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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A column on Phillies' silence at trade deadline

Amaro may not let Charlie play injury card

As the trade deadline passed Wednesday and the Phillies were still the same Phillies, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made one thing clear: Injuries, as much as anything, have yielded a disappointing season.

With that, he did not make any changes.

But if injuries were why the Phillies rolled a 50-56 record into a game with the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, does that mean Charlie Manuel should get a pass, too?

If the only reason the Phillies have been so disappointing is because their MRI operator has contracted tennis elbow, then shouldn't Manuel be absolved? And if so, might that be a consideration at season's end, when Manuel's contract will expire?

"I think honestly, we haven’t been running on all cylinders," Amaro said. "It’s been difficult, difficult for all of us not to have Ben Revere on the field and Ryan Howard and others. There’s disappointment in that and frustration. I think that’s not just Charlie, that’s all of us."

In other words, Amaro didn't really give an answer. He has the right to change managers. And after two disappointing seasons, it could be time.

It's just interesting how an injury card can come in so handy ... until it's time to allow someone else to play one.

Check out my column on the Phillies and their silence at the trade deadline in the Daily Times Thursday and, as always, on

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Charlie Manuel finally admits Phillies will not be all right

Asche happy to be in big leagues

This is a quick transcription of an interview Cody Asche did with the press in the Phillies locker room before his first big-league game Tuesday:


“You never really know how you're going to react to it. Our manager told me I was going to the big leagues. I said, 'Today?' he said, 'Yeah, today.' I was like, 'OK, let's go.'”

Did he see it coming at all?

“No. No. I am the kind of guy that just likes to every day on a daily basis. Work hard that day and see what happens. I wasn't looking into the future for anything, just kind of work hard and wait for an opportunity.”

A home-grown talent like Utley, Cole etc ..

“I hope. I will work to that. I look up to the guys who have come through the system. They have been successful. They have won championships. They are definitely guys that we looked to and tried to emulate.”

On where he stands …

“I am just going to try and soak it all in today. And just take it day by day. Work hard at whatever they bring at me.”

On Triple A season, beyond the numbers …

“It's been up and down. There is that learning process that took place. I always think to myself that there is something more that could have been done. But that's baseball. You take your ups, you take your downs and just keep going and hopefully the ups outweigh the downs.”

An indication of whether he will start …

“I have no idea. No idea. No.”

Had he been expecting a call?

“No idea. No indications.”

When did he get call?

“Around 11:30 this morning.”

Family in town?

“They are coming tomorrow. They are all in the middle of a work day.”

“From St. Louis.”

Are they fired up?

“Yeah. Yeah. I haven't stopped smiling all day.”

He's been hitting well, hoping for some at-bats?

“Hey, if they come, they come. If not, I will settle into whatever role they have for me here.”

Has developed more power this year?

“Maybe. I just think the power just comes along with refined skills and seeing more pitches and having more plate discipline, and a little better pitch selection. When you refine your swing and are able to put a consistent pass on balls in the zone, I think the numbers kind of just come. It's not something that you try to do.”

Trade deadline on his mind?

“I am not one that likes to get caught up in that kind of stuff. I usually get my updates from you guys, who tell me what is going to happen. I just kind of take it on a daily basis and try to work hard and try to earn opportunities in this game. That's all you can ask for.”

Seem to have turned the corner offensively in the last few months …

“Yeah. I think there has probably been a gradual increase in consistency, I would say. Earlier in the year, I wasn't having consistent at-bats like I needed to. And it just comes with experience, I guess, and comfort. I think the numbers came with consistency and the comfort.”

Why slow starts at every level? Thoughts?

“Not really. If I had an answer, I don't think I would start slow. Hopefully I can just stay comfortable in who I am and just keep trying to help the team win.”

Did he think this was possible at the beginning of the season?

“No. I just thought about being the best player I could be.”

Was he surprised?

“Very. I was planning on waking up at 2 or 3 and going to the field and being the Iron Pigs third baseman today. So I was definitely surprised.”

How did he find out?

“Dave Brundage called me, our manager.”

No hijinks?

“No. He didn't try to mess with me or anything. Thankfully not. That wouldn't have been very funny.”

Compared to Utley, now dressing in locker next to him?

“I can only hope someday I can be compared to that guy (pointing to Utley's locker). I will just take it as it is right now.”

Is it common to wake up at 2 or 3?

“No. We got in late last night probably 4 a.m. From Pawtucket. A long bus ride.”

Have they told him about his role?

“They have not.”

Has he talked to Charlie?

“Yeah, when I got here I talked to him. He said, 'Just go out there and take B.P. and go about the day like it is a normal day and figure it out.”


“Just being confident is who I am. It is always who I try to be, just a confident person that believes in myself no matter what. I think if you have confidence in yourself, you will be able to succeed at any level.”

Not long ago you were in Williamsport struggling?

“I does seem fast. I was talking to my buddy. He called me on the way up here. He was my roommate in Williamsport so we were kind of reminiscing on the way up. But, yeah, it definitely feels that it has gone quick, but I wouldn't change it for anything.”

Who was roommate?

“Mike Nesseth.”

Outside distractions?

“Not for me. I think it is pretty easy to kind of push that stuff aside. I am just a guy that wants to go about my work and just work hard and try to be a better baseball player every day.”

Family coming?

“I think I have my parents, girlfriend, brother, his fiancee, my agent. Just a little small group.”


“If it is asked of me I could probably figure something out.”

Sunday, July 21, 2013

If Hamels doesn't pitch better, Phillies are doomed

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Phillies need more from Hamels

With no Ryan Howard, no Roy Halladay, no Ben Revere, no power from Carlos Ruiz, no consistency from a $50,000,058 closer and no bench depth, the Phillies --- wait for it --- really aren't that good.

But in a season where their division is ordinary, they do have one remaining opportunity to be special, in at least one way.

Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have the chance --- heck, they are paid a combined $44.5 million for it --- to be a reliable, dominating, one-two left-handed punch in the post-All-Star break portion of the season.

When they are right, and recently they had been, Lee and Hamels can give even the 2013 Phillies a reason to be feared.

That's why the way Hamels pitched in a 5-4 loss to the Mets Saturday --- poorly, that's the word --- should have had the only the Phillies in fear. 
“He was having command trouble,” Charlie Manuel said. “He walked a couple of guys, and that hurt him. He had a big pitch count in the first few innings, and on a day like today, that's pretty important.”
Hamels had been splendid in his last three starts. So maybe the heat and the Mets and the laws of average had him due for an off game.
But if the Phillies think they can win anything this season with Hamels showing command trouble, they are wrong.
So Hamels fell to 4-12, and looked 4-12, lasting only five innings and allowing seven hits. But Lee will go Sunday against Matt Harvey, and that means the Phillies have a chance to win the series.
For them to win more, though, they need Lee and Hamels --- the both of them --- to dominate. Given the rest of their troubles, it is the only thing that elevates them to even fringe contention.
Check out my column on the Hamels issue in the Daily Times Sunday and, as always, on

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Selig rightly proud of new value of All-Star Game

The All-Star Game in 2002 ended in a tie, American League 7, National League 7, after 11 innings.

Bud Selig is 78. He's not apologizing for that any more.

“Can I just say something about that, and would the women in here kindly not listen?” Selig would say Tuesday, 11 years later, in an All-Star break lunchtime chat with the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in Manhattan. Pausing for effect, the 78-year-old commissioner reminded everyone, “We were (bleeping) out of pitchers.”

So, there was that.

But with that, there was a hastening of the move to make the All-Star Game more significant, and since 2003, the winning league has earned the home-field advantage in the World Series. For a commissioner who'd overseen a sour issue or two, Selig can add that to his list of credits.

“People say, 'Well, you did it for television,'” Selig said. “Well, that isn't unconstitutional or immoral either. We have a TV partner, they pay us a lot of money, we'd like to make them happy. But it has worked.”

It has worked, and if it continues to work, Bud Selig's everlasting image my just be a touch cleaner.

“I don't regard this as part of my history,” Selig said of the 2002 game. “It happened. And he fate of western civilization, by the way, wasn't changed one iota as a result of that tie, lest anybody get too concerned about it.”

Check out my story on the commissioner, along with a column on the Phillies, who apparently are not being taken seriously as trade-deadline buyers, in the Daily Times Wednesday and, as always, on

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Amaro buying the idea that .500 Phils will contend

The Phillies are a .500 team, in the middle of a division, not bad, not good, just there.

But that gives them enough a foundation to build upon, not destroy. And that's why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. all but ended the mystery Sunday, before the Phils' 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Chicago White Sox.

He's buying.

Let somebody else sell.

“We're probably in the 'add' mode,” Amaro said, “more than anything else.”

Amaro will look for a pitcher and a center fielder, some bench help and any clear path to the top of an N.L. East that continues to look wide open.

“It's pretty exciting, actually,” he. said, “for us to have gotten ourselves back into the race and to play a little bit better baseball.”

There have been more exciting seasons, just put it that way. Amaro, though, insists he will try to make it more exciting. The Phillies, who have won their last four series and just had a .700 homestand, deserve the boost.

Check out my column in the Daily Times Monday and, as always, on

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Phillies 3, Nationals 2



PHILADELPHIA --- There was not going to be a formal announcement, a ribbon-cutting, fireworks or spotlights. If it happened at all, the Phillies' recovery would be subtle, quiet, a reflection of a series of signs.

Like winning two of three in Pittsburgh.

Like winning two of three from Atlanta.

Like beginning a four-game series against the Washington Nationals Monday with splendid starting pitching, zesty top-of-the-order baseball and a 3-2 victory.

On a night when they learned that Ryan Howard would be lost to them for up to two months, the Phillies continued to hint at one thing: When their former MVP returns, it may yet be to a playoff-minded team.

Such, at least, has been the message as they have won four of their last five.

“People talk and they say 'This is the biggest series,' and things like that,” Charlie Manuel said before the game. “I say, 'Our philosophy is to play the same every day.' Our No. 1 priority is the game, to win the game. I don't know how big a series is. Every one of them is big. Every game we play should be looked upon as big. Yeah, Washington is in our division and things like that. We have a four-game series with them and I look at it as that would be great for us to win. I am not thinking about tomorrow. And I'm not worried about it.

“I am thinking about tonight and hoping we get a good chance to win the game. That's what I am thinking about.”

The Phillies remain two games below .500, a mark that they have found to be a force field, continually pushing them the other way. But they are enjoying consistent production from leadoff hitter Ben Revere, who supplied three hits, scored twice and tormented the Nationals Monday with his speed.

That was plenty for former Nat John Lannan, who methodically, calmly coaxed ground balls. His eight scoreless innings were good enough for a crowd of 33,061 to stand and cheer. And the Phils' recent winning habits may enough for the general manager to consider sitting a little more still at the trade deadline.

“We look at our team,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Our team has been the best team in the second half other than any team in baseball, other than St. Louis. I’m not exactly sure what the record is, but we’re always very good, so I have to take that into account.

“I also have to take into account what has been happening. We have a progression right now. We’re starting to swing the bats more consistently and getting a lot more production out of guys. Ben Revere and Delmon Young are starting to produce and do some things for us, and that is always a good sign. Everybody wants everybody to produce right away, but you have to have some level of patience and we’ll try to be prudent when we make decisions here at the end of July.”

The top of the lineup worked to plan and the Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first. Revere and Jimmy Rollins both slapped singles to right, then took the double-steal route to second and third. After Chase Utley struck out, Domonic Brown ricocheted an infield hit off Dan Haren, who would fall to 4-10, scoring Revere.

Michael Young walked, loading the bases, and after Delmon Young whiffed, Rollins scored when Darin Ruf walked. Carlos Ruiz left the bases loaded with a soft fly to right.

Revere and Rollins tormented the Nats again in the sixth, Revere whistling a double into the left-field corner, then sprinting home on a Rollins single.

Lannan allowed four hits in eight innings, walking two and striking out four. He needed 109 pitches, 71 for strikes, to collect a dozen ground-ball outs and improve to 2-3.

Jonathan Papelbon struggled in the ninth, allowing a single to Bryce Harper, a double to Ryan Zimmerman and a sacrifice fly RBI to deepest center by Jayson Werth. That sent Zimmerman to third, from where he would score on an Adam LaRoche sacrifice fly to center.

But Papelbon forced Chad Tracy to sky to shallow center for his 19th save.

Signs? Signs.

“One game at a time,” Brown said. “We have to look at it that way. If you don't, you put all the pressure on yourself. We have to look at it one day at a time, make sure we know who's pitching, and take it from there.”

Howard out 6 to 8 weeks

Ryan Howard requires a surgical procedure on his left knee and will be lost to the Phillies from six to eight weeks, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday.

Howard was placed on the disabled list Saturday, and an MRI and an x-ray Monday revealed that he had a torn medial meniscus, according to Amaro.

“It is not that dissimilar from what Erik Kratz had, and Erik is actually playing now,” Amaro said before the Phillies played the Washington Nationals. “He moved pretty quickly. Hopefully, we will have the same time frame, but everybody's knee is different.”

In 286 at-bats, Howard was hitting .266 with 11 home runs and 95 strikeouts.

“We can only speculate the length of how long it is going to take him to rehab,” Amaro said. “But we will shoot for the conservative one and hope that it comes back faster.

“I'm encouraged,” Amaro added. “It could have been much more significant damage. Obviously we don't want any of our players to be on the D.L. For long. But we know what it is. We know it is treatable. And hopefully we can have him back in time to play in the course of this year.”

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Best that Howard goes away for a while

Just a little less than one time out of every three that he would wiggle into a batter's box, Ryan Howard would strike out.

In other news, the Phillies were having a horrifying season.

Connection? Connection.

Howard is 33, which could be the reason. He also had an injured knee, which could be the reason. Either way, he had to go away for a while, just to give the Phillies a chance to breathe. So, he has, going on the disabled list, on his way to a Monday MRI.

“It’s tough,” Howard said Sunday. “I definitely want to be out there. But at the same time I have to be smart about it and try to see if we can nip it in the bud and see what will help. Hopefully try to get back out there as soon as we can.”
If he returns stronger, then good for the Phillies.
If not, then good for the Phillies that they will have plenty of time to see All-Star Domonic Brown at cleanup and franchise power prospect Darin Ruf at first base.
In a 7-3 victory over the visiting Braves Sunday, Brown tripled and homered, and Ruf had a double and scored twice. It's a start, as the Phillies inched within 7 1-2 games of the N.L. East lead.
The loss of Howard has left Charlie Manuel with an empty feeling. Maybe he knows something. Or maybe it is just a case of nostalgia.
But it is going to look different around Citizens Bank Park for a while. And it may never look the same way again.

Will the Phillies be better without Howard and his strikeouts?

They probably will.

Check out my column in the Daily Times Monday and, as always, on

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Phillies keep acting their age

Ryan Howard is on the DL, with an MRI scheduled, with an injured knee, an achy foot, a repaired Achilles.

"It's a big blow," Charlie Manuel said, after a 13-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves. "He's still a threat. He has 47 RBIs. Just his presence means something to us."

That's the Phillies' template, to expect veteran stars to provide a presence. Trouble is, they are too old to do so on a regular basis. Already this season, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay have been on the DL, as have Mike Adams and Delmon Young.

But what were the Phillies expecting when they committed to such a veteran team, not a young one?

Check out my column on the topic in the Daily Times Sunday and, as always, on

Friday, July 5, 2013

Giroux reacts to new contract

Claude Giroux has signed an eight-year, $66 million contract extension with the Flyers.

This was his reaction, in a conference call with the press today:

Claude Giroux:

“They treat players unbelievable. The fans are always expecting great things. So just to be a part of that is is obviously a very good feeling.”

How important was it to get it out of the way before the season and not drag on?

“That's one thing me and Homer wanted to do, make sure we get this out of the way and from now on we can start focusing on the right thing. And it is a good thing that it is done with.”

How will it be to play with Vinny Lecavalier?

“I don't know him personally. But I hear a lot of good things about him. And growing up, I have been watching him play a lot and I think he is going to be a player that the Flyers' fans are going to enjoy watching, He's an intense guy and he goes into the corners and he can put the puck in the net. I have been talking to some of the guys and everybody is pumped to have him.”

Did you ever think you would be a career Flyers player, someone with essentially a lifetime contract?

“I never really thought about that stuff. I just go out and play hockey. I just go out and play my game. I just want to play my best to help the team win. You know what? Five years ago I was just trying to get a spot in the NHL and to make sure I could get as much ice time as I could to be able to show what I could do. A lot of that credit goes to the coaching staff and the management to have that trust in me.”

When was the deal actually done?

“Pretty much when it came out. We were looking at pretty much the same thing, just the little details. It is not my job to do that. My agent did a pretty good job with that. My main focus is to play hockey and that is pretty much my agent's job. It is not something I was worried about. Holmgren treats the players very good. I am just lucky to be a part of this organization right now.”

When did you get word that the deal was done?

“I think it was yesterday morning-ish, or around that time.”

Are you in Canada, doing offseason regimen, while your agent is working on the contract?

“Yeah that is basically it. Pat (Brisson) is a great agent. He knows what he is doing. That's why I chose him, so I could put all my trust in him and just worry about what I have to do. I have been training with Tony Greco for the last seven or eight years now, so I just keep doing the same training I do every summer and I always come to camp feeling good. So I can't be worried about that kind of stuff.”

What about the potential of adding Ray Emery, and that he and Mason will be the goalies next season?

“If those rumors are true, obviously, I had the chance to play with Emery before and he is an unreal guy and a good teammate and a great goalie. So it was too bad that when he came to Philly he got hurt, but if that is the case that he is coming to Philly, it would be fun.”

Was it tough to watch the postseason, not being in it?

“It is always tough to watch the games after you are done. You kind of want to be there, especially when you had a taste before of the NHL Finals. It is really something to watch. But it is something that motivates you.”

Did it sink in that the contract is the top one in franchise history?

“It is a great honor to be able to have that kind of contract, and it just shows the kind of trust they have in me. And I am going to do the best I can to not let them down. You know what? A little pressure like that never hurts. I have a lot of good teammates that are playing well. So I am just excited to just move along from this.”

Was it tough to see Richards, Carter, Jagr and other teammates going far in the playoffs?

“Thanks for reminding me of that by the way.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Size will stop Flyers from being punked