Four-for-Four: Scorched Earth Edition

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While there are a few promising developments taking place in Clearwater at Phillies spring training, there is one troubling storyline that could paint an even bleaker tone over this year’s Phillies season than before. Early indications from camp are that the team’s acquisition Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, to whom the team signed a three-year/$12 million contract, might end up being yet another Mulligan for a front office that is racking up the misses.

David Murphy of documents the scene surrounding the unknown product and, for now, the endorsement is far from ringing.

"Today, we had a chance to watch Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Jake Diekman throw back-to-back against the same batters. It didn’t take a seasoned scout to recognize that there was no comparison between the two. Life, location, velocity, bite: adv Diekman, adv Diekman, adv Diekman, adv Diekman. One looked like a major leaguer, drawing complimentary raised eyebrows from hitters, the other struggled to find the strike zone consistently, and rarely missed a bat when he did."

One has to wonder if the team intensified their pursuit of A.J. Burnett when it started to become clear that Gonzalez would be unable to claim a spot in the rotation this year. At just a $12 million commitment over the next few years, the news should not be the type that elicits a fire-and-brimstone response. That said, it is still disheartening that the team’s foray into the international prospect database is yielding such a miserable result. One cannot forget that initially, Gonzalez was set to sign a $48 million deal before the necessary revisions took place.

Let’s just say, for now, it’s a good thing for Ruben Amaro Jr. that didn’t happen.


The Phillies don’t have a good track record with woodland critters in the last few seasons. The infamous ‘Rally Squirrel’ single-handedly ended the Phillies dynasty and the team has been unable to break the spell that the maniacal rodent placed on the team during the 2011 NLDS. In the past week, a visitor has emerged in Clearwater of the ‘creature’ variety. One has to wonder if this is potential mascot is a beacon that fate brought to the Phillies to snap the curse that the bushy-tailed beast started so long ago.


Caught up in all of the doom and gloom surrounding the 2014 Phillies is the fact that their manager is entering his first offseason as a major-league manager. Ryne Sandberg inherited a sinking ship last season and, given the circumstances, turned in an admirable effort steering the Phillies through a lost season. The organization opted not to place the ‘interim’ tag on Sandberg, so he has had the responsibility of projecting forward for the current roster since he took over for the departed Charlie Manuel. Though it’s early on, things in Clearwater seem a bit different with Sandberg calling the shots.’s Jim Salisbury chronicled the opening day of camp for the Phillies and it brought light to a trend with the coaches in Philadelphia. Salisbury’s description of the high-intensity, fundamentals-heavy workout for the veteran team felt strikingly similar to the narratives surrounding some of the other new coaches in the city.

"“Before last season ended, Sandberg told his players to come to camp in shape and ready to work. After his camp-opening speech, Sandberg showed why he wanted his team in shape. He and his staff put the full squad through a three-hour workout. Afterward, players entered the clubhouse sunburned and sweating.”"

If the team’s aging core can handle it, an emphasis on athleticism and physical shape could help extend the careers of some of their impact players. Sandberg joins Chip Kelly, Brett Brown, and even Craig Berube as city coaches who are making endurance, athleticism, and health a building block to their coaching philosophy. Chip Kelly’s methods may be a bit more high-profile, but the message is the same in every sport. Being in better shape than your opponents is something players can control and is an advantage that takes talent out of the equation. For a coach who is trying to turn around a culture that has gotten stagnant over the years, these methods can help break down bad habits and invigorate a dormant bunch. So far, so good for the new skipper of the Phillies.