How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

How Long Must We Sing This Song? Doc Disappoints as Phils' Losing Ways Continue

Tough pill to swallow. If you had asked me for my prediction for how we'd do before the game started, I would've said something like "well, at least I know this game won't be over by the third inning like it was in those games against the Sox." We were sending Roy Halladay out there, after all, and even if he ended up losing the game to fellow ace CC Sabathia, I knew at least it'd be within our grasp for the first seven innings or so as Doc took care of business. Well, it turns out not even the Good Doctor is impervious to right-field homers at Yankee Stadium, as the Yanks got on the board early and often, and withstood a mid-game rally from the Fightins to take game one of the series handily, by a final of 8-3.

Though the first runs the Yankees put on the board were on a two-run triple by Brett Gardener, the story of the evening for the men in pinstripes was the longball. Doc had let up a mere three homers in his first 13 starts for Philadelphia, and that's exactly as many as he gave up tonight, to Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira, respectively. The first two put the game nearly out of reach at 5-0, and the third ballooned the lead to 6-3, stealing the momentum from the Phils' brief offensive surge.

To be fair, it's not all on Doc--we heard so much last year about the supposed jet stream to right that caused balls to fly out of Yankee Stadium, and tonight was a good Exhibit A of that phenomenon. None of the homers cracked look sure things off the bat, and the Teixeira one especially just looked like a long pop-up until it landed a few rows behind the "314 FT" marking by the right-field foul pole. Not to say that Doc was entirely blameless either--the movement wasn't really there on his pitches, and after the game he bemoaned how often he had missed his spots over the course of the outing--and hey, our guys might could have hit a couple out there themselves, were they so inclined. But as many have pointed out, people who complain about the short porch in CBP should take a whiff of the all-too-generous air at Yankee Stadium tonight, and know how much more ridiculous it really could be.

The Phils' offensive woes continued of course, although at least we showed genuine life for one inning. After Chase literally singled off of CC at the beginning of the fourth, the Phils put together a nice little rally that got them within one big hit of tying that game. That hit never came, unfortunately, and a long-overdue bout of wildness from Antonio Bastardo allowed the Yanks to put to more on the board in the eighth, officially nailing the game shut. That fourth-inning push really got my hopes up for a feel-good comeback win, but as in so many other games this month, it just wasn't to be.

This low-end in production from the Phils has gone on so long at this point that it's hard not to wonder if something's eventually got to give. In the post-game conference, many of the reporters seemed to be trying to coax Charlie into lashing out at the team for over-confidence, but he never bit on it, maintaining the company line that everyone was trying their hardest and that they're good enough to snap out of it eventually. This echoed the statements of Ruben Amaro, Jr. earlier in the day, as he said that no big moves were necessary for the team. "The guys have track records and they're good players and they're
championship-caliber players, and they will be again," said Amaro. "This is our team out here, and they'll be fine."

I tend to agree with Ruben that at the very least, no panic moves are necessary (and frankly, I'm not even sure what our options would be on that front anyway) and that the team will eventually come around to some extent. The question, though, is how much longer can they afford to sit around and wait for the law of averages to take effect while the team continues to sink lower and lower in the rankings. This loss puts our boys a mere two games over .500, four games behind the Braves and three behind the Mets. Through 62 games last year, we were ten games over, and though we eventually sagged back down to just two up, we had the benefit of a lousy division that allowed us to maintain at least a share of the lead throughout. With the Braves, Mets, and even the Nats all vastly improved this season, you can bet we won't have that luxury this time around.

In the meantime, the Phils have two games left to steal at least one here at Yankee Stadium. The ramifications of this team getting swept, while possibly falling just short of cataclysmic, would at the very least be deeply, deeply discouraging. Tomorrow the Ageless Wonder Jamie Moyer squares off against the Yanks' mercurial A.J. Burnett, and while Burnett has shut our guys down in the past (ex. Game 2, '09 Series) we've shown that we can certainly get to him on occasion as well (ex. Game 5, '09 Series). It really sucks not to get this one with our golden boy out there, and you know no one feels it more than the Good Doctor himself, but get one of the next two, and the boys can at least come back without their confidence in complete tatters. Looking forward to tomorrow night already.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.