Ryan Howard and The White House Garden

howard subway adAs we all know by now, Ryan Howard trimmed down and got into top shape during the off-season. To do so he didn’t hang out as much with Jared in those Subway commercials and really took it up a notch with diet and exercise.

In fact, Howard’s prowess in eating healthy matched some of his long-distance home runs — something acknowledged during the Phillies’ visit to The White House last month.

Here’s Howard in a suit checking out some of the veggies in The White House garden that was planted by the Obamas earlier this year:

Did Ryan Howard drop a, “Oh… snap, son!” on The White House chef?

Of Presidential visits and hitting streaks

pete-roseLike an old catcher with creaky knees, ball writers don’t bounce back like they used to. That’s especially the case when they play day games after night games that take nearly 3½  hours to play.

Yes, life is hard. I know.

However, tomorrow morning comes early for the Phillies, too. After this afternoon’s series finale against the Dodgers, the Phillies board an Amtrak train to ride the rails to The District to be ready for the World Champion visit to the White House.

It should be a fun afternoon even though several members of the team and traveling party have already been to the White House and even the Oval Office before. Back when George W. Bush was president, baseball players used to be summoned for tours and audiences often. Bush, of course, was a former owner of the Texas Rangers and dreamed of being the commissioner of baseball until Bud Selig out-maneuvered him for the gig.

Fool him once…

Anyway, the main purpose of the trip to Washington is to play four games in three days against the last-place Nationals. Certainly the visit couldn’t come at a better time for the Phillies because they really need a winning streak to kick start things.

If they do so it should be in front of a friendly crowd since the Nationals rank 28th in attendance, averaging just 19,416 fans per game. Certainly those numbers will dip even further as the summer progresses since the Nats likely face mathematical elimination quicker than the other teams in the league.

Worse, unless the team drafts college phenom Stephen Strasburg with the first pick in the June 9 draft (and sign him) and call him up, there probably won’t be too much of a buzz about the baseball team in Southeast DC.

Of course Ryan Zimmerman’s hitting streak could have helped that if it had continued past 30 games.

Zimmerman had his hitting streak snapped yesterday against the Giants with an 0-for-3 including a pair of walks. One of those walks was an intentional pass that came with first base open in the seventh inning. Sure, it stinks that Zimmerman’s streak came to end with an intentional walk in there, but it was the baseball move by manager Bruce Bochy.

Nevertheless, Zimmerman could have been the only draw for the Nats if the streak could have continued past this weekend. In the meantime, Zimmerman’s streak was the longest since Moises Alou hit in 30 straight in 2007 and Chase Utley hit in 35 straight in 2006.

Not that Chase talked about it, of course.

Ever superstitious, Utley refused to talk about hitting and the streak during his run that year. It was the exact opposite tact of Jimmy Rollins who chattered away about his 38-game streak through the end of 2005 and the start of 2006.

And of course the master of post-DiMaggio hitting streaks, Pete Rose, yapped away non-stop about his streak during the 1978 season. In fact, Pete is still chattering away about it. Last December I visited with Rose in Las Vegas during the winter meetings and he told me about his hitting streak (amongst other topics) and even said he doesn’t like the way Utley refuses to open up to the media. He pointedly took Utley to task for his superstitious approach during his hitting streak in 2006.

Here’s what I wrote in December:

But Rose does not understand Utley’s reluctance to open up to the media about himself or baseball. Different personalities, perhaps. Rose was an open book and revealed all even when he was keeping a secret about his gambling on baseball. One of the secrets to the success of those juggernaut Phillies teams in Rose’s day was that he was the one who stood up and took on the media. With sensitive personalities like Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt on the club, Rose was the go-to guy for a quote or some insight. By doing that, he took the pressure off the team’s best players.

Rose simply did not understand why Utley refused to talk to the media during his 35-game hitting streak during the 2006 season. Not talking about baseball is just a foreign concept to him. Worse, he says, fans – particularly kids – don’t get a chance to know their heroes without some type of media insight.

“Kids might want to know more about baseball and they will listen to what a guy like Chase Utley has to say,” Rose said. “But when he’s up there all he says is, ‘Yep.’”

Interestingly, Rose said nearly the same thing about Utley to Dan Patrick on his radio show yesterday when he talked about Zimmerman’s streak. Take a listen here.

Pete also said he believes Alex Rodriguez is a Hall-of-Famer, but that might be a bit of a political statement.

Oh yes, Pete Rose definitely wants to be in the Hall of Fame.

Going green

green-jacketIt’s a big weekend for sports with the Phillies diving deeper into the season and The Masters burning up the TV set down there in Augusta, Ga. Meanwhile, the Phillies play in their third home opener on Monday when they face the lowly Washington Nationals in D.C.

Yes, the vagaries of being the WFCs.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the trip to the White House will be the only chance for the team to hobnob with the President. The White House announced today that President Obama will not throw the ceremonial first pitch at Monday’s game.

The Nats will just have to find someone else.

Besides, the President is heading off to Mexico and Trindad after the Phillies’ visit next Tuesday.

So while the Phillies will have to make do with a mere visit to the White House, a new Masters champion will likely get a congratulatory phone call from the President later this weekend. The way things are shaping up now it very well could be Lancaster native and Manheim Township grad, Jim Furyk. Midway through the second round Furyk is right there on the mix to win his first green jacket, which hardly seems like a prize at all.

But then again, the Masters is all about conformity. They make the caddies dress in those awful white jumpsuits and green Masters ballcaps, which kind of blends in with most of the players’ attitude about uniqueness. White belts or large belt buckles seem to be the trend these days so the fairways at Augusta National suddenly look like bingo night at the Quiet Valley Retirement Village.

Of course the big white whale at the Masters is Phil Mickelson who has taken to doing ads for ExxonMobile these days. Then again, one has to figure that Mickelson spends enough cash buying gas for his plane so he might as well get some of it back.

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Finally, it’s still a sad day around baseball as players react to the death of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart. Since 2002, Adenhart, from the DC/Baltimore suburb of Silver Spring, is the third Major Leaguer to die in an accident allegedly related to drunken driving.

As usual, Joe Posnanski captures it nicely. At the same time, the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels are no strangers to tragedy.

Shine on you crazy diamonds

Here it is… this is Charlie Manuel’s World Series ring shown off by hand model extraordinaire, Leslie Gudel. The BlackBerry pictures certainly don’t do the ring justice, but trust me – the thing is as big as a belt buckle. In fact, Charlie even reported that there is some room for him to grow into the ring.

More importantly, it’s nice. It’s not tacky like the one the Marlins got in 2003. However, it’s definitely something noticeable when it’s worn. Several of the players left the ballpark with their new bling on and it stood out.

Anyway, here’s Chuck’s ring:

chucks-ring

chuck_ring

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Speaking of the hand model, we were a bit taken aback when Chipper Jones said he was going to play out his current contract and then “sail off into the sunset.”

Unlike with Curt Schilling, there is no debating that Chipper is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

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matthewsOh, here’s a crazy story… at Tuesday night’s game at the Bank, I asked a few members of the Phillies PR staff when the team would make the traditional White House visit that championship teams often are honored with.

Actually, not to be confusing, I asked, “Hey, when is the team going to visit the White House. You guys have that off-day, afterall?”

I figured the question was appropriate considering the team will be in The District next week and had an off-day scheduled for Tuesday. But, good question, right? It was quick, concise and to the point and can illicit just a handful of answers.

Or so I thought. Apparently it was a stumper because no one on the staff had an answer to give me or another colleague of the writing press corps.

So imagine our surprise this morning when we woke up, clicked on our mobile devices and saw that the team web site was reporting that the Phillies would visit with the President next Tuesday at the White House.

Wha happened?

I guess the query was too complex or maybe they thought I asked if the team was going to the White House right this minute. As in, “Hey, are guys going to visit the White House, right now?”

Hey, it’s not the first time this type of confusion has occurred in the past month. But the season is young… they’ll get it together and make sure I don’t have answers to basic questions at least once per series.

And of course I will always report back to you there in front of your computer… that’s right, I’m looking out for you, dear readers.

So yeah, the Phillies are going to the White House next Tuesday. In fact, Gary Matthews already has an in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since his daughter and President Obama’s daughter were friends in Chicago.

Yeah, that’s right… Sarge rolls with the leader of the free world.