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November 5 Philadelphia Daily News:
“WHEN THE free-agent signing period opens Sunday, Ruben Amaro Jr. will be faced with that classic conundrum:
What do you get for the baseball team that already has everything?
OK, so the Phillies might not have everything. They just finished a season in which they battled through lengthy periods of offensive impotence. They suffered a disappointing loss to the Giants in the National League Championship Series. And their lone middle-of-the-order righthanded hitter is poised to test the market.
Nevertheless, the Phillies are pot-committed in most aspects of their roster. They have seven regulars and four starting pitchers under contract for next season, with little apparent wiggle room apart from a trade. A deal with the aforementioned middle-of-the-order bat, Jayson Werth, seems like a longshot, but there aren’t many options on the market who can single-handedly replace his production.
The Phillies, Amaro said, have money to spend. But you can bet your unused Game 7 tickets that the amount pales in comparison to the $62.5 million they will be paying to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino in 2011.
Which brings us to . . .
1. The bullpen
On the surface, it has all the excitement of a $25 Applebees gift card, especially when you consider the potential gaping hole in the middle of the lineup. Still, if there is one thing the Giants’ championship run showed, it is that a team can win a title without sex appeal. San Francisco’s highest-paid outfielder spent the majority of the playoffs on the bench. Two of its three outfield starters were waiver-wire pickups.
In Amaro’s perfect world, Werth would return and the GM still would have money to spend on other needs. But after doling out huge chunks of money to Howard, Ibanez and Brad Lidge over the past three seasons, the Phillies have reached a point where they feel they have to make some tough payroll decisions. And fortifying their bullpen at the expense of a five-tool, everyday rightfielder might be one of those decisions.
Why? The simple answer is that they only have three relievers under contract for 2011, and one of those is righthander Danys Baez, who posted a 5.48 ERA in the regular season and was left off the postseason roster. The more complex answer involves a starting rotation that logged the most innings in the majors.
Roy Halladay finished with 272 2/3 innings, the highest total of his career. His previous career high came in 2003, when he logged 266 innings and spent the following season battling shoulder problems. Roy Oswalt pitched 231 1/3 innings, his highest total since 2005. And Cole Hamels finished with 223 2/3, the second-highest total of his career. Hamels should be in peak physical condition at 27 years old. But Halladay turns 34 in May. And Oswalt is only 3 months younger.
Although the biggest reason Phillies starters pitched deep into games was their talent, a contributing factor was Charlie Manuel’s uncertain faith in his bullpen. The unit was hardly a liability in the postseason, allowing just four earned runs in 19 innings. But three of those runs came in key moments in a pivotal Game 4 loss to the Giants, which ended with Oswalt on the mound as a reliever. During the regular season, the Phils’ bullpen finished 10th in the NL with a 4.02 ERA.
Lidge, who will earn $11.5 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract, converted 27 of 32 save opportunities with a 2.96 ERA in 2010. But the veteran closer has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last two seasons and the Phillies were careful about how they used him – the 45 2/3 innings he logged were by far the fewest of his career.”
November 5 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin:
“MIKE RYAN WAS just 55 when he was reluctantly forced to end his long career as a catcher and coach.
“Irish” was hired as the Phillies bullpen coach in 1980. Great timing. So, he got a World Series ring in ’80 and another one when the Phillies won the 1983 pennant and a third ring in 1993.
Mike’s long day never ended at the ballpark, however.
After hours, often long after hours, the likable New Englander assumed the daunting role of GM Paul Owens’ Guardian Angel. The Pope-minding job had just gotten too big for traveling secretary Eddie Ferenz. Paul Owens was a handful – make that a handful of handfuls.
“Irish” and The Pope worked out a routine that they would pull in some of the National League’s most popular hotel watering holes. They would begin arguing heatedly over some baseball-related matter. Ryan was a master of slipping punches. He would have made a superb Hollywood Western fall guy. Out of nowhere, Owens would throw a straight right that appeared to catch Ryan on the point of the chin. He would go down in a heap and lie on the floor motionless.
“Don’t anybody help him up,” Owens would snarl to the startled patrons. “The SOB isn’t worth helping.” And he would stalk out. At which point, Ryan would pop to his feet, laughing, and say something like, “That’s the third time this trip he’s nailed me. I never learn.”
By the ’93 season, his right shoulder was completely shot. When a major league baseball coach can no longer throw – particularly a bullpen coach – he becomes a burden on the rest of the staff. Ryan had surgery and gritted his teeth through two more seasons. “When you can no longer do the things a bullpen coach has to do, like warm up a pitcher, it’s time to go,” he said. And “Irish” went, retired relatively young by the wear and tear of throwing a baseball in a major league setting for 31 years.
Pete Rose calls Billy DeMars the best hitting coach he has ever worked with. He nicknamed the baseball lifer “Sergeant Baseball” for Billy’s military bearing and tremendous respect for the game. DeMars was a feeble hitter during a brief career with the A’s and Browns, but became a student of the art during 10 years as a manager in the Orioles organization. He incorporated elements of the perfect golf swing and perfect tennis forehand into the traditional basics. If Rose had called at 2 a.m. and said, “Let’s go hit,” Billy would have been in the lobby in 10 minutes.
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