Phillies

Dellin Betances is exactly what Phillies need and exactly what they don't need

Dellin Betances is exactly what Phillies need and exactly what they don't need

The Phillies are closing in on the luxury tax and, no matter which words are used to answer questions about the tax, it appears the Phils only want to exceed the threshold if it is for a difference-maker.

A healthy Dellin Betances would be a difference-maker. It's just more complicated than that for a Phillies team that has had horrible luck with veteran relievers in recent years.

Betances is the most intriguing arm left in a weak class of free-agent relievers. From 2014-18, he was elite. Like, top-five-reliever-in-the-game elite. We're talking 70 appearances per year over a five-year span with a 2.22 ERA and 234 more strikeouts than innings pitched. He had a 98 mph fastball and a sick knuckle-curve.

Had Betances stayed healthy in 2019, he would have likely signed a three- or four-year deal with a high AAV this offseason. But he didn't. He missed more than five months with a shoulder injury, debuted on Sept. 15 and partially tore his Achilles' tendon.

How can a team be certain Betances is healthy enough to contribute in a significant way in 2020? How can a team be certain his velocity dip of 3 mph in a small sample size last season was not the warning sign it appears to be?

Betances is a prime candidate for a one-year, prove-it deal. It won't be for as much money as Didi Gregorius ($14 million) or maybe even Blake Treinen, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers after a disappointing follow-up to a stellar 2018.

Betances is likely looking at a one-year deal in the $8 million range. The signing team will want a team option for Year 2 in case Betances pitches well, but that might be a sticking point on his end.

The worst-case scenario for the Phillies if they sign Betances is another season lost to injury, the same as they experienced with David Robertson and Tommy Hunter, and to an extent Pat Neshek. 

The best-case scenario for the Phillies if they sign Betances is a return to his elite form, which would allow the Phillies to lock down the eighth inning in front of Hector Neris or the ninth if Betances could wrestle away that job.

The Phillies right now do not have hard-throwing right-handed relief options beyond Neris they can feel great about heading into 2020. Seranthony Dominguez is a major X-factor because they need his bat-missing abilities and upside late in games. But can his elbow hold up after he chose to forego Tommy John surgery yet still missed the season's final 100 games?

Because of the injury concerns and the Phils' recent track record, this is not a perfect fit. But it's a pretty good fit, it would fill a need, and there are ways to get below the tax with a trade of someone like Vince Velasquez. The Phillies would just need to feel really, really good about Betances' medicals.

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100+ games? Why MLB players would want it, and how it could work

100+ games? Why MLB players would want it, and how it could work

Unsurprisingly, the MLBPA was not interested in the league's first proposal involving a sliding scale of pay, hating it so much that it didn't feel a counter-proposal based on that format was even necessary.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is on the union's eight-man subcommittee, released this statement Wednesday night.

The players plan to counter with a schedule that includes more than 100 games as opposed to 82. The Athletic reported it could be as many as 110 games.

Why would the players counter with this? Because even without fans in the stands, more games means more money for players and owners via local and national television deals. The players must feel they have a better chance at reaching a compromise with owners for a greater percentage of prorated pay if there are 30 or so additional games.

The next question would be whether a 110-game schedule would even be possible if it begins July 4. And even that July 4 potential start date seems optimistic because it would have to be preceded by 2-3 weeks of spring training and we're already at May 28 with no clear end in sight to these negotiations. Each day without a resolution could push things back.

If the season does begin on July 4, and every team played every day without an off-day (unrealistic), a 110-game regular season would wrap up on Oct. 10. The 14-team playoff format would extend the postseason, which we could see end in mid-to-late November. 

That's without off-days but it's also without doubleheaders, which could cancel out the off-days every few weeks.

The danger of playing too late into the winter, besides the weather, is that it would shorten free agency and the recovery time between 2020 and 2021 for players, especially those in the playoffs. But the free agency thing might not even matter. A shorter free agency could actually be beneficial for baseball without the months of waiting around to see who blinks we've seen in recent years.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post had an interesting idea for a compromise between owners and players:

"Take 60 percent of prorated salaries now across the board in exchange for raising the minimum wage the next two years to $750,000 then $850,000, which helps the bottom end players. Then demand no luxury tax thresholds/penalties for 2021 and 2022. The expectation is that the financial downturn is going to impact those seeking larger contracts, particularly free agents. But if the Dodgers or Yankees or Cubs want to spend, let there at least not be an artificial barrier to doing that."

More about the players' proposal should be known by the end of the week.

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For Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, memories of Roy Halladay's perfecto are fresh and cherished

For Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, memories of Roy Halladay's perfecto are fresh and cherished

Chase Utley can still feel the nerves pulsating through his body like an electrical current.

Cole Hamels can still hit the play button in his mind and recite the conversations he had.

A decade later, their memories of Roy Halladay’s perfect game are still fresh.

“It was the fifth or sixth inning,” Utley recalled. “I was like, ‘Wait a second, they don’t have any hits.’ That’s when I realized it could possibly happen.”

It did happen.

Ten years ago this week, on May 29, 2010, Roy Halladay went 27-up, 27-down against the Florida Marlins on a steamy night in South Florida. The temptation is to say that the perfect game was Halladay’s grand introduction as a Phillie because, after all, it came in just his 11th start with the club. But, truth be told, the big right-hander had announced his arrival with authority even before that start. He had pitched two shutouts on his way to four complete games in his first 10 starts with the club and his brief but brilliant legend as a Phillie was already growing.

Start No. 11 stood apart from all the rest — at least until Halladay pitched a playoff no-hitter against Cincinnati later that season — because perfection so seldom happens in a sport where failing seven out of 10 times is an enviable reality. Halladay’s perfect game was just the 20th in Major League history at the time and memories of it have become more poignant, more cherished in the 2½ years since his death in a small plane crash in November 2017.

Utley played second base behind Halladay in that tight 1-0 win in Miami. And after he looked up at the scoreboard and realized what was happening — after his OMG moment — his nerves started to crackle. Because though perfect games ultimately go on a pitcher’s record, they are a team accomplishment, as well. One blemish on defense can unravel the whole thing.

“One-hundred percent,” said Utley, describing the flow of anxiety he felt playing defense late in that game. “We had only been around Roy for a few months, but we’d seen what he was all about firsthand. You want a guy like that to succeed. 

“You tried not to put any extra pressure on yourself, but you were definitely more engaged and tuned in. Having no fear is important. I remember thinking I wanted the ball hit to me. I remember anticipating it coming my way and attacking it like I normally would.”

With the exception of catcher Carlos Ruiz, Hamels might have had the best seat in the house for Halladay’s tour de force.

Hamels had pitched two nights earlier in New York. When Halladay took the mound that Saturday night in Miami, Hamels took a seat alongside Jamie Moyer, the next day’s starting pitcher, in a camera well at the home plate end of the visiting dugout.

For two hours and 13 minutes, that camera well became an observation deck as Hamels and Moyer watched and admired Doc Halladay perform surgery. As Halladay started to rack up quick outs, the veteran Moyer, a walking textbook of pitching who had been a mentor to the younger Hamels, got more and more excited about the lesson that was unfolding out on the mound.

“This is why you keep notes,” Moyer told Hamels. “This is why you study hitters. This is why you do it — because you might have the opportunity to do something like this someday. This is the reward you can have.”

Hamels can still hear the conversation.

“That game made me appreciate what Jamie had been telling me for a few years, that you really had to have a game plan, about executing that game plan and making sure you’re focused and never get off it,” Hamels said. “For years he’d been telling me to develop that notebook and keep track of all that information.”

Halladay needed just 115 pitches to finish his clinic against the Marlins. He struck out 11.

It takes a confluence of positive factors for a pitcher to throw a perfect game. Obviously, the maestro needs to be on top of his game. The defense needs to hit all the right notes. And it sure helps if the umpire has a wide strike zone.

Mike DiMuro was the home plate umpire that night in Miami. He had the kind of strike zone that perfect games dream of. Marlins leadoff man Chris Coghlan, rung up on a 3-2 pitch to open the bottom of the first inning, testified to that during his time as a player in Phillies camp in February 2017.

“Big strike zone that night,” Coghlan told us nearly seven years after Halladay’s perfecto. “Go back and look at it. I was leading off, 3-2, ball off the plate, strike three. I still get chapped about it. Go look at it. It could have been totally different.”

As our conversation with Coghlan went on, it became clear that he really wasn’t angry about the strike zone that night. It was more the competitor in him talking.

If anyone would understand that, it would have been Halladay, a competitor’s competitor.

“Oh, everybody loves [a perfect game] except for the guys it’s happening against,” Coghlan said. “I had some buddies at the game and afterward they were like, ‘Bro, that was awesome. I can’t believe I saw that. I’m saving this ticket.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re in the family room, bro, and you’re ticking me off. We just got embarrassed. You can find your own ride home. I’m not giving you a ride.’ 

“I joke about the zone that night. But I would never diminish anything that man did. To pitch a perfect game, everything has to go perfect and it did for him that night. He was a legend.”

The defense came through for Halladay late in the game that night 10 years ago. Juan Castro made two standout plays at third base, one in which he went to his left, spun and fired to first to end the game. Castro, usually a reserve, was at third that night because Greg Dobbs made a couple of errors in Halladay’s previous start, a loss against Boston. Manager Charlie Manuel opted for a glove at third in Halladay’s next start and the move proved huge.

That final out is Utley’s most vivid memory from the night.

“Juan made a great play, spun around — out recorded,” Utley said. “The excitement we as teammates had for what Roy had accomplished was incredible. He had his game face on all night. After a lot of stare downs, it was good to see that great big smile after the last out.

“We had a small part in it, but he’s the guy who got it done. I remember the way he credited Chooch after the game. Roy was such a great teammate, always deflecting attention from himself. They don’t make ‘em like that very often.”

A couple of months after his perfect game, Halladay recognized the team nature of his accomplishment by presenting all of his teammates and Phillies support staff with Swiss wristwatches — 67 of them in all — inscribed with the words “We did it together. Thanks – Roy Halladay.” The watches cost about $2,800 apiece. Utley cherishes the memento and says he will keep it forever even if he doesn’t wear it often.

“I don’t want to muck it up,” he joked.

Memories of the heart can’t be mucked up.

And that night in Miami a decade ago will always hold a special place in a lot of hearts.

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