Sources: Giants will be without Brooks Conrad for NLCS

October 12, 2010 by Zaki  
Filed under Headlines, Phillies

According to team sources, NL Division Series MVP Brooks Conrad will not be available for the Giants in their NL Championship Series matchup against the Phillies.

Conrad, who helped the Giants advance to their first NLCS since 2002 with four key errors in three NLDS starts, will likely also miss the World Series, should the Giants advance.

“We’re trying to stay upbeat, but this sucks,” said one unnamed Giants source. “You have to bring your ‘A’ game against the Phillies and Brooks was a key guy for us. It’s going to force us to hit our way on base and we’re not really built for that.”

The Giants pitching staff also took a hit on Tuesday with the announcement that they will be unable to pitch to the weak-hitting Braves lineup for the remainder of the postseason.

Braves wrestle second place away from Phillies

September 8, 2010 by Zaki  
Filed under Headlines, Phillies

Tim Hudson allowed four earned runs in six innings against the Pirates to help the Braves reclaim second place in the NL East for the first time since May 30.

“It’s a great feeling to be back,” said Troy Glaus of his team’s new position in the standings. “People doubted us all year and said we’re not a second place team. But, I think our recent play is proof to the rest of the league that we belong here.”

The Phillies, who edged the Marlins 8-7 on Tuesday for their 80th win of the season, fell back into first place, signaling the team’s inevitable spiral into the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Jamie Moyer defies age to become oldest player in baseball

May 8, 2010 by Zaki  
Filed under Headlines, Phillies

Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer has overcome his many critics and advanced age to become baseball’s oldest player for a third straight season.

Moyer, who pitched a two-hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves on Friday, has had to answer questions about his age for many years, but the 47-year-old is hopeful that this third straight title will finally put an end to the discussion.

“People are saying I’m too old for this and that, but I think this says otherwise,” Jamie Moyer said of his distinction. “I’m the oldest player in the game, and that’s something Babe Ruth could never claim. I’m not saying I’m better than Ruth, but that still sounds kinda badass doesn’t it?”

Braves weren’t bad role models, they just couldn’t seal the deal

February 6, 2010 by Zaki  
Filed under Analysis & Opinions

Sam Donnellon of the Daily News wrote an article a couple days ago about how the Phillies shouldn’t pattern themselves after the Braves that won 14-straight division titles because Atlanta only won one World Series during that period — essentially teasing their fans every year to the point where they stopped coming to games.

As someone that followed the Braves for almost ten years, let me say that there was nothing wrong with the Braves’ formula for success. The team just went limp in the postseason; they choked.

Why wouldn’t you want to model yourself after a franchise that averaged 98 regular season wins (or 61% of their games) for 15 straight years? I’d love for Ruben Amaro to follow the same path of former Braves general manager John Schuerholz instead of wandering on his own, worrying about replenishing his farm system.

Schuerholz had a remarkable core of homegrown players to build around — just like the Phillies — with Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Ron Gant, David Justice, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood and Rafael Furcal all from the Braves’ minor league system. The former GM also made sure to supplement his homegrown crop by signing stars like Greg Maddux and Andres Galarraga while trading for others like Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield.

Above everything that Schuerholz did during his 15-year run with the Braves, it’s what he didn’t do that really sticks out to me right now: He never traded top talent to ‘replenish’ his farm system.

The Braves had so much minor league talent that they would never have to think about re-stocking via trade, but that’s a testament to their scouting staff and drafting great players. It’s not because they were in any different situation than the Phillies were in, or are currently in.

The Braves may have stunk for a while, which gave them a couple high draft picks, but of all the studs they’ve had, only Steve Avery (4th overall in the 1988 draft) and Chipper Jones (1st overall in the 1990 draft) were first round draft picks. The Phillies actually had more first-round success than the Braves ever did with Pat  Burrell (1998), Brett Myers (1999), Chase Utley (2000) and Cole Hamels (2002). You could even count J.D. Drew (1997) in there if you’re feelin’ froggy enough.

Unlike Amaro, when Schuerholz went out and traded prospects to get a guy like Fred McGriff, he didn’t trade Tom Glavine to re-stock the farm. In fact, when Schuerholz dealt one of his big-named players, he typically received a solid major league player in return. David Justice and Marquis Grissom were traded for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. Bret Boone and Ryan Klesko were traded for Reggie Sanders and Quilvio Veras. Brian Jordan was traded for Gary Sheffield. The Braves traded to replenish their major league club.

To further accentuate the difference between Amaro and Schuerholz, here’s my account of what the Phillies would look like under the Schuerholz formula:

  • The Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee deals would have never gone down. Only twice did Schuerholz trade top prospects: Adam Wainwright was traded to the Cardinals in the deal for J.D. Drew and Den Meyer was sent to the Athletics for Tim Hudson. Both trades were for players entering their prime and only one highly-ranked prospect was involved in each deal. If the Blue Jays would have accepted another player other than Michael Taylor or Domonic Brown, I think Schuerholz would have landed Halladay and kept Lee.
  • Jayson Werth would have been dealt to fill an immediate need elsewhere on the club while Michael Taylor takes over in rightfield. It’s Schuerholz’s style to get rid of the costly talent at a position where you have emerging stars ready to play. He did something similar by letting Terry Pendleton go in 1995 when Chipper Jones was ready to take his place and by trading David Justice in 1997 when Andruw Jones was ready take over. In the Justice trade, the Braves got a top leadoff hitter in Kenny Lofton and a lefty reliever in Alan Embree in return. Schuerholz would have probably gone after a thirdbaseman or possibly a mid-rotation starter in exchange for Werth.
  • Lee would either be re-signed after 2010 or they would sign or trade for a top pitcher. If Lee and the Phils are unable to come to terms, the team would have enough cash and prospects — including Kyle Drabek — to make a move if necessary. When the Braves lost Kevin Millwood and Tom Glavine after the 2002 season, they traded for Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton. When Maddux left after the 2003 season, they signed John Thomson and traded for Tim Hudson a year later.
  • Joe Blanton wouldn’t have been given an extension. Schuerholz only let Cy Young Award winners stick around for more than three years. He would have either traded him for major league help — a la Denny Neagle to the Reds in 1998 for All-Star secondbaseman Bret Boone — or let him walk and use the money to keep Lee around and possibly go after Halladay as a free agent.

The Braves were a classic example of a team that did everything they possibly could to remain as competitive as they could every year. The fact that they only won one championship is a combination of flat out choking and running into some bad luck. You can’t say that just because they weren’t as successful as we all thought they should have been that you shouldn’t model your franchise after them.

They were an elite team for 15 straight years and it wasn’t because they hovered over their flock of prospects like an overprotective mother. It’s because they drafted, signed and developed great young talent and weren’t afraid to let them go when it meant they could improve their major league club.

The Phillies could very well be on the verge of a run that could surpass the Braves’, but if they do, it will be because Amaro successfully re-invented the wheel and not because he followed the very successful plan that Schuerholz laid out nearly 20 years ago.