Phiguring Out the Phillies with Justin Klugh of “That Balls Outta Here”


Riding the natural high that comes 1) from living in the Rocky Mountains, and 2) sweeping the hated division rival Giants, the Colorado Rockies roll into Philadelphia for a mini-two game set with the Phillies.

This could be either really good or really bad.

My guess is that it’ll be really good, seeing as the Rockies finally figured out how to hit the baseball.

For this series, my counterpart Justin Klugh over at “That Balls Outta Here” and I exchanged a few questions about the teams. Enjoy.

1. Everyone out west makes the argument that the national media only focuses on big teams out east as part of “East Coast Bias.” As evidenced in 2007 when a Philadelphia reporter basically asked former manager Clint Hurdle who the Rockies were, do sports fans and the media in Philly know who the Rockies are and how good they can actually be?

To borrow your phrase, “As evidenced in 2007,” the Phillies knew very succinctly who the Rockies were, especially as they came in and out of Philly so fast and mercilessly that all he had left were a few panicked gasps.  And then it was over.

But on the other hand, you won’t be remembered as “The Rockies swept the Phillies out of the playoffs,” so much as “The Phillies were swept out of the playoffs.”  You weren’t the Rockies so much as a black-and-purple blur that just came in and ruined everything. What was important to us was how much not-World-Series-winning we were doing after a historic run; not that the Rockies were the ones who ended it.

Then 2008 happened and everything before then was systematically erased from Phillies history anyway.

I resent the implication that we on the east coast ignore or completely deny west coast teams any respect or acknowledgment that the things they’ve done have happened.  To answer your question, no; until a west coast team wins the World Series, there will always be an east coast bias.

2. A lot of people pretty much crowned Philadelphia the 2011 NL Champs, but they’re only half a game up on the Marlins and have lost four straight. Now, I have nothing but respect for what Ruben Amaro has done in Philly, but with the injuries to Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, and the lack of production from the rest of the offense, are the Phillies too reliant on pitching to seriously contend for a World Series, and can the so-called little teams like the Rockies pose a serious threat to another Philly championship?

You know who crowned the Phillies 2011 NL Champs? National media outlets. They’re the same ones who will publishing headlines soon about the Phillies rotation being a letdown. That’s what they do. They build up impossible odds and then act like their defending the people when teams fail to meet them.  I hope Bleacher Report erupts into a swirling pit of despair and sucks Bristol, CT deep inside the earth’s core where all these people are incinerated out of history.

/rant over

3. He’s no Halladay, and granted the Phillies are great at home, but Jorge De La Rosa has been nothing but solid for the Rockies this year, and Carlos Gonzalez has Cole Hamels’ number in his career so far. Are Phillies fans worried about this series or do they think of this as an easy series win?

Things Phillies fans are worrying about:

  • The offense
  • Chase Utley’s comeback
  • Dom Brown
  • Worrying too much
  • The rapture (It’s this weekend!)
  • Why Wilson Valdez was hitting in the two-hole yesterday
  • This series
  • Every series until we hit again

4. Placido Polanco is your only hitter above .300 and Todd Helton is our only hitter above .300. Will this series come down to the veterans or are the younger kids poised for a breakout?

You in Colorado may have the luxury of some kind of youth on your roster, but we here in Philly like our ballplayers in mid-decline, thank you very much. It shouldn’t even count as baseball unless your lineup is full of 30+ grizzled old men all swearing they could knock a Ubaldo Jimenez fastball into the second deck.

Unless Antonio Bastardo (That’s relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo) hits a pinch hit grand slam, there’s not a whole lot of ways a “younger” person can affect the Phillies right now. Because there aren’t any.

5. Too early to predict a Rockies-Phillies meeting in October?

Dude, if I can’t use the “Its too early to predict anything” excuse right now, my season’s looking pretty bleak.

6. Do the Phillies have a secret bank vault underneath Citizens Bank Park, or do all the primetime players just come to play for Philly because of the cheesesteaks?

Oh-ho-ho, somebody’s been watching the cutaway shots run by ESPN just before and after a commercial break! We do have a vault under CBP, but its where we keep all the animals our pitching staff sacrifices to Baseba’al prior to every start.

Its a real mess down there. I actually prefer not to think about it.

1.  With irritating losses comes the assignment of blame. A loss in Philadelphia turns Twitter into a scrambling nest of blame-games; and then people start blaming the people who are blaming people for things!  Its pretty meta. We’re a pretty insightful group.

My point is, I see Jim Tracy is getting his share of it for being too grandpa-like.  Who do you hold most accountable for anything bad that has had happened to the Rockies? And don’t just say, “That’s baseball.” I’m sick of hearing that while blaming people for things.

Usually, the answer of “That’s baseball” would work, but there are actually people to point the finger at for this slump. I think, when you boil it down, there are three groups that deserve blame for the May slide.

First, Jim Tracy deserves some of the blame, mainly for continuing to put ineffective relievers in the game [EDITOR’S NOTE: Yo you’re thinking of Charlie Manuel] (See Felipe Paulino and Franklin Morales) when there are two very capable relievers in Triple-A (See Matt Daley and Rex Brothers).

Second, the bullpen can’t seem to put innings down when starters deliver quality starts. Two games against the Padres last weekend proved that. Huston Street, though he is one of the best closers in the National League, blew a game by giving up yet another long ball. Rafael Betancourt, who usually is very effective as the setup man, couldn’t find his control. The Brotherhood of Matts – Reynolds, Lindstrom, and Belisle, have been effective, but they’ve seemed to struggle some in the past few weeks.

Finally, the offense needs to take a lot of the heat. Only having three or four hits per matchup won’t win you very many games, and scoring even fewer runs won’t help your case either. The team broke out of it’s slump against the Padres, and showed the league they were back by taking Tim Lincecum to school on Monday.

2.  I was happy to cower in fright at Troy Tulowitzki’s early season rampage rather than deal with is, but once he stopped doing some MVP-caliber thing every five minutes, was it and will it continue to be tough not to have the comically high expectations for him all year, e.g., “Why doesn’t Troy just do something great and fix this?”

Troy’s breaking out of his slump. You can see it in his numbers from this past homestand. He hit almost .500 for the series against the Padres, he hit a couple of long balls, and had eight RBIs in the past five games. That may not be the MVP-like numbers he put up earlier this year, but it’s nothing but a good sign. If he can continue to produce like that, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be among the top contenders for NL MVP this year.

3.  Ubaldo Jimenez recently lowered his ERA to 6.14. Am I taking crazy pills?

No, no you’re not [EDITOR’S NOTE: No, yeah, I am though]. Ubaldo’s been a conundrum wrapped in an enigma this year, and a source of frustration for Rockies fans everywhere. At first, we all thought it was a cuticle cut. That healed, and he still struggled.

What’s happening from what I can see is that he’s lost all his confidence. Baseball’s about having fun, no matter what level you’re playing at. When it becomes a stresser, like Ubaldo has made it, then you start to struggle. I’m pretty sure he’s overthinking things when it comes to finding the strike zone, and while he has the speed on his fastball back (he hit 98 on the gun yesterday – I don’t care who you are, that’s nasty), but what it lacks is sink as it hits the strike zone, which made him unhittable last year.

He’s throwing a straight fastball, and when it’s straight and right over the plate, it’s a lot easier for hitters to take for a ride.

4.  Which one of the Rockies stole that Willie Mays statue at knifepoint while they were in SF?

Yeah, that was Carlos Gonzalez, and he made it clear to the Giants they weren’t getting it back when he hit a three-run bomb off good ol’ Timmy Lincecum on Monday night.

5.  My gut reaction to Jonathan Herrera’s crudely drawn hieroglyphics in the batter’s box before each AB is that he is a warlock, summoning the winds of destruction, and he should therefore be burned at the stake.  But I’ve been wrong before.  So… so wrong.

Before the season, Johnny had a meeting with Charlie Sheen and got a few pointers on how to “win” at the plate. A few injections of Tiger Blood later, he’s found himself in a nice little groove at second base. He’s not big, he won’t hit 20 home runs, he won’t steal 30+ bases, but he’ll hit for average and he’ll help score runs for your team. Frankly, I don’t know why more teams don’t want Johnny Sparkplug on their team – he’s earned that nickname for a reason.

6.  I actually forgot to Ben ask a sixth question.