Archive: October, 2010
Feeling confident about the Phils? You're not the only one. Pushed by active betters (presumably, a few of them local) over the course of the Game 5 of the NLCS, the Sportsbook betting odds for a Phillies' World Series Championship started to drop. At +500 at the start of the game, the line dropped to +400 sometime after the 3rd, +300 in the 9th, and +200 before Ken Rosenthal had finished his postgame interviews with two men who appear to be giants.
By the time you read this, it'll probably be even money. Admit it, even that number might seem low why shouldn't the Phillies be the favorites?
After taking care of Giants and ace Tim Lincecum in the final game in San Francisco, the Phils head back to Philadelphia needing only two hometown-fueled wins from former NLCS MVPs to raise their NL third pennant in three years. Considering that your Home Team has yet to put together a single complete game, in the sense of firing on all cylinders, it is quite a testament to talent they've assembled.
It must be the talent, because throughout the series it hasn't been the play. The Home Team's bats, gloves and arms have taken turns looking impossibly raw. Marred by errors mental and otherwise the Phillies haven't acted like they're in the midst of their annual postseason run; they've acted like they just got off the bus in Clearwater at the other end of the season. Game 5 started off looking like it would not be an exception. Doc opened the day by issuing his first leadoff walk of the year, and then let the runner come around on a botched ground ball from the normally unflappable Chase Utley.
After taking the lead in a bizarre third inning that you've surely heard about roughly 640 times by now, the Phillies merely settled in and hung in for their second win in five tries. Actually, no one was ever settled in, and it wasn't the Phillies as a whole who wasn't doing the settling it was Roy Halladay, who continues to establish himself as a local legend.
After throwing the National League's first ever playoff no-hitter in the NLDS, and not having his best stuff in Game 1 of this series, no one really knew exactly what to expect out of Halladay. So, when his velocity dropped, he started hanging breaking balls, missing locations and laboring through innings, many started to assume to perhaps he had finally hit his innings limit, or maybe just maybe tonight wasn't one of those nights. Both theories were incorrect not only did Halladay still hold the Giants to two runs in six innings pitched, and not only did he put up that line despite a less-than-mediocre defensive showing behind him, but it turns out that he did it after pulling his groin in the second inning (or, at least it is being reported as the second; Dubee visited him in first, which I can't recall ever happening in the regular season). Seriously, despite not being able to properly push off, the Phils' ace refused to take himself out of the game, and still got a playoff win. That's like climbing K2 without a shoe, or playing golf with a shovel. I'm not sure how exactly the Phillies blogosphere can step up their Doc-trust, but rest assured, they'll find a way.
You know, I guess this is funner.
Onto the notes â¦
- Coming into the series a popular narrative was developing: the Giants stink at D. It's true, but it didn't really show itself until tonight, when a series of bizarre miscues cost the San Franciscans big.
- A cannon isn't strong enough, Werth has a Gustov. I hope Cody Ross learned a valuable lesson about playing with it.
- With Cody Ruth's monster series continued. He had another RBI double last night, brought his OPS is up to an even one million.
- Despite the power outage (never words you want to use to describe your $125 million power hitter), Ryan had actually looked good this series. No more. No. 6 ended the game with a sombrero and an error.
- Maybe it's a product of the San Fran offense, but the Madson-Lidge combo is looking 08-esque.
- Phils in 7
Of course you've been waiting, as we have, with near-uncontrollable anticipation for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's annual "Diversity Report" â and finally, it's out.
It contains various tidbits of interesting info the fact, for example that Harrah's Chester, nestled in an almost all-black city has managed to get away with not disclosing information regarding the diversity of its workforce for a second year in a row
Nonetheless, says the report, "The Diversity Officer is of the opinion that the entity has engaged in a good faith effort to promote and ensure diversity in its operations."
Who needs numbers when you've got opinions?
But one piece of info missing this year is a figure we found most interesting last year: the annual turnover rate of casino employees, which seemed, at the time, surprisingly high:
According to the 2008 Diversity Report, employee turnover ranged from 24%-66% â in other words, some casinos saw more than half their employees gone within a year of being hired.
PGCB spokesman Richard McGarvey told CP in an email that while the PGCB did not include those figures this time around, "There has been no significant change in the turnover rate from the 2008 report to this report."
Anyone out there work at a PA casino, or know someone who does? Do these seemingly-high turnover rates ring true and, if so, what's behind them?
We go to City Council meetings so you don't have to.
Naming something "DROP" is just asking for it to be hated. We've all read the headline "Drop DROP" ad nauseum, and in today's Council meeting, Councilman Brian O'Neill kept referring to the program as a "DROP in the bucket" in regards to the pension fund problem as a whole. "The pension fund issue is getting lost in the DROP in the bucket issue," he says. "Our pension fund is underfunded by each administration. â¦ I would ask for â¦ Council for the first time to take a more active role" in addressing the larger pension problems.
O'Neill brought this up in light of a resolution Council passed today regarding DROP (more cumbersomely known as the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which CP's Ralph Cipriano found is costing the city $1 billion). Apparently, when Mayor Nutter announced his plan this August to repeal DROP, enrollment skyrocketed: From the beginning of August to Oct. 12, 2010, 1,888 people have submitted their preliminary applications for DROP. Comparatively, in August of last year, only 82 workers did so. This resolution encouraged workers to re-think their enrollment, assuring them that "in the event Council enacts legislation revising or curtailing [DROP], any such legislation will provide all city employees who are eligible to enroll in the DROP â¦ with a 'window of opportunity' to enroll before any changes affecting their eligibility take effect."
In other news:
- The bill transferring the now-defunct Clerk of Quarter Sessions' $4.5 million budget to the First Judicial District passed unanimously. Read up on why this is disappointing in my article about reform of the Clerk's office falling flat.
- Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. introduced a bill that would allow "a [tax] credit for contributions to community development corporations to add certain nonprofit intermediaries as eligible recipients of contributions." Read the actual bill here.
- And lastly, all Councilpersons were in attendance. Philadelphia, we can fight truancy!
*A graph of polling trends, sans R-leaning Rasmussen. Play with the graph yourself here.
First, the positives: If we throw out the Phillies last regular season game â a meaningless 8-7 loss where Oswalt and Hamels combined to throw just three innings â the Phillies were 37-3 in games where (1) one of their three aces started and (2) they scored at least four runs. If the Phils' feast-or-famine offense wakes up even a little bit a comeback isn't out of the question at all.
In fact, it would probably be hard to find a team better suited to make it back from 3-1: once Halladay wins game 5 by sheer force of will, all the Phils need to do is win two home games started by former NLCS MVPs against the Kung Fu Pandas of the world. Will it be easy? Not as easy as it should have been, but maybe.
On top of all that, there is a clear precedent â the 2007 ALCS. After falling back 3 games to 1 to an inferior Indians' team and despite facing two guys in the top 5 of the '07 Cy Young voting (C.C. Sabathia, who took home the award, and Fausto Carmona, who finished fourth), the Boston Red Sox demolished the Tribe in 3 straight by a combined score of 30-5. In baseball, sometimes the better teams win, and despite what we've seen this week, the Phils are still better.
Now, with that out of the way, let us talk about the negatives. If you're going to pin last night's loss on one man, the man you pin it on is Uncle Cholly. After starting Joe Blanton over presumed Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Charlie pulled Blanton in the middle of the fifth with men on first and second, two outs, and a rookie at the plate. For the record I'm not buying the logic that we just don't know what would have happened if the Phils had pitched Halladay instead of the remaining half of the Redneck Wrecking Crew. We all what would have happened: The Phillies would have won. So, if you're going away from the Phils' ace, you better have confidence that what you're going with can handle the job. Bailing on his gameday starter before the guy could prove him right, it was clear Charlie didn't. If you have faith in Blanton to start a NLCS game, you have to have faith in him to actually pitch it.
In his place he opted for Jose Contreras, one of the few reliable relievers the Phillies have had all season, and asked the Big Truck to get one and only one out. He did, but in doing so he left the Phils (18th best bullpen ERA in the majors) in a matchup of the pens with the Giants (2nd best bullpen ERA). Not surprisingly, this didn't turn out as planned. Four innings later, now out of bullpen arms he trusted, Manuel was forced to hand the ball to Roy Oswalt in a situation in which he's patently out of his comfort zone. Obviously, it did not work out well.
Moving forward, it didn't get prettier. In the 8th inning Charlie left Ben Francisco at the plate instead of pinch hitting Ibanez and forcing a move out of Giants' head man Bruce Bochy, who would have gone with a lefty. Even if Raul would have K'd (plausible), you'd have had Chooch at the plate against a left handed reliever, or Brian Wilson entering a tie game in the 8th inning, both excellent options. It was an obvious move at the time, and it is a more obvious move now.
What Manuel does well â and does it really well â is create an atmosphere where his star players are comfortable, and where they can thrive. It isn't a fluke that guys like Chase, Ryan, Jayson, Jimmy and Shane have all emerged into legitimate top level talents underneath him. But when those guys aren't hitting, Manuel is a negative. This postseason, Howard is looking for his first RBI, and Victorino's .214 average tops the rest of those four. They aren't hitting. I hate to say it, but game four on Cholly.
Onto the notes â¦
- Bumgarner definitely balked on Jimmy's âcaught stealing,, but Jesus Christ he has a pickoff move. There is no way to pick him up.
- When Ryan Howard got paid, both sides of the debate made strong points. The con said you should never set the market for a one-tool player. The pro side? They said Howard always came up big when it matters. Well, it matters.
- I know it didn't work out, but Chooch trying to punch the ball out of Posey's hand at his play at home was a great catcher-move
- For a guy who doesn't tend to show much emotion Joe Buck was pretty shocked that Pat Burrell made it first-to-third on a double.
- Wally Bell had a pretty colorful strike zone last night. Not a good thing.
- From the guy who brought you âPhils in 5 or 6â, a new prediction: Phils in 7.
|Courtesy of Riding My Train
Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE), the folks who've lobbied SEPTA to get rid of its gendered TransPass, are holding a town hall meeting tonight to discuss how our transportation authority screws over other folks, as well:
Fed up with discriminatory policies and an unresponsive SEPTA administration, a group of transit riders will gather Wednesday to compose the first SEPTA Riders Bill of Rights. Citing biases against elderly riders, riders with disabilities, and transgender and gender non-conforming riders, the group hopes to create a compilation of riders' rights and establish standards of treatment for all SEPTA passengers.
It's from 6 to 8 p.m. at FIGHT (1233 Locust St., fifth floor, 215-985-4448).
Some time ago, I pitched the city administration the biggest, fattest, softest softball imaginable: I invited them to brag about 311's engagement with the public online at SeeClickFix.com, a website that lets residents report municipal problems.
For whatever reason, I never heard back; but unless some insanely civic-minded impostor is posing as the city's 311 service, the city should be taking some credit for this one.
"Philly311" is by a long shot the most active "user" on the site (one Bob Shipman and the Bicycle Coalition's John Boyle coming in second and third), having now posted 1,814 comments â many of those consisting of actually useful information for residents or reports of action taken.
I've been pinching myself for a while, but it seems to be real: the city engaged in real time, on a public online forum, apparently getting things done. See for yourself. Anyone out there have experience using the site? Tell us about it.
When Tom Corbett inevitably gets elected governor (unless you bum liberals actually vote during a midterm election for once), and all of Pennsylvania's forests are ravaged by an industry that doesn't pay the state one cent in extraction taxes, and unemployment benefits are vanquished because everyone collecting them is "lazy," and not a single new tax is ever created because of a man's stubborn ideology, at least there will be one good thing to come out of it, maybe:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett says he'll push for the privatization of liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania's if he's elected governor.
Corbett said Tuesday that he will submit a plan to get the state out of the liquor business as one source of the revenue that will be needed to balance the state budget. He did not offer any details.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato has said he would not propose any change in the state store system if he's elected.
Screw you, Corbett, for taking the drunk vote, too.
Growing up religiously following local sports, I developed a serious pet peeve: namely, sportswriters' obsession with the home-town team. By this I don't mean overcoverage that, I love but rather the apparently sincere belief of every last member of the local media that everything that happened on the field/court/ice was the product of their team. Win 6-0? Your ace shut the other guys down. Lose 6-0? Your guys couldn't get hits when it mattered.
In the world of sports writing, nothing ever happens to your team; local players always enact their will on opponents, for better or for worse. I'm bringing this up now, in the wake of the San Francisco Giants' 3-0 victory over the defending National League Champion Phillies, because today that logic is exactly correct.
Despite Giants' starter Matt Cain's gaudy line 7 innings, 2 hits, no runs he wasn't dominant. At all. The Phillies managed just eight balls out of the infield, including lazy flies, a bloop hit, and a grounder that went through. Through seven innings Cain had thrown 50 balls, and yet had only three walks â the Phillis OBP might have tripled if they had just kept the bats on their shoulders. This start wasn't about Big Daddy Cain, it was about the Phils' offense, and the fact that offense should start be seen as a real problem.
A lot of people around here (me included) have assumed the Phils will cruise to the World Series on the backs on pitching and defense. It may be true, but the assumption has blinded us to the fact that Phils' offense might not be world-class anymore. It's true. This year the Phils hit 58 fewer home runs than they did in 2009, and scored nearly 50 fewer runs. Worse, come money time, it has noticeably declined. So far this postseason the Phillies have had back-to-back hits once. I remember when it would be a problem if they had only had back-to-back homers once in two weeks. For the second season, the Phils are hitting .203 overall (though the Giants have the same batting average and a lower OPS) and just .141 when a runner gets on. I know the Giants' rotation is legitimate, but those numbers can't keep up.
Except, you know, they might. Chase has been on a steady decline since 2007; Ryan has battled but looks like he's up there to hit singles; Ibanez is getting dangerously close to turning those âRaaaauuullllllâ chants into actual boos; Jayson Werth is acting like he's focused on which AL East team he'll suit up for next year; and the Jimmy Rollins we see now is probably the Jimmy Rollins we're getting going forward. The majors' oldest roster is playing like a bunch of old men.
Look, I'm not backing off my prediction that the Phils win this series (or that they win in 6, the Giants scrap-heap offense makes the 2010 Phillies look like 2008 version), but right now the Phillies are swinging their bats like they need Mick Billmeyer to unsheath his binoculars. That has to change.
Notes from the game â¦
- Forget the made-up sports agent stats, that was a quality start Cole Hamels just threw
- Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe all of Ryan Howard's hits have been to left or left-center field. Kudos to the man for going with the pitches lord know he's at his best when he's working the entire field but Rube didn't give him $20 mil to be a mid-season Ibanez.
- Bad news Chase Utley, you're only allowed to do one of the following:
- (1) rock your cool-guy sunglasses flipped upside-down on the brim of your cap during a sunny day, or
- (2) botch ground balls. Choice is yours.
- The Giants lineup today and the Giants lineup opening day had just three of the same starters (Renteria, Rowand, & Huff) and no one in same spot in the lineup. The Phils? Exact same starting 8.
- Phils in 6. And relax about Blanton starting tomorrow, the bullpen is fully rested.
After an opening game that saw the Phillies K 13 times, leave 7 men on base, not get a single hit with runners in scoring position, and look generally sloppy and complacent, your hometown team appears to have righted the ship.
Led by the ViceRoy, Roy Oswalt, who looks like he's gunning for his second career NLCS MVP, the Phils came out sharp and assertive. They were patient at the plate, aggressive on the basepaths and the mound, and looked like the champions we're all assuming they'll be. Better for Phils fans, nothing about this game (fine, nothing but Jimmy's first hit) was a fluke. The Giants' error was the product of a determined running game, all the Phils runs were worked for, and this is the Oswalt you should expect to see.
In his start against the Reds, Oswalt seemed to dance and play with his opponents. His fastball was his best pitch, but he refused to stick with it, instead watching slider after slider get pounded by the Cincinnati offense. Last night? The exact opposite. Nearly 70 percent of his 111 pitches were either two- or four-seam fastballs, and most of the off-speed stuff he did throw came late. He kept it simple, made the Giants try and hit his heat âhere, Andres Torres, get those 37 Â½ ounces around on 93 up and awayâ and dominated. Even Charlie followed his lead: The manager approaching the mound, talking to his second ace, and letting him finish the inning was a classic âour best beats your bestâ power move.
It is a move Manuel can pull because his best does beat Bruce Bochy's best. Watching these two teams play, it's hard not to believe that we're looking at a mismatch. More and more, this series is starting to shape up like last year's World Series with the Phils as the Yankees. In both, the road team stole game 1 from a superior but unfocused opponent, and in both the road team was simply outmatched in game 2. It has become clear that if the Giants are going to beat the Phils, they're going to have to either play over their heads, or have the Phils play under theirs. What you saw tonight was two teams showing who they really are, and you saw who is better.
Onto the notes â¦
- Thought Oswalt was impressive before? Check out the strikezone he was working with. Not too many freebies there.
- For years we've all seen Chase as the prototypical #3 hitter, but unless his power comes back (and given all the nicks and bruises he takes, it might not) it may be the 2-hole that suits him best. Utley has a great eye that he isn't afraid to use, fantastic bat control and is as smart a baserunner as there is in the majors.
- I know the Zoo with Roy bandwagon is getting pretty crowded, but THIS is straight up brilliant. Check it out.
- Ryan Howard had himself a ballgame at the plate. He was disciplined, took good cuts, and didn't bail out once against a guy who has owned him before. All of that is good, because if he had looked bad against Sanchez you'd be reading about 14 different op-eds about how he let down the team by appearing at the Birds game in the afternoon. It was a stupid angle, and good on the Big Piece for putting it to bed.
- You can argue all day over whether Jimmy Rollins' big hit shows that he's back and ready to contribute, but what isn't debatable is how much fun he is to listen to when he's happy and confident.
- One warning in regards to Game Three: Throughout his career, Cole Hamels has been a significantly worse pitcher during the day than at night. My guess? It doesn't matter. Phils should win big.
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