February 24, 2005

I miss Doug

Doug Glanville, the slim center fielder with an Ivy League degree, leaves a void in Philadelphia as large as the one in the seat of his uniform pants. Now in Yankee camp, here's a look back at the Glanville era in Philadelphia. (Photo: Diane Staskowski, Reading Eagle, 1998)

My favorite heckle of all time is one I heard directed at Doug Glanville during a Marlins-Phillies game in 2003. A Florida fan shouted "Where's your ass, Doug!?"

It's strange seeing Glanville, a Phillie for six of the last eight seasons, in Yankee camp. Over his 9-year career, he's always been different, better suited for band camp than baseball camp. But alongside Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Alyssa Milano-sweetheart Carl Pavano, it's like he stumbled into a Calvin Klein photo shoot on his way to a Star Trek convention.

As a fan, I've always been fascinated by quirky players. Glanville truly doesn't fit the Yankee mold, or any baseball mold for that matter. Just as his uniform hangs over him like a sack, Glanville and baseball weren't supposed to fit, either. When he was a kid, he adopted the Phillies as his favorite team, even though he grew up a stone-throw away from Yankee Stadium in Teaneck, N.J. Though he was athletic, the pursuit of knowledge, not home runs, pushed him most. He would graduate with honors from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering, claiming Lewis Lattimer, a great African-American man of science, as his inspiration.

But after college, baseball, not Pulitzers, came calling. He was drafted by the Cubs and spent his first two Major League seasons there before a trade for second baseman Mickey Morandini sent him back to his college hometown for the next five. His best season was 1999 (.325 BA .376 OBP .457 SLG, 34 SB) when he posted all-star numbers for a center fielder. After stints with the Cubs and Rangers, he resigned with the Phillies last year, a one-year, $1 million contract.

Baseball-wise, it was a move the Phillies shouldn't have made. Added to the cluttered centerfield mix of Byrd, Michaels and Ledee, his uselessness at the plate (.210 BA, .244 OBP, .265 SLG ) undercut the benefits of playing him in the field.

Glanville was brought in by the Yanks as a non-roster invitee to compete for the spot vacated by Kenny Lofton. At 34, his primary competition is Bubba Crosby for the final defensive reserve spot in outfield. Mark Feinsand, covering the Yankees for mlb.com, believes he is the frontrunner to win that spot. If not, Glanville could retire.

Best and worst Glanville moments in Philadelphia:
His best and worst moments both came last year. On Sunday, April 18, Glanville blasted a walk-off home run to lift the Phillies over the Montreal Expos 5-4 to cap a three-game sweep. He was greeted at the plate by an onslaught of teammates. Man they loved Doug.

The worst: On July 25, Glanville misplayed Michael Barrett's short fly ball leading off the ninth inning, costing Eric Milton a no-hitter, and eventually, the game. Fans came down hard on Glanville, but I still maintain it wasn't his fault.

Favorite Glanville article:
I can't believe it's still online: Jason Stark's retelling of a Bob Brookover story in the Philadelphia Inquirer on how Glanville’s unbelievable home run against Curt Schilling was payback for an online Everquest incident.

February 23, 2005

Who bats two?

When the Phillies traded for Kenny Lofton, consensus was he'd fill the No. 2 spot in the lineup most games. And with that, let the first baseball debate of the Charlie Manuel era begin.

Third baseman David Bell is suffering reoccurring back spasms, and Placido Polanco, a prototypical No. 2, could regain a starting spot replacing Bell. Chase Utley enters the mix as a player with some speed and the ability to reach base. Jason Michaels will platoon in center and has hit second before, and Marlon Byrd, last year's opening day No. 1, could return to rookie-year form and provide speed at the top.

I see plenty of candidates to hit second. When it's all said and done, which Phillie would you like to get the most ABs out of the two-hole? Voting has already started, and it's anyone's game.

Vote in our poll, located on the right side of the screen. Post your comments in the comments section below.

February 22, 2005

Welcome Reading Eagle readers

Today marks the first day of Berks Phillies Fans access from readingeagle.com. Berks Phillies Fans is an independently-operated Web log established in June of 2004, offering alternative viewpoints on the Phillies and the world of baseball.

Jason Weitzel of Reading Eagle's marketing and promotions department serves as the sites's editor and lead writer. Martin Smith, avid fan and owner of Berkleigh Travel in Kutztown, also contributes.

For readers new to Berks Phillies Fans, or BPF for short, you won't find a whole lot of game coverage or headline news here. The site is designed to provide essays, analysis and opinion outside the mainstream of traditional baseball coverage. The Reading Eagle is still your primary source for the latest news from around baseball, including interviews and daily game coverage. BPF was established to inject unconventional perspectives and humor into the mix, and allow readers to do the same.

Baseball is the greatest sport in the world, and sites like this one exist all over the Internet. Groundbreaking baseball writers, such as Bill James, Rob Neyer, Peter Gammons and Jason Stark are just a handful of baseball minds that have embraced the Internet as the sport's unofficial roundtable.

So welcome, check back often, and contribute to the conversation. Let's go, Phillies!

Can Madson stay squeaky clean?

With no starter making it past the 7th inning in the first half of the 2004 season, the work of middle relief became a critical factor in keeping the Phillies in the playoff hunt. In that respect, no pitcher contributed to the success of the team more than rookie Ryan Madson.

When Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf went down with injury, fans assumed the team would call Madson's name to fill a spot in the rotation. Instead, GM Ed Wade dipped into the free agent pool and signed Paul Abbott. The results were less than stellar, and by the time the regulars regrouped, the race was over.

2004 marked the first time in years the bullpen emerged as a noticeable strength. For mop-up duty, the team would typically slap together a squad of pitchers like Hector Mercado, Dave Coggin and Jose Santiago. But the success of rookie Ryan Madson in the middle was like nothing the team had seen in years.

Though he stuck out his share – 52 for the season and 5.8 per nine innings – Madson's brilliance came from making few mistakes in other areas. He kept the ball on the ground more than any pitcher still on the roster, surrendered 2.2 walks per nine, and less than one homer per nine.

For fans still clamoring for Madson to move into the rotation, understand the team leaned on him like a starter anyway. Bowa handed him the ball for 53 tough innings in the first half, 77 in all before a pinkie injury sent him on the DL. For the season, Madson finished 9-3 with a 2.34 ERA.

Though his success isn't a huge surprise, it's unrealistic to expect the same outstanding results in 2005, and wrong to believe he’s better suited for the rotation than Brett Myers.

Entering the season, there was no book on Madson. Nost NL hitters never faced him and had trouble reading his delivery. Madson also benefited from some pretty good defense. While his ERA is a low 2.34, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching*) was 3.95.

Madson was never as highly-regarded as other prospects, like Myers or Gavin Floyd, but scouts believe his curveball has improved dramatically since the minors, to go with a good change-up and average fastball.

The Phils are thrilled he's become a surprise weapon, arguably the most valuable component of their bullpen, and one of the best middle relievers in baseball last season. Of 22 BPF readers polled, 18 believed the Phillies should keep him in the pen.

As an indication of his worth, this winter he was coveted by several GMs, including number-cruncher Billy Beane of Oakland, who reportedly tried to deal Madson and Ultey away for one of the big three.
*FIP according to Harball Times (www.hardballtimes.com): Fielding Independent Pitching. Essentially an approximation of what the pitcher's ERA would be with an "average" defense behind him. The formula is (13xHR + 3xBB - 2xK)/IP plus a league-specific factor (around 3.20).

February 21, 2005

A story of life, love and buttocks

You probably haven't heard, but Jose Canseco authored a new book about injecting high-profile athletes in the butt with steroids. The BPF offers some quick thoughts on the controversial best-seller, "Juiced."

I had a chance to read "Juiced" this weekend. Despite the contradictions, wrong dates, and at least one misspelling of "McGwire," it's not that bad, story-wise. I only believe about 75 percent of it, but fact or fiction, I'm right there with him inside the Oakland Coliseum bathroom stall, with Mark McGwire's big, white behind in plain sight.

What impressed me most about Canseco the writer (kind of like saying Incaviglia the dancer) is he maintains a logical flow. That's more than you can say about some sports books. For instance, I'm reading "The Last Season" by Phil Jackson. Jackson is supposedly an academic of the sports world. I dare anyone to tell me the point of this horrible book.

On the steroid issue, I haven't posted anything on the subject, and it's not that I'm disinterested. I've kept silent for the same reason professional writers have been silent about it for years. It breaks our understanding of the game, and our illusion of what is real. Ask Mike Lupica in hindsight if the "Summer of '98" is still the magical season that inspired his best-selling book.

So a juicy thumbs up for "Juiced," for challenging conventional wisdom the way Jim Bouton did in "Ball Four," and for spinning an enjoyable yarn.

David Bell contributes to new book

Phillies third baseman David Bell is a featured contributor in "Smart Baseball: How Professionals Play the Mental Game," written by his father and former major leaguer Buddy Bell. The book arrived in stores recently, despite an online publication date of March 1.

Though it's far from the most talked about book in baseball these days, Bell, with help from author Neal Vahle, study the differences between players with talent and players with competitive drive, intuition and intelligence.

Bell assembled thoughts from dozens of players and former players on the importance of a strong mental approach. Some of the contributors include Phillies pitcher Tim Worrell and GM Ed Wade. Former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser also features prominently in the book.

The Bells represent perhaps the most successful three-generation baseball family in history. Buddy Bell's other two sons, Rick and Mike - currently playing in AAA - also contribute to the book.

Gus Bell played in the Major Leagues from 1950 to 1964. Buddy Bell played from 1972 to 1989.