NL East Up For Grabs – Who Wants It?

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 04-06-2011

Tagged Under : Braves, Dan Uggla, Jayson Werth, Jose Reyes, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, it’s time to take a look at the standings and see how your team is faring.  With a  third of the season in the books, it’s not too early to get excited about a team’s hot start – or too worried about a team’s struggles.  As of June 4, here are the NL East standings:


The NL East is shaping up to be a 3 team race between the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves.  Meanwhile, the Mets and Nationals continue to struggle as most had predicted coming into the season.


What will happen between now and the trade deadline?   Will the Phillies add a bat?  Will the Marlins stay in the race? Will Dan Uggla get off of the interstate?  Will the Mets trade Jose Reyes (or go bankrupt)?  Will the Nationals ask Jayson Werth for their money back?

Offseason Report Card: Phillies

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 20-01-2011

Tagged Under : Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Domonic Brown, Jayson Werth, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt

With only one month until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, it’s time for the Command Center to give its offseason grades to the teams in the NL East.   It’s been an interesting winter, so here it goes…

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies made the move of the Hot Stove season by landing Cliff Lee. Many, including the Command Center, were skeptical of reports that a “mystery team” was bidding on Lee.  It looked like a given that Lee would either return to Texas, or follow the trail of dollar bills to the Bronx.  Instead, the Phils went against team policy and inked Lee to a 5 year, $120 million deal.

Philadelphia might have had the best starting rotation in the league before the Lee signing.   Now, with a starting 4 of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt, there is no debate.  But will it be enough?  The Phils lost a key member of their starting lineup with the expected departure of Jayson Werth (more on him below), and they will be hoping that rookie Domonic Brown can help fill the void in RF.  The Phillies bullpen remains a question mark, but if their aces pitch like they are capable of – and stay healthy – that might not matter.

Command Center’s Grade: B+

I went with a weighted average here.  I give them an A for having Lee on board for 2011, but feel the club will later regret the dollars and long term deal.  Of course, if they win it all in 2011, it will all be worth it.

What about the rest of the NL East? Stay tuned!

NLCS Preview: Phillies vs. Giants

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 16-10-2010

Tagged Under : Cablevision, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Fox, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Howard, San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum

As the Command Center predicted, the Phillies and Giants are set to meet in the NLCS and will battle it out to earn a trip to the Fall Classic.   The first round was all about pitching, and the NLCS will be more of the same.

Roy Halladay waited a long time to make his postseason debut, and all he did was throw a no hitter in one of the best pitching performances in postseason history.   The second “H” in “H2O,” Cole Hamels, also impressed in Round 1, pitching a complete game shutout in Game 3 to clinch the series for Philly.  Roy Oswalt was shaky in his Game 2 performance, but the Phillies should expect him to bounce back in the NLCS and pitch like the second ace of their staff.

San Francisco’s ace, Tim Lincecum, pitched a masterpiece of his own in the NLDS, striking out 14 in a complete game shutout of the Braves.   The Giants also feature a solid 2-3 punch with Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, so runs are sure to be at a premium.  The Game 1 matchup of Halladay and Lincecum could be a classic and should be fun to watch (that is, assuming you don’t have Cablevision and actually CAN watch the game.  Thanks Fox & Cablevision).

So what about the offenses?  San Francisco struggles to score runs against mediocre pitching, so they will certainly have their hands full with the Phillies’ starters.  The Phillies have had an up-and-down year at the plate, but a large part of that was due to injuries to several key bats (Rollins, Utley, Howard).  Now that they are back at full strength, they have arguably the deepest lineup in the NL and have the ability to put up crooked numbers at any time.   

So, how will the NLCS play out?   The Phillies have the better team on paper, and have the home field advantage, so it’s their series to lose.  For the Giants to have a chance, they need their starters to pitch lights-out.  With the Giants’ offense, their pitchers have little (or no) margin for error.   Could they pull the upset?  Sure.  Will they?  Nope.

Prediction: Phillies in 6.

And Then There Were Two: NLDS Predictions

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 04-10-2010

Tagged Under : Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, Chase Utley, Cincinnati Reds, Cole Hamels, Derek Lowe, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Howard, San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum

While the Marlins, Mets, and Nationals hit the golf course and start to make their plans for 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will be playing in the postseason.  The Phillies comfortably took the NL East, and it took the Braves until Day 162 to earn a playoff berth, but both will be battling to reach the World Series.

So what are their chances?  Here is my take on Round 1.

Phillies vs. Reds

The Phillies have the home field advantage against the NL Central Champion Cincinnati Reds.  The Phillies are clearly the better team, and to me, the question isn’t if the Phils will win this series, but rather how many games it will take.

The Phillies battled through injuries throughout the 2010 season.  Now they are healthy, and thanks to clinching the division title early, they were able to set up their pitching rotation.  With the Roys (Halladay & Oswalt) and Cole Hamels pitching the first three games, the Reds will have their hands full.  The Reds had the chance to set up their rotation as well, but with three righties (Volquez, Arroyo, & Cueto) facing Utley, Howard, and company, Cincinnati’s pitchers will have their hands full.

So, will the Reds take a game?  The Command Center says…

Prediction: Phillies in 3.

Braves vs. Giants

Both the Braves and Giants stamped their tickets to the playoffs on the season’s final day.  Both teams are also built on pitching.  Will one team’s staff let them down?  Will one offense catch fire at the right time?

The Giants will throw out “The Freak,”  Tim Lincecum, against Atlanta’s Derek Lowe in Game 1 on Thursday night.   Every game is important in a short series, but the winner of the first game of this showdown will have a huge leg up on their opponent.   A Giants win, and San Fran will be feeling good and looking to go on a roll with Cain & Sanchez to follow.  If the Braves can defeat San Fran’s ace, it could be a major blow to the Giants’ psyche and a big momentum swing in Atlanta’s favor.

I expect a bunch of low scoring games and teams looking to scratch and claw to put runs on the board.  Will the Braves rally behind their skipper and extend Bobby Cox’s managing career one more series?   I could see this series going either way, but the Command Center can only declare one winner.

Prediction: Giants in 5.

Did the Command Center get these right?  There’s only one way to find out.  Play Ball!

Command Center: Survivor – NL East

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 29-05-2010

Tagged Under : Adam Dunn, Billy Wagner, Bobby Cox, Brad Lidge, Braves, Carlos Beltran, Chipper Jones, Command Center, Hanley Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Jimmy Rollins, Johan Santana, Josh Johnson, Marlins, Matt Capps, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Nationals, Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Survivor, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson

People around baseball often look at Memorial Day as the first major checkpoint of the season.   As we approach the 50 game mark, it’s a good time to take a look at the standings to see where the teams are sitting.  Is a team poised to run away with the division?  Is there a solid two-team race developing that looks looks like it may go down to the wire?  Is there a team that is already so far out of first place that they are starting to make plans for next season?

survivor-logoTake a look at the NL East standings.  Coming into Friday night’s action, 3 games separated first place from last place, and each team had a record of .500 or better.   The division is clearly up for grabs, which got me thinking of one of my favorite TV shows, Survivor.  Before a challenge, host Jeff Probst declares “immunity up for grabs.”    Instead of immunity, a division crown is at stake in the latest reality series - Survivor: NL East.  Let’s take a look at the competitors:

After back-to-back World Series appearances, the Phillies came into this season as the clear favorites.  Their everyday lineup remained mostly intact, and they added arguably the best pitcher in the majors to their rotation with the acquisition of Roy Halladay.  However, the Phils have been hurt by injuries, most notably to shortstop Jimmy Rollins and closer Brad Lidge.  They also are not clicking on all cylinders offensively, as evident by being shut out four times over the past week.  Despite all of the injuries and struggles, the Phillies still find themselves on top of the division.  They have the ability to run away with the East if they get healthy and play to form, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The Braves ended April five games under .500, but have played much better baseball in May.  A few win streaks have them four games over .500 in Bobby Cox‘s last season at the helm.   The Braves have the pitching to hang around for the long haul, with a solid starting rotation led by Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson, and a healthy Billy Wagner closing games.  Will the Braves offense be enough?  Rookie phenom Jason Heyward has certainly showed all of the hype was warranted.  Can he keep it up?  Will the Chipper Jones of old return?  

The Mets?  Who knows what to make of the team from Flushing.  Part roller coaster and part circus act at times, the Mets have already jumped from last place to first place, and back to last place.  After their most recent hot streak, they now find themselves in the middle of the pack.  Can they hang around and find themselves playing meaningful September baseball?   It’s possible, but they have several huge question marks.  When will Carlos Beltran come back, or will he be back at all?  Will the Mets find three reliable starters to stick behind Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey? 

Then there are the Nationals.  Those pesky Nats.  All of the talk coming into the season was about Stephen Strasburg, and in major media outlets, Strasburg is still all you hear about when it comes to the team from DC.  News flash: the man with the 100 mph fastball has yet to throw a pitch in the majors, but the Nationals are showing that they are no longer the doormat of the NL East.  The Nats have received solid pitching in the early going, “capped” off by closer Matt Capps, who converted his first 16 save chances.  Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn provide a dangerous 3-4 combination to the Nats lineup.   They may not be able to hang around until the end, but their early season success is no mirage.  The Nats are a good ballclub, and their future looks bright.

Over the past two decades, what team owns the most World Series titles in the divison?  That would be the Florida Marlins.  The Marlins may have the deepest rotation in the division, led by ace Josh Johnson.   Each of the Marlins’ starters is fully capable of shutting down an opposing team.  Hanley Ramirez and company can also score enough runs to remain competitive throughout.  But will their bullpen eventually do them in?  With a new stadium on the horizon, will they be able to add payroll to try and make a run?

probstWho will Outhit, Outplay, Outlast to become the winner of Survivor: NL East?  Stay tuned to see whose torches get snuffed out.   There are likely to be some twists and surprises as this marathon of a season plays out.  You don’t want to miss it.

From the Command Center: The Hanley Incident

Filed Under (Command Center, NL East Chatter) by Chris Comando on 25-05-2010

Tagged Under : Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds, Florida Marlins, Fredi Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Manny Ramirez, Tony Perez

All too often, you see a major leaguer not hustle.  A player jogs to first on a routine ground ball or an infield pop-up, or he stands at home plate and admires a long drive he thinks is a sure home run.  Sadly, this lack of hustle – or at least not running out every play at full speed – is more the norm than the exception in today’s game.  Most times, no harm is done, as that routine play is made, or the ball sails out of the park.  However, sometimes that “routine” play isn’t made, or the long drive bounces off the wall, and it costs the team an out or a base, and possibly a game.

When this happens, the player usually gets an earful from his manager, and he might be pulled from a game or benched the following day.  But what happens when a star player is the culprit?  Usually, nothing.  How often did Barry Bonds run out a ground ball?  When did he ever run hard to first on ANY ball he hit?  And I won’t even get into “Manny Being Manny.”  However, another Ramirez recently made headlines for lack of hustle.  This time, the player faced consequences – and that was just the beginning of the story.

hanleyLast week, Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez ranged into left field after a bloop hit, and as the ball eluded him, he inadvertently kicked the ball into the left field corner.   Not only did Ramirez not go full speed as the ball rolled away, but he looked as if he was going on a leisurely stroll in the park.  2 runs scored on the play, and the batter ended up on 3rd base.  After the inning, Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez pulled Ramirez from the game.

Gonzalez could’ve addressed the issue internally and told the media that Ramirez was pulled due to injury, as he had fouled a ball off of his shin in his fredigfirst at bat.  Instead, Gonzalez acknowledged Ramirez was pulled due to lack of effort.  Things quickly got ugly, as Ramirez refused to apologize.  Actually, he didn’t seem to think he did anything wrong, and didn’t understand why he would need to apologize.  He was benched the next game, and finally seemed to get the message after being talked to by Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, both special assistants to the Marlins.

The Marlins are a young team with a low payroll, and Ramirez is clearly the team’s best position player.  He is the most feared hitter in the Marlins’ lineup, and he has the talent to be an All Star for the next 10+ years.  Some might question the way Gonzalez handled the situation.  He risked alienating his team’s star player, and the firestorm that immediately followed seemed like it might do just that.  But by pulling Ramirez and by letting it be known why he was benched, Gonzalez sent a clear message to his star and his team.  Lack of effort will not be tolerated.  Physical errors will happen, and players will go into slumps.  There are many things out of a player’s control, but effort and hustle are not.  He showed that no player was above the team – if benching Ramirez didn’t drive that point home, nothing will.  You better believe that the rest of the Marlins team took notice.

Years from now, hopefully Ramirez will look back at this incident as one that helped him mature, and he will be an even better ball player as a result of this.  Isn’t that a scary thought, National League?

Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time you see a play like this.  Hopefully, the next time this happens, the manager will take a page out of Fredi Gonzalez’s book and act immediately.  Kudos to Gonzalez for making a bold move, and in my mind, the right move.