Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eagles, Giants Preview

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

The Eagles kick off the day, night New York doubleheader tomorrow afternoon against the Giants at 1 PM. Although the game does not carry the same import as the evening contest, the two football rivals are vying for the early lead in the NFC East. It is the second of 3 consecutive division games, and will likely be the hardest hitting.


With the Giants having lost two in a row, and still smarting from last year's playoff exit at the hands of the Eagles in their own yard, they will surely be looking to make a statement tomorrow. The Eagles have been a little bit bi-polar this season, which makes it difficult to project which version will show tomorrow. They have had some large margin wins, an improbable upset loss to the Raiders, a resounding loss to the high powered Saints and last week's "enough to win" performance in Washington.


The teams come into the game with some recent strengths and weaknesses going head to head against one another. The Giants boast a huge pass rush, while the Eagles have been struggling to protect Donovan McNabb. Conversely, the Eagles have been effective hitting on some long strikes, while the Giants secondary has been torched. Each could exploit the other in a big way, possibly accentuating more of an all or nothing type game when the Birds have the ball.


On the flip side of the ball, Eli Manning has been great against lesser competition, but has been erratic when under pressure. The Eagles also had success against him last year by keeping a strong pass rush in his face all day long. The Giants have a pair of talented running backs, so it is likely they will try to neutralize the Eagles rush and keep the heat off Manning by handing the ball off a good portion of the day.


With the offensive line a little healthier, the Eagles should be able to buy enough time for McNabb to get the ball down field. Brian Westbrook will most likely sit out after suffering a concussion last week, so LeSean McCoy will be heavily tested as a runner and blocker. Look for the Eagles to use Leonard Weaver in that role, and then hit him on screen plays coming out of the backfield. Overall, McNabb will likely throw a lot of screens to his running backs and Jeremy Maclin, use Brent Celek in the middle of the field and then try to exploit the Giants suspect secondary with a couple long strikes to DeSean Jackson and Maclin.


The addition of linebacker Will Witherspoon will greatly aid the Eagles ability to contain the Giants running game. His quickness also helps with putting pressure on Manning. Sean McDermott will take a page from last year's playoff game by putting the heat on Manning and challenging him to make deep throws to the outside part of the field, where his arm strength can sometimes be exposed.


I expect the Eagles to continue the lack of offensive consistency that we have seen, but still be able to hit on some big plays. On defense, they should be able to force some turnovers. At the end of the day, I expect to see the Eagles to feed off the electric atmosphere in Philly and move ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.


Eagles 23

Giants 20


Philly in a New York State of Mind


Everywhere you go, everywhere you look this weekend, the Philadelphia area is in a "New York State of Mind." The Yankees arrived in town yesterday to resume what could prove to be an epic World Series battle with games the next three nights. And, as if that weren't enough to consume the minds of Philly sports fans, the Giants visit the Linc tomorrow afternoon to square off against the Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.


Tomorrow could prove to be one of the greatest days in the history of Philadelphia sports with the day/night, football/baseball twin bill to be played in side-by-side venues. Some lucky fans will find themselves starting their day wearing midnight green attire, then making a short trek across the parking lot to finish their day in Phillies red at the Bank. Although it makes for a special day regardless of the respective outcome of the games, it goes without saying that a couple of wins by the Eagles and Phillies would forever etch November 1, 2009 as a special day in the annals of Philadelphia historians.


While x's and o's and balls and strikes are in the fore front of everyone's mind as the two Gotham City sports teams come to town, there is another overarching story line that hovers in the background. Simply put, as Philadelphia sports fans, these are the best of times. These are times to cherish, a truly remarkable sports era for any city, but particularly this city. In many ways, it could be almost unimaginable to fans who have suffered through the many disappointments and lean years that have almost conditioned them to expect the worst.


The current Phillies team has been instrumental in creating a powerful mind shift throughout the fan base with its body of work over the past few years. Good things really can happen for our beloved teams- and it not too treacherous to actually believe that they will. Expecting failure is no longer a necessary tactic to ease the pain of disappointment, the agony of defeat.


First, it was fighting through long odds with great play down the stretch to snatch the National League Eastern Division away from the arch rival Mets two consecutive years. It was a reversal of fortune- the anti-1964. Then, it was last year's magical run to a World Championship after a 25 year drought. And now, an even better Phillies team is poised to make another strong stand to repeat that feat against the most storied team in baseball history.


Of course, Philly sports fans still await a similar breakthrough for their neighbors in black, silver and green residing a few hundred yards away. The team has enjoyed a decade of winning and getting close, but has not been able to pull off the city's first Super Bowl Championship that fans so desperately covet.


Owner Jeffrey Lurie and Coach Andy Reid have brought a philosophy, know how and mentality to the team that has created a contending team, year in and year out. To the chagrin of fans and the team itself, though, they have not been able to cross that final threshold. Five times in ten years they have reached the NFC Championship Game, but have only moved on to the Super Bowl once and have never been able to grasp the Lombardi Trophy.


It would surely be great to see the Eagles take that huge step to garner Philadelphia's first Super Bowl title. And, here they are again with a collection of talent that gives them a legitimate shot this season, but the task remains daunting. Even if this year the Eagles end the season like 30 other teams with a loss or watching rivals participate in the post season, isn't it great to be in a position to anticipate and even contemplate the possibility of a championship?


Some might say "no" thinking the disappointment is worse, but I would have to think Lions or Browns fans might passionately try to convince them otherwise. As an English poet said a couple centuries ago, its "better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Surely, poetry and football don't often mix, but maybe just this once it works as an analogy?


Back in the new millennium, a couple of big wins by Philly teams tomorrow sure would be nice. And, wouldn't it be poetic justice if they came against two teams from the biggest revenue market just to the north that holds itself in higher regard than the fine city in its shadow?


NFL Power Rankings-Top 15....Week 7

Indianapolis Colts v Tennesse Titans

While the Vikings undefeated season came to an end against the Steelers, the Saints came from 3 touchdowns behind to win going away and avoid their first loss. The Colts are continuing to make it look easy against the "have nots" with a 42-6 blowout. After a bye week, the Broncos return to action and will be tested by a rested Ravens team that needs a win. In a week of lopsided scores, the Bengals, Patriots and Jets all won by large margins.


The Cowboys and Eagles both took advantage of the Giants second straight loss, moving within 1/2 game of first place in the NFC East. With their win in New York, the Cards are looking more like last year's playoff team, especially now that Beanie Wells is getting untracked. The Falcons defense let down in Dallas, and now the team has to face the powerhouse Saints in New Orleans.


Look for the top 2 ranked teams to remain undefeated, but the next 2 teams to fall. The Saints and Colts are the clear best teams in their respective conferences at this point, Their top challengers over the balance of the season will be the Vikings and Eagles in the NFC, and the Broncos and Patriots in the AFC.



  1. Saints (6-0)-Huge comeback in Miami has team thinking big
  2. Colts (6-0)-42-6 win in St. Louis looks routine
  3. Broncos (6-0)- Ravens on the road will be next test
  4. Vikings (6-1)-Steelers bring Vikes back to earth
  5. Patriots (5-2)-Squeak by Bucs by 28 points
  6. Bengals (5-2)- Crushing win against Bears has them talking playoffs
  7. Steelers (5-2)-Starting to look more like last year's team
  8. Giants (5-2)-Have yet to prove themselves against good teams
  9. Eagles (4-2)-Offensive personality transformed into home run threat
  10. Cowboys(4-2)-Erasing doubts, feeling better after convincing win
  11. Falcons (4-2)- Young team still learning against tougher foes
  12. Cardinals (4-2)-Improved rushing attack with Wells, D looking good
  13. Packers (4-2)-Take care of business vs Browns with Favre ahead
  14. Ravens (3-3)-Licked wounds, rested for 6-0 Broncos
  15. Jets (4-3)- Back on track with blow out win in Oakland

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bombers Burnett Bests Pedro

Astros-Phillies

Game 2 of the World Series felt a lot like Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. With Pedro Martinez again on the hill, the Phillies took an early 1-0 lead, but could not do anything more offensively to support a good pitching performance, and ultimately let the game slip away. In both games, the Phillies seemed to lack the same urgency and determination exhibited in other post season games after having already snatched home field advantage.

Last night, Pedro returned to the city that has been such a big part of his career. First, he was a loathed player on the Yankees arch rival and later pitched for the "other" New York team with a less hallowed history. Of course, the new Yankee Stadium was filled with fans of the Bronx Bombers, not the Mets team across town, so the sentiments aligned with the former scenario. "Who's your daddy?" chants rained through the stadium, along with other derisive calls and gestures, as fans recalled their team's history with Pedro.

Martinez was up to the challenge, effectively shutting out the distraction and shutting down the powerful Yankees line-up for most of the night. Unfortunately, AJ Burnett, his pitching counterpart, was even sharper, limiting the Phillies to one run over 7 very strong innings before handing things over to the post season's most prolific closer to finish it off.

The Phillies used a two out Raul Ibanez double and a single to left by DH Matt Stairs to take a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning. Alex Rodriquez whiffed on Stairs ground ball, a play that could have easily been ruled an error, and the raucous crowd drew quiet as they had the previous night.

Mark Teixeira evened things up leading off the bottom half of the 4th when he jumped on a Martinez change-up and drove it over the center field fence. Otherwise, both pitchers held their opponents in check, until Hideki Matsui golfed a curve ball just over the short right field fence with two outs in the 6th. The home run gave the Yankees their first lead of the World Series and riled the spirits of their fans.

After Burnett mowed down the Phillies again in the 7th, Martinez returned for the bottom half of the inning despite having already thrown 99 pitches. The Yankees put together 3 straight singles to extend the lead to 3-1, the second of which ended Martinez's night. Chan Ho Park struck out Derek Jeter and then Johnny Damon hit a liner to Ryan Howard off Scott Eyre. The ball was ruled an out and Howard touched a runner to record an inning ending double play; however, replays appeared to show the ball being trapped.

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi called upon Rivera to start the 8th to close the game out. After a quick out, Jimmy Rollins worked a walk and Shane Victorino singled. Rivera went 3-0 on Utley, but came back to induce an inning ending ground ball double play; however, once again, replays showed that Utley beat the throw to first.
Ibanez doubled with two outs in the 9th to keep the Phillies hopes alive, before Rivera sent Stairs down swinging to end the game.

Cliff Lee played a role in the game as he unintentionally served as inspiration for Burnett. Lee's post game comments the night before resonated with Burnett, who elected to take a similar approach and turned in arguably his best career performance. He limited the Phils to 4 hits and a pair of walks, while striking out 9.

Despite having a little less velocity and movement on his fastball, Pedro battled hard by mixing pitches and nibbling on the corners. His change-up was particularly sharp, which effectively made his fastball quicker and had the Yankees swinging at air throughout the evening. In six innings of work, he recorded 8 strikeouts, half of which came against Jeter and A-Rod.

Trailing 1-0 at home, the game was arguably more important to the Yankees. It surely may have had more to do with superb pitching by their opponents, but the aura of the Phillies was that they were playing a game that would be nice to win. By no means was there any nonchalance; however, they did not seem to possess the same high level of intensity that typically accompanies them in the post season. Perhaps this was a reflection of a strategy to wait out Burnett faltering on his own as he has been prone to do, but that never materialized last night.

The teams are now in Philly, preparing for a match-up of lefties with a history of post season success. With CC Sabathia likely waiting in the wings to pitch Game 4, the Phillies are looking to Cole Hamels to channel some of his 2008 post season magic after struggling in his first two playoff outings. Veteran Andy Pettitte opposes him and is currently pitching very well. Although teams typically try to use lefties to neutralize the Phillies left-handed sluggers, Pettitte has actually been more effective against right-handed hitters.

There will be no shortage of adrenaline this weekend. As always, the Citizen's Bank Park crowd will provide an added boost for the Phillies, particularly with the marquee team from Gotham City in the opposing dugout.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pair of Pros Lead Phils By Example

ROCKIES -- PHILLIES

Cliff Lee and Chase Utley played starring roles in the opening game of the 2009 World Series. This talented duo combined to set the tone for the night, and possibly the series, as they served notice that the only way to the World Champion moniker is through their team. They are the reigning title holders and it is going to take a remarkable effort to wrest it away.


In a city known for drama and theatre, it seems entirely fitting that these two would assert their considerable talents and will to lead the Phillies to a convincing victory on the biggest stage of their careers. Their performances and resulting win was like a double venti serving of Starbucks espresso for a crowd that was almost giddy in anticipation of their beloved team's next accomplishment.


Neither Lee or Utley are unnerved by the tension or distracted by the moment. They both share common traits in the way they go about their business, serving as models and leaders through words and action. They tirelessly prepare for the occasion, so when the television cameras go on, they are unencumbered to do anything other than proceed with the expectation of success.


One player is on the field everyday and the other crosses the white lines every fifth, but both bring the same intense professional precision to the roles they play. Success and winning is the end game, and both demonstrate unwavering concentration and maximum effort in reaching that destination.


Phillies fans and observers around baseball have witnessed and admired Utley's winning attitude and highly professional approach for several years. He is rightfully known as a "gamer", doing whatever it takes to win. If that means taking 26 balls in the ribs to get on base, making opposing hurlers run up their pitch count, running the bases with meticulous abandon, taking out a fielder with a hard slide or any other legitimate mean to give his team the edge, you can count on Utley to do it.


Game One NLDS - Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies

He is a marvelously talented, five tool player, stationed at a position that more typically leans toward defense. Utley's considerable physical abilities, especially coming from a second baseman, make him invaluable and a key element of his team's success, but the intangibles he brings are of equal importance. The mental toughness and great team chemistry that has fueled the Phillies accomplishments over the past few years, clearly trace back to Utley. This is not to say that players such as Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are not equally important leaders, but although they have many similarities, they also bring a little something different to the equation.


From the first time that Lee took the mound after Ruben Amaro pulled off the tremendous coup of landing him at the trade deadline, it quickly became apparent that the team had added more than last year's AL Cy Young winner. Besides being better than most realized, Lee also brought the same professional, highly driven demeanor that was resident in the team's second baseman. He sprinted to and from the mound, and while he was there, he was all business.


When baseball people talk about a pitcher attacking the strike zone, they are referencing Lee. He works fast, with a laser-like focus on the task at hand. He throws four quality pitches and lives on the edge of the zone, but is not a nibbler. With surgical precision he throws strikes and, at his best, keeps hitters befuddled from start to finish as they never know what's coming or where.


Both Chase Utley and Cliff Lee are "throwbacks." In an age of exploding media coverage and monetary rewards, each is driven by the purest of motives- do whatever it takes to help his team win. Last night we saw remarkable performances from two great players. Who better than them to demonstrate, no matter how talented the opponent or bright the spot light, that the Phillies are tremendously intent on repeating as World Series Champions.

Cliff Lee and Utley Make the Yankees BeLeeve

Game Four-NLDS-Colorado Rockies Host Philadelphia Phillies

Heading into the World Series, most baseball pundits (and other various media types) predicted a very competitive series, likely going 6 or 7 games, but very few gave the Phillies a chance to win. Most showed respect for the defending champions, but figured the Yankees to be too much of a powerhouse for the Phillies to prevail. Cliff Lee and Chase Utley may have grabbed the attention of the Yankees and the media by leading their team to a 6-1 series opening victory, and possibly made both believe (or should we say "beLeeve") that they have what it takes to win.


Last night's pitching match-up pitted best friends, former teammates and respective aces against each other. The experts' assessment and expectations of the match-up mirrored their overall assessment, with most seeing CC Sabathia as having the edge. Instead, it was Cliff Lee who put on a masterful pitching clinic, while new teammate Utley chased Sabathia with two solo shots into the misty October air. As Phillies fans quickly learned this summer, Lee should not be under-estimated as he has the ability to dominate his opponents with surgical precision.


The tone of last night's game was set early, and Lee maintained control from start to finish. In the first inning, although the Phillies did not score, they loaded the bases and made Sabathia work hard to escape trouble. Conversely, in the bottom half, Lee quickly dispensed the Yankees, striking out home town heroes Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira along the way.


In the 3rd inning, Utley jolted Sabathia, who appeared to be settling in, with his first home run of the night. He lifted a fastball a couple rows into the right field bleachers. He struck again in the 6th inning, this time launching a bomb deep into the right-center stands. Other than those two hits, both pitchers were cruising, setting down batter after batter, with one difference. Lee was pounding the strike zone, while his counterpart was forced to rack up a high pitch count.


Yankees Manager Joe Girardi opted to go to his bullpen to pitch the 8th with Sabathia having already thrown 113 pitches, and the Phillies took advantage by tacking on runs. Three walks and Raul Ibanez's 2-run single increased their lead to 4-0 in the 8th. They rallied again in the 9th inning, using singles by Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, along with doubles by Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard to plate a couple more runs.


Despite having a commanding 6-0 lead, Charlie Manuel sent Lee back out for a chance to complete the shut out. Jeter blooped a hit to center and Johnny Damon lined another hit to right. Teixeira bounced a ball up the middle that Utley grabbed, flipped to Rollins for a force, but the ensuing throw went into the dugout, allowing Jeter to score. Lee then shut the door by striking out Alex Rodriquez and Jorge Podada to end the game.


If not for the throwing error, Lee would have gotten credit for a complete game shut out. Despite the minor blemish of an unearned run, Lee pitched a true masterpiece, dominating the highest scoring team in the majors from start to finish. He ended with 10 strikeouts, while not walking a batter, a feat that had not been accomplished in a World Series for over 100 years. Overall, it was a pitching performance of historic proportions.


His outing last night represented a continuation of what Lee has done the entire post season, with each performance being elevated a little bit higher as the stakes increase. He is now 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA over 33.1 innings in 4 starts. Similar to his body of work when he first joined the team, the numbers are startling, but the way he does it is even more so. He keeps batters off balance with an ever changing array of pitches, up and down, in and out. He wears a leather glove on his right hand, but it must seem like an artist's palette to Lee as he executes the master strokes of a genius.


MLB 2008 - NLCS Game4 - Phillies Beat Dodgers 7-5

Meanwhile, Utley asserted himself as a team leader and one of the premier players in the game with his opening performance on the big, New York World Series stage. While others understandably struggled against one of the best pitchers in the majors, Utley single-handedly staked his team to a lead in a prodigious manner, seemingly putting the Yankees back on their heels while making a clear statement about his team's capabilities.


As the Phillies players were quick to remind everyone, this is only one game, but they were able to serve notice that they have a pretty special team and are not defending champions by accident. Sabathia and his Yankees mates will have more opportunities to make their own statements, but the opening salvo was fired by a Phillies team that just may be a bit under-appreciated by the national media. The Phillies are good...really, really good...and maybe the baseball world took a large step forward in recognizing that they will be very, very difficult to beat.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Phillies, Yankees 2009 World Series Preview

NLCS

The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies both followed similar paths this season. On May 14th, both teams stood at .500, but then played according to expectations over the balance of the season to win their divisions by comfortable margins.


The Yankees exploded, playing at a .672 clip on their way to the best record in baseball. Their final regular season win total of 103, the marquee names on their roster and the weight of the New York media has many convinced that they will end the Phillies reign as World Champions. It is hard to argue against the talent or the success that they have had this season, but the Phillies will have something to say about the outcome.


The Bronx Bombers have returned, as the Yankees are a team built on power and housed in a park built for home runs. They lead major league baseball in home runs with 244 and runs scored. The team boasts a line-up with all nine players having hit double digit home runs, including seven with 20 or more. The fact that they hit 56% of them at home provides evidence that the numbers are a little inflated by their home park. The Yankees also led baseball with a .362 OBP, while ending 2nd in hitting at .283.


These are surely impressive offensive credentials, but they also played defense and pitched pretty well, too. The team ended 4th in the American League both in fielding and pitching with a 4.26 ERA. The off season additions of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira at a 2009 cost of $58 million surely helped in all regards.


Despite the impressive resume, and two playoff series victories, the Yankees have not yet faced a team like the Phillies. The National League Champions are also built on power and led their league in home runs and runs as well. The numbers are comparable when adjusting for the DH inflation in American League stats, and contrary to popular perception, they hit 116 of their 224 home runs on the road, which might suggest they don't play in a "band box", whatever that is.


The Phillies also can pitch and field. They placed 8th in the majors in pitching with a 4.16 ERA and second in fielding having committed only 76 errors. The team also possesses its own cadre of big names, including 2 recent MVPs, 2 CY Young Winners and 5 NL All-Stars in 2009.


Lets take a closer look at how they compare for the World Series:


Starting Pitching


The Phillies have more depth than the Yankees, who plan to counter that by handing the ball to 19-game winner Sabathia to start 3 games, if necessary. Their other two starters will be Burnett and Andy Pettite. Game 1 will be a match-up of former Indians teammates and the last two AL CY Young winners, Sabathia and Cliff Lee. In a mild surprise, Pedro gets the call for Game 2 against Burnett with Cole Hamels pitching Saturday back the Bank. Charlie Manuel may choose to risk bringing Lee back on 3 days rest, but if not, he has solid options in J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton. With both line-ups loaded with heavy artillery, pitching duels are not that likely, especially in Yankee Stadium, but look for the Phillies hurlers to turn in the better performances.


Relief Pitching


The Yankees have the ultimate playoff weapon in closer Mariano Rivera, who continues to add to his major league record 37 post season saves, obtained on the strength of a 0.77 ERA. Besides Phil Hughes, the Yankees bullpen is a little bit of an adventure, so they need to have their starters go deep into games. Much has been made of the Phillies bullpen struggles all season long, but they are functioning their best on the big stage of the post season. Brad Lidge has seemingly re-gained his confidence and his form that was instrumental in last year's run. Getting Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers back from injury, along with Happ and Blanton standing by, the Phillies have great depth, and besides Rivera, have a significantly better group.


Offense


As already covered, both line-ups are the best in each respective league. They rely on long ball power, but the Phillies have superior team speed. Look for Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez to break out in the World Series despite facing a steady diet of left-handers, finding the short porch in Yankee Stadium to their liking. Howard has evolved from slugger into all around hitter, with the ability to be clutch. Jayson Werth should have a big offensive performance as he typically wears out left-handers. And, Shane Victorino has hit extremely well against Sabathia, including his memorable NLDS grand slam a year ago. Rollins is the "X" factor for the Phils.


The Yankees have been riding the red hot Alex Rodriquez, who has shaken off his previous dismal post season performances in the black pinstripes. Mark Teixeira started to get untracked at the end of the ALCS and has historically hit well against the Phillies, so expect him to do some damage. Derek Jeter will continue to be steady, but the rest of the line-up has not contributed a great deal in the post season.


Defense


Rodriquez and Teixeira are very strong on the corners. Jeter and Robinson Cano are steady up the middle, but the former does not have great range. The Phillies outfield is superior and the Yankees outfielders weak throwing ability should be exploited. Utley and Rollins form the best duo up the middle, and Feliz has performed well at third. Overall, the Phillies have the best defense in baseball.


Prediction


Although the Yankees have 26 World Series titles, this Phillies team has more post season experience than their opponent. Last year's experience, as well as their tremendous mental toughness and confidence will be the difference. Look for the Phillies indomitable spirit to show through as they do what other's couldn't and beat Rivera. Also, look for J Roll to be fueled by the big stage and attention from his pre-series prediction as he leads the Phillies to a second consecutive World Championship.


Phillies 4

Yankees 3


Two Best Teams are a Contrast in Organizational Philosophy


Weather permitting, the Phillies take their final step towards defending their World Series Championship tonight in New York. The Fall Classic begins in the Big Apple, appropriately bringing the two best teams in baseball together to compete for the 2009 title. It pits the most celebrated team in baseball history from the "Capital of the World" against the team with the most losses in baseball history from the city forever in its shadow.


Although some of the New York media seems to want to assert their city's and team's superiority, the outcome of this series will not be determined by population, cultural differences, affluence, stature of architecture or franchise history. This is baseball, here and now. The current Phillies team can do nothing about the organizational struggles in years past throughout its 100-year plus existence, but surely can do something about asserting itself as the best team in baseball this year...and perhaps this era.


Both teams share similarity in that they each have a marvelous collection of talent, but the teams were built in different ways. The Yankees have used their big market status and revenues to annually acquire the biggest names and the next tier of players on the free agent market. Currently its CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texiera, Andy Pettite, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, AJ Burnett...the list goes on. Conversely, the Phillies have primarily built around a nucleus of home grown talent, complemented by some shrewd acquisitions of "diamonds in the rough" and a couple finishing pieces.


Historically, the Yankees have been able to far exceed the competition in payroll and usually are the first team mentioned whenever top free agents seeking big payouts go on the market. They are major league baseball's "Show Me the Money" team- the "Best Team Money Can Buy." The Yankees are a collection of rentals and some old favorites melded together by the common bond of US currency.


To be fair, they do have have a few pieces cultivated within their organization. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada are products of their own drafts, amateur free agent signings and farm system. Make no mistake, though, the heart of their line-up and their starting pitchers were all wooed to the Yankee pinstripes by the highest bid.


In the opposing dugout is a team on a mission to repeat, melded through the proverbial climb together and an undeniable team chemistry. They are talented, driven and successful. And, contrary to perception that the qualities can not be mutually exclusive, they are also personable, team oriented and humble. The players and manager of this Phillies team are both champions and highly likable.


The foundation of this remarkable team and current period of success is built around players that they drafted and cultivated in their farm system. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are some of the top players in baseball that are also the clear leaders of the team. Last year's post season hero, Cole Hamels, anchors the pitching staff along with mid-year acquisition Cliff Lee, throwing to home spun Carlos Ruiz behind the plate. Other key players such as Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth were bargain basement signings abandoned by other teams who realized their potential in a Phillies uniform. And, to complete the puzzle, the team signed some value free agents such as Raul Ibanez and a couple of Pedro's.


Enthusiastic capacity crowds virtually every night in a superior venue, a winning attitude and a great team culture make for a highly attractive environment. Players want to be a part of it, and stay a part of it. The future is bright. The allure of the atmosphere is surely a key element to ensure that it stays that way. And, the team continues to develop talent from within that they are readying to step in when the time comes.


Yankees vs. Red Sox

Conversely, the team to the north in Gotham City offers the Yankees mystique, fame and fortune as its primary allures. The largest market and revenue base by a long shot, along with ownership demanding success and a willingness to buy it, also goes a long way towards ensuring ongoing prosperity. When current players run their course, the holes can be plugged with the next available high priced free agents.


When the two teams face off against each other tonight in the 2009 World Series, the best teams that the National League and American League have to offer will be represented. And, two vastly different organizational philosophies will be on display as well. The Phillies players look to stake their claim in baseball history by being the first National League team to repeat as champions in 33 years, while the organization looks for validation that it did it the right way.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm just saying....New Site Features


At i'm just saying, philly we continue to look for ways to improve your experience when you visit. Here are a few recently added features:


PDF Creator

Located on the right side bar between New to the Site and Things We're Tracking sections is a new widget that allows you to easily convert blog posts into PDF format to print or save. Simply enter your email address and you will receive a PDF file within seconds.


The Phillies 2009 World Series Run

Recognizing that the Phillies quest to repeat as World Champions is front and center right now, we have added a section near the top of the right side bar that provides easy access to posts covering the 2009 post season. Simply click on the links to catch up on any previous posts or re-live the magic!


Headline Animator

This widget, located at the top of the right side bar, allows you to easily track the most recent i'm just saying, philly posts by adding it to your social media web pages , mail home pages and more. The Headline Animator will alternately display the 5 most recent post headlines so you can be sure to stay up-to-date.


Game Day Weather

Located at the bottom of the side bar, simply enter in the host city of the desired game to see an up-to-the-minute weather forecast.


Phillies, Eagles Scoreboards

You can always track the latest Phillies and Eagles scores and news on the scoreboards located on the side bar.


New to the Site?

Because we have many new readers visiting our site daily, we have added this section to provide a sampling of the types of commentary, opinion and information to expect. We are committed to providing insightful, thought provoking perspectives that are fair, yet realistic- with a touch of humor along the way.


Add the Headline Animator, RSS feed or a bookmark today to visit us daily for fresh coverage of the teams and players that are a big part of your daily lives!


Eagles Use Big Plays to Sink the Sherman's

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

The Eagles must be spending some time watching their brothers in red pinstripes across the street. They hit a few home runs early to build a lead and hung on to win, bouncing back from last week's disappointing loss. Meanwhile, the Redskins new Sherman Brothers offensive scheme proved to be more of the same, laden with turnovers and unfortunate plays.


DeSean Jackson and recently acquired Will Witherspoon were the stars, scoring touchdowns on big plays to stake the Eagles to a 27-7 first half advantage. Jackson got things started on the first series, by taking the ball on an end around and racing past Redskins defenders for a 67-yard touchdown. Witherspoon added to that lead at the end of the quarter when he slid under a tipped pass and shot into the end zone from 9 yards out.


The new Eagles linebacker was at it again on the 3rd play of the Redskins ensuing series, sacking Jason Campbell and forcing him to fumble. Quinton Mikell recovered at the Redskins 36, but after a 3 and out, the Eagles settled for a David Akers 47-yard field goal to make it 17-0.


Campbell and Rock Cartright led Washington to get on the board. The Redskins got great field position when Cartright returned the kickoff 42 yards and Macho Harris was penalized an additional 15 yards for an illegal block. The team quickly drove 45 yards, with Cartright contributing an 11-yard run and Campbell going 4-4, including a 2-yard scoring pass to Devin Thomas.


The Eagles tacked on a field goal after another Redskins fumble to make it 20-7. Immediately after the 2-minute warning, Donovan McNabb found a wide open Jackson deep down the left sideline on a 3rd and 22 play, who bounded into the end zone for a 57-yard scoring play. The Skins mounted a short drive that resulted in a field goal at the end of the first half.


Both teams took turns sputtering on offense in the second half, trading punts back and forth. Campbell strung together some good passes late in the game, tossing his second TD of the contest with 1:38 left on the clock to close out the scoring at 27-17.


Although the Eagles won, Brian Westbrook was knocked out at the end of the first quarter when he took a knee to the head, and left the game with a concussion. With two important division games against the Giants and Cowboys coming up, his absence would be a big blow. Additionally, Jackson sprained a foot on his scoring reception, but it is anticipated that he will play next week.


If Jim Zorn were a fan, his sideline view and having access to listen into the play calls would have been exciting. Unfortunately, Zorn is still the head coach, and seemed to be struggling to figure out what to do and how to act. He looked on helplessly as the Sherman's led the offense to a number of turnovers, penalties and ineffective plays. Apparently that was the intent of the Redskins executives, perhaps so he could experience what they have in watching the struggling team.


Overall, the Eagles used Jackson's explosiveness and the defense's attacking style to hit a few home runs, but were not able to put together any consistency or sustained drives. The team's offensive personality has definitely shifted to reflect the big play abilities of young receivers Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, so this might be expected, but in order to fulfill the team's Super Bowl expectations, they will also need to be able to develop more consistency on offense. Losing Westbrook, who looked spry and elusive early on, would certainly make that objective more difficult as back-up LeSean McCoy has not demonstrated the same explosiveness or ability to turn 3 yards into 5 or 6.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins

A win is a win, especially in hostile territory against a team that has had their number of late. Also, the Redskins do have a solid defense, so lets credit the team more for the long scoring strikes as opposed to bemoaning their lack of offensive continuity. Washington is a team that has been embarrassed by their play and the actions of their front office, so the bright lights of Monday night and extra adrenaline to save face served as additional motivators. And, the Redskins defense has been impacted less as their coaches have been afforded the opportunity to still call the shots.


The win allowed the Eagles to keep pace with the Cowboys at 4-2, and move to within 1/2 game of the Giants, who dropped to 5-2 with their loss yesterday to the Cardinals. Sunday has the potential to be a red letter day in Philadelphia with the Big Apple teams visiting the Linc and the Bank for an afternoon, evening football, baseball doubleheader with huge import. Needless to say, successful days by the Eagles and Phillies could make for one of the most memorable days in Philadelphia sports history. Although a few early long balls might be enough to propel each team to victory, both would prefer to sustain their offensive attacks throughout the game.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eagles Seek Return to Form After Lost Week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Philadelphia Eagles

Tonight is an opportunity for the Eagles to begin putting last week's painful loss in Oakland behind them. To add insult to injury, the New York Jets visited the Raiders yesterday and left contrails all over the field on the way to a 38-0 whipping- a game so easy that the Jets QB snacked on a hot dog during the game. The lopsided game helped to reinforce that the previous week was more about the Eagles futility and less about the Raiders resurgence.


Besides using the memory of last week's game as motivation to play to their potential going forward, the best thing the team can do is chalk up the big upset loss as a poor performance that sometimes happens to good teams and get back on track with a strong showing in Washington tonight. Similar to the Raiders, the Redskins have had a less than satisfying season thus far, so much so that the front office made the decision to give Coach Jim Zorn's play calling responsibilities to a consultant.


Sherman Lewis, the consultant, will relay plays from the press box to another Sherman (Smith) on the sideline, while Coach Zorn gets to observe. It is not clear whether this is to enhance Zorn's enjoyment of the game, help him learn how it is done or allow him to send in two tight ends for a quarterback sneak, but it would seem to make for a dysfunctional situation. Additionally, starting quarterback Jason Campbell was benched at half-time last week, but will be back under center, at least for awhile. There is no word on who makes that call. To the Eagles credit, players have reminded themselves to not be duped into thinking that the game will be easy.


The reality is that the Eagles have struggled against the Redskins in recent years, including a pair of losses last season. The latter had looked to be a big blow as the Eagles gave up controlling their playoff destiny in Week 16, and ultimately needed an unlikely combination of events to get into the playoffs. So, regardless of who is calling plays for them, the Redskins will probably present a stiff challenge this evening.


Andy Reid hopes to get his offense untracked tonight after failing to score a touchdown against the Raiders. Last week's main culprits were poor protection for McNabb and a highly unbalanced offensive approach. Considering that the Redskins have a strong defensive line that will keep pressure on McNabb, fortunately, Jason Peters and guard Todd Herremans should be back in the line-up after returning from injuries. Handing the ball off more to Brian Westbrook, and perhaps LeSean McCoy would also help to keep the heat off and potentially open up the passing game.


Look for McNabb to regain his rhythm and spread the ball around to DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin and his two running backs. Westbrook should get more carries than he has gotten since returning from injury, but the Eagles will still stay with a heavy dose of passing.


On the defensive side of the ball, Sean McDermott will likely use a great deal of stunting and blitzing, recognizing that the Redskins offensive play calling consultant may need to shake off the cobwebs. Conversely, the Redskins will have a clear element of surprise tonight, so it will be important for the Eagles defense to not get locked into what they saw in film study leading up to the game. Campbell will either have a chip on his shoulder and be determined to prove his place as the starter, or he will be looking over his shoulder and indecisive. The Eagles will quickly put that to the test with pressure early on.


This will be a tough NFC East battle. The fact that the Eagles have the better team, along with the extra motivation from last week's embarrassing loss and the Cardinals victory over the Giants last night, should allow them to emerge victorious. Securing a win tonight is particularly important with the Giants and Cowboys coming into town over the next two weeks.


Prediction


Eagles 24

Redskins 17


Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Deserving Accolades for Phils

Phillies vs. Rockies

The Sporting News published its annual Baseball Awards issue this week covering the 2009 regular season. A few Phillies players were recognized according to a vote taken from players, managers and front office executives.


J.A. Happ was recognized as the National League's Rookie of the Year based on his 12-4 record and 2.93 ERA. Some notable players that he topped included the Brave's Tommy Hansen, the Marlin's Chris Coghlan and the Pirate's tandem of Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones.


Although he was attempting to praise him, comments by a former Phillies scout who now works for the Orioles was quoted saying that Happ was able to do this despite throwing mostly in the 86-88 mph range. This may be why this particular scout is no longer with the Phillies as he must have been watching Jay Happ rather than J.A. I agree with his comments about Happ having good location, arm slot, composure, etc, but the guy I watched all season was consistently in the low 90's and hit 94 when needing to reach back.


In addition to Happ, both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth were included on TSN's year-end NL All-Star Team. The former is not a surprise since Utley is widely recognized as not only the best second basemen in baseball, but also one of the top players, period. TSN sited Utley for stealing 23 bases after off season hip surgery and his fourth consecutive 100 run season. Chase finished the regular season with a .282 Batting Average, 31 HR's, 93 RBI's and a .397 On Base Percentage.


Werth built upon last year's break out season as he became an everyday player after platooning for a good portion of 2008. They sited his 36 home runs, 98 runs, 99 RBI's and .879 OPS. It was pleasing to see Werth be recognized by his peers and leaders around the league. In Philadelphia, we have been able to track his emergence as a star and see his five tool capabilities up close, but with a cast of all-star teammates, his contributions can fly under the radar a bit.


Albert Pujols was recognized as both the NL All-Star first basemen and the NL Player of the Year having hit .327 with 47 home runs and 135 RBI's. It is hard to argue with this selection, but it tends to occlude a great season by the Phillies Ryan Howard. Pujols did most of his damage in the first half of the season, banging out 2/3 of his home runs before the All-Star break. Howard's power numbers were balanced, but hit .305 after the break to end at .279, 45 home runs and a major league leading 141 RBI. Howard has averaged 50 HR's and 143 RBI's over his first four full seasons.


The Phillies have an impressive array of talent as evidenced by their entire outfield, Howard and Utley all being selected to the 2009 NL All-Star team. And, a notable omission from that group is Jimmy Rollins, who won the NL MVP award in 2007 and is still in the prime of his career. The team also boasts other recent All-Stars in Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.


None of this is breaking news, but it is great to see that perceptions around the league are matching up to what Philadelphia sports fans already know. It is no accident that the Phillies are heading back to their second consecutive World Series with the goal of defending their 2008 championship. Most would agree, the talent is there to do it.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

NFL Power Rankings-Top 15....Week 6

New York Giants v New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints made a strong statement to the rest of the NFC with their crushing victory over the New York Giants, who many believed to be the team to beat. The Colts look to continue where they left off after having a bye week to heal. The Vikings remain undefeated, but have been fortunate to win 2 of the last 3 games. A last second touchdown heave and a missed field goal have them feeling like a team of destiny. The Denver Broncos continue to exceed expectations by running their record to 6-0, making Josh McDaniels look like a genius.


The Patriots love to kick teams when they are down, especially in the snow. A 59-0 drubbing of the Titans has people convinced Tom Brady is officially back from knee surgery. A fortuitous schedule has the Steelers keeping pace, but they will be severely tested by the Vikings this week. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and company might not win division, but will be strong playoff contenders. The Pack may be back, and must avoid looking past the Browns to their home rematch against Favre.


  1. Saints (5-0)-Emphatic win over Giants makes statement to NFC
  2. Colts (5-0)-Healed over bye week, look to crush Rams
  3. Vikings (6-0)-Runaway win turns into a nail biter as Ravens FG misses
  4. Broncos (6-0)- What is their magic number in the AFC West?
  5. Giants (5-1)-Saints prove to me a far cry from previous opponents
  6. Patriots (4-2)-Snow in NE perfect for running up the score
  7. Falcons (4-1)- Well rounded offense, good defense = playoff contender
  8. Bengals (4-2)- Set back by surprising loss to Texans at home
  9. Steelers (4-2)-Beating weak teams, need to step up against Vikings
  10. Eagles (3-2)-Guilty of taking Raiders too lightly
  11. Ravens (3-3)-Battled back against Vikings and lose a heartbreaker
  12. Packers (3-2)-Offense clicking, one Favre prayer from 4-1
  13. 49ers (3-2)- Tough game in Houston with confidence down
  14. Bears (3-2)-Nothing to be ashamed of loss in Atlanta
  15. Cowboys(3-2)-Want to prove themselves with win vs good Falcons team

Phillies Considering World Series Roster Options


Similar to the previous two playoff series, teams have an opportunity to reset their rosters for the World Series. The Phillies brass is surely mulling over their options right now, but probably will not make final decisions until their opponent is determined. The Yankees, of course, are still favored considering their 3-2 ALCS lead and the final two games in the friendly confines of their new stadium.

Cliff Lee will get the ball for Game 1 on Wednesday. Charlie Manuel would prefer to bring him back again on normal rest, but if the Phillies fall behind in the series, it is possible that he would choose to bring him back on Sunday with only 3 days rest. Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels will get the call for Games 2 and 3, but the order is undetermined at this point. Since it is a difficult decision anyway, the determining factor could be that Hamels is a much better hitter, so Manuel could DH for Martinez in Game 2.

As he had in previous series, Manuel will keep his options open and likely will not name the Game 4 starter until Saturday. J.A. Happ pitched well in his start against the Yankees earlier this year, and could get the call if that is their opponent and they go with a 4-man rotation. Happ gives up less long balls than Blanton, which is a big part of the Yankees offense. If Antonio Bastardo is left off the roster, though, Happ would give the Phillies a second lefty in the pen to go with Scott Eyre.

There appears to be some sentiment to consider adding Brett Myers to the World Series roster. Ruben Amaro indicated yesterday that Myers looked a lot sharper in a recent simulated game. This will depend upon whether the team opts for 12 pitchers over keeping Eric Bruntlett or whether it makes sense to keep Bastardo as an additional lefty in the pen.

My guess is that they will add Myers to the roster since he has big game, pressure experience. I also believe they will keep Bruntlett to maintain more flexibility, especially since they can use Happ as a situational lefty for a batter or two regardless of whether he starts. Games 6 and 7 would likely be an "all hands on deck" scenario anyway.

Here is how I would project things for Game 1. If they face a right-handed starter, Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs could DH with Ibanez back in left.

Line-up  9

  1. Rollins-SS
  2. Victorino-CF
  3. Utley-2B
  4. Howard-1B
  5. Werth- RF
  6. Ibanez-DH
  7. Francisco-LF
  8. Feliz-3B
  9. Ruiz-C

Rotation  4
  1. Lee
  2. Martinez
  3. Hamels
  4. Happ

Bench   5
  1. Stairs
  2. Dobbs
  3. Bako
  4. Cairo
  5. Bruntlett

Bullpen  7
  1. Lidge
  2. Madson
  3. Park
  4. Eyre
  5. Blanton
  6. Durbin
  7. Myers

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Just Saying......


A weekly collection of random thoughts and observations for you to consider.



  • "Manny" takes a shower during the dramatic 9th inning Phillies rally in Game 4 of the NLCS, yet the TBS and ESPN commentators continue to be apologists for him. Its just more evidence that Manny is about Manny. When questioned about it, Joe Torre said he has been doing it all year and it was only getting attention because it is the NLCS. Does that make it right and isn't the whole season riding on those games?
  • After the Phillies clinched the NLCS, Torre said that the Dodgers "weren't the best team this week." I can appreciate supporting your guys, but Joe, I have news for you....you wouldn't be the best team next week or the week after or the week after that. Maybe its time to acknowledge that the Phillies are better...period?
  • Every time that I see players like Alex Rodriguez and Manny make big contributions in the playoffs, I wonder how much of the success is attributable to modern science? And, its hard to feel admiration when the announcers marvel over their supreme capabilities.
  • Wasn't Sherman Lewis, the Redskins new "Offensive Play Caller in the Press Box Consultant", the guy on "The Jeffersons?"
  • With all the controversy over bad calls in the Major League Baseball playoffs, perhaps they could give umpires iPhones with streaming video so they could take a peak at pitch tracker or see replays showing two guys standing off of 3rd base or a ball landing a couple feet fair?
  • Speaking of umpiring mistakes, it seems that an inordinate number of the blown calls have benefited the Yankees. I'm just saying....
  • It seems that in order for Cole Hamels to get back on track, he is going to need to mix in his curve ball a lot more because his other pitches are both very straight. Speaking of which, did James Loney bait him into throwing the curve by praising the pitch and then sitting on it for a home run?
  • The whole Oakland Raiders coaching controversy reminds me of a Monty Python skit. So, apparently Tom "Piranha" Cable has no idea how the coffee table got nailed to his ex-assistant's head. And, the witnesses, who are still currently employed by Cable and the Raiders, say that their ex-associate must have accidently fallen on the coffee table.
  • Certain Fantasy Football team owners are rejoicing now that Tom Brady has his "running up the score groove thing" back. Five TD passes in one quarter projects to 320 TD's over a full season. And, Brady doesn't have to worry about an angry defense retaliating now that the NFL has given him his own yellow hanky to throw when he gets bumped.

Redskins Making Me Worry

Donovan McNabb and the Eagles sacked by the Raiders in Oakland, California

The more I hear about the Washington Redskins and examine their season thus far, the more I get worried about Monday night's game. This, of course, is fueled by last Sunday's totally improbable loss to the Oakland Raiders, a futile team in seemingly total disarray. The Redskins have some similarities, but have also played close games every week, albeit against some bad teams.


The Redskins take a 2-4 record into the game, having eked out wins against the Rams and Bucs at home. They lost their other home game against the Chiefs, as well as their three road games. Except for the Giants, all their opponents have losing records and are a combined 1-23 against the rest of the league.


Despite playing such a soft schedule, the most points they have scored is 17. Averaging a meager 13 points per game, only a handful of teams have performed worse. In an unprecedented move, the team announced yesterday that they are going to have a consultant in the press box take over the play calling duties from their current coach.


Perhaps they preferred torturing Jim Zorn rather than simply cutting him loose? Sounds a little dysfunctional, somewhat like the Oakland Raiders. At least detectives and law enforcement officers are not involved, but it is not your typical, sure fire way to jump start an NFL offense. Zorn did say that he gets a chance to walk around and listen in to the play calls.


Are you getting scared, yet? Similar to last week, all conventional reasoning and odds would seem to favor the Eagles this week. A team in turmoil, with a futile offense taking on another team that is supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Unfortunately, things did not work out as most everyone would have expected against the Raiders. Could the Eagles experience deja vu?


Here is the argument that the Birds could be similarly challenged this week:


  • The Redskins are 2-1 at home and the game is in Washington.
  • It is a Monday night football game, which provides extra motivation as players know their peers are likely looking in.
  • The Redskins swept them last season, including a 10-3 win in Week 16 when the Eagles needed a victory to control their playoff destiny.
  • Washington has been in every game this season.
  • The Eagles offensive line is hurting and surrendered 6 sacks last week.
  • The Redskins have a strong pass defense and have a defensive line that can put pressure on the QB.
  • Donovan McNabb and his offense were out of synch all day, partially due to the line as well as the play calling.
  • The Redskins are ranked 5th in the NFL in points allowed, so they are capable of making things difficult for the Birds again this week.
  • The Eagles have a hole at middle linebacker after losing their starter and back-up for the season. The Raiders were able to exploit Jeremiah Trotter's lack of speed last week and just acquired Will Witherspoon will still be learning his abc's.
  • Although they have not scored many points, the Skins do have some playmakers in Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.



You can see, despite outward appearances to the contrary, there is ample reason for Eagles fans to be concerned about Monday's game. This is especially true if the Eagles themselves take the game too lightly and do not properly prepare. The team would be wise to ignore the Redskins record and all the stuff about their new "offensive play caller in the press box consultant." Instead, they should remind themselves that this opponent swept them last season, and that they could only muster 3 points in a "must win" game at the end of December.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Howard Wins Playoffs MVP, But Stars Abound

NLCS

At the completion of last night's game and NLCS series, Ryan Howard was deservedly named MVP of the National League Playoffs. His performance was an extension of his 2009 stretch run play that has also made him a regular season MVP candidate. Howard was a consistent force throughout the playoffs and surely a worthy choice, but several other teammates played starring roles as well.


In 9 games, Howard hit .355 with 2 home runs and 14 RBI, tying a Major League Baseball record with RBI in 8 consecutive games. The streak came to end last evening, when the Dodgers hurlers were determined not to let him wreak further havoc, as they pitched around him throughout the game. Howard posted a .462 On Base Percentage and a .742 Slugging Percentage. He also provided some very timely hits, including a last strike game tying double in the NLDS clincher.


He surely had help, though. Carlos Ruiz continued his stellar post season play by hitting .346 with 7 RBI. If it seemed like Chooch was on base every time you looked, it was because he was 50% of the time. He contributed a big 3-run homer in Game 1 of the NLCS that got the team on the board and seemed to launch them in the series.


Shane Victorino had another big game last night, drilling his 3rd home run of the post season and missing a 4th by inches. Overall, he hit .362, scored 8 runs, drove in 7 and was often the catalyst for the Phillies offense. And, as usual, he played stellar defense, covering wide expanses in the outfield.


Last night's hero was Jayson Werth, who put on a power display last evening and throughout the post season. He cracked two long home runs, including a 3-run shot in the first inning that grabbed momentum for the team in red. Over the course of the playoffs, Werth clubbed 5 homers and narrowly missed a couple others, registering an .813 Slugging Percentage.


Cliff Lee dialed up the early Phillies version of himself, and contributed 3 strong pitching performances in as many starts. If not for some quirky plays and a late comeback by the Rockies, he would have added one more win to his 2-0 record. He posted a 0.74 ERA and has been the clear ace that the team needs for another run at a World Championship. Lee saved his best for last, totally dominating the Dodgers on Sunday night in the Phillies 11-0 win.


Possibly the biggest story of the post season has been the return to form of Brad Lidge. The bullpen was the Phillies one concern heading into the post season, which had baseball pundits doubting that the team could defend. That has all changed now as Lidge has found his pitching rhythm and mojo. He did not yield a run in the playoffs, saved 3 games and earned the win in Monday's come from behind thriller.


Speaking of Game 4, how could we exclude Jimmy Rollins from any discussion about starring roles? J Roll provided the biggest hit of the season and one of the most clutch hits in the history of the organization when he ripped a 2-run, game winning double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th to turn defeat into victory. What appeared was going to be a 2-2 series deadlock suddenly became a 3-1 series lead and crushed the Dodgers' spirits. He surely made other contributions during the post season, but this will forever stand out in his career and team history.


Although he was only given one opportunity, Pedro Martinez made the most of it. Pedro shut down the Dodgers in Game 2, holding them scoreless while limiting them to 2 hits and no walks. The Dodgers eventually came back to win that game against Phils relievers, but prior to that, he dazzled them by mixing an assortment of pitches.


Some other noteworthy performances include Chad Durbin and Chase Utley. Durbin did not yield a hit or run in 4 innings of work, and shut down the opponents in some big moments. The bar is set high for Utley by his own stellar track record, so there is sometimes a tendency to expect other worldly performances from him. That has not been the case, but he has been very solid at the plate, batting .303 with a .439 On Base Percentage.


Whether its the Yankees or Angels, their World Series opponents can easily lose sleep thinking about the depth and breadth of talent on the Phillies. Any night, as they have proven throughout the post season so far, any or all of these players can make life miserable for their opponents. It could be any or all of those players who have played a starring role thus far, or it could be another player such as Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, Pedro Feliz, J.A. Happ or others. It will be fun to watch, unless of course, you are rooting for the American League entrant.