Roundup: Lincecum, USMNT, NBA/NHL drafts, sellers

This is a particularly crazy week in sports. Here are some of the highlights.

Tim Lincecum pitched his second no-hitter yesterday.

If you follow baseball, I’m not breaking that news for you.
My other post today explores a bit of how Lincecum is a different pitcher, but my post is centered on pitching injuries and prevention. Ben Reiter of has more on the no-hitter itself.

The U.S. Men’s National Team faces Germany at noon.

It’s a bit of a miracle the men have come this far through the “Group of Death,” but it would be a shame to come this far and not advance.

Sunday night’s game was deflating, as Portugal scored in the final minute of stoppage time on a beautiful cross. Maybe the U.S. should have been able to clear that ball, but let’s not lose sight of how well placed the cross was.

Jürgen Klinsmann and the U.S. men have some work to do against a powerful German squad that showed it was human when Ghana forced a draw. To ensure advancement to the round of 16, both Germany and the U.S. need a draw. The U.S. doesn’t need a win to move on, though. The different possibilities for U.S. advancement are outlined here, but we’ll know in a few hours who’s advanced.

If that’s not the sort of thing that piques your interest, just go ahead and watch the game(s). Someone will explain it all later.

Continue reading “Roundup: Lincecum, USMNT, NBA/NHL drafts, sellers”


Ruben Amaro Jr. and the future of an organization

Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter posted an insightful column yesterday about the recent lack of success by the Phillies and Rays, who faced off in the 2008 World Series. I’ll incorporate elements of two of his points.

Reiter talks about the “human factor,” saying that by rebuilding, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. would be admitting he’s failed to do his job after inheriting a World Series-winning team. And there’s a lot of truth to that. The club’s postseason success waned, moving backwards one step every year from 2009 to 2012, culminating in missing the playoffs altogether one year after winning 102 games.

Reiter also mentions how demanding Phillies fans are. If the team were to ship out the stars who contributed to the not-so-long-ago successes, the stands might empty out:

Even with the team’s struggles this season, it still ranks 10th, as fans are still drawn to Citizens Bank Bark by their recent positive memories, and to see the longtime stalwarts who contributed to them. If any club has an incentive to hold onto its stars as long as possible, and to profit off the gate receipts those stars still produce, it is Philadelphia.

This creates an interesting dynamic. The team wants to do well long-term, but in order to keep a job — and to keep money coming in — Amaro can’t move too many players. But hasn’t the management of money just perpetuated the need to spend?

Continue reading “Ruben Amaro Jr. and the future of an organization”

The buy/sell quandary

At present, the Phillies are in a quandary. It seems no one hasn’t mentioned the aging core, so I’ll give that little time. Here are the options the Phillies have:

1. Buy
The Phillies have the option to buy — perhaps someone for the bullpen — in an attempt to make one last push with this core. At present, this would seem to be the worst, and least likely, strategy. In the past, buying big names hasn’t worked out so well in the long-term, and the club has not benefited by going to the World Series from such a deal since 2009. Of course, that was a fantastic deal in picking up Lee, but that sort of move has not been the norm, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the market with that kind of potential to make a comparable impact.

Waiting until waivers may be one of the best ways to improve by “buying” in a sense, without having to give up young talent. As it stands, I am far from suggesting that the team would be better off mortgaging the future for an unlikely World Series run this year (a current projection from gives the Phillies a 7.4 percent chance of making the playoffs). Waiting to buy until waivers, whether or not the club decides to sell, would not be a terrible thing.

2. Sell
The club could sell some of the older players — those on the trading block — and get back some younger talent for the future. Obviously, this route means the club doesn’t believe they have a shot at the playoffs this year. This won’t happen right away, but it could happen if the team loses this series to the White Sox.

I would like to argue, however, that if the Phillies were to sell and get back some of the right pieces, it could keep the team on even keel for this year, but put them in a better position for years to come. There are two ways to go about this — implode or retool.

3. Hold firm as long as possible
Hold firm, and determine just before the trade deadline. This may be the likeliest, because the team is unlikely to hold pat. They’ll likely refer to option 1 or 2 right before the deadline, depending on the situation at that time. Ruben Amaro, Jr. has showed he likes to make moves; the Phillies are likely to end up on one side of the table or the other. If they can avoid reckless decisions, it will have been at least a somewhat successful month.

This decision is more difficult to make this year, as the club has the perception it can compete. The Phillies are 7.5 games back and under .500, but still in a better position than this time last year.

This could be a bumpy ride. Hold onto your seats.

Mid-season thoughts, pt. 2: Trade targets

There are a number of things to note about the Phillies as they currently stand.
It is unlikely they will make enough noise to make a serious run, but they’ve done crazy things before.

Here the focus is on different elements of individual players, in no particular order.
This post addresses Phillies who are at least somewhat trade targets – Utley, Ruiz, Papelbon, Lee, and Michael Young.
See part 1 for notes on seven players who are less likely targets or not at all on the trading block.

1. Chase Utley: self-determined trade target

Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he will stay or go. Because of what Chase Utley brings to the clubhouse, the Phillies may need to get more in a package to be willing to part with him. And ultimately if Chase wants to stay, Chase will stay. He has partial no-trade protection and can veto trades to 22 teams. If the Phillies fall apart, though, he could be headed out. This one is tough to call, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Utley stay a Phillie.

2. Carlos Ruiz: what can you get for a veteran catcher?

Carlos Ruiz has seen limited action this year because of the 25-game suspension and injury, but he could still be a trade target. It’s an interesting situation in a contract year. Ruiz entered the day .276 in 33 games, up 9 points after a few hits in yesterday’s game.

Teams looking for a veteran presence behind the plate may be calling, and if they have a good offer, it may be better to trade Ruiz, who is 34 — most catchers tend to fall off production-wise in the mid-thirties. Last year’s great success may also be in the back of the minds of those looking to acquire him, and the Phillies should capitalize on that.

3. Jonathan Papelbon: keep a closer or deal for the future?

Jonathan Papelbon is another player at the center of trade rumors. Papelbon’s fiery play is a plus, but his outspokenness may be unsettling, particularly in the Phillies’ clubhouse. He’s willing to say things that are needed, but he’s not particularly tactful, and it rubs plenty of people the wrong way. These things don’t go into my analysis of whether or not he should be traded, but they seem to merit mentioning.

Despite four blown saves, Papelbon is having a fairly good year. He’s getting guys out in the ninth inning, and that’s about all you can ask a closer to do. However, are the Phillies in any position to contend this year and next? As the trade deadline approaches, the team needs to answer that question. If the answer is “no,” they need to listen to offers. Yes, Papelbon’s contract runs through 2015, but hanging onto a great closer does a team little good if they’re not getting into many save situations.

4. Cliff Lee: keep him

Not everyone agrees with this analysis. A number have mentioned the injuries Roy Halladay has sustained over the last two years in arguing we should trade Cliff Lee. I’m not buying it.

Each time Lee has been traded, he hasn’t brought back anything like what he’s worth. What evidence is there that this time will be any different? Besides, Lee is a southpaw ace. Lefties last longer, especially when they’re as good as he is. Lee relies not so much on his power as his command, which is impeccable. It may be wishful thinking, but if his command continues to be as good as it is, he could last another 8 years. Jamie Moyer did it, and he wasn’t as dominant a pitcher when he was 34. Lee has half the number of innings pitched compared to Moyer’s tally over 27 years; if he stays healthy and adapts properly, he can keep pitching.

5. Michael Young: getting a return

Michael Young is signed through this year. His defense is less than stellar, though his average is pretty good — he was leading the team in average for a while at the beginning of the year. Keep in mind that Young was essentially meant to be a one-year replacement. Younger players can fill the gap adequately — Galvis, Hernandez, or someone else — with the added benefit of seeing how one of the prospects does at third full-time.

An AL team might be able to use Young, and if it becomes clear the Phillies aren’t going anywhere this year, they need to unload him for the best deal they can get. The Yankees certainly fit that bill, and are rumored to be interested. He is the most likely man to be moved.

Getting Young

I’ve heard concerns voiced that the Phillies “need to get younger.” We could see some backlash from obtaining Young because, well… he isn’t. But this shouldn’t be too much of a concern for those of us who are looking at this year and (more importantly for this purpose) beyond. Young’s age is not as much of a concern in this transaction as a few other things.

Here are a couple arguments I heard against getting Young:

1. Michael Young’s numbers were way down in 2012.
Okay, yes, they were. He batted .277/.312/.370. But look at the previous four years:

2008 – .284/.339/.402
2009 – .322/.374/.518
2010 – .284/.330/.444
2011 – .338/.380/.474

After hitting better than .300 in each season from 2003-2007, Young has had alternating years in terms of production. While this isn’t necessarily good for the long haul, we could definitely see Young bounce back from a down season, as he has twice before. Young has the stuff, and I think he’ll work hard to produce.

2. Aren’t we supposed to be getting younger?
You don’t want to get younger at a particular position simply to knock the average age of the club down; that would be downright silly. If there’s no one ready to play in the majors within your organization and you think your team has playoff potential, you often need to go outside and bring someone else in who’s ready now. I know a lot of fans aren’t thrilled that he’s 36 years old, but how many third base options are there on the free agent market? It’s definitely one of the thinner positions this year. Young is an upgrade we needed to get to bridge the gap to our younger players.

3. He’s not a good long-term solution.
Fair enough, but we’re not trading for him as a long-term solution. He has one year left on his contract. Some say Cody Asche is the third baseman of the future, and he’s likely only a year or two away from the bigs. We also have other options in the system with a few shortstops who might be able to make the transition for 2014 if necessary.

4. He hasn’t played third base consistently since 2010.
This is likely the most legitimate concern. Over the past two years, Young has played 65 games at the hot corner. Conversely, he has been the DH in 141 games. However, he did receive the AL  Gold Glove award at shortstop in 2008 with a .971 fielding percentage. If he puts in the work over the offseason, his defense should be passable.