Bryce Harper? Manny Machado? Phillies should sit this one out

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Bryce Harper? Manny Machado? Phillies should sit this one out

Be bold.

That two-word mission statement set forth by Gabe Kapler became the center of the Phillies’ marketing push for the 2018 season. Many Phillies fans are hoping that mindset defines the team’s approach to this offseason as well.

The dots are easy to connect here: 

• The Phillies showed some promise this season before the wheels came off in mid-August. 

• Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will both be available in free agency.

• The Phillies have the financial wherewithal to land one of those two players.

When asked about the club’s future following the season, both general manager Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail acknowledged the need to get better. But neither was willing to put the Phils’ eggs entirely in this year’s free agent basket.

You don’t want to pay sticker price if you can avoid it. This could just be a case of maintaining some leverage in future negotiations, but there are also legitimate reasons for the Phillies to temper their free-agent appetite.

I know nothing about building a house, but it seems logical that you ensure the foundation before getting to an addition. The Phillies are still in the foundation portion of their rebuild. That might be frustrating to fans that haven’t seen a postseason game at Citizens Bank Park in seven years, but that’s the reality.

Outside of Aaron Nola and possibly Rhys Hoskins, there’s no safe bet on the current roster to be an everyday contributor for a championship-caliber team. There are reasons to hope players like Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn will join that group, but they have not ascended there yet.

The anticipation surrounding this offseason reminds me somewhat of the mood following the 2002 season. After pushing the Braves to the final weekend of the 2001 season and clearing the deck of the Scott Rolen mess the following July, the Phillies went all-in prior to the 2003 campaign. Jim Thome, David Bell and Kevin Millwood were all acquired to push a team that had missed the postseason for nine straight seasons over the top.

It didn’t play out that way. Millwood was miscast as an ace. Bell was a basically a replacement-level player for most of his tenure. Thome was spectacular but eventually served as a Ryan Howard roadblock. As important, the talent around them was not as good as the front office originally hoped. It took another four years and an almost entirely reworked core to get the Phils back to October.

Admittedly, Harper and Machado are significantly younger than Thome was when he signed with the Phillies. They also have higher ceilings. There’s no doubt that adding one of these players makes the team better immediately. But neither player solely bridges the gap between the Phillies and top teams in Major League Baseball. 

Yet, making the commitment necessary to land a Harper or Machado changes the expectations. A team that makes that type of splash almost instinctively has to take on the mindset of a contender. That will certainly be the way the fan base sees it. And that can be dangerous. 

Icing is delicious. But it tastes best on a fully baked cake with all of the ingredients. Similarly, free agency works best when used to add a finishing touch.

You’re ready when you’re ready. And the Phillies aren’t ready for that yet. 

That might change next offseason. 2019 could call for boldness. But right now, the Phillies might be better served to sit this one out.

Be hesitant.

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Halladay Tosses Second No-Hitter in Playoff History

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Halladay Tosses Second No-Hitter in Playoff History

Originally published October 7, 2010

Can you pitch the game of your life twice in the same season?

Oh, yes, you can.

Just ask Roy Halladay. He did it Wednesday night.

Just ask Jimmy Rollins. He witnessed it.

“It was just great,” Rollins said. “Simple and classy. That was awesome.”

Rollins has seen some spectacular Phillies postseason moments the last two years. Heck, he’s authored some of them. Wednesday night he lived through another one as Halladay, in a performance seemingly plucked from the pages of a fairy tale, took the mound for his first postseason game ever and pitched a no-hitter to lead the Phillies to a 4-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Think about all of this for a second. Halladay came to Philadelphia because he believed it was the place where he could experience postseason play after a career full of empty Octobers in Toronto. In his first playoff start, on the night he had long dreamed of, he did something that had only been done once before in more than a century of postseason play. Before Halladay’s 104-pitch gem against the Reds, Don Larsen had been the only other pitcher to toss a no-hitter in postseason play when he delivered a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

Halladay was not quite perfect. He walked one batter, Jay Bruce, on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth inning. But Halladay knows what perfection feels like. His perfect game on May 29 at Florida was the season’s signature moment.

Before all this happened, of course.

“It’s a little bit surreal to know some of that stuff,” said Halladay, referring to the historical aspect of his accomplishment. “This was one of those special things that you’ll always remember.”

Every Phillies fan will remember it, the 46,411 who packed Citizens Bank Park, and the countless others who watched it at home on television.

They will remember every one of Halladay’s eight strikeouts, the two excellent defensive plays that Rollins made at shortstop, and the nice catch that Jayson Werth made on the Reds’ only hard-hit ball in rightfield.

They will remember how Halladay owned Cincinnati hitters, how he attacked them with the intensity of a pit bull, how he threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of 28 batters, a ratio that allowed him to control the Reds’at-bats and get their hitters to chase his darting pitches, even when they were purposely thrown wide of the strike zone.

They will even remember how Halladay had an RBI single in the second inning, before anyone started thinking no-hitter.

There were more memorable vignettes, of course.

The final out will always remain indelible. Reds leadoff man Brandon Phillips hit a tapper out in front of home plate. As the ball skittered on the grass, it struck Phillips’ bat. Catcher Carlos Ruiz looked like a frantic Easter egg hunter as he reached around the bat, grasped the ball and, from his knees, threw around the base runner to first baseman Ryan Howard to end the game.

“It looked like Carlos was playing Twister,” Howard said afterward. “He made a great throw from his knees.”

When the out was registered, Ruiz hopped into Halladay’s arms, a freeze-frame moment reminiscent of Yogi Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms in 1956.

Within seconds, Halladay and Ruiz were engulfed by jubilant teammates. Howard said he wasn’t sure if it was cool to celebrate a Game 1 win in a playoff series, but, what the heck, this was special.

“Pretty solid pickup, I’d say,” Howard deadpanned, referring to Halladay’s acquisition in December.

“That’s what I call good managing,” Phils skipper Charlie Manuel joked.

Phillies fans were thrilled when the team acquired Halladay. They weren’t all that happy when 2009 postseason hero Cliff Lee was traded away in an accompanying deal.

As Phillies players mobbed Halladay at the last out Wednesday night, Phillies officials, according to front-office man Dallas Green, “went crazy” up in the team’s executive box.

“We forgot about Cliff Lee,” said Green, who, as a young Yankees farmhand, was at Yankee Stadium as a spectator the day Larsen threw his perfecto.

The Phillies scored four runs in the first two innings, running Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez from the game. After Halladay contributed to the Phils’ three-run rally in the second, he took the mound in the top of third and iced the Reds on nine pitches, eight of which were strikes. Halladay threw his entire arsenal at the NL’s best hitting team. He featured a power sinker, a devastating cutter, a dazzling changeup and a curveball that Reds hitters, often behind in the count, couldn’t lay off.

So how did Halladay’s stuff compare to the perfect game in Miami?

“Better,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “Way better. Better movement. Better command.”

Halladay credited Ruiz for calling a heads-up game. He only shook off Ruiz once.

“I know I always go back to it, but Ruiz has done a great job all year recognizing what’s working, what’s effective, and calling it,” Halladay said. “We were aggressive and made good pitches.”

The Reds couldn’t argue that.

“In a situation like that, you’re almost helpless because he was dealing,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “Good pitching will beat good hitting and that was great pitching tonight.”

Joey Votto, the Reds’ MVP candidate, concurred.

“I hate to use hyperbole, but he’s an ace among aces,” Votto said.

Lost in all the excitement created by Halladay’s masterpiece was the even more important fact that the Phils are up one game to none in a short, best-of-five playoff series. They are two wins away from returning to the NL Championship Series for the third time in as many years.

“The best part of this is the playoffs take priority and it’s pretty neat for me to go out and win a game like that knowing there’s more to come for us and more to accomplish,” Halladay said. “So that makes it a lot of fun.”

Things might not be fun for the Reds. They face Roy Oswalt in Game 2 on Friday. He’s only 23-3 in his career against Cincinnati.

As Roy Halladay enters baseball’s Hall of Fame, we look back at his finest moments with Phillies

As Roy Halladay enters baseball’s Hall of Fame, we look back at his finest moments with Phillies

Though he spent just four of his 16 major league seasons in Philadelphia, Roy Halladay loved his time with the Phillies. He loved playing for a winner, loved the passion of the fans, loved playing in a ballpark filled with emotion and energy.

Halladay once told the story of sitting in the dugout at Citizens Bank Park between innings of a start during his first season with the Phils in 2010. The team was on its way to a fourth straight National League East title and Halladay on his way to his first postseason (not the mention a Cy Young Award). The pitcher looked around the sold-out stadium in awe and thought …

“I can't believe this is happening to me.”

Halladay never got the World Series title he came to Philadelphia looking for, but he pitched in two postseasons, authored a perfect game and an playoff no-hitter, and impressed fans and teammates with his amazing work ethic and dedication.

The great pitcher died tragically in a small plane crash in November 2017. He was just 40.

He remains tied to Philadelphia and the Phillies organization. He was inducted onto the Phillies’ Wall of Fame last summer and on Sunday will be officially enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, along with Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith and Harold Baines.

Halladay spent 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, but his time in Philadelphia was so special that his family asked that he go into the Hall of Fame with no particular team logo on his cap. The Hall of Fame granted that wish.

As he officially becomes a member of Baseball Royalty on Sunday, we look back at some of the moments that defined and highlighted Roy Halladay’s time in Philadelphia.

Halladay, Phillies rout Nationals in season opener

Revisiting the night of Roy Halladay's perfect game in Miami

Halladay tosses second no-hitter in playoff history

Charlie Manuel keeps his promise to Roy Halladay's son

Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

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