An early offseason outlook for the Phillies

Though this year will likely be painful to watch for Phillies fans, it will be interesting to see how the club tries to develop its talent.

One interesting player to watch may be Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban defector whose ascent to the majors was delayed multiple times by shoulder concerns. Though the question of whether he can last a full season in the majors remains to be answered, the Phillies made an interesting move on the depth chart — Gonzalez is no longer listed in the bullpen, but rather as the fifth starter.

With A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick departing, Gonzalez will get another shot at a starting role this year.

Though no move is impending and the team needs a good return, Cole Hamels is on the trade block, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a team needing an ace ponied up the prospects to acquire him.

All that uncertainty means the Phillies will be looking to cobble together a rotation. If Cliff Lee is healthy, he’s the No. 1 or 2, depending on if Hamels is still around. Jerome Williams is a back-end option with a one year deal in place. David Buchanan seems likely to start the year somewhere in the middle of the rotation.

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Rivalry rekindled

One of the greatest gifts for a sports fan is a good rivalry. Think Chicago’s North Side-South Side duel. Or think bigger — the Yankees-Red Sox clash. The list goes on, and in football, a number of the best pairings are within the NFC East.

Unfortunately for the Redskins and the Eagles, though, the conditions under which a matchup that was going stale returned to its prior heights was not exactly ideal.

The cast-out wideout

After being released by the Eagles in the offseason, Redskins wideout DeSean Jackson seemed glad to act as the instigator when he returned to town. Determined to burn his old team and get on his former teammates’ nerves — and those two were not exclusively paired — Washington’s star receiver started fights as soon as he stepped on the field.

Regardless of the circumstances under which he left Philly, he hasn’t exactly made a strong case against those who believe his attitude was a major reason Kelly gave him the boot.

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The effect of injury on elite players

The debate about Hall of Fame worthiness is as healthy now as it’s ever been. As fans are provided with more statistics that illuminate certain aspects of value (here’s looking at you, WAR) and fantastic sites like Baseball Reference have all the information available a click away, within 24 hours of a game finishing, the fire is fueled for some healthy discussion.

In that vein, earlier this month Joe discussed Hall of Fame credentials and standards. There are some basic guidelines that won’t change in the eyes of the electorate (namely, baseball writers), and Joe does a good job outlining them. There are, however, some great players who are on the bubble for the Hall of Fame because of the negative impact of injury on their careers. How much should that affect the voters? It might seem unfair to keep great players from the Hall because of injuries, but it’s one of many aspects that feed into the composition of a career. None of those should be taken lightly.

Pitchers with poor deliveries

Sandy Koufax was a legend, without a doubt. His career-ending injury, however, could have cost him a Hall of Fame spot. He pitched brilliantly in his final six seasons and earned three Cy Young awards before leaving the game at 30. With what Larry Schwartz calls an “arthritic arm,” Koufax pitched four no-hitters.

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Next stop: US Open

One year ago, Roger Federer was being urged by critics and fans to retire. The Maestro’s subpar performance at Wimbledon was still fresh in everyone’s minds, and Federer’s hard court form seemed less than average, producing only a quarterfinals billet at the Cincinnati Open. His prospects looked bleak heading into the US Open. Ultimately, the Swiss fell in the fourth round of the Open to low-ranked Tommy Robredo, ending a month of poor results and disappointing tennis.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal was scooping up titles like candy, winning both the Rogers Cup in Canada and the Cincinnati Open back to back in preparation for what would be a historic run to the top at the US Open. Novak Djokovic had been playing some great tennis as well, but his game was largely overshadowed by Nadal’s “Summer Conquest,” and the Serbian had fallen prey to Nadal’s unique brand of tennis multiple times during the year. These two faced off in the US Open final, and though Djokovic forced the match to four sets, Nadal lifted the trophy yet again.

Fast forward a year. Here, at the cusp of the 2014 US Open, all roles seem reversed. Federer is now the favorite at the Open, Djokovic is under pressure due to multiple losses at the hands of lesser ranked players, and Nadal has dropped out of the Open to tend to his right wrist injury. A number of upcoming contenders have garnered their share of the limelight, most notably Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. With a week of rest now in effect for the highest-ranked players, the courts of Flushing Meadows are prepared for what can only be a fascinating US Open.

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The Dodgers’ adaptation amidst pitching questions

The Dodgers have seen their fair share of injuries. Hanley Ramirez sits out with a strained oblique as I write, but the overwhelming majority of the club’s injuries have come from the pitching staff. As such, the rotation continues to develop as pitchers move on and off the DL (or extend their time on the injury list).

Still, only the Orioles have a larger lead in the division than the five games the Dodgers hold over San Francisco. Some of that is due to initial composition of a team with the largest payroll in baseball ($238.8 million, according to ESPN), but a portion of the credit can be given to the front office for moves that didn’t involve big spending.

The rotation

Earlier this month, Joe wrote a defense of Clayton Kershaw as one of the faces of the game. The Dodgers ace has been one of the best in the game, and since returning from DL in May, he’s been phenomenal. The lefty has a career-low 1.78 ERA to this point in the season. His numbers keep getting better, so the Dodgers can take comfort in the extension of an elite starter who continues to live up to his billing.

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