Results tagged ‘ Phillies ’
Atlanta acquired Justin Upton to play along side his brother, B.J., in their outfield. I think this is a great deal for the Braves. I believe that the thing holding Justin back from being as good as he can be is the fact that all the pressure had been heaped on him in Arizona.
There are some players who can handle that pressure and perform up to expectations, but also there are guys who feel that pressure and expectation and it can make them try to do more than they are capable of doing. I truly believe that Justin falls into this category. His talent is off the charts. But you have to believe that your talent is enough and trust in what you can do. I know personally from the point of an observer, that just watching his reaction to a strikeout or a missed play in the outfield that he wasn’t feeling that he had a bad at-bat or took a bad route. He was feeling that he let his whole team down. That is a lot to shoulder as a kid under 25 years old.
Going to the Braves to play next to his older brother is going let this kid’s true ability shine through. First of all, he is not going to be “the guy” in that Braves lineup. He is going to be one of the guys. The Braves had to part with Martin Prado, who I feel is one of the best “baseball players” in the game today — meaning he can put on any glove and have success. But in the the Braves also got Chris Johnson, who I feel will be the everyday third baseman and hit for more power than Prado. Now that Chipper Jones has retired, this team is now Brian McCann‘s. He is the perfect guy to take over the leadership role for the Braves. He is a steady, level-headed guy who plays the toughest position on the field.
What this means for Justin Upton is that he can put on his uniform and go play the game. From everything I have heard, he and his brother have a great relationship. I can speak from experience when it comes to playing with your brother — not at the big league level, but in high school. My older brother signed with the Brewers the year before I signed with the Padres. My only goal was to outperform my older brother, his was to make sure his little brother didn’t show him up! This deal could mean that we will finally see what the Uptons are truly capable of doing. There is nothing stronger than sibling rivalry to bring out the best in someone. I still feel the Nats are the best team in the NL East, but this deal definitely puts pressure on them to play in 2013 as well or better than they did in 2012. I am not counting out the Phillies, but their big three starting pitchers are going to have to all win 15 or more games apiece if they hope to contend.
Last week I have my AL playoff team predictions, this week the NL.
In the East, it is simple: Washington is going win it. In the Central it is even more simple: the Reds have an 11-game lead over the second-place Cardinals. The West is equally unexciting. The huge trades the Dodgers pulled off have done nothing to help this team. If anything, they have made them more inconsistent. The Giants hold a 7.5-game lead.
But this is where the Wild Card has made the month of September so exciting — especially the last two seasons. As a baseball fan and as an analyst, I can’t stress enough how important the Wild Cards has become in keeping our game relevant to watch in the final month of the season. Not only for fans, but for players as well.
When I played, there were teams I was a part of that by the All-Star break had zero chance at making the Postseason. As for me, I never needed a reason to go out and play as hard as I could every time I walked on the field. But I would be lying if I said all players felt and acted the way I did. I played with many teammates over the years who, once the postseason wasn’t a possibility, didn’t have to take every pitch or every at-bat as seriously. What the Wild Card has done is force these types of players to do what they should do anyway. We were payed to play all 162 games to win.
I wasn’t the most talented pitcher to ever put on a uniform by a long shot. But the one thing I had a great deal of was pride — and an extreme hatred for losing! Now the Wild Card is forcing all the players to go out and play every game like its the last game they will get to play.
As for the Wild Card races in the NL, this is where the excitement comes in. There are 15 games left on the schedule, and there are five teams within 4.5 games of a Wild Card spot. The Dodgers are one game back of St. Louis, the brewers 2.5 games, Pittsburgh at 3 games, the Phillies at 4, and the D-backs at 4.5.
Had I written this blog four days ago, I would have said Philly would be the team to leapfrog the teams in front of them. They had won seven straight games and were heading to Houston (who at the time had won 45 games all year long) to play a four-game series. They promptly lost three out of four to Houston. So I believe Philly is done.
I think the great first-half story of the Pittsburgh Pirates is done as well. They are down to one game over .500 and are now looking at the possibility of their 20th straight losing season. Arizona I don’t think has the pitching to string together a streak of seven or eight wins in a row, and that is what it is going to take to win that final spot.
This brings us to St. Louis and Milwaukee. The Cards are not playing the kind of baseball this year that they did last year in September, thanks to very inconsistent pitching and offense. So I feel that the Brewers — who had every reason to fold up their tents and call it a year not too long ago — have done what every team and every player ought to do. They have played hard every night and are right now the team that I think has the momentem to over take the Cardinals. So I believe the five teams that will represent the NL in the Postseason will be the Nats, Reds, Giants, Braves, and the Brewers.
This would mean that the Braves would play the Brewers in a one-game playoff in the Wild Card game, which for me means the Brewers — if Fredi Gonzalez does what I think he should do, as he has the cushion to set it up this way — would have to beat Kris Medlen, who in my opinion is the best pitcher in the game at this moment! It may only be a great run he is on, but there is not another pitcher right now who can claim his team has won 21 straight games he has started!
After five straight NL East championships, will this be the year that the Phillies are overtaken in the East? I had the chance to do color for FOX this past weekend and see this team in person for the first time this year. Although I’m not willing to say that they have no chance of coming back from 14 games behind the Nationals, I am comfortable saying that this team does not have the same swagger they had over the past few years.
There are years when things just don’t go right for teams. We all know that. But it seems that if it can go wrong for the Phillies, this year it has. Cliff Lee has one win. They have played most of the year without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Roy Halladay missed seven weeks. But every team has injuries. The biggest problem I see is the bullpen.
So Charlie Manuel has had to try and piece together a bullpen that can get the ball to Jonathan Papelbon with a lead. Papelbon has been pretty good in save opportunities, blowing only three. The problem has been the seventh and eighth innings. On a nightly basis, Manuel doesn’t know who he is going to run out there. Trust me when I say this: there is nothing in the game that will demoralize a team faster than losing games after the seventh inning. It puts the offense in a mindset that says, “It doesn’t matter how many runs we score, it ain’t gonna be enough.”
In years past, the Phillies’ offense could outhit poor pitching. It is not that offense anymore. They do have Howard and Utley back, and that is the one of the reasons that I’m not willing to say they are done. With those two bats back in the middle of the order, they can overcome some poor pitching. But this team has to realize that no one is going to feel sorry for them. They have been to the Postseason five straight years. There are players who play their entire careers and never get an at-bat or throw a pitch in the Postseason.
The other reason I’m not willing to say the Phillies are done is that all the teams in front of them have not won before. The Braves have won, but not with this group of players. In this game you have to learn to win. So until the Phillies are out of it mathematically, I’m not going to say that they won’t make the Postseason. Because they know how to win. But they better start remembering in a hurry, or it will be too late.
Before the season started, I made predictions as to what teams I thought would be Postseason teams. We are in the first week of July, and there are some teams that I thought would win divisions that are either not playing good baseball and are still in the hunt and there is one team that sits dead last in its division — the Phillies being that team.
As I sit here today, the American League East is shaping up to much like I thought it would, with the Yankees leading the division. The big surprise is that the Orioles sit in second place. I still believe that the Yankees will win that division, and I am sticking by my pick of Boston being one of the Wild Card teams. They have endured more days of players being on the DL than any other team in baseball, with over 900 games missed. And they still are only 6.5 games out of first. That means when they do get healthy, the Red Sox will be very deep heading into the second half.
The AL Central has not played out in the first half like I thought it would. I had Detroit running away with the division, but they have not played well as a team yet. I still see them doing much like they did last year and winning the division by a wide margin. Their starting pitching hasn’t been as dominant yet this year. Namely Doug Fister. He came to Detroit last year at the Trade Deadline and went 8-1 for the Tigers. He is 1-6 at this point. That won’t last.
The AL West is right where I thought it would be, with the Rangers leading the division, and the Angels in second place, which will earn them the other Wild Card spot.
In the NL, it has been much harder to figure out what has happened. The Dodgers got off to a great start, but the loss of Matt Kemp due to a hamstring injury has left their offense unable to out-hit average starting pitching. The Giants lead the division, but the team I picked to win the division, Arizona, has started to gain a little ground and they are getting healthier. I still feel that they will win the West.
In the Central, I picked the Cardinals to win the division. They started off on fire this year, but have since come back down to earth. The team that has shocked me and every other so-called expert is the Pirates. They have pitched well and are starting to hit a little bit. This is one division I am changing my pick to win from St. Louis to the Reds. They are at the top of the division in spite of the fact that they have not hit well all year long. They will hit in the second half and win the Central.
The NL East is a division that looks upside-down. In the spring, I picked the Phillies to win the division, even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were starting the year on the DL. They are in last place and 11 games out of first. Roy Halladay hasn’t pitched in well over a month. Cliff Lee has not won a game. All of these things will change in the second half. Utley is back, Howard is rehabbing in the minors, and Lee will start winning games. Washington, who I picked to finish second and be a Wild Card team is leading the division and is a very deep team. Atlanta is getting healthy, despite losing Brandon Beachy for the year. They have gotten Jair Jurrjens back, and he has thrown very well in his first two starts. People are going to think I’m nuts, and that is ok. I’ve been nuts before. But I think Washington is going to win this division, and the two Wild Card teams are going to come out of the East, with Philly and Atlanta being the two Wild Card teams.
I think Philly is going to trade Cole Hamels at the deadline to get a big right handed bat to hit behind Howard and also get an arm or two in the deal. There is zero chance of Hamels resigning with the Phillies, in my opinion. He is a Southern Cal boy, and the Dodgers will overpay to get him in their rotation, to go along with Clayton Kershaw. Hamels is at his peak as far as trade value. If the Phillies get a big bat and a bullpen arm or two in the deal, they can win games with Halladay, Lee, and Worley in the top 3 spots in that rotation.
Like I said, people will think I’m nuts. Well, I have papers to prove it! So let’s see how it all shakes out.