PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper and Cole Hamels may instigate a rivalry between the Nationals and the Phillies. But that's only if Hamels re-signs with the Phillies and, even then, only because of their abilities on the field.
WASHINGTON -- Jonathan Papelbon may have left behind his native Nation but as he goes around his new city, he can't help but sense that its friendly people, laid-back feel and sidewalk cafes give it a European flavor.
Brian Dawkins was never a crossover athlete on a national scale. He never went on Letterman or Leno. Never appeared on the cover of a video game or a reality show. We had only a vague idea what was in his crib.
Excerpted from CALICO JOE by John Grisham. Copyright © 2012 by Belfry Holdings, Inc. To be published this month by Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
Growing up in New York City, there are a few things I never imagined myself doing, like driving a car, living in a house or attending big high school games like the ones I'd seen on TV.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The hype at last year's Phillies spring training centered around the five men of the starting rotation, who early in camp sat side-by-side-by-side-by-side-by-side in a press conference that welcomed a period of pitching dominance.
This week, Cliff Corcoran will break down what to expect from each team's camp as part of SI.com's spring training preview. Teams are listed by their order of finish from 2011. Note: The Big Prospect is a player who will be in camp and has not yet debuted in the major leagues.
With just two and a half weeks until pitchers and catchers report, the Hot Stove is cooling off significantly. The only major free agents still looking for new teams are starting pitcher Roy Oswalt and Cuban centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who only recently received permission to sign by Major League Baseball. There are 25 arbitration cases that remain unsettled, including those of Clayton Kershaw, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli among others that could yet yield a multi-year extension.
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for each team in a division-by-division format. Wednesday will preview the National League and Thursday the American League. Teams are listed in order of finish in 2011.
A lot of people think Philadelphia sports fans are insufferable raving lunatics, but I prefer to think of them as lovable raving lunatics. Sports mean nothing unless people care about them, and Philly fans care as much as anybody.
Series: NLDS, Game 5, series tied 2-2
The two National League Division Series both face a possible conclusion tonight as the Phillies and Brewers each need just one win to advance to the NLCS. The Phillies enter Game 4 against the Cardinals coming off a close win in Game 3, and (including the Texas Rangers' ALDS win this year over the Rays), teams that break a 1-1 tie in a best-of-five series with a win in Game 3 have now won 29 of the 37 such series in baseball history and 20 of the 24 Division Series that fit that description. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, avoided a sweep at the hands of the Brewers on Tuesday night to close within 2-1, but still face a history in which 89 percent of the teams that lost the first two games of a best-of-five series also lost the series.
PHILADELPHIA -- That baseball's schedule makers blessed the St. Louis Cardinals with series against the Cubs and the Astros to conclude their regular season served to obscure just how impressive -- and how difficult -- their September surge past the Braves to the Wild Card actually had been.
Cliff Corcoran will preview each day's postseason games on SI.com.
PHILADELPHIA -- Before the Phillies' 11-6 victory over the Cardinals in Game 1 of this NLDS, Roy Halladay was in a classical state of mind. He wore his warmup jacket draped over only one of his shoulders as he strode in from the bullpen before the top of the first inning, creating a toga effect. Hours earlier, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa appealed to the gods for help in dealing with him ("Maybe it'll just rain when Roy pitches, and not when Kyle [Lohse] pitches," LaRussa said, when apprised of the forecast). And Halladay had this to say the previous afternoon, when asked about his considerable respect for the Cardinals: "I heard a quote a long time ago: I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him."
St. Louis, in many ways, has Philadelphia to thank for its participation in the playoffs. The Phillies spent the last 10 days of the regular season knowing that they had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but still they played hard enough to sweep their season-concluding series with the Braves -- who led the Cardinals in the wild card standings by 10 ½ games as of Aug. 25, and by 8 ½ games as recently as Sept. 5 -- thereby allowing St. Louis to sneak by Atlanta and into the postseason.
Star Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, still only 32 and still at the top of his defensive game, presents a very nice alternative to top free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, who's a similar player to Rollins, but more brittle and very likely much more expensive. Rollins' coming free agency hasn't received the acclaim that Reyes' has, but then Rollins isn't in New York and he's with a team that doesn't seem quite as dependent on him.
It's safe to say the Phillies lived up to the hype this year. When Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in December, joining a rotation that already boasted Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the buzz surrounding what many thought could be the greatest starting rotation in major league history was deafening. Anytime hype reaches such a fever pitch a backlash is inevitable, but seeing what the Phillies have accomplished this year, it's clear that it was more than just hype. Not only have the Phillies put together the best record in baseball (by 4 ½ games over the Yankees), and run away with their division, (currently leading the Braves by 10 ½ games in the NL East, already having clinched not only the division but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs), but Halladay, Lee and Hamels are very likely to be three of the top four finishers in the NL Cy Young voting.
The 2011 postseason already has its main narrative: can anybody stop the Phillies? Not since the legendary 1998 Yankees has the postseason featured such a prohibitive favorite.
Five Cuts on the weekend that was -- and, thanks to Hurricane Irene, often wasn't -- in baseball:
PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Halladay doubled for the first time in his career, balked for the second time in the last six seasons, matched a personal best with 14 strikeouts and, most improbably of all, lost a complete game while pitching into the ninth inning with a lead.
The past four World Series champions -- Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Giants -- staged an unofficial tournament of their own last weekend: Philadelphia at San Francisco and New York at Boston. Here's what we learned from the weekend's tournament of champions in which the Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees and the Phillies beat the Giants three out of four:
BOSTON -- Five Cuts from the weekend in baseball, highlighted by the Red Sox taking two of three games from the Yankees at Fenway Park to take over first place of the AL East ...
Five thoughts recapping a surprising and sometimes wild trade deadline week:
For the third time in his three years on the job, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made a big splash before the trade deadline. Friday night Amaro followed his acquisitions of Cliff Lee in 2009 and Roy Oswalt in 2010 by trading the Phillies' top two minor league prospects, right-hander Jarred Cosart and first baseman/left fielder Jonathan Singleton, Double-A righty Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later to the Astros for All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence.
The Astros have traded Hunter Pence to the Phillies in a five-player deal, SI.com has confirmed.
A source says that Houston's Hunter Pence was told during last night's game in St. Louis that he was being pulled due to a trade but then he wasn't taken out.
So far, the slowest-moving trade market in history has featured one big deal (the Mets' salary dump of Francisco Rodriguez), one small deal (the Tigers' pickup of Wilson Betemit), and one very serious logjam.
The Astros' asking price on Hunter Pence has been so prohibitive that competing teams believe he will stay in Houston. Supposedly Houston wants at least three good pieces, probably young, major-league-ready talent. Rivals are questioning whether they're serious about trading him based on the requests they've heard.
The Phillies appear to be at least an early favorite in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes that's drawn interest from as many as 10 teams. Philadelphia has suggested publicly that it doesn't want to add payroll, but it has the prospects to get a deal done. The Mets have signaled a willingness to pay some or all of the $7 million or so remaining on Beltran's salary, and Philly isn't averse to the surprise move (see Lee, Cliff).
The All-Star Game may be thought of as baseball's midway point, but the Midsummer Classic is still almost two weeks away and several teams will actually be making the turn into the second half of play this week. On Wednesday six teams -- the Braves, Reds, Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres -- will become the first clubs to play their 82nd games, and by the weekend all 30 teams will officially officially have completed the first half of their schedules.
In July 2004 Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar was mired in a slump when his club traveled to Seattle for a couple of games. There he saw Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo's open stance and hands held high and saw a resemblance of his own stance when he was hitting well.
Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things you should know about Week 10:
Every baseball season begins with the same question: Can the world champions repeat? For 10 straight years the answer has been the same: no.
Related Galleries for the April 4, 2011 issue
Philadelphia Phillies stories in the SI Vault
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Everything was supposed to be positive here in Phillies camp. They are 13-to-5 favorites to win the World Series (Bellagio, Las Vegas odds) for a reason, right?
Chase Utley, 32, seems to have aged quickly. He suddenly seems older for an everyday middle infielder with significant injuries to his hand, thumb, hip and right knee over the past four seasons, older for a guy who late last season already looked less fluid trying to play second base. Now, after his knee did not respond to rest -- ominous for an overuse injury to be this troublesome after a winter of rest -- he may need surgery.
Forget pitching and defense. The road to the World Series is I-95.
The conventional wisdom is that the Phillies and Red Sox have turned themselves into prohibitive favorites with their great winters. But based on recent history, the conventional wisdom is worth even less than an obstructed-view bleacher seat.
With 2010 drawing to a close, and 2011 about to begin, it's time for the 30 teams in Major League Baseball to make their New Year's resolutions. On Tuesday I made suggestions for the 14 American League teams. Today, I offer my suggestions for the 16 National League clubs...
1. The Phillies will win fewer than 96 games. That figure is the current line for the Phillies' 2011 win total set by your finer, ahem, establishments. It's easy to win December: make the biggest trade, sign the biggest free agent, lose the least talent, and no one is shredding their elbows or having trouble locating their fastball or just plain feeling old. It's harder to win September, when stat lines give way to baseball games, bad bounces, human frailty. It was three years ago that pundits -- myself included -- were raving about the Tigers' 1,000-run offense in the wake of their trades for Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera. That team won 74 games, finished last and fell just 179 tallies shy of a grand.
The Brewers, Red Sox and Phillies stood out this winter. But they aren't nearly the only winners to date. With still plenty of free agents remaining, here are the 11 biggest winners so far...
Here are four fallouts from the Cliff Lee signing, one for each ace in the Philadelphia rotation:
The question arose as soon as the initial shock wore off from the news that top free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee elected to spurn the Yankees and Rangers to take less money from the Phillies: How incredible is Philadelphia's 2011 rotation going to be? It was already the talk of baseball heading into this past postseason, when the deadline addition of long-time Astro Roy Oswalt to a rotation that already included Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels gave the Phillies three ostensible aces who were quickly dubbed H2O. That group fell short of bringing Philadelphia a third straight National League pennant, losing to the eventual world champion Giants in the NLCS. But now that the Phillies have added a fourth ace, and a second lefty, who based on his performance over the last three years, is the second best pitcher of the quartet, they will undoubtedly enter 2011 as prohibitive favorites to at least get back to the World Series. Here, then, is a quick attempt to project just how good that top four
Almost a year after they traded him, Cliff Lee is headed back to the Philadelphia Phillies.
During the courtship of free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the term "mystery team" became a buzz phrase, a two-word summary of the classic ruse used by sports agents to generate more interest in their client and condemnation of the way the mostly behind-closed-doors process is reported, whereby leaked scraps of information are so scarce that they get overanalyzed and considered profundities.
The Yankees have been told they are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, and signs are pointing that the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner will sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The TV contestant and the pitcher tie the knot in Napa - complete with horse and carriage
While the course of action for some contenders this offseason is simple -- the Rangers and Yankees would both benefit from signing that Cliff Lee fellow, for example -- it's less clear for many of the other elite teams in baseball.
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for the teams in each of MLB's six divisions. Teams are listed by 2010 order of finish.
If you placed a heavy bet on a Texas Rangers versus San Francisco Giants World Series before the season, I suggest upholstering the interior of your new private jet in a creamy taupe. Back then, the Giants had 16:1 odds to win their first championship since 1954, and the Rangers were 20:1 longshots to win their first ever.
It's important to learn from your mistakes, and given that we overwhelmingly picked the Yankees and Phillies to repeat as pennant winners, it seems we have a lot to learn. Here, then, are five lessons to be gleaned from the Rangers and Giants' LCS victories.
PHILADELPHIA -- Every big home run has a distinct sound. There was the Albert Pujols home run off Brad Lidge in Houston, the one that sucked the air and life and every last whisper out of the stadium and the city. There was the Derek Jeter home run that sparked a wall of sound that melted slowly into repeated and ever more heartfelt renditions of Sinatra's "New York, New York." There was Kirk Gibson's home run in Los Angeles, where the cheers started loud and only grew louder and louder as people realized, as Jack Buck would memorably say, exactly what they just saw.
PHILADEPHIA -- Five Cuts from Game 6 of the NLCS, where the Giants earned their first trip to the World Series since 2002 ...
PHILADELPHIA -- There was something familiar about the called third strike to end the Phillies' season.
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.
SAN FRANCISCO -- On the play that will live in infamy for the Giants in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the ball barely left the infield. Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino hit a bounding grounder to first base that ricocheted off Aubrey Huff and onto the outfield grass in shallow right-center. Runners on second and third both scored, the second and third runs for the Phillies in the inning and the game, playing a deciding role in Philadelphia's eventual 4-2 victory.
SAN FRANCISCO -- A pitcher can come to a baseball game armed with great stuff, an airtight game plan and confidence by the barrel loads. Pitching on those precious days with swing-and-miss stuff and rhythm like Coltrane is serendipitous, even somewhat easy when the baseball is made obedient.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Of course they did not know much. You think Roy Halladay was walking around the clubhouse during Game 5 of the National League Championship Series and telling all of his teammates about how his groin hurt? Please. Halladay is a name, rank, serial number kind of guy on his best days. When it comes Halladay and pitching, everybody is on the same security level -- it's all on a need-to-know basis. And nobody except the trainers and the coaches needed to know that he was in pain.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The clubhouse of a losing team is usually library silent, as if a stodgy old woman behind the reference desk is shooting a stern glare down her bifocals at everyone in the room. Whispering only, please.
"Each and every of you is hammerin' my tail. I don't coach that way." -- Bobby Ross, when he was coaching the Detroit Lions.
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.
SAN FRANCISCO -- 1. Game 4 is the Night at the Improv of postseason baseball, the witching hour when managers close their eyes and hold their noses and reach into the back end of their rotations and tired bullpens and hope for the best. It's when seven-game series become disjointed and darkly comical. The poster game of Game 4s remains Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, when the Phillies and Blue Jays staged a 15-14 burlesque during which one Veterans Stadium fan raised a pitch-perfect placard that read, "Will Pitch Middle Relief For Food."
Cliff Corcoran previews each day's games throughout the postseason.
One of the strange and wonderful things about late October is that millions of baseball fans with no natural interest in the only games going work some up.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Much of Charlie Manuel's charm stems from his meandering soliloquies, folksy and good-natured, often with his insight buried amidst his rambling replies to seemingly straight-forward questions.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Yes, absolutely, we've been over it a hundred times, a thousand times, how ridiculous it is to repeat that cliche: "Pitching is 90 percent of baseball." Pitching cannot be 90 percent of baseball. For one it is, as Bill James has written, a basically meaningless phrase since "baseball" could mean a thousand different things.
PHILADELPHIA -- Twenty-three days. It's been more than three weeks since the Giants managed the modest sum of five runs in a ballgame. They have played 13 straight games since Sept. 25 without scoring more than four runs. Only four Giants teams since baseball did away with the dead ball (post-1920) ever had such a streak longer than this one (1965, 1967, 1976 and 1980, all done in less hitter-friendly times).
PHILADELPHIA -- If it weren't for the warmup jacket, Roy Oswalt would have fit right in with his position-playing teammates.
PHILADELPHIA -- It may not have been a 14-punchout, two-hit shutout, but the game Tim Lincecum threw in the Giants' NLCS Game 1 win was simply brilliance of another, understated kind. If you watched what Lincecum did after yielding a home run to Jayson Werth on a sixth-inning fastball that cut the San Francisco lead to 4-3 -- with the Phillies' Comeback Machine all revved up -- you understood why. The little guy, as if taking an off-road detour, simply invented another way to shut down the game.
PHILADELPHIA -- One of the beautiful things about the baseball postseason is that it can turn strangers into heroes, for a moment, and also forever.
Breaking down --and ranking -- baseball's Final Four in five key categories...
Coming off a Division Series that featured a no-hitter by Roy Halladay, two additional shutouts by Tim Lincecum and Cole Hamels and great work by Matt Cain, Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson on top of that, the anticipation of a series of taut postseason pitching duels is palpable. The baseball world is holding its breath in anticipation of Saturday's NLCS opener, which will feature the man who won the past two NL Cy Young Awards, Lincecum, against the favorite to end that streak this year, Halladay.
As his Giants teammates created mayhem around him in celebration of their playoff series win over the Braves, rookie catcher Buster Posey stood sedately in the corner of the clubhouse
Sports Illustrated reporter Matt Gagne spoke to Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young to get their scouting reports of the four League Championship Series teams. Jones gave his assessment of the two American League teams, the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, while Young offered his take on the National League clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
Can Pat Burrell's years in Philadelphia give the San Francisco Giants some inside knowledge?
With the first round of this year's major league baseball playoffs now behind us, here are five things that we learned from the just-completed Division Series that could reverberate in the coming League Championship Series.
CINCINNATI -- It's such a staple on classic rock stations, you're surely sick of it by now. The Phillies are, too.
Cliff Corcoran breaks down each of the days' games everyday during the postseason.
PHILADELPHIA -- It probably wasn't smart for Reds' pitchers to start plunking Phillies.
Cliff Corcoran will break down each day's playoff games every day during the postseason.
PHILADELPHIA -- So what was it like, to be at the park on a drizzly October night a guy pitched his way into the pantheon? The fans at Citizens Bank Park waved their little white rally towels frantically. They stood and screamed -- pure, primal, throat-scratching screaming -- on pitch after pitch and after pitch. (And there were only 104 of them for the game.) The fans dressed in operating gowns, waiting for Roy (Doc) Halladay to see them, looked remarkably healthy, jumping up and down, up and down, up and down.
The Reds are making their first postseason appearance since 1995 on the strength of their first winning season since 2000. That sudden turn-around is one of the best stories of the season, but the Phillies look ready to ruin the ending. Having won the last two National League pennants, the Phillies are heavily favored to win their third straight NL flag, and given the top three in their rotation and the way their offense is clicking right now, they have to be considered the favorites to win the World Series as well. The Reds may very well be the second-best team in the NL field, but beating the Phillies would be a sizable upset.
The Phillies look like the clear favorite heading into a postseason derby filled with the very talented (Phillies, Yankees, Rays), resourceful (Rays), youthful (Reds, Rangers) and exciting (Rays, Reds). If pitching tells the story, the Phillies have a big edge, but the Giants, who also have excellent pitching, might have a say-so. If its offense, we could have a repeat World Series winner. If it's a little of each, we could easily have a repeat of last year's Series matchup.
It turns out, after all the shout and tumult, the major award races aren't as difficult or controversial as you were led to believe weeks ago. It's amazing how much clearer issues become when you actually wait for the season to play out and postseason berths to be decided. Imagine that.
The battle for the last two playoff spots in the National League has come down to the final day of the season with the Padres, Giants, and Braves all still fighting for those last two postseason berths. The Padres have kept their season alive the last two days with wins over the Giants in San Francisco, while the Braves have lost two straight at home to the NL East champion Phillies to put their hopes of giving manager Bobby Cox one last playoff berth in danger. Those two series, and the regular season, wrap up on Sunday, but two of the four possible outcomes of Sunday's action would still leave things unsettled, with the possibility that two playoff games will be required to determine the final NL playoff picture. Here, then, is a closer look at Sunday's two crucial matchups.
The Giants clinched a tie for first place in the National League West on Thursday, but there's still a way that the second-place Padres could win the division outright without having to play a one-game playoff. That is just one of a number of scenarios that are in play heading into the final weekend as the Padres travel to San Francisco for a three-game set against the Giants while the wild card-leading Braves, who are also within the Padres' reach, host the Phillies.
This year's National League pennant races are the kind that could one day inspire songs: Dour songs, about futility and lack of meaning, sung by moping teenagers.
No team is perfect, not even the ones that are headed for October or still have a very real chance to get there. Here are the concerns, questions and issues surrounding baseball's postseason contenders:
PHILADELPHIA -- Five Cuts from Monday's action:
The Rockies, star-crossed for most of the year, now are red-hot. The Reds remain young, exciting and surprisingly consistent. The Giants have a great one-two pitching combination, a nice thing going and a relatively favorable finishing schedule. The Padres still possess plenty of pitching, if not the momentum. And the Braves have a nice balanced team for Bobby Cox's farewell tour.
1. It took until their 144th game of the season, but the Padres may finally have found their leadoff hitter. In defeating the Rockies 7-6 on Tuesday night to maintain its 1 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the National League West and push Colorado to 3 1/2 games back, San Diego relied on one of its finest offensive performances of the season with 16 hits, including three by left fielder Aaron Cunningham.
NEW YORK -- Placido Polanco reckons that his left elbow hurts when he hits, when he dives for a ball and really anytime he has to extend it. The Phillies third baseman has bone chips that will require offseason surgery and, he hopes, lessen the pain that he says "has been there for awhile."
Trading Cliff Lee was a mistake. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted as much by trading for Astros ace Roy Oswalt on Thursday. Amaro may never come right out and say it, but his actions speak louder than words. Within moments of acquiring Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay on Dec. 16 of last year, Amaro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Lee, who had emerged as the postseason ace of the repeat National League champions after being acquired from the Indians at last year's deadline, to the Mariners for three prospects. Amaro's motivation was that, after trading away seven total prospects for Lee and Halladay, he needed to restock the farm system and thus couldn't afford to have Lee walk away as a free agent after the 2010 season without getting something in return.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- There's a new Roy in town -- and he's an ace, too.
The Beast requires constant feeding, and that is why Roy Oswalt is a Phillie today. Another organization sitting 2 1/2 games out of the wild card and 3 1/2 games out of first place could have passed on the expense, in dollars and prospects, that it took to add a pitcher about to turn 33 years old. But Philadelphia proved it is one of the three organizations in baseball that must feed The Beast. Only the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies operate with this mandate: World Series or bust.
The second trade deadline for Ruben Amaro Jr. as Phillies general manager looks a lot like the first: he is the biggest player at the table. Last year he landed the biggest prize, pitcher Cliff Lee, after trying to hook an even bigger one, Roy Halladay. This year he is trying to land another pitcher, Roy Oswalt, while trying to get it done without trading outfielder Jayson Werth, one of the best hitters available.
• The Rays are talking with the Nationals about Adam Dunn. Washington's slugging first baseman has 23 home runs this year and will be a free agent at season's end. The Rays currently lead the AL wild-card race by five games over the Red Sox.
On Wednesday, Max Scherzer, 25, of the Tigers threw 123 pitches and Chad Billingsley, 25, of the Dodgers threw 125 pitches. The next day, Josh Johnson, 26, of the Marlins threw 121 pitches and Justin Verlander, 27, of the Tigers threw 120 pitches. Nobody seemed to get too worked up about it.