Wednesday, April 27, 2011

...and now a message from our sponsor.

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do it's normally baseball. Baseball games are the only things that I watch live. I TiVo regular programming so that I can fast forward through the commercials. My TV is usually set on the MLB Network, which is the best thing invented besides the iPad. That all being said, the only commercials that I normally see are during ballgames or while watching the MLB Network.

My favorite commercial right now is the new Pepsi ad where CC Sabathia comes through the cornfield a la Field of Dreams. It's fantasy. It's magical. Jim Thome is asking for an autograph. Mike Schmidt is representing. Randy Johnson kills a trashcan lid. Ozzie flips. What's not to love? The best Brian Wilson.

I am on Brian Wilson overload. Yeah, I know he's the closer on the current World Series winner, but the year the Phillies won it all did you see Brad Lidge and his ugly mole all over TV? No, and he had a perfect season!
Wilson is featured on the MLB 2K11 as is Roy Halladay. Is it just me or do they run the Brian Wilson version more often? The promotion for the game is to pitch a perfect game, which Halladay has done, in order to win a million dollars.
*I also enjoy the Mike Stanton version with the briefcase handcuffed to him. Yes, I know, I really wish it was me handcuffed to Mike Stanton. He is a hottie!
Major League Baseball has launched a new campaign this season titled MLB Always Epic. They are using this theme to attract younger viewers, replacing their former ads titled Beyond Baseball. King Felix is featured at a carnival game throwing balls at milk bottles. Ubaldo Jimenez is in a gift shop searching for a novelty license plate with his name on it.
And then there's Brian Wilson. He has his own series! They dare you to take a journey inside Brian Wilson's "epic" beard to see what lives inside. Please! Okay, I'll admit it, he does have dreamy blue eyes, but I'm over the beard. So far this season, he is 0-1 with a 8.64 ERA. Epic, not!
So what lives inside Brian Wilson's beard? According to MLB: ninjas, lumberjacks and chicks dancing around the Maypole. We all know what's really in there, crabs. That's right. Crabs that Wilson picked up from sloppy seconds once The Machine was done. Epic.

Katie Casey

Monday, April 25, 2011

Random Past Phillie: Eude Brito

Name: Eude Ezequiel Brito
Position: Pitcher
Born: August 19, 1978 in Sabana de la Mar, Dominican Republic
Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on July 3, 1998
Phillies Debut: August 21, 2005
Final Phillies Game: September 18, 2006
Uniform Number: 58

About Eude Brito: If you've ever perused through the annual Phillies media guide, you'll notice there's quite a large minor league section which lists information and statistics for every player currently in the organization. As you can imagine, there is a good deal of turnover in the farm system as new players are drafted and signed, while others are traded, released, or retire when they realize they don't quite have enough talent to progress any further up the professional ranks. On the other hand, there are some names that you see listed year after year. Many of these players are nothing more than organizational filler, good enough to keep the system fully stocked but not held in high enough regard for the club to consider them a part of their future plans. Every now and then, however, one of these players manages to stick around long enough and eventually climbs the ladder all the way to the Major Leagues. One such player was Eude Brito, a diminutive Domincan lefty who bounced back and forth as a starter and reliever in the minors for several years before finding some fill-in work with the Phillies for a brief part of two seasons.

Like pretty much all players hailing from the Dominican Republic, Eude Brito's professional baseball career began when he was signed as an amateur free agent, as only prospects from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are eligible for the MLB Draft. In Brito's case, it was the Phillies who inked him to a contract during the summer of 1998. His on-field debut came the following year when he went 0-1 with a 5.02 ERA in 12 games (three starts) for the Rookie League Gulf Coast Phillies. After splitting the 2000 season between the Rookie League and low "A" levels, Brito enjoyed a strong 2001 campaign with the mid "A" Lakewood BlueClaws, going 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA with six saves in 44 appearances out of the bullpen.

Brito's career took a major turn following the 2001 season, and it had nothing to do with his pitching performance. After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball decided to be more diligent in checking the backgrounds of players. It had long been hinted that many players from Latin American countries had been using doctored birth certificates, and that turned out to be the case after checks were done with heavier scrutiny. Eude Brito was one of those players. When the Phillies initially signed Brito, his year of birth was listed as 1981 but it was revealed he was in fact three years older. Despite the deception (and knowing the fault was not entirely his if he was even at fault at all), the Phils kept Brito in the organization, where he slowly kept climbing the ladder. He would split the 2002 season between Lakewood and high "A" Clearwater before returning to Clearwater for the entire 2003 campaign. All of Brito's appearances between 2001 and 2003 came out of the bullpen. In 2004, he would make seven starts among his 44 outings at AA Reading, where he went 8-6 with a 4.42 ERA before moving on up to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2005. Of Brito's 28 AAA appearances in '05, 15 were starts. Overall, he was 6-2 with a 4.85 ERA. Not necessarily impressive, but the Phillies thought enough to give Brito the call to the big leagues in early August, though it would be quite a while before he actually got a chance to show his stuff to MLB hitters.

On August 5, 2005, Eude Brito was summoned to the Philadelphia Phillies from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to serve as the long reliever for the big club. The role of long reliever is kind of a thankless one, similar to being a punter in football. Generally speaking, the less work they get, the better. Brito would not see any action for two weeks after being called up, but that would change when Cory Lidle went down with a strained oblique. On August 21, two days after his 27th birthday, Brito made his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed one run in five innings, but did not get a decision in a game the Phillies would win by a score of 4-3. Brito would make six appearances for the Phillies in '05 (five starts), going 1-2 with a 3.68 ERA. His first career win came on September 12, when he tossed six shutout innings to outduel Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves, 4-1.

Brito would start the 2006 season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but was recalled by the Phils in early June. It did not go nearly as well for Brito the second time around, as he was hit hard in losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals before being sent back to the minors. He would be recalled when the MLB rosters expanded in September, picking up his second career win after replacing an injured Scott Mathieson early in a 16-4 blowout over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park on September 2. Brito would go 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA in five appearances for the Phillies in '06, two of which were starts. With the Lehigh Valley IronPigs set to begin play in 2008, the Phils temporarily shifted their AAA affiliation to Ottawa, which is where Brito began the 2007 season. He would go just 1-6 with a 6.17 ERA in what turned out to be his last season as a member of the Phillies organization. Brito would split the 2008 campaign between the farm systems of the Nationals and New York Mets in what was his last season of affiliated ball as of this writing. Brito spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the St. George Roadrunners of the independent Golden League. Among his teammates in St. George were journeyman lefty Vic Darensbourg, who spent part of the 2008 season in the Phillies organization, and Bartolome Fortunato, who will go down in history as the pitcher that gave up Ryan Howard's first career home run.

Personal Recollection: As you can probably imagine, that whole part about perusing through the media guide is based on my own experiences as I've read them cover to cover for as long as I can remember. I always like to familiarize myself with the names of players in the farm system to get an idea of who could be of use to the big club in the future. Some names are bound to stick out, and it's hard not to notice a name like Eude. There was no pronunciation listed and I'm not sure if there was ever just one that was settled upon. During Brito's brief time with the Phillies, I heard his name pronounced "EY-yoo-dey", "ey-YOO-dey", "OO-dey", and "YOO-dey." Guess it'll remain a mystery. Speaking of which, with all the guys that were found out to be using altered birth dates, I can only imagine how many were being used before September 11. Wonder if we'll ever find out how old Fernando Valenzuela really is.

Looking at Brito's game logs, I realized I witnessed both of his career wins in person. There were a lot of people saying "Who?" when he started that game against Tim Hudson, but it turned out to be his shining moment as a Major League Baseball player. His other win came in the second game of a day/night doubleheader against the Braves. Scott Mathieson went down with the elbow injury that would ultimately require two Tommy John operations in the first inning, and Brito was summoned in. He gave up a two-run homer to Chipper Jones in the first, but it was all Phillies from there. Brito didn't have great stuff or pinpoint control. He just kind of was what he was, a fringe pitcher who managed to break on through for a little while. Hey, lots of guys have had it a lot worse.

That's my story on Eude Brito. Feel free to share any of your own recollections.

JMurl's Microbrew of the Week and Fantasy Lowdown!

JMurl's Microbrew of the Week

Troegs Dream Weaver Wheat

Brewed by: Troegs Brewing Company/Harrisburg, PA

Style: Hefeweizen

Abv: 4.8%

Cloudy golden wheat color, with a  large head that dissipates rapidly...wheat, orange and lemon dominate the smell, reminds of the summer...strong banana and lemon flavor, with very little hop presence......5 out of 5 burps

Rating system:

5 burps- The cream of the crop...your taste buds will thank you
4 burps- Good brew, but not the crème de la crème that would get 5 burps
3 burps- Okay, but “I'm not a big fan” and its got alcohol in it, so I'll drink it
2 burps- “Do you have any Bud Light instead of this?”
1 burp-   This brew sucks so bad, it make you want to run to the closest AA meeting

Sit em'/Start em'

Start em-

Maicer Izturis (Angels SS-3B)- Batiing .360 with seven doubles, 2 HR and 3 SB under his belt so far and has proven that he has power and speed...2nd in the AL with 27 hits behind Alex Gordon (28 hits)

Albert Pujols (Cardinals-1B)- On April 11, he was batting .150 (yes, that is correct and not a typo)…in the nine games since then, he has 5 multiple hit games, 6 HRs and 10 RBIs bringing his average up to .247…looks like Prince Albert is finally back to his old self…remember  that he is the only player in MLB history to hit over  .300, 30+ HRs, and 100+ RBIs per season in the first 10 years of a career.

Roy Oswalt (Phillies-SP)- Proving he would obviously be the number one ace on any other ball club as he has had 4 quality starts this season…3-0 record with an ERA of just 1.88…has gone at least 6 innings in every game he started this year, with his best outing last night against the Padres giving up only 1 hit over 6 innings and struck out 7 batters.

Sit em-
Torii Hunter (Angels-OF)- Batting only .210 this season through 19 games…does have 4 HRs on the year, but zero doubles or triples and has only stolen 1 base…rebounded with a 2 run dinger to center last night, but has still not shown the Torii of past seasons…bench him until he starts producing consistently.

James McDonald (Pirates-SP)- Started four games this season and has 2 losses and 2 no decisions…ERA is a whopping 10.13 and WHIP is 1.98…in 18 2/3 innings pitched this year, he has given up 25 hits and walked 15 batters…his last outing was horrendous as he only lasted 3 innings and gave up 8 earned runs.

Mike Stanton (Marlins-OF)- He was rated the 3rd best prospect in baseball in 2010 behind Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg…proved he was worthy of that ranking hitting 22 HRs in 100 games last year…this year, not so much, as his sophomore slump has produced only 3 RBIs, zero HRs and is battling just .194…look for other options at OF.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Random Past Game: September 17, 1989 (1st Game)

Date of Game: Sunday, September 17, 1989
Location: Veterans Stadium
Opponent: St. Louis Cardinals
Final Score: Phillies 9, Cardinals 5 (12 innings)
Winning Pitcher: Dennis Cook
Losing Pitcher: Matt Kinzer
Home Runs: John Kruk, Ozzie Smith

Phillies Starting Lineup

Lenny Dykstra, cf
Tom Herr, 2b
Randy Ready, lf
Ricky Jordan, 1b
John Kruk, rf
Dickie Thon, ss
Charlie Hayes, 3b
Tom Nieto, c
Don Carman, p

Cardinals Starting Lineup

Vince Coleman, lf
Ozzie Smith, ss
Pedro Guerrero, 1b
Tom Brunansky, rf
Terry Pendleton, 3b
Tony Pena, c
Milt Thompson, cf
Jose Oquendo, 2b
Joe Magrane, p

About This Game: The events that took place at Veterans Stadium on Sunday, September 17, 1989 have pretty much been forgotten in the annals of Philadelphia sports. The main reason for that is because about 140 miles to the south, the Eagles were rallying from a 20-point deficit to pull out a stunning 42-37 victory over the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium. The Phillies, meanwhile, had long since been playing out the string in what was another lost season. Still, with every game there's the possibility of seeing something special regardless of its significance in the standings. This is true of all sports, but especially in the 162-game grind that is the Major League Baseball season. The first game of a doubleheader between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals on this day provides such an example.

The Phillies entered the 1989 season in a bit of a conundrum. They'd finished in last place with a 66-95 record in 1988 and didn't figure to be any better in '89. Lee Thomas had taken over as general manager during the '88 season with an eye on building for the future. However, the ballclub still had one glorious link to its past in Mike Schmidt, who by this point was actually four years older than his manager, Nick Leyva. The organization didn't want to push Schmidt out the door, yet there was the growing feeling that his presence was holding the club back in a way. Instead of going forward with a youth movement, the Phillies instead patched holes with low-priced veterans in hopes of giving the franchise's all-time greatest player one last shot at going out a winner. It didn't take long to see that things weren't going to work out that way, though. On Memorial Day, May 29, the Phils had fallen to last place in the National League East with a record of 18-28. Schmidt had faded badly after a hot start and was hitting just .203 while losing considerable range at third base. Feeling as though he could no longer play up to his standards, Schmidt announced his retirement in an emotional press conference prior to that night's game against the Padres in San Diego.

While Schmidt's departure brought great sadness, it did finally allow the Phillies to clean house. Within three weeks of Michael Jack's retirement, Chris James (Padres), Steve Bedrosian (Giants), and Juan Samuel (Mets) were traded. It wasn't easy for Lee Thomas to sell these deals to the masses, as James was assumed to be Schmidt's heir apparent at third base while Bedrosian and Samuel were extremely popular players among fans. As it turned out, the Phillies got the better of all three trades. John Kruk and Randy Ready were acquired from San Diego for James. The Bedrosian deal netted Terry Mulholland, Dennis Cook, and Charlie Hayes from San Francisco while the Samuel trade brought Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell over from New York.

The new arrivals also helped to liven up what many observers felt was a dead clubhouse. Though the moves had an overall positive impact, it did not immediately translate as far as winning is concerned. By the time September 17 rolled around, the Phillies were still in last place with a 60-87 record, 23 games behind the East-leading Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals sat in second at 79-70, five games behind the eventual division champion Cubs. When the 1989 schedule was originally released, this Sunday afternoon tilt was to be the conclusion of a three-game weekend series. However, a June 21 rainout was made up as part of a doubleheader on September 15. The Phils took the opener of that twinbill, 2-0, as rookie Pat Combs twirled a four-hit shutout. St. Louis rallied for a 7-6 win in the nightcap, scoring twice in the ninth off Roger McDowell. Rain washed away Saturday's game, forcing the clubs to play a second doubleheader in three days on Sunday.

Don Carman got the start for the Phillies in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, though that wasn't supposed to be the case. More on that later. Carman had been in and out of the rotation during a miserable 1989 season, having gone 4-15 with a 5.19 ERA to that point. Getting a last-minute start, he held the Cardinals scoreless over the first two innings. The Phils got on the board in the bottom of the second when John Kruk scampered home on a wild pitch by Joe Magrane, but St. Louis responded with three in the third thanks to a sacrifice fly by Pedro Guerrero and RBI singles by Tom Brunansky and Milt Thompson. In the fourth, Ozzie Smith gave the Cards a 4-1 lead with a solo homer, one of just 28 roundtrippers hit by the Wizard during his 19-year career. Randy O'Neal replaced Carman on the mound in the fifth, and the Cardinals greeted him with another run on a Tony Pena RBI single to lead 5-1.

The Phillies would chip away in this one, though, and got to within 5-2 on a sacrifice fly by Charlie Hayes in the sixth. The deficit was cut to 5-4 in the seventh on an RBI single by Ricky Jordan and groundout RBI by Dickie Thon before Tom Herr's RBI single tied it in the eighth. The Phils had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the eighth as they loaded the bases with one out, but Dan Quisenberry got Von Hayes to pop out and Kruk to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning. It wouldn't be the last time Kruk got a chance to be the hero with the bases loaded.

The Phillies got 1-2-3 innings from Todd Frohwirth and Dennis Cook in the ninth and tenth innings. The offense would again load the bases with one out in the bottom of the tenth, but Kruk was again unable to deliver the knockout blow as he tapped into a 3-2-3 double play. St. Louis would be held without a hit in the 11th and 12th, while the Phils went down in order in their half of the 11th. Having used five pitchers and 21 players with still another game left to play that day, Cook batted for himself to lead off the 12th and singled off Matt Kinzer, advancing to third when Herr singled one out later. With two outs, Hayes walked to load the bases, which gave Kruk a third chance with the bags full. The third time proved to be the charm, as the Krukker sent a screaming opposite-field line drive just over the wall in left for a walkoff grand slam and a 9-5 Phillies victory. It was a nice comeback win for the Phils and a damaging blow for the Cardinals in their attempt to catch the Cubs atop the NL East.

The second game of the doubleheader went to the Cardinals by a score of 2-0 as Cris Carpenter (not to be confused with current Cards pitcher Chris Carpenter), Frank DiPino, and John Costello combined on a five-hit shutout. Ken Howell, who was originally scheduled to start the opener, allowed two runs in eight innings, but took a hard-luck loss in the nightcap. The reason Howell didn't start the first game was because he didn't show up on time. The Phillies decided to start the doubleheader at 12:05 P.M., but Howell was unaware of this and showed up as he would for a normal 1:35 Sunday game. By the time he got to the stadium, it was too late to warm up, so Don Carman got the ball instead.

The 1989 season would come to a close two weeks later. The Phillies ended the campaign at 67-95 and in last place for the second straight year, though they did win one more game in 1989 than they did in 1988. The Cardinals finished in third place at 86-76, seven games behind the Cubs and one game behind the second-place Mets.

Personal Recollection: I was at the Vet in our usual section 344 on the Sunday plan. Even though the Phillies were way out of it by that point of the season, I remember being excited about seeing a doubleheader. What's not to love about free baseball? Nobody who was there really thought anything of Ken Howell not starting the first game, it was just assumed the Phils decided to start him in the second game instead. Sports coverage was obviously a lot different then, and I don't think Howell not showing up on time was even reported until it appeared in the next day's papers. Can you imagine that being the case now? Like a lot of extra inning games, a lot of what happened in this one was a blur. Ozzie Smith's homer created a bit of a buzz, since he hardly ever hit home runs. As you can imagine, the crowd wasn't exactly receptive to John Kruk's first two at-bats with the bases loaded, but he won everyone over the third time.

The crazy thing about Kruk's grand slam is I almost missed it. It was a long game and as it went on, I was fighting a losing battle with my bladder. I was trying my best to hold off using the men's room until between games, but by the time the Cardinals were retired in the 12th inning, I just couldn't wait anymore. This normally wouldn't have been a big deal, but for some reason the nearest men's room was closed, so I had to use another one. By the time I got back to the concourse, Kruk was stepping to the plate. I wasn't back in my seat yet when he connected, but I did at least get to see it. I would have been pretty upset with myself if I'd missed it. I think that's the main reason why I rarely ever leave my seat during a game. To this day, it's the only walkoff grand slam I've ever seen in person. In fact, the Phillies have only hit two walkoff slams since then: Dale Murphy against the Cubs in 1991 and Kim Batiste against the Mets in 1993.

After the second game of the doubleheader, the Phillies had their Youngtimers Game. That was an exhibition game featuring the organization's minor league prospects that the Phils held for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s. I only got to see a little bit of this game since it was getting late and I had school the next day, but I do remember Jeff Jackson playing. Of course, it turned out that was the only way you could ever see him play at the Vet. Frank Thomas on the other hand...

That's my story on September 17, 1989. Do you remember this game or games? If so, feel free to share your own recollections!

Friday, April 15, 2011

JMurl's Microbrew and Fantasy Sleepers

JMurl's Microbrew of the Week

Hop Hog IPA

Brewed by: Lancaster Brewing Company/Lancaster, PA

Style: American IPA

Abv: 7.9%

Deep copper color, with a thin white head...sweet fruity malt, with a hint of citrus hops...medium bodied, with some decent carbonation...does have a little bit of a hop bite, but the malty sweetness kinda takes it away......3 out of 5 burps

Rating system:

5 burps- The cream of the crop...your taste buds will thank you
4 burps- Good brew, but not the crème de la crème that would get 5 burps
3 burps- Okay, but “I'm not a big fan” and its got alcohol in it, so I'll drink it
2 burps- “Do you have any Bud Light instead of this?”
1 burp-   This brew sucks so bad, it make you want to run to the closest AA meeting

Sit em'/Start em' (week of 4/14 through 4/21)

Start Em':
Angel Sanchez (Astros- SS)  Sanchez is off to a nice start this season, hitting .321 and scoring six runs. Clint Barmes (hand) is still a couple of weeks away from returning, so Sanchez will continue to see starts at short until Barmes is back from the DL.
Sam Fuld (Rays- OF) Fuld hit two doubles, a triple and a home run. Fuld is mainly a speed guy with five stolen bases so the power display was impressive. He's a great pickup if you need speed, provided that the other owners in your league have slept on him.

Willie Bloomquist (Diamondbacks- SS/3B/OF) Has season-long hitting streak of eight games and is one the most active free agent pickups this week in all leagues, so if you got 'em then start 'em and if you don't, then pick him ASAP!!!  Also listed at three different positions, so he is very versatile.
Sit Em':
Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals-C) Originally projected to start the majority of games behind the plate, Pudge's sluggish start (three hits in 17 at-bats) has led to Wilson Ramos a 23-year-old obtained last season when the Nats sent Matt Capps to the Twins, to be named the new primary catcher.
Justin Smoak (Mariners-1B) His .381 OBP is respectable, but Smoak's lack of power production (zero homers, four RBI) leaves much to be desired at the first base position. Cavernous Safeco Field isn't helping the matter, as the ballpark ranked second to last in runs and home runs in 2010. For the time being, employ Smoak in AL-only or deeper leagues
Delmon Young (Twins-OF)  His OBP has never been anything to write home about (career .323), but Young historically hits around .290 and delivered 112 RBI and 77 runs last season. But in the early going, Young hasn't discovered a groove, batting a pathetic .188 with just one extra-base knock. The OF position offers depth, meaning Young should find a seat on your bench until snapping out of his funk.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Past Phillie: Wendell Magee

Quick shout out to Joey Ballgame for the suggestion!

Name: Wendell Errol Magee, Jr.
Position: Outfielder
Born: August 3, 1972 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Acquired: Selected in the 12th round of the 1994 Draft
Phillies Debut: August 16, 1996
Final Phillies Game: October 1, 1999
Uniform Number: 29
Career Elsewhere: Tigers (2000-02)

About Wendell Magee: Five-tool player. It is a term that makes scouts and front offices drool. If you are not familiar with the term, there are five tools taken into consideration when a young prospect is being looked at. They are the ability to hit for average, power, speed/baserunning, fielding, and throwing. A "five-tool" player is thus one who is considered to be adept in every category. When the Major League Baseball Draft rolls around every year, many such players are selected in the early rounds. Some get selected ahead of players with better credentials based on the belief that their athleticism will allow them to develop into stars as they mature. Sure enough, these projections can be spot on and the rewards are reaped for years. But as often as we see big hits, we also see our share of swings and misses. One such miss was Wendell Magee, Jr., a physically gifted outfielder who the Phillies hoped was the heir apparent to Lenny Dykstra in center field, but could never quite figure out big league pitching enough to become an everyday player.

Cut from his high school baseball team three times, Wendell Magee finally made the squad his senior year and went on to play at Samford University, where he was also a tight end on their football team. His pro baseball journey began in 1994, when the Phillies selected him in the 12th round of that year's Draft. Magee spent the '94 season with the organization's short-season 'A' affiliate in Batavia, where he hit .279 with 12 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 63 games. That performance was good enough for Magee to be moved up to high 'A' Clearwater in 1995. He would have a breakthrough season there, tearing up Florida State League pitching to the tune of a .353 average with 24 doubles, five triples, and six home runs in 96 games. Later in the season, Magee was promoted to AA Reading, where he hit .294 in 39 games. It looked as though the Phillies had gotten themselves a steal in Magee, who returned to Reading for the start of the 1996 season and hit .293 in 71 games before moving up to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and hitting .284 with 10 homers in 44 games. At the Major League level, the Phillies were floundering through a miserable '96 campaign that had seen Lenny Dykstra go down with what turned out to be a career-ending back injury. Though Magee had rapidly risen through the farm system, the organization knew he was still raw and it would likely be at least another year before he was ready for the Major Leagues. Desperate times can often cause desperate measures, however. With their season a lost cause and without any viable alternatives, the Phillies reluctantly gave Magee the call to join the parent club on August 16, 1996.

Wendell Magee's MLB debut came on the same day as his callup, striking out as a pinch-hitter during a 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Veterans Stadium. He would get his first start the next night and also collected an RBI double for his first career hit before picking up two more hits the next day after subbing for an injured Ricky Otero. In a 3-1 win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on August 20, Magee recorded his second consecutive multi-hit game and preserved the victory with two outs in the ninth when he went over the center field wall to rob Tim Wallach of a game-tying two-run home run. It was an auspicious start to Magee's career to be sure, but it didn't take long for some growing pains to set in. Though he excelled in the field (including another leaping grab on Wallach to take away extra bases at the Vet on September 1, a game in which Magee also hit his first career homer), Magee was overmatched offensively and hit just .204 in 38 games.

In an ideal situation, Magee would've started the 1997 season getting some more seasoning back at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Lenny Dykstra's back prevented that from happening. Again lacking alternative solutions, the "Center Fielder of the Future" came north with the Phillies as the '97 campaign got underway. The results weren't pretty, as Magee was eaten alive by big league breaking balls and hit .200 in 38 games. Realizing it was doing him more harm than good to struggle with the big club like he was, the Phillies sent Magee back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 22. He would spend the remainder of the '97 season there, hitting .245 in 83 games and wasn't recalled when MLB rosters expanded in September.

By the time the Spring Training rolled around in 1998, Doug Glanville had been acquired from the Chicago Cubs to patrol center field for the Phillies. Dykstra briefly attempted a comeback that spring, but his playing days had passed him by and The Dude officially called it a career after the '98 season. Magee had gone from "Center Fielder of the Future" to organizational depth and headed back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. To his credit, Magee had a strong season in AAA, hitting .290 with 30 doubles and 20 home runs for the Red Barons. When Gregg Jefferies cleared waivers and was traded to the Anaheim Angels on August 28, Magee rejoined the Phillies and homered against the Giants at 3Com Park in his first at-bat the following day. He'd get the majority of starts in left field the rest of the way and hit .293 in 20 games. In the offseason, the Phils acquired Ron Gant from the St. Louis Cardinals to play left and Magee was again relegated to AAA in 1999. He'd hit .283 with 34 doubles and 20 home runs in 142 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in '99. That earned Magee a September callup to the parent club, where he appeared in 12 games, collecting five hits in 14 at-bats in what turned out to be his final season with the Phillies.

Magee was still a member of the Phillies organization when Spring Training began in 2000, but it had become evident by then that he was no longer in the club's plans. On March 10, 2000, Magee was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Bobby Sismondo, a lefthanded pitcher who would never make it higher than AA ball. Magee would appear in 91 games for the Tigers in 2000, hitting .274 with seven home runs. After hitting just .213 in 90 games the following season, Magee rebounded in 2002, hitting .271 with 19 doubles and six homers in a career-high 97 games, though his final campaign in Detroit was cut short in early September after having surgery to remove bone spurs in his right big toe. He would join the Cleveland Indians on a minor league deal for 2003, but late in Spring Training was traded back to the Phillies for pitcher Mark Fyhrie. Magee hit .333 in 25 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but asked for and was given his release on April 30. He would spend some time back in the Tigers organization before finishing the season in the minors for the Colorado Rockies. Magee did not make an MLB appearance in '03, which turned out to be his last year of affiliated ball. His pro career ended after spending 2004 and the early part of 2005 with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

Personal Recollection: When I first heard about Wendell Magee, it was probably sometime late in the 1995 season or early in 1996. Scott Rolen had been the crown jewel of the farm system, but Magee was slowly generating some press as well. As you can guess, the main word with Magee was "tools" and how we were looking at a potential superstar if he was given adequate time to develop. You could see right away that Magee could run, field, and throw. Hitting was another story, as it didn't seem like he could hit anything other than a fastball. The Phillies admitted they rushed Magee to the big leagues and it did hurt his offensive development. We'll never know how he would've turned out had he been given the extra year in the minors that the organization had hoped he'd get.

The catch Magee made on Tim Wallach's deep drive to save the game in Los Angeles was one of the better ones I've seen by a Phillie given the situation. Ricky Bottalico was pitching and his reaction was priceless. I believe he's even brought it up on Comcast SportsNet a few times. If anyone out there has footage of Magee's catch, please don't hesitate to pass it along. I was at the game at the Vet when Magee made a leaping grab at the wall in center to take extra bases away from Wallach late in a tie game that the Phillies went on to win. I remember thinking "if this guy can ever figure out how to hit a breaking ball..." I'm sure Wallach had some different thoughts. Magee had a few other nice plays in the field before the '96 season ended and I remember after one of them Harry Kalas remarked, "Time and time again this young man has saved the Phillies with OUT-standing defensive plays!"

When Magee was recalled late in the 1998 season, it looked as though the time back in the minors had really helped. I thought maybe he could be useful as a reserve, but I guess the organization figured he was what he was by that point and would be best served getting a fresh start elsewhere. Magee did have a couple decent years with the Tigers, but was never able to latch on anywhere else after 2003 even though he wasn't all that old.

I also remember the confusion among fans when Dan Baker would include the "Junior" part of Magee's name when introducing him. Everyone wondered who his dad played for. Wendell Magee, Sr. never played pro ball, but his son chose to honor him by having the suffix included in his name. Nice gesture.

That's my story on Wendell Magee, Jr. Feel free to share your own recollections.

From The Visitorʼs Dugout

From The Visitorʼs Dugout
By: ʻXʼ

Retired. Quit. Give Up. Cop Out. Classless. Disgrace.

     I'm sure all of these words will one day be used to describe the recent exit of one
Manny Ramirez. Last week, according to the always present ʻsourcesʼ, Ramirez was
informed of a positive test for one of a laundry list of substances which have been
banned in baseball for close to a decade. Upon being informed, he elected to end his
career rather than face the 100 game suspension which his second positive test would
have resulted in. In the past few years, a few major baseball superstars have chosen to
retire mid season. But this wasnʼt Ken Griffey Jr calling his manager hours before game
time to say he was midway on a drive home and wouldn't be available for that line-up or
any line-up. It was something even worse. It was an abrupt end to one of the strangest
careers a ballplayer has ever had. An abrupt end for one of the greatest right handed
hitters of all time.

     I remember years ago, watching Ramirez pound pitching in the middle of a
loaded Cleveland Indians team. Along with names like Belle, Baerga, Thome, and
Alomar; Ramirez was a rising superstar, a skyscraper in a skyline, in an age dominated
by hitters. Ramirez was rewarded for his astronomical numbers (165 RBIʼs in 1999) with
a gigantic contract from the Boston Red Sox. I still remember the events of that day. I
woke up from whatever beating I had put on myself the previous night and strolled out
into the kitchen. My father was reading the paper...

“Sox got that guy Ramirez.”
“Yeah... Heʼs going to put up some big numbers in that park.”
“You think?”

     He proved the old man right. Ramirez had six straight years for the Red Sox of
over 100 RBIʼs and 30 Home Runs. Along with David Ortiz, he made up (arguably) the
most feared 3-4 in baseball since the ʼ27 Yankees. Ramirez won World Series MVP
honors in the Reverse the Curse series of 2004. All the while he continued to be one of
the best Right Handed Hitters of this or any era, continually providing the Red Sox with
another notch in their long line of legendary Left Fielders.

     But the whole time there was an underlying problem beginning to bubble. There
was always the ʻunorthodoxʼ style he brought to that hallowed Left Field in Fenway. At
least once a month, Ramirez made some sort of bone-headed play which would be run
again and again on some highlight show. The clip of him cutting off Damonʼs throw a
mere 20 feet away will most likely be shot off into space with the next Voyager probe.
There was the ʻunforgivableʼ waiver move, allowing any team with money in the bank to
claim Ramirez, which no team did. And the traveling secretary incident, where Man-
Ram shoved a guy whoʼs first job was interning for Nebuchadnezzar over free tickets for
his friends.

      The climax came in with MANNYWOOD, his trade to the Dodgers. Ramirez
caught fire, leading them to the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies. He signed
another gigantic contract, but upon the opening of the 2009 season, was suspended 50
games for testing positive for a womenʼs fertility drug.

      I was floored. My favorite player, within less than a year, had been traded,
resigned, then ousted as the very thing I hated the most in Professional Baseball - a
cheat. I have chastised the Bondses, the McGwires, the Giambis. Those that took the
easy way out. Most of them were pure low ball hitters that took steroids to improve that
low ball hitting. Bonds was the hiccup until then. Bonds could cover the entire strike
zone, even beyond. The steroids simply made that coverage even more lethal. Ramirez
joined that group. Ramirez didnʼt need steroids, or whatever additive he was taking. He
was better than that. His swing was fluid, his eye nearly perfect. His game day work was
supposedly top notch, according to all sources. When his head was in the game (and
that was more often than people will ever give him credit for) there wasn't a major
leaguer active that could best him at the plate.

     That bring us to these events. A second positive test? How. How could he be so
foolish? So cocky? So arrogant? Did he think he wouldnʼt be caught?

     Ramirez has always been cocky. Heʼs always had that breath of supremacy
around him. You could see it in his plate appearances. The way the bat would explode
off his hands after he would hit a mammoth home run. The way he would grimace after
any unfavorable call. He thought he was better than almost anyone in the game. But it
looked like he was right. So that behavior went accepted, at least by a majority of
baseball. Plenty of fans chided his antics, but what could you do? The dude murdered
baseballs. End of story.

     Ramirez getting hit with this second positive test is huge. Itʼs like finding out that
KISS wrote ʻDark Side of the Moonʼ and ʻThe White Albumʼ. Itʼs like finding out that
Henry Hill is the original James Frey. Itʼs your father leading a double life and having a
daughter with some woman on the outskirts of town and buying her a pony when all you
got was a Donatello action figure, universally the least liked Ninja Turtle. Itʼs earth
shattering. It completely ruins his entire legacy. When did it start? That first full year with
the Dodgers? No way. The dude hit over .500 in that playoff stretch which was
terminated by the Phils, and close to .400 after the trade. He was most likely on an
Ultimate Warrior style regiment of steroids. Those years in Boston? Tainted without a
doubt. The legacy he and Ortiz carved out for themselves as the Butch Cassidy and The
Sundance Kid in that middle part of the last decade is now voided. The real crime of the
steroid era is perfectly illustrated in Ramirezʼs tale. It wasnʼt so bad that guys like David
Segui and Todd Pratt were using steroids. Even guys like Jason Giambi would have
been eventually forgotten by the mainstream baseball press, like a modern day Dave
Kingman. But Manny Ramirez was supposed to be different. He should have gone
down as one of the greatest hitters for one of the greatest teams in Baseball Lore. An
essential, keystone piece in a team which would be forever remembered in the hearts
and minds of Major League Baseball fans until the end of time. Instead, he will be
remembered simply as a coward. A cheat. A fraud.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Miiiiike and the First Legal Report

      Welcome to the first Official Edition of the Legal Report.  Let’s get right into it.  Not a bad first week, starting with a sweep of the Astros and a nice two out of three from the Stinking Mets to start the season out right.  The pitching so far has lived up to expectations, except for a small hiccup by Cole.  A note to those who were at the game with me on Tuesday: I understand the boos even though the amount and volume were exaggerated by the news outlets, but everyone needs to relax.  If someone can look back in September and tell me that they remember the details of the loss I’ll buy you a beer.  Chris or Jack you don’t count. 
            Phillies starters had 39 strike outs with just 6 walks.  A 6.5 K to 1BB ratio.  The relievers combined ERA is 1.80.  Pretty damn good!  Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt seem to be in midseason form with their control.  Blanton seemed good for four innings but lost it in the fifth and Cole, well it just wasn’t his night and his record against the Stinking Mets reflected in his outing (2-9 against the Stinkings).  So far the Four Aces and the Jack© are living up to the hype and expectations.  Now I realize the Astros and the even the Stinking Mets lineups don’t strike too much fear in opposing pitching staffs, but our staff did what they are supposed to do. 
            The Offense…. Oh the Offense.  They are doing what EVERYONE said they were going to do namely stink up the joint.Ryan Howard wasn’t going to get anything to hit. Blah, blah, blah…  Wait, wait sorry I stepped away from reality for a second.  Howard is tearing the cover off the ball and has two homeruns, eight RBIs, and hitting .524 so far this season.  Wilson Valdez is stepping in nicely for Chase, hitting over .400 including a four for four and four runs scored with five RBIs.  Speaking of yesterday’s game I don’t think I’ve seen so many infield hits against an above average infield of the Stinking Mets.
             The Phils are winning with small ball, who would have believed it.  These wins haven’t been squeakers either with the exception of the great comeback in game one. They are averaging seven runs a game and in their five wins they are scoring an average of 8.4 runs.
            Looking ahead to this weekend’s series the Phil’s will get a good test of the capabilities against the Braves.  The first match up will be Cliff Lee against Tim Hudson, Oswalt v. Beachy, and on Sunday Hamels will bounce back against Derek Lowe.  The Braves started ok against the Nationals but were swept against the Brew Crew.  They’re only scoring an average of three runs in their losses.   I’m looking for at least two wins and possibly a sweep if the Phils offense stays on pace.  The series will be the home opener for the Braves so they will have that in their back pocket going against the Fightin’s.  Either way it’s going to be a great early test for the Phils and I am looking forward to it.  Looking into the week, the Phils will face their old teammate what’s his name.  You know the guy with the beard.  Anyway, that guy is not looking like a guy who is worth(wait that sounds familiar, no lost it again) a huge contract with just two runs in five games.  By comparison Ben Francisco has six runs, two homeruns, and five RBIs.  I’d say Ben has been an excellent replacement.
            So, this is it for the Legal Report and don’t forget send in your favorite drinks and libations so we can all share in the wonderful drunkenness.  And that’s my Legal Opinion.