Archive for January, 2009

Open Invitation

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

In case you missed today’s press release, the BlueClaws have invited four former big leaguers, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith, and Jack Morris, to FirstEnergy Park.

Where did this come from?

Simple. In 2005 Goose Gossage signed autographs at FirstEnergy Park. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. Then last year, we had Jim Rice here at the ballpark. Rice was finally elected this year, in his final time on the ballot.

Jim Rice with Steve Roadcap“There must be something special in the air here at the Jersey Shore,” said BlueClaws General Manager Geoff Brown of the obvious connection between signing in Lakewood and subsequent induction. “We’ve had the magic touch in bringing people here and those players getting elected to the Hall of Fame. We hope that we can get a few more players to Cooperstown.” 

These four potential Hall of Famers received the highest percentage of vote among those not elected to the Hall this year by the Baseball Writers Association.

Check below the fold for bios.

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BlueClaws Wallpaper Contest

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Web ContestHere’s your chance to win free BlueClaws tickets and

Levitra order online

throw out a first pitch on the FirstEnergy Park field before a 2009 BlueClaws game!

We’re instituting a new wallpaper contest through BlueClaws.com. At this link, to a gallery in our fan photos section on the left side of this page, you’ll see a series of pictures. Just take those pictures, or any of your personal photos, and mold them into a BlueClaws desktop wallpaper of your creation.

Then email your wallpaper (in JPEG format) to Josh Ellis, at jellis@blueclaws.com. We’ll judge them, display them, and we’ll bring the winner out to a game this year. Best of luck!

Phillies Notes

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Arbitration figures were exchanged today, and to no one’s real surprise, Ryan Howard (BlueClaws 2002) and the Phillies are far apart. Howard asked for $18 million, which would mark a raise of $8 million, while the Phillies offered their slugger $14 million. Next month an arbitrator will choose one of the two figures, presuming the sides can’t come to terms on an agreement beforehand. There is no middle ground for the arbitrator to choose from.

Last year, Howard asked for $10, the Phillies offered $7, and Howard won. This year, the ante has gone up.

What will happen now? If this goes to the arbitrator, and it seems it will, the Phillies will argue Howard isn’t worth as much as the guy he is frequently compared to: Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. The 2008 MVP, Pujols made slightly more than $14 million last year. This is one of the awkward parts about the salary arbitration process.

Only Derek Jeter ($18.5 million in 2001) and Roger Clemens ($22 million in 2005) have asked for more in arbitration.

In other Phillies news, Ryan Madson has agreed to a 3-year, $12 million deal. This is a relative bargain for one of the best relief pitchers in the league. Remember, the Yankees have given set-up men between $5-6 million in recent years, guys like Tom Gordon, Kyle Farnsworth, and Steve Karsay, and haven’t gotten the production Madson gave the Phillies last year. Also, the team agreed to a 1-year, $5.475 million deal with pitcher Joe Blanton.

Besides Howard, Jayson Werth and Chad Durbin are the only players that remain unsigned.

Upcoming Q&As

Monday, January 19th, 2009

We’ll talk to a trio of 2007 BlueClaws players, Quintin Berry, Jason Donald, and Kyle Drabek, over the next few days. Any questions for the players, send them over to ggiombarrese@blueclaws.com or just leave them in the comments.

Q&A: Michael Taylor (Part 3)

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Michael TaylorHere’s part three of our interview with 2008 BlueClaws outfielder Michael Taylor. Click for part one and part two.

Question: What did you think of the draft process?

Michael Taylor: I tell people I wouldn’t put too much stock in where you are drafted. It’s a funny thing. It has a lot to do with when they see you. There’s kid of a free flowing concensus of where you’re going to end up. But all you can ask for is an opportunity and that’s what the draft gives you. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower.

Q: What are your goals for 2009?

MT: I just want to continue to improve. Double-A, once you get there you have a chance, an injury or trade away. I want to go out and continue to have fun. Just want to go there, focus on winning, and let the rest take care of itself. Hopefully the numbers are there, and either by trade or in our own organization, someone will say this guy’s ready. It’s kid of your first big league audition.

Q: How quick can you make it to the big leagues?

MT: It kind of floats. Right now, preferably in the next two years. If you asked me last year, it might have been different. I try not to set hard goals like that, since a lot of that stuff isn’t up to you. You can be good enough and be blocked, or they want you to get more experience. I don’t set goals on things I can’t control. My goal would be not to give away so many at-bats, something I can focus on and control.

MT (ctd): In the back of my mind, sure I want to make it soon. I just want to keep progressing and someone will peg me as the guy someday.

Q: Best pitcher you faced in college?

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Video of the Week

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

In honor of the Famous Chicken being added to the entertainer schedule last week (August 31st)…

Ex-Claws Employee Producing a Webseries

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Issues Cast CrewScott Napolitano (front, center) is a former BlueClaws cameraman. He brought the crowd to the big video board for you here at FirstEnergy Park. Now, Scott is producing a webseries called “Issues.”

He started out with the BlueClaws in their first season, 2001, and ended up doing the camera at age 16. “I got started that day, and I never looked back. I got into film as a result of doing the camera work.”

I had a chance to talk to Scott last week. He talked in great detail about the process, including finding the cast, writing, editing, filming, and marketing. Click here for the interview over at ClawCasts.com.

Basically the series is about a group of comic book fans and the people who work at the store, along with their daily interaction. Every story is based on a real experience that either Scott or another crew member had.

It’s worth checking out. His website is www.IssuesTheSeries.com, and the next episode is released on January 21st. That will be the second one, with each episode coming out at the website every two weeks.

Salary Arbitration

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Where does money actually grow on trees? Why in baseball’s salary arbitration process, of course. We bring this up today because this week players and teams will exchange figures prior to heading to the arbitrators early next month.

Who’s eligible? Basically, players with at least three years of big league service are eligible. You do not gain free agent status until after six years are completed. Teams will offer arbitration to their own free agents, which gives them compensation should the player sign elsewhere. But if they accept arbitration, it’s binding.

What’s the problem with the process? A) It puts the teams in the position of arguing against the abilities of their own players, players that sooner or later they’ll have to work out a long term agreement with. Ryan Howard leads the league in home runs and RBIs, and carries the Phillies in a September comeback. Now the Phillies have to get in a room and argue that he strikes out too much? B) Teams are limited because their budgets are determined by outside sources. C) It’s skewed to the players because there is no limit on the amount of a pay raise, while players can only get a 20% pay cut. D) Salary decisions are in part based on bad contracts signed by other teams, meaning Team A is actually penalized because Team B screwed up last year.

“In the last 15 to 18 months, talking to every club, asking ‘What do you hate most about the system?’ The bottom line is if they had their choice, without a doubt, it’s salary arbitration. Free agency at least you can elect to do, but in salary arbitration you’re somewhat of a prisoner of what other people have done.”

Who said that? Bud Selig. In 1992. Four years ago, the Hardball Times took a great look at the process, and you can read the article here.

The Phillies took care of Cole Hamels today but still have to deal with a group that includes Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, and Shane Victorino.

Cole Hamels Extended

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Cole Hamels, a BlueClaws pitcher in 2003, picked up a three-year contract extention today, taking him through the 2011 season. The left-hander gets $4.35 million in 2009, $6.65 million in 2010, and $9.5 million in 2011, for a total of $20.5 million.

Analysis: Good deal for both sides. The Phillies avoid the unique and logic-defying process of salary arbitration (more on this tomorrow), and they don’t have to keep a few million free protecting against the whims of an arbitrator. Hamels’ salary escalations are now locked in and very reasonable.

For Hamels, he has protection in case he gets injured in the next few seasons, and he doesn’t lose any of his free agent years, in fact he keeps one arbitration year (2012). A few years ago the Twins bought out Johan Santana’s arbitration years with a 4-year $40 million deal, so this is certainly reasonable, especially as prices for starting pitchers have gone up.

World Baseball Classic

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

What do you think about the World Baseball Classic? Personally I think it’s a unique concept that is largely harmless. Every three years is not overkill. It’s just not that easy to work into the calendar, which leads to problems, especially with pitchers. But once you get into the knockout round, it’s fun. Only thing I might do is go from 16 countries down to eight. Highlight the best teams and don’t waste time with 16-1 games early on.

Chan-Ho Park will skip the World Baseball Classic in order to focus on winning a rotation spot with the Phillies. Many assumed he would be a bullpen arm but Park is driving towards being their 5th starter behind Cole Hamels (BlueClaws 2003), Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, and Jamie Moyer. Park will compete with Kyle Kendrick (04-06), JA Happ (2005), and Carlos Carrasco (2006).

The most interesting part about this is Park breaking down into tears when making the announcement in his native South Korea. I don’t think one US player has broken down into tears when he announced his intentions to play or skip the WBC.

We briefly mentioned this in our Winter Tour live blog, that we’ll be doing another live blog during FanFest, which we also mentioned is Saturday, March 7th, beginning at noon. So much more to come on this, but keep that day clear on your calendars.

Part of FanFest will be a viewing of that day’s USA/Canada World Baseball Classic game on our video board. Canada’s 2006 WBC roster included former BlueClaw Scott Mathieson (2004), as well as Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, and Erik Bedard.

Q&A: Michael Taylor (Part 2)

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Here’s part 2 of our interview with 2008 BlueClaws OF Michael Taylor, which focuses on his time in Hawaii during their annual winter league. Click here for part 1.  

Michael TaylorQuestion: How was the Hawaiian Winter League?

Michael Taylor: It was good baseball. We had six outfielders on our team, so you’re only playing two or three games per week. One day on, two days off, so it’s hard to get into a rhythm. There is good competition. There are also some foreign big leaguers from Japan or Korea. It’s a different experience. You learn on the fly. They play a lot differently than we do. Spreading out 80 at-bats over two months with a lot of different factors, it’s not necessarily great on the baseball side for most guys because it’s different, but the experience is great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q: How are the foreign players?

MT: They throw more pitches and work harder to disrupt timing. Most domestic big leaguers, their emotions are pretty similar. It’s fastball-curve-change or fastball-slider-change. They have more deceiving motions, and change their motions a lot more. Some quick pitching, long holds, varying speeds, and they throw a lot more pitches. We had a guy who threw a four-seamer and a two-seamer, change, screwball, split-finger, all at different speeds. You’re looking at seven or eight types of pitches. Here, the best guys have maybe four. In the minors it’s usually two or three. But these guys never threw the same pitch twice and were adept at mixing up speeds and throwing anything and everything in any count. It was a challenge, especially early on. They were polished.

Q: Were you able to absorb the culture in Hawaii? (more…)

Several Former ‘Claws Get Spring Training Invites (UPDATED)

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

BastardoAmong the 19 23 players invited to Phillies spring training as non-roster invitees are four former BlueClaws players: Antonio Bastardo (2007), Jason Donald (2007), Tuffy Gosewisch (2007), and Jeremy Slayden (2006).

Bastardo (pictured) burst onto the scene with the BlueClaws in 2007, when he went 9-0 in 15 starts. He is in the top 15 of Baseball America’s top Phillies prospects…Donald hit .310 with Lakewood in 2007, earning a call-up to Clearwater at the All-Star break. He spent 2008 in Reading and played for the US Olympic team…Gosewisch hit .224 with the ‘Claws in 2007 and is one of the best defensive catchers in the system…Finally, Slayden was RF on the 2006 SAL Champion BlueClaws squad, where he hit .310. He’s hit 31 home runs over the last two seasons.

Several other former BlueClaws, including Carlos Carrasco (2006), Lou Marson (2006), Joel Naughton (2007-2008), Drew Naylor (2008), Mike Zagurski (2006), and Sergio Escalona (2007-2008), will be in big league camp as they are on the Phillies 40-man roster.

UPDATE: Also invited, on Thursday, were four more players, including Phillies 2008 first-round pick Anthony Hewitt, an OF who hit .197 with the GCL Phillies last year. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see him in Lakewood at some point this year.

Click below to read full bios, courtesy of the Phillies PR staff.

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Q&A: Michael Taylor (Part 1)

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Michael Taylor, a 2007 5th round pick of the Phillies out of Stanford, burst onto the scene in 2008 after hitting .345 between Lakewood and Clearwater. After not being ranked in the Baseball America top 30 heading into the 2008 season, Taylor’s huge 2008 boosted him up to 6th in the 2009 list released last week. Taylor took a few minutes recently to chat with BlueClaws Blog.

Question: What did you learn in Williamsport, in 2007? Was it a tougher adjustment than you expected?

Michael Taylor: It was an adjustment. It depends on each individual person, where you are. But for me, it was an obvious adjustment period. I’ve always been making strides to find where I am most comfortable. A part of Williamsport was that I just wasn’t that healthy. I had some back stuff that was inhibiting me. Not to say that was everything, part of it was full time wood bats. I dialed through it and wanted to get that first summer under my belt to have something to take into the offseason, and it worked out. I learned a lot about myself and professional baseball and what I needed to do to be successful.

Q: What did you focus on that offseason (2007-2008)?

MT: Getting healthy. As far as skills wise, you have to shorten your swing. You can get away with more with a metal bat. There’s a bigger sweet spot, you have to hone your swing and make it a simple, repeatable process. You play every day so the more you can repeat, the quicker you can get out of bad habits and be consistent every day.

Q: Did you feel you were ready for a big breakthrough heading into the year?

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Hitting the Links

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The BlueClaws hosted a Phillies Winter Tour stop on Tuesday night. Tony Graham has the story in the Asbury Park Press.

You’ll note the last line of the article, that one table burst into Fly Eagles Fly, totally missed that one for the live blog. But was obviously a Phillies-centric atmosphere.

Tony also has an update on CBA graduate Kyle Slate, who will be fighting in spring training for a spot on the BlueClaws roster on Opening Day.

Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson were elected this week to the Baseball Hall of Fame. MiLB has a look at the minor league careers of both Henderson and Rice.