Phillies

South Philadelphia's Jay Handy enjoys touching reunion with Marlins manager Don Mattingly

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Jim Salisbury

South Philadelphia's Jay Handy enjoys touching reunion with Marlins manager Don Mattingly

A heartwarming moment took place in the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park before Friday night’s Phillies-Miami Marlins game.

A similar moment occurred 30 years ago in the visiting dugout at Fenway Park in Boston.

Jay Handy was thrilled to be there — both times.

Handy, husband, father of two and a resident of South Philadelphia for the past 15 years, was nine years old and living with his family in Vermont when he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare and fast-moving cancer. He was given a 50-50 chance to survive. While being treated in Boston, the Make-A-Wish foundation arranged for a trip to Fenway Park so Handy could meet his favorite ballplayer, New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly.

The meeting took place in the dugout. Mattingly autographed a poster for the young boy. The entire Yankees team signed a ball for him.

Handy beat the disease and all these years later he and Mattingly, now manager of the Marlins, enjoyed a beautiful reunion Friday night.

“It meant the world to me,” Handy said of that meeting with Mattingly in 1988. “And to be able to come back and do it 30 years later, as a 40-year-old, it means that much more.”

Handy’s wife, Grace, and some friends and family reached out to Major League Baseball and the Marlins and made the surprise reunion happen. Handy, who works in the trade show production field, turned 40 last week.

Over the years, Mattingly has done many visits for Make-A-Wish.

“We’ve been given so much in this game,” he said. “It feels like what you should be doing.”

Mattingly was clearly touched by Friday night’s reunion.

“Really special,” he said.

The poster that Mattingly signed for young Jay Handy in 1988 hung in the boy’s room for years. Now it hangs in his nine-year-old daughter’s room.

Her name is Mattingly.

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Has Manny Machado played (and talked) himself out of Philly before ever getting to Philly?

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USA Today Images

Has Manny Machado played (and talked) himself out of Philly before ever getting to Philly?

A hearty congratulations to Manny Machado for getting through Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday without doing anything stupid, anything to hurt his free-agent platform.

Or should we say anything else?

Machado, the gifted shortstop/third baseman who has long been the fancy of the Phillies’ front office, didn’t exactly author a brilliant campaign speech when he acknowledged his raging allergy to hustling in an interview with baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal earlier this week.

“Obviously, I’m not going to change,” Machado told Rosenthal. “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be Johnny Hustle. It’s not my cup of tea, not who I am.”

Can you imagine the reaction that Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, had to these comments? (No, Danny, no. That’s a heavy chair, do not throw it through the window!)

In less than a month, Lozano will start shopping the 26-year-old infielder to prospective buyers. Estimates on Machado’s price tag have hovered around the $300 million mark, give or take a Brinks truck or three. Now, the first question that Lozano is going to hear from the potential suitors won’t be about what it will take to sign his client or whether Machado wants to play shortstop or third base, it will be about the player’s aversion to hustle. Or, as it is known in other circles, playing hard.

In some cities, admitting you don’t, won’t or can’t hustle could make you toxic.

New York is one and the Yankees just so happen to need a shortstop next season as Didi Gregorious recovers from elbow surgery. People close to Machado have told me he likes the idea of being a Yankee because, one, they are the Yankees, and two, he wants to play on the East Coast with a team that trains in his native Florida.

The Phillies also play on the East Coast and train in Florida. They also have a lot of money and a longstanding interest in Machado. They tried to acquire him from Baltimore in July and were willing to include big talent in the deal if Machado would have agreed to a contract extension. The Dodgers ended up getting Machado and the Phillies, quietly confident that they could land the player as a free agent this winter, moved on.

But now you have to wonder if Machado could work in Philadelphia. It’s almost become cliché to say the city — i.e., the fans who pay the bills — likes a certain kind of athlete, one that goes all-out all the time, but when you think about some of the city’s all-time favorites — Chuck Bednarik, Bobby Clarke, Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley — you realize it’s not cliché, it’s fact.

Even before Machado made news for the wrong reasons this week, there had been whispers that some in the Phillies organization would prefer to steer clear of Machado for just the reasons that the player articulated in his ill-advised and ill-timed comments. To the best of our knowledge, general manager Matt Klentak remains open-minded, and that’s good because Machado is a great talent and the Phillies need some of that if they are going to put a winner on the field.

But this whole issue has complicated things for Klentak and an ownership group that is poised to write some big checks this winter. Whether or not to pursue Manny Machado is going to require a lot of thought and a lot of weighing the rewards of his talent versus the risk of his makeup.

And who are those guys over there in the corner grinning like a pair of Cheshire cats? Looks a little like Bryce Harper and Scott Boras.

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National media doesn't realize how Philly viewed Gabe Kapler in Year 1

National media doesn't realize how Philly viewed Gabe Kapler in Year 1

ESPN's fake draft of the top 50 coaches among the four major sports had several Philly ties.

One, in particular, was … interesting.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler ranked 39th overall. (Doug Pederson was 15th, and Brett Brown was 40th.)

Again, this includes coaches (or managers) in all four sports. Kapler was ninth among MLB managers. 

ESPN's write-up included a few massive understatements:

The Phillies underwent a 14-game improvement in 2018 and played meaningful baseball in September for the first time in years, but notoriously hard-to-please Philadelphia fans probably won't quite view Kapler's first year through that lens. The Phils were 64-49 and in first place on Aug. 7, then went 16-33 the rest of the way, which elicited some Kapler-focused grumbling.

"Some grumbling." LOL. Search Kapler's name on Twitter and take a look at the last two months of his mentions. It wasn't "some" grumbling, it felt more like 90 percent of the fan base despised him.

I've been on this planet nearly three decades and have spent waaaaaay too many hours consuming sports, mostly baseball. I haven't spent more than six months outside of Philly at any point. And in that time, I have never, ever seen such a passionately negative reaction to any coach or manager in his first year. 

Some of the criticism of Kapler was fair. Some was completely over-the-top. A lot of the time, the criticism was based on aspects of his personality that people projected. In real life, Kapler is a pretty chill guy. When the cameras are off, talking baseball with him is just like talking baseball with a dude who knows a lot about the game. He's as accepting and understanding of criticism as any athlete or coach I've covered, which is refreshing. There were valid on-field questions and understandable confusion over some of Kapler's press conferences, but people kind of ran away with their imagination when it came to his personality.

The main issues fans seemed to have with Kapler in Year 1 were what they deemed overmanaging, and his often flowery descriptions of players' strengths.

Kapler did overmanage at times. He did it on opening day when he removed Aaron Nola too early. Some of the defensive, late-game switches didn't make a ton of sense based on the closeness of the game and the potential for extra innings.

There was also some overmanaging in August and September, but you have to consider the hand Kapler was dealt. For much of the second half, the Phillies had a roster filled with players who could either hit but not field, or field but not hit. What many fans deemed overmanaging was really just Kapler trying to optimize for offense or defense based on the situation.

Kapler's managerial style is new to this city, and old-school cities like Philadelphia don't always appreciate "new." That's not meant as a sweeping generalization but rather an acknowledgment of a portion of the fanbase. If Doug Pederson's two-point conversion attempts failed more than they succeeded those first couple years, fans would have yelled that he was trying to reinvent the game. When "new" works, the shouting isn't as loud.

In reality, a lot of what Kapler and GM Matt Klentak did this season is happening in many cities across baseball. It happens with the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Rays, Brewers. The Cubs are just as analytically-driven if not more, aside from the fact that they barely use defensive shifts.

It's interesting that, nationally, Kapler is still viewed favorably despite the Phillies' epic collapse the final seven weeks. It's either a sign that these list-makers are out of touch, or that all the Kapler noise from commenters on websites, callers on the radio and folks on social media isn't an indication of how he's actually perceived.

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