Phillies

5 takeaways from Phillies president Andy MacPhail's State of the Team address

5 takeaways from Phillies president Andy MacPhail's State of the Team address

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies president Andy MacPhail held his annual spring training press briefing on Friday.

Here are five takeaways:

Committed to Kapler
Manager Gabe Kapler recently found himself in the middle of controversy when a Washington Post story questioned his handling of an assault that took place during his time as director of player development for the Dodgers in 2015.

Kapler defended himself in a 1,300-word post on Kaplifestyle.com.

MacPhail admitted that he didn’t think everything Kapler did “was a great idea,” but overall he supported his skipper.

“In my career, I've been in a position of hiring people since November of 1986 — general managers, managers, scouting directors, farm directors," MacPhail said. "In my entire history, there's never been a hire that was as fully vetted as this one. And all the stuff that was regurgitated again this winter, there was nothing in there that made me think that the vetting was anything but very thorough, very impartial and very fair. We were satisfied then when we hired him; we're satisfied today.

“So, I’m on him.”

(That’s scouting lingo for MacPhail approves of Kapler.)

Phillies content to wait it out on the big guys
The Phillies are comfortable with the pitches they’ve made to free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper and they are willing to wait for their decisions.

“We’re just half the equation,” MacPhail said. “We’re just half the equation.”

Phillies weighing the whole package
Harper and Machado are both great talents. Harper might have more box office appeal. Machado might be the more complete player. The Phils are weighing everything that each player brings.

“There has been no shortage of brain power devoted to trying to size up players that are available to us and what they bring,” MacPhail said. “Just generally speaking, we are uniquely poised right now. There are some great talents out there and any one of those talents could go to any club and make a significant difference. You can make the case they bring different things, but I think they are both beneficial to your club.”

Regardless of what happens, Phillies are better
MacPhail mentioned the Phillies’ improved personnel and defense. He made particular mention of the bullpen and how he believes it is better equipped to handle lefty hitters in the division this season. Right-hander David Robertson has excellent reverse splits and the additions of lefty relievers James Pazos and Jose Alvarez should help.

Attendance check 
Despite the team’s improved personnel, fans are still lukewarm.

The Phils ranked 18th in the majors in attendance at just over 2.15 million (average 26,444) last season. According to MacPhail, game ticket sales are 150,000 ahead of where they were at this point last year.

“The way it has been explained to me is that we’re good, but not great,” MacPhail said.

Signing Harper or Machado will bring a bump.

But nothing will fill the seats more than winning.

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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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