Friday, February 13, 2009

How to survive a season, the Mac Attack way.

0-16, 31-131, 2-33, the list goes on. Does your team fall under this category? Is your team a stinker, not even worth the effort to press the power button on the television remote? You can't even GIVE away the tickets! Or do you just walk out at the 4th inning, halftime, etc.?


16-0, 101-61, 33-2, and so on. Does your team fall under this category? Is your team a dynamic powerhouse that shreds its competition in half, and their tickets are more prized than both gold and oil put together? Do you sit through the elements just to watch your team win or lose?

Well, with the new year comes the crushing depression of being a fan of the first category. Surviving these team's seasons are like combating the plague: hard and and it just gets harder and it pains you to call yourself a fan of that team. Likewise, does watching your team play gives you indigestion?

Can you ask yourself: "Hey! Is my local high-school or college team better than these so-called 'players'?"

Whether your team goes perfect or imperfect, B-Mac will be here to guide you through your team's season (regardless of sport, league, conference, division).

Rule No. 1 to surviving a season: Hopes and Expectations

First off, keep your expectations low, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Believe that your team will win at least half their games. If/when/once they win half their games during the season, then think about the claiming the wild card spot. Or if they have enough wins, think about claiming the division. Don't think about the playoffs or who's going to win the division at the beginning of the season. Also, don't get your hopes up. Because if you get your hopes up, you are only setting yourself up to be crushed further down the line.

Rule No. 2: Become a "Die-Hard"

Become a "Die-Hard fan", meaning that you try to weather the storm that is your team's season. Buff yourself up with knowledge, facts, and trivia about your team that no else would know.

For example, for a Phillies fan, "Can you name the former Phillies' pitcher to throw two no-hitters; one in both leagues?" Of course, the answer to that question is obviously the Senator, Jim Bunning.

If your team is really bad, go to games anyway. It's called a show of faith, most people would begin to lose hope.

Rule No. 3: The Sports Section, ESPN, and you

If you read the sports section of the newspaper, watch the "talking-head" shows on ESPN (PTI, ATH, ESPN First Take, Baseball Tonight, etc.). Keep an open mind. Don't believe everything that is written about your team or the season that your team goes through, especially when your hometown team is in a major market (NYC, L.A., Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia).

Rule No. 4: Curses?

There are no such things as curses. Curses are just stuff made up by the sports writers to cover up the fact that your team has bad players, bad management, or bad ownership. So Cubs fans, you are not cursed. You just have one of the above. The Red Sox were not cursed by that trade of the Babe, they just had bad teams or management, or ownership.

Same goes with the professional teams out of Philadelphia: you are/were not cursed by that building (One Liberty Plaza) or William Penn. You just have had lousy teams, players, management, ownership, etc.

Addition to Rule 4: The only thing if it is a curse, is the funk that the NCAA D-I Men's Basketball team at NJIT is in. I haven't checked lately, but I believe their winless streak was at five or six seasons, and at one point went 0-51.

Rule No. 5: As Tug McGraw once said, "Ya gotta Believe!"

Above all, believe in your team. If your team is a perennial stinker, believe that this is the year that we get out of the cellar and become champs. Or believe that this is the year that we turn that 0-16 into a 16-0. Or if your a Pirates or Royals fan: believe that this is the year that we finish above .500, and someplace other than last or second-to-last place in our division.

That's it. If you can survive an 0-16 season or a Pittsburgh Pirates season and make it out without killing yourself or your team, you can survive just about anything.

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Lights Out: Preview of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies Bullpen

With the Super Bowl over, millions of people who were hunkering down for the winter, are now returning to their natural calling: baseball. It is almost a week away from the perennial calling of pitchers and catchers to head down to Florida and out to Arizona.

That means the Phillies are returning to Clearwater once again, only this time to defend their World Series title.

But the Phillies are coming into Spring Training with some burning questions: Who is going to get the fifth starting spot? What about the bullpen? Is it going to stay the same dominant form?

Well I'll cover one of these pressing issues, primarily the bullpen. This is the 2009 Spring Training profile of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen.

The Phillies bullpen last season and postseason, was lights out. The combination of Durbin-Madson-Romero-Lidge rivals that of Rivera-Wetteland of the mid-1990's New York Yankee fame. Not to mention guys like Condrey, and the midseason acquisition Scott Eyre stepped up big time and keep the majority of the games close.

So, what is the outlook for the 2009 bullpen? It is looking the same as last year: a strength. One of the biggest potential strengths of the Phillies 2009 bullpen is: that is majority intact from last season.

The Phillies' bullpen has not changed much from last year. Potential strength No. 2: the back-end of the bullpen. Durbin-Madson-Romero-Lidge combined for 44 saves, 244 innings pitched, 274 K's, 101 BB's, and a combined E.R.A. of 2.66.

The other relievers: Condrey and Eyre pulled their own weight as well, coming into games in pressure situations and either keeping it close or keeping the lead intact.If Chan Ho Park losses out to Kyle Kendrick for the fifth starting rotation spot, he can be used as a tool in the bullpen.

Adam Eaton, I believe will not be returning to the bullpen at all this season, and will be release before the end of Spring Training. If Park does get the fifth starting spot in the rotation, Kendrick and J.A. Happ could be utilized as long relief pitchers.

Some of the biggest concerns: what will happen to J.C. Romero when he comes back from suspension? It is only a matter of: when will "Lights Out" Lidge blow a save? And if he blows a save, how many might he blow? What's going to happen to the right-handers in the bullpen when Romero ends his suspension?

One of the biggest concerns is J.C. Romero. He was key in that 7-8-9 combination of last season. When he returns from suspension on June 1, he will have not of pitched since either Game Five of the World Series or whenever the last game for Puerto Rico is in the World Baseball Classic.

For the Phillies bullpen that is a big chunk of games. Most likely of those 50 games that Romero will miss, he would have been in 30 of those.

For the Phillies bullpen, that is a huge chunk of innings as well for their lefty set-up man not to appear in. Which in turn, puts a strain on the right-handers and Eyre. They may go after lefty fireballer Joe Biemel to fill his spot.

Another concern is; When will Lidge blow a save. I hate saying this but, Brad "Lights Out" Lidge will eventually blow a save. Will it be in the beginning of the season? Will it be the middle of the season? Or will it be in the home stretch of the season when Lidge blows a save? Or in a key game?

I can't say when Lidge will blow a save. Only time will tell.

The Phillies can count on Durbin, Madson, Lidge to get them out of pressure situations this coming season. They did it last season well, they should do the same this year. The Phillies can count on Romero to return to his set-up role, once he returns.

Expect Eyre and Condrey to step up even more than last year.

So which pitchers have something to prove? I would have to say Ryan "Mad Dog" Madson, Brad Lidge, Chan Ho Park, and/ or Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ.

Madson has to prove he is worth the $4 million a year that his new contract says he gets.

Lidge has to prove that staying perfect last season was not a fluke, even though the majority of fans know that Lidge last season was not a fluke.

Park has to prove he was worth the Phillies to pick him up. By either starting or assimilating into the bullpen. He has to prove that he can compete with the big dogs of the National League East Division.

Kendrick has to prove that he can return to his 2007 form. If not, he has to prove that he can assimilate into the bullpen and provide long relief.

Happ is in the same boat as Kendrick is, except he can be used as a another lefty in the bullpen.

How vital is the Phillies bullpen to their chances of returning to the playoffs and the World Series in 2009? The bullpen is as vital as the starting pitching: the lifeline of the team. If the bullpen can avoid injuries they will play a key role in the Phillies title defense this season.

Because as the old baseball adage goes: Good Pitching beats good hitting; pitching and defense wins championships.

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Surviving Philly

Think you can play, coach, or manage in Philadelphia?

Can You?

To be one of the longest tenured players in Philadelphia sports history, like Dawkins and Burrell; takes skill. So random 76er, Flyer, Eagle, and Phillie, it begs the question: think you have what it takes to compete down at One Citizen’s Bank Way?

This is your comprehensive “player” survival guide to surviving in Philadelphia.

1) Performance Matters: first off before you can win, you have to perform. If you don’t perform up-to-snuff, you may just be that key throw-in that sends a big name player here, and your ass goes far away.

Or if you don’t perform well, your position on the team may just be: bench-warmer or worse; bye-bye Philadelphia, hello Lehigh Valley, Reading, Clearwater, Williamsport, Lakewood, the practice squad (Eagles and Sixers), Phantoms.

So above all, perform well and up to YOUR AND YOUR team’s expectations, not the press’ or the fans.

2) Stay away from the press: stay away from the press; they are not your friends. You could be hitting .450 one week and the press’ favorite person; the next week you could be mired in a slump hitting .150 and the press are calling for your departure.

1. Amendment 1 to Rule 2: The “Cole- Rollins” Amendment: Don’t give the press anything to write home about. Comments, thoughts, stats, and trash talk: keep them to yourself, unless a situation warrants it.

Watch out for phrases like: “We’re the team to beat” or “Choke Artists”. Don’t say said phrases (or other phrases), unless you can back up said phrase, taunt, or insult. Also watch out for baited hooks, phrases like: “Do you think that the Mets are choke artists?” or “Did you know about the overtime rule?”

3) Win: Winning is important, but not that important when compared to rules one and two (as well as amendment one to rule two). Win and you are a hero. Lose and you’re life will be a living hell.

When you win, don’t over celebrate. When you lose, don’t cry about it. No one likes a crybaby. Do not under any circumstances accept ties. Never settle for anything better than a victory.

4) If benched in the middle of a game: Don’t sulk about it. And don’t cry about it either. Realize that the coach or manager may have benched you in order to one: “fire-up” the team and/or two: you are really just playing poorly so maybe a benching might help.

Just remember- it’s only one game, don’t read anything into it. Also, remember: that you can always go after it the next game.

5) Know the Rules of the Game: If you don’t know the rules of the game then you should not be playing. If you’re a baseball player, know the ground rules; know what would be called a home run and what would be called a foul ball.

Also, know the rules about balks, infield flies, and foul balls. If you’re a football player, know what is legal and illegal (pertaining to passes, formations, eligible players, hits, and tackles), also know where the boundary lines are. This applies to all sports and is retroactive, applies to rule 2 and rule 2.1

1. The Donovan Amendment to Rule 5: Know the rules of your sport. This pertains to ties, overtime, ties in overtime, extra innings, and shootouts. There is no excuse for not knowing your sports’ rules about overtime, ties and ties in overtime, shootouts and extra innings, as well as rain delays.

6) Pay Attention to the Game (The Kolb-Coste Rule): Know the situation of every game, because you never know when you might just get into a game.

7) Always know the rules of your team (The Rollins Rule): plain and simple- know the rules that your head coaches and managers set. That means show up on time and hustle every game, all the time or be ready to ride the pines.

8) Never be seen with Celebrities: Off days, holidays, off seasons, travel out in Los Angeles: never be seen hanging with the likes of: T.O., Plaxico, Madonna, Britney Spears, K-Fed or any other Hollywood A-List celebrity. These people are no good and nothing but distractions.

9) Never Carry a Concealed Weapon: Rule is self-explanatory

1. Never Shoot Thyself with Said Concealed Weapon: Self-explanatory as well. Rule 9 will be known as the “Dumb-ass Plaxico Rule”, Rule 9.1 will be known as “Dumb-ass Burress Amendment”. Together these two rules will be combined for one overall rule 9.

10) Win a Championship (will be known as the Mitch Williams Rule): Most importantly, play hard and win a championship. Because no one will remember all those achievements, records, strikeouts, and wins without a championship.

Win one and be hailed as a hero. Lose one or don’t win one and become public enemy number one. Remember the tag-line for EA Sports: “If it’s in the game; it’s in the game.”

These are the 20 rules that should live by here in Philadelphia. Win and these streets and stadiums will welcome you home as a hero, lose and these streets and stadiums will become your own personal hell.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Glory Days of Baseball

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days
-Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days

Whatever happened to the glory days of baseball? The era in which hard work, perseverance, and sweat meant that you could be able to play in the bigs. An era in which the only form of " performance enhancing" meant doctoring a pitch by scuffing the ball or applying spit or pine tar to the ball.

Nowadays, we don't even know the plays on our own home teams are "clean" or "dirty." The fact is steroids have most likely once "saved" baseball, but are now like a cancer in baseball. By "saved," I mean the home run quests by McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds. Is by no means a rant about how steroids are/ have or have not destroyed baseball.

I am wondering whatever happened to the days of Robin Roberts and the Whiz Kids? Or the days of Babe Ruth and the Murderers Row?

I realize that every era in baseball has it's share of serious problems. From the Black Sox Scandal in 1919 to Pete Rose and gambling and amphetamines to HGH and designer anabolic steroids of the 1990's and 2000's.

Moreover to towards my point. When I was growing up, I was raised under three banners. My grandfather on my mother's side would always tell me stories about the 1928, '29, '30, and '31 New York Yankees. My grandfather on my father's side would always tell me stories about the 1927, '28, '29 and '30 Philadelphia Athletics.

Then my own father would tell me stories about the one and only, Philadelphia Phillies and how bad some of them teams were. It was always: Good Pitching, bad hitting or good hitting, bad pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies.

I can remember my two grandfathers arguing over which was the greatest team in baseball history... the '27 Yankees or the '29 A's. My father's father would always seem to win pulling out the baseball encyclopedia and proving statistically which was the better team. As well as stories of different players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Ed Delahanty, Grover Cleveland "Ole Pete" Alexander, Jimmie Foxx, the list goes on.

I also remember asking my grandfather to compare player from the "Golden Age" or "Deadball Era" of baseball to players of that time (mid-1990's). As well as asking my father to compare players from today's game to players from his day, the "Liveball Era" or "Sliver Age" of baseball. They would all say that.

I also remember asking so many questions because I just became fascinated with the sport of baseball. I wanted to know more. My father soon taught me how to throw, and my grandfather taught me how to throw like Lefty Grove. My other grandfather taught me to hit like Mickey Cochrane, and field like Ed Delahanty. I learned how to play baseball, and was free to have fun from then on.

That was my memory of what I thought was the glory days of baseball. So what are your memories of the glory days of baseball? Please share them if you comment. Personally I believe what were the "glory days of baseball" are far gone, replaced by statistics, drugs, and greed.

Where it'll end
nobody knows...

-The Offspring, Hammerhead

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Mac's Attack: Special Report

Ryan Howard was signed to a three year $54 million deal. The deal eats up Howard's remaining years of arbitration, earlier this week.

Howard's signing will put the Phillies payroll over the $130 mark if our math is right.

Howard hit .251 last season with 48 HRs and 148 RBI.

Is Howard worth the $18 million? Who got the better deal, Hamels or Howard? The answer: Ryan Howard. Cole should of held out and waited for arbitration. Both who cares now. The big guns have been locked up so this season should look great.

More to come. Stick around.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mac's Attack: the Premier Episode

I figured I'd start a monthly article that deals with issues surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies. Issues in this debut article of the Mac Attack: Happy Truck Day to all, is Ryan Howard worth $18 million?, backing up Ruiz, and other rumblings. Let's commence the Attack.

First off, a happy truck day to all. Today is the day that every team in the MLB sends their team trucks, filled with everything from uniforms and bats to golf clubs and short people, down to their respective spring training camps. The first team reports in six days; the World Series champion Phillies report to Clearwater, Fla. on Feb. 14.

Next, is Ryan Howard really worth $18 million? Opinions are divided, but we at the Attack try to remain unbiased. Our take is that the "Big Dog" and his numbers don't lie. Howard played every game last season, including playoffs, and in 162 regular games Howard hit .251 with 48 home runs, 146 RBI, and 153 hits in 610 at bats.

Of course, the other offensive stats speak for themselves as well. In those 610 AB, Howard struck out 199 times, or 33 percent of the time. In 156 games, Howard committed 19 errors. Compare that to six for Albert Pujols, five for Mark Teixiera, five for Lance Berkman, eight for Carlos Delgado, and six for Adrian Gonzalez.

That said, while Howard may command $18 million for his high hit, home run and RBI output, his many errors, lack of walks and high strikeouts are working against him. So the Phillies and Howard will be locked in a room with some neutral person to start arguing money.

On to our next issue, backing up Carlos Ruiz. With the catcher playing for Team Panama in the World Baseball Classic, that leaves a three- to four-man opening for his backup. The primary competitors for Ruiz's back up are 36-year-old feel-good story Chris Coste; newly acquired Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino; and power-hitting rookie sensation Lou Marson.

Despite Ruiz's low offensive numbers, he has solidified his place as starting catcher. Ruiz is a premier defensive catcher and calls an excellent game. He handles that pitching staff with relative ease and really proved himself starter during the 2008 postseason. In the World Series alone, Ruiz hit .375, while in the NLCS he boasted .313.

Chris Coste last season hit .263 with nine home runs and 36 RBI in a career-high 274 ABs. Coste will have to compete this time for the backup backstop position with Ronny Paulino and Lou Marson. Paulino last season hit .212 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 118 ABs. But Paulino is a career .278 hitter.

Lou Marson, the Phillies' top catching prospect, and possibly the best prospect overall, also will compete for the backup backstop position. Lou Marson at AA hit .314 with a .413 OBS, 5 HRs and 46 RBI, along with his first Major League home run and second career extra base hit.

Who will win? Time will tell.

In other news: Ryan Madson has changed his number from 63 to 46. The change came most likely because Madson did not like having his locker situated at the other end of the Clearwater clubhouse. This meant that Madson would have been next to non-roster invitees and minor leaguers who stand a ghost of a chance of making the major league club.

Now Madson will be situated next J.A. Happ (43) and Scott Eyre (47).

Last but not least are the chances of Adam Eaton making the team. Vegas odds are at 500-to-1. Our "Oreland" odds put Eaton at 1000-to-1. Diehard fans odds put Eaton at 1,000,000-to-1. So it's not looking good.

Join us next time for the March spring training edition of the Mac Attack. Until then, stay tuned, because it's baseball season, baby!

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