If reports are true, Phillies are making huge mistake

OK…most baseball fans are aware of the reportedly impending trade of Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies and the reported companion trade (right now, this does not appear to be a 3-team deal) of Phillies ace Cliff Lee to Seattle.

While I love Lee and appreciate what he did for the Phillies in his short time with them, I understood that the Phillies needed to a) create payroll space to fit Halladay’s contract, and b) acquire prospects from another team to fulfill Toronto’s trade demands.

Also, it sounds like the Phillies were not confident Lee would sign a contract extension. Lee is good friends with CC Sabathia, who signed a 7-year, $161 million contract with the New York Yankees last offseason, and he was quoted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in August that he was looking to enter free agent market after the 2010 season.

So I was OK with the “Trade Lee” scenario if it meant getting Halladay and signing him to an extension while leaving the Phillies’ top prospects (P Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor, C Travis D’Arnaud) safely down on the farm.

Keep in mind, back in July 2009, when the Phillies pursued Halladay the first time, Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. kept saying Drabek and Taylor were “untouchable.” So instead of giving in to Toronto’s demands, Amaro turned around and traded for Lee by sending second-tier prospects (P Jason Knapp, P Carlos Carrasco, C Lou Marson and SS Jason Donald) to the Cleveland Indians.

Lee went on to be a stud for the Phillies in the playoffs and World Series while Halladay remained untraded in Toronto.

Everyone knew the Phillies would stay in the hunt for Halladay during the offseason, so it doesn’t surprise me that a deal is apparently in the works. But when FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal mused a few days ago that he had a hunch the Phillies might trade Lee in order to create the payroll space to add Halladay, I was among many who didn’t think it made any sense. In the World Series against the Yankees, what hurt the Phillies was not having a clear No. 2 pitcher behind Lee. I assumed the objective was to have Halladay AND Lee in 2010.

But the more I thought about it, the more I was OK with trading Lee…ONLY if it meant the Phillies would be sending the prospects acquired in a Lee trade to Toronto as part of a package for Halladay. I could even support sending Taylor or D’Arnaud as part of such a package.

However, as more and more sportswriters started reporting what they were hearing about the Halladay deal, which started coming to light Monday afternoon, it became apparent that this blockbuster is not shaping up to be a three-team trade. It was starting to become much more evident that the Phillies had worked out a separate deal with Seattle that would send Lee to the Mariners for second-tier prospects in order to cut payroll.

The latest reports indicate the Phillies are still going to be trading either Drabek or J.A. Happ, Taylor, and D’Arnaud to the Blue Jays in exchange for Halladay, who appears likely to sign an extension with the Phillies reported to be in the 3-year, $60 million range.

Now, I’m ecstatic about the Phils getting Halladay and that kind of contract for one of the best pitchers in baseball is awesome.

But if the Phillies were going to wind up trading Drabek et al for Halladay now when they were “untouchable” in July, my question is…why didn’t the Phillies get both Lee and Halladay last July? If the Phillies had made both moves, I’m pretty sure there would be a good chance the Phillies would be two-time defending World Series champions right now.

And they would probably be in the position they are in right now…signing one of the aces to a long-term deal while trading away the other one. But the Phillies would have had a few months with both Lee and Halladay, and likely would have had another ring to show for it. It would have made losing the prospects more palatable.

But now? What’s the point? The Phillies appear to still be selling the farm for Halladay and sending Lee to Seattle in what is a thinly disguised salary dump. Sure, Amaro may say something like, “The Blue Jays were adamant in their demands so I made the best deal possible with Lee to replenish the farm system and make the deal with Toronto.”

But here’s the thing…the Lee trade — as it appears right now — does not replenish the farm system. The Phillies will be getting second-tier prospects back for their ace while trading their top-shelf prospects for Halladay. I mean, if the Seattle prospects were close to the value of Drabek, Taylor and D’Arnaud, why aren’t any of them going to the Blue Jays? The answer is Toronto doesn’t want them.

The quality of prospects mentioned coming over to Philly from Seattle — reportedly pitcher Phillipe Aumont, outfielder Tyson Gillies (“Gillies the Phillies” must have appealed to Amaro?), and possibly pitcher Juan Ramirez — is not even close to what the Phils’ farm would be losing.

Essentially, if this all goes down the way it is being reported right now, it means the Phils will have given up Drabek (or Happ), Taylor, D’Arnaud, Knapp, Carrasco, Marson, Donald — and CLIFF LEE — for Roy Halladay (through 2013) and two or three second-tier prospects (and cash and payroll flexibility).

That is an awful, awful deal. And the timing makes it even worse.

Again, I would have been OK with trading Lee in a true three-team deal that would have lightened the Phillies’ cost in terms of prospects going to Toronto. But if Halladay is going to cost the Phillies their top prospects anyway, I say just keep Cliff Lee, bite the bullet on payroll in 2010 and beat the freakin’ Yankees in October.

UPDATE: It’s becoming obvious that Amaro is misreading the value of these two deals because he’s not factoring Lee into what is becoming a staggering price to pay for Halladay in terms of prospects. While trading away the farm is never a good idea, keeping Lee while obtaining Halladay is the most beneficial scenario for the Phillies — except from a payroll standpoint. So if that’s the case, why didn’t Amaro simply non-tender Joe Blanton — whose 2010 salary is basically equal to Lee’s — or trade him for a bag of baseballs to create the payroll space needed to keep Halladay and Lee in the Phillies’ rotation in 2010? Maybe the problem is that Amaro is caught between trying to do what Phillies ownership want (keep payroll in line with the budget) and what’s best for the organization (keep the farm system stocked). He’s trying to do both and that might not be the best thing to do. He should be looking at these deals as what would be the best value for the Phillies…and, at this point, acquiring Halladay and keeping Lee for 2010 provides the best value.

Also, Jayson Stark said on ESPN Radio this morning that the Phillies are getting the Mariners’ top two pitching prospects (Aumont, Ramirez) and an outfielder similar to Taylor (Gillies). Well, I saw video of Aumont last night and his mechanics have all the hallmarks of Tommy John surgery in a year or two. Ramirez is supposedly the better of the two pitchers, and Gillies comparable to Taylor? I have seen Michael Taylor play and the kid is a stud so that’s a lot to live up to for Gillies.

Vote for Victorino…TODAY!

Vote for Shane Victorino!
Vote for Shane Victorino!

Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino is in a tight race for the National League team’s final roster spot in MLB’s Final Vote competition. Voting ends today at 4 p.m. ET, so CLICK HERE NOW and vote as many times as you can (there is no limit) before 4 p.m. to send Shane to the All-Star Game.

Last night, Victorino was the hero for the Phillies as he delivered a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Phils a 3-2 walk-off win. And, as the official campaign video below shows, Shane has come through time and time again for the reigning World Series champions.

Vote Victorino…TODAY!

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Beating the Mets sounds great in any language

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Comcast SportsNet-Philly featured a chat with the lead announcer for the Phillies’ Spanish-language affiliate during last night’s Phillies-Mets game, which the Phillies won 6-3 after Raul Ibanez hit a 3-run home run in the top of the 10th inning.

After Ibanez hit the home run, CSN played the Spanish version of the call, which The Fightins has posted online (thanks!).

Phillies wins are good for my blog

Whenever I look at the stats for my little ol’ blog here, I am amazed at how much traffic I received during the Phillies’ World Series-winning run in 2009.

My blog normally gets a few hundred views per month…I would say in the 600-800 range, typically. But in May 2008, page views jumped from 707 during the previous month to 1,623. The next three months were in the 1,200 neighborhood.

Then, during the final stretch of the Phillies’ season in September, as they made their run to a second consecutive National League East title, views went up to 2,196 for the month. During the playoffs in October, my blog enjoyed its best traffic ever with 3,765 views. After falling to 1,675 in November, the blog has returned to its typical 600-800 views per month.

I don’t want to turn this into a Phillies-only blog, especially since there are so many great ones out there already, like The Good Phight, Phillies Nation, The Fightins, etc. But I should probably write more about the team than I do for the sake of blog traffic.

By the way, the Phillies won their seventh in a row last night with a 3-0 victory over the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Cole Hamels tossed a complete-game, five-hit shutout for the Phils, who now have a four-game lead over the Mets in the NL East race.

Today is my 30th anniversary…as a Phillies (and Philly) fan

Phillies logos during my 30 years of "phandom."
Phillies logos during my 30 years of "phandom."

For the first eight years of my existence, my dad raised me to be a New York Mets fan, believe it or not. Growing up in Brick, N.J., we would make one or two trips each summer to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play, but I never really got into it. Strangely, though, my favorite player from those awful Mets teams in the mid-to-late 1970s was catcher John Stearns. More on that later.

But my dad grew tired of making the drive up to Shea from our house in Brick, which was located close to Route 70, an east-west state highway that extended all the way to Pennsauken, N.J. From there, one would merge for a short time onto Route 38, pick up Route 130 South, and then head on over the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philadelphia. In other words, it was an easy 90-minute drive. Hence, my dad decided we were going to see the Mets play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium on Sunday, April 22, 1979.

Initially, I was upset — mostly because I was a temperamental 7-year old (I would turn 8 in July). But Shea Stadium was the only ballpark I knew and that’s where I wanted to go.

However, once we got to “The Vet,” something happened. First of all, compared to Shea, The Vet was spectacular (The Vet may have been a dump in reality, but Shea was — by far — the bigger dump.) Plus, there was the Phanatic! That was fun. And the Phillies had a pretty good pitcher on the mound that day…future Hall of Fame southpaw Steve “Lefty” Carlton. And I remember Pete Rose, in his first year with the Phillies, diving into the first couple of rows of seats along the first-base side to catch a foul pop. And for the first seven innings, Carlton and the Phillies were cruising along with a 2-0 lead going into the eighth. I immediately switched allegiances and became a Phillies fan.

That’s probably where the day went wrong for the Phils, as the Mets went up 4-2 in the eighth, when Carlton surrendered three runs before reliever Ron Reed gave up an unearned run in the frame. That would turn out to be the final score, but it didn’t matter…I had a new team.

(By the way, I didn’t remember all those details…most are courtesy of the great Retrosheet.org.)

And when we left the stadium, we wound up walking next to offices for the Eagles. I asked my dad who they were and he said they were Philadelphia’s football team. I asked about the arena across the street and he told me that’s where the Sixers and Flyers play. So, really, April 22, 1979, marks the day I became a fan of all Philly teams — and of sports, in general.

But Phillies baseball became my greatest passion that day. And, because I was at the game, I hadn’t yet heard the legendary broadcast team of Harry Kalas and Richie “Whitey” Ashburn calling the Phillies games…that was another plus of being a fan of the team.

Although my dad was still primarily a Mets fan, he began to like the Phillies, too, and we went back to The Vet a few more times that year — and for many years after that (my dad has pretty much become a Phillies fan these days…his days as a Mets fan ended when they fired Bobby Valentine as manager). The Phillies — after winning three straight NL East titles from 1976-78 — finished in a disappointing fourth place in 1979. Of course, in 1980, they became world champions of baseball for the first time in the franchise’s long history.

And that brings me back to Mets catcher John Stearns. As I mentioned, he was my favorite Mets player around 1977 and ’78. Since I wasn’t a big sports fan back then, I never looked at Stearns’ career statistics or history. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned that Stearns was drafted in 1973 by — guess who — the Philadelphia Phillies. In December 1974, he was traded to the New York Mets. The key player the Phillies received from the Mets in that trade? Relief pitcher Tug McGraw, who struck out Willie Wilson in the ninth inning to clinch the Phillies’ World Series title in 1980.

So, before I became a Phillies fan, my favorite player on the Mets turned out to be a former Phillie (Stearns played one game with the Phils in September 1974) whose trade allowed for the iconic image of Tug McGraw’s celebratory leap upon winning the 1980 World Series to become a reality.

I guess it was just meant to be.

Goodbye, Harry…and thank you, Phillies

This fan-made artwork was one of many tributes to Harry Kalas left outside Citizens Bank Park
This fan-made artwork was one of many tributes to Harry Kalas left outside Citizens Bank Park

I, along with many Phillies fans, paid their final respects and said goodbye to longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas at a memorial service held this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.

My fiancee and I got on line at 8:30 a.m. and entered the third-base gate about 40 minutes later. Once through the turnstiles, I saw a table with free coffee set up on it. As a huge fan of coffee, especially a little after 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I was excited. However, I caught a glimpse of two people standing a bit beyond the coffee station…and I was floored.

I whispered to my fiancee, “Oh, wow! Bill Giles and David Montgomery are up there greeting everybody.”

Now, Bill Giles is one of the Phillies’ owners and is the team’s chairman. David Montgomery is president and chief executive officer of the Phillies. And they were personally shaking hands with every single person walking into the ballpark and thanking them for being there.

During the late 1990s and the early part of this decade when the Phils were pretty much dreadful, both of these men took a lot of heat from some of the very fans they were now shaking hands with on a very emotional day.

Seconds after I noticed them, a few other people on line in front of us did too…and had pretty much the same reaction as I did (“Oh, wow!”). I said to a guy in front of us, “That is real class. They did not have to do that.” He agreed.

It was the first of many first-class touches the Phillies displayed during the day. And that’s one thing I want to bring up in this post…for all-non Phillies fans out there, say what you want about Philly fans and the teams, but anytime the Phillies hold a ceremony, they always do a top-notch job with it. Some of the so-called “upper crust” teams in baseball might want to take a lesson from the Phillies on how to stage a special event.

OK…so, anyway…I was going to write a lot more, but it really comes down to this: The Phillies did a great job this week with honoring the legacy and memory of Harry Kalas. And they capped it off with an outstanding memorial service and final goodbye to an icon whose voice will echo around my mind for the rest of my life.

Sound of Summer Silenced (for Harry the K)
6:24/8.8 MB

This is a song I wrote over the days following Harry Kalas’ death. I used some radio calls, which are likely not covered by fair use, but I felt they added to the song and were an appropriate tribute. I’ll remove them if asked.

A personal memory of Harry Kalas

Harry Kalas (1936-2009)
Harry Kalas (1936-2009)

Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed at Nationals Park and later died in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, just hours before the Phillies’ game today against the Washington Nationals. He was 73.

I became a Phillies fan in April 1979 and Harry’s voice is practically embedded in my brain — something I am sure I have in common with many other die-hard Phillies fans.

I convinced my family to make the trek up to Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2002 to see Harry enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing as that year’s Frick Award winner. I even shook Harry’s hand a couple of times in my life, both coming while getting his autograph. However, the second time features a pretty cool Harry the K story.

My friend, Cliff, and I were at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium to see the Phillies play in a spring exhibition game. After the game, we went up to the window of the broadcast booth to get Harry’s autograph. However, Cliff saw the people in front of us give Harry a cell phone and he was either recording a message or talking to somebody. So Cliff decides to call our friend Jimmy — a huge Phillies fan — with the hope that Harry would talk to him for a few seconds.

So we finally approach Harry. After Harry talked to us for a few seconds and signed our programs, my friend handed Harry the phone and asked him if he could just talk to our friend for a bit. Harry says, “Sure, what’s your friend’s name?” We tell him that it’s Jim…Harry takes the phone and all we hear is something like this:

“Hey, Jim, this is Harry Kalas. How are you?…Watching the NCAA Tournament, eh?…Well, take care, Jim. It’s getting late so I am outta heerrrrre!”

We again shook Harry’s hand and thanked him. Cliff puts his phone back up to his ear and hears Jimmy say this: “That was awesome. I gotta call my dad.”

Earlier today, I sent Jimmy a text message saying that I was thinking about that time. In his reply, he said “…that’s how cool Harry was. It’s like a small piece of my life is gone.”

A lot of Phillies fans feel the same way.

RIP, Harry the K…Phillies baseball will never be the same.

(Photo courtesy of Phillies.com)

Phinally…Phillies are World Series champions!

Brad Lidge closes out the 2008 World Series
Brad Lidge closes out the 2008 World Series. (Source: Philly.com)

For the first time since 1980 and for only the second time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Phillies are the world champions of baseball after beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park on October 29, 2008. The Phils won the best-of-seven series in five games.

The victory also gives Philadelphia its first major professional sports title since 1983, when the Sixers won the NBA championship.

Savor this, Philly fans…you deserve this.

And congratulations to Charlie Manuel and the 2008 Fightin’ Phils! Thank you very much for this.