The NLCS: Just Manny being useless

Easily one of the smartest reactions to the ending of the classic Game 4 came from our boy Meech over at The Fightins. Here, take a look:

I’m upset that I didn’t come up with it first. It pains my heart.

Along those lines, it’s being reported that the city of Philadelphia is greasing up the utility poles in case the Phillies win tonight in Game 5. This makes sense because when I was a kid and my team won the big game, the first thing I did was shimmy up a utility pole.

Needless to say, I was a crazy sumbitch on the ropes in gym class.

Speaking of crazy, I had a chance to talk to the great T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times and laud the man for his work. And yes, I’m being serious. The guy can flat write and the way he does it, he is literally walking on a tight rope. If he misses, it’s going to be ugly. Unfortunately for a lot of his targets, he doesn’t miss all that much.

Here’s what I like about T.J. the most (aside from the fact that he can write and he has cojones the size of watermelons) — he gets it. Sports are supposed to be fun. When we watch a game it’s not like we’re watching a scientist in the lab splitting an atom or attempting to mix compounds to find that elusive cure for cancer. No, it’s fun and T.J. has fun. He’s a writer making wise cracks… what’s not to like about that?

Better yet, he can take it. He knows that when he dishes it out, he’s ready for what comes back. Plus, he has to be doing something right in order to get people to react the way they do. I’m not saying it’s the lowest common dominator routine placating to fans and insulting their intelligence. That’s what other mediums in the sports realm do. That’s not fun—it’s mean.

Here’s the thing about T.J. that left me in awe and made me ask others, “No he didn’t… did he? Seriously, he did that?

whiffFollowing the Phillies victory in Game 3 where the fans at CBP serenaded Manny Ramirez with chants of, “You did steroids!” T.J. marched over to the Dodgers’ clubhouse and asked the Dodgers’ slugger about the fans’ little sing-song tribute.

“Where did they get this crazy idea you took steroids?” T.J. asked Ramirez.

Needless to say, Manny was not amused. Then again, his teammates shouldn’t be amused by Manny’s most recent behavior as well as his play since he returned from his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Before his suspension, Ramirez was killing the ball. He had six homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games to go with a .348 batting average and an OPS into the stratosphere.

But after his suspension he hasn’t been as good. He had just 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 77 games with a .269 average. Considering that Ramirez never hit below .292 when he played a full season, .269 is quite a drop off. More notable, though, he really faltered down the stretch. In September and October, Ramirez hit just .218 with 14 RBIs in 25 games.

During the postseason Ramirez is hitting the quietest .276 ever. Sure, he homered in the fifth inning of Game 1 against Cole Hamels to bring the Dodgers into the game, but since then he’s managed just three singles in 13 at-bats with four strikeouts.

Manny has been marginalized.

That’s when he’s not taking a shower in the middle of the ninth inning of a one-run game in which his team could have tied the series at 2 and forced a trip back to Los Angeles. Conversely, starting pitcher Randy Wolf did not leave the dugout after he was removed from the game with one out in the sixth inning. Why would he? He wanted to help cheer on his teammates.

But not Ramirez. He needed to get clean, which is apt when one considers that he was termed “a pig” by a baseball executive. Nope, Manny is for Manny and since there are no pay checks handed out during the playoffs, why should he care?

Last month I trotted out the story about Manny being alerted to the arrival of Jim Thome to the Dodgers and responding that he never heard of anyone by that name.

To wit:

This comes from a guy we know who works in the Dodgers organization. He wrote us an e-mail because he thought the story would please us. He was right.

Hey fellas,
Hope all is well. Had a story for you that you might find kind of funny and that might go well on your site. Just leave my name out of it. So here goes: Alright so we all know that Jim Thome was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August, reuniting him with Ramirez after all those years in Cleveland. That’s all fine and dandy and all, but get this….. hours before the trade is made official news to the media one of the clubhouse coaches goes over to Manny and says “hey we’re bringing Jim Thome back here to play with you”. Ramirez looks at him, stares off into the distance for a few minutes. Our coach starts to realize that either Manny isn’t happy or he’s got no [bleeping] clue what is going on. Our coach couldn’t believe it was that though, since they played together for almost 10 years in Cleveland. Finally our coach says “Manny aren’t you happy about Jim coming to LA?”Ramirez looks him dead in the eye and says “I’ve never played with anyone named Jim.” Gets up, and walks away. No [bleep]. Our coach left it at that.

So why wouldn’t Manny be in the shower as his teammates were suffering through the worst defeat of the season or maybe even some of their careers. Heck, just add this to the absent-minded legend that is Manny Ramirez. You know, the guy who came back from a drug suspension only to post ordinary hitting statistics.

Just Manny being Rickey

mannyWASHINGTON – I have Brad Lidge fatigue. No, I’m not tired of Brad Lidge. In fact, he’s a great dude. He’s nice, polite, personable, Thoughtful, funny and smart. Generally, those aren’t the best qualities for a closer, but it seemed to work out pretty well last year.

Hey, Lidge might be the only ballplayer in history to pursue an advanced degree in biblical archaeology. Think he and Brett Myers are sitting around discussing that?

Anyway, I have Lidge fatigue because I’m tired of writing about closers, the ninth inning and saves. Lately, it seems like that’s all we do. Charlie Manuel is tired of being asked about it, too, but frankly it’s the news. In the news business, one tends to focus on those types of things.

And apropos of that, I asked Charlie if he’d consider allowing a pitcher to go more than one inning to nail down a save because he labeled himself a “throwback guy.” The answer, of course, was no because with a bullpen thinned out by injuries and Lidge’s struggles. Remember the stretch run in September of 2007 when Manuel rode J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers? If it seemed as if those guys pitched every game in the rush to take the NL East from the Mets it was because they did… practically.

Myers pitched 16 games that September, Gordon pitched 18, and Romero got into 20 games.

Fortunately for Manuel, he has a better starting staff this year so he won’t have to reprise that tact with Myers, Ryan Madson and perhaps Chan Ho Park until Lidge gets it together.

Regardless, the closer/Lidge issues are just filling the time until we start diving the fight for home-field advantage in the NLDS. As it stands now, the Phillies would go to Los Angeles for the first two games of the opening playoffs series while St. Louis would host Colorado. If the Phillies survive that scenario, they would host Colorado but travel to St. Louis for the NLCS opener.

Of course there are still 24 games to go and the Dodgers’ starting pitchers are struggling. Undoubtedly the Phillies would not want to trade their Lidge problems for ones with a starter.

Anyway, to put the Lidge (and playoff seeding) chatter on hold for a bit, I picked up a funny little blog post sent from a friend about the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

Apparently, according to the post, Manny has no idea who Jim Thome is. Never mind the fact that Thome and Manny were teammates for 10 years in Cleveland.

manny_chuckConjuring the famous and debunked story about Rickey Henderson and John Olerud in which Rickey was said to explain to Olerud when both players were on the Mariners that he once was teammates with a guy who wore a helmet in the field with the Mets.

“Yeah, that was me, Rickey,” Olerud said in the myth.

So now we have Manny, who according to the author of Diamond Hoggers, just couldn’t figure out who the hell some guy named Jim Thome was.

To wit:

This comes from a guy we know who works in the Dodgers organization. He wrote us an e-mail because he thought the story would please us. He was right.

Hey fellas,Hope all is well. Had a story for you that you might find kind of funny and that might go well on your site. Just leave my name out of it. So here goes:Alright so we all know that Jim Thome was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August, reuniting him with Ramirez after all those years in Cleveland. That’s all fine and dandy and all, but get this….. hours before the trade is made official news to the media one of the clubhouse coaches goes over to Manny and says “hey we’re bringing Jim Thome back here to play with you”. Ramirez looks at him, stares off into the distance for a few minutes. Our coach starts to realize that either Manny isn’t happy or he’s got no fucking clue what is going on. Our coach couldn’t believe it was that though, since they played together for almost 10 years in Cleveland. Finally our coach says “Manny aren’t you happy about Jim coming to LA?”Ramirez looks him dead in the eye and says “I’ve never played with anyone named Jim.” Gets up, and walks away. No [bleep]. Our coach left it at that.

Wonder if that coach is a certain ex-Phillies manager?

Nevertheless, add this to the absent-minded legend that is Manny Ramirez. Or add it to the pile of Manny stories that Manuel likes to tell from their days in the Indians’ organization. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for Manny to show up at the ballpark with no money to pay for a taxi, no suitcase for a road trip or equipment.

Call him Manny Gump – the baseball hitting savant.

Or just call this episode a case of Manny being Rickey.

Reliving deadlines past

gillickA year ago we were in Washington wondering what was going to happen. The Phillies were supposedly involved in the bargaining for Manny Ramirez as well as a handful of relief pitchers as the trading deadline approached. Ultimately, nothing happened, but that didn’t make the day any less fun.

Shane Victorino, a player who was rumored to be the chip in some of those supposed deals, put on a show by pretending to sweat out the final minutes to the deadline. The reality, as we learned, was that the talk was just a lot of hot air. However, in looking back at quotes from then-GM Pat Gillick, the Phillies nearly made some deals.

One of those was, indeed, Manny Ramirez.

“I think at some point we had a good feeling about it,” Gillick said after the deadline had passed a year ago.

Good? How good?

“We were talking,” Gillick said then. “We were involved. We just couldn’t get where they wanted to be, and we couldn’t get where we wanted to be. So it was just one of those things.”

“Good” and “talking” are such ambiguous terms. The truth is some people talk about doing things that make them feel good all the time, but instead end up following the same old patterns day in and day out. Plus, everyone’s interpretation of “talk” isn’t always the same. For instance, it would be interesting to hear if Boston GM Theo Epstein had the same “good feeling” about sending Ramirez to the Phillies, but in the end it turned out to be “just one of those things.”

In retrospect, the Phillies were better off without Ramirez. They have three All-Stars in the outfield and the worst thing that happened to any of them was an extended trip to the disabled list for Raul Ibanez.

Otherwise, smooth sailing.

In looking back, the Phillies nearly pulled off a deal for a starter, too. It was going to be a three-way deal according to Gillick and one insider with the club portrayed the starter as, “decent.”

At the last minute one of the teams backed out.

“It was a three-way deal and we got agreement form one club and they were trying to get agreement on players from another club,” Gillick revealed of the unknown starter last year.

Think about this for a second… what if the deals had gone through? Would they have changed the season in any way, shape or form? Could it be the best deal the Phillies made last year was not making a deal at all?

IT’s difficult to speculate because the Phillies got so hot in mid September and tore through every team all the way to the end. Guys like Jayson Werth, a player who emerged during that hot streak and carried into his All-Star year, like to point out how strong the Phillies always play in September and beyond.

It’s difficult to argue with the results.

But now that Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco are with the team, it’s interesting to wonder “what if.” Would Lee even be here if the Phillies had gotten that “decent” starter in the three-way deal? We’ll never know, but in the meantime Lee will make his debut with the Phillies on Friday night… hours after Pedro Martinez wraps up a rehab start in Triple-A.

That’s decent.

*
falafel houseLast year at this time the Phillies were in Washington where a dude like me got to visit The Amsterdam Falafel House. It was such a good time that I thought I’d re-post an excerpt of it here:

Now I have never been to Amsterdam or Holland, but folks who know better say the Adams-Morgan Amsterdam Falafel Shop is as authentic as it gets. In fact, one giveaway to the authenticity of the TAMF (not sure people call it this, but you know, I’ll put it out there) is that they serve brownies and make it a point to inform the consumer that they are not “enhanced.”

Enhanced is my word. On the menu they were called “virgin” brownies.

Yeah.

Anyway, the menu is very basic at The Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Adams-Morgan, located just a half block from the famous Madam’s Organ – the place Playboy magazine named the best bar in the United States. In fact, they serve just falafel (two sizes), Dutch baked fries (two sizes) and un-enhanced brownies (square shaped).

Each sandwich is made to order and each diner can add any of the 18 different sauces and toppings from the garnish bar.

It’s definitely a treat, man. Plus, they usually stay open late (but not past midnight on a Sunday as I learned last month) so if you find yourself in the area and get a hankering for authentic Dutch falafel, by all means, drop in.

After lunch, I drove to the ballpark via Capitol Hill where it looked as if there was a lot of governing going on… a lot of gentrification, too. It seems to me that The District has at least one Starbucks for every household. Interestingly, neighborhoods that were once talked about in hushed, scared tones are now filled with people walking around in madras shorts and business suits with a chai latte in hand.

Good times… good times.

//

How much does it cost?

manny_arodThe Dodgers are in town for three games starting tonight and of course that brings the inevitable talk about Manny Ramirez. Forget that Larry Bowa and Randy Wolf are back in Philly or that the Phillies and Dodgers will square off in a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the big issue is about who will not be playing.

Yep, that’s Manny just being whatever.

Here’s the thing about PEDs that no one really can quantify with any accuracy, and that is how much do they help (or hurt) a team? How many more home runs did Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or anyone else hit because they used whatever it was that they used? How many more innings could a pitcher pile on because he was taking something illegal?

Along those lines, how many games will the Dodgers lose because Juan Pierre is playing instead of Manny Ramirez for the next 50 games?

Or, how many games have the Phillies lost this season with J.C. Romero serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance? Hey, manager Charlie Manuel said he would have used Romero to face the Braves in the seventh in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Instead the manager turned to Jack Taschner, who coughed up a pair of two-out runs on some chintzy hits.

So how many games has Romero’s suspension cost the Phillies this season?

It’s difficult to say because who knows what day-to-day issues the pitcher would have. Maybe he would have pitched in consecutive days and needed a day off? Or maybe he’d be used in the eighth instead of the seventh? Who knows? But for the sake of argument, let’s just say Romero would be 100 percent every game. In that case maybe last Sunday’s game against the Braves could have been saved by Romero.

Perhaps he would have pitched in the three-run eighth inning instead of Ryan Madson on April 17 in the 8-7 loss to the Padres. That’s doubtful, though. So for the sake of that argument, we’ll call it one game – one in 29 for a 15-14 club.

As for quantifying Ramirez absence, that’s a taller task. However, Ramirez is much more valuable to the Dodgers than Romero is to the Phillies.

*

Interestingly, there is a new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.

Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.

According to the story:

The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez’s body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.

So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?

And what is the cost to the Dodgers? How about something pretty big, like credibility.

Just Manny being Barry?

a-rod-and-mannyNEW YORK – I had planned a whole thing on the brand-new Citi Field and the Phillies’ first visit to the new digs in Queens, but Manny Ramirez kind of ruined that. Besides, at this point when new ballparks are popping up every season, including two of them in New York City, the shine is off the penny a bit.

So think about this – would there have been more fawning over places like Citi Field or the new Yankee Stadium if they were built 5-to-10 years ago? It’s been nearly 20 years since Camden Yards kicked off the whole retro-ballpark craze and now it appears as if every city that wants one has either built it or is set to begin construction.

Heck, even the Marlins are getting a new park for their six fans.

Here are a couple more things to ponder… are we going to be back replacing all these new ballparks in another 30 years like we were with the multi-purpose parks of the late 1960s and early ‘70s?

And if we keep shelling out the cash to build all these stadiums, are city skylines only going to hold the light fixtures and facades of ballparks? It seems like the only public funding put to the vote are to build stadiums… you know, screw bridges and roads.

Anyway, the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel – a former mentor to Ramirez – were about as excited to talk about the latest drug suspension as they were the new ballpark. The most interesting part was while expressing sadness over the situation and fear over the harm the drug issues could cause to the sport, players generally indicate that players tied to performance-enhancing drug use have not had their accomplishments diminished.

They also don’t believe the game has suffered despite saying they want it cleaned up.

Meanwhile, baseball’s revenues and attendance has never been higher (excluding New York City, of course, where sellouts only occurred at the old ballparks), which seems to say that the fans don’t really give a damn about baseball’s issues.

Anyway, we’re not going to add to the pile of reflexive commentating regarding Ramirez and his positive test/50-game suspension since the finger waging appears to be taking care of itself. However, it is worth noting that the three top hitters of this era have all been tied/admitted/suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, one of the three has been indicted for perjury for his grand jury testimony about his alleged drug use.

Barry, Manny and A-Rod is hardly this era’s Willie, Mickey, and The Duke, huh?

Since baseball is a numbers game, let’s look at a few. For instance, nine of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time have played this decade, and six of those nine have been tied to PED use. The three who have not are Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr.

What do you think of that trio’s careers now?

How about this set of numbers – 22 players who have been on teams managed by Joe Torre have been associated with PEDs. Joe’s 22 are:

Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton, Dan Naulty, Darren Holmes, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, Glenallen Hill, Matt Lawton, Denny Neagle, David Bell, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Randy Velarde, Ron Villone, Ricky Bones, Rondell White and David Justice.

Can’t wait to dive into Tony LaRussa’s list…

Just walk away

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in a very big position for the history of Major League Baseball. Not to belittle a truly historical moment, but Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Dodgers, could become of the Rosa Parks of baseball ownership. They can strike a blow against greed and ridiculousness by simply walking away.

All they have to do is say, “No.”

How difficult is that?

If only they could quit Manny.

See, the McCourts and their general manager Ned Colletti made a brand-new offer to outfielder/savant Manny Ramirez late this week to sweeten a one-year, $25 million deal. This time the Manny and agent Scott Boras were offered a two-year contract worth $45 million. Not only that, but there were plenty of sweeteners in it, as if $45 million during the worst economy the U.S. has faced in 80 years isn’t sweet enough.

Nevertheless, the McCourts offered Manny a deal that not only would make him the second-highest paid player in history, but gave him a chance to opt out after the first season. Moreover, of Manny were to get hurt and not able to play, the $45 million is guaranteed. In other words, he could foul a pitch off his big toe in the very first game of the ’09 season and walk away with all the loot.

Yes, it’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s especially sweet when one considers that Manny already has been paid nearly $163 million during his big-league career. Not bad work if you can find it.

Continue reading this story…

Third and fourth innings: Pay back time

LOS ANGELES – Here we go!

After Brett Myers threw one behind Manny Ramirez in Game 2, and Russell Martin got plunked by Jamie Moyer and crop dusted by Clay Condrey, Dodgers’ pitcher Hiroki Kuroda fired one over Shane Victorino’s head.

Gee, wonder what he was trying to do there?

After the purpose pitch, Victorino rightly gestured at Kuroda to drill him on the body if he’s going to do that crap and not up near his head. The conversation continued after Victorino grounded out to first base. Again, he told the pitcher to hit him instead of playing that head hunting bit.

Fine. All over, right? Message sent and received.

Or not.

As the benches spilled out onto the foul territory, Manny Ramirez exacerbated the situation by doing that chicken hold-me-back bit. Then Larry Bowa began chirping again and gesturing, which incensed things even more.

Yes, imagine that – Bowa stirring it up.

Here comes the cheap shot(s):

Hey Larry, how come Charlie could take these guys to the playoffs and you couldn’t? Go back to coaching third, tough guy.

Why can’t Davey Lopes just do the earth a favor and punch Larry Bowa in the mouth? C’mon Davey, I’m sure there are at least a few dozen guys behind you ready to pile on.

Anyway, the Phillies went quietly in the fourth. J.A. Happ has settled things down for the pitching, too. After giving up a one-out single to Matt Kemp, Happ retired four hitters in a row until he walked Manny. Happ also walked Martin, which set the table for Nomar Garciaparra’s two-out, RBI single.

End of 3: Dodgers 7, Phillies 1

Second inning: Quick night for Moyer

LOS ANGELES – there are people watching the game up on the hill next to the “Think Blue” sign beyond left field. I believe it’s called Radio Hill and we climbed up and over (in a car) on the way here this afternoon.

On another note, the wireless connection is a little spotty up here in high center. Great view though. From my perch I saw that Pat Burrell did not get enough of the pitch from Hiroki Kuroda to knock it into the seats. However, Marcus Hayes (sitting directly to my left) pointed out that Burrell long out would have been a few rows deep into the seats at the Bank.

Nevertheless, the Phillies got a run back when Ryan Howard started the inning with a double, tagged for third on a fly out by Jayson Werth and then scored on Pedro Feliz’s two-out single.

But Jamie Moyer quickly gave that run back when Rafael Furcal blasted one over the left-field fence. Clearly, this is not Moyer’s night. Of the first 10 hitters Moyer faced, six got hits and seven reached base.

One pitch after the homer to Furcal, Moyer got Andre Ethier to fly out to center and that was it. Charlie Manuel bounced out of the dugout, waved his right hand and called in Clay Condrey.

I haven’t looked it up, but I’m pretty sure it was Moyer’s worst playoff outing.

The line:

1 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP – 32 pitches, 22 strikes

J.A. Happ should be on to start the third.

End of 2: Dodgers 6, Phillies 1

Walking into Edison’s lab

LOS ANGELES – The guard said the corridor snaked through the belly of Dodger Stadium and would lead me and another writer to the visitors’ clubhouse. Obviously the guy knew what he was talking about since he just sent Jamie Moyer the same way just moments before.

They say that sometimes the journey is much more interesting than the arrival. In this case it seemed right on after I made a quick left turn down another dark and dingy hallway before stumbling onto a sight to behold.

There was Manny being Manny.

Dressed in his Dodgers’ workout gear complete with the headband and everything, Manny eyed me and another scribe like a deer distracted from grazing by a couple of squirrels rustling through the brush.

But rather than scurry away, the other writer and I slowed our pace and not-so inconspicuously turned to watch Manny workout all by himself in the batting cage. There, he went through a range of routines before taking that fluid and famous right-handed swing at a ball resting on a tee.

Before our eyes could focus on the sound of the ball striking the bat and rocketing toward the mesh net at the other end of the cage, Manny was deep into his hitting routine again.

“It’s kind of like wandering into Edison’s lab, isn’t it,” I said.

Yes it was.

At the same time, strolling through the outer concourses, hidden corridors, clubhouses and field of Dodger Stadium is like going into a baseball history time machine. Forget about all the greats that took the same steps as me, Dodger Stadium and its geography is an important part of baseball and U.S. history. The Dodgers, after all, were the first baseball team to move to a city west of St. Louis. The move set off such an all-encompassing chain of events that have never stopped. Ever. Just think about the time that games begin and wonder if that had anything to do with the migration west.

Anyway, Dodger Stadium is a relic. It’s old without the wear. It’s small and cramped, but not claustrophobically so. The vistas from the seating area are right out of Ansel Adams on one side and Blade Runner on the other.

It’s a cross between awesome and totally awesome.

Interestingly, the infield grass is cut to golf-course level and the distance from the stands to the first and third bases is obscenely close. There’s no doubt that the people sitting along the third-base side of the field have gotten an earful from Tommy Lasorda in the past, and Larry Bowa this season.

But those views… wow!

But wouldn’t you know it, after making a conscious effort to pack a camera for the trip in order to snap some pictures for the site, etc., I left the damn thing at home. Yeah, such a dumbass.

Nevertheless, I was able to snap one with my phone, but they never turn out well. In the meantime, I’ll be heading over to the ballpark soon to regale readers with more tales from out here on the coast. Here’s a tidbit to start… a lot of my colleagues believe this series is coming back to Philadelphia late next week.

I’m not so sure.

Fourth inning: Revisiting the fastball

So how do you like your little ballpark now, Phillies fans?

Additionally, it should be pointed out that today is Friday…

I’m not saying anything, I’m just pointing that out.

Anyway, a strikeout that could have ended the fourth inning turned out to be a harbinger. That’s because after Rafael Furcal reached on the strikeout-wild pitch and Russell Martin laced a two-out single, Brett Myers decided to remember what it was like to throw a fastball.

The problem with that wasn’t so much as the idea that Myers had gotten so far away from his heater and was relying on cutters and curves to get through the Dodgers’ lineup. That’s why it was a curious thing when Myers threw a straight-as-an-arrow fastball straight down the pipe with Manny Ramirez standing in the batters’ box.

Needless to say, the experiment failed when Manny hit one just over the patch of mums above the left-field fence.

Just like that and this game turned into a save situation.

Meanwhile, Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game. Yeah, that’s right – Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game.

Want me to write that one more time?

Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game.

Here’s a fun fact from the TV folks at Fox:

During the playoffs Brett Myers is 4-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs and Ryan Howard is 2-for-17 with one RBI.

Yeah.

End of 4: Phillies 8, Dodgers 5

Third inning: Change of pace

The second time around the lineup for Cole Hamels looked much sharper. Perhaps showcasing his fastball during the first inning was part of his ploy to spring the change up on them later.

Hamels fooled Rafael Furcal into some bad swings before he grounded out for the first out, then looked to have another ground out on Andre Ethier, but Ryan Howard muffed it at first even though it was (wrongly) ruled a hit.

Certainly, Jimmy Rollins will let Howard know that he has to make those plays.

Manny Ramirez was fooled by a few off-speed pitches, too, before he popped out to short. Actually, it was kind of odd seeing Ramirez make an out because he looks so locked in at the plate.

Hamels is going to need some help from the bats, though. Derek Lowe was one of the hottest pitchers in all of baseball during September with a 3-0 record and 0.59 ERA in five starts. Perhaps the best tact for Lowe was taking him down like the way Shane Victorino did on a close play at first to end the inning.

Dodgers are out-hitting the Phils, 3-2.

End of 3: Dodgers 1, Phillies 0

Manny being Manny… or something like that

Big crowd here at the ballpark. All the seats are filled and they all stood and gave a rousing ovation to Charlie Manuel and the gang during the pre-game introductions.

I’m sitting here in the press box in the third row near next to Gonzo, who I hope won’t get the urge to punch me in the face tonight.

Really though, who can blame him? Gonzo and Bowa seem to have a lot in common in that regard. Nevertheless, the press box and the ballpark are as packed as I have ever seen it. Chances are the attendance record could be set tonight.

Luckily, the fans got to see Garry Maddox and Gary Matthews, the MVP of the 1983 NLCS when the Phillies beat the Dodgers, throw the ceremonial first pitches.

Then it got really loud with the “BEAT LA!” chant.

From talking to a few of the LA and national writers, it seems as if their read on the series is similar to ours – both clubs are very even and could see it going either way.

However, they all seem to think the Manny vs. Boston World Series is destined to happen. I say don’t forget about Nomar… certainly he left Boston just as unceremoniously as Manny.

Of course Manny made his presence known early when he followed Andre Ethier’s one-out double with the longest RBI double in the history of the park. Ramirez bashed an 0-1 fastball high above the 409-foot sign in the deepest and highest part of center field off starter Cole Hamels.

Interestingly, Hamels’ first eight pitches were fastballs, including the one Manny nearly hit through the chain-link fence in deep center. It also appeared as if he threw a fastball to cross up catcher Carlos Ruiz on a passed ball with two outs.

Call it an auspicious first inning for Hamels. It could have been worse, but the lefty grinded it out.

Meanwhile, Dodgers’ hurler Derek Lowe got through the first inning on just 14 pitches, compared to 23 by Hamels. However, a significant occurrence of note for the Phillies that inning came when Chase Utley roped a single to center with two outs.

End of 1: Dodgers 1, Phillies 0

Less than 60 minutes and counting

WASHINGTON – There is less than an hour to go before the trading deadline (this sentence was written at 3:04 p.m.) so consider this the last update before the clock strikes.

After 4 p.m. the 2008 Phillies and the entire landscape of the great, National Past Time could look dramatically different.

Or not.

Anyway, there is nothing new to report here. Apparently a Manny Ramirez trade to the Marlins is DOA, though the Ken Griffey Jr. trade to the White Sox is quite intriguing. For one thing, the White Sox now have a member of the 500 Home Run Club (Jim Thome) and the even more elite, 600 Home Run Club (Griffey).

But all is quiet on the Phillies front. At least all is quiet for now. The first team bus arrived at the park around 3 p.m. and all the usual suspects were aboard. So for the time being, general manager Pat Gillick is standing pat.

Otherwise, I had a nice leisurely morning and afternoon here in The District. After a humid and sultry morning jaunt through a wooded trail (I saw another deer[1]), I rolled through Florida Ave. and the U Street corridor to the Adams-Morgan section of town where I finally got to eat at The Amsterdam Falafel Shop.

Mmmmm, mmmm.

Now I have never been to Amsterdam or Holland, but folks who know better say the Adams-Morgan Amsterdam Falafel Shop is as authentic as it gets. In fact, one giveaway to the authenticity of the TAMF (not sure people call it this, but you know, I’ll put it out there) is that they serve brownies and make it a point to inform the consumer that they are not “enhanced.”

Enhanced is my word. On the menu they were called “virgin” brownies.

Yeah.

Anyway, the menu is very basic at The Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Adams-Morgan, located just a half block from the famous Madam’s Organ – the place Playboy magazine named the best bar in the United States. In fact, they serve just falafel (two sizes), Dutch baked fries (two sizes) and un-enhanced brownies (square shaped).

Each sandwich is made to order and each diner can add any of the 18 different sauces and toppings from the garnish bar.

It’s definitely a treat, man. Plus, they usually stay open late (but not past midnight on a Sunday as I learned last month) so if you find yourself in the area and get a hankering for authentic Dutch falafel, by all means, drop in.

After lunch, I drove to the ballpark via Capitol Hill where it looked as if there was a lot of governing going on… a lot of gentrification, too. It seems to me that The District has at least one Starbucks for every household. Interestingly, neighborhoods that were once talked about in hushed, scared tones are now filled with people walking around in madras shorts and business suits with a chai latte in hand.

OK, time for the clubhouse. By the time I get back we’ll know if the Phillies have any new players or not.


[1] Why is it that whenever I see deer, elk or coyotes during runs while in Colorado I just shrug it off as no big deal, yet when I cross paths with a deer in Washington or Lancaster I get freaked out? Historically, there have been a lot of deer in the Northeast and their habitat (obviously) is shrinking, however, when I see one I run away… fast. I run away completely scared to death and afraid even to look over my shoulder for fear that it might be chasing me. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country I try to get as close as possible to those unfamiliar wild animals. Passing an elk in town in Colorado is like seeing a stray cat… what gives?

Manny and the deadline

WASHINGTON – Charlie Manuel says he can handle it. If presented with a chance to manage a player who might be a bit of a discipline problem, Charlie doesn’t see it as an issue.

“I like talent,” Charlie said.

Of course the subject of the talent was potentially ex-Red Sox superstar Manny Ramirez, a player Charlie managed in the minors and coached in the big leagues with the Indians. In the past, Ramirez said he wouldn’t mind being reunited with his old hitting guru.

Manuel says he doesn’t think the Phillies need to add a hitter, but if they did he has one guy in mind.

“Manny Ramirez would be the hitter,” he said. “My time with Manny was very special,” Manuel said. “He was a kid then. He’s grown up a lot. Well, he’s gotten older. I feel like I know him to a certain degree.”

But that would mean Ramirez is heading to Philadelphia, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

According to the banter making the rounds in the press box at Exxon (Nationals) Park, the Red Sox, Pirates and Marlins were ironing out a deal that would send Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston and Manny from Boston to the Marlins. In fact, newspapers in Florida are reporting that a tentative deal has been struck.

That means no Manny for Charlie. But could it tip the balance in the NL East to the upstart Marlins who stand just 1½ games behind the Phillies?

Maybe.

“One player can make a lot of difference,” Manuel said, “if you get the right player.”

If a deal does occur and the Marlins get Ramirez, or if the Mets pull off a deal before the deadline, what does that mean for the Phillies? Will they try to keep pace?

“You don’t like to react to someone else,” general manager Pat Gillick said. “I’ve always said you like to do what you think is proper for your club. If the Mets or Marlins improve their club, they improve their club. We’ll hopefully try to improve our club, but we’re not reacting.”

The GM might not be reacting, but the Phillies fans definitely will.

On another note, how did the relationship between the Red Sox and Ramirez get so bad? Why is Manny saying things like, “the Red Sox don’t deserve me…” They are paying him $20 million! How is that disrespectful.

Maybe they want him to run the bases?

Is he a Vulcan?

Country TimeWhat’s that growing out of Billy Wagner’s ear… oh, it’s one of those pathetic bluetooth things. You know, the phone devices that make annoying folks look like they have an entire cadre of friends that may or may not be calling every five to ten minutes. Barring that, it makes it easier for the self-possessed to appear as if they are not talking to themselves.

Nevertheless, it appears as if Wagner, or “Country Time” as he has been dubbed in The City, will be talking to himself a lot these days. That’s because not only was he taken to task by manager Willie Randolph for calling out starting pitcher Oliver Perez for a rather languid outing a week or go, but yesterday, following a 1-0 loss to the Nationals, Wagner called out his teammates for ducking the media.

Here, take a look:

Here’s the transcript. According to published reports, Wagner directed his ire toward Carlos Delgado’s empty locker:

“Can somebody tell me why the (expletive) the closer being interviewed and I didn’t even play, while they’re over there not getting interviewed? I get it, they’re gone. (Expletive) shocker.”

OK. It sounds like the Mets’ clubhouse is a lot like the Phillies after a loss (or a win) in that players are not too interested in deconstructing their job for the media and fans. Because, you know, screw the media and the fans.

Still, there are Phillies who are very good at talking to the press after games. For instance, Brett Myers was sitting at his locker waiting to re-live the horror of Wednesday night’s eight-run debacle against the Braves. He was rather stand-up about it, which, I suspect, isn’t the easiest part of the gig. As a whole, the Phillies usually are good about the media part of the job, though a few can be a bit prickly.

I guess that makes them human… go figure.

But just for the record, if I were a mainstream professional athlete, I’d place a podium and small stage in front of my locker in order to properly discuss all topics with the press. Sometimes, you know, I can get a bit chatty, though I’d probably just use the old Scott Rolen line and ask the press, “What do you need me to say to make your story better?”

Sometimes I can be a team player.

Anyway, back to Wagner…

With the way Brad Lidge has been pitching – and yes, Wagner has been very good this year – would anyone want Country Time back in Philly?

Additionally, does anyone else think that the Mets are just going to implode during the second half of this season complete with fistfights in the clubhouse and sniping in the NYC tabloids?

Speaking of what other people think, is there any other player that has more fun than Manny Ramirez?

Answer?

No.