Cataldi, who co-hosts 94.1 WIP’s morning show from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m. weekday mornings and is retiring at the end of the year, may have picked a bad time to leave the sports radio business in Philadelphia.
Things always feel a bit different in Chestnut Hill when fall sets in. The leaves start to turn colors, the air turns cool and Christmas shopping gets going along the Germantown Avenue corridor.
But this year things seem different. The city’s sports teams, led by the Fightin’ Phils of Major League Baseball, have put the city on the map. The excitement that brings has reached even the quietest, most suburban parts of Philadelphia – including Chestnut Hill.
Chestnut Hill resident Angelo Cataldi, who co-hosts 94.1 WIP’s morning show from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m. weekday mornings, might be the most excited of all.
The Local caught up with Cataldi, who’s retiring at the end of this year’s football season, to hear his general impressions on the state of all Philadelphia sports, but especially the Phillies. We chatted with him Monday afternoon, just ahead of World Series Game 3.
The Phillies are in the World Series, the Eagles are 7-0, the Union are in the MLS Cup, and the Flyers are somehow winning despite poor expectations. How does it feel to be a sports radio personality in the city right now? Do you feel like you picked a bad time to retire?
Yeah, I really did. It's just by luck, but everything has gone spectacularly well the past few months, especially since the Phillies took off. I've been doing it for 33 years. This is probably the best sports week I've ever had. We’ve got the Phillies World Series games. We've got the Eagles with two games in one week, and they're undefeated. You're right about the Union. They're going for the championship. The Flyers are playing well and the Sixers even won a couple games. This may be as good a week as you'll ever find in Philadelphia sports.
How bad do we feel for the Union that they're finally in the MLS Cup and they're overshadowed by the Phillies being in the World Series and the Eagles being undefeated?
Yeah I was thinking that today. They finally have this great season and the World Series is in town and the Eagles are on this run. But you know what, in their own way they're starting to make inroads. They're starting to get where more people are paying attention to them, and it's great because they've been a good franchise for a long time and they deserve it. They deserve a spot next to the Phillies and the Eagles during this run, for sure.
Obviously the Phillies run is the one everybody's talking about. I'm curious to know how you think it compares to other championship runs you've experienced in the city. It reminds me of the Flyers run in 2010. They barely got into the playoffs and weren't expected to do anything and then they somehow ended up in the Stanley Cup.
My co-host Al Morganti and [Flyers color analyst] Keith Jones see a real similarity there. Basically, I try to relate to it from the fans' perspective. And this hasn't been like any Phillies season I've ever encountered because people were not that into it the whole season. I mean, the entire 162-game regular season. They didn't get into it until the playoffs and only when the Phillies launched that big rally against St. Louis where they got that six-run 9th inning. That's like a light switch went on. And from that point to this point, the intensity of the Phillies fanbase is second to none.
I went to a bunch of games in the regular season and the attendance really worried me, especially towards the end of the year when they clearly were playing much better. Then, like you said, the switch flipped during the playoffs. I'm expecting those attendance issues to go away whether or not they win the World Series. What do you think?
Without a doubt. I mean, they're marketing well right now. They're getting people who are buying tickets to the playoffs or even the World Series for next year. You're 100% right. It'll be a minimum of 500,000 to a million people next year just because of what's happening.
They're creating new fans too, the next generation. Little kids. You're seeing more kids now than you have for a while. And keep in mind, next year baseball will have different rules. The game is going to be played at a faster pace, and I think that'll also be good for the younger generation. For a lot of reasons, I think we saw the low point for attendance this season.
Are you also a fan of the shift being banned?
Not really. Philosophically, the players should be able to adjust themselves to a shift. They should learn how to hit the ball the other way. They have to get more balls in play and they have to get more base hits. So I think they were pushed against a wall in having to do it. But honestly, the players should have adjusted long before it ever got to this point.
What do you think the Phillies' chances are the rest of the way?
Pretty good. I honestly think the fate of the team will be determined by the three games they're playing here. If they win two out of the three, they have a good shot. They can't go back to Houston down 3-2. They either have to sweep it here or win two here and go back there 3-2.
I really feel there's a magical quality to them. Things go their way. The ball lands in the first row of the seats for a home run instead of being caught at the wall. They get the breaks it seems. So I think if they can at least win two of the three here they're going to be OK. Otherwise they're not going to make it.
What's your take on whether Framber Valdez was cheating in Game 2?
I think he is. I think he's cheating. I'm convinced he's cheating. If you look at the tape of all the stuff he was doing, those are the actions of somebody who's trying to rub a substance off his fingers before he's checked out by the umpire. There's also a period where he's throwing something to the ground that was in his glove. A lot of it is so suspect and it's coming from a team that is notorious for this kind of behavior. You saw in the game, it would've been game one where the batter actually leaned into a pitch twice to try to get hit.
These guys do not play the game the way it was designed to be played, and I hate them for it. And I want them to lose for that reason alone. Let alone that it would be great for the Phillies. I do not like the Houston Astros and nothing they do is going to change my mind.
I listened to Rob Thomson's response in the press conference when he was asked a question about that and he seemed unconcerned. I couldn't figure out why. If you watch the video, the umpire is not even looking at Valdez’s hands, and it's not like they're taking their belts off like they used to. They're not really checking them, are they?
He replaced his spikes, his belt and his glove in the middle of the game. When does that ever happen? There's so many things going on there to make you think that he is using some sort of an illegal substance. Rob Thomson's never going to say anything. He's so calm and even-natured and all that, but what I'm seeing looks extremely shady to me. And the organization is known for it. So I'm going to say they're cheating until I find out otherwise.
What's your level of concern on Zack Wheeler? He didn't have such a hot showing in game two and his fastball was down in velocity.
I don't get it. I don't like it. When you're paying a guy that kind of money and you're putting him in the biggest spot of his career, he's got to give you a little more than that. It's possible there's an injury of some kind, but I expected a lot more out of him. He gets on the mound, you've got this great mojo going after the night before and double, double, double right out of the box. I don't know.
You know what? Whatever it is, you gotta suck it up. This is for the championship. Whatever it is you’ve got to get past it and you've got to somehow do what you did most of the season. I don't think that's asking too much.
How surprised are you generally that the Phillies are in this position?
I'm amazed they're in this position. They were a slightly over .500 team in the regular season, they beat very good teams to get here. Teams that were better than them for the whole season. Atlanta was terrific. St. Louis was excellent. They've beaten really good teams to get here.
I'm surprised, but here's the thing – and this is the way it is in our city whether you like it or not. If you come close, that's great. That's 1993. We think of them fondly. Unless you win the whole thing, you're not going to be an immortal team. You're not going to be a team that we're talking about 20, 30, 40 years later. They're going to have to finish this job in order to get to the position of highest acclaim.
How big of a problem do you think Joe Girardi was in the beginning of the season?
Huge. Huge problem. He was 22-29. On a team that's in the World Series. Joe Girardi, based on his performance in Philadelphia, should never manage again. He was way too occupied with computer readouts and analytics and all this other stuff instead of bothering to develop a relationship with his players.
One of the reasons they reacted so well to Rob Thomson is because he was a human being. He wasn't a robot. Joe Girardi was a robot when he was here, and I don't recall him being that way when he was with the Yankees, especially not in the early years when he was successful with them. He did an atrocious job and they did exactly the right thing by removing him and putting in somebody who had a different approach. And you saw the results! It worked.
How do you compare Girardi with Thomson?
Thomson is more in the moment. He will make moves that are not necessarily pre-ordained. The way he brought Alvarado in early in the game in game one. He is going by his gut some, which is what you're supposed to do. Because the analytics are just designed statistically to show you who might be able to do this or that against a pitcher - that kind of thing. Matchups, stuff like that.
Thomson uses a lot of logic in what he does –.still, to me, he uses too much analytics. He's really married to this pitch count stuff. I wouldn't even bother with that right now. I would just look at the pitcher and decide, is he still able to get people out?
But he's way better at it than Girardi and he has developed a kinship with his players. These players want to play for him. There was none of that with Girardi. Girardi never got to know these players. Thomson has done that. Thomson has a bond with the players. Girardi never did.
It seems to me that analytics are a useful tool, but at the end of the day sometimes your decision has to pass the smell test. And sometimes it just doesn't.
Exactly. And that's it, sometimes you've got to incorporate logic into the actual moment. These are people who have been in baseball their whole lives. Their instinct usually will be the right one. They don't need a stat. Just do what you think is right.
A lot of people seem to look at this season as a Cinderella story, but people forget they have the fourth highest payroll in baseball. That's higher than the Astros. Are we making too much of the underdog thing?
Yeah, probably for the reasons you just said. You just made me feel that because you're right. If you have a payroll at $240 or $250 million, how is that Cinderella? It's just the way it happened that they underperformed what their contracts said they should do and then they suddenly performed and we went 'Wow, this is a really good team.'
But that's not the way most of the people are looking at it because they people haven't followed the team the whole year. Most of the people who are following now have only been watching for three weeks. And to them, they're amazing.
OK – I have to ask. Why live in Chestnut Hill?
We love Chestnut Hill. Chestnut Hill - it gives everything that we've always wanted, which is a tight-knit community. Everything is so close, we're only a couple of blocks from Germantown Avenue, which has just got all these nice little stores and great people.
We’ve only been here a little over three years now. We moved from Jersey. And I could say without question that this will be the place that we live for the rest of our lives because we just love the vibe.