major injuries and ineffectiveness, yet this team is still only 2.5 games out of the NL East title and is leading the wild card race.  Oh, and to bolster the argument even more, they happen to have added Roy Oswalt to be their NUMBER TWO STARTER.  Plus, they play in the National League, so instead of having to go through the Yankees and Rays to get to the World Series, they will probably be facing some combination of the Padres, Reds, Braves, Giants, or Cardinals.  If the season ended today, they would face San Diego in the NLDS and then the winner of the Braves-Reds in the NLCS.  Not exactly a “tough road.”  The question marks will persist, however, about the bullpen and the overall health of guys like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard, but it is hard to argue (damn near impossible) that this is the National League team that is best-equipped for a championship run.

2). New York Yankees.  The defending champs have brought back the team that dominated both the 2009 regular season and the 2009 postseason to give it another run.  And, they are set up to do just that.  They still have CC Sabathia at the front of the rotation, and they still have Mariano Rivera to close out games.  They still have Mr. Clutch in Derek Jeter and the most talented player of our generation in Alex Rodriguez.  They have seen breakout seasons from guys like Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes.  They have the best infield ever assembled and the best closer to ever live.  This team is, well, pretty good.  However, they are not the BSB pick for the favorites to win it all this year.  And, there are a couple of reasons for that–most of which have to do with the flaws of this team, rather than the overall dominance of the other.  The Bridge to Mariano is shaky again this year.  Joba is just not that good and the rest of the ‘pen is a bit suspect.  But, they can get around that, if some other things were in place.  But, Father Time is also looking like he may have come calling.  Derek Jeter is starting to actually look old (something I thought I’d never see).  A-Rod is still very good, but no longer great.  Mark Teixeira has had a miserable season.  Curtis Granderson (the big offseason pickup) looks completely lost against left-handers (and, by the way, the aces on the other three likely AL playoff teams are all left-handed–Lee, Liriano, Price).  Jorge Posada doesn’t look like he can really catch anymore.  And, the big acquisition of Lance Berkman looks like a big bust.  All that being said, this team is still a fantastic collection of baseball talent and will be a very tough out.  I just don’t see them being the odds-on favorites right now.  But, have no fear Yankees fans, not winning the World Series this year will basically just assure the fact that Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford will be wearing pinstripes next year and everyone else will be playing for second place.

1). Tampa Bay Rays.  Yes, all that young talent that shocked us all in 2008 is a little bit older and a whole lot better.  David Price has taken his rightful place at the top of one of the best rotations in the game.  Evan Longoria is leading an offense that just doesn’t stop hitting all the way up and down the lineup.  Jason Bartlett leads one of the most athletically-gifted defenses in baseball.  They still have question marks in the bullpen, but expect rookie Jeremy Hellickson to play the role of 2008 David Price out in the ‘pen this offseason because, well, why not?  When you have 5 immensely talented pitchers, just throw your young stud out in the bullpen.  This team is young and good, but the difference this year is that they’re probably a lot more hungry.  They tasted the glory in 2008 and then the pain in 2009.  And, looking ahead, they know that Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are probably long-gone from this team, so there is a sense of urgency.  Right now, I think it’s pretty clear that the Tampa Bay Rays are the favorites to win the 2010 World Series.

Phillies Third Quarter Report Card

Record Since All-Star Break:  23-13

Overall Record: 70-53 (2.5 behind Atlanta, 2 game lead in Wild Card)

oswalt charlieThe Third Quarter of the Phillie season was one of constant roster turnover.  Besides the injuries (Utley, Howard, Victorino), there was also the addition of Roy Oswalt to the rotation, and one of the top prospects in baseball, Dominic Brown, joining the team.  Through it all, the team found a way to get back to playing winning baseball and again have themselves in position for a playoff berth.

Though they’ve come a long since their abysmal play in June, there is still plenty of work left to get back to the Fall Classic for a third straight year.  There are 39 games left in the regular season, and with the way the Braves are playing, the Phils will need to keep building on this quarter if they’re going to take the division title.  With all of their key players healthy (at long last), including the very recent returns of the big bats in the middle of the order, it doesn’t seem out of the question.

Catcher:  Well, it was probably the best quarter-season of Carlos Ruiz’s career.  He hit .309 and slugged .491.  In his 19 starts since July 27th, he’s hit .367 (29-79) with 21 RBI.  But those numbers don’t even tell the whole story, because many of those RBI came at the most crucial times.  He hit a 10th-inning homer to beat the Marlins on August 5th.  The next night he knocked in the go-ahead run in the 8th inning to beat the Mets.  Then, he finished off the Phils’ amazing comeback against the Dodgers on August 12th, with a two-run double in the bottom of the 9th, to win the game 10-9.

Grade: A

First Base:  Ryan Howard missed half of the 3rd Quarter with a sprained ankle, which is a shame, because he was en route to his typical monster 2nd-half before the injury.  He had 6 homers in 67 AB’s, good for a .612 SLG, and was knocking in a run a game.  Ross Gload and Mike Sweeney platooned in Howard’s absence.  Gload made a huge contribution, hitting .341, with a .449 OBP and .610 SLG.  Of course, he’s now on the DL with a groin strain.  Sweeney hasn’t done much since being acquired.

Grade:  B+

Second Base:  This spot was manned by Wilson Valdez for the vast majority of the quarter.  He didn’t really hit at all, but hey, it’s Wilson Valdez.  What can you really expect?  He played excellently in the field, and he did deliver a game-winning hit to beat the Diamondbacks on July 29th.  Not that it’s saying much, but Valdez looks like the most valuable backup middle infielder that the Phils have had in a while.  Let’s just hope he stays a backup.

Grade: C

Third Base:  It’s a pleasure watching Placido Polanco hit.  He has amazing bat control, and always goes up with a plan.  He was briefly leading the league in hitting this week, at .325, but actually had his first 3-game hitless stretch of the season and has dropped back to 5th in the league.  Not that Placido is expected to hit the long ball, but it is a little disappointing that he has only one homer since May 9th.  His .984 fielding percentage leads all ML thirdbasemen.

Grade: B+

Shortstop:  You can’t help but wonder what Jimmy Rollins’s season would have been like had he not strained his calf muscle in a pre-game warmup before the home opener in April.  It’s a small sample size, but over the first six games of the year, he hit .391, with 7 walks and 5 extra-base hits.  After missing the better part of two months, he’s just never been able to find his stroke.  In the 3rd Quarter, he hit .239 with 1 home run.  If there’s a silver lining, it looks like his legs are fully healthy, as he was 12 for 12 in stolen base attempts in the quarter.

Grade:  D+

Left Field:  In July, we saw the renaissance of Raul Ibanez.  After a calendar year’s worth of struggles, Ibanez cameibanez through when the team really needed him, with Utley and other key players out with injuries.  For the quarter, Raul hit .311 BA/.403 OBP/.479 SLG.  He had an 18-game hitting streak that stretched from July 22nd-August 11th.  In the ten days since that streak ended, he’s struggled, though he did pick up a 2-run homer on Sunday.  With everyone finally healthy, the 38-year-old could maybe use a couple days off to re-charge for the stretch run.

Grade:  A-

Center Field: Shane Victorino missed a sizable chunk of the quarter with an injury, and when he’s been playing he hasn’t been very productive.  His OBP for the quarter was just .294, and the surprising power he showed in the first half of the season has disappeared, with his last homer coming on July 16th.  He’s showed some signs of heating up since coming back from the DL ten days ago, but he needs to get back to getting on-base and using his speed.

Grade: C-

Right Field:  Jayson Werth saw a lot of time in center during the quarter, but we’ll just consider him here for grading purposes.  It’s impossible to say if Werth was affected by the trade rumors earlier in the season (and he made that very clear in a Sports Illustrated article), but he definitely broke out of his lengthy slump right around the time that the rumors died down.  After a monster 1st quarter and sluggish 2nd, Werth has been raking again since the All-Star break.  The big-time power hasn’t been there (3 homers), but he hit .350 with a .456 OBP in the 3rd Quarter.  His 14 doubles in that stretch have him leading the majors, with 41 on the season.

Grade: A-

Bench:  The big story on the Phils bench has been Dom Brown, who has stayed in the bigs even after the return of the injured starters.  He’s definitely showed flashes of his talent (a LONG home run, gunning a runner down at the plate, every time he runs) but, all in all, he hasn’t really produced much.  Maybe the biggest indication of the seasoning he still needs: just one walk in 45 plate appearances.  We already mentioned the positive contribution of Gload, and Ben Francisco also had a solid quarter, with a .356 OBP and .538 SLG in 52 AB’s.  Brian Schneider really struggled (4-24), and Greg Dobbs and Cody Ransom, with their averages below the Mendoza Line on the season, are now in AAA.  Assuming the Phils make the playoffs, there’s still a bench spot or two up for grabs, as Sweeney and Brown haven’t locked up their spots.  

Grade:  C

Starting Pitchers:  With all the issues the team has had with run-scoring droughts and bullpen blowups, the starters have really been the foundation of this team.  They’ve definitely had their fair share of poor outings but, all in all, the team has gotten consistently excellent starting pitching all season.  Thanks to the addition of Oswalt, this is now (arguably) the best starting rotation in Phillie history, and they continued to show why in the season’s 3rd Quarter.

Oswalt has settled in nicely since his rough debut, and he’s now 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 5 starts for the club.  Anyone out there that thought he was over-the-hill when the Phils traded for him has been proven wrong.  The other Roy, Mr. Halladay, continues to carve up the National League.  Doc was 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the quarter.  He allowed 5 earned runs twice, but in his other five starts he gave up 1 run or less.

Cole Hamels threw really well throughout the quarter.  He gave up 1 run or less in four of his seven starts, for an ERA of 2.87.  Amazingly though, he didn’t get a single win, going 0-3.  Cole’s strike-out rate on the season is the best he’s had since his rookie year in ’06, which is a reflection of the increased velocity he’s had since last year, and also the cutter he’s developed.

The back of the rotation, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick, couldn’t stack up to the other three guys, but not many pitchers in the game could.  Kendrick had a bunch of really good starts, but also a few where he couldn’t get anybody out.  He ended up 3-3 with a 4.83 ERA.  Blanton, on the other hand, was really consistent, but consistently mediocre.  To his credit, he gave the team a chance to win every time out, which is why he still has a leg up on Kendrick if the Phils use a 4th starter in the post-season.  He was 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in the quarter. 

Grade: B+

Bullpen:  If there’s one aspect of this team that will keep them from winning a championship, we all know it is the bullpen.  So how are things shaping up, and how will Charlie use these guys the rest of the way?  First off, David Herndon and Danys Baez are basically just there to eat meaningless innings when possible.  Herndon is staying because he was a Rule 5 pick, and Baez is staying because he’s still owed $2-3 million next year.  It’s very possible that both would be left off the post-season roster.

The 6th and 7th inning guys are Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin.  Contreras imploded in his first game after the All-Star break, giving up 5 runs in less than an inning.  But since then he’s been excellent, with a 1.46 ERA in 14 games.  He’s ready to step into an even more important role, if needed.  Durbin is hitting his first rough patch of the season.  He is what he is.  A useful and stellar relief pitcher, but not overpowering in any way and he will give up hits.

And, of course, the 8th and 9th innings belong to Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.  Madson had a brilliant Third Quarter, posting a 1.37 ERA in 20 games.  He struck out 26, walked just 3, and currently has a streak of 12 straight scoreless appearances.  Lidge will most likely continue to be an adventure.  He was 11 for 12 in save opportunities in the quarter, but 7 walks in 12.2 innings doesn’t exactly put managers and fans at ease in the late innings of tight games.  Unfortunately, we know what would happen if Madson were put in the closer role, so we’ll live and die with Lidge.

Finally, an area of concern is the left-handed options.  J.C. Romero had a brutal stretch recently, though he looked pretty good in two outings this past weekend.  Antonio Bastardo will be back at some point, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll gain Charlie’s trust enough to be used in key spots in October.  I haven’t heard any rumors, but Ruben Amaro still has a week or so to trade for a lefty reliever.  Other names to keep in mind are Mike Zagurski and Scott Mathieson (not a lefty, but potentially useful), who are in AAA at the moment. 

Grade: C

Overall Team Grade:  A TON of credit has to go to Charlie Manuel for this successful quarter.  They won over 60% of their games with no contribution from Utley, and Howard missing half the games.  Charlie was really patching his line-up together with some slim pickings a lot of nights.  Of course, when your starting pitchers are getting the job done, that makes the job of the manager a whole lot easier. 

The Phils 4th Quarter schedule is strange.  They have 14 games coming against teams in the Central and West division, then their final 25 GAMES are all against the NL East.  Six of the last twelve games are against the Braves, including the final three games of the year in Atlanta.  It’s hard to imagine the division race won’t come down to the final week.

Third Quarter Grade:  A-

     

        

The BSB Decade Awards: Baseball

Well, the decade of the aughts or 00’s or whatever you want to call it has come to an end.  (Yes, I know there are sticklers for this stuff saying that, technically, 2000 is the last year of the 90’s, but as sports fans, our decades are different.)  We, at BSB, have put a lot of hours (WAY too many, as a matter of fact) into trying to come up with our various “Decade Awards.”  In this, the first installment, we are going to focus on baseball.  Both Doogan and I have submitted our ballots, answering many questions about the best/worst and most memorable players, teams, and moments of the past decade.  Below are the questions asked and then the answers given by Doogan and myself, followed by some justification, comments, or just random facts to go along with the picks.  And, for the record, Doogan and I did not confer, at all, on our picks, so there are some big differences in some of the categories.

[NOTE:  As this is a pretty big project, we will be updating this periodically.  If you are still reading this note, then you know that we have not completely finished our comments, so check back for more.  But, we wanted to get this up on the site for perusal of the choices.  Thank you, Management]

Best Franchise:

DOOGAN:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels
  5. St. Louis Cardinals

Bry makes a logical argument for the Yankees below, but for me this comes down to what the fans of these teams will think about when they look back on this decade.  For Yankee fans, it was really a decade of frustration, bookended by titles.  For Sox fans, this was the decade they broke the curse, became a powerhouse, and followed up the amazing ’04 run with another title in ’07.  I don’t put as much weight on division titles as Bry does, because I think getting in as a Wild Card is really just as good. 

BRY:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels
  5. Philadelphia Phillies
  6. Atlanta Braves

Doogan and I both had the exact same top 5, just in slightly different orders.  Most notably was our choice of #1.  For me, The Yankees were the easy choice.  They won more games (965), won more division titles (8), and made more playoff appearances (9) than any other team in baseball, all while playing in the game’s toughest division.  And, they bookended the decade with championships, so no one won more titles.  I struggled with #2, but went with the Cardinals because they won 6 times as many division titles as the Red Sox.  Granted, the Sox play in the same division as the Yanks, but I bet it would surprise even ardent Red Sox supporters to know that their team may have won 2 World Series in the decade, but they only won one division title.  The Cardinals had 913 wins, 6 division titles, and a championship.  The Sox won 920 games, 1 division title, and 2 championships.  It’s close, but I went with St. Louis.  The Angels came it at #4, winning 5 division titles (plus a wild card), and joined only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals in averaging at least 90 wins per season for the entire decade.  They also took a title.  The Phightins were #5 on my list, with 850 wins, three division titles, and a championship.  And, only the Yankees won more pennants than the Phillies during this decade.  I wanted to include Atlanta and their 6 division titles and 892 wins, but they never even made the World Series this decade, so it was hard.  The White Sox were right on the brink, with 881 wins and a World Series, but they only made the playoffs three times.

Best Individual Team:

DOOGAN:

  1. 2009 Yankees
  2. 2004 Red Sox
  3. 2008 Phillies
  4. 2007 Red Sox
  5. 2000 Yankees

BRY:

  1. 2004 Red Sox
  2. 2008 Phillies
  3. 2009 Yankees
  4. 2001 Mariners
  5. 2005 White Sox

86 years and about 86,000 media stories about a “curse” were erased with one crazy 3-0 comeback.  I hate the Red Sox and their ridiculously hypocritical fan base, but the 2004 team was fun, talented, and incredibly historic.  The 2008 Phils broke a streak of 100 professional sports seasons without a title for my town, so they’re a close second.  The 2009 Yankees were just really, really good.  The 2001 Mariners had the best regular season of all-time, so they’re #4.  And, as everyone talks about the “drought” and the “curse” that was erased in 2004, no one talks about a longer drought and a more probable “curse” (the Black Sox) that was ended the very next year.  If it hadn’t been such a forgettable season and postseason, the 2005 White Sox would have been higher on this list.  I do not think that the 2007 Red Sox and 2000 Yankees were nearly as good as most people will remember them to be, which is why I left them off my list.

Worst Franchise:

DOOGAN:

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. New York Mets
  5. Baltimore Orioles

I put the Mets on here for two reasons.  One, I just like seeing them there.  The other reason goes back to why I put the Red Sox over the Yankees as best franchise.  When Mets fans look back on this decade, it will almost all bad memories.

BRY:

  1. Kansas City Royals
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. Milwaukee Brewers
  6. Cincinnati Reds

There were seven teams in the decade that never made the playoffs.  I left the Blue Jays off this list because they were only 10 games under .500 and play in the AL East.  I also left the Rangers off the list because the AL West was pretty good all decade also, and Texas won 776 games.  The Royals and Pirates were clearly 1-2 for me because both teams had just abysmal decades.  I went with KC as #1 because they had 9 fewer wins and play in, arguably, an easier division.  The Orioles joined the Pirates and Royals (and Devil Rays) as the only four teams to win fewer than 700 games this decade, which is pretty sad for such a hard-core baseball town, so they’re #3.  The Expos were pretty bad; the Nats are atrocious, so they’re #4.  People may think that the Brewers had a good decade…they’re wrong, they did not.  And, the Reds, despite always being the “trendy pick,” went the entire decade without one single playoff appearance.  Oh, and by the way, I love that Doogan put the Mets on the worst franchise list.  Like I said before, we didn’t confer, but if we had, I could have easily be convinced to add them to my list, as well.

Worst Individual Team:

DOOGAN:

  1. 2003 Tigers
  2. 2004 Diamondbacks
  3. 2008 Nationals
  4. 2009 Nationals

Pretty amazing that the Tigers went from the worst team of the decade in ’03 to AL champs in ’06.

BRY:

  1. 2003 Tigers
  2. 2002 Brewers
  3. 2002 Devil Rays
  4. 2005 Royals
  5. 2001 Devil Rays

Most Underrated Franchise:

DOOGAN:

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Houston Astros
  4. Florida Marlins

The Twins only won one playoff series in the decade, but 5 division titles is really impressive.  You think of the Astros as mediocre at best for the decade, but they had 7 winning seasons, 3 playoff appearances, and won the ’05 NL pennant.

BRY:

  1. Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Atlanta Braves

Most Overrated Franchise:

DOOGAN:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. New York Mets
  4. Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays

Bry has the Marlins as overrated, I have them as underrated.  It’s often a fine line and all depends on the person deciding thinks that other people think about a team.  I would argue that your average baseball fan would be surprised to learn that the Marlins won more games than they lost in the decade, but I could be wrong.  Interesting that we both put Detroit #1 here.  They had some decent teams in the second-half of the decade, but ’06 was their lone playoff berth, and they had 7 losing seasons, including 106 losses in ’02 and an obscene 119 losses in ’03.

BRY:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Florida Marlins
  3. New York Mets
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Milwaukee Brewers
  6. Boston Red Sox

Best Position Player:

DOOGAN:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Manny Ramirez
  5. Ichiro Suzuki

I’m not in the camp that thinks anyone that used steroids should have their careers erased from the record books, but I also can’t completely separate Barry Bonds the player from Barry Bonds the steroid user.  I’ll take Pujols, and his 3 MVP awards and 3 second-place finishes.  Pujols wasn’t in the top-5 of the MVP voting just once.  He had a terrible year: .327, 32 homers.

BRY:

  1. Barry Bonds
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. Albert Pujols
  4. Derek Jeter
  5. Vladimir Guerrero
  6. Bobby Abreu

Best Pitcher:

DOOGAN:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Roy Halladay
  3. Mariano Rivera
  4. Randy Johnson
  5. Pedro Martinez

Hard to argue with Bry’s pick of Rivera, but this goes back to an old argument between us over the value of a closer.  I think it’s hugely important, but Bry puts a little more value on the back of his bullpen, in comparison to starting pitchers, than I do.  Santana vs. Halladay was a tough call for me, but injury-shortened seasons in ’04 and ’05 for Halladay were the difference.

BRY:rivera

  1. Mariano Rivera
  2. Randy Johnson
  3. Roy Halladay
  4. Pedro Martinez
  5. Johan Santana
  6. Roy Oswalt

Most Underrated Player:

DOOGAN:

  1. Mike Sweeney
  2. Michael Young
  3. Placido Polanco
  4. Paul Konerko
  5. Bobby Abreu
  6. Vladimir Guerrero

I swear, I picked Sweeney here months ago, long before he was a Phillie.  Did you know: in the first 6 seasons of the decade, Sweeney’s average year saw him hit .312 with 27 homers.  If someone hits .312 with 27 homers for the Royals, does it make a sound?  Konerko averaged 30 homers a year for the decade.

BRY:

  1. Bobby Abreu
  2. Michael Young
  3. Carlos Lee
  4. Jose Vidro
  5. Todd Helton
  6. Garrett Anderson

Most Underrated Pitcher:

DOOGAN:

  1. Joe Nathan
  2. Roy Oswalt
  3. Tim Hudson
  4. Randy Wolf
  5. Ben Sheets

In Nathan’s six seasons as a closer, from ’04 to ’09, he had an ERA of 1.87 and had over 40 saves a year.  Again, I picked Oswalt here long before he was a Phillie.  Five top-5 finishes in the Cy Young voting, and he did it in a tough place to pitch in Houston.

BRY:

  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. Roy Halladay
  3. Tim Hudson
  4. Jamie Moyer
  5. Mike Mussina
  6. Livan Hernandez

Most Overrated Player:

DOOGAN:

  1. Adam Dunn
  2. Jose Reyes
  3. Derek Jeter

BRY:

  1. David Eckstein 
  2. J.D. Drew
  3. Andruw Jones
  4. Jose Reyes
  5. Jeff Kent
  6. David Ortiz

Most Overrated Pitcher:

DOOGAN:

  1. Andy Pettitte
  2. Kevin Millwood
  3. Francisco Rodriguez

We both went with Pettitte.  He won a lot of games, but for a guy that gets some Hall of Fame buzz, it’s worth noting that he posted an ERA below 3.90 only twice in the decade.  Millwood has a habit of posting a good season once every few years and making teams and fans think he’s good.  But his ERA was over 4.00 in 7 of 10 seasons, and over 5 in two of those seasons.  K-Rod’s 62 save season was a fluke and he hasn’t pitched very well in the postseason since his dominant performance in ’02.

BRY:

  1. Andy Pettitte
  2. Roger Clemens
  3. Erik Bedard
  4. Orlando Hernandez
  5. Joba Chamberlain
  6. Jamie Moyer

Player You’d Most Likely Pay to See Play:

DOOGAN:

  1. Ichiro Suzuki
  2. Barry Bonds
  3. Vladimir Guerrero
  4. Chase Utley
  5. Jimmy Rollins
  6. Johan Santana

Utley for his unmatched combination of natural ability and all-out effort.  Guerrero because he’s the most rawly talented player I’ve ever seen.  Bonds for the spectacle.  Ichiro for pretty much everything he does on a baseball field.

BRY:

  1. Ichiro Suzuki
  2. Omar Vizquel
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  5. Pedro Martinez
  6. Ryan Howard

Best Manager:

DOOGAN:

  1. Bobby Cox
  2. Tony LaRussa
  3. Joe Torre
  4. Ron Gardenhire
  5. Charlie Manuel
  6. Terry Francona

BRY:

  1. Joe Torre
  2. Mike Scioscia
  3. Terry Francona
  4. Bobby Cox
  5. Tony LaRussa
  6. Ron Gardenhire

Best Catcher:

DOOGAN:

  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Ivan Rodriguez
  3. Jorge Posada
  4. Brian McCann
  5. Yadier Molina

Mauer over Pudge was a tough call.  In his prime, Pudge was the best catcher I’ve ever seen, but most of that prime was in the 90’s.  He also loses a few points because his big seasons at the start of the decade were almost certainly steroid-aided.  Mauer won 3 batting titles and an MVP.  Pudge’s MVP season was in ’99.  McCann might not belong, with only 4 full seasons.  As clearly the best defensive catcher of the decade, Molina belongs on the list.  And he hit near .300 over the last two seasons.

BRY:

  1. Ivan Rodriguez
  2. Jorge Posada
  3. Mike Piazza
  4. Joe Mauer
  5. Jason Kendall
  6. Victor Martinez

Best Firstbaseman:

DOOGAN:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Todd Helton
  3. Ryan Howard
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Carlos Delgado

Interesting how different these lists are after Pujols.  Bry has three guys that aren’t on my list.  Berkman fell through the cracks on my lists because he spent the first half of the decade as an outfielder and the second half at first.  Giambi wasn’t too tough to exclude, partly due to the roids.  Teixeira got extra points for his defense.

BRY:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Lance Berkman
  3. Todd Helton
  4. Jason Giambi
  5. Ryan Howard
  6. Jim Thome

Best Secondbaseman:

DOOGAN:

  1. Chase Utley
  2. Jeff Kent
  3. Placido Polanco
  4. Robinson Cano
  5. Dustin Pedroia

One of the trends of these lists is that Bry put more emphasis on longevity, while I put a bit more emphasis on who were really the best performers, even if they only played in the second half of the decade.  Hence, Cano and Pedroia make my list, while Roberts make his.  Bry makes a good call on Vidro.  I overlooked him and he probably belongs over Pedroia.

BRY:

  1. Chase Utley
  2. Placido Polanco
  3. Jose Vidro
  4. Jeff Kent
  5. Brian Roberts

Best Thirdbaseman:

DOOGAN:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Chipper Jones
  3. David Wright
  4. Michael Young
  5. Mike Lowell

Cabrera is another guy that fell through the cracks because he kept changing positions.  He spent 3 years as an outfielder, 2 as a thirdbaseman, and 2 as a firstbaseman.  The four seasons Wright put together from ’05-’08, combined with his defense, earn him the 3 spot over Young and Lowell.

BRY:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Chipper Jones
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. Mike Lowell
  5. Michael Young

Best Shortstop:

DOOGAN:

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Jimmy Rollins
  3. Miguel Tejada
  4. Jose Reyes
  5. Rafael Furcal

A big drop-off after the Top 3 here.  Even though Tejada was probably on roids and was far inferior defensively, he probably belongs in the 2 spot ahead of Rollins.  It’s pretty much a crap shoot after them, so it’s not surprising that me and Bry had different guys.

BRY:

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Miguel Tejada
  3. Jimmy Rollins
  4. Omar Vizquel
  5. Nomar Garciaparra

Best Leftfielder:

DOOGAN:

  1. Barry Bonds
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. Jason Bay

OK, missing Carlos Lee was a big oversight by me.  Nice call, Bry.  Soriano and Damon are nice choices as well.  Again, I think I missed them because of their position uncertainty.  Damon spent most of the decade in center and Soriano spent most of it at secondbase, but they each played enough left field to qualify here.

BRY:

  1. Barry Bonds
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. Carlos Lee
  4. Alfonso Soriano
  5. Johnny Damon

Best Centerfielder:

DOOGAN:

  1. Torii Hunter
  2. Andruw Jones
  3. Carlos Beltran
  4. Jim Edmonds
  5. Shane Victorino

The top 4 here were largely a toss-up to me, which explains how Bry’s #1 is at #4 for me.  Jones may be overrated, but I think puttin the likes of Griffey, Williams, and Wells ahead of him is a mistake.  Jones led all centerfielders with 308 homers and also won 8 Gold Gloves.  Griffey’s injury-plagued decade saw him with really just two “Griffey-like” seasons, ending up with 232 homers and zero Gold Gloves. 

BRY:

  1. Jim Edmonds
  2. Carlos Beltran
  3. Torii Hunter
  4. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  5. Bernie Williams
  6. Vernon Wells

Best Rightfielder:

DOOGAN:

  1. Ichiro Suzuki
  2. Vladimir Guerrero
  3. Bobby Abreu
  4. Jayson Werth

BRY:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero
  2. Bobby Abreu
  3. Ichiro Suzuki
  4. Magglio Ordonez
  5. Gary Sheffield

Best Right-Handed Starter:

DOOGAN:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Pedro Martinez
  3. Roger Clemens
  4. Roy Oswalt
  5. Tim Lincecum

BRY:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Pedro Martinez
  3. Roy Oswalt
  4. Tim Hudson
  5. Roger Clemens

Best Left-Handed Starter:

DOOGAN:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Randy Johnson
  3. CC Sabathia
  4. Cliff Lee
  5. Cole Hamels

BRY:

  1. Randy Johnson
  2. Johan Santana
  3. CC Sabathia
  4. Andy Pettitte
  5. Mark Buehrle

Best Closer:

DOOGAN:

  1. Mariano Rivera
  2. Joe Nathan
  3. Trevor Hoffman
  4. Billy Wagner
  5. Francisco Rodriguez
  6. Jonathan Papelbon

BRY:

  1. Mariano Rivera
  2. Trevor Hoffman
  3. Billy Wagner
  4. Jonathan Papelbon
  5. Joe Nathan
  6. John Smoltz

Player Most Devastated by Injury:DOOGAN:

  1. Mark Prior
  2. Chris Carpenter
  3. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  4. Kerry Wood
  5. Rich Harden

BRY:

  1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  2. Mark Prior
  3. Kerry Wood
  4. Jason Schmidt

Most Entertaining Personality:

DOOGAN:

  1. Manny Ramirez
  2. Ozzie Guillen
  3. Jimmy Rollins
  4. Pedro Martinez
  5. David Ortiz

BRY:

  1. Manny Ramirez
  2. Pedro Martinez
  3. Ozzie Guillen
  4. Tomas Perez

Most Memorable Player:

DOOGAN:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Barry Bonds
  3. Chase Utley
  4. Alex Rodriguez
  5. Ichiro Suzuki

BRY:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero
  2. Ichiro Suzuki
  3. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  4. Tim Lincecum
  5. Pedro Martinez

Most Forgettable Player:

DOOGAN:

  1. J.D. Drew

BRY:

  1. J.D. Drew
  2. Rafael Palmeiro
  3. Scott Rolen
  4. Matt Holliday
  5. Matt Holliday

Most Memorable Team:

DOOGAN:

  1. 2008 Phillies
  2. 2004 Red Sox
  3. 2000 Yankees
  4. 2009 Phillies
  5. 2009 Yankees 

BRY:

  1. 2008 Phillies
  2. 2004 Red Sox
  3. 2001 Mariners  

Most Memorable Moment:

DOOGAN:

  1. Phillies win it all!
  2. Red Sox beat Yankees in 2004 ALCS
  3. D-Backs win Game 7 in 2001
  4. Matt Stairs home run in 2008 NLCS
  5. Subway Series in 2000

BRY:

  1. Brad Lidge striking out Eric Hinske to end the 2008 World Series!
  2. Brett Myers’s save to clinch the 2007 NL East on the same day Tommy Glavine gave up a million runs in the first inning 
  3. Jimmy Rollins’s hit to beat the Dodgers in 2009 NLCS
  4. Jimmy Rollins’s diving play to start a game-ending double-play in Game 161 to clinch the 2008 NL East and keep Brad Lidge’s perfect season alive
  5. Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off hit in Game 7 of 2001 World Series
  6. Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record
  7. 2004 Red Sox coming back from 3-0 down to beat the Yankees

Most Forgettable Moment:

DOOGAN:

  1. 2007 Mets blow the division
  2. 2008 Mets blow the division
  3. Weak Cardinals team wins the World Series in 2006
  4. Red Sox sweep the Rockies in 2007 World Series

BRY:

  1. Cal Ripken’s “streak”
  2. Chan-Ho Park serving up a stupid, Favre/Strahan-like gopher ball to Cal Ripken in the 2001 All-Star Game
  3. Kaz Matsui’s grand slam in the 2007 NLDS
  4. The entire 2007 NLCS between…well…does anyone remember?

Biggest Upset:

DOOGAN:

  1. Marlins over Yankees in the 2003 World Series
  2. Tigers over Yankees in the 2006 ALDS

BRY:

  1. Diamondbacks over Yankees in 2001 World Series
  2. Red Sox over Yankees in 2004 ALCS 
  3. Marlins over Yankees in 2003 World Series
  4. Yankees over Mariners in 2001 ALCS
  5. Cardinals winning the whole thing in 2006
  6. Dodgers over Cubs in 2008 NLDS

Most Shocking Off-the-Field Event/Issue/Etc.:

DOOGAN:

  1. ‘ROIDS
  2. Josh Hamilton’s comeback
  3. Cory Lidle’s plane crash

BRY:

  1. The Mitchell Report
  2. The Game of Shadows
  3. A-Rod’s confession
  4. The Bartman Fallout
  5. Ugueth Urbina setting his gardner on fire

Greatest Innovation:

DOOGAN:

  1. Instant replay for home runs

BRY:

  1. The Humidor in Colorado
  2. New Seating (Monster seats at Fenway/Rooftop seats at Wrigley)
  3. New BBQs (Bull’s in Philly/Boog’s in Baltimore)

Rule Most in Need of Change:

DOOGAN:

  1. The designated hitter

BRY:

  1. The designated hitter
  2. 5-game playoff series
  3. Number of postseason off days

Phillies Semi-Weekly Report Card #11

Record since last Report Card: 4-2

Overall Record: 60-48 (2 behind Braves, 1.5 behind Giants in Wild Card)

Coming right on the heels of an 8-game winning streak, it was amazing how quickly things started to look really bleak this week.  The Phils dropped the first two games to the lowly Nationals, with the second loss coming thanks to another Brad Lidge implosion, and then in the 1st inning of the next game, Ryan Howard badly turned his ankle and had to be helped off the field.

All of those things made the subsequent 4-game win streak all the more crucial.  The Phils were able to keep pace with the Braves and, maybe more importantly, proved to themselves that they can win without their two best hitters in the line-up.

There were two roster moves this week.  OF John Mayberry was called up to replace Howard, and the team acquired veteran 1B Mike Sweeney from the Mariners, for basically nothing.  Cody Ransom was designated for assignment.  It looks like Sweeney will platoon with Ross Gload at 1B for now, and he could stick around for the rest of the season (and post-season) as a pinch-hitter, if he produces at all.

This week’s grades:

ruizPosition Players:  We’ve gotten used to seeing Charlie improvise with his line-ups this season, but things just started to get weird this week.  Carlos Ruiz batting 6th?  Ross Gload batting 3rd??  A right-side of the defense made up of Wilson Valdez, Cody Ransom, and Dom Brown?  Tuesday’s game saw the normal 2 and 5 hitters, Polanco and Werth, hitting 3rd and 4th.  It was as if the heart of the line-up, Utley and Howard, were just ripped out and everyone else pushed together, with a couple guys that should probably be in AAA tacked on at the end.

It wasn’t a banner week for run-scoring, but these guys certainly deserve credit for finding ways to put runs on the board without their two top guns.  The hero of the week was definitely Ruiz.  Not only did Chooch hit .379 (11-29) with 3 HR and 3 doubles, but he delivered hits at key times.  He put the Phils ahead with a 2-out RBI single in the 9th on Saturday (only to watch Lidge blow it).  His 4-hit assault on Tuesday included another 2-out RBI single.  On Thursday, he stroked a two-run double to break a scoreless tie in the 6th, then delivered the game-winning home run in the 10th inning.

Polanco continued to produce, hitting .370 (10-27) and Raul Ibanez has been red-hot at the right time, hitting .474 (9-19) with a HR this week, raising his season average to .275.  Ben Francisco chipped in with a nice week, hitting .375 (6-16) with a HR.  The Dom Brown Watch:  he was just 5-23 with no extra-base hits, but he had a nice game on Wednesday, with an RBI single and a sac fly against a tough left-hander.  He also got to show off his arm for the first time, gunning down a runner at the plate with a bullet throw from right field.

On the negative side, Jimmy Rollins had a rough week, hitting .222 (6-27).  He fouled a ball off his foot early in the week, and it looks like it’s still been bothering him as he wasn’t running that well in the Florida series.  All in all, the offense responded well to all the tumult caused by injury.  We’ll have to wait and see what they do against quality pitching when they face Johan Santana on Saturday.

Grade: B+

Starting Pitchers:  It was a tale of two series for the starters this week: mediocre against Washington but excellent against Florida.  This was epitomized by the newly arrived Roy Oswalt, who struggled in his Phillie debut on Friday, but was excellent in shutting down the Marlins on Thursday.  Oswalt admitted after his debut that he was too “amped up” and “held the ball a little tight.”  No doubt, part of that had to do with all the Phillie fans in attendance in Washington.  But on Thursday he had his wicked curveball really working, and he left the game in the 7th inning, having not allowed a run, but J.C. Romero came on and allowed both inherited runners to score.

The Start of the Week goes to Mr. Halladay, who allowed 1 run, with 9 K’s, over 7 innings on Tuesday.  Kyle Kendrick had his 3rd straight impressive start since being briefly demoted, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings on Wednesday.  It was especially impressive because he had to warm up twice thanks to an hour rain delay at the start of the game.  Hamels and Blanton were unspectacular on Saturday and Sunday.

Grade: B-

Bullpen:  On Saturday, Lidge was as bad as I’ve ever seen him.  Coming in with a 1-run lead, the inning went: single, sac bunt, walk, 3-run walk-off homer.  Every pitch he threw was either way out of the strike zone or very hittable.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Ryan Zimmerman crushed one to dead-center to end it.  Lidge had three other save opportunities after that, and he converted all three, allowing just one hit.  But he still doesn’t look very good.

We came into this season wondering if we would see the ’08 or ’09 versions of Lidge.  We all expected it would be somewhere in between, and it has been, but the unfortunate truth is that he’s definitely been closer to the ’09 Lidge.  People smarter than me may have come to this conclusion months ago, but I’m just now ready to admit: Lidge can’t be trusted.  Of course, we have no other options to close, so we’ll just have to watch between our fingers and hope.

On the plus side, Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson have been good lately.  Both had unblemished weeks and each picked up a win.  Contreras has allowed just one run in his last 10 appearances, while Madson has allowed one in his last 8.

Grade: C-

Up Next:  Six games at home with the Mets and Dodgers.  Phils starters for the Mets series: Blanton, Hamels, Halladay.