Phillies

Gabe Kapler's positivity after ugly losses is getting old

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Gabe Kapler's positivity after ugly losses is getting old

The latest edition of Rob's Rants touches on the negatives of positivity, Markelle Fultz's hops and the man who declined an invitation to the ultimate party. 

Positives a negative

Gabe Kapler in many ways is a breath of fresh air. He eschews the typical baseball-speak type of terminology for phrases such as "presenting well, laser focus, his eyes looked good."

He unabashedly rocks mirrored shades and with his chiseled frame appears to be in better shape than players 20 years his junior. He's a different cat. More importantly, his club is 33-30 through 63 games — a record most Phils fans would have signed up for in a heartbeat prior to the season. This is not a knock on him between the lines. 

But he needs to stop with the positive spinning after ugly losses. His Phillies lost by a combined score of 24-7 in the first two games of the Brewers series at home last weekend. After both defeats, he began as he has all season, by pointing out something he felt was a positive, including crediting Phillies clubhouse manager Phil Sheridan for the design of Rhys Hoskins' helmet.

Kapler needs to stop this. It's insulting to the fans. The Phillies are 2-7 in June, they've lost 10 of their last 14 games, the defense has been poor and the offense has been anemic. Kapler is not snowing the informed fanbase nor is he controlling any kind of message by belaboring something meaningless. I understand he is perennially positive and is not going to throw his players under the bus. That's admirable. But there is a time and a place for platitudes, not after a 12-3 loss. It's disingenuous.

Jumping to conclusions

From his one year in college to 2017 summer league to the 14 regular-season games he played, we know Markelle Fultz can dunk. In fact, he can jump out of the building. His athleticism is not in question. What is in doubt, however, is his jump shot. Whatever happened last year, whether it was physical or mental, his shot looked not just broken but shattered into pieces. So I don't need to see any more social media posts of him dunking or doing back-flips. What I need to see is him consistently knocking down jumpers with a fixed shot, from mid-range and three. He also needs to play again in the summer league. 

T.O. no go

The fact that Terrell Owens declined the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction invitation should surprise no one. This is who he is. This is who he's always been, as a player and now in retirement. He is about T.O. the individual. He has every right to be miffed that he didn't get in the first time around. His play and numbers speak for themselves. But by not going, the spotlight once again shifts to him, not the rest of the 2018 class, including Brian Dawkins, who will be in attendance.

If he had a genuine beef with the voters, wouldn't this have been the ultimate platform to blast them and speak your mind?

Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

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Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

WASHINGTON — The Phillies will catch a break this week when the Yankees come to town. Starting catcher Gary Sanchez is likely headed to the DL after coming up lame on a groundball in extra innings Sunday.

Sanchez was trying to leg out a double-play ball in the top of the 10th in Tampa Bay when he injured his groin area. He walked off the field carefully, and after the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters his catcher is likely going on the shelf. Monday's MRI will determine it.

It's a break for the Phils against a ridiculously deep Yankees lineup. Sanchez is hitting just .190, but he's a huge power threat with 14 homers and 14 doubles. Since 2016, Sanchez has 67 home runs despite averaging just 340 plate appearances per season over that span. It's by far the most HR hit by any player with that few PAs.

Even with Sanchez out, the Phils will have to deal with a formidable offense. You've got Aaron Judge batting second with his league-best power and .393 OBP. You've got Giancarlo Stanton, who's heating up and went 5 for 5 with a pair of doubles Sunday. Rookie Miguel Andujar has been better than anyone anticipated, entering the week hitting .284 with 11 homers, 35 RBI and a .836 OPS.

But because the series is at Citizens Bank Park and the Yankees won't have a DH, they likely won't play Aaron Hicks. In effect, the Yankees will be without their regular Nos. 5 and 6 hitters.

The pitching matchups for the series are:

Monday — Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) vs. Jonathan Loaisiga (1-0, 3.12)

Tuesday — Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42) vs. Luis Severino (11-2, 2.24)

Wednesday — Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.42) vs. Luis Cessa (0-0, 3.00)

Loaisiga has a great nickname: Johnny Lasagna.

Severino is one of the AL's toughest customers. 

Cessa has not started a game this season and has a 4.54 ERA in 14 career starts.

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Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

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Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

WASHINGTON — It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Ken Rosenthal's report of the Padres' interest in Maikel Franco came after Franco's best game of the season Saturday.

Franco has been available for quite a while and no team has bit. Saturday, a few hours after Franco went 4 for 4 with three key hits and scored twice (see story), Rosenthal reported San Diego's interest.

While one 4-for-4 game won't sway a front office, the Padres do make sense as a Franco destination. They won't be competing for a little while, they don't run high payrolls and they have an unsettled 3B situation. 

Second-year third baseman Christian Villanueva has hit 16 home runs in 230 plate appearances for San Diego this season (including a major-league-best 11 vs. lefties) but he's batting .230 with a .300 OBP and has hit .173 since May 2.

Power, .230 batting average, .300 OBP ... sounds like Franco, doesn't it?

Gabe Kapler talked on Friday about the "fixes" the Phils need to see from Franco (see story), namely putting the ball in the air more. It's strange, but for a player who swings and misses and chases bad pitches as much as Franco, he does not strike out much. Since the start of 2016, 92 percent of major-leaguers have a higher strikeout rate.

Yet when Franco makes contact, it's often been weak contact. Groundballs to the left side. Pop flies to the shallow outfield. The Phillies want him to get away from that and focus on driving the ball more. Perhaps that will mean a few more K's as a result, but they'll take it if it's accompanied by more consistent pop.

Replacing Franco

The Phillies right now wouldn't trade Franco without first having a ready-made replacement. Maybe that's Adrian Beltre, maybe it's Royals rental 3B Mike Moustakas. 

But if the Phils don't first acquire a third baseman, it would make no sense for a team in contention to trade away its starting third baseman while J.P. Crawford is on the DL.

They're not going to move Franco only to replace him with Mitch Walding.

Potential return from Padres

In Rosenthal's report, he mentions San Diego relievers Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen.

First things first, you're not getting Brad Hand straight up for Maikel Franco. That's crazy talk. Hand, a lefty, has been one of baseball's best relievers the last three seasons, posting a 2.53 ERA in 189 appearances with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He led MLB in games pitched in 2016, made the All-Star team in 2017 and leads the NL in saves this season.

Hand is one of San Diego's best trade assets, if not its best. The Padres would be looking for more in return than a third baseman with a .300 career OBP who is an average-at-best defender.

Yates, a righty, is having by far the best season of his five-year career. He has a 0.90 ERA in 30 innings with 36 strikeouts. Prior to 2018, he had a 4.78 career ERA and was extremely homer-prone.

Stammen, who Phillies fans will remember from his days with the Nationals (2009-15), has reestablished himself as a setup man in San Diego. He has a 2.02 ERA this season with impressive strikeout and walk rates. Last season, he did it over a full year, posting a 3.14 ERA in 80⅓ innings.

Hand is too much for the Padres to give up for Franco, but from a Phillies perspective, neither Yates nor Stammen should be enough. Neither setup man would change the complexion of the Phils' bullpen. Neither Yates nor Stammen would come here and be viewed as more reliable than a Tommy Hunter, for example, or higher than fourth or fifth on the Phils' bullpen pecking order. The fact that both are under control past this season helps, but the Phils have talent in the bullpen, even if it's struggled in June. 

Perhaps one of those relievers and a minor-leaguer of intrigue would get a deal done, but it seems unlikely the Phils would part with Franco straight up for a successful reliever with a brief track record.

And lastly, as trustworthy as Rosenthal is, this could be an example of wishful thinking on the part of someone in the Phillies' front office, leaking a little info to a well-known reporter to drum up interest in Franco after his best game of the season.

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