Interest in the Philadelphia Phillies is year-round for many fans, but really begins to pick up as spring training arrives.
Here at TBOH, we receive questions and comments from fans all the time. They come in from DM’s and conversations on Twitter, in commentary following our articles, and via email among other methods.
It’s a rainy day in Clearwater, Florida where the Phillies’ spring training workouts have been interrupted. It also happens to be a rain-soaked day back north in Philadelphia. So this is as good a chance as any to take a look through our “mail bag” and present a few of those queries.
In this mailbag piece there are comments and questions regarding the 2016 starting lineup, the closer battle, Odubel Herrera‘s role, our history features on Larry Bowa and Sherry Magee, the “tanking” issue, and the Pete Rose situation.
If you have any questions or comments at all regarding the team – it’s past, present, or future – please drop me an email at email@example.com. You can also catch up with me on Twitter @MatthewVeasey or the @FS_TBOH site. I’ll get back to you ASAP, and if you include your name and town/neighborhood, we’ll include that info in a future mailbag column.
A couple of comments came in regarding items in my annual off-season “Philography” series…
Comment: Larry Bowa has long been my favorite Phillie. Great article (Philography: Larry Bowa) that took me back to so many great memories. I enjoyed the videos too. Thanks for including them! Bearj Jehanian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Answer: Glad that you enjoyed it, and thanks for sharing as well. My own first Phillies team was the first Vet team in 1971, so I grew up with Bowa as the shortstop.
Comment: Sherry (Philography: Sherry Magee) was one colorful character. I would add to the article that he won the batting title in 1910, and I believe he is the only player ever to win the RBI title four times who is not in the Hall of Fame. Brian M. (email@example.com)
Answer: Great points, Brian. Thanks for the insight. Always enjoy doing the “Philography” pieces, if only for the knowledge that I gain personally about the players and their careers. Love sharing it.
Brian below didn’t like my very realistic take on the likely 2016 Phils’ starting lineup:
Comment: If that’s the starting lineup (Phillies Likely 2016 Starting Lineup), I’ll puke. Asche has no right being out there. Howard should not be out there. My starting lineup would be……
Roman Quinn cf
Odubel Herrera 2b
J.P. Crawford ss
Maikel Franco 3b
Nick Williams Lf
Andrew Knapp 1b
Aaron Altherr rf
Cameron Rupp c
Why put guys out there that have no future with the team? Get the future out there now, they’re going to suck anyway, might as well gel, and grow together, so they can all remember how it felt, when they start getting better, and hungry. Brian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Answer: Hi Brian. Thanks for your input. I have to both agree AND disagree with you. First, I absolutely agree that they need to get “the future” out there as fast as possible. However, the fact remains that for a variety of reasons, some having to do with development, some having to do with contract control, they are NOT going to start the 2016 season with either Quinn or Crawford or Williams in the lineup.
I would love to at least see Quinn and Crawford reach Philly at some point in the 2016 season. That is going to depend on health, their performances, and the performance of those in the big leagues. But I guarantee you, it will not be on Opening Day, and that was what this piece was all about.
As for Odubel at 2nd base, I wrote a piece here at TBOH about a month ago, referencing that the Phillies have discussed giving him some time at 2nd base. I myself have wondered why they don’t consider it more actively and openly, for some of the reasons that you mentioned. I don’t think they want Odubel at 2nd base, for whatever reason.
But personally, I would love to see him get a shot there in spring, do really well, maybe have Quinn perform really well, and get the Phillies brass to consider a switch. I wouldn’t count on it, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it happen. Again, thanks for your input.
A newcomer to the Phillies’ regular Twitter family emerged last year, and had questions about 2016…
Question: Who do you see breaking camp as the closer? And do you see Odubel staying in center or moving to left field? El Torito (@ElTorito_Phils on Twitter)
Answer: Thanks for the questions, Baby Bull. I see David Hernandez emerging as the closer. However, the club brought in a number of veterans who have closing experience including Andrew Bailey, Ernesto Frieri, and Edward Mujica. If any of them prove healthy and effective in the Grapefruit League, wouldn’t surprise me if they stole the role. As for your buddy Odubel, he is probably headed over to left field, with newcomer Peter Bourjos manning center. Again, spring training will shake out the outfield situation.
Mike Azzalina’s 5-part series on keys to the Phils possibly overachieving in 2016 was a hit with a number of fans…
Answer: Mike doesn’t really expect them to reach the .500 mark this season. However, if things fall into place, especially in the five areas that he highlights in the series, the real point is that they should improve incrementally. There does seem to be more depth and quality available to the pitching staff this coming season, in both the rotation and the bullpen. The lineup still has issues, but the 1B platoon, if used properly, should be more consistent for the middle of the order. It’s really about steps…baby steps. For now, getting out of the basement of baseball and pushing for that break-even .500 mark is a first step and a worthy goal. Let’s see how it all shakes out.
Rose elicits more passion and emotion than any player in Phillies’ history…
Comment: (Phillies Hero Pete Rose Denied Reinstatement) Last time I read the dictionary, permanent meant permanent, not temporary. When Rose is dead and gone so he is unable to profit from any selection AND after Shoeless Joe gets in, then they can think about letting in a singles hitter with a lower lifetime batting average than a guy who hit about 600 more home runs than he did. Gene Christensen (email@example.com)
Answer: I personally disagree with your opinion on Rose, Gene, but you are absolutely entitled to it. He is certainly a polarizing figure. His on-field accomplishments are very obviously Hall of Fame worthy. Time will tell on the rest. And “permanent” is actually not final. People, entities, organizations make such statements and then at some point in the future find themselves changing their minds. It happens frequently. We shall see with baseball. I agree that Shoeless Joe should be in the Hall as well, as should Bonds and Clemens.
No topic this off-season yielded more conversation than whether or not the Phillies have been tanking…
Comment: Kind of simplistic. If every team has to go all out to win it all in any particular year, then most teams who have ever played the game tanked. And that’s clearly not what people mean by the term. Tanking is exceptional behavior, not what most teams do every year.
And why stop at going all out to win every season? What about all those teams who tank games by not bringing in the next day’s starter to pit h a few innings? Part of running a team is sometimes sacrificing your best chance to win right now in order to maximize your chances of winning in the foreseeable future. Tanking is letting the specific rewards tied to losing –draft position, etc.–dictate your strategy. That isn’t what the Phillies are doing. Period. Oran Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Comment: Exactly. Tanking would mean the team would do things like only putting Ryan Howard in against lefties (his weakness) and putting Darin Ruf in against righties (his weakness). It would mean bringing in crappy relievers in close games and crappy pinch hitters when there is a chance to knock in a game tying run. It would mean misusing the talent on the roster to maximize the chance of losing games.
Making strategic talent acquisitions to put the team in the best position for the long term, is not tanking it is rebuilding–big difference. Jon Palmer (The_REAL_JP@outlook.com)
Answer: Actually, Oran it is not “Period”, just your opinion on the definition. I choose to follow the definition provided in this 2014 piece on the NBA, and have seen the term defined in a couple of other ways as well: http://www.sbnation.com/2014/1/10/5266770/nba-draft-lottery-tanking-gm
Keep following and enjoy the site.
I respectfully disagree, Jon. But really, in the end it’s all about your definition of “tanking”. I personally don’t believe that it means doing EVERYTHING possible to lose as many games as possible. I believe it means NOT doing everything possible to win. To me, if you are a professional organization charging customers high prices to come see the alleged best players in a sport, then you should be providing that. Yes, the Phillies are “rebuilding” for the long term. But do you honestly think that customers who pay for 2016 tickets will be seeing anything other than a 5th or 6th place team? The organization is well aware that they will lose next year, and did little to improve that situation. The pitching is slightly better, on paper. The lineup is still awful. There were things they could have done, still could do, to change that for the short term. Again, some of this is language semantics. I agree there is a differenced between “rebuilding” and “tanking” – I just think the Phillies are doing both. Rebuilding for long term, and tanking the short term.
The present and future of the catching position brought out a number of opinions. Here are a couple representative…
Comment: Knapp definitely has his issues defensively but seems to be a real natural with the bat. Sam Bradfords Chicken Legs (email@example.com)
Comment: “It’s time for the Phillies to see what the kids can do, and one place that should manifest itself is with Rupp’s immediate installation this year as the starting catcher.” (Phils Need to Move on From Ruiz) I’m pretty sure that already happened last year. Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comment: I assume that unless performance strongly says otherwise, then Rupp will get the majority of PT over Ruiz. And I’m fine using Ruiz as a backup – they’re paying him either way – until one of the kids is ready.
Answer: Those were absolutely the roles over the final two months of the 2015 season, Ray: Rupp starter, Chooch backup. During the course of the season, Ruiz appeared in 86 games behind the plate, Rupp in 81. This coming season should be the first Phillies campaign since Lieby’s last year in 2006 that doesn’t see Ruiz enter the season as the starting catcher.
I think that has to be the odds-on favorite situation heading into spring training, Mike: Rupp starter, Chooch backup. But I’m at least a bit intrigued by the additon of J.P. Arencibia: 30 years old, a pair of 20+ HR seasons in the bigs, appears healthy. Should be interesting.
Answer: (Phillies Trade Target: Austin Hedges) As for Knapp, he “improved”, but is still not highly regarded defensively. This will be an interesting position to watch over the next couple of seasons with the Phillies.
He certainly had a big 2015. I think that his long term value is up in the air at this point. Of course, so is the team’s catching position. Chooch is done during or after this coming 2016 season. They have some excellent prospects now, each with a mix of strengths, some who may not stay at the position. An interesting position to watch with the Phillies organization over the next couple of seasons.
We heard from one of our favorite Twitter follows regarding a piece on one of his favorite players…
Comment: Chase Utley is revered and admired by Phillies fans (Chase Utley Begins), and yet is still underrated among most. Few of the fans at CBP on any given day with “Utley” on their back realize that over a full decade (2005-14), he was one of the best players in the game (and arguably THE best). Schmenkman (email@example.com)
Answer: I think that, here in Philly, we absolutely appreciated that he was one of the best players in the game. We were blessed to have him, Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels all around at the same time at the top of their games for as long as we did. By the way, love your work @tgpschmenk on Twitter. Glad to have you following TBOH.