Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

My Birthday!  

Guess what I got for my Birthday?!?!


My fiancee must love me!

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Friday, April 16, 2004

Survey of Baseball ... 

Red Sox - Yankees resumes this weekend. Go Sox!

I don't think there was ever a greater rivalry in sports than this one. Lakers-Celtics, Auburn-Alabama, USC - Notre Dame, Penn State-Pitt, Raiders-Chiefs, Cubs-Cardinals, Canadiens-Maple Leafs, Dodgers-Giants, Bears-Packers ... all pale beside Red Sox - Yankees. It is a rivalry that transcends time, place and quality of the teams.

What in the heck is going on with Seattle? I figured that they had lost a step vis-à-vis Anaheim and Oakland, but I don't think anyone expected them to struggle this much. It looks like their pitching staff is getting torched.

Great to see a team like Detroit get off to such a nice start. Hard to not like a team that has statutes of Tigers all over their ballpark:

Is anyone ever going to beat Florida again? These guys seriously scare me: they pitch well, play good defense, don't really depend on a superstar, they get clutch hits, and they own the Phillies. These guys are good.

That's it for this week! Tomorrow is my birthday, so I ain't blogging. See you guys Monday!

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Rust Belt Reborn? 

Peter Gammons thinks that the Pirates, and other Central division bottom-feeders, are poised to start doing some damage soon. Sure will make games at PNC more enjoyable.

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Two Things... 

Jayson Stark and an ESPN panel think the Phils 1-6 start is a fluke. They point to a few flaws that the team has, and I think two are important:

-Bowa: his inability to calm down and relax in stressful situations means that the team tenses up and doesn’t play loose, and when things are bad, things get even worse. When (and if) the Phils make the playoffs, Bowa is going to have to calm-down and relax and let the guys play it out. (In contrast, come playoff time Joe Torre looks like he's falling asleep.)

Will he do that?

-The lack of a lead-off man is hurting the Phils by not setting the table for Burrell, Thome and Abreu. I think we all know Jimmy Rollins isn't the answer.

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

2-6 is a heckuva lot better than 1-7... 

Today was a nice game! The Phillies really put together a nice string of hits: they kept getting on base in the eighth and giving the big bats a shot at hitting them home. Too bad we couldn't capitalize on that bases loaded situation at the bottom of the eighth.

Other impressions:

-The bullpen did a great job after Padilla left: just two hits and a walk over four innings of work.

-Ironically, Byrd hit better in the No. 7 slot than as No. 1.

Good day. Let's see if this is the start of something.

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The Agony (and Ecstasy) of Being a Phillies Phan 

I think a small forest was killed publishing pseudo-literary books by Red Sox fans concerning the pain and agony of Red Sox Nation: the horror of not winning a World Series since 1918, the Ruth trade and Yankees rivalry, the 1949 pennant race, Game Six of the 1975 World Series, Bill Buckner in the ’86 World Series, etc. Fenway Park has been immortalized by fans and sports writers as holy ground, the cathedral where the faithful come to pray, hoping for salvation for the Red Sox organization's soul from the original sin of trading Babe Ruth. Cubs fans, similarly, complain of the deck of history being stacked against them, though their complaints are not nearly as supported by dramatic trauma as Sox fans. (The Cubs failures in the 2003 NLCS, the 1984 NLCS and 1969 NL East pennant race are not nearly as dramatic as the Red Sox losing four seven-game series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.) (Okay, you lost a bunch of World Series in the 1930s ... trauma!)

What about the agony of being a Phillies fan? As I watch the team swoon to 1-6 and read the panicky comments from the rank-and-file fans in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I'm struck by the fact that there isn't more of a recognition that the Phillies have bad karma too:

The Phillies have won exactly one World Series (1980). The Cubs have won two (1907 & 1908), the Red Sox won four (1912, 1915, 1916 & 1918). What are you guys complaining about?

Okay, the Red Sox have had some spectacular failures in the playoffs, but so have the Phillies:
-What Phillies fan can forget Joe Carter's blast in Game Six of the '93 World Series?
-The Phillies three straight losses in the NLCS? (1976, 1977 & 1978.)
-And the '64 pennant race: they lost ten games in a row! (After defeating the Dodgers 3-2 on September 20, 1964, to run their record to 90-60, the Philles proceeded to drop three games to the Reds, four games to the Milwaukee Braves and three to the St. Louis Cardinals. They finished at 92-70, a game behind the Cardinals.)
-And what about last year's swoon against the Marlins?

Lots of pain, lots of heartache, lots of disappointment in Philly.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Shallow Center might be onto something... 

Survey of other blogs: Shallow Center the other day posited that the Phillies are playing to get Bowa fired. Paranoid? Not necessarily. It seems to Shallow Center that Bowa's problem is that he rides players because that's his temperment: that's fine with a young team, struggling to figure out the game, but a team of veterans like Thome, Abreu and Burrell just tune that sort of stuff out: they've put in their time, figured things out. They can set their own schedules and perform their own gut-checks. Hearing Bowa nag them makes them apathetic.

(I'm reminded from the book October, 1964, about how Mauch's riding the team caused the Phillies to implode and lose ten straight games down the stretch.)

Good argument: read Shallow Center.

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See you guys tomorrow... FYI, I added a bio page near the bottom. I'll expand that when I get a chance.

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Remember the Eagles! 

Todd Zolecki of the Inquirer picked up the Eagles theme today. The article made a good point: Thome and Abreu snapped out of their slumps last year starting around this time. Thome always starts slow.

Well, hopefully Padilla will have some success today. We are already five games behind Florida ... and we've only played seven!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

My Favorite Baseball Books! 

One of my favorite baseball books is Wait 'Til Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin is a prominent historian and author of a very good book about FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt called No Ordinary Time. People who watched Ken Burns Baseball series on PBS back in 1994 probably remember Goodwin from the later "innings" talking about the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s and the Red Sox in the 1960s.

Goodwin's book is a memoir about her days growing up in a Long Island suburb rooting for the Dodgers. It is a good book, full of nostalgia for a bygone era: the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn was a shock to baseball fans everywhere and in New York in particular. Fans today reading it can empathize with the pain Goodwin felt when Bobby Thomson hit that home run in the '51 Dodgers-Giants playoff game. (I'm thinking back to Joe Carter's home run in the sixth game of the '93 World Series. Ugh!) Goodwin's prose is very readable. (I was a history major in college, and I've found that serious historians often write in droning, lecturing tones that alienate readers. David McCullough's work, especially his book Truman , is a notable exception.) (A little off subject, but if anyone didn't catch the History Channel's recent series about the Barbarians I recommend it highly.) This is not a serious historical deconstruction of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950's. This is a person's memories about growing up with baseball.

One of my favorite baseball books.

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Blog Post-Mortem... 

I loved Shallow Center's take on the opening of Citizens being akin to Christmas morning.

Terrific writing, as always!

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Citizens Opening Post-Mortem... 

Media reaction to Citizens Opening: I think most fans agree with the Inquirer's Bob Ford: the Phillies were terrible, the locale was beautiful. Reading the Inquirer's coverage it seems to be a common refrain: Larry Eichel & Nathan Gorenstein agree. ESPN's Jayson Stark chimes in with ... pretty much the same theme. CNNSI's Paul Donovan, meanwhile, celebrates the end of the "cookie-cutter" stadium.

I'm surprised that more people aren't drawing parallels to the opening of the Linc: the Eagles lost their first two games there and still went 12-4. Opening 1-6 and losing the first game at Citizens is disappointing, but most teams open their new stadiums with losses. It is hardly time to press the panic button ...

... yet.

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Monday, April 12, 2004

Lucky Dogs… 

Anyone get to go to the game today? I’m curious about what everyone thought of Citizens.

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1-6 ...  

It is frustrating, watching the CBS Sportsline screen and keep seeing the same things come back "ground out to second", "flied out to center", etc come up for the Phillies. The heck is going on? The Reds pitching isn't that good is it? Not like Beckett. The Philles just aren’t showing any signs of consistency in hitting: Thome, who was off to a slow start, got two hits, but the rest of the team managed just four more. Abreu hits a home run, but the rest of the order just flailed wildly at Wilson’s pitches. Ledee and Polanco looked to get something going, and then Thome and Abreu come up empty. It is like this cool weather has frozen their bats. Last year the Phillies were hurt by the fact that Burrell and Bell were in deep, deep slumps which the supporting cast couldn’t break them out of. Now, it looks like the supporting cast is hopelessly out of it. No timely hits like the Marlins last year, no consistency ... This year started out with a lot of promise, but it is threatening to spin out of control...

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A New Day Dawns!  

Citizens gets its first official game at 1:05 today.

Is Citizen's a hitters or pitchers Park? Mike Lieberthal seems to think of it as a hitters park except to center. Overall, it is going to depend on the weather. (Expect a pitchers duel today, which I think should favor Wolf & the Phils.)

The Inquirer's Phil Sheridan likes Citizens, but loathes the location. Bill Lyon is eager to make new memories there.

The Reds: I watched the Reds-Pirates game yesterday at my future inlaws: the Reds sure do have a lot of power: a few of Griffey's warning track flyouts were well hit balls. The Reds have a lot of power in their lineup, but they are a very feast-or-famine team because they rely so much on the long ball to produce runs: all four of Dunn's RBI's, for example, came off of his own home runs.

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I made some adjustments today.  

I broke down the links to make them a little easier to navigate. If anyone has any suggestions about format, I'm all ears.

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Sunday, April 11, 2004

X Factor!  

With the opening of Citizens Bank Ballpark tomorrow, it seems like a good time to look at the Phillies X Factor for 2004:

As I said in a recent post, the opening of Citizens Bank is the Phillies X Factor for 2004. What effect will Citizens have on the Phillies chances? As they are 1-5, going into today's game, let's hope a good one!

Let’s look at the addition of revenue as a factor: Some teams have had success using the move to a new facility as a spring-board to success: the small-market Cleveland Indians used Jacobs Field to dominate the AL Central in a mini-dynasty (1995-1999; 2001 division titles), and George W. Bush used the taxpayer-funded Ballpark at Arlington to put together several good Texas Rangers teams in the late 1990s. (Notice that since Bush divested his ownership of the team, they’ve fallen on hard times because stadium revenue has fallen off.) The revenue a team gains when a new ballpark opens helps the team lure players to play for them: the confluence helps build teams like the Indians into contenders by enabling them to have the funds necessary to keep their stars. Notice that when the Indians fell on hard times of late (revenues from Jacobs Field have been declining, thus the team has had to tighten their belts and deal with stars), the team has forced itself to go into rebuilding mode. Small market teams like the Indians can parlay their new digs into an invitation to play with the big boys, but eventually they will have to pay the piper.

Or, at least that was the model: more recently the Pittsburgh Pirates moved into PNC Park and went 62-100 in 2001. And they haven’t done much better than that, and in fact seem to be perpetually fated to stay as bottom-dwellers. The Milwaukee Brewers, via the Wisconsin taxpayers, built Miller Park, the stadium that Bud Selig told the voters the team needed to compete, and promptly went 68-94 in 2001, 56-106 in 2002, and 68-94 again in 2003. Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati hasn’t exactly helped the Reds into world-beaters: 69-93, fifth place in 2003. The bottom line is that to benefit from a move into a new stadium a team must have a certain talent level at the time of the move to enable them to springboard into contention. The Indians had emerging talent in their farm system in 1990s. Otherwise, the addition of a new stadium just means ever-diminishing contributions to a team’s bottom-line.

What does Citizens mean for the Phils offense and defense? This the Vet shifted to the synthetic grass stuff the transition to natural grass shouldn’t be so dramatic. It should help the Phillies in terms of avoiding injuries, however.

Dimensions-wise, Citizens and the Vet are fairly similar. Citizens: 401 feet to center, 369 feet to the power alleys. The Vet: 408 feet to center, 375 feet (if I remember) to the power alleys. The problem teams found with developing pitchers in Playstation-type 13-11 slugfests at Enron (excuse me, Minute Maid Field) has finally convinced teams of the fallacy of building home-run-friendly ballparks. (I give tremendous credit to Comerica Park in Detroit not only for its use of the team's mascot in the design of the stadium, but for its spacious, pitcher-friendly contours.) Citizens won’t tip the balance to pitchers, but it isn’t a true hitters park either.

When ballparks are done well they are joys to behold. PNC Park, here in my current home of Pittsburgh, is spectacular:
(Me at PNC Park: April 19, 2002, Phillies – Pirates. The Pirates won 7-4.) While the Pirates have been awful, the ballpark itself has been a hit with Pittsburghers. It is such a nice place to watch baseball that Jim Caple of ESPN’s Page 2 recognized it as the best MLB park, better even than San Francisco’s Pac Bell Park. (Which I had assumed to be the gold standard in baseball.)

I have seen baseball games in three MLB stadiums: the Vet, Three Rivers, and PNC. People often bashed the Vet, but I found that it had more charm, thanks to the fans, than Three Rivers. Both were ugly concrete bowls, but the loud, angry irritation of the fans were what made the Vet tolerable. Perhaps it is because of the years of losing has effectively killed fan enthusiasm here in Pittsburgh, but Three Rivers often felt like an ugly tomb. In contrast, though, PNC Park is the best ballpark I’ve been to: the designers (ROK of Kansas City, I think) did an outstanding job of playing to the city of Pittsburgh’s strengths: the rivers, the skyline, etc. Whenever people come to Pittsburgh for the first time and they first see the downtown skyline (whether driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnels on Rt. 279 from the airport or after you clear the Squirrel Hill Tunnels on Rt. 376) they are awed by it. (Me? Not so much anymore, but then I actually live near downtown Pittsburgh. I see USX, PPG Place, and the Grant Building every day. I’m used to them.) The designers made a no-brainer decision by opening up the skyline, but the overall effect is nice. Just a few sundays ago I was at PNC attending a non-baseball / sport event and I stepped out onto the upper deck and marveled at the sight: beautiful spring day with a cloud in the sky, the lush green of the grass below, the thousands of pristine blue seats, the beautiful view of the city’s major office buildings …

It is difficult to not love PNC Park.

Citizens looks nice. Quite comparable to PNC in many respects:

Citizens Bank Ballpark.

PNC Park.

Both feature a magnificent view of their cities:
Citizens Bank.

PNC Park is a terrific place. Many Pittsburghers denigrate the team for their poor play and management for their incompetence, but few dislike PNC Park. Architecturally, it is a pleasant and clean place:
PNC Park.

I’ve gone to several games at PNC and (aside from the fact that you get drenched when it rains because of the lack of cover) I’ve enjoyed every one. It is very relaxing to sit in the outfield and survey the boat traffic on the Allegheny River, the silent majesty of the city office buildings like PPG Place and USX Tower, the blue sky and white clouds. I’m sure that people in Philadelphia will love Citizens. I hope to get there soon myself, although 2005 is more likely.


Enjoy Citizen’s, Philadelphia!

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And it gets worse... 

...We're 1-5 now and in desperate need of a win, and quick. I know it is the beginning of the season, but it is extremely disturbing how the marlins swept the Phils. The Marlins pitching this weekend seemed overpowering: the Phillies were helpless to deal with it. The Braves may not be a threat this year, but the Phils don't want to get themselves into a pennant race with the Marlins.

What's up with Bobby Abreu? Two hits in 22 at-bats? Not good. I guess it is nice to see David Bell hitting the ball instead of the bench, but the Phils talent level doesn't seem to match up with the play on the field.

Worried? Now is not the time to panic. Remember what happened to the Eagles last season. Remember what happened to the '01 A's: they started 2-10, and wound up 102-60. (It helps that they went 25-4 over the last month of the season.) The first six games ain't nothing. Call me if we aren't at .500 at the end of the month.

Let's just look forward to Citizens debut tomorrow.

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So we're 1-4... 

Ugh. That was just plain ugly. We need to start winning some games here. What's really disturbing, to me, is that the Marlins continue to own us.

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