Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Its "Buck-A-Shuck" Heaven in the Philly Area

I happened to notice a new trend here in cheese-steak and scrapple heaven.  In a city known mostly for eating copious amounts meat and dough in various incarnations, a little bit of the ocean has crept onto many a city eatery’s menu.   Oysters, those ever-sexy little bivalves are being featured all over the place and usually for a buck, during “happy hours” or just a specific day of the week.

Below, you’ll find a listing (in NO order whatsoever) of all the spots I could manage to find that have specific dollar oyster times or days.  So if you find yourself in need of mass quantities of these zinc-rich aphrodisiac legends, use this little blog as a starter manual, guiding you to some lands of promise.
Oyster House
1516 Sansom Street
Philadelphia,PA 19102
(215) 567-7683
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“Buck A Shuck” Happy Hours Monday-Friday 5-7 pm, Saturday 9-11 pm

Who better to start off with than the home of the “original” buck-a-shuckers?  I’ve got to add that the Oyster House does one hell of an incredible New England-style Lobster Roll too!

Pub & Kitchen
1946 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 545-0350 (NOTICE: they do not accept reservations)
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$1 oysters during happy hour Monday-Friday, 4-6 pm

This kicked up corner pub is a personal favorite of mine, so whether you love oysters or don’t, this stop bears attention.  Chef Johnny Mac’s menu always has something new to adore on it, but I’ll always come back for the Churchill, a masterpiece of burgers.

The Pour House   
124 Haddon Avenue
Westmont, NJ 08108
(856) 869-4600
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Buck-A-Shuck oysters every Wednesday

This is a place that my friends and I just cannot stop eating and drinking at! About fifteen minutes from Center City, this gem from the folks who also own P.J. Whelihan’s is one awesome beer joint serving up devilishly delicious bar food.  In terms of oysters, my wife loves the Cape Cod Wiannos and the British Colombia Fanny Bays.  Me?  I’ll take their perfectly cooked wings (Korean, Smoked Porter and Saigon Street) or a Pour House Deluxe burger any day of the week. 

Route 6
600 N. Broad St.
Philadelphia PA 19130
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Chef’s Choice $1 oysters (3 piece minimum) Monday-Friday, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Route 6 is one of Stephen Starr’s newest enterprises, having just opened in November of 2011 in the up-and-coming new hotspot of North Broad Street. Admittedly, I’ve not been to this one yet as of the publishing of this blog but I’ll tell you this:  when I see something like Crab Deviled Eggs (blue crab!) or Chicken Fried Lobster Tails, you can bet it I’m fast tracking a visit!

Devon Seafood Grill                     
225 S 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-6141
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$1 Chef’s Oysters on the half shell Sunday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. & 9-11 p.m.

Their bar has an awesome view of Rittenhouse Square whether it is summer and open-air or winter and you can watch the snow fall.  I’m in love with their Shrimp Scampi entrĂ©e, but just so ya know…during the aforementioned oyster happy hours, crab claws can be had for a mere $3 each! 

1234 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
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Happy hour Tuesday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. featuring $.99 “oyster of the day”

Chef Mike Stollenwerk’s restaurant garnered Philadelphia Magazine’s coveted “2010 Best of Philly” award for “Best New Restaurant, City” and recently moved to its new home on the ground floor of The Independent Hotel, which tripled its size.  When you’re not slurping down the oyster du jour, check out brunch for Carrot Cake pancakes or a Lobster Grilled Cheese. They’ve also host a wine list worth studying.

Snockey’s Oyster & Crab House             
1020 S. 2nd street (just above Washington Ave)
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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“Clammy Hour” Monday-Friday, 4-6 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday 2-4 p.m. Also available during all Philadelphia Eagles football games

My friends, the South Philadelphia institution known as Snockey’s (they’ve been open since 1912!) features a happy hour where the prices fall to UNDER a dollar. Yep, you can get raw or steamed clams for $.50 as well as raw or fried oysters for $.75!

Know any other places? Don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment.  I'd love to keep adding to the list!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

2012 Phillies Fallout: Reloading for 2013 (part 2 0f 2)

Okay, so yesterday I broke down the Phillies trade deadline acquisitions and movement.  What I want to do today is look at what the team needs and who is out there and feasible for them to bring in to make them much better in 2013.  There are a lot of variables here and really, I'm going to split this piece into two different scenarios: one where players already on the team shift and one where they don't


This version of the Phillies starting lineup would need the least amount of brand new pieces.  The primary part of this theory, hence the name, would be shifting SS Jimmy Rollins to 3B for the final two years of his contract and letting 2013 be the year that SS Freddy Galvis takes over the position full time.  Currently, Ruben Amaro, Jr. is alluding to Galvis potentially opening next season as the potential fix at 3B and I just can't agree with that for a few reasons.  Freddy has played a fantastic defensive short as well as second base, why move him again if he already excels elsewhere?  Additionally, the light-hitting Galvis just doesn't have the bat to be an everyday 3B.  You can live with a light-hitting shortstop that is a vacuum for the baseball, teams do it all the time. Remember Rey Ordonez, who started on the New York Mets in the late 90's?  He played roughly nine seasons and was a career .246 hitter, but his glove and acrobatics kept him in the lineup and still having people talk about him as a player.

Third Base should be Rollins new home. It is the fashionable thing for all aging veteran shortstops.  Cal Ripken did it. Alex Rodriguez did it.  Jimmy still has a great arm and his timely power projects him to be a better three-bagger than Galvis could ever be.

"The Shift" would then require no new pieces on the infield, save backups to cover for injuries and riding the bench as pinch-hitters.  Carlos Ruiz will still be catching, Ryan Howard should be that much more healthy with another off-season to work hislegs and body back into shape.  Chase Utley...ugh.  Chase Utley is the sole team enigma and I'll bet anyone out there that brass can't wait to have his contract come off the books as of the end of the 2013 season.  The team is likely stuck in the same situation next year that it was at the beginning of this year since Utley's knees are shot and not repair-ably injured.  But I have a suprise of a move here for a backup.

When this season is over, Placido Polanco becomes a free agent. I know he is pretty damned brittle at this point, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he was so injury prone because he tried to play every day.  I think it would behoove the Phillies to do what they didnot do with Raul Ibanez and attempt to bring Polanco back to the team for a low cost one-year deal (Ibanez is only making $1.1M this season).  The bright side to this is that he could be not only spell days off for Chase, but he could also fill in at 3B when Rollins needs a day off too.  Additionally, Polanco is still a solid contact hitter who hardly strikes out.  If the decreased playing time results in less body breakdown, Poly could be a bargain of a backup.

Outfield is where focus could then be shifted to bring in new talent. Admittedly, we're not going to know until next season whether or not Domonic Brown will be in the equation. Nate Schierholtz should be seen as the solid 4th outfielder and I'll assume that Juan Pierre isn't going to be here (likely a wavier deal by the end of the season).  How do you find two starting outfielders as well as someone to compete with Brown for the other spot without hitting the luxury tax? There really aren't any farm team prospects on the horizon and we already know that John Mayberry, Jr. isn't an answer for starting at any position.  What I do know, is that the following outfielders of interest will be available this off-season: Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Lee, Torii Hunter.

In either scenario that I'm proposing (the one above or the one coming below), it'd be wonderful to just sign those first two (Bourn, Hamilton) and call it a day but we know that isn't gonna happen.  Unless one of our $20+ million dollar pitchers is traded over the winter, the Phillies aren't to be considered in the Josh Hamilton conversation.  Bourn and Cabrera are interesting potential signings, each with warning signs. Bourn is having a really nice season but isn't stealing bases at the pace of the rest of his career. Do they want to offer a 30-year old declining speedster a lucrative 3-5 year contract?  If Cabrera leaves the Giants for a new team, it'll be his 5th and he isn't even 30 yet.  Could 2012 be the year he cashes in on a career season and then disappoints from here on out?  Upton has the potential to be a real steal and is young enough to still have not touched his stat ceiling even though he is an 8-year veteran. Victorino would be welcomed back at a smaller contract than he is currently looking for...much smaller actually.  Lee and Hunter are clearly in their twilight stages, but both are still solid hitters who could challenge for playing time when you don't really have ANY outfielders. I'm not in love with any of these players, personally and I think it is a pretty lackluster year for free agents which makes the Phils work that much more difficult.

Putting out the APB

In this version of the team I'll discuss the pitching staff, as both of my scenarios mainly focus on the different needs for the batters.

If Rollins doesn't want to move to 3B or the team never even mentions it, then they're going to have to put out an all points bulletin to grab as many free agents as possible. It should be noted that, God forbid, people are mentioning Ruiz possibly taking over third next season instead.

In addition to needing two and a half outfielders the team in this scenario will also need a third baseman, as Rollins would stick at short and Galvis would become a "super" utility player, moving between 2B/SS/3B. Frankly, there isn't a single free agent 3B that I'd bring to this city.  Do we really want a Mark Tehan or Scott Rolen?  David Wright, Kevin Youkilis and the non-fielding Mark Reynolds all have options and will most likely be renewed, so dream on Phillies faithful who imagine Wright manning our base for the next so many years.

The non-availability of someone to sign really makes my option of Rollins sliding over pretty darned attractive, doesn't it?  Why spend money on a bum when  you can patch the situation in-house and put that money elsewhere?

Besides the outfield (as stated above), that "elsewhere" would be the bullpen, a place that Amaro has really neglected in his time as full-time GM.  I'd still like to believe that Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes will be big-time contributors and that 2012 may have been just an aberration for both, but they'll still need some veteran support.   Two names that come instantly to mind are Ryan Madson and David Aardsma, two hard throwers coming off major injuries.  Madson still has an option but the Reds are more than likely going to buy him out.  These guys could be bargains on one-year, low cost deals.  Other really good additions would be Mike Adams, Shawn Marshall, Brandon League, Casey Janssen and option-folk like  Rafael Betancourt, Joakim Soria (another injured dude) if they're not renewed.

So while I think the bullpen has the best chance for overhaul, my biggest worry comes from the starting rotation, believe it or not.  Cole Hamels is thankfully remaining a Phillie for another six years and we've still got Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (no matter what his season looks like) and Vance Worley. Joe Blanton thankfully will not be back and I don't care how wonderful his stats say he is in the second half of a season, watching him for full seasons for the last five years will tell you that he stinks and always has. Unfortunately there are only the likes of Kevin Correia, Kyle Lohse, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano and other past their prime or Blanton-like people to take fat Joe's place.

Even more unfortunate, considering there have been rumors since a week or two before the trade deadline, Cliff Lee may not be here in 2013.  Today he was put on waivers and he is sure to be dangled during the winter.  Is this the right move?  I'm asking this and I'm not even a fan of the guy - never have been (with the exception of that one post-season behind the back catch).  Why trade Lee when you've got him under control for more than one year?  If someone has to go, shouldn't it be Halladay since his contract is up after next season?  I don't want any of them to leave the team but if we're peddling someone, it should be the guy who we have less control over. Should the Phillies trade Lee and not resign Doc, 2014 looks to be Hamels, Worley and three pitchers to be named later and that just isn't going to work for anyone.

There are many ways for the Phillies to improve themselves before 2013. What we're going to have to do as fans is trust in Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the ownership that the right pieces to the puzzle will arrive and fit in seamlessly.  It sounds easy, but since the departure of Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick at the end of 2008, Amaro's teams have incrementally taken a step backwards every season since.

Time for the former Phillie outfielder to put the owner's money where his mouth is, step up and right the ship.  One thing I'd like to point out before I depart is that when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they were second in the regular season in runs scored, first in home runs, second in RBI and third in total bases. On the pitching side, their staff was forth in ERA, fifth in complete games, eleventh in strikeouts, and fifth in WHIP.  In the years since, the Phillies have migrated from a hitting team to a pitching team and though they had three pitchers in the top five for the Cy Young award last year, they just couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Why was this change enacted?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline and the Phillies Fallout (pt.1 of 2)

We'll miss you guys!
The collective thud that was heard all through Philadelphia late yesterday afternoon just after the 4 p.m. MLB trade deadline was deafening, wasn't it? Never in my Phillies-loving life have I witnessed so many people falling off of a bandwagon so quickly.  Gotta admit that it makes me sort of happy because after checking StubHub, it looks like I'll be able to go to a few more games this year than I have during the historic 5-year run that the team has been on.

I'm not saying that the whole city jumped onto the Phillies would-be dynastic coattails because as a lifer, I can tell who has been here before along with me. We're the people who know that despite missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, there is still a hell of a lot of important baseball to be played in this city. 

See, once you get over the fact that there will be no Phillies post-season, the real fans begin looking to see what is needed to avoid this same situation in 2013.  We don't sit around moping about the run being over or that it was good while it lasted.  True, the Phillies have a long and winding road of heartbreak, but this current incarnation is a different world entirely and we owe them our faith even if it means we're not watching our team come this October.

Take a long, deep breath.  Exhale. Now, all you wannabe die-hards who only know the previous five winning seasons collect yourselves and lets take a good hard look at what transpired yesterday and what needs to happen to avoid this same mess of a season in 2013:

CF Shane Victorino traded to the Dodgers for RP Josh Lindblom and minor league pitcher Ethan Martin

Pitcher Josh Lindblom
Here is the reality of this deal: the fact that we got anything of value for Victorino is a miracle considering the Phillies weren't going to resign him in the off-season.  That said, Lindblom just turned 25 and in his short major league career has pitched 77.1 innings of relief with 71 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.91. Martin is a 23-year old former first round draft pick who has had some of the luster washed away in recent seasons but the talent is there and he is having a pretty solid 2012: 118 innings pitched, 112 strikeouts and a 3.58 ERA. His problem is control and this season he is averaging 4.7 BB/9IP which is actually DOWN from last year's 6.5 BB/9IP. Martin has only given up 5 home run balls so far this year.

Between the two, the talent is there and if Martin harnesses any of his talent - his top two pitches are his fastball (93 to 95 mph) and a power curve that's been ranked as the best in the Dodgers farm system, so says Baseball America - The Phillies will have two solid pitchers for a player they could still very well have back on their roster next season.

What I mean by that is...should Shane sit around all winter twiddling his thumbs from the lack of teams bidding on his services, the Phillies could swoop in and see if he'd come back on a lesser deal.  At last mention, Victorino stated he was looking for a 5-year deal and considering he is making nearly $10M this season, you're looking at something in the range of a $60 million dollar demand and that is being conservative.  Considering that he turns 32 in November, that is a deal approaching insanity, so who knows. If the stars align and he sits out in the open too long, maybe the Phillies would shoot him a much more reasonable 2 or 3-year offer.

RF Hunter Pence traded to the Giants for OF Nate Schierholtz, minor league C Tommy Joseph and minor league right-hander Seth Rosin

Catcher Tommy Joseph
 I'll admit to being slightly surprised by this trade because I liked Pence and thought he was productive considering what has transpired this season.  But the reality of the situation was that he played a piss poor right-field this year and when Utley and Howard were on the disabled list, Pence took a step back instead of stepping up and being a leader. While not as reckless a swinger as Victorino (or Rollins for that matter) it just isn't great to have so many batters in your lineup looking to constantly swing at balls 3 and 4. Also, going back to last post-season, Hunter was nowhere to be found...hitting a Mendoza-like .211 with no home runs in five games.

Hunter just never lived up to the hype or the cost of players that GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. sent to the Astros to get him on the team.  This trade was done to recoup something (anything) for him as well as enabling the Phils to avoid going to arbitration with Pence in the off-season and getting stuck giving a player a raise who had been nothing but a statistical disappointment.  Note that I said "statistical" disappointment, because if baseball games were won on personality only, Hunter Pence would have gotten us to the World Series single-handedly. 

In OF Nate Schierholtz the Phillies get a 28-year old serviceable outfielder who has a career .270 batting average with occasional pop who doesn't strike out all that much. As a lefty, he'd make a great platoon partner with right-handed slumping outfielder John Mayberry, Jr.

Catching prospect Tommy Joseph is something the Phillies haven't had in ages; a power-hitting catcher.  Playing in A+ ball, the then 20-year old bopped 22 home runs and had 95 RBI in 127 games, batting a solid .270.  This season in AA he has just 8 homers and 38 RBI, but the Eastern League is said to be more of a pitcher-friendly league.  Clearly though, this was an acquisition to place the team in a much more comfortable position than they were to eventually replace the Philly beloved Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz (now 33 years old).

The final piece to this trade is 23-year old Seth Rosin. This kid projects to be a fireball reliever.  in 145 innings he has struck out 161 batters. His control is solid, having walked 48 and giving up 9 home runs.  Currently in the low minors, Rosin could potentially be fast-tracked as he seems to be lagging behind in terms of age/league placement.

So this is who the Phillies lost, what they got for them and a little bit about the new folks.  As mentioned earlier, since this season is more or less finished in terms of post-season competition, I'm happy with who the Phillies acquired.  They all look like solid prospects that project to be potential major leaguers, but there is always the risk that someone won't make it...it just can't be helped. In terms of replacing Victorino and Pence on the 2012 club we've got Schierholtz and this guy right here.

OF Domonic Brown promoted from minors to Phillies, will start the rest of the season

Another thing the above two trades have done was enable the promotion of former wunderkind outfielder Domonic Brown.  Finally, this kid is going to get his fair share of playing time and the whole world will see whether he'll sink or swim.  It is about time too, as his "prospect" moniker was about to switch over to "suspect" considering he'll turn 25 in September.

There is about 1/3 of the season left to play and our Phillies are taking auditions for 2013. Who will still be here when next season begins? What holes do Phillies brass need to fill and who is available?

Check back tomorrow for the answers!