Chat with Steve Phillips
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN MLB analyst Steve Phillips will drop by to take any baseball-related questions you may have.
The former general manager of the New York Mets guided the team to the World Series in 2000, working his way through the organization with which he played as a minor-leaguer. Now a fixture of ESPN's baseball coverage, Phillips offers a front-office perspective on the players and stories making news.
Send your questions now and join Phillips Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Steve Phillips (1:00 PM)
Good afternoon everbyody, looks like we're starting to define who the playoff teams are. What's on your mind?
Jamie (CT )
After Last nights performance by Dice K do the sox have the best 1-4 rotation heading into the playoffs?
Steve Phillips (1:00 PM)
I think it's a little premature to go down that road. One start for Dice-K doesn't prove much. He was impressive and I liked what I saw, but it will be interesting to see how he bounces back after this outing. The Angels rotation is deep as well, as is the Yankees, so don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Sniff, Sniff Jorge.... I think Posada acted like a fool last night in the Blue Jays- Yankees game. With the Jays being hit 6 times in 4 games by Yankee pitchers, it's about time they reacted. Jorge should know better as a catcher. What do you think?
Steve Phillips (1:03 PM)
I think that it's easy for us to be critical, but when you have a pitch thrown behind you, you start to have concerns about your career. Carlson deserves some of the blame because of the pitch, and he was too close to home plate. He was looking for trouble. I agree Posada should not have thrown an elbow, but when Carlson put himself in that position, he had to know something might happen. The bigger issue is that Posada put himself and his teammates at risk for injury and suspension...exactly what the Yankees don't need right now. Hopefully it's a lesson learned on everybody's part, and it won't happen again, because it would be a shame to have their playoff success hampered by injuries stemming from a brawl.
Joe N (email@example.com)
The Rockies have lost 4 in a row and are still 2.5 games up in the Wild Card. As a Rockies fan, should I be concerned with the streak or excited that they're getting some losing out of the way before a playoff push?
Steve Phillips (1:04 PM)
Be concerned. The Giants aren't going away because of the quality of their starting pitching. This series could turn the tide in the WC race and give the Giants confidence and momentum to push past the Rockies. It's critical that they not get swept, as that would crush their own confidence and fortify the Giants.
Andrew (Orlando, Fl)
Steve as a former GM you might be able to answer this question for me better than most. Why are all of the larger contracts signed by players in MLB so heavily back loaded in annual salary instead of front loaded? From a "value" stand point it doesn't make sense. I'd think you would want to pay a player his largest annual salaries when he is in his prime, and his production will equal his value. Then as he ages and his production goes down, his salary will go down and the contract is more reasonable. If contracts were done my way, the cubs wouldn't have the albatross that is Soriano's contract left, because he'd have made the majority of his money already, instead of owing most of his money still.
Steve Phillips (1:08 PM)
The reason contracts are back loaded is because of cash flow provisions. GMs always think that if they backload the contract, it gives them more money to spend today and the ability to put a team together to try to win now. You can always create flexibility later in the last years of a multi-year contact, where you may not be able to now. Your concept is logical, but not practical in the execution of putting a roster together when you may already be locked into other long-term contracts. Each team derived their budget in slightly different ways. Some teams look at their budget based upon actual dollars being paid that year, which may or may not include signing bonus or buyouts. Other teams base their budgets on the annual average value of the contract, which ultimately splits the contract into equal parts over time. Some teams use the GAAP format, which follows General Accounting Practices that affects tax consequences and such.
Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier. Best outfield in baseball, right?
Steve Phillips (1:10 PM)
The Dodgers outfield certainly is productive. It's definitely one of the better offensive outfields, but not necessarily one of the better ones defensively. The Cardinals with Ludwick and Holliday flanking whomever they put in center is pretty good. The Yankees have gotten great production out of their outfielders as well, as Damon, Cabrera, and Swisher have put up substantial numbers, and the Red Sox numbers, with what Ellsbury and Bay are doing, certainly deserves consideration. The Orioles aren't so bad either even though they aren't a playoff team. I always hate putting the "best" label on any one group. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and how it impacts the rest of the roster is key as well. That being said, you could do a lot worse than Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier.
Mike Hanna (Cleveland, OH)
As a Tigers fan, I can't figure out why we can't beat a last place Royals team? And with a 9 game road trip touring through Minnesota and Chicago coming up, am I right when I say the Tigers are in trouble?
Steve Phillips (1:11 PM)
For whatever reason, the Royals have given the Tigers trouble over the last few years. I don't think the Tigers are in trouble as there is not enough time left for the Twins to catch them. The Twins deserve a lot of credit for being a small-market team that can stay in the race, but I'd be shocked if they catch the Tigers.
Believe it or not, the Cubs are only four games down in the loss column for the WC with 19 to go ... is there a chance this team could actually make the playoffs?? And if so, would you be scared or relieved to face them in the postseason?
Steve Phillips (1:14 PM)
You're not out of it until you're out of it, so don't give up hope just yet. I'd be surprised if the Cubs make the playoffs...it's not just about how many games are out, it's about how many teams are in front of them. They need some teams to collapse over the last few weeks, which seems unlikely as those two teams play one another a few times. They certainly have the talent to make a great run, but I just don't believe it's gonna happen. Wouldn't be the worst thing considering our Sunday night game is Cubs-Cardinals, and it would make it legitimately more interesting if the Cubs were still in the race Sunday night. With that kind of momentum, they could be a scary team to face in October.
Steve Phillips (1:15 PM)
The question mark for the Yankees heading into the playoffs is their starting pitching. CC Sabathia hasn't had much October success, and Burnett can deliver a clunker on occasion. Pettitte has been backed off with arm fatigue, and don't forget Joba Chamberlain, who is being built back up again as the No. 4 man in the rotation. Despite the fact that the Yankees will have the best record in baseball, they still have some issues.
Will it be Pedro or Happ as the No 4 starter in the playoffs?
Steve Phillips (1:17 PM)
I think the question is whether it will be Blanton or Happ, because it looks like Pedro's pitching as a No. 3. Happ's oblique has given the Phillies some concern. Pedro has been phenomenal, though his success has come against the Giants, Nationals, and Mets (twice). He does look strong and fit. It will be very interesting to see how he bounces back after his 130-pitch performance Sunday. I couldn't understand why they let him throw that many pitches. I know his arm is fresh, but he is 37 years old with a history of shoulder problems.
Why are CY voters so obsessed with wins when it is the only stat that the pitcher can't control. If you have the privledge of voting for the CY award, you should take a couple hours out of your day, watch a little tape, and actually analyze the stats, not just the W-L and ERA....thoughts?
Steve Phillips (1:22 PM)
I don't disagree that sometimes those that vote may not look as thoroughly as they should at the Cy Young candidates. I'm not sure watching tape tells the whole story. It's not necessarily only about the quality of a pitcher's stuff, but also how he uses it. This year's NL candidates are very interesting, because you have Tim Lincecum with the strikeout numbers and the ERA lead, but lacking in wins. Then you have Carpenter and Wainwright, one of whom has more wins and starts, and the other who has been more dominating in his starts. Both of whom have fewer K's than Lincecum. If I had to pick today, I would be voting for Chris Carpenter. In the AL, I think it's a crapshoot right now as to who WILL win the Cy Young. I could see how some would think that Zach Greinke is the favorite, but he only has 13 wins, and there's never been a Cy Young winner with less than 16. Felix Hernandez and Halladay are in the mix with 15 wins and the 2/3 ERAs respectively. Then you have Sabathia with 17 wins and an ERA in the mid-threes. Mariano Rivera's having a great season as well, but I'm not sure which direction the voters will go. I would probably pick Greinke myself, because of all the stats, wins are more a product of the team than the other stats which define a pitcher's performance.
What is your take on if the Brewers should trade Fielder? Unless someone sign an extension Prince, Pujols, Howard and Adrian Gonzalez are all going to be free agents at the same time how does that effect their value?
Steve Phillips (1:23 PM)
I think that Pujols will be re-signed by the Cardinals, and I'd be surprised if Ryan Howard wasn't signed as well. Unless Adrian Gonzalez is traded, I expect both he and Fielder will be free agents. It will be to their advantage to wait until Pujols and Howard are sign, then try to establish their value. Don't worry, they'll all make a lot of money.
what will happen in the Blue Jays front office at the end of the season? Do you think they can realistically compete in the AL east or is it always going to be a 2 team race?
Steve Phillips (1:25 PM)
I think the Blue Jays have a nice collection of young pitchers that they need to keep healthy. They also have decent young position players. It's likely they'll trade Halladay and add to their talent stockpile. Their bullpen has taken a lot of losses this year and gotten very few wins. If they reverse those numbers next year, they can compete. I don't think they have a chance to win in the short term, but they can be competitive. They'll have to get more athletic in the field as that is what the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are doing. They're a little too locked in to the on-base/slugging only mentality, and that can cost athleticism. Don't give up on them, as they have a lot of pitching depth.
Mike Danes (St. Pete Beach, FL )
What do you think has been the cause of BJ Upton's lackluster performance this season? Were his post-season heroics a year ago a fluke?
Steve Phillips (1:27 PM)
I think injuries have been a problem for him, which has hampered him physically and mentally. I am concerned about his body language and disinterest in what's happening at times. It may be a case where the body language doesn't match the heart of the player, but something needs to change there. Don't be surprised if Upton is moved in a deal this offseason as the Rays try to stay ahead of the curve, as small-market teams need to do.
Jack (St. Louis)
Who, in your opinion, has the best overall pitching staff heading into the post season? Feel free to rank who has the best rotation, who has the best bullpen, and who has the best overall.
Steve Phillips (1:29 PM)
Best NL bullpen is the Dodgers, and in the AL, the Red Sox. Best NL rotation is the Cardinals, and in the AL, the best impact rotation is the Red Sox, but in terms of depth, it's the Angels, with Lackey, Kazmir, Saunders, Weaver, or Santana.
Steve Phillips (1:29 PM)
Good to talk to you this week, and by next week things may be all but decided, although I'm hoping we have a race or two to the wire.