November 05, 2004

Fall League Update: Howard continues hot hitting

Ryan Howard is turning into a consistent hitter; He hit well in spring training, crushed the ball at Reading, hit well at SWB, and hit well in his September call-up to Philadelphia. Now his average is hovering around .380.

This fall, his homers are down, and strikeouts remain high, but I think he is legit. What to do with him? Is he a back-up to Thome? Another year in the minors? Or trade bait?

I would trade Thome in a blockbuster deal to fill other needs, but that’s unlikely. I find it interesting that Thome’s replacement in CLE, Travis Hafner, had a better year.

Any other ideas?

November 04, 2004

Manuel the man

Long search ends with the selection of the candidate with the strongest endorsement of players. The Associated Press reported the hiring late Wednesday night.

Manuel, 60, spent the the last two season as a special assistant to GM Ed Wade. He last coached in 2002 with Cleveland before being fired in mid-season after a 39-47 record.

Shallow Center captures our feeling; now that the players have their guy, it's time to put up or shut up.

It's a low-profile hiring in the eyes of the baseball world, but it's the biggest move in the career of Ed Wade. It's all riding on this one.

November 03, 2004

Our vote for manager: Carl Pavano

It would take a miracle, but unless the Phillies get better horses, a new skipper and new approach may be futile to reverse the fortunes of this veteran team.

Like ice cream, should the Phillies manager be hard or soft?

For several reasons, that’s the worst opening graph in history.

Boston won the World Series, so now it’s time to find deeper meaning, which means less time for quality openings and transitions …

…transitions like the one happening with manager. What does a manager mean to the success of a team? Knowing that Terry Francona was the manager who broke the curse with the Boston Red Sox breaks every notion that you can’t win with a players’ manager.

And it can’t just be as simple having better players, can it? Boston came back from 3-0 in the ALCS and won 8 straight. And what about Florida last year, who won with a manager who was considered too old?

A blood and guts guy like Jim Leyland, candidate #8, would give the Phightins a respected leader with a great baseball mind. The only question is whether his return is based on a newfound passion for the game or the proximity to Pittsburgh and the prospect of a job that may not require much work. The Mets believed it was the latter and passed.

Todd “The Big Z!” Zolecki reported the frontrunner is now, and may have always been, Charlie Manuel, who has been courted by no one else but the Phillies. Like a high school kid who graduated but still hangs around with the cool kids in band, Manuel kind of hung around last year, I guess it was in some kind of advisory capacity, but it seemed like he slid right to the top of the list when the inevitable firing happened at the end of the season. He’s a favorite of Jim Thome but I’m leery about a GM who would pander to the wish of a player like that. It’s not what Donald Trump would do.

Then again, the Donald wouldn't have called Paul Abbott, either. No. The Donald would do the smart thing and find the biggest need (pitching) and fill it (Big Unit).

At manager, the most important job will be to, first, rid the team of failure, which is different than “winning.” It means preventing any more high-profile collapses (Burrell, Byrd). Then comes “winning,” which is what Bobby Cox and the Braves do, taking eggs (Jaret Wright) and making egg salad (15 wins, 3.28 ERA).

November 01, 2004

Phils will not block Lehigh Valley farm club

WFMZ-TV reported Thursday that the Phillies have given the green light to allowing affiliated baseball in the Lehigh Valley.

WFMZ reported that the move comes because of a very positive relationship the team has with Craig Stein and Joe Finley, co-owners of the Reading Phillies, who’ve been trying to bring minor league baseball to the Lehigh Valley for several years.

A number of possibilities have been explored, and the announcement could mean that Allentown will move closer to securing a $12 million state grant for a new baseball stadium now that the area has the support of an affiliated team.

Finley said he and Stein plan to bring a full-season team to the Valley by the 2007 season if they win the grant to build a stadium on Agere Systems property in east Allentown, the Morning Call reported.

He has not identified the team or its minor league level, though legislators involved in the negotiations have said it is a Class A team that will become a Phillies affiliate through a leaguewide reshuffling of minor league teams, the Call reported.

The Phillies have long held a territorial veto on the Lehigh Valley, which has grown into a substantial market for minor league baseball, larger and more economically viable than many AAA cities.

Several locations have been explored over the last few years, including sites inside Allentown and several industrial sites in nearby Bethlehem.

Space and cost are the biggest obstacles for both cities, and it’s possible that a stadium could land in a neighboring township near Route 22 or the Lehigh Valley Airport.

The Allentown Ambassadors, of the Independent Northern League, were the last team to play in the city, but folded before the start of the 2004 season.