It's July and Phillies will listen to anything


It's July and Phillies will listen to anything

Hello, July.

Hello, trading season.

The Phillies spent the last day of June recovering from an embarrassing 2-6 homestand that knocked them out of the NL East race for good. There was a smidgeon of hope for this team after it put together a 5-2 road trip earlier last month, but splitting a four-game series with the Marlins and being swept by the Braves at home has put an end to all the little far-fetched fantasies surrounding this losing team.

The Phils needed a good homestand to keep their hopes alive. They came up small. Time to move on.

The Phillies are back on the road Tuesday night to begin a 10-game trip that will take them to Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee before coming home for three games before the All-Star break against Washington.

The sweep at the hands of Atlanta left the Phillies eight games back in the NL East and on pace for 91 losses. Even a good road trip won’t turn this thing around. We won’t be fooled again. This team is just not good enough.

So what’s left for this club?

The coming months will be spent evaluating and giving experience to youngsters such as third baseman Cody Asche and relievers Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, Ken Giles and Justin De Fratus.

As for the rest of the crew. Well, make an offer. Just about anyone can be had in a trade -- for the right price -- as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches and a much-needed franchise re-tooling comes to the fore. The Phillies need this and they are headed in that direction. No, it won’t be a Sixers-like strip-down -- Phillies management is loath to use the word “rebuilding” -- but changes are coming.

Cole Hamels is the closest thing the Phillies have to an untouchable. They would prefer to build around the 30-year-old lefty. But blow them away, and yes, they will consider it.

You can believe all the word salad coming from Phillies management about not wanting to deal the club icons that helped them win the 2008 World Series, but why would anyone admit that changes are coming a month before the deadline? What good would it do to publicly shudder the season a month before you have to? It would hurt ticket sales. Better to focus on winning as many games as possible now and make moves right before the deadline.

If Chase Utley comes to management and says he’d like to move on, maybe be a San Francisco Giant, Phillies elders will try to make to it happen (for the right return). If Utley remains hush, he will stay with the Phillies. He drove the bus last summer when he told club officials not to entertain trade requests and focus on a contract extension. He still drives it.

If the Phillies get an offer they like on Jimmy Rollins, they will go to him and ask what he wants to do. Stay or go? Ultimately it will be Rollins’ call.

Both Rollins and Utley have full veto power over trades.

Ryan Howard? Untradeable because of his contract.

Cliff Lee? If he proves healthy in the three starts he’s expected to make before July 31, the Phils would move him for the right return. Otherwise, they will hang on to him and make him available in the offseason.

Mike Adams? There would have been interest had he not come down with a sore shoulder. It’s tough to see him getting moved before the deadline, but he could be an August waiver deal.

A.J. Burnett pitches Tuesday night in Miami. He has put together four good ones in a row. He is a candidate to move before the deadline.

So is Kyle Kendrick. Yeah, he’s just a No. 5 starter, but sometimes a marginal pickup can make a difference on a contending team. Kendrick could be appealing to a contender.

Jonathan Papelbon could be a fit in a number of towns, especially if the Phillies would pick up part of his $13 million salary for next season. The Phils were willing to do that over the winter. Papelbon, however, might not be the most attractive reliever that the Phillies put on the market. Antonio Bastardo, left-handed and having a solid season, could be the first reliever to go. In fact, he might be the first Phillie to go.

Looking for an outfielder? The Phils would move four of them -- Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr.

July is here. It’s baseball’s trading season. The Phillies might not be ready to admit it -- why wave the white flag publicly when there is a month to go before the deadline? -- but they are open for business. It won’t be easy making trades, not with the money some of these guys are owed beyond this season, but deals are coming. This season is beyond hope (and the Phillies have no one to blame but themselves for that after that awful homestand.)

It’s time to retool.

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

Once ridiculed in Philly, Terry Francona is 4 wins from Cooperstown

If Terry Francona wins four ballgames over these next nine days, he is going to Cooperstown.

And not as a visitor.

Francona sits at the helm of a Cleveland Indians team that has so far rolled through the postseason, winning eight of nine games as it opens play Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series that is filled with compelling storylines.

Of course, the biggest storyline is the “Lovable Loser” angle.

Both clubs long ago became punch lines for their failures. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and their shortcomings have been blamed on everything from the curse of a billy goat to black cats to too many day games at Wrigley Field to Steve Bartman. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. They were so notoriously synonymous with losing that Hollywood made a couple of movies about them. Well, sort of.

With four more wins, one of these teams will shed the Lovable Loser tag forever.

And if it’s Francona’s Indians, he will forever be honored with a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You can bank on it. That’s where managers who win three World Series end up.

Time flies.

It was 20 years ago this week that the Phillies hired Francona for his first big-league managerial job. He was 37 at the time. He’d managed at the Double A level with the Chicago White Sox and been on the Detroit Tigers’ big-league coaching staff. Loaded with personality, smarts and the experience that came with growing up in baseball family (his dad played 15 seasons in the majors), being the best college player in the nation at the University of Arizona, and, probably most important, having been humbled by the ups and downs of 10 injury-riddled years as a big-league player, Francona was considered an excellent managerial prospect when the Phillies hired him. But he never deluded himself. He knew he got the job because the Phillies were rebuilding, because they were going to be young and bad for a while and he had the personality and youthful resilience to deal with it all. “If the Phillies were ready to win, they would have hired Jim Leyland or somebody like that,” he used to say.

Francona took over a 95-loss team in Philadelphia. He managed the club for four years, never had a winning season and was jeered out of town with slashed tires after the club lost 97 games in 2000.

Was Terry Francona a great manager in Philadelphia? Nope. Few people are great out of the gate in any line of work. But Francona had little chance to succeed in those Phillies years. There wasn’t close to enough talent on the field. The club was going through a sloooooow rebuild and the organizational focus in those years was probably more about getting a new stadium than putting a winning team on the field.

Francona was committed to becoming a successful manager when he left Philadelphia. That’s why he didn’t want to take a year off after he was fired. He wanted to stay in the game, stay in sight. He took a job in the Indians’ front office, then a year later was back in uniform, first as a coach with the Texas Rangers, then as a coach with the Oakland A’s.

In the fall of 2003, Francona interviewed for managerial jobs in Baltimore and in Boston. At the time, reporters in Baltimore asked him about the possibility of getting a second chance to manage.

“It would be like getting a mulligan,” Francona said.

The answer infuriated some in Philadelphia.

It shouldn’t have.

Francona’s use of the word ‘mulligan’ showed self-awareness, humility and accountability. It showed that he knew he had hooked his first chance into the woods, that he had made mistakes, that he’d learned from them and was ready to tee it up again. Francona’s use of the word mulligan showed how human he was and that is a priceless quality in the art of leading a group of men through the ups and downs of seven months of baseball and getting them to lay it all out for you night after night. Joe Torre had that quality. Charlie Manuel had it. Joe Maddon, the man Francona beat out for the Boston job and now squares off against in the World Series, has it. Francona has it. Just look at the way he kept the Indians believing after injuries wounded their starting pitching.

Of course, all of these aforementioned managers have or had talented players. That ultimately is how you win. Just ask Torre, who was dismissed as a loser until George Steinbrenner gave him some talent. Torre led it beautifully and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Francona got his second chance to manage in Boston in 2004 and quickly led a talented group of players to a curse-busting title, that franchise’s first World Series championship in 86 years.

He won another in 2007.

He has managed 12 seasons since leaving Philadelphia and the growth experience that it provided. He has won 90 or more games in eight of those seasons. Yeah, he has had good players. But he’s led them well. And he’s done it particularly well this month, maneuvering his bullpen pieces like a master chess champion.

The World Series is upon us and it should be a good one as baseball’s two Lovable Loser franchises vie to end decades of frustration.

And 20 years after his managerial odyssey began with many losses and much ridicule in Philadelphia, Terry Francona, already a big winner in his career, has a chance to punch his ticket to the ultimate winner’s circle, the Hall of Fame, with four more victories and another World Series title.