Phillies

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Former Eagle Vince Papale, the inspiration for the movie "Invincible," paid a visit to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon to meet Phillies outfielder Brock Stassi. Papale wanted to give him a copy of the film "Invincible" -- a movie Stassi has yet to see -- and talk to another Philadelphia athlete who has played the underdog role.

Papale said he couldn't help but get choked up when he first saw the video of Stassi being interviewed after he made the Phillies' roster (watch above).

"Brock's story came on and I started doing one of these," Papale said as he reached to wipe the fake tears from his eyes. "So I got my wife Janet and I said, 'You gotta come in and see this.' And I texted my son Vince down at Delaware and said, 'You see this guy? He's just like us.'

"I contacted (Phillies publicity director) John (Brazer) and texted him right then and said I wanted the film rights for this."

Stassi, a long shot to make the Phillies' roster, was the feel-good story of the spring. The six-year minor leaguer had a spring training to remember, hitting .306 (19 for 62) with six home runs and 17 RBIs.  

As always, when an underdog makes an impact in Philadelphia, there will be association to past Philly underdogs like Papale or legendary movie character Rocky Balboa.

"I did get a few ["Invincible" references on Twitter]," Stassi said of when he made the team. "A lot of people made that reference and I am honored to even be put in the same category as him."

Papale assumed the role of a reporter and posed a question to Stassi: "What kept you going?"

"Ever since I was drafted, I've believed in myself that I would be here one day," Stassi said. "And after my first spring, I was in extended spring training and that's a place you don't want to be when you are 22 years old at the time. And I ended up learning a lot about myself because you're playing on the back fields in spring training in the middle of the day, in Florida, in front of about five people, so it's really self-motivating.

"And that's kind of where I started to get the hang of pro ball and started believing in myself then. Because my first year was rough. My first year in Williamsport, had a terrible year. But, it ended up working out. It made for a lot of doubters. And it's fun proving people wrong."

Papale smiled and assured Stassi: "We call that the last laugh."

Phillies Talk podcast: Does MLB's new deal change anything for Phillies?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Does MLB's new deal change anything for Phillies?

On Friday's Phillies Talk podcast, Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discussed MLB's new deal from a Phillies perspective.

• Why service time was non-negotiable from players' side

• 2020 service time rules could hurt Phillies

• How this could change J.T. Realmuto negotiations

• If rosters do expand to 29, how Phillies should fill it out

• Expanding the playoffs

• What we missed most about opening weekend

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What MLB's new deal with players' association means for Phillies

What MLB's new deal with players' association means for Phillies

MLB and the players' association finalized a deal Friday that affects service time, the draft, salaries, the 2020 schedule and more.

Let's go piece by piece.

When will the season begin?

"Not until there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans and no travel restrictions," according to ESPN.

This runs counter to the idea that games could take place in empty stadiums.

An early-June start to the regular season still seems like a best-case scenario.

Service time

This was the main sticking point for players. They needed to know that they would be credited with a full year of service time even in the event of a canceled season. A canceled season is not viewed as the likelihood at this point but all bases needed to be covered.

Players will receive a full year of service time no matter if the season is 120, 162 or zero games. The days of service credited to a player will be the same number he received in 2019. For someone like Rhys Hoskins, it will mean a full year of service time. For someone like Ranger Suarez, who wasn't called up until the first week of June in 2019, it will reflect closer to a half-season's worth of service time.

Why is this important? Because service time determines eligibility for free agency and arbitration. It wouldn't have been fair to make J.T. Realmuto wait another year for free agency because of circumstances outside his control. Nor would it have been fair to delay Hoskins' three arbitration years, which begin after the 2020 season.

Service time was the most important point for major-league players because there is so much to be gained financially by accruing another year.

2020 MLB draft

The league can limit the 2020 MLB draft to five rounds if it so chooses. Much less scouting can even be done this spring, but this looks like a cost-cutting measure. Signing bonuses to draftees will be deferred. According to The Athletic, draftees will receive $100,000 up front with the rest deferred to 2021 and 2022 in equal amounts. 

Signing bonuses for drafted players will stay at 2019 levels rather than rise by 3-3.5% annually the way they tend to.

For an undrafted player, the richest signing bonus a team can give is $20,000 compared to $125,000 previously. This clearly hurts younger players trying to break into the bigs over the next year. 


Lump-sum advance

If the 2020 season never takes place, players waived their right to sue the league for full salaries in exchange for an advance payment of $170 million. 

This $170 million will be distributed to four tiers of players and most of it will go to players on guaranteed major-league deals.

The amount a player is advanced would come out of his prorated 2020 salary if/when games begin.

Transaction freeze

Rosters will be frozen beginning today. This is partially why the Phillies optioned six players to Triple A on Thursday.

Expanded rosters

Rosters were already set to expand from 25 to 26 this season. Now, rosters will expand to 29 for the first month of the 2020 regular season, according to USA Today

All teams will need more arms as starting pitchers build back up. This is good news for players battling for bench or bullpen jobs. It makes it more likely that all three of Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison and Neil Walker make the team. There is still much to be decided in the bullpen. Victor Arano and Tommy Hunter could be ready for the new season opener.

Regular season length

Still TBD. The regular season will certainly extend into October and the playoffs could continue until late November. Neutral sites would likely need to be used if cold-weather, outdoor teams advance that far. You could potentially see a Cardinals-Yankees World Series played in Tampa.

Playoff format

A way to recoup some of the lost money from the shortened season is to expand the playoff field, which was likely to happen even before the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, 10 teams make the playoffs, with two in each league competing in the one-game wild-card round. MLB could expand to 12 or 14 playoff teams, which would drastically change the regular season and be an obvious benefit to a team like the Phillies.

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