Four-for-Four: The Hope Springs Eternal Edition

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Feb 27, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Darin Ruf is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in a spring training exhibition game at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports


Aside from Wednesday afternoon’s tilt with the Toronto Blue Jays being the first live action against an opponent for the Phillies in the 2014 season, it was also the debut of the team’s new broadcasting team. Former players Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer were tabbed to fill the void left by the departed Chris Wheeler and Sarge Matthews and, even though the game would not affect the Phillies regular season record, the spotlight was on the new additions and the critique of the broadcast came down fast & furious.

The results of the three-man-booth over the course of the Phillies rain-shortened Grapefruit League opener were generally as-expected. Given the personalities of both Stairs and Moyer, both men remained staunch in their comfort zone. Moyer and his soft, velvety voice was meticulous in his analysis, sometimes to excess. He nipped at mechanics and pitch placement the way he used to approach the game as a pitcher. Despite evidence that this is Moyer’s first prominent role in the booth, it is easy to project the former starter as a natural. Given the type of player he was, Moyer had to analyze every nook and cranny of the game to try to gain an edge that would help him overcome some of his physical limitations. While Moyer and play-by-play man Tom McCarthy will have to work on balancing out there rhythm with one another, the newcomer’s style is not abrasive or boisterous and thus, should allow for a relatively smooth transitional phase.

Anyone who expected anything different from Matt Stairs as a commentator than the way he goes about his role as de facto Philadelphia hero found out very quickly that ‘Canadian Bacon’ was going to bring a very…unique element to the booth. With McCarthy taking care of the middle and Moyer providing more of the mechanical analysis to the call, the road was paved for Stairs to bring energy and comic relief. From quips about the Canadian National Anthem to actually using the term ‘Pimp Take’, Stairs added an element that would most certainly elicit a comical response in Harry Kalas, were the legendary broadcaster still with us. Stairs’ transition appears as if it may take a bit longer than Moyer. Considering his career as a player was mostly spent on the bench, Stairs has a deep pool of knowledge to tap into just like Moyer. However, there’s no question Stairs likes to have a good time and he will have to make it a priority to escape his cult hero role in the city to evolve into an asset on the broadcast. Stairs did provide some laughs, which is great for the Spring. One just has to hope the seasoning of his first major gig takes before the criticism gets out of hand.

It will be very interesting to listen and watch games this season. Stairs and Moyer are very familiar with the core of the team and they will have to achieve the sort of neutrality that maintains the separation between the players and the viewers. We already know that the two former players spent arguably the highlight of their career with members of this Phillies team. What we prefer to know now is the breakdown of them as players and why they are struggling / excelling.

On a somewhat related note, former Phillies 3B and baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt will join the broadcast on Sunday games played at Citizen’s Bank Park. It was announced that Schmidt, who was unable to attend spring training due to illness, will step in for Moyer or Stairs for each of the team’s 13 home games played on Sunday. Obviously, it’s a wait and see deal to judge Schmidt’s performance. Nevertheless, great news to have possibly the greatest Phillie of all time playing a prominent role with the organization.


Feb 18, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mike Adams (37) throws during spring training at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, after it was announced that Cole Hamels would miss his first few starts of the 2014 season, it would be a struggle to find someone who had any faith in the Phillies collection of pitchers to contend. Since the announcement, the team signed A.J. Burnett to solidify the team’s third starter role. Even more recently, the team received the type of news that seems like its almost impossible to come by regarding this team over the last few years. The health situations that are currently crippling the Phillies from the mound could be resolved in time for them not to set the team back too far.

Hamels threw off of the mound for the first time this Spring. The south-paws admission of his own health issues dominated the early news in Clearwater, but recent developments have indicated that perhaps the condition is not one for the franchise or its fans to get too upset about. After a 35-pitch session overseen by the medical staff and others, Phillies pitching coach Bob McLure singed off on the team’s franchise player.

"“He was very good…He threw all his pitches and looked very free and easy. He was down in the zone. His arm action was good. Everything was full extension. The health looks great. “I could never tell there was anything wrong. I would say he looks 100 percent healthy. He looks like anyone else on the first day of camp. It looks good, really good.”"

McLure would continue to diagnose what he saw in Hamels and sees no reason he should miss more than a couple of starts. In fact, the new pitching coach even said Hamels could possibly make a run at opening night, but the organization won’t push that due to his importance to the team.

The other development is almost like hearing someone rose from the did. Relief pitcher Mike Adams, the highlight of last season’s offseason free agency acquisitions, has not pitched since June after injuring his throwing shoulder. While it does not appear that the Phillies will be getting the services of the premiere set-up man in baseball like they expected, it looks as if Adams might be able to lend a hand this season.

The Phillies need something out of Adams this season. They spent too much money on him not to at least have Adams serve some sort of role in the bullpen. While he may not have the stuff that made him the top 8th inning option in the majors like when he was in Texas, Adams is a good pitcher who can help out the team’s young relief core build confidence.


The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs changed the uniform game recently, sporting a bacon logo on their hats.

The team will wear the hats as their alternative uniform. The Durham Bulls, minor league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, actually fired back at the Iron Pigs thus kicking off an epic twitter fight between the two team’s accounts. Bacon…it tends to have that effect on people.