Phillies

Manny Machado? Bryce Harper? Who gets the next ride on Air Middleton?

Manny Machado? Bryce Harper? Who gets the next ride on Air Middleton?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — By now, you’ve seen the video.

And if Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and others have seen it, too … well, the Phillies are happy for the little bit of attention.

The Phils are back in the free-agent game. They announced their presence not only by signing Jake Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract on Monday, but also with how they transported and welcomed the pitcher to spring training.

Arrieta had a physical in Philadelphia on Monday. Upon completion, he was driven to Philadelphia International Airport, where owner John Middleton’s private jet — adorned with the Phillies’ red P on the tail — awaited. Arrieta and one of his representatives then flew to Florida's East Coast, picked up Middleton and his wife, Leigh, and jetted across the state to St. Petersburg, where four Phillies executives, including club president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak, waited on the tarmac to greet the pitcher. The entire event was captured Hollywood-style by two team videographers and posted on social media. It was an idea that Middleton and Phillies vice president of communications Bonnie Clark came up with. And if it all sent a message, then fine.

“I want people to understand that we’re going to do things in the best way we can possibly do it — first class,” Middleton said after Arrieta’s introductory news conference Tuesday (more from that here).

“It’s a message to everybody, not just free agents. I want everybody in our organization to understand what our mission is and how we're supposed to go about it. I want the players on our roster not named Jake Arrieta to understand what our mission is, our coaches, front office, our fans, other organizations. We’re serious about winning and we’re going to do what it takes to win.”

Rides on fancy private jets don’t win games. But the guys who win games for teams do like that stuff. Just ask Arrieta's agent, Scott Boras.

“Sometimes organizations want to portray to the player community things that are important to players,” said Boras, who spent time schmoozing with Middleton after the news conference. “Jake goes to Philadelphia for a physical and the Middleton family has its plane waiting to take him down here. A lot of organizations don’t do that. He arrives down here and everyone from the staff is there late at night to meet him. That says a lot about how sensitive they are to player needs and what’s important to players. When you respect players like that — those are things that will ring true to players about how they want to be treated and how they are respected in addition to the competitive nature of the team.”

From upgrades to player facilities at Citizens Bank Park and in Clearwater to technology and other player-improvement equipment, “We’re going to give you all the tools you need to win,” Middleton said. “You’re going to have to take advantage of them because we’re going to have high expectations.”

Arrieta will make $30 million this season, $25 million in 2019 and $20 million in 2020. Middleton encouraged Klentak to go to $30 million this season to recognize Arrieta’s elite status. That’s part of the free-agent game — respect and messages of respect that resonate all around the game.

Middleton said he had circled Arrieta’s name as a potential free-agent target years ago.

Who gets the next ride on Air Middleton?

“That’s a conversation for another day,” the Phillies owner said. “But, trust me, they are circled.”

The lights are dimming for Phillies after 5th straight loss with Aaron Nola on the mound

The lights are dimming for Phillies after 5th straight loss with Aaron Nola on the mound

If the Phillies are packing their bags and heading home in two weeks — as seems likely now — there will be a handful of reasons why they failed to make the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

Let’s see, they didn’t get enough from the two through five spots in the starting rotation, key players, from Andrew McCutchen to just about everyone in the bullpen, got hurt, management did not land a difference-making arm at the trade deadline, and the offense was grossly inconsistent.

There are other reasons but those are some of the biggies.

And if you’re looking for one more, this is a big one, too:

The Phillies are winless in Aaron Nola’s last five starts, a span that started August 25 in Miami and culminated Saturday night when the right-hander delivered seven innings of one-run ball only to see his team suffer a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox in front of 40,688 at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils have 15 games left.

They are 3 ½ games out of the second NL wild-card spot behind Milwaukee and the New York Mets. The Brewers are one game back, the Mets are three back. Oh, yeah, and the Phils are in fourth place in the NL East.

“I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say we have a bunch of time left because we really don't,” Nola said after the game. “We have 15 games left. It's a good bit, but it's really not that much. We're not going to hang our heads on this one. You never know what can happen. We just have to take care of business tomorrow.”

The Phillies will send Jason Vargas to the mound against Rick Porcello in the finale of the quick, two-game interleague series.

Phillies hitters will need to do more damage against Porcello than they did lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. He struck out 12 in 6 2/3 innings. He threw 105 pitches and got 19 —19 — swings-and-misses, 16 of them on an outstanding changeup.

The only run that Rodriguez allowed came in the bottom of the seventh when he issued a two-out walk to Maikel Franco with the bases loaded.

The Phillies had just five hits (four singles) on the night and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. They got a runner to second with no outs in the eighth but Boston reliever Matt Barnes retired J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery to end the threat.

Hoskins put a charge in the ball to right-center, but it died in Jackie Bradley Jr.’s glove.

“I thought I got it enough to at least get it over his head,” Hoskins said.

Ultimately, the Phillies lost it when Hector Neris allowed two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

Hoskins acknowledged that the lights are dimming for the Phillies, who need to go at least 6-9 in their final 15 games to have a winning season.

“It’s go time, right?” he said. “Every loss feels heavier and every win feels a lot better. A big one tomorrow to obviously try to split a series, try to create some momentum to go on the road. We know the teams that we’re playing are good, but again I’ll just kind of reiterate: if we can play our game and obviously pitch the way we did tonight and hit the way we know we can we believe and are confident that we can beat anybody.”

Nola has pitched three gems and had two poor outings in his five-start winless streak. In the gems, the Phillies have just not scored runs for him. In this one, he gave up just four hits and struck out nine in seven innings.

“It's frustrating not winning in general, whoever is on the mound,” Nola said. “It was a hard-fought game right there. Every win matters right now.”

Nola’s next start is slated to be Thursday in Atlanta. Will the Phils even be worth mentioning in the race by then?

“We’ve got to find a way to scratch out runs for Nola,” manager Gabe Kapler said.



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Bryce Harper announces release of his latest Under Armour shoe, the Harper 4 trainer

bryce_harper_instagram_under_armour_shoes.jpg
Bryce Harper Instagram

Bryce Harper announces release of his latest Under Armour shoe, the Harper 4 trainer

New drip alert!

Bryce Harper is well known for his heavy shoe swag on the field, from the sick Phillie Phanatic cleats he rocked on opening day to the Slurpee and Funyun jawns he brandished on Father’s Day.

On Friday, Harper announced the release of his latest shoe on his Instagram account, and these aren’t cleats. It’s a versatile edition to his signature Under Armour series.

The Harper 4 trainer is billed as a turf trainer, but in a video posted with the release of the shoe, Harper says, “I didn’t want it to be like a turf trainer, I really wanted it to be a trainer. Something that I could wear away from the field if I was going out to lunch or dinner or whatever and then something I could wear in the cage or at the workout facility or the gym.” 

They currently come in five colors (I’m partial to the black and white ones) and are more of a three-quarter shoe than a high top or low top. They currently retail for around $100.

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