Broken Twigs: Kimmo's Last Season and FGSB Mailbag

Broken Twigs: Kimmo's Last Season and FGSB Mailbag

"That's it. 99 percent sure that's my last."

So you’re telling me there’s a chance….

Last winter, after signing a one-year contract extension, Kimmo Timonen shared the above quote with Anthony SanFilippo. And then in June ASanF once again pursued the topic of retirement with Kimmo Timo, who now had this to say:

“I’m not saying this is 100 percent my last year, but it could be. It’s definitely pretty close to the end.”

In essence, 99% is the same things as 50/50. It’s either going to happen or not and you’re leaving some wiggle room in case it doesn’t. I think the reason Kim Tim is leaving that window open, besides the fact that any question about one’s future can never be answered with absolute certainty, is that he knows he’s still really good and he really still does want to win a championship.

What he’s most likely waiting to see, and obviously can’t admit to the press, is how quickly the Flyers are going to get back on track. If the club has a promising season and makes a little playoff run I’d bet you my car (and it’s a nice one) that KT is wearing Orange and Black come October 2014. Here’s why:

He can still play at a high level.
It's no secret that Kimmo is, by far, the Flyers best defenseman. He’s integral at even strength and on the penalty kill while logging almost 2 more minutes on the power play per game than any other Flyers defenseman. Shoot, he’s still even a top tier defenseman in the league. He was an All-Star two seasons ago who last year, despite missing a handful of games at the end of the season, finished tied for 6th in points among all NHL D-men.

His has no chronic injuries.
Besides the blood clot in 2008 and the compression fracture this April, Kimmo’s other injuries as a Flyer have been chipped bones and the flu. He doesn’t have a wonky groin, a shoulder that keeps popping out of the socket, or a history of recurring concussions. If even half of what’s reported is true he might lead the league in bumps and bruises over the past 5 years but he is a crazy healthy, super fit older gentleman.

He hasn’t won like…anything.
This is the big one. I’m as suspicious as anyone about the motives of professional athletes. But I think it kind of works on a bell curve. You start off on a pond dreaming of the Stanley Cup, and you get older and start thinking about developing into a good player, and then you want to be the best on your team and get all the babes, and then it has to be about the money because you need to make a living. But I think as you approach the twilight of your career all the noise fades away and you just want to live out your childhood dream.

Kimmo hasn’t been entirely without success in hockey. He’s won 4 silvers in the Olympics and WCs. He won the equivalent of an NHL silver when Patrick Kane snuck around him and slipped a limp-D knuckler through Michael Leighton. But since he left Finland for North America he’s never hoisted a championship trophy or jokingly sunk his teeth into a gold medal.

I would consider Kimmo Timonen the poor man’s Nick Lidstrom. He’s not as big as Lidstrom, or as good, and he’s from Finland instead of Sweden, but they’re both Scandinavian star defensemen who look incredible in cable-knit turtleneck sweaters. (Don’t you roll your eyes at me: Kimmo can move into the mid-50’s of games played all-time by a defenseman this season and is currently 40th all-time for points by a defenseman in NHL history.)

Lidstrom was the most recent and most prominent defenseman to retire at a relatively old age. He had just turned 42 and been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. His regular season wasn’t up to his own standards (although probably great by anyone else’s) and he couldn’t see himself going through the whole process again. Which makes sense. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw a 42 year old man adorned in gold medals wearing multiple Stanley Cup rings looking back at him. Decision made. But for Kimmo, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.

Since 2000, 96.7% of NHL defensemen have retired before they turned 39. Just 19 D-men have retired after turning 39. While a small percentage of these elderly blueliners were still playing at a high level – Bourque, Blake and Lidstrom – most of them were just clinging onto roles as 6th and 7th defensemen. Like Lidstrom, Rob Blake was also a member of the Triple Gold Club by the time he retired. Bourque wasn’t, but left the game holding the Stanley Cup proudly above his head.

Kimmo’s not quite on their level, but he’s also not Sean O’Donnell. He is not Eric Weinrich. He is not Grant Ledyard or Glen Wesley. He can still contribute in every facet of the game. He can still be depended on to come up big. He can still lead in the room and help to shape a young team into what hopefully becomes a surprise contender.

I can't see him leaving this thing unfinished when there is still gas in the tank.

If it does in fact happen, there are only two ways I can see Kimmo retiring after this coming season. One is the Flyers have another crap year and Kimmo does not wave his NMC clause, choosing to retire and play a couple years in Finland. Or, the more painful alternative for Flyers Fans is that Kimmo waives is NMC at the deadline and gets moved to a real contender (read: The Kings) and takes one last shot at the Cup.

If at the end of this season he is wearing a Flyers jersey and shaking hands with an Eastern Conference foe after a tough playoff loss, and the future truly looks sunny, Kimmo will be back in 2014 to reap the fruits of 7 years’ labor.

We’re going to save questions we got this week for next week’s mailbag and instead offer you a little insight into just how similar we are to Kimmo Timonen. From a Flyers feature in 2008.

What kind of car do you drive?
KT: Range Rover Sport | FGSB: Toyota Corolla, 2010 bitches
What is your favorite food?
KT: Steak and a baked potato | FGSB: crab fries
Who is your favorite athlete?
KT: Tiger Woods | FGSB: Kimmo Timonen
What question would you ask your favorite athlete?
KT: How can make my golf swing better? | FGSB: Did you hear about all the sex Tiger Woods had?
What was your best Halloween costume?
KT: Headless guy | FGSB: Lloyd Dobbler
If you weren’t a hockey player, what would you be?
KT: Teacher | FGSB: Lieutenant Angel Batista
What was your best vacation ever?
KT: Rome | FGSB: Drove to Philadelphia, sat in my car and listened to Purple Rain (Prince) under the Ben Franklin Bridge while eating crab fries
What is your favorite magazine/newspaper?
KT: USA Today | FGSB: Bite Me Magazine
What do you do to relax?
KT: I play with my kids | FGSB: Whack Dandy
List five songs that are in your Ipod.
KT: Runaway (Bon Jovi), Summer of 69’ (Bryan Adams), Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day), Days Go By (Keith Urban), Long Day (Matchbox 20)
FGSB: Just one song, Purple Rain (Prince)
Who are your favorite actor and actress?
KT: Al Pacino and Halle Berry | FGSB: Coach Eric Taylor and Tammy Taylor
What is your favorite movie?
KT: The Departed | FGSB: Jack and Jill, an Adam Sandler jawn
What food is your weakness?
KT: Finnish candy | FGSB: AMERICAN candy (aka crab fries)
If you could have a super power what would it be?
KT: I would like to fly | FGSB: Terrorist Hunting Toenails
What actor would play you in a movie?
KT: Aaron Eckhart | FGSB: The Philly Phantic
What is the last thing you bought yourself, just for fun?
KT: A cappuccino maker | FGSB: giant glass pipe for tobacco
What reality TV show is your favorite?
KT: Survivor | FGSB: Real Housewives Newark
What is the last book you read?
KT: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt | FGSB: truthfully, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
Which teammate of yours is most likely to become a coach after his playing days?
KT: Sami Kapanen | FGSB: Fran
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
KT: Bono | FGSB: Basically anyone but Bono
What is your favorite road city to play in?
KT: Colorado | FGSB: don't believe in the road, my body is a temple and I am therefore a spiritual RV, of sorts
What was your "welcome to the NHL" moment?
KT: When Kris Draper hit me behind and knocked out my front teeth | FGSB: In the first EA Sports where you could make players I had 14 goals in my first pro game. That’s why my license plate is SPEEDd99, baby.
Who was your idol growing up?
KT: Jari Kurri | FGSB: Bill Clinton
What is your favorite sport to watch other than hockey?
KT: Football | FGSB: luge
What is your favorite sport to play other than hockey?
KT: Tennis | FGSB: bobsled
What is your favorite holiday?
KT: Christmas | FGSB: Cinqo de Quatro
What is the worst holiday gift you ever received?
KT: A pair of socks, which I seem to get every year | FGSB: stabbed in the abdomen
What is the one item you cannot live without?
KT: Earplugs | FGSB: Purple Rain (Prince)

Yinztweet Breakdown of the Week

What my man @Masi_Plays is saying is that when he’s online gaming, the residents of Philadelphia, a city that is made of trash, after they cry to him for a while, always back down. He doesn’t like that. He wants you to stand your ground and argue with him about who sucks more. And don’t back down. Don’t ever give up. Frankly, I agree with him. You should be better than that, Philadelphia. If you get into an online disagreement with someone you NEVER GIVE UP. I don’t care if it takes 60 years. You stand your ground and then one day far into the future that guy has a giant pair of head phones around his casket and you call him the F word one last time and that’s it. That’s how gentlemen game.

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).