Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’
A few thoughts on the Phillies following their 3-7 road trip:
- There is a level of frustration settling into the Phillies’ clubhouse, an amount I haven’t seen in Charlie Manuel‘s nine seasons here. Just read Cliff Lee‘s comments Thursday in Minnesota, or what Cole Hamels told reporters after yesterday’s loss in Colorado. Is this a playoff team? “I’m not going to comment on that one,” Hamels said. “You can ask the other guys that one.” Remember, those comments are being made publicly, which certainly means the apathy/resignation/frustration is worse behind closed doors. That is troubling. I remember in seasons past, somebody like Jayson Werth would say confidently and almost nonchalantly, “Relax, everybody. We’re fine. We’re much better than this. We’ll pick it up when we need to pick it up.” They knew they would. You don’t hear that talk right now.
- The Phillies are 25th in baseball in runs per game. They are 24th in ERA. In seasons past, the Phillies always had one thing going for it: a great offense or a great pitching staff. You could always say, “Well, if they add a bat (Hunter Pence) or if they add an arm (Lee or Roy Oswalt) at the trade deadline it could push them over the top.” You can’t say that with this team. There are too many holes. Where would you even start?
- Look at where the Phillies rank in OPS at every position. Catcher: 23rd at .651. First base: 17th at .763. Second base: 20th at .671. Third base: 13th at .727. Shortstop: Ninth at .747. Left field: second at .876. Center field: 27th at .616. Right field: 23rd at .691. Second base would be better if Chase Utley had remained healthy, but other than that the only two positions holding their own against the best in baseball are left field (Domonic Brown) and shortstop (Jimmy Rollins).
- If you say, well, the Phillies are only 8 1/2 games back in the NL East (I’m not sure why anybody would say that, but still …), remember the NL East is probably the worst division in baseball.
- Looking for a reason to keep the faith? That’s tough, but I guess if you’re going to hold onto something hold onto this: Manuel’s teams traditionally are much better in the second half (.610 winning percentage after the All-Star break from 2005-12 is second-best in baseball). Of course, if they keep playing like this they could be buried in the standings and some of their top players could be traded by July 31. That traditional second-half surge might not matter.
- Take a look at the upcoming free agent class at MLB Trade Rumors. I don’t see a lot of guys that could help the Phillies turn around their fortunes quickly. Is there anybody that gets you excited enough to say, “I’d be OK if the Phillies shelled out a ton of cash for him?” There is Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury and that’s about it as far as high on-base percentage bats the Phillies could use. (Forget about Robinson Cano. I can’t believe the Yankees will let him sign elsewhere.)
But that dream has faded over the past eight-plus months of regular-season baseball. The Phillies missed the postseason in 2012 and improved to just 32-35 following last night’s 3-2 victory over the Twins at Target Field. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak as the Phillies left for a weekend series in Colorado with the sixth-worst record in the National League.
“The past year and a half hasn’t gone the way I would have anticipated,” said Lee, who improved to 8-2 with a 2.55 ERA. “It’s why you play the games. You never know. I don’t think anyone here is happy with the way we’ve played in that time frame. It’s due to a lot of injuries. There are some good excuses, but they’re still excuses. We’re the Philadelphia Phillies. We should play better than we have.”
But can this team win as it is currently constituted? The offense and bullpen each are one of the worst in baseball.
“I can’t look at it any other way, besides I expect us to win and catch up with the Braves and get into the postseason,” Lee said. “That’s the only way you can look at it.”
Does he want to stay if the team doesn’t turn things around?
“I definitely want to win,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
But if it doesn’t turn around?
“I want to win,” he repeated. “I don’t know how else to say it besides that. I want to win.”
Lee’s name already has been an endless topic of conversation weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline, and the buzz should reach a manic state in the next few weeks if the Phillies continue to struggle. Lee signed a five-year, $120 million contract before the 2011 season, but he has continued to dominate and a team in need of an ace certainly will be interested in acquiring him.
The Phillies have said they have a better chance to win in the future with Lee than without him. While that is true, when asked if he is prepared to play out the string the final two months of the season if things don’t improve, Lee said, “I don’t have any control over that. I know that I want to win and I’ll voice that to whoever. And that’s that. I want to win here. That’s why I signed here. And that’s where my focus is.”
Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Phillies were supposed to be the Yankees of the National League. They were supposed to be heavy favorites for the World Series every year.
“Yeah, that’s what I expected,” Lee said. “That’s what I expected. We’ve had one chance (to win a World Series) in two-and-a-half years and this year is not over yet. I expected us to get multiple shots at it, but there are 29 other teams thinking the same thing so nothing is going to be given to you. Nobody feels sorry for you or any of that. You’ve got to go out there and earn it. I’m going to continue to do what I can to give this team a chance to win when I pitch and that’s really the only thing I can control.”
Hey, Cliff Lee feels you.
“That’s more of what we are right there, no doubt,” he said following last night’s 6-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. “We definitely haven’t been playing up to our potential. We’ve been really far short of that to be honest with you. I think tonight’s more of a real depiction of what we are. Yeah, I expect us to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of underperformed this first month, and it’s time for us to turn it on.”
Lee said last Wednesday following a 6-0 loss to the Indians – one of five shutout losses in their last 20 games –the team needed to play with more pride. He reiterated those feelings last night.
“I think pride is a big part of executing. Just grinding,” Lee said. “Sticking in there … Basically, if you’re going to get beat, go down fighting. (The Indians) got us early both games, just seemed like we kind of laid down and let them take it from us. Just kind of what I was at hinting at with that. More of a pride, fight to the very end type stuff. It didn’t really feel that way in Cleveland. We were better at home against the Marlins, but we still could do even better and tonight was more of what I expect from this team as far as energy and applying the pressure to the other team rather than having them apply it on us.”
Charlie Manuel has been talking for weeks about playing a complete game: hitting well, pitching well and playing good defense for nine innings. Last night he got that game. Was it an aberration or a glimpse at what the Phillies could be, if they get their act together? That remains to be seen, but certainly they’ll need to do this more than once a week to get anybody to believe.
Lee, on picking up the slack in Roy Halladay‘s absence: “Obviously, we hope that it’s not as big of a deal as I think everyone might think it might be. Hopefully it’s something minor and he’s able to get back. If not, what can you do? You still got to go out there and grind and try to give the team a chance to win every time you take the mound, no matter who the guy is. Obviously he’s been one of the best pitchers over the past 10-12 years in all the big leagues. Missing a guy like that is definitely going to be tough on us, but injuries happen. You don’t want it to happen. Definitely not him. We all know that. That’s something that happens. He’s pitched a long time, fired a lot of bullets. I hope it’s not major and it’s something minor and he’s back in a couple weeks and jumps back on board. But until then, we just got to keep on grinding. Even if he’s gone forever, there’s nothing we can do. We got to go out there and continue to pitch and try to give the team a chance to win every time you take the mound. All of us.”
That lifelessness is pretty easily explainable, if you ask me.
They enter tonight’s game against the Marlins ranked 26th in baseball in scoring, averaging a measly 3.57 runs per game. It is impossible to look energetic or lively when nobody is on base or scoring runs. But after the Indians outscored the Phillies, 20-2, in a couple blowout losses this week at Progressive Field, Cliff Lee made an interesting comment about the team’s play.
“They pretty much pounded us both games, there’s no way around it,” he said. “They crushed us both games. It was never really close, either one of them. We have to have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive. Both games, it was never close.”
Asked this afternoon about Lee’s comments on MLB Network’s “The Rundown Live,” Jimmy Rollins said, “It’s back and forth. It’s tough to put a finger on it. There are times we come out and the energy’s there behind us and you go out there and play and we go out there and perform as a team. Then there are games and series where it’s just like we’re stuck in neutral. Not going forward, not going back but not getting going at all. And that’s the thing that we can’t have. On the field, we go out there every single day. Guys are coming in early to prepare. I’m even getting there much earlier than you remember, to prepare. But it just isn’t happening all the time on the field. The good thing is, we have a long way to go. We’ve just got to make sure we take advantage of it and take what we do in practice into the game and we’ll be okay.”
Charlie Manuel said a lack of pride, leadership and effort are not the reasons why the Phillies have been unable to get on a roll. He pointed to their success in a weekend sweep against the Mets. They won because they played well, not because they cared more. No, he said, the losing is more about the team simply playing poorly the first month of the season. For what it’s worth, I agree. This team is loaded with veterans, MVPs, Cy Young winners, All-Stars and postseason MVPs. I don’t think they want to be losers. I think they care. I just think they’re playing very, very poorly.
The real question should be this: Are they simply having a slow start or are they just this bad? Manuel’s teams are habitually slow starters. From 2005-12, they are 370-341 (.520) before the All-Star break, which is 11th in baseball. They are 357-228 (.610) after the All-Star break, which is second. I think this team needs a little more time. But like I blogged earlier today, they only have a couple more months. They have to be moving in the right direction come July or you’ll see some of this team’s top talent elsewhere.
The Indians beat them last night, 6-0, to outscore them 20-2 in the two-game series. The Phillies spoke of the Indians, who are fifth in baseball in scoring (5.04 runs per game) and third in OPS (.799), like they were the ’27 Yankees. Hot. Unstoppable. They hit seven homers Tuesday, but scattered seven infield hits to help them win last night. They took advantage of their opportunities, while most Phillies fans felt like they could turn the channel after the fourth inning both nights because they knew the Phillies weren’t going to make a game of it.
Those feelings weren’t misplaced.
“We have to have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive,” Cliff Lee said. “Both games, it was never close.”
Phillies fans are frustrated, and understandably so. These games have been tough to watch. The Phillies are 26th in scoring (3.57 runs per game) and 26th in OPS (.679). This is not what the Phillies said would happen with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard healthy. But they have been no magic cure because other players need to hit, too. Phillies outfielders have a .601 OPS, which is the worst mark in baseball. They have grounded into 25 double plays. That ranks only ninth in baseball, but they rank fifth in GIDP percentage (14.2 percent). They are 5-13 in games started by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Lee.
The good news? It is early, technically. We’ve seen the Phillies play poorly at the beginning of the season in the past. It might be tough, but give them another couple months. If they’re playing like this in late June, it likely means they will be way behind in the standings. And if that is the case, I suspect Ruben Amaro Jr. will hold another fire sale. And if you thought last year’s was big with Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, this one could (re: should) dwarf that. I mean, why hold onto a bunch of players with value or entering the final years of their contracts. That means Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, Delmon Young, Halladay, Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams could be trade candidates. In the meantime, there simply is little to be done other than hope they finally start playing well.
The Phillies will have a chance to get healthy with a four-game series against the Marlins beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Anything less than three wins is a disappointment. The Marlins (8-20) are a terrible team, regardless of the fact that “any team wearing big-league uniforms has a chance to win,” as the cliche goes. The Phillies are at home, playing against a very, very bad team without their only star player, slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They should roll.
If they show a little more pride maybe they will.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. dumped on it in his daily meeting with reporters.
“That would be incorrect and false,” he said. “I don’t know where that would come from, but as you all well know, there are a lot of falsehoods out there and that is absolutely one of them.”
From Elias: Cliff Lee has pitched at least six innings and not issued more than one walk in each of his last 14 starts, including Monday, when he walked one batter in eight innings against the Mets. That ties Lee for the longest single-season streak of that kind in modern (since 1900) major-league history. Christy Mathewson (1908) and Greg Maddux (1997) also made 14 straight starts in which they went six or more innings and didn’t walk more than one batter.
Cliff Lee isn’t going anywhere.
The Phillies placed Blanton on waivers this week, and the Dodgers promptly claimed him. The Phillies had the option of pulling him back from waivers, but instead they shipped him to Los Angeles for a player to be named or cash. The Dodgers will pay the remaining $2.9 million in Blanton’s salary, and the Phillies can get a player back if they want.
CBS’ Jon Heyman reported a team claimed Lee, but Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters today Lee isn’t going anywhere.
That’s not a surprise. Unless the Phillies got knocked out with an offer, the Phillies weren’t going to trade him.
Blanton’s departure leaves five players from the 2008 World Series roster: Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. While working on the The Rotation last year, I asked Blanton how often he gets asked about his home run in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series:
“It gets mentioned a lot. I get a lot of really cool comments. People remember where they were when I hit it, that kind of thing. I get a lot of that: I was sitting in this section. I was at home on my couch. I was at this bar when I was watching the game. People remember where they were when I hit it and they bring it up, which I think is unbelievable. To remember that … that’s pretty awesome. I get asked about it, but I get more of the I was here stuff: That’s one of my favorite Phillies memories, or that was one my favorite moment of the postseason.”
Watch Blanton’s highlights from Game 4 and his thoughts after Game 5 after the jump …
Folks, this is not a big deal. Not even a little bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins are placed on waivers this month. Certainly Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre, Ty Wigginton and Placido Polanco will be. Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, players need to clear waivers before they can be traded before Aug. 31.
This is a procedural move designed to give the Phillies flexibility before the end of the month.
Yes, if Lee clears waivers the Phillies can trade him. And I would expect Lee to clear waivers because he is owed $87.5 million beginning next season. Very few teams can absorb that contract. That is the biggest reason why the Phillies had no luck trading him last month. He is owed a ton of money.
But keep in mind waivers are revocable. If Lee is claimed — the claiming team must be prepared to take on his entire contract, making it a tremendous risk to put in a claim — the Phillies can let him go to the team that claimed him. But they also can pull him back or attempt to work out a trade with the claiming team.
If the Phillies pull him back he can no longer be traded until the offseason.
So don’t freak out. Lee hasn’t been released. (I’ve had people ask me if he’s been waived.) He hasn’t been traded. It doesn’t mean he’s going to be traded. It just means the Phillies are trying to give themselves as many options as possible before Aug. 31. You never know. Maybe the Rangers come back to the Phillies this month with an offer they simply can’t refuse.
I don’t think it will be, though.
If the Phillies are willing to offer Hamels six years, which they are, then they are likely willing to offer him the money he wants (or at least get very close to it). And if the Phillies make that effort and Hamels still says no, well, then he made their decision to trade him easy. If he says yes, then they have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels together through next season, and that’s not a bad thing.
A few thoughts on this:
- If Hamels signs, what’s the plan? The Phillies could have more than $150 million committed to just 11 players for 2013: Lee ($25 million), Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Carlos Ruiz ($5 million), Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million) and Laynce Nix ($1.35 million) are already signed. I’m not sure how Hamels’ deal will be structured, but let’s go with a projected AAV (average annual value) of $24 million per season. Hunter Pence, who is salary arbitration eligible for the final time, could earn around $14 million. That’s a ton of money for just 11 players. The luxury tax threshhold next season is $178 million. If the Phillies are willing to go well over the luxury tax (i.e. more than just a couple million or so) there’s no problem. But if they’re not then they have about $28 million to spend on the rest of the roster. Did we mention the holes on the roster next season could include center field, third base, left field (unless Domonic Brown becomes the guy) and a couple reliable bullpen pieces? Try adequately filling those holes (and completing the rest of the roster) for about $28 million.
- That’s why you’re hearing names like Lee, Rollins and Pence mentioned in trade speculation. It’s the only thing that makes sense: the Phillies are considering clearing salary. But I’m not sure how moving any of those players makes them better next season, unless they would get a ridiculous score of prospects in return. Can’t you see a situation next July — assuming the Phillies are contenders — where they are looking to fill a hole they created by trading Lee, Rollins or Pence? I can. They’ve already done it. They traded Lee in Dec. 2009 and found themselves needing a starting pitcher in July 2010, thus shipping prospects to Houston for Roy Oswalt. Would they let history repeat itself?
- I don’t trade Pence, unless I’m totally blown away with an offer. Why? Forget for a second his slow start with runners in scoring position. He’s still on pace for 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. If you trade Pence, who is going to be your right-handed power bat? Chooch? Carlos Ruiz is having a fantastic season, but he’s a 33-year-old catcher and he’s never hit like this before. It would be a tremendous leap of faith to enter 2013 believing he can do this again, and be the team’s primary power bat from the right side. The Phillies lost Jayson Werth following the 2010 season and bet on Ben Francisco. Francisco wasn’t up to the task, so the Phillies sent a bunch of prospects to Houston for Pence. Would they let history repeat itself?
- If the Phillies trade Rollins it means they are going with Freddy Galvis at shortstop. OK, he’s brilliant defensively and he’s cheap. But they better have a good backup plan for Utley. They can’t enter 2013 saying, “We like our infield because we’ll finally have Utley and Howard healthy the entire year,” after Utley missed the first couple months each of the previous two seasons. If they don’t have a good backup plan they could be going with Galvis and Michael Martinez (or a Mike Fontenot comparable). And that just won’t work. Plus, consider for a second Rollins’ .729 OPS is seventh among 23 qualifying shortstops in baseball. Yes, he leads the big leagues in infield pop ups, but consider the alternatives.
- The Phillies are 41-53 and 11 games behind the NL Wild Card leaders with eight teams ahead of them in the standings. Even if they sign Hamels to an extension, does it make any sense not to sell? I don’t think so, unless they go 7-1 or 8-0 before the deadline. Get what you can for what else you’ve got (other players still available to trade include Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, etc.). You won’t get the haul you’ll get for Hamels, but you could get something that might help next season.