One Month of Christmas, Day 3

Good day, today is Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. Christmas is now 28 days away. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Paul Manafort? #LockHimUp

Paul Manafort is going to prison. That was true when he was found guilty in his first trial. That was more true when he plead guilty before his second trial. Now that he lied to prosecutors? Lock.Him.Up.

There seems to be a convergence of events that is entirely circumstantial, but you can’t turn away from. First, the revelations that Manafort both violated his plea deal, AND that he had a secret meeting with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, before the Wikileaks attacks on the Clinton Campaign. Second, Jerome Corsi’s bizarre rantings about rejecting a plea deal for perjury- which both seems to be the least of his crimes, and not the crime he’s describing. Third, Donald Trump just submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions.

The only thing that makes clear sense to me is that Bob Mueller is trying to establish a back channel between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks, and Russia. Manafort probably wasn’t totally forthcoming about something related, Mueller had the goods on it, and the deal fell apart. Manafort is pretty much screwed. This isn’t great for Mueller either, as he loses a star witness. Things are at least beginning to become clear though.

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Goliath is Back, and Goliath is the Phillies?

As I write this, Twitter is buzzing with news that Patrick Corbin is at Citizens Bank Park. The elite left-handed pitcher on the market seems to be high on the Phillies wish list, along with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, every major free agent, and every major trade candidate.

The Phillies are a big market team, with a big market TV deal. In fact, they’re the biggest market with just one team. They have a low payroll and young team. While 80-82 isn’t a great season, it’s good enough to now buy your way back into the playoffs. They have plenty of prospects to work with, one of the richest owners in sports (John Middleton), and a fan base that can fill the seats in a hurry.

The expectations for the Phillies this off-season are high, but not beyond their abilities as a franchise. I’m obviously most interested in getting Bryce Harper, but Machado, Corbin, Kimbrel, and major trade targets are all fine too. I’m just ready to watch a major superstar hit upper deck homers to right again, like the good ole’ days. The possibilities seem endless, and so does John Middleton’s desire to win. Goliath is back in the NL East.

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Make Gritty the new Flyers GM

Here’s some real talk- the Flyers have been a directionless, “good enough” to make a profit franchise for a long time. Here’s some other tough talk- over that long time, the Flyers keep putting ex-players in charge of the team. They haven’t done so hot though. It’s been 40 years since the team won a Stanley Cup. It’s been almost a decade since they blew up a team that lost in the Stanley Cup finals. The team is perpetually disappointing. The most successful thing they’ve done is make Gritty their mascot.

So, I put in the title here “Make Gritty the new Flyers GM.” I’m not really suggesting that, but I guess I am if they’re really going to let Paul Holmgren call the shots in the organization. Holmgren, the ex-GM that failed in his previous role, was rewarded for losing by being promoted to the Team President. If this is the kind of decision making the Flyers do here again, why not let an orange mascot run the operation?

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Democrats Should Stop Fearing White Voters

Over the weekend, I was watching Roland Martin on MSNBC, and he said something profound- Democrats need to stop fearing white voters. His point wasn’t to ignore them, it was to actually campaign at them. His point was pretty simple- what are they getting for voting for their guns, or against immigrants, or any other social issues? Campaign to them on health care, on education, on wages- because these issues apply to them. Will Democrats win white voters? I don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Will they do better? Most likely. This doesn’t mean stop campaigning to the Democratic base, or stop talking about civil rights. It means walk and chew gum.

I do know this- this will work far faster than waiting for demographic changes to get us to victory.

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My Favorite Christmas Specials?

  1. Rudolph
  2. The Grinch
  3. California Raisin
  4. Frosty

I basically make my picks based on the music. You can’t hate.

6

Leaving, on a southern train, only yesterday, you lied. Promises of what I seemed to be, only watched the time, go by. All of these, things I said to you.

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There’s a point in every election cycle where everything becomes white noise. Races you know are competitive, some poll says they aren’t. Races you know aren’t competitive, some poll says it is. Polling this late in the game is notoriously tough to believe, so you have to have an eye for what is what.

First, watch less polling and boasting by organizations about “what they’ve done” so far. Watch more for anomalies in early voting and where money moves. Elections aren’t horse races, they’re bean-counting. When resources move, it’s because votes could move.

In other words, let me give you a sleeper- Linda Coleman in NC-2. She’s tonight’s candidate of the night, a late-cycle mover who took some time to catch national eyes. She was recently put on “Red-to-Blue,” and the money has followed her in. Early vote for Democrats and non-white voters are popping in her district. She is the final type of piece in the potential Democratic Wave. Donate to her here. Volunteer for her here or here.

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The other thing to watch in the final days is the tone of Republicans. Back in my home district, my state representative called the Democratic candidate a domestic terrorist. In New Jersey, rich-guy Bob Hugin is drumming up old, discredited attacks alleging Bob Menendez frequented Dominican prostitutes. Donald Trump is talking about a migrant caravan and birthright citizenship. This is all fear-mongering.

But what’s that mean? Don’t just assume this means Republicans are afraid. Let’s not forget, this is what motivates their base voters. They should be running scared, and hopefully are, but this is also what passes as Get Out The Vote for the GOP in 2018.

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I’ll expand on this after the election, but Democratic field campaigns need a serious overhaul moving forward. It’s time to get organizers off of doors more, change their metric goals from dials to volunteers recruited, realize hitting doors more is good, that “street money”/paid canvass operations are not bad, but also that you need to give volunteers more options than just canvassing. Not all volunteers are able to go knock doors.

The one other piece we need to consider is who we spend our time on. We spend a ton of time mobilizing new and inconsistent voters, but we actually lost 2016 because some historically Democratic voters turned on us. It’ll be a while before we can nationally try to just forget about them- and we probably ethically shouldn’t then.

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GOTV Playlist-

  1. Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song
  2. Pearl Jam- Black
  3. Notorious B.I.G.- Ten Crack Commandments
  4. The Rolling Stones- Angie
  5. Jay Z- Encore

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Barring a recount I have to work, the plan for my DC Friends is to be in DC by the night of 11/15 for a night out. I haven’t decided yet if it will be on the Hill or in town.

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I love my Phillies, but one of the things we are going to find out this Winter is if they love themselves. They’re a cash-rich franchise, in a big market, with very little committed payroll in the long term. If they want Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, they can afford them. Patrick Corbin? Why not. Craig Kimbrel? Absolutely. J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, or Charlie Morton would all be upgrades too.

It’s good business for the Phillies to go sign these guys. Bryce Harper sells tickets. You aren’t going to lose money signing a superstar. With an 80 win team this past season, there’s no reason a big signing can’t thrust the young Phillies into contention.

The question is if they want it as badly as us fans do.

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Tonight’s story of GOTV Past? The Iowa Caucus of 2008. Just after New Year’s, in the bitter cold, we went through the motions of GOTV for Senator Dodd. It was clear we weren’t going to win, but we were hoping for a surprising finish ahead of someone. It didn’t happen. We had walk packets and signs though for people to knock doors or do visibility leading up to the caucus. Some folks came down from Connecticut. The most intense part was coaching our captains on making a deal with the other campaign of their choice, in hopes of getting a delegate.

I remember emailing a friend the morning of the Caucus, predicting an Edwards, Clinton, Obama finish. If turnout had been a normal 125k, I was right. It was 250k caucusers who attended that night. I was in Grinnell, at the college that night, and witnessed an insane turnout. It was a liberal enough site that Hillary didn’t even win a delegate. That was kind of the story that night.

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8

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner, sometimes I feel like my only friend, is the city I live in, the city of Angels. Lonely as I am, together we cry.

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Today was a weird day. It began with the news of a school shooting in Matthews, a community in southeast Mecklenburg County. Fortunately, it was not a mass-shooting, it was a dispute between two people. Unfortunately, the victim died. Coming on the news of the heinous shooting in Pittsburgh, it’s all enough to make you quite sad. It’s enough to shake your faith in humanity.

The gun control debate has become quite tiring. Neither side has nudged any closer to the other. That’s sad, because most of the public agrees- some people shouldn’t have access to guns. The mentally ill, convicted felons, domestic abusers- none of them should have a gun. Almost everybody agrees. That won’t fix everything, but it will at least help some things.

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Tonight’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers- Under the Bridge
  2. 50 Cent- Piggy Bank
  3. Eric Clapton- Layla
  4. Rihanna- S.O.S.
  5. Aerosmith- Living on the Edge

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Jon Tester. Senator Tester has served as a leader in Montana’s State Senate, and for two terms in the U.S. Senate. Despite the state’s Republican tilt, Tester has managed to keep winning.

Tester is the kind of Senator who is a majority maker. If Democrats can keep him in the Senate, a majority will be in reach soon. Donate here. Volunteer here.

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Tonight’s story of GOTV past- the 2008 PA HDCC. The story of that cycle was winning in spite of everything. Yes, Barack Obama won Pennsylvania big, but not necessarily in the most competitive House seats. We also had a cool dozen Democratic State house members and staffers indicted in conjunction with the “BonusGate” investigation. Despite that, we grew our 102-101 majority to 104-99. It remains the high water mark for PA Dems since 1992.

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For my money, this is my wish list for the Phillies off-season:

  1. Bryce Harper
  2. Manny Machado
  3. Patrick Corbin
  4. Craig Kimbrel
  5. Cole Hamels (if available)

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12

The dirty dozen- you have left the teens. We are 12 days from the 2018 Election.

Today, the question is whether the news still matters and influences this election? The dropping stock market, the Saudi government killing people, bombs being sent to many of the major figures of the American left, the fallout over Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court- does any of it matter?

We’ll know in twelve days.

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Today’s candidate of the day is Andy Kim. Andy’s race against Donald Trump’s favorite New Jersey Congressman, Tom MacArthur. You may re-call MacArthur as the author of the ACA repeal.

He has to go. Andy is the guy to beat him. A national security staffer in the Obama Administration, Andy will make South Jersey proud. Donate to him here. Volunteer here. This race is razor close, and could be the difference in winning or losing the House.

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The Phillies have been celebrating the ten year anniversary of the 2008 World Series win on social media of late, and I obviously am enjoying it. Every time I think back to being in that stadium the night of game three, or watching Brad Lidge strike out Eric Hinske to win, I get a smile on my face just remembering what a beautiful, happy time the Fall of 2008 was for me.

When I think of the World Series though, my mind returns to the Fall of 1993, when a ten year old Rich went with his father to see Game 4 of that World Series at Veterans Stadium, a game the Blue Jays won 15-14. Lenny Dykstra hit two homers in that slugfest, one that was eventually lost on the first (and less famous) Mitch Williams loss in that Series.

Sure, the result was disappointing- but it was the experience that counted. I still have the programs from that game at home somewhere, and the leaf covered cover stands out in my mind.

I love 2008, but 1993 is forever on my mind.

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Donald Trump is coming to South Charlotte tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier. The reason Mark Harris is in a tight race with Dan McCready, besides McCready being an ideal candidate in an ideal time, is that the traditionally Republican, higher educated, wealthier white areas in and around Charlotte don’t like Trump and this GOP. Sending Trump to campaign for Harris here is just dumping salt into that wound. Frankly, it’s what Democrats should want. The district runs hours to the east, all the way to Fayetteville. If Trump were campaigning out there, to his base, he may be able to excite his base and narrow the enthusiasm gap.

Anyhow, I’m glad the President could be of help to our cause here.

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I made a big decision tonight- I started Jared Goff over Big Ben in my fantasy football league. I’m lucky to have two very good QB’s in a dynasty/keeper league. Goff better deliver, I can’t keep riding Saquon.

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When this election is all set and over, one of the things to watch will be how many “establishment style” candidates made pick-ups for Democrats, and how many of the more “progressive rhetoric” Democrats made gains. To be clear, I think they’re all pretty close on most ideological questions, I think the gap is style and willingness to compromise. It will be interesting to see if Democrats do better with more aggressively progressive Gubernatorial nominees in places like Georgia and Florida, or with more “traditional” liberals in places like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada. It’s also possible that the data shows no difference, or is inconclusive. The importance could be instructive though heading into 2020- did activist favorites like Beto flip Texas, did a more old-school candidate like Bredesen flip Tennessee, did both win, or neither? Democrats may be wise to look at that before jumping head first into more “resistance” style politics for 2020.

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I’m going to close tonight on a subject of personal debate- capitalism vs. socialism. Since 2016, I have been extremely critical of socialism, and those who self-describe themselves as socialists. It is often a dealbreaker for me in party primaries. I am not a socialist. I don’t support “the people” seizing the “means of production.” I’m not even comfortable with the “99% vs. 1%” rhetoric some of the left embraces. I don’t tolerate AOC or Bernie Sanders, much less support them.

That is viewing this in the context of an “or” debate. Since I don’t support socialism, I’ve accepted as fact that I support capitalism. What if I put “capitalism” under the same scrutiny. To be clear, I don’t accept that tax cuts for the rich and de-regulation are a “must” part of capitalism, they are a choice made by elected officials in a republic, but they aren’t intrinsic to capitalism. Europe has capitalism without them. With that established, what if I scrutinized capitalism much like socialism?

Capitalism does a good job financing the society we have, but is that a good defense of it? What about our crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, homeless veterans, tens of millions without health insurance, and all of our other social failings are not being financed by the political decisions made by our republic, under this capitalist system. As a liberal American, and even in fact as a true believing Christian, there is no way I can say that what we have for an economic system is doing the things I want our economy to do- provide for the common welfare, provide meaningful labor for the masses, enrich our societal fabric, and help the less fortunate. What we have doesn’t work.

I still believe in the theoretical concept of free enterprise and markets. We need our system to look much more like a European capitalist country though- more regulation, the wealthy paying their fair share of the taxes, and a national budget that reflects our values and needs.

So perhaps I’m at least scrutinizing my own position a bit more than those on the socialist-left are scrutinizing their’s.

So What Were the Phillies?

Just under a month ago, the Phillies were down around two games out of first. Just over a week ago, the Braves lost five in a row, and seemed to let the Phillies back in for one more shot at the NL East. The Phillies lead the NL East for the bulk of the Summer, and were once fifteen games over .500. The Phillies left for their final road trip of the season eight days ago at 78-73. It feels like that was long ago.

The Phillies are 78-81 now, going into the final series of 2018. They were among baseball’s worst teams in the final two months of the season. They just went 0-8 on a road trip. Worse yet, the Phillies looked uncompetitive on the trip, losing the first three games in Colorado while giving up over ten runs a game. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Phillies were throwing the games on this trip.

The Phillies achieved something amazing this year: their first 155 games were all played with a chance to make the post-season, and yet they can’t win more than half of their games. They managed to improve by at least twelve games over last season and yet finish so badly that they left a bad taste in your mouth. They managed to improve by 12 games while being much worse offensively and defensively. They have a line-up where nearly every position hit double digits in homers, yet they fell way off offensively from 2017. The bullpen was very good, even though everyone they tried at closer stunk. The team made no sense.

The Phillies spent almost the entire season contending for the playoffs, and yet they’re going to finish more than any one player’s worth out of the playoffs. After Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, name me another player you want to definitely keep. Tell me you wouldn’t even entertain firing the manager and GM, even though the team is 12 games improved over 2017. Tell me what part of this team couldn’t use improving.

The Phillies have some major advantages going into the off-season- a low payroll, lots of money, excess of starting pitching, and a good minor league system. They’ll need to use those advantages actively this Winter. They have some raw ingredients of a good team, but clearly in hindsight, they weren’t close to good. Maybe the positive season we thought happened, in fact did not.

The Pressing Phillies Questions, Re-Visited

A few weeks ago, I wrote of the “most pressing questions facing the Phillies” for the remainder of this season. With the team playing badly, and with Seranthony Dominguez letting them down in what should have been an easy win last night, I feel like it’s at least time to update the answers to the questions I had.

Number one, I wrote:

Is Seranthony the closer moving forward? My answer is no. He’s a guy with high velocity, sure, so he’s probably a major league reliever. His command hasn’t been impressive though, and the movement on his ball has diminished as the Summer went. I think he was lightning in a bottle, not our Kenley Jansen.

I’m more sure of this than when I wrote it. I’m not ready to DFA Seranthony, but it’s clear the league has figured him out. He’s not ready for this role.

Number two, I wrote:

What’s Odubel’s future in Philadelphia? It’s not looking great. His stat line usually comes out good, he’s shown impressive power this year, and he does make some amazing plays in center. He’s super streaky though, and sometimes really stinks. He makes bonehead mistakes. He’s a liability when he’s off. With the Phillies needing to open up a spot if they sign Bryce Harper this Winter, Odubel’s second half is making him expendable.

I’m pretty much sticking by this, too. Odubel is a really likable, fun player. He’s also been terrible since the beginning of June. You can’t be that streaky.

Number three, I wrote:

What’s Roman Quinn’s future? As bad as Odubel has been, he’s opened the door for Roman Quinn to get a chance. I see Quinn limited to being a fourth outfielder at this point, as he gets hurt too much. He should get to play right now though, as long as he keeps hitting.

I’m sticking with Quinn as a fourth outfielder. He’s played well, but he broke a toe and is limited right now. I like Quinn, but my opinion isn’t moved.

Fourth, I wrote:

Should Carlos Santana start over Bour? Right now? No. Bour is hitting better, right now. We need to win games, right now. You deal with the contracts in the Winter. For now, give me Bour.

For the moment, I have to admit some error here. Bour got hurt right after I wrote this, and after his return, the Phillies have been able to get him at-bats by sticking Santana at third. Santana has been hot as well. The future at first base is murky though, not unlike what it was from 2012-2016, where a big contract controlled baseball decisions.

Fifth, I wrote:

Can Jerad Eickhoff save the Phillies? This is a sleeper story on the horizon. Eickhoff was so good in 2015 and 2016 that many fans saw him as a cornerstone. Then in 2017 the Phillies seemingly tried to pitch him through pain/nerve damage, and messed him up bad. Now he’s rehabbing back towards the majors, just as several starting pitchers are hitting career inning highs, and several relievers look cooked. They very much need Eickhoff to be right.

This was unfair of me to write. I got right that the Phillies starters were getting tired- Eflin particularly stinks right now. Eickhoff save the team after missing most of two years with injuries that the team seemingly mishandled? Best case is he gets in some work and is ready for 2019. Gabe’s not even starting him.

Sixth, I wrote:

Is the back end of the Phillies rotation cooked? Eflin, Pivetta, and Vince are looking really inconsistent lately. Could they be out of gas? It sure looks it. The Phillies need some reinforcements.

I think I nailed this, mostly. Eflin is done, and shouldn’t be sent out there to fail anymore. Pivetta has been very unlucky this season, and should finish the season out to help continue his maturation process. Vince has actually made a good impression on me this season, but isn’t going to save us right now.

Seventh, I said:

Why does Scott Kingery still start games? No, for real, why? He’s terrible offensively. He’s not a good shortstop. We sent Crawford down after he came off the DL, but Crawford at least can man the spot defensively. Cabrera should be playing shortstop every single game remaining, and if it weren’t for his contract, Kingery belongs in AAA. I don’t think his whole career will stink, but the Phillies rushed Kingery up early. He’s not someone who should be playing in a 2018 pennant race.

Ok, imagine this- I’m re-thinking my position on Kingery. I don’t see what the Phillies do. I don’t think it works out. They get paid to be right though. Since I think the Phillies are toast, play him somewhere- like second base. I have been a Cesar Hernandez fan, and I still think he’s better than Kingery, but his second half has left me wanting more. Let’s see Kingery play there too.

Eighth, I wrote:

Can the Phillies win games when Rhys Hoskins isn’t hot? It seems no. Rhys is having a really good season, and I’m a fan, but he’s been a bit streaky this season. When he’s in a funk, or even is just normal, the Phillies struggle. They’ve put a lot on a first year player this year.

Let’s rephrase this- can they win at all? He homered in every weekend game to reach 30, and the Mets won twice. Rhys is a really good hitter that played out of position this year, and I get why, but he’s not going to carry this bucket of slop offense to the playoffs on his own. The Phillies need to commit to him, but they need to add too.

Ninth, I wrote:

Will Nick Williams be back in 2019? I think this comes down to Williams and Odubel trying to hang on. Right now, I’d pick Williams. If we sign Harper, I think Odubel would lose his job, even though he’s the best center fielder in the group.

You know what, I have no idea here. I like a lot about Williams, but I’d like his glove more in left, and his bat in the lower part of the order. Is he back? I don’t know.

Tenth, and finally:

What’s with Gabe’s line-up card? Not starting Bour and Cabrera against de Grom is a sin. Making sure he gets Kingery at-bats is a sin. Throwing Seranthony out to close is a sin. Gabe has to do better, this team can win right now.

I’m actually more positive than not about Gabe Kapler. Really. But, I got this right.

Be Bold?

The Pressing Phillies Questions

One could argue that the last four Phillies games were the worst four of the season. Losing a series to the Mets this season is inexcusable, but I could grant the de Grom game to them, just not getting shut out by Vargas. Then the first two Nats games were both really ugly, especially since the Nationals are throwing in the towel on the season trading away some key players. The last few days have given rise to several key questions moving forward:

  1. Is Seranthony the closer moving forward? My answer is no. He’s a guy with high velocity, sure, so he’s probably a major league reliever. His command hasn’t been impressive though, and the movement on his ball has diminished as the Summer went. I think he was lightning in a bottle, not our Kenley Jansen.
  2. What’s Odubel’s future in Philadelphia? It’s not looking great. His stat line usually comes out good, he’s shown impressive power this year, and he does make some amazing plays in center. He’s super streaky though, and sometimes really stinks. He makes bonehead mistakes. He’s a liability when he’s off. With the Phillies needing to open up a spot if they sign Bryce Harper this Winter, Odubel’s second half is making him expendable.
  3. What’s Roman Quinn’s future? As bad as Odubel has been, he’s opened the door for Roman Quinn to get a chance. I see Quinn limited to being a fourth outfielder at this point, as he gets hurt too much. He should get to play right now though, as long as he keeps hitting.
  4. Should Carlos Santana start over Bour? Right now? No. Bour is hitting better, right now. We need to win games, right now. You deal with the contracts in the Winter. For now, give me Bour.
  5. Can Jerad Eickhoff save the Phillies? This is a sleeper story on the horizon. Eickhoff was so good in 2015 and 2016 that many fans saw him as a cornerstone. Then in 2017 the Phillies seemingly tried to pitch him through pain/nerve damage, and messed him up bad. Now he’s rehabbing back towards the majors, just as several starting pitchers are hitting career inning highs, and several relievers look cooked. They very much need Eickhoff to be right.
  6. Is the back end of the Phillies rotation cooked? Eflin, Pivetta, and Vince are looking really inconsistent lately. Could they be out of gas? It sure looks it. The Phillies need some reinforcements.
  7. Why does Scott Kingery still start games? No, for real, why? He’s terrible offensively. He’s not a good shortstop. We sent Crawford down after he came off the DL, but Crawford at least can man the spot defensively. Cabrera should be playing shortstop every single game remaining, and if it weren’t for his contract, Kingery belongs in AAA. I don’t think his whole career will stink, but the Phillies rushes Kingery up early. He’s not someone who should be playing in a 2018 pennant race.
  8. Can the Phillies win games when Rhys Hoskins isn’t hot? It seems no. Rhys is having a really good season, and I’m a fan, but he’s been a bit streaky this season. When he’s in a funk, or even is just normal, the Phillies struggle. They’ve put a lot on a first year player this year.
  9. Will Nick Williams be back in 2019? I think this comes down to Williams and Odubel trying to hang on. Right now, I’d pick Williams. If we sign Harper, I think Odubel would lose his job, even though he’s the best center fielder in the group.
  10. What’s with Gabe’s line-up card? Not starting Bour and Cabrera against de Grom is a sin. Making sure he gets Kingery at-bats is a sin. Throwing Seranthony out to close is a sin. Gabe has to do better, this team can win right now.

That’s it for now. Hopefully we do some winning soon.

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. I’ve got some random thoughts. Here’s a sampling for you to read:

  • I have not watched a full possession of Eagles’ pre-season football yet, and I’m not going to. Actually going to the games is fun, but watching on TV is brutal. The starters don’t play, or don’t play hard, because they don’t need to. The back-ups are basically there to show their special teams value and get reps. This stuff is mostly unimportant, unless your team is bad.
  • I found out last night that Ronda Rousey won an Olympic medal in Judo. I had no idea. It makes sense with her fighting style, but there was little hype about it. It also means her combat sports career was far longer than I thought.
  • For my two cents, I have no problem with Jim Clyburn becoming Speaker if Nancy Pelosi can’t in January. I’m torn in my feelings about Nancy Pelosi, both holding her career and record in high esteem, and thinking she has been there so awfully long, and is a giant political liability with the voters in the middle. I’m fine if she stays, I’m fine if she steps aside for someone else to be Speaker, but I’d like her to leave leadership after the 2020 Election at worst, an even 20 years in leadership. With that said, and I love Jim Clyburn, but I’d feel the same about him.
  • I’m getting sick of the media allowing Donald Trump to claim he can “fight back” against the Mueller probe- you don’t get to fight a legal investigation. You get to make a defense if you’re charged in a court of law, or Congress. You don’t get to try and stop an investigation- that’s obstruction of justice. When Trump says he fired Comey or pulled Brennan’s clearance because they started the Russia investigation, Trump is admitting obstruction. He’s admitting a crime. He’s making it very hard to argue that he doesn’t belong in prison.
  • Aerosmith is getting ready to celebrate 50 years together as a band with a residency in Las Vegas for 2019. Technically that’s their 49th year, but I’m betting some new music will follow. You know, this is a perfect point for me to note- I’m not always a fan of “new” stuff. If I flipped through every iHeartRadio rock station right now, I couldn’t find a “new” rock band on Aerosmith’s level. Sometimes the new stuff sucks and the old stuff is great.
  • How do you give up seven runs in one inning? Better yet, how are they all unearned? Well, you can only do all of this when you lose 24-4, like the Phillies did Thursday. In one of the great ironies of sports, the Phillies came back to win game two, and gain a half game for the day.
  • That’s all for today. We’ll be back this weekend.
  • The Phillies are Built to Last

    There was a certain satisfaction in watching last night’s Phillies win. The Boston Red Sox are certainly not one of my favorite teams, but they are baseball’s best team this year. The Phillies dropped a tough 2-1 battle on Tuesday, but managed to split the season series with a team that should easily top 100 wins. Boston may very well have this year’s AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, but the Phillies didn’t back down from them in any of the four games, in either park. Down 3-0 on Wednesday night, facing a sweep, they fought back and won 7-4. That is a satisfying win.

    When you look at the Phillies line-up, you aren’t overwhelmed. Nobody is going to hit .300 in this line-up. It’s highly unlikely anyone hits 40 homers. Rhys Hoskins is probably the only guy that drives in 100 runs, or probably hits 30 homers. They’re a bottom of the league team in batting average. What do they do well? They take a lot of pitches. Their on-base percentages are deceptively good. They’ll probably have six or seven guys hit 20 homers or more. They hit well later in the game. It’s not that they have nothing going here, but they’re not a line-up that impresses you much.

    The Phillies are a good team because they can pitch. Aaron Nola has been outstanding. Jake Arrieta has been way better than some fans give him credit for. While they’re inconsistent, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez have all dominated at times, in a season where they all made tremendous leaps forward. The bullpen has become deceptively strong as the season rolls along. This team has pitched it’s way into contention, despite relative youth and inexperience, and one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball.

    And yet, despite all of those positives, I’m not sure they will win the division. They are two games back of Atlanta for the first time since the virtual beginning of Summer. Atlanta has a young, ready for prime time offense. They’re beating up on bad teams better than the Phillies right now. Atlanta’s doesn’t seem like the same level as the Phillies, but they’ve done a more than admirable job, and the numbers are way closer than you think. Who wins this division probably comes down to whether Atlanta’s starting pitching or Philadelphia’s offense is better- assuming Washington is who they look like at this point.

    In the long run though, the Phillies are poised to dominate the NL East. If you were to ask me what I’d rather have to improve in free agency- starting pitching or offense- I’d take offense every time. We’re coming up on a major off-season, with major available bats like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper on the market, and the Phillies are well-positioned to make monster bids on both. Other than the often-injured Clayton Kershaw, there are less available game-changing arms on the market, and they will be very expensive. Atlanta simply doesn’t have the kind of money the Phillies do either, whether to extend contracts to their own players or free agents.

    Even if the Phillies third through fifth starters don’t all solve their consistency issues, the Phillies have a dominating AAA staff that is cruising through the International League, and Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina waiting in the wings to eventually fill in here. The Phillies will not need to dive into the expensive starting pitching market as much as Atlanta and others will. They will be able to spend in free agency to fill in their 2019 line-up, and trade from their depth of pitching to get more bats. With their deep pockets, the Phillies can build a sustained winner. The NL East is going to hate this group for a long time.

    Thank You Chase, 2008 Phillies

    In a few minutes, the Phillies will play the Dodgers for the final time this season. The game will be the final regular season game Chase Utley plays in Philadelphia. The greatest Phillies second baseman in club history will retire at the end of the season, and the Dodgers won’t be back in town.

    For the first time since 2012, the Phillies are playing important games, and fittingly Utley is back in town. The fan favorite from the 2008 team is now a bench piece on the first-place Dodgers, the reigning NL Champions. The Phillies fan base is showing Utley the love, giving him standing ovations before and during both games, and it’s well deserved. Not only was Utley a statistically great Phillies player, but he also played the game hard, and never left anything on the field. Oh, and he hated New York.

    In just over a week the Phillies will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the 2008 Phillies. Utley will be one of just a hand full of players from that championship team who can’t attend because he’s still playing, joining World Series MVP Cole Hamels in that group. That team snapped a 25 year title drought for the city, reminding us that we can sometimes win too. The title came in the midst of an economic collapse that worried us all, but the Phillies gave us an escape, a reason to be happy. I miss that team.

    Yes, I’m going to cheer Chase Utley today. Now excuse me, I’m walking in the park.