Phillies

Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

Gabe Kapler plays utility man at third base as he waits for Maikel Franco to make 'fixes' in his game

WASHINGTON — When J.P. Crawford went down with a broken hand on Tuesday, it ostensibly meant more playing time for Maikel Franco after he’d played himself out of the Phillies' regular third baseman’s job.

But Franco did not start Friday night’s game against the Nationals. Utility man Jesmuel Valentin got the nod at third.

Manager Gabe Kapler talked up Valentin saying, “There’s a lot of people in our organization who believe Val is a prospect and by prospect I mean a guy who can contribute on the major-league level either as a utility guy or a guy who plays a little more regularly, so we want to see that.”

But Kapler made it clear that Franco needs to make some “fixes.” In particular, Kapler wants to see the slow-footed Franco drive the ball in the air more and get on base more. Phillies management has made these observations before. Many times. Franco’s inability to improve in these areas is the reason he lost playing time to Crawford in the first place. It was the reason the Phillies seem to be phasing him out their plans, the reason they are likely to seek a trade-deadline upgrade at third base — if they can stay in contention.

Kapler said he wasn’t sending any messages in holding Franco out of Friday night’s lineup.

“The only message tonight is let’s win the baseball game and give Maikel a chance to work on his craft,” Kapler said.

Indeed, Franco spent significant time before the game working in the cage with hitting coaches John Mallee and Pedro Guerrero.

“The profile on Maikel is who he is — a guy who hits home runs and sometimes in bunches and has a lot of power, hasn’t been able to consistently get on base over a long period of time and that feels like what makes a major-league third baseman is a guy who gets on base and hits homers and plays good D,” Kapler said. “So if you have all three, you’re a regular at third base for a really long time. If you have two of the three, it’s a challenge. And right now, Maikel is dealing with working on his D and making that better and he’s also dealing with adding one more offensive tool to the third-base mix. The home runs are going to be there. If you gave him 500 plate appearances, he’s going to hit you 25 homers. But that doesn’t make a third baseman at the major-league level long term, just that in isolation.”

Entering Friday, Franco had just a .284 on-base percentage and he had hit the ball on the ground 52 percent of the time, the 13th-highest rate among 162 qualifying hitters in the majors, according to FanGraphs data.

Kapler said he remains confident that Franco can make the fixes he’s looking for.

“He’s a young player. He’s 25. He’s still developing,” Kapler said. “I still have a ton of confidence that he can put it all together and we can roll with Maikel Franco, and we’re doing everything in our power to access that player. He’s very talented. That confidence has not let up at all.”

Andrew McCutchen, Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich discuss need to transform American policing

Andrew McCutchen, Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich discuss need to transform American policing

How should police be held accountable in order to actually trigger change? That was one of the topics addressed by Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a USA Today piece co-authored by Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, former NFL Pro Bowler and co-founder of the Player Coalition Anquan Boldin, and New Orleans Saints LB Demario Davis.

"The coronavirus has taught the nation how fragile life is. We all feel deeply the impermanence of our world and realize that the people we cling to for security, stability and for love can disappear in a single moment," the piece began.

"But this realization has long been apparent to Black America, as they’ve watched law enforcement unjustly take the lives of black people for decades, ending futures in an instant. The examples could fill the pages of this news site.

"... And in the past few weeks, these examples have come at hyperspeed."

Accountability was a major theme in the op-ed.

"We cannot wait to change hearts and minds — too many people will die while we try," the authors wrote. "We need to transform American policing now. We need changes that will actually alter behavior, prevent officers from harming people with impunity, and allow officials to hold officers and departments accountable when they do.

"First, police chiefs need to have the ability to get bad officers off the street. When officers are caught using racial slurs, engaging in illegal searches and seizures, fabricating evidence or using severe, unlawful force, they should lose their badges, and lose them immediately. But they don't. A USA TODAY investigation last year found a widespread failure to track problem officers whose testimony had helped charge and imprison thousands of people."

The piece calls for Congress to put an end to "qualified immunity," which shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions within their official capacity unless their actions violate clearly established federal law or constitutional rights.

"Qualified immunity prevents harmed individuals from receiving compensation unless there is another case, already decided, that involved basically identical facts," McCutchen et al wrote. "The likelihood of this type of similarity between acts of wrongdoing is scant at best. Without it, qualified immunity completely shields officers from civil consequences for their illegal acts.

"When we watch people like George Floyd or Eric Garner get choked to death, it is hard to be filled with anything but the utmost despair. But our anger and frustration will not stop police violence. There are meaningful changes that would allow us to police these officers, not just the other way around. We must ensure that victimizing our fellow citizens brings real consequences."

Check out the full piece for more of the conversation.

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Even Jamie Moyer, King of Clinchers, couldn't lead '08 Phillies to sweep of Brewers

Even Jamie Moyer, King of Clinchers, couldn't lead '08 Phillies to sweep of Brewers

The Phillies went into Milwaukee for Game 3 of the 2008 National League Division Series looking to complete a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Phils had won the first two games of the best-of-five series at home. Cole Hamels pitched a gem to backbone the Game 1 victory and Shane Victorino led the charge against CC Sabathia in the Game 2 victory.

Looking to clinch the series in Game 3, the Phils had the guy they wanted on the mound.

Jamie Moyer was their King of Clinchers. He had been the winning pitcher in the team's NL East division clinchers in 2007 and 2008.

Anyone for a trifecta?

Not this time.

At age 45, Moyer led the Phillies with 16 wins in 2008. He did it by upsetting hitters' timing with an artful changeup and the ability to locate his pitches with precision.

But in Game 3 of the NLDS that day in Milwaukee — you can watch a complete re-airing of the game Wednesday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia — Moyer lacked command of his pitches and the champagne stayed locked in the back room as the Phillies suffered a 4-1 loss to the Brewers.

"I just couldn't create any consistency,'' Moyer said in front of his locker after that game. "I was erratic early in the game."

Moyer wasn't the only Phillie who struggled that day.

The offense had just one hit in 12 opportunities with a runner in scoring position. A few hits in those situations could have gotten Moyer off the hook and maybe the outcome would have been different. Right-hander Dave Bush, a product of Conestoga High School in Berwyn, got the win for the Brewers. He allowed just one run in 5⅓ innings.

The Brewers had 11 hits on the day and all were singles. They also drew five walks. Three of those walks were issued by Moyer and two of them came in the first inning as the Brewers put up a quick two-spot. Moyer needed 34 pitches to get through that inning and was gone after four. He threw a first-pitch strike to just two of the Brewers' first 11 hitters.

Manager Charlie Manuel did not like home plate umpire Brian Runge's strike zone and let that be known during the game, but Moyer used no excuses.

"Ball one, ball two," Moyer said afterward. "That's not good. And their hitters were patient."

That was the Brewers' game plan with Moyer. Don't chase his tantalizing off-speed pitches off the plate. Make him throw the ball over the plate.

"Sometimes it's easier said than done,'' Milwaukee shortstop J.J. Hardy said after that game. "Every time we face Moyer or guys like him, we try to soften our approach and hit line drives up the middle."

Though Moyer did not deliver the clinching effort he'd hoped to that day in Milwaukee, he was still a major contributor during his four-plus seasons in Philadelphia. He won 56 games for the Phillies. In addition to leading the team in wins in 2008, he tied Hamels for the team lead in starts (33) and finished second behind Hamels (227⅓) with 196⅓ innings pitched.

Moyer was a stalwart down the stretch in 2008. He went 9-1 in is final 15 starts and the Phillies won 12 of those games.

So though it didn't happen for him in Game 3 of the NLDS that season, it still happened for him an awful lot in 2008 and his place on that championship team will always be secure and strong.

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