Phillies

Camp Kap might be different but core message the same

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USA Today Images

Camp Kap might be different but core message the same

CLEARWATER, Fla. — I’m sure by now, the message from Clearwater has made its way back home. Something is different at the Carpenter Complex.

Things are changing inside the walls of Spectrum Field.

This isn’t your father's spring training.

On the surface, that message rings true. As true as the bell at Frenchy’s Tiki Bar, on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon when a patron’s generous tip warrants the clanging celebration.

Yes, some things are different as Gabe Kapler and his staff takes over the reins of this ballclub.

The sound of music in the hallways, and positive messages in the clubhouse. A renewed emphasis on rest, recovery and roles. A belief that the power of an athlete's mind can directly affect the performance of an athlete's body. New exchanges of ideas and ideologies.

But from where I sit, tucked away in the left field corner, this spring training resembles all the others I’ve seen. The sounds of the bat on ball and the pop of the catcher's mitt as it collects a 90-plus mile per hour fastball. The encouragement from one teammate to another shouted across the diamond after a heads-up play. The echo of laughter in the clubhouse and effort in the weight room. The sounds of baseball.

The stakes are high, and for most players, the pressure to succeed is real. This is their job, and they take it seriously.

For the major league staff, this reality is clear. So if they can offer a simple reminder to the players, to “Be Bold” and play fearlessly, they will. Reassuring them that their best chance is, without a doubt, to believe in the talent that has gotten them here.

Kapler’s message may sound different at first blush. But I would argue that's mostly because of how he delivers it. He's passionate and unapologetically positive. He's thoughtful with his words and deliberate in his tone. He uses analogies and metaphors that on the surface may seem alien in professional sports.

But if you listen, the message is familiar.

Win.

Win by paying attention to details.

Win by making small strides in the things you already do well.

Win by analyzing the numbers.

Win with hard work, with smarts, with hustle.

Win despite the naysayers.

Win. Together.

Go back in sports history and you will find these doctrines being preached time and time again. The idea that if everyone pulls in the same direction, buys into the message, believes in one another, extraordinary results can occur. We’ve watched it happen.

The Phillies' rebuild has shifted into a new gear. And Kapler and his staff have been given the latitude to construct this team into a perennial contender once again. They will do it with proven methods and unconventional thinking. They will do it with positivity and practice. They will do it the way they believe it should be done.

And to some, it may sound different. But to me, it sounds like baseball.

Gregg Murphy has been the Phillies' field reporter since 2012.

2018 MLB Home Run Derby: Preview, time, format, rules, and how to watch

2018 MLB Home Run Derby: Preview, time, format, rules, and how to watch

Rhys Hoskins made some Phillies history in June when he became the franchise's fastest player to reach 30 career home runs, doing so in 119 games to outpace Chuck Klein (132) and Ryan Howard (134).

Hoskins will try to make more club history when he slugs away in Monday night's 2018 Home Run Derby. The leftfielder can become the first Phillie to win the event since Howard did so in 2006, the year directly after Bobby Abreu hoisted the trophy.

What do you need to know for this year's edition? Let's break it all down:

Essentials

When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.)
Network: ESPN
Live stream: Watch ESPN
Social media: @NBCSPhilly 

The bracket

The rules

Each hitter is up against the clock with four minutes per round.

The clock can expand and stop a few ways. Players can earn bonus time by hitting at least two dingers of 440 or more feet, while each hitter is allowed a 45-second timeout, with the championship round permitting two timeouts — a 45-second stoppage and 30-second stoppage.

If the higher seed, which hits second, surpasses the total of the lower seed, the round ends without the clocking having to run out.

For more on the format, click here to read MLB.com's detailed outline, which includes tiebreakers and past examples.

The favorite

Bryce Harper has a Derby background — unlike the rest — and is hitting in his home park. 

The 2010 first overall pick also owns the second-most home runs among the field this season at 23, behind only the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar, who has 24.

Harper, with 118 dingers since 2015, also has the motivation factor — he'll want to put on a show.

The sleeper

Kyle Schwarber is only 25 years old and a big boy at 6-foot, 235 pounds.

He has 18 homers in 2018 and blasted 30 last season in just 129 games.

The Cubs' outfielder also has the benefit of being on the opposite side of the bracket from Harper.

The underdog

Philly loves the underdog and of course it's Hoskins.

Perfect, right?

Hoskins will go in with no pressure as the eighth and final seed. He loves his pitcher, Chris Truby, the Phillies' minor-league infield coordinator.

"He throws money BP," Hoskins said (see story).

And the 25-year-old shouldn't be taken lightly. He has 32 homers over his first 136 big-league games and hit 67 in 250 games between Double A and Triple A from 2016 to 2017.

Aaron Nola among MLB's best bargains, and here's what next deal could look like

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Aaron Nola among MLB's best bargains, and here's what next deal could look like

Would you believe that only two players in MLB have been a better bargain in 2018 than Aaron Nola?

Spotrac, the well-known contracts website, put out its list of baseball's best values so far this season and Nola ranks No. 1 among all starting pitchers.

He also ranks No. 3 among all players, behind only Boston's Mookie Betts and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez.

Nola made his first All-Star team by going 12-3 with a 2.30 ERA in his first 20 starts. He leads the NL in wins, has the lowest home run rate in the league, ranks second in innings and ERA, third in WHIP and fourth in strikeouts. 

He has legitimately pitched like a Cy Young-winner with nearly 60 percent of the season in the books.

At some point soon, the conversation will shift toward a long-term extension. Nola is set to go through the arbitration process for the first time this winter and cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season.

This is the last season Nola will be this drastically underpaid relative to his performance. The Phils could explore a contract that buys out his three arbitration years and the first two or three free-agent years. They did this with Odubel Herrera. 

League-wide, teams routinely do this with star players in order to save some money in those first couple post-arbitration years. Players, especially pitchers, value the long-term security because of the frequency of long-term arm injuries.

How much money are we talking? The Braves, in a similar position with Freddie Freeman before his first arbitration year, signed him to an eight-year, $135 million deal. It made sense for Freeman because it's life-changing money, and it made sense for the Braves because they got his first five post-arbitration years for an average of $21.3 million per year. That's a team-friendly deal for a perennial MVP candidate like Freeman.

The Cardinals, in the same spot with Carlos Martinez, struck a five-year, $51 million contract. It's a good deal for the Cards because they get Martinez's first two post-arb years for $23 million and hold club options for $17 million and $18 million the following two years.

That Martinez contract seems like more of a template for Nola than the Freeman megadeal, but Nola is a better and more accomplished pitcher than Martinez. If his extension has the same length as Martinez's, one would think it would be closer to $70 million than $50 million.

Regardless, Nola's cost-effectiveness is a major reason the Phillies are in first place at the All-Star break with a real chance to add top talent by the trade deadline and/or this offseason. If Nola was already making $25 million per year, the Phillies' spending options wouldn't be as seemingly limitless as they are right now.

A long-term extension with Nola would have obvious benefits to the Phils because it could allow them to save some money in 2022 and 2023, when more of their young players will have richer deals and the payroll will be more of a concern.