2020 Spring Training Round-Up

Spring Training Round-Up 2/15: Update on Phanatic case, Mets GM responds to Wheeler’s comments


The Phanatic is the undisputed best mascot in all of sports. (Ian D’Andrea)

Friday marked the third day of spring training. Matt Klentak spoke to the media on Thursday and Andy MacPhail was available for questions on Friday. Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly has you covered on everything you need to know from both press conferences. Of course, a lot more went down in the world of Phillies baseball. Here’s another quick recap.

Spencer Howard could start the season in extended spring training

Spencer Howard spoke with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury on the Phillies Talk podcast. Salisbury asked Howard about his mindset regarding where he is going to end up to begin the 2020 season.

“I’ve heard everything from staying in extended [spring training] to starting at Triple-A,” Howard said. “I try to have no expectations for that and just do what I’m supposed to, and they’ll make that decision for me.”

Howard has not pitched past the Double-A level and has not exceeded 126 innings pitched in his professional career. Spending some time in extended spring training is just one of many possible methods the Phillies could employ throughout the season to manage Howard’s workload.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen Responds to Zack Wheeler’s Critical Comments

Zack Wheeler and the Mets agreed that the two sides would communicate with each other before he accepted an offer anywhere else in free agency. When he received his final offer from the Phillies, Wheeler, of course, consulted his former ballclub.

“It was basically just crickets when I did,” Wheeler said while speaking to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. Wheeler was not surprised.

“Because it’s them. It’s how they roll.” He went on to expand upon the quote, saying, “Obviously everything starts at the top and it filters down. Whether it be somebody’s fault or not, it starts at the top and goes down. Maybe the top gives them the OK but lower down they don’t want to do something. Or maybe up top, they don’t give you the opportunity to do something but everybody else wants to do it. That’s kind of how it was there at certain points. Everything was kind of jumpy because certain people would want something, others wouldn’t. I don’t think everyone was on the same page.

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen was made aware of Wheeler’s comments and said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” to hear them.

“From top-down, I feel like this organization supported him in giving him the opportunity to reach major-league success,” Van Wagenen said to the assembled media, including the New York Post’s Mike Puma. “Our health and performance department, our coaches, all contributed and helped him parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million, so I am proud of what our group was able to help him accomplish.”

It’s worth noting that if Wheeler remains healthy throughout spring training, he will most likely make his second start of the season against the Mets at Citi Field.

UPDATE: Wheeler responded to Van Wagenen’s comments on Saturday:

Embed from Getty Images

3 Phillies in MLB Network’s Top 100

Three Phillies made MLB Network’s Top 100 list, which is “based on player performance over the past several seasons with an emphasis on 2019 and projected 2020 performance,” according to MLB.com.

Aaron Nola (81) is down 57 spots from 2019. He’s notably ahead of Blake Snell (82), but behind Mike Soroka (67), Hyun-Jin Ryu (53) and Patrick Corbin (48).

J.T Realmuto, the Shredder’s second-best catcher in baseball, comes in at 41. He drops one spot from 40 in 2019 and is the highest-ranked catcher on the list.

Bryce Harper was the highest Phillie on the list at 33. He’s down 18 spots from 15 in his free agency year. Harper is one spot ahead of his good friend and possible Phillies trade target, Kris Bryant (34). Five other right fielders rank ahead of him, including J.D. Martinez (27), Aaron Judge (16), Ronald Acuña Jr. (12), Mookie Betts (4) and Christian Yelich (2).

Rhys Hoskins cracked the list last year at 59 but fell entirely out of the top 100 altogether this season.

Update on Phanatic Case

On Friday, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan provided a crucial update involving the case that could end in the Phanatic becoming a free agent. In early August, the Phillies filed a federal lawsuit against the mascot’s original creators, Harrison/Erickson Inc., for threatening to abandon the two party’s 1984 agreement that allows the Phillies to employ the Phanatic as their mascot “forever.” Here’s a brief summary of the update. If you want to learn more about the case, I highly suggest that you give the article a read:

Erickson and Harrison subpoenaed Major League Baseball and the Phillies. Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP), responded this week by objecting to getting involved in the situation in a 16-page-response. The Phillies followed suit with an objection of their own.

“The Phillies were surprised when Defendants served 19 deposition notices and subpoenas on January 8, 2020, seeking testimony from current and former employees of the Phillies; The Phillies organization; Major League Baseball; Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.”

According to Kaplan, the case is unlikely to be resolved before the Phanatic’s June copyright deadline, which marks 35 years since the team bought the rights to the Phanatic from his creators and when the two sides are likely to go to trial. Under the Copyright Act, creators are allowed to recover their intellectual property 35-years after its sale. The Phillies, however, are arguing that because Harrison and Erickson filed to renew the copyright in the past, they’re not entitled to stake their claim 35-years later.

The Phillies and Harrison and Erickson will meet in court on Thursday “to debate the discovery disputes.” Oddly enough, this will be the third notable court case the Phillies will be involved in next week, as Hector Neris and Realmuto are set to go to arbitration with the team.

Extras: Harper’s Valentine’s Day workout, McCutchen back in the cages after ‘tweak’, Girardi on Kingery

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