Mar 31, 2022

We're All Riders On This Train

Human Touch
Bruce Springsteen (1992)
The ninth studio album from Bruce Springsteen was released 30 years ago today.  It's not his strongest album by a long shot, but the title track is one of my favorites.  It features Randy Jackson playing bass a decade before he would become a household name on American Idol, as well as Jeff Porcaro from Toto on drums.  Mr. Porcaro was one of the most prolific drummers of all time, and he passed away less than five months after Human Touch was released.
You and me we were the pretenders
We let it all slip away
In the end what you don't surrender
Well, the world just strips away

Girl, ain't no kindness in the face of strangers
Ain't gonna find no miracles here
Well, you can wait on your blessin's, my darlin'
I got a deal for you right here

I ain't lookin' for praise or pity
I ain't comin' 'round searchin' for a crutch
I just want someone to talk to
And a little of that human touch
Just a little of that human touch

Ain't no mercy on the streets of this town
Ain't no bread from heavenly skies
Ain't nobody drawin' wine from this blood
It's just you and me tonight

Tell me, in a world without pity
Do you think what I'm askin's too much?
I just want something to hold on to
And a little of that human touch
Just a little of that human touch

Oh girl, that feeling of safety you prize
Well, it comes at a hard hard price
You can't shut off the risk and the pain
Without losin' the love that remains
We're all riders on this train

So you've been broken and you've been hurt
Show me somebody who ain't
Yeah, I know I ain't nobody's bargain
But, hell, a little touch up
And a little paint

You might need somethin' to hold on to
When all the answers, they don't amount to much
Somebody that you could just to talk to
And a little of that human touch

Baby, in a world without pity
Do you think what I'm askin's too much?
I just want to feel you in my arms
Share a little of that human touch 

Mar 30, 2022

My Only Weakness Is... Well, Never Mind

Louder Than Bombs
The Smiths (1987)
A double album was released 35 years ago, and its influences are still being felt to this day.  Louder Than Bombs is a compilation of singles and B-sides from The Smiths that had never been released in the United States before.

My first exposure to the music on this record, or from any of The Smiths music for that matter, came from my favorite scene in one of my favorite movies of all time, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  About halfway through the movie, Ferris, Sloan and Cameron visit The Art Institute Of Chicago.  There is no dialogue here, and an instrumental cover of The Smiths' Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Dream Academy plays throughout the entire scene.  I didn't know that at the time when I first saw this film.  I thought it was just a particularly beautiful part of the score that played over a scene that was especially meaningful to me then, and whose meaning has only grown stronger in the years that followed.  It was this scene that opened the door many years later to my discovery of Louder Than Bombs and The Smiths, as well as the music of Morrissey and Johnny Marr after the band's breakup in the summer of 1987.

In addition to the original Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, Louder Than Bombs has some of my favorite songs to come out of the 1980's, including Panic, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, Shoplifters Of The World Unite, Ask and Asleep.  I don't know if I could pick a favorite because it would heavily depend on what kind of mood I'm in at the time, but the one that I tend to play the most is Panic.  It was originally released in the UK in the summer of 1986, and I think it has something for you regardless of what kind of way you're feeling.

The Smiths (1986)
Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself

Could life ever be sane again?
The Leeds side-streets that you slip down
I wonder to myself

Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But honey pie, you're not safe here
So you run down to the safety of the town

But there's panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself

Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music they constantly play

On the Leeds side-streets that you slip down
Provincial towns you jog 'round

Hang the DJ
Hang the DJ
Hang the DJ

Hang the DJ... 

Mar 29, 2022

Captain America Goes To San Francisco

Luke Williams
2021 Topps Now #332
Don't get me wrong - I'm extremely happy that the Phillies went out and signed Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos.  They're exactly the kind of big bats that this team needed to get over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2011.  However, it's always a bummer to see some folks move on.  Over the past five months, we lost four of my favorite players: Freddy Galvis, Hector Neris, Andrew McCutchen and Brad Miller.  A fifth player can now be added to that list this past Sunday when Luke Williams was traded to the San Francisco Giants for minor league third baseman Will Toffey.

Luke Williams was responsible for one of the best games of the 2021 season.  On June 9th, he made his first career start in the Major Leagues and won the game with a walk-off home run.  This capped off an incredible five day stretch which began when he helped Team USA qualify for the Olympics and ended with a nickname given to him by Zach Eflin - Captain America.

Luke was designated for assignment to make room on the 40 man roster for Nick Castellanos.  Now, I definitely understand the need to free up a roster spot for a slugger like Castellanos, but I would have very strongly preferred it if the Phillies kept Williams and used this as an opportunity to correct their mistake and get rid of Odubel Herrera.  Even if Herrera didn't get suspended for domestic violence in 2019, he's a sloppy and frustrating player who is a defensive liability.  Luke Williams spent time at every position in 2021 except pitcher and catcher.  He's an ideal 4th outfielder who can fill in just about everywhere (including center field), and he's an easy dude to root for.  He always hustled every time I watched him play, and he's never been arrested for choking his girlfriend in an Atlantic City casino.

I'm fairly confident in saying that there are no Phillies fans who are happy to see Odubel back, but because the front office decided to sign him, they were forced into a situation where they needed to free up a roster spot, and Luke Williams had to be traded as a result.  He'll join former Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf on the defending NL West Champion Giants.

Best of luck to you out west, Captain America.

UPDATE: The Phillies have inexplicably traded another center field prospect earlier today when they traded former 2017 first round draft pick Adam Haseley to the Chicago White Sox for minor league pitcher McKinley Moore.  Maybe they really see something in this pitcher, but he's 23 years old, he's got a high walk rate and an ERA over 4.00, and he hasn't made it past Single A ball, so I doubt it.  I want to believe that they're doing this to open up a spot on the roster for another trade that they have in the works (maybe for a closer), but the organization seemed to be pretty down on Haseley since he temporarily left the team last April for undisclosed personal reasons.  Regardless of the reason, it is pretty puzzling that a team whose weakest position is center field have just traded away two 25 year old center fielders who were on the 40 man roster at the start of the month.

Mar 28, 2022

Not A Prince Or A King

I usually don't care too much about the Oscars, or any other awards show for that matter, but you have to sit up and pay attention when the Fresh Prince assaults The 13th Apostle on live tv.  I honestly feel bad for both of them.  Whether you think the GI Jane joke was in poor taste or not, Will Smith heard Chris Rock tell it during rehearsal.  If he was offended by it in any way, he had ample opportunity to speak with Mr. Rock, like a man, and ask him not to do the joke.  Frankly, I don't believe Mr. Smith was personally offended at all.  To the contrary, he is shown on camera laughing at the line during the live broadcast, until he looked over at the expression on his wife's face.

Congrats on the award for King RichardMr. Smith, but if that's the kind of childish nonsense that you felt necessary to lower yourself to, I feel very sorry for you.  Last night should have been a moment that honored your wonderful career as an entertainer.  Instead, it is a meme.

Mar 27, 2022

Maxine Does Not Accept A Life She Does Not Deserve

A24 Films (2022)
I've been dying to see this flick since I first learned about it.  My local Regal Cinema wasn't showing it in its opening week, but I got to see it as soon as it hit their screens on Friday.

This was the most beautifully filmed slasher flick that I've ever seen.  It captures the look and feel of a late 70's horror movie without ever feeling like a parody.  There were times, especially in the first half and last five minutes, that made me fee like I was watching a Tarantino film.  The characters (even the villains) are written with heart and depth and were played brilliantly - especially Mia Goth, Kid CudiMartin Henderson, and Brittany Snow, the latter of whom performs a hauntingly beautiful cover of Landslide halfway through the film.  Perhaps this won't be everyone's experience, but I found that everyone associated with The Farmer's Daughter (the film within a film) were among the most realistic characters in a horror movie that I've ever seen.  Each of them spoke and behaved in a way that strongly reminded me of someone who I have known in my life.

This movie is not for everyone, but if you're a fan of horror flicks, you're going to love X.

Mar 26, 2022

It's Real, The Pain You Feel

Taylor Hawkins
1972 - 2022
One of the greatest drummers in the world died yesterday.  Taylor Hawkins has been with the Foo Fighters since 1997 and has been involved in many other bands and projects, including Studio 666 which premiered in theaters earlier this year.  He was a husband, a father of three, and by all accounts a genuinely good dude.  Mr. Hawkins just turned 50 a little over a month ago, and he was scheduled to perform with the Foo Fighters last night at the Estéreo Picnic Festival in Bogotá.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hawkins.  My thoughts are with your family and loved ones.  Fifty is far too young.

Mar 25, 2022

Touching Base With Former Phillies

Spring Training is underway, and players who have been stuck without a team during the lockout have been signing at a pretty frantic pace.  One of the things that I like to do this time of year is to check in on former Phillies who are still active and see where their careers have taken them since they left Philadelphia.  The last time I did a deep dive on this was in the early days of the pandemic back in March 2020.  It's been two years and a lot of familiar faces have moved on from Philadelphia in that time.  Here is an incomplete list of them, starting with four of my favorite Phillies of the 21st century.

Andrew McCutchen is still one of my favorite Phillies players of all time.  This dude always hustled, and he brought an energy to the ballpark that few could match.  He signed a three year contract with the Phillies in the winter prior to the 2019 season, and although his best days were behind him, his presence in left field along with Bryce Harper in right meant that 2/3 of the Phillies outfield were former NL MVPs.  There can't be too many teams over the years who could claim that.

His first season in Philadelphia started off well (he had hit 10 home runs and was leading the league in walks at the time) but an ACL injury in June of that year ended his season prematurely and his offensive production was never quite the same when he returned to the lineup in 2020, though he was still the same Uncle Larry that Philadelphia had fallen in love with.  I still think the Phillies would have been a playoff team in 2019 if that injury didn't happen.

I was hoping that the Phillies might bring him back as a 4th or 5th outfielder, but I'm sure that he wouldn't want to settle for a role like that in his age 35 season.  On March 16th, he signed a one year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers where he is presumably competing for a starting job.  I hope that he gets it.

Freddy Galvis is another one of my all time favorite Phillies, and I was extremely happy to see him back with the team in 2021 after bouncing around between the Padres, Blue Jays, Reds and Orioles from the start of 2018 to the trade deadline last July.  Unfortunately, the reunion was short lived.  Shortly after the lockout began, he signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB in Japan for the 2022 season.  He is the most recent player to have spent a portion of his career with the Phillies and the Hawks, joining Tadahito Iguchi (1997 to 2004), JD Durbin (2010), Vicente Padilla (2013) and Matt Moore (2020).

Andrew Knapp was the Phillies backup catcher for the past five seasons.  He's a very good defensive catcher and he calls a good game, but with the exception of an impressive 2020 season in which he hit a career best .278, he hasn't been much of an offensive threat during his time in Philadelphia. 

One of the few consistently bright spots in the Phillies system over the past four decades has been their ability to develop catchers, and the current farm is no exception.  Two of the Phillies top prospects are catchers (Rafael Marchan and Logan O'Hoppe).  Additionally, the team has added quite a few catchers to their system this winter, including Garrett Stubbs, Donnie SandsAustin Wynns, and Karl Ellison, so it seems that the Phillies were ready to move on in the backup catcher department.  Knapp signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Out of the members of the 2021 team who will not be returning in 2022, this is the guy who I think the Phillies are going to miss the most.  Hector Neris made his Major League debut with the Phillies in August 2014, and he's been the Phillies on-again, off-again closer for the past seven seasons.  He hasn't always been perfect, but he's been one of the most consistently dependable closers in the National League during his time in Philadelphia, striking out 520 batters to set the all-time franchise record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher.  He became a free agent after the 2021 season, and I was hopeful that the Phillies would bring him back, but he signed a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal with the Astros.

After five and a half frustrating years, the Phillies released Vince Velasquez last September.  It's unfortunate, because he's a genuinely good dude who always took personal accountability when things didn't work out, but the time was right to move on.  He caught on with the Padres to finish the 2021 season and signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox in 2022.  I hope the dude unlocks something and can become the pitcher we all hoped he would be after his 16 K / 0 BB performance back in 2016, but even if he does, the time was right for a change of scenery.

While Vince Velasquez took responsibility for his bad outings, Jake Arrieta seemed to do the opposite.  In post-game interviews, he blamed everyone and everything for his shortcomings over what will very likely be the final four years of his career in the Major Leagues.  He became a free agent after the 2020 season, and absolutely no one in Philadelphia was sad to see that the team made no attempt to re-sign him.  He ended up returning with the Cubs at the start of last season, but the reunion ended on August 12th with Arrieta sitting at a record of 5–11 with a 6.88 ERA.  The Padres rotation was absolutely devastated by injuries in 2021, so they took a flier on him four days after his release, but he was somehow even worse in San Diego.  He spent a good portion of his time with the Padres sitting with a hamstring injury, but he did manage to start four games in which he allowed 15 earned runs in fewer than 13 innings (10.95 ERA).  The Padres released him on September 22nd, and he hasn't been linked to any other teams since.

Spencer Howard and Matt Moore both spent time pitching out of the Phillies rotation and out of their bullpen last season.  I had high hopes that Howard would live up to his prospect hype and that Moore would bounce back to the pitcher that he was in Tampa before his Tommy John surgery.  Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.  Howard was traded to the Texas Rangers at last year's deadline, and Moore signed a minor league contract to return to the Rangers earlier this month.  Both are competing for a spot in the Rangers rotation for the 2022 season.

Another member of the 2021 Phillies roster to find his way to Arlington this season is utility infielder Bamboo Brad Miller.  I was hoping to see back with the Phillies this season, but he'll be joining Spencer Howard and Matt Moore with the Rangers instead.

Chase Anderson and Matt Moore were the two starting pitchers that the Phillies signed in the winter before the 2021 season in the hopes that they would anchor the back end of the rotation.  It didn't work out that way for either man.  While Moore has moved on to the Texas Rangers, Anderson has gone to Moore's old team.  A few weeks ago, he signed a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training with the Detroit Tigers.

Ian Kennedy was one of the big mid-season acquisitions that the Phillies made at the trade deadline last season.  He came over in the same trade that brought Kyle Gibson and Hans Crouse to Philadelphia in exchange for Spencer Howard, Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner.  The hope was that Kennedy would replicate the success he had in closing games for the Rangers in the first half of the 2021 season, but he instead became the latest of an increasingly long line of relief pitchers to have been successful elsewhere before coming to the Phillies and completely falling apart.  If there is a bright side to Kennedy being named the Phillies closer last season, it is the fact that it gave Ranger Suarez the opportunity to start games and prove himself to be a valuable part of our rotation going forward.

Kennedy became a free agent after the 2021 season, and on March 16th, he signed a one year deal to return to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he was a starter from 2010 to 2013.

Archie Bradley was one of the major free agent signings the Phillies made to improve the bullpen before the start of the 2021 season.  Injuries slowed him down early on and his year with the Phillies wasn't the best season of his career, but it wasn't the worst either.  He's one of the guys that I would have been happy to see return this year, but he signed a one year contract with the Angels a week ago.  He seems like a good dude.  I wish him the best of luck.

Roman Quinn has been the position player equivalent of Vince Velasquez in that he had a ton of potential that gave you just enough reason to hope, but it never came together the way that we all hoped.  During his time with the Phillies organization, Roman spent a lot of time on the injured list.  It seemed like this dude was constantly hurt.  The Phillies finally had enough and he was non-tendered at the end of November.  He signed a minor league contract with the Marlins earlier this month.  They're pretty weak in the outfield, so I think he has a good chance of being their opening day center fielder and leadoff bat if he can stay healthy through the end of Spring Training.

Maikel Franco and Caesar Hernandez are two of my favorite Phillies in recent memory, and they have have reunited in Washington's infield.  With Carter Kieboom's injury, they're both expected to be the starting for the Nationals on Opening Day.  I wish them the best of luck and hope that they find their way back to Philadelphia at some point in their careers.

Two former Phillies whose names will forever be linked together for all the wrong reasons are relief pitchers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman.  The two of them were our big trade deadline acquisitions in the middle of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.  Both of them were effective with the Red Sox prior to the trade, and both of them were complete disasters from the minute they put on a Phillies uniform. 

Hembree began last season with the Cincinnati Reds organization and finished with the Mets, but he wasn't very effective for either team.  This year, he has been signed to a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They're not expected to contend for a playoff spot, so it's not a bad place for him to try to work through his struggles.

Meanwhile, Workman signed with the Chicago Cubs for the start of the 2021 season.  He allowed 9 runs in 8 innings of work and was released by the team before the end of April.  The Red Sox picked him up again and he seemed to settle down, pitching to a 1–0 record with 4.95 ERA in 19 appearances out of the bullpen, but he was DFAed at the end of July to make room on the 40 man roster for Kyle Schwarber, who the Red Sox acquired last year at the trade deadline and who the Phillies just signed to a four year deal.

Brandon Workman signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers a few weeks ago, so he'll be competing for a roster spot to join three other recent Phillies in 2022.

And then there's Nick Pivetta - one of the two pitchers (along with Connor Seabold) that the Phillies traded to acquire Hembree and Workman in August 2020.  Like Vince Velasquez, he was a starting pitcher that had a lot of potential to be a key piece in the Phillies rotation, but he could never put it together.  Unlike Velasquez, Pivetta came across to me as kind of an asshole.  I wasn't sorry to see him go, but whether I like him or not, the trade that sent him to Boston was terrible for the Phillies.  If they wanted him gone, they could have, and should have, gotten much better talent in return.

It looks as if Pivetta has finally starting to settle in with the Red Sox.  He finished the 2021 season with a a 9–8 record and a 4.53 ERA , and he is projected to be Boston's #3 starter in 2022 behind Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.  He's still only 29 years old, so if he continues to improve, I have every reason to believe that he's going to be an effective starter for many years to come.  I'm still glad that it won't be with the Phillies, and from what he has said since leaving Philadelphia, the feeling is mutual.

I don't claim to be an expert on the Phillies minor league system, but I do my best to keep up with the progress of our top prospects.  However, it seemed to me as if Ken Giles appeared out of thin air in 2014.  He made his Major League debut that June, and he was mowing dudes down and pitching in a combined no-hitter before the end of the season.  It looked as if the Phillies had their next elite closer, but it came at a time when the team was in a rebuilding phase, and if there's one commodity that can be dealt away in a rebuild at the trade deadline, it's a young closer with an 100 MPH fastball.

In the winter before the 2016 season, the Phillies traded Giles to the Astros for five players, including pitchers Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel.  It was a trade that seemed to work out for both teams at first.  Velasquez looked like he was going to be a key arm in our rotation for years to come, and Giles was effective and was a key to the Astros tainted World Series Championship season in 2017.

The Astros traded Giles to the Blue Jays at the 2018 trade deadline.  He continued to pitch effectively in Toronto through 2018 and 2019, but injuries caught up to him in 2020 and he underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the season.  Despite knowing that he would be unavailable to pitch at all last year, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a 2 year deal on February 19th, 2021 with the idea that he'd be ready to return to start the 2022 season.  Well, here we are, and he's throwing in Spring Training games, so we'll soon find out if the Mariners gamble will pay off.

Carlos Carrasco never actually appeared in a Major League game for the Phillies, but he was one of our top prospects that was dealt to Cleveland at the 2009 trade deadline in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia.  After a few false starts, he became one of the most effective starters in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.  He battled back from injuries, as well as a leukemia diagnosis, and was named the AL Comeback Player Of The Year in 2019.

Carlos was traded to the Mets, along with Francisco Lindor, prior to the start of the 2021 season, but his first season in New York was hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness.  He made 12 starts last year and pitched to a 6.04 ERA.

Despite the fact that he's on the Mets, it's really hard not to root for this guy.  He's a genuinely good dude, and he's overcome a lot of adversity in his career.  At the same time, he's 35 years old, his health is questionable, and he's coming off of a rough season.  It's possible that he might be getting close to the end of his career.  However, it's also possible that he bounces back to the dominant starter that he once was.  It's happened before.  If he were a free agent, I most certainly would have wanted the Phillies to take a chance on him.  I suppose we'll see where this season will take him soon enough.

My dad thinks that Drew Smyly is the best thing since sliced bread.  For most of the past two years, he complained that the Phillies were foolish not to keep him after the 2019 season.  He may be right.  He only threw 26 innings for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened 2020 season, but he was solid in the regular season last year pitching out of the Atlanta Braves rotation.  He finished 2021 with an 11-4 record, and although he wasn't too impressive in the post season, he was a dependable starter throughout the season which helped the Braves to win the World Series.

Smyly has become the epitome of a journeyman pitcher.  He will start the 2022 season with his sixth organization since 2019, and his ninth organization overall since being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2010.  He signed a one year deal with the Chicago Cubs - a team that first signed him prior to the 2018 season, but for whom he has never pitched at the big league level (he spent most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and was traded to the Rangers that winter).  He's only 32 years old, and he's signed to a relatively inexpensive one year contract, so there is every possibility that the Cubs will try to trade him to a contender in need of pitching at this year's trade deadline, at which point Suitcase Smyly will pack up and go to what will be his seventh organization in four years.  Who knows - Maybe my dad will get his wish and Smyly will end up back with the Phillies.

Finally, there's Carlos Santana - the dude whose greatest hit in a Phillies uniform came when he used his bat to destroy a television that a couple of unnamed teammates were using to play Fortnite in the clubhouse during a game.  I would bet money that one of those teammates was Odubel Herrera, but the information has never been made public.  Either way, it's a shame that this team didn't have more guys like Carlos Santana back in 2018 to keep the clowns in line.

Carlos will turn 36 this season, so it is very likely that he's getting close to the end of his career.  He spent 2019 and 2020 with the Cleveland Indians, and he is entering the 2022 season in the final year of his current contract with the Kansas City Royals.  Although he had a comeback season in 2019 in which he hit 34 home runs and earned some down ballot MVP votes, his production has fallen since the start of the pandemic.  It would be nice to see him replicate the success he had in 2019.  I'm rooting for him.

There are plenty of other former Phillies who are still active.  Cole Irvin is pitching for the Oakland Athletics after the Phillies inexplicably gave him away for virtually nothing prior to the start of last season.  Outfielder Corey Dickerson spent 2020 with the Marlins, split his time between the Marlins and Blue Jays in 2021, and will enter this season as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Tommy Hunter spent last season between the Mets and Rays organizations before becoming a free agent this past winter.  He hasn't signed with anyone yet and is still listed as an active free agent at this time.  Adonis Medina was claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Enyel De Los Santos signed a minor league contact with the Cleveland Guardians.  JD Hammer also signed a minor league contract to return to the Colorado Rockies.  Also, Delmon Young was playing in Australia last time I checked in on him, but I'm not sure if he's still there for the 2022 season.  There are many others who I have overlooked, so if any notable names come to mind, I'll add them to this list, but my main focus for this season are the dudes who are with the Phillies in 2022.  With the bats that the front office have added this winter, this looks to be the best chance that the Phillies have had to reach the post-season in a long time.