Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hamels Heads Out As Phillies Hit The Rebuild Button

GAME RECAP: Toronto Trounces Philadelphia 8-2

Troy Tulowitzki made the most of his Blue Jays debut Wednesday, cracking a homer while collecting a pair of doubles in an 8-2 win over the Phillies at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays' newest star collected three hits with three RBIs and three runs scored as Toronto split the two-game set. Making his first career start in a leadoff role, Tulowitzki, acquired in a trade with the Rockies on Tuesday, made his presence felt in the third, when he went deep with a two-run shot off Philly starter Jerome Williams to spot the Blue Jays an early 2-0 lead. He was at it again in the fifth, when he laced a leadoff double to left field before Jose Bautista cashed him in with a one-out single. Tulowitzki hit an RBI double off the wall in his next at-bat as part of a three-run sixth, and he finished 3-for-5. While the Blue Jays piled up runs, veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey took care of business on the mound, earning the win. Dickey tossed eight innings while allowing seven hits and two runs. None of them were earned.

  • Williams helped Tulowitzki get acclimated to his new team. He threw him an 0-2 fastball over the heart of the plate for the two-run homer in the third before allowing two more runs in the fifth, which included a double to Tulowitzki. Williams lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs and striking out one as he dropped to 3-8 with a 6.36 ERA. "My job is to get the guy out. In the first at-bat, I got him out [with a strikeout]. In the second at-bat, he got me," Williams said.
  • Gibbons successfully had an out call at second base overturned in the third inning. As Josh Donaldson slid into second to break up a double play, Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis dropped the transfer but initially still got the call. That prompted Gibbons to ask the for the review, which after 35 seconds went the Blue Jays' way.
  • The Phillies challenged a play at first base in the seventh inning, when it looked like Domonic Brown grounded into a double play. The Phillies thought Brown beat the throw, and the call was indeed overturned. Brown went on to score on an error later in the inning.
  • "It was a strange week, but you can't really think about the highs with Cole [Hamels] throwing the no-hitter and [Aaron] Nola pitching well Sunday. You had the lows with Pap [Jonathan Papelbon] and everything being traded. You can't really worry about that. All you can do is play baseball." -- Williams, reflecting on the team's 4-1 road trip.
  • The last-place Phillies have won nine of 11 games since the All-Star break. The Braves enter Philadelphia having lost six of their past seven games.
  • Hamels was tentatively slated to pitch Friday night's game, but he was traded to the Rangers on Wednesday night.

The Braves will face an old friend as Aaron Harang will take the mound on Thursday to make his first start since he was sidelined in early July with plantar fasciitis. Harang was one of the most consistent pitchers in the Braves rotation last year. He has allowed one run in 14 innings against Atlanta this year. While the Phillies are now preparing to play the rest of this season without their ace (Cole Hamels), the Braves are simply hoping to soon prove to their ace (Shelby Miller) that they are capable of providing him some offensive support. Miller will enter Thursday night's series opener in Philadelphia looking for his first win since he nearly no-hit the Marlins on May 17. The All-Star hurler has produced a 2.96 ERA in the 12 starts that have followed, but the Braves have totaled just 10 runs while he has still been in line for a potential win during this span.


Off To Arlington – Cole Hamels engineered some of the greatest moments in Phillies history, including Saturday's no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It will be his final moment in a Phillies uniform. Sources told on Wednesday night that Hamels will be traded to the Texas Rangers in a massive eight-player deal, which is expected to be announced Thursday. The Phillies will send Hamels, left-hander Jake Diekman and cash to the Rangers for five prospects -- outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro and right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher -- along with Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison, who has made nine starts over the past three seasons because of a back injury. Hamels, 31, declined comment following Wednesday night's 8-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Diekman indicated that he had not heard much as he left for the team bus for the flight back to Philadelphia. "They were talking about this right after the season last year," said Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who along with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are the only remaining members of the 2008 World Series championship team. "If they have to make a move ... they're trying to rebuild the team. We just have to keep going. But definitely it's sad when you're around one of your teammates for a long time and then they have to go away." Hamels, whom the Phillies selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 Draft, almost single-handedly carried the Phillies to their second World Series championship in franchise history. He earned National League Championship Series and World Series Most Valuable Player Awards that postseason. He finishes his Phillies career 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA in 295 career games (294 starts). He is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 postseason starts. But the Phillies have looked to trade Hamels since the end of the 2014 season to speed up their rebuilding process. USA Today reported that Hamels first rejected a trade to the Astros before the Phillies agreed to the trade with Texas. Hamels could reject a trade to 20 teams, but the Rangers were not on that list. reported the Phillies will send $9.5 million to the Rangers, plus take the entirety of the roughly $32.3 million owed Harrison through 2017. Hamels is owed about $81 million: $7.5 million for the remainder of this season, plus $22.5 million each of the next three seasons. He also has a $6 million buyout on a $19 million club option for 2019 that automatically vests at $24 million based on innings pitched. In essence, the Phillies are paying nearly $42 million to get the prospects they wanted from Texas. But this trade for the Phillies is about the future. They received three of the Rangers' top six prospects, according to Thompson (fourth), Williams (fifth) and Alfaro (sixth). Eickhoff ranked 17th and Asher ranked 29th. Thompson, Williams and Alfaro are ranked 60th, 64th and 69th, respectively, among all prospects in Minor League Baseball. The Phillies wanted big hitters in any trade for Hamels, and they believe they got two with Williams, 21, and Alfaro, 22. Williams, who was a second-round pick in the 2012 Draft, was hitting .300 with 21 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs, 45 RBIs and an .837 OPS with Double-A Frisco. Alfaro, who signed a $1.3 million bonus in 2010, will miss the rest of this season following left ankle surgery in June, but before that, said he "has the best combination of raw power and pure arm strength among Minor League catchers." Thompson, 21, was traded from Detroit to Texas last year for Joakim Soria and became Texas' top starting pitching prospect. He was 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 17 starts with Frisco. Eickhoff, 25, was 8-4 with a 4.47 ERA in 17 games with Triple-A Round Rock. Asher, 23, was 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts with Round Rock. In time, the Phillies hope a few of those players catapult the Phillies to their next postseason run, similar to how Hamels, Utley, Howard, Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins led the Phillies to five consecutive National League East titles from 2007-11. But the Phillies had to sacrifice one of their greatest postseason performers to get them. "Just a surreal moment," Hamels said following Saturday's no-hitter. It turned into a surreal week.

Here Is The Haul – The Phillies have waited and waited and waited to get the best deal possible for Cole Hamels, one that could help restock an organization thin on talent in the Majors and Minors. They finally did so Wednesday, consummating an eight-player deal with the Rangers. Though neither club confirmed the trade,'s T.R. Sullivan and Todd Zolecki have reported that Philadelphia will send Hamels, Jake Diekman and $9.5 million in cash to Texas for Matt Harrison and five prospects: right-handers Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro. Thompson (No. 60), Williams (No. 64) and Alfaro (No. 69) all rank among's Top 100 Prospects. The Phillies' system, which had fallen on hard times before the team began trading veterans for prospects last offseason, now has six Top 100 farmhands. Shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 6) and Philadelphia's last two first-round picks, right-hander Aaron Nola (No. 22) and outfielder Cornelius Randolph (No. 99), already were on the list. Thompson, 21, has been traded twice in the last year after the Tigers shipped him and Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria last July. A second-round pick from a Texas high school in 2012, Thompson has one of the best sliders in the Minors and pairs it with a hard sinker that ranges from 90-95 mph. Thompson has gone 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 17 starts at Double-A Frisco this year with a 78-30 K/BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings. Williams, 21, also was a second-rounder out of a Texas high school in 2012. He has one of the quickest bats in the Minors and has made huge strides with his plate discipline this year, giving him a chance to become a .280 hitter with 20 homers per season along with solid speed and defense. Williams batted .299/.357/.479 with 13 homers and 10 steals in 97 games at Frisco. Alfaro, 22, signed for a Colombian-record $1.3 million in 2010. No Minor League catcher can beat his combination of raw power and arm strength, though his hitting and receiving skills still need a lot of polish. Alfaro hit .253/.314/.432 with five homers in 49 games at Frisco before season-ending ankle surgery in June. Eickhoff, 25, went from a 15th-round pick from Olney Central (Ill.) JC in 2011 to leading the Double-A Texas League with 144 strikeouts in 2014. His best pitch is a 91-97 mph fastball and he'll also flash a plus curveball and solid slider. Eickhoff has spent most of this season at Triple-A Round Rock, going 9-4 with a 4.25 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) with a 107/36 K/BB ratio in 111 2/3 innings. Asher, 23, was a fourth-round choice out of Polk (Fla.) CC in 2012. He can hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually operates at 89-93 mph, backing it up with an average slider and changeup. He has split this year between Frisco and Round Rock, compiling a 4-10 record with a 4.43 ERA in 20 starts and a 97/37 K/BB ratio in 107 2/3 innings. All five prospects could arrive in the big leagues before the end of 2016. If they all reach their ceilings, the Phillies could have a No. 2 starter (Thompson), a pair of All-Star position players (Williams, Alfaro) and a pair of workhorse starters for the back half of their rotation (Eickhoff, Asher). Of course, not all prospects will fulfill their potential, but Philadelphia has a lot more building blocks than it did before the trade and also saves roughly $35 million in the difference between the commitments to Hamels and Harrison. From the Rangers' perspective, Hamels gives them a frontline starter who's locked up through 2019 and can headline what could be a formidable long-term rotation should Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez return to full health. Texas was able to acquire the three-time All-Star and 2008 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP without sacrificing either of its cornerstone prospects, third baseman Joey Gallo or outfielder Nomar Mazara. The Rangers' impressive prospect depth allowed them to retain Gallo and Mazara while still satisfying the Phillies.

Mural Celebrates Phillies History – Once again, Tug McGraw is jumping into the sky, celebrating the first World Series championship in Phillies history. Only this time, McGraw is doing it eight stories high. And he's joined by dozens of iconic faces and moments and even the ballparks from franchise history on a spectacular 3,750-square-foot mural located at 24th and Walnut Street, and visible from the Schuylkill River Trail and I-76. The Phillies Mural was created by award-winning artist David McShane, a lifetime Phils fan who also created a mural honoring Jackie Robinson in North Philadelphia, and another honoring the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues in West Philadelphia. The Phillies Mural was executed in conjunction with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The official dedication will take place Saturday, with festivities beginning at 11 a.m. ET, including entertainment from the Whiz Kids and refreshments. The ceremony starts at 11:30 a.m. Fans are invited to help celebrate along with more than a dozen legends, such as Mike Schmidt, Brad Lidge, Charlie Manuel, Darren Daulton, Dallas Green, Mitch Williams, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Dick Allen, Greg Luzinski, Curt Simmons, Jim Bunning, Tony Taylor and the Phillies Phanatic. The free event is part of the Toyota Phillies Alumni Weekend. It's fitting that Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn, two of the most beloved figures in team history, are in the center of the painting. Opposite McGraw, Brad Lidge drops to his knees after recording the final out that gave the Phils their 2008 championship. Players from as long ago as Chuck Klein and Grover Cleveland Alexander are represented, as are several current stars. McShane's preliminary drawing left room for two more players who were determined by a fan vote. That's how Luzinski and Carlos Ruiz were added. In each corner, groups of fans look on. The artist said that deciding who and what to leave off was far more difficult than figuring out who to include. "That was a challenge," McShane said. "Rather than start with individuals, I started with teams -- so the championship teams and the teams that were pennant winners, and I thought of key players from there. Then, I filled in the void with the other Hall of Famers and retired numbers. For instance, someone like Chuck Klein who was one of the greatest sluggers they ever had, but played in the 1920s when the Phillies weren't very good. He deserves to be in the mural. So that's sort of how I went about it. "I was also trying not to overwhelm the mural. If you put a hundred figures in, it kind of loses its impact. So I was kind of thinking of trying to target around 25, 30 players max. When I was a kid, I really loved Garry Maddox, so I would have loved to have put him in there. There are certain singular moments like Shane Victorino hitting that grand slam [off CC Sabathia in the playoffs], Matt Stairs' home run [in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers]. But when you take a look at the grand history, you really have to narrow it down." While the mural understandably focuses on franchise highlights, it doesn't whitewash the lowlights. Williams is depicted throwing the pitch that Joe Carter hit to win the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays. Players from the 1964 team wake echoes of the club that squandered a 6 1/2-game lead in the final two weeks of the regular season. "It's certainly a rich history with a lot of successes and failures," McShane said. "But for most of us as a collective community we have both celebrated the triumphs and suffered through the disappointments. My hope is that people look at the mural and remember how we're connected as a community. Because we all shared these moments together." The 50-year-old has painted more than 70 murals. This is one of his all-time favorites, and it should be around for a while. "This mural has a special UV coating applied, so it'll take a lot longer for the paints to fade," McShane said. "We would anticipate at least a good 25-year life span. And hopefully we'll have at least another World Series or two by then."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 38-64. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 67-47-0 on this day.

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