Archive for May, 2007

Dobbserman is Over(whelms)ing! A simple way to fix the Phillies (part 1)

Do you hear that? Do you? It’s the sound of life coming from Citizens Bank Park. Finally, only a mere two months into the 2007 season, our mighty baseball team is starting to show some signs of life down there on South Broad Street. The offense is clicking (most of the time,) the rotation is coming together (occasionally,) and the bench is constantly (kind of) providing much needed jolts in late innings. The bullpen though, continues to be a mess, even more with defacto closer Brett Myers being placed on the fifteen day Disabled List. So sure, nothing’s perfect. But something is better than nothing.

A couple weeks ago Erin and Fast Eddie got a dog, a Golden Retriever puppy named Dugan (his namesake being Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own.) Both Erin and Ed are teachers, so I go up during most days and hang out with the little man. His motor skills have come a long way in three weeks and he can almost walk in a straight line, when he actually wants too, which isn’t that often. He’ll sit, but that’s about it so far. He’s also teething, so as a result, he spends most days chewing on anything he can get close to.

The reason for bringing up Dugan (and I’m sure Colin has already been wondering this) is that his development parallels the development of this year’s Phillies. Both Dugan and the Phillies are young (except for Jamie Moyer…he’s maybe a year or two younger than my Gram and Tom Gordon who is not to worried about coming off the Disabled List because he can always fall back on Social Security) and both are constantly learning, and coming into their own. The Phillies (like Dugan) rock at a few things and yes, like Dugan, they suck at a couple things. That’s what you get dealing with puppies…and Phillies.

So the key is patience. It’s hard, but like I told Gram, it’s a part of life. Dugan just started puppy training tonight and I heard through Ma Dukes that the little man made great strides, probably the best puppy in the class. Goldens are notoriously smart dogs (according to my dad and he has never ever been wrong), so he has all the tools to be a smart dog.

Likewise the Phillies have all the tools to be the best puppy in the class. Granted the class is the National League, so it’s not the best crop of dogs. But either way, they do have the tools. The team is finally playing like the team we read about in February, the team that was a cool pick for the NL Wild Card, the team that Jimmy Rollins said was the team to beat in the NL East. And they’ve only gotten stronger with Ryan Howard’s return from the Disabled List. Howard is playing like the 2006 NL MVP now instead of the shadow of that player that he was playing like for the first month of the season. He has three homeruns in the past two games.

Besides Howard, Chase is good old consistent Chase, Shane Victorino is running wild around the base paths, Aaron Rowand has continued his surprising offensive start, and Pat Burrell has regained his power stroke.

But one of the keys to the Phillies’ recent success has been Greg Dobbs. Signed in the off-season, Dobbs has largely been used as a utility infielder until he filled in during Howard’s absence. Since then he has been getting playing time over third baseman Wes Helms, who also was signed during the off-season. Helms, as opposed to Dobbs, was expected to be a big contributor to the offense and hit at least 25-30 homeruns. Yet despite playing in super-friendly-homerun Citizens Bank, Helms has 25-30 homeruns less than that projection. Dobbs, in nearly 50 less at bats, has four homeruns, as well as more R.B.I.’s and a higher on base percentage and batting average.

The argument can be made (and has) that the Dobbserman is only thriving when coming off the bench and it’s a gamble as to whether or not he’d continue to do so playing everyday. But in Howard’s absence, Dobbs proved that he could in fact contribute to the line-up and as a result, provide some much-needed pop at the backend of the batting order. Helms had been a virtual black hole in the lineup and Dobbs easily improves both the team’s chances of winning and the productivity of 6-7-8 hitters. So far this season the most offense Helms has demonstrated was when he ran out onto the field during the Marlins-Phillies scuffle last week like Cam Neely’s trucker character in Dumb and Dumber.

This absence of power at the bottom of the lineup is becoming as much of a burden as the bullpen, a sinking ship taking on water faster than the cruise ship in Speed 2. While I was up in Maine this weekend for Willy Brazil’s wedding, I caught a couple Red Sox games. Now I’m not going to launch into a gushing rant about the juggernaut that is the 2007 Red Sox, but I will say that I noticed something while watching those games. The reason the Red Sox are so impressive offensively is because their lineup is circular, not linear, meaning it has no beginning or end. The Phillies are so so so close to having that same kind of lineup. Now their lineup wouldn’t hold a candle to the power and talent of the Sox lineup, but it would mirror it some respects such as consistency and distribution of talent.
Now think for a moment about this potential lineup:
1. Jro
2. SVIC!
3. RyHo
5. Mr. Miyagi
6. Arow
7. Dobbserman
8. C Rude or Rbar

By moving Dobbs into the order, the power of the middle of the lineup now extends all the way to the 6-7-8 hitters. Any by switching around Utley and Howard, you allow Chase (who hits like Wade Boggs, but with more pop) to protect Howard. This then relieves Burrell of that job and now lets him usher in the second half of the order, something he is better suited to do.

This move also frees up Helms and places in the trade winds with the hopes that he might score some bullpen help. We just have to pray that a club thinks that he could benefit from the change of scenery.

Of course Helms could possibly be untradeable and his salary is so unreasonable that Charlie Manuel is forced to play him. Yet before today, all Dugan could do was sit. Now he can stay and lay down on command and next week they’re going to start working with walking him properly. It would take a similar simple move to help the Phillies and walking properly isn’t even necessary.

But it would help.

Photo of the Day: Memorial Day

(I have been terribly remiss in posting photos here. Sorry!)

Here is a sobering photo from yesterday, posted by anjan58.

According to Anjan’s commentary under the photo on the Flickr page, this display is on a green between Independence Hall and the Constitution Center.

Please add your Philadelphia photos to the Metroblogging Philadelphia Flickr group. Readers’ photos will be featured here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Dar Williams against the elements

Dar singingI headed out to King of Prussia last night with my boyfriend, my friend Shay, a bag of sandwiches and my big, blue concert tarp. There had been talk in the weather reports of thundershowers, but all the way out the Schuylkill Expressway the sky was clear (as well as the roads). We got to the concert site just after 7 pm, found a spot and set up our tarp.

Lauren Hart (daughter of Gene Hart, the old voice of the Flyers) was the opening act and her voice soared (although Shay thought that her lyrics were sort of insipid). In the break between acts, the weather kicked up and the volunteer staff started pulling tarps over the speakkers and other electrical equipment. The event organizer got up and gave a vague warning about how they were going to continue but that there was supposed to be an electrical storm coming our way. Clusters of the crowd got up and packed their picnic dinners into bags and baskets, turned off by the coming storm. We simply unfolded the tarp so we could sit on half of it and pull the other half over our heads (this is a manuveur I’ve used more than once at outdoor concerts).

Dar Williams Tonight!

Don’t forget that the Upper Merion Concerts Under the Stars summer series kicks off tonight with an all-acoustic solo show by folk singer Dar Williams. Ticket price is $10 but kids under 16 and seniors over 62 get in for free. There is some food for sale, but mostly it’s a bring-you-own situation. I’ll be there tonight with a couple of friends, sitting on a big blue tarp, eating a turkey sandwich. Hope to see some of you there!

Former Flyer Rick Tocchet Pleads Guilty

Former Flyers winger and my favorite Flyer of all-time, Rick Tocchet, pleaded guilty to charges of promoting gambling and conspiracy. Due to the plea Tocchet will most likely avoid a prison term. It seems like they came to an amicable agreement for both sides here as it looks as if he knew they had enough to get him on something but they knew they didn’t have enough to get him on the level of involvement they thought he was. It does seem like his coaching career will be over in the NHL though as I don’t see many teams wanting to pick him up.

Another Gap on Chestnut Street?

I just heard, from a fairly reliable source (the front desk guy in my apartment building) that the folks who currently own the Boyd (aka the last surviving Center City movie palace) are turning the two smaller, modern theaters that were added onto the space in the 1980’s, into one very large Gap store. It is currently nothing more than a shell, but they are hard at work on the space right now, and the best guess is that the new store will be open in time for holiday shopping.

I hope this doesn’t mean that they’ve given up on renovating the theater, as that would be a great travesty. It is an amazingly beautiful space and deserves to be restored to its former grandeur. If you want to learn more about the history of the theater and the movement to save it, check out the Friends of the Boyd website.

7 Years of Making Time

If I didn’t have to get up at 6:00 am to catch a flight to L.A. I would SO be there tonight for the 7th anniversary of Making Time. Normally I would skip such things as they make me feel a little too old for the crowd. I happened to catch The Faint at a Making Time long, long ago at Transit, though and boy was that a memorable show. They also have free PBR from 9-11 if you’re so inclined. I strongly encourage all of those who are able to go make your (party) time tonight. I will be very very jealous of you.

Holiday Weekend – Sticking close to home

While many of my friends are scooting off to the shore or New York or other exotic places, I’m sticking close to home. I’m having breakfast with a friend tomorrow, going to the Dar Williams concert Sunday night and stopping in at a friend’s picnic on Monday. It’s the first time in many months that I have such an open weekend unfolding in front of me and it thrills me to no end.

What’s your favorite way to spend a holiday weekend? Is there anything going on in town over the next four days that shouldn’t be missed? How are you planning on spending the time (keeping in mind that they are calling for isolated thunderstorms all weekend long).

Alert, Studio 60 Fans

Looks like NBC is bringing back the smart “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”. A new episode is on tonight at 10 PM. It will be interesting to see how much the creator and producer Aaron Sorkin and the writers had to give up, in order to keep the show on the air.

Philly’s own Marc Vetri gets a shout-out in the NYT

I’m going to confess again that I am behind in my reading, which is why I didn’t catch the article in the New York Times Dining Section yesterday that featured Philadelphia’s own Marc Vetri. He’s been getting a lot of love in the local Philly media of late, and so I’m not surprised that the NYT has taken notice of our local hotshot. I was a little surprised that they didn’t love Osteria as much as Craig LaBan seemed to, though.

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