Phillies

Yes, the Phillies actually gained ground this weekend — checking in on NL wild-card teams

Yes, the Phillies actually gained ground this weekend — checking in on NL wild-card teams

The Phillies had a brutal weekend in Miami yet didn't lose ground in the wild-card race. And so the charade continues.

The second wild card remains reachable for flawed teams like the Phillies, Brewers and Cubs. And one of them, or the slightly-less-flawed Mets, has to finish in that spot.

This weekend, the Phillies lost two of three in Miami. The Mets were swept at home by the Braves. The Cubs were swept at home by the Nationals. The Phillies actually gained a game, silly as that may sound.

The Phillies are 1½ games behind the Cubs, but at 67-62 the Phils are on track to win 84 games and that won't get you into the one-game playoff. Even if you assume that 87, typically a low number for the second wild-card spot, is high enough, that would still require the Phillies to go 20-13 over their final 33 games.

Do you see the Phillies going 20-13 over their final 33 games?

The Phils have three at home with the Pirates this week, an off-day Thursday, then three at home with the Mets. The Phillies have not faced the Mets since the last series before the All-Star break. The Mets ended that series 10 games under .500. They're four over now.

The Phillies' September schedule is daunting. After four games in Cincinnati to begin the month, they have their final three with the Mets at Citi Field, four with the Braves, two vs. the Red Sox, three more in Atlanta, three in Cleveland, five in D.C. and then the Marlins to close out the regular season.

After the Reds series, that's 20 straight games the Phillies will play against teams over .500 and fighting for the playoffs. None of those games will be made easier by a team sitting key players.

The season is now 80 percent complete. The Phillies are what they are — a team slightly above .500. Removing passion or optimism from the equation, their likeliest range is 82 to 85 wins. 

Unless the Phils make a run they haven't made since the fourth week of May, those nine losses against Miami will stick out. The Phillies need to sweep the Marlins the final weekend of September just to avoid a losing record against the National League's worst team.

The injuries will stick out, though if you were told at the beginning of the season that the Phillies would lose Andrew McCutchen for the season along with six of their top seven relievers, 82 to 85 wins would have sounded reasonable.

The 2019 Nationals are a much better team than the 2019 Phillies. They have the deep, powerful and multidimensional offense the Phillies thought they had. Their rotation is far superior. Their bullpen, with the deadline additions of Daniel Hudson and Hunter Strickland, is not the nightly sieve it was in the first half.

The Mets, as of this moment, also have the better roster. They have three dangerous hitters in Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, a red-hot Amed Rosario and useful offensive pieces in J.D. Davis, Wilson Ramos and Todd Frazier. The offenses of the Mets and Phillies are pretty even, but the Mets have the huge edge in starting pitching and therefore pitching altogether.

The Cubs have a decent but disappointing rotation, a bad bullpen and an offense that has been stale much of the last two months. They're still probably a slightly deeper team than the Phillies, and down the stretch, you'd rather be the team with Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester and Yu Darvish than the team with Aaron Nola, Jason Vargas, Drew Smyly, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez.

The Phillies' run differential of minus-17 suggests they've outperformed their true talent level this season. There are 14 teams with negative run differentials and only the Phillies and Brewers have winning records.

To finish ahead of the Cubs, Mets and Brewers, the Phillies will have to play the kind of baseball they have not played with this group, the kind of baseball the underlying numbers illustrate they're probably incapable of.

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Phillies, J.T. Realmuto move on to Act 2 of contract drama

Phillies, J.T. Realmuto move on to Act 2 of contract drama

CLEARWATER, Fla. — All along, J.T. Realmuto's salary arbitration hearing was just going to be the first act in one of the biggest storylines of the spring in Phillies camp.

Regardless of whether the arbitration panel ruled in favor of Realmuto or against him, he was going to be well paid in 2020.

Realmuto ended up losing the case but will make $10 million this season, a 69 percent raise from last season and a record amount for a catcher eligible for salary arbitration. 

Realmuto, who had sought to make $12.4 million, said he was not disappointed with the amount of money he will make, but in the arbitration system that views catchers through a different prism than other position players.

"It's so outdated," he said. "There's a separate catchers' market. That's what the team's main case was on, that you can't go outside of the catchers' market. But if you line my numbers up with position players, that's where our figure comes into play. It's never happened before where catchers go out of the catchers' market, but it's not in the rules that says you can't. The team knows that they had a pretty strong case just for that and they took advantage of it.

"I wanted to do something for future catchers and that didn't work out for us. In that aspect, I'm disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in my salary."

Now that the hearing has come and gone, the Phillies and Realmuto will turn their attention to negotiating a long-term contract extension.

Realmuto said the hearing left him with no ill will toward the club and he's still open to a deal.

"What we went through in arbitration, what we went through in the hearing doesn't change anything from my outlook," the All-Star catcher said.

The stakes will be a lot higher in Act 2 of this contract drama because Realmuto can become a free agent after this season.

The Phillies have said they'd like to get a deal done by opening day so that gives them about five weeks.

With the ability to walk at the end of the season, Realmuto has more leverage in extension talks than he did in arbitration. But playing out the season would come with risks such as health and poor performance. Are they risks Realmuto would be willing to take?

"I haven't really thought about that yet, to be honest," he said. "Me and my agent have been focused on arbitration for the last couple of months. We haven't had those conversations. We'll have those conversations and relay them to (general manager Matt Klentak)."

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is expected to seek a deal that could approach or beat $23 million per season — that would match Joe Mauer's record average annual value for a catcher — over five or six years.

He was asked if a record AAV was a goal.

"Again, I haven't even spoken with my agent about that," he said. "I have no idea what's going to happen. I can't predict the future. I don't know where we're going to go with it. Obviously, we'll have those discussions. Whether it matches up or not, that's to be determined."

Realmuto went through a full workout Friday. After taking batting practice at Spectrum Field, he stopped and chatted with John Middleton, the team's managing partner, who had been watching quietly off to the side. The two men talked for about 10 minutes and walked off the field together. Maybe they were talking about who has the best grouper on Clearwater Beach. Maybe they weren't.

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Philadelphia having existential meltdown after report of Phillie Phanatic's 'new look'

Philadelphia having existential meltdown after report of Phillie Phanatic's 'new look'

You don't see anybody clamoring for them to put lipstick on Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Or a pair of Air Jordans on Michelangelo's David.

Some masterpieces are works of art that should live on forever as great artists intended.

That's how many in Philadelphia seem to feel about the Phillie Phanatic this afternoon following Jim Salisbury's report that our beloved green mascot will undergo some cosmetic and likely physical changes that will debut this Sunday down in Clearwater when the Phils play their first game of spring training.

It's worth noting: da Vinci and Michelangelo aren't currently embattled in any legal issues that we know of at the moment. Because they're dead.

That said, people are worried about this "new-look" Phanatic will mean for their well being. A sampling:

Fans of the big green fella from the Galapagos will have to wait until Sunday to see if their freakouts were unwarranted or if they're going to have to find a new mascot to idolize. It's going to be a long weekend for them.

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