The Phanatic, Mike Trout and a Philly Dilemma For the Ages

The Phanatic, Mike Trout and a Philly Dilemma For the Ages

Last Thursday morning, the WIP Morning Show featured one of those deep, philosophical discussions that's long been synonymous with that show. Angelo asked the question that has dominated the sports discussion in Philadelphia, at the ballpark and at Memorial Day barbecues:

Would you trade the Phillie Phanatic for Mike Trout?

These are the questions that try men's souls. Obviously, we all want Trout. He's a 22-year-old outfielder who can do it all, on offense and defense. And even better, he's a hometown guy, who grew up in South Jersey, a mere 40 miles away from Citizen's Bank Park. Unfortunately, he's signed with the Angels until 2020, so we can't have him until then.

Unless, that is…. we surrender the big green guy.

Would you do it? Tempting as it is… I wouldn't. The Phanatic has two World Series rings, two more than Trout (and indeed, more than any Phillies player ever.) His contract is much more favorable. In all, the Phanatic is more indispensable than any player. Who's going to be the mascot in his place? Swoop? Phil E. Moose?

And worst of all, would you like to be the guy who has to tell the Phanatic he's going to Anaheim? I know I wouldn't.

In a trade for Trout, I'm willing to give up Ben Revere, John Mayberry, and possibly even Cody Asche. But not the Phanatic. No way.

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I know it's not entirely on him, but I can't help but vent my disappointment at Sam Hinkie, as the Sixers were only able to come up with the #3 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. Clearly, they should have tanked more, or at least tanked smarter. Even worse, Hinkie once again refused to answer questions from the media after the lottery. Why can't Hinkie tell us, right now, who he's planning to draft? I think we're entitled as fans to that information.

You know why we got #3? Because the Sixers sent Dr. J, and not Allen Iverson, to represent them. The last time the Sixers got the #1 pick? It was Iverson. Plus, the after-party would have been way more fun.

I'm not sure who the Sixers will draft, but I think it's up to us fans to help them make their choice. So some of us- 30 or so- should get a bus up to New York, go to the draft, and sort of nudge the Sixers in the right direction. I see no downside to doing this.

Anyway, Charles Barkley said this week that he plans to retire from TV in two years and wants to be a GM. Do the right thing, Sixers- fire Hinkie, hire Barkley. Because at least you know he'll talk to the media.

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You know, now that I've thought about it, maybe we should try the Halladay/Lee thing: Trade the Phanatic for Trout and then, a year from now, re-sign the Phanatic as a free agent for six years and $126 million, and hope his elbow holds up. All right, sounds like a plan.

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Jon Stewart last week became the latest member of the national media to commit an anti-Philadelphia hate crime, making fun of our fans, cheesesteaks and (yes) even the Phanatic on his show.

I'd like to hear Stewart make those jokes while standing at the 50-yard line of the Linc during an Eagles game. Not so tough now, huh Jon?

Speaking of late night TV, The Tonight Show recently aired a segment in which Yankee fans were told to boo a life-sized cutout of ex-Yankee Robinson Cano, until the real Cano came out, and they all immediately back-tracked and hugged him. Please. Try that bit in Philly, with, oh, Bryzgalov or Andrew Bynum, and we'll keep right on booing the guy to his face.

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Okay, hypothetically, if we do this Trout/Phanatic deal- will the Angels take Papelbon's contract too?

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Also on the subject of vicious national media attacks on Philadelphia and its teams- can you believe the Sporting News named Ruben Amaro the worst general manager in baseball? Shame on them- calling him out as the worst general manager in baseball is OUR job.

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Okay, fine. Trade the Phanatic for Trout. I'll bite the bullet. Now, if we can just convince the Angels to trade the best player in the game for another team's mascot…

Other Philly sports takes:

- I was excited to hear the Phillies are planning to move Cody Asche to the outfield in 2015. Nobody likes to switch around players' positions, but if you're dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Asche, you've just got to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup.

- The Phillies are missing on-field intensity and killer instinct. That's what they get, for failing to invite Mitch Williams as a spring training instructor.

- I can't believe the Mets, in 2014, signed Bobby Abreu. How stupid can a team be?

- Connor Barwin of the Eagles said on the morning show a few weeks ago that he'll soon host an indie rock concert, to be attended by several of his teammates. If I were them I'd tell Riley Cooper the wrong night.

- It's hard to believe the Phils got no-hit, with Cesar Hernandez and Ben Revere in the lineup. Besides the no-hitter, the mysterious Cliff Lee injury, and the general, ever-present air of doom and gloom present every day at the ballpark, I'm actually feeling not so bad about this Phillies season.

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Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rondon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).