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.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Focus on the Bench / Pinch-Hitting 

I had complained at the beginning of the season that the Phillies bench, previously a strength on the team, had virtually transformed over-night into a major weakness. Gone was Todd Pratt, the tough-nosed backup catcher. Gone was Jason Michaels, the dependable reserve outfielder who hit well and played all three outfield positions well. Gone was Tomas Perez, the backup infielder. Gone (midway through 2005) was Placido Polanco, the former starting second baseman who was a good glove and reliable bat off the bench.

To replace them Pat Gillick assembled Sal Fasano, Alex Gonzalez, Abraham Nunez, and David Dellucci and Shane Victorino. In my eyes, it is impossible to see how this group is anything but a downgrade.

Let’s start with a typical task of a bench player: pinch-hitting. Pinch-hitting is very difficult and the Phillies aren’t doing a particularly good job at it. In fact, the Phillies pinch-hitters are arguably the worst in the National League. The Phillies pinch-hitters hit .169 (23 of 136 At-Bats), which is dead-last in the NL. They were fifteenth in RBIs with just ten (two better than sixteenth-place Colorado), and dead-last in slugging percentage:

12. Mets: .317
13. Astros: .298
14. Rockies: .295
15. D-Backs: .286
16. Phillies: .274

The Phillies have primarily used three players as pinch-hitters: Nunez, Victorino and Dellicci. (Gonzalez has retired.) Dellucci has done well:

.268 BA, 11-for-41, with four doubles, two triples, a home run and eight RBIs. Dellucci’s slugging percentage as a pinch-hitter has been impressive: .537

Can’t say the same for Nunez and Victorino:

Nunez: .094 BA, .094 slugging percentage, 3-for-32 with no extra-base hits and one RBI.

Victorino: .231 BA, .231 slugging percentage, 6-for-26 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs.

This is clearly a phase of the game that the Phillies are really finding difficult. In all fairness to Pat Gillick, I should note that the Phillies weren’t that much better at pinch-hitting in 2005: .233 BA, with a .304 slugging percentage. Still, this seems like a team that has downgraded.

Specifically when it comes to playing positions in the field the bench looks lighter than it has in the past. Last week I talked in length about Nunez’s inabilities vis-à-vis David Bell, a player some have argued should replace Bell at third. I won’t rehash those discussions, but I think I showed that would be a lousy idea on the grounds that Nunez is a light-hitting utility infielder who would be a major downgrade from Bell offensively … mind you that Bell is a substandard hitter to begin with. Again, in all fairness to Gillick, I should note that Nunez isn’t that much of a downgrade compared to the light-hitting Perez, who had a .199 GPA last year, compared to Nunez’s .245. Nunez had a career year for the Cards and is probably the same player that Perez was. The point that I am making is that Nunez is no better than Perez, and Perez wasn’t much of a hitter to start. This is a position that the Phillies did not upgrade.

What about Victorino and Dellucci replacing Jason Michaels as the Phillies reserve outfielder?

I must admit that David Dellucci is having a decent season … okay, better than decent: .307 GPA, .278 ISO, with six home runs and seventeen RBIs in 100+ At-Bats. Michaels was an OBP machine (.399 OBP in 2005) without much power: .111 ISO in 2005. Dellucci is having a good season for the Phils off the bench.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.

Victorino was picked up by the Phillies in 2004, so he wasn’t one of Gillick’s acquisitions. He has played extensively, and rather well, aside from his pinch-hitting:.259 GPA, .155 ISO … solid numbers … Defensively, Dellucci and Victorino seem to be capable gloves, at least comparable to Michaels.

With Mike Lieberthal returning to catching duties Sal Fasano returns to the role of backup catcher. Sal Fasano vs. Todd Pratt isn’t much of a fight. Fasano is a nightmare at the plate: .224 GPA, .143 ISO … Pratt may not have been much of a slugger (.394 slugging percentage in 2005), but he was a consistent bat. In his final season with the Phillies he posted a respectable .248 GPA. Fasano has been a terrible presence in the Phillies lineup. I hope Gillick casts him off quickly in the off-season.

Chris Coste, the 33-year-old rookie, is an interesting player, and has played alright in sparring duty. Coste has hit .242 GPA, with a .045 ISO. Coste has had some luck getting on base, but he’s displayed little power at the plate, with two doubles in fourteen hits and no home runs. Coste’s lack of power is a major hindrance at the plate. He has a nice biographical story, but he doesn’t add much to the Phillies roster.

In the final analysis, the Phillies bench is marginally worse off now that it was in 2005. What was a decent bench has become one of the worst in the NL. Bottom-line is that the Phillies are having real problems getting hits in pinch-hitting situations (makes you think that the Phillies might be better off batting their pitchers) and their bench has some real dregs on it (namely, Fasano and Nunez). True, the Phillies have a few bats, but they are few and far between. This team needs to upgrade the bench next year and add some depth to a thin unit.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Focus on RISP … 

As I noted in my post on the State of the Phillies on Monday, the Phillies haven’t been creating many opportunities and they haven’t been capitalizing on them either. The team OBP is thirteenth in the National League, a far cry from the recent past, where the Phillies have been one of the top four teams in that category. So the Phillies haven’t been creating opportunities to score by getting runners on base. Conversely, when the Phillies do get runners in position to score they are maddeningly inefficient at getting them home. In fact, the Phillies are the worst team in the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position (BA/RISP).

11. Mets: .259
12. Brewers: .259
13. Nationals: .253
14. Reds: .247
15. Cubs: .242
16. Phillies: .235
League: .266

Here is how the Phillies are doing individually:

Utley: .358
Abreu: .347
Lieberthal: .286
Rollins: .255
Howard: .228
Rowand: .228
Bell: .210
Burrell: .205
Dellucci: .200
Victorino: .194
Fasano: .083
Team: .235

Incidentially, the Phillies pitchers are surrendering .279 BA/RISP. The league average is .266, so the Phillies are really getting the raw end of the deal: they can't hit in the clutch and they are giving up far too many hits.

There are some interesting things that I found looking at the numbers. Let’s start by noting that there is a BIG gulf between Chase Utley and Bobby Abreu and the rest of the team. Both Abreu and Utley are right on the money. Their slugging averages (.680 for Abreu and .612 for Utley) are way up also. Both of these guys really excel with runners at second and third. One of the reasons why I’d hate to see the Phillies deal Bobby Abreu, even though he’d fetch quite a price for the team if he were to be dealt to say … the Detroit Tigers or Chicago White Sox, is that Abreu’s Gross Productive Average (GPA) is a stunning .395 with RISP. His slugging percentage goes from .464 to .680, a .216 point increase, w/RISP. Without him, the Phillies offense would probably grind to a screeching halt. I think that dealing Abreu would be utterly fatal to the Phillies chances of making the playoffs.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.

Now who are the culprits? A few interesting facts emerge. Pat Burrell is hitting .205 BA/RISP, but the OBP is .372, a product of the fact that he’s drawn 24 walks this season with runners on second and third. Are pitchers going around him to pitch to Ryan Howard? Somehow I doubt it, but Burrell does seem to take a lot of pitches. While Abreu has 49 RBIs w/ RISP, Howard has 40, and Utley has 33, Burrell only has 28 RBIs despite nearly twenty more At-Bats than Utley. In fact, most damningly, Burrell has just six more RBIs than the weak-hitting David Bell, despite having twenty-six more At-Bats. Burrell’s .318 slugging percentage w/RISP is worst on the team, aside from Fasano and Victorino, worse than David Bell (.371), Aaron Rowand (.368), and Jimmy Rollins (.455).

Ryan Howard, Home Run Derby champ, is also a culprit here too. Howard has the most At-Bats on the team w/RISP, yet he’s just hitting .228. Interestingly, this isn’t a new thing for Howard. He struggled in 2005 w/RISP, hitting .241. His slugging percentage in 2005, however, was a robust .517. Howard struck out 33 in 87 At-Bats. Thus far in 2006, Howard has K’d 31 times in 92 At-Bats. I wonder what is wrong. Initially, I was going to speculate that Howard was trying to drive the ball too hard this year (someone helpfully pointed that out a few weeks ago) and that was the reason why his batting average was dropping, but that doesn’t seem to be the case: he struck out more often last year (38%) than this year (34%).

As I mentioned above, the Phillies are the worst team in the NL in BA/RISP. Part of the problem that the team is having is that they aren’t producing opportunities to score runs either. The Phillies are dead-last in the NL in At-Bats w/RISP. With those kinds of struggles, there is little hope for the Phillies to produce runs to cover for the fact that the Phillies starting pitching is playing terrible baseball. The Phillies need to start producing opportunities to score and exploiting them if they are going to have any chance at making the playoffs.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Can the Phillies make the playoffs? 

At this point of the season for the last two years I have been tempted to close up shop, declare the Phillies season over and devote my attentions to the Eagles, a team that may come up short when it counts, but is always in the think of things (okay ... aside from last year). Training camp in the Lehigh Valley is just two weeks away and I am already anticipating another exciting year from the Birds.

Last year I was so disgusted and tired of blogging a team that seemed bound for nowhere that I actually did quit and declare the Phillies finished. They then proceed to make a run on the wildcard while the Eagles floundered along in a season of discontent that leaves many people nervous about what 2006 holds.

This year I am once more tempted to wave my arms and shout: “That’s it! Season’s over! Good-bye!” I won’t do that though, because while things seemed bleak, there is always a chance, always a glimmer of hope. Thomas Paine speaks to me over two hundred years later: when things seem bleak there is always hope. Here are a few reasons why I think that the Phillies could make the playoffs.

-The unbalanced schedule. About half of all of the games the Phillies will play in 2006 are against NL East teams – the Braves, Mets, Fishstripes and Nats. Aside from the Mets, not one of those teams has a winning record entering the All-Star break. Thus far, the Phillies are 14-14 (.500) against the NL East and 25-34 (.424) against the rest of the MLB. So the fact that the Phillies play 63% of their remaining games (47 of 75) against the NL East is very, very good news. In fact, after the Phillies wrap a three-game set with the Padres on July 19 the Phillies play 68% of their games against NL East foes.

The crucial month for the Philles may not be September, but August. The Phillies get the doormat Cubs for four games, and play three against the Reds, a team that seems like a likely challenger for the wildcard. Importantly, the Phillies play ten of their twenty-nine games that month against the Mets. If the Phillies want to have any shot whatsoever on closing the gap with the Mets, they’ll basically have to sweep them. Of particular importance to Phillies fans is the fact that from August 11 to August 20 the Phillies play a ten game homestand against the Reds, Mets and Nats. The season could be decided that week.

-Other teams play the unbalanced schedule too. There is a real log-jam for the wildcard right now in the NL. Aside from the Cubs and Pirates, no team is any more than eight games out of the wildcard. Teams will have to play each other and unless one team clearly emerges from the smoke as the winner, the Phillies won’t see anyone run away with the wildcard. The best thing the Phillies can hope for is for these teams to keep splitting games against one another while the Phillies make up ground on the NL East.

-Psychologically, the Braves strangle-hold on the NL East is broken. This may not seem to be much solace to Phillies fans given how well the Mets are playing, but I think it does convey to people a sense that nothing is impossible anymore in this division. The Braves are not going to win the NL East in 2006 and I think that knowledge is important for Phillies fans and players to keep in mind. Remember, we are chasing the Mets, the over-hyped, over-blown, playing-under-a-microscope Mets. The old Braves won’t collapse. They were too stout and boring to do that. These Mets could.

-Jon Lieber is back. Lieber pitched a great game against the Pirates last Friday and could be the stabilizing force that the rotation needs to pull things together. Remember that after a rough start in 2005, Lieber turned in a sterling finish to the ’05 campaign, with a 3.28 ERA after the break (5.07 before). Lieber cut-down on the number of home runs and walks allowed by half, as well as the batting average allowed from .287 to .236, and increased his strikeouts.

-They played well in the second half of the last two seasons. More specifically, the Phillies September record in 2004 and 2005 was 38-21, or .644 … Maybe it is a function of the idea that a deadline concentrates the mind like nothing else can, but the prospect of missing out on the playoffs concentrates the Phillies minds and makes them play good ball.

So the bottom-line is that the Phillies can make the playoffs. I am firmly convinced of that. If they actually will, I do not know, but I think that we’ll know by the time that the Eagles kickoff their season-opener on September 10th against the Texans in Houston, whether or not the Phillies will have a chance to play October baseball, or whether the Eagles are our only hope for victory.

Any one watch the All-Star game last night? Figures that the AL won at the end after all, the NL hasn't won an All-Star game since '96. Remember?

The Phillies in last night's game didn't do badly: Chase Utley was 1-for-2, Ryan Howard was 0-for-1, and Tom Gordon pitched an inning, gave up a hit and got a strikeout. Not bad at all. I think the All-Star game showcased some of the talent that the team has.

Friday the Phillies are back at it against the Giants from sunny San Francisco. Talk to you tomorow!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Congrats to Ryan Howard 

Ryan Howard won last night's Home Run Derby at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the second consecutive year that a Phillie has won it. I hope he feels proud and enjoys the spotlight, because he deserves it. Because Howard doesn't play on a team with a winning record or one that is in New York, I don't think that Howard is getting the recognition that he deserves. He's having a great season and should be considered one of the MLB's elite players, but everyone fixates on the season that Thome is having and ignores the fact that Howard is every bit as good and nine years younger than Thome.

I don't worry about Howard's performance in the home run derby affecting his swing the way it seemed to affect Bobby Abreu last year because I think swinging for the fences is a natural part of Howard's game. If anything, this might give his confidence a boost and make him a more dangerous player.

Congrats Ryan! Good luck to you, Chase and Tom at the All-Star game tonight!

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Focus on the Bullpen… 

When the season began I was certain that the Phillies bullpen was going to be their Achilles heel. How, I scoffed, could Tom Gordon hope to fill the shoes of Billy Wagner? The rotation, I was certain, would have to carry the load, going deep into games to keep the bullpen from blowing it. Well, I am not too big to say that I was utterly and completely wrong. In fact, I doubt that I could have been more wrong. Let’s look at some numbers:

Bullpen / Starters
ERA: 3.60 / 5.68
WHIP: 1.44 / 1.55
HR/9: 0.88 / 1.41
BB/9: 3.42 / 3.46
K/9: 6.62 / 6.51

Yes, walks and strikeouts are basically the same, but the rotation has been surrendering the home runs at a tremendous clip. Even if you adjust for Gavin Floyd’s miscues (2.32 HR/9), the rotation still surrenders too many homers (1.29 HR/9). Simply put, my assumptions as the beginning of the season were backwards: the rotation needs to get its work done quickly and get the game to the bullpen, where the Phillies could preserve their lead or try to come back from the deficit the rotation left.

Let’s start with the Phillies closer and sole All-Star, after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Tom Gordon. Gordon has had a terrific season as the Phillies closer and has generally out-played his predecessor, Billy Wagner.

Wagner / Gordon
ERA: 2.27 / 2.23
FIP: 3.04 / 2.92
WHIP: 1.11 / 1.10
HR/9: 0.68 / 0.99
BB/9: 3.86 / 2.72
K/9: 11.34 / 11.14

The two are basically even on every stat. Gordon has done a great job. I certainly didn’t expect that, noting that Gordon has been the Yankees set-up man for the last two years and is thirty-eight this season. I was wrong. For the first half of the season, Gordon has hurled the ball well and is a major reason why the Phillies are still in the playoff race.

The rest of the bullpen is pretty much the same story: not expected to pitch well, maligned, etc. Rheal Cormier is a pitcher who has done a great job for the Phillies:

ERA: 1.17
FIP: 3.56
WHIP: 1.11
HR/9: 0.00
BB/9: 3.8
K/9: 4.1

Cormier’s ability to keep the ball on the ground has served him well with the Phillies. Cormier is exactly the type of pitcher than the Phillies need on the team.

Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary have both turned in decent performances with the Phillies thus far this season acting as the setup guys along with Cormier:

Fultz / Geary
ERA: 4.19 / 3.50
FIP: 3.39 / 3.55
WHIP: 1.40 / 1.66
HR/9: 1.05 / 0.58
BB/9: 2.51 / 2.72
K/9: 9.00 / 6.02

I should note that the team FIP is 4.69, much worse than what Gordon, Cormier, Fultz and Geary have done for the Phillies.

Naturally, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Those exceptions are Ryan Madson and Ryan Franklin. Madson and Franklin’s careers this season are interwined because Madson got the spot in the rotation at the beginning of the season that Franklin assumed was his. Madson pitched so badly at the start of the season that he was forced to return to the bullpen earlier in the season, where he did poorly: surrendering three home runs in ten and a third innings (2.61 HR/9). Madson has returned to the bullpen, where he will hopefully resurrect his career.

Franklin, however, has been every bit the nightmare that was expected of him. A flyball pitcher playing on a team that plays in a hitters park, Franklin has been very prone to the long-ball: 1.75 HR/9. In fact, delete Franklin’s nine home runs from the bullpen and their home runs allowed per 9 innings drops to just 0.72 … (Throw out Madson and the bullpen drops to 0.64) ... Franklin’s problem is that while he has a lot of talent, he simply cannot be consistent. While his walks allowed are o.k. (2.91 per 9 innings), his inability to get strikeouts (3.88 per 9 innings) doesn’t justify his home runs allowed. Okay, be a power pitcher who gives up the long-ball from time-to-time, but you should at least get some K’s too! Franklin’s FIP is 5.77, much higher than his 4.08 ERA. Aside from Julio Santana and Gavin Floyd, there isn’t a pitcher on the Phillies with a worse FIP.

Finally, we come to Arthur Rhodes, the player the Phillies got by giving up Jason Michaels. I think we can finally say that the Phillies got the shaft on that deal. Here is Rhodes performance:

ERA: 5.40
FIP: 2.68
WHIP: 1.91
HR/9: 0.00
BB/9: 6.04
K/9: 10.16

I’m really not impressed at all by it. Simply put, Rhodes has turned in a lousy performance to date as the Phillies setup guy. He’s only hurled 28 and a third innings and he’s been inconsistent.

Let’s hope that the Phillies bullpen can continue to defy expectations and continue to win. I am very impressed by the job Fultz, Gordon, Geary, and Cormier have done. Now if the rest of the pitching staff could only take some cues from them…

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Monday, July 10, 2006

State of the Phillies, 2006 

In reviewing my 2005 State of the Phillies post, I am struck by how pessimistic I was about the team last year as well. After winning 12 of 13 games in an early June homestand, the Phillies swan-dived, losing 9 of their next 16 games and falling into fourth place. At this point last year the Phillies were 45-44 and stood five games out of the wildcard. After the break the Phillies got back into it, winning 43 of their last 73 games, the third-best Post All-Star record in the NL, and nearly making the playoffs. Sweeping the Braves in mid-September was the critical moment in their season, helping them win 14 of their last 20 games and come within a game of the playoffs … These days the Phillies plight is more dire: they are 40-47, twelve games behind the Mets in the NL East, and five and a half games out of the wildcard. The team is mired in dissension and disarray with the Meyers incident, questioning Charlie Manuel's status, and whether or not Pat Gillick will bother to return as GM after this season.

As many of you know, the Constitution requires the President to update from time to time the Congress on the state of the American Union. Traditionally, the President would send a message to be read aloud in the Congress, but Woodrow Wilson changed the tradition by coming himself to speak and ever since then it is an event that has generally been blown out of proportion, a massive P.R. bit where the President flogs his latest policy offensive and members of his party applaud wildly while the opposition sits on their hands with grim expressions on their faces. I envision the State of the Phillies address to be held not in the U.S. Capitol, but in Citizens Bank Ballpark. Instead of 100 U.S. Senators and 435 U.S. Congressmen, as well as 9 Supreme Court Justices and legions of Cabinet Secretaries and political advisors jamming the room, I see legions of season-ticket holders in the stands, with the players and coaches watching from the dugout. There is electricity in the air as the people buzz with anticipation. Governor Rendell and Mayor Street sit next to one another, chatting, as Gillick strides to the podium…

Anyway, here is Pat Gillick’s State of the Phillies address…

Season-ticket holders, fans … friends … I stand before you today to admit we have made mistakes. We have failed to deliver a winner to Philadelphia. But I stand before you today to pledge that we will righten this ship and bring it safely to the playoffs. [Mild applause.]

When I took this job, I took a gamble. I had built winners everywhere else I had been, Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle. I had never worked for a National League team. I could have rested on my laurels and congratulated myself on a job well done helping to guide the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays to the World Series. But I was intruiged by this team. I thought this team had talent and potential. I thought that all this team needed was a little tweaking.

I was wrong. [Murmurs of agreement fill the air. One loud fan stands and shouts: “Damn right!” to scattered applause.]

My friends, I think we need to admit that something is rotten at Citizens Bank Ballpark. I am disgusted with our performance to date. How is this team mired with a losing record?

Offensively, this team must improve itself. We rank ninth in the National League in runs scored. We are a powerful bunch at the plate, proud of two of our representatives in the All-Star game, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as the rest of our offensive unit, but we are a shadow of the team we have been in the past. Today we rank thirteenth in the National League in On-Base-Percentage. Thirteenth! For a team that is usually third or fourth in that category, this is shocking. We are not creating opportunities the way we ought to. [more agreement]

Our biggest flaw offensively is that we do not take advantage of opportunities that we do create. We rank tenth in the NL in slugging percentage with runners in scoring position (.414). We are dead-last in the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position (.235), worse even than the hapless Cubs (.242). The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that wanted my services, lead the National League in runs scored because they are fearsome hitters with runners in scoring position (.309).

Our pitching and defense are unsettled. Defensively, the Phillies were one of the top five teams in the major leagues the last several years and yet we seem to be floundering in the field. Can you believe that we have allowed thirty-six unearned runs?

When I first took over the Phillies General Manager position I apparently angered some members of the team when I said that the pitching staff needed to be upgraded. I think that my suspicions were well-founded. We are thirteenth in Earned Runs Allowed (ERA). Our bullpen has pitched well – my decision to make Tom Gordon our closer was ridiculed by many yet who is our sole pitcher in the All-Star game? – but our starting rotation has been a major disappointment. Gavin Floyd needs to return to the minor leagues to regain his confidence. Cole Hamels was perhaps not quite ready to shoulder the responsibility of being a starting pitcher. And Brett Myers has a lot of growing up to do. I think that we have the makings of a good rotation here with Cole and Ryan Madson and Jon Lieber now a part of the team. Jon did pitch a sterling game the other day against the Pirates, did he not?
[Applause. The camera cuts to a sheepish Lieber nodding his head slightly…]

What shall we do? I pledge to you all that I will not be “Stand Pat” in the coming weeks. The month of July will be a busy one for this team. We need to improve our pitching staff dramatically. I will not hesitate to make a deal that will improve our pitching staff. I will not hesitate to make the important decisions. [Applause.]

I also want to apologize to you all for our handling of the incident with Brett Myers in Boston. We were wrong to have him pitch and we did not display the appropriate sympathy we ought to have to Kim Myers and to the victims of domestic abuse. For that, I apologize. We as an organization apologize.

So is this season lost? Hardly. The National League is not the powerhouse that the American League is. We stand just a few games out of the log-jam for the wildcard, and the Mets are hardly invincible.

We shall make the playoffs. We will bring a winner to Philadelphia. This I promise to you…

[With that, Gillick walks off the field to thunderous applause.]

Tomorrow, I'll have some thoughts on the Home Run Derby and the Phillies bullpen. Wednesday, I'll assess the Phillies post-season chances.

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