The weather is changing more rapidly than the headlines involving Britney Spears.
That can only mean one thing…spring training is here.
First off, I want to thank Phillies Nation for giving me the chance to write here, and if anyone wants to or has the dire need to email me (ladies include pictures please) throw me a bone at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve all heard the interviews, read the stories and watched the same pieces 182 times on Comcast SportsNet: apparently the Phillies are the team to beat in the National League East.
My question though, is why?
The nucleus of MVP Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins is a force to be reckoned with, but the rest of the offense is filled with question marks, holes and uncertainty.
What has Pat Burrell done to show us that he won’t do his patented ass-out move to look at strike three? The only thing Burrell has going for him, is he starts the season relatively hot…one of the only on the team that does so. Last April, he hit .300 with seven HRs, 21 RBI and only 17 strikeouts. Unfortunately all of those numbers dropped in the coming months…well except for strikeouts, they increased.
I don’t expect a .300 year with 40 jacks and 120 RBIs out of him. However, would it be too much to justify his home runs and RBI totals of last year (29 and 95)? We all know what garbage time points in the NBA are and Burrell is garbage time in MLB.
Oh and real quick, for those wondering the pretty boy hit .233 with 30 RBIs in 45 day games. Dirty stay out.
The Wes Helms/Abe Nunez platoon is going to work out better than people think. Hell, Aramis Ramirez would have been awesome, but it wasn’t happening. If the duo can combine to drive in 100 runs and score 90, this will be a success.
Count me in as probably the only one who does not want to see Chris Coste playing catcher. He might have hit .328 last year, but his defense was a liability to say the least. Too many interference calls for a part-time player, and the staff was obviously not comfortable with him catching a game.
If it turns out there is a spot to keep his bat on the bench, so be it. However, it will be Carlos Ruiz and Rod Barajas behind the plate. Hoping for Coste to get back there, shows that you obviously only read the box scores.
The other big question mark is whether Aaron Rowand will be able to rebound from a season-ending injury suffered in a collision with Utley last season. Most people seem to love Rowand for the one play he made against the Mets last season, breaking his nose and preserving a win at the same time. But let us not forget, that Rowand posted near-career lows in almost every offensive category last year, and even if he had not been injured, it would have been a disappointment.
The bench? Well the Phillies have one of the worst benches in all of baseball. There is no other way to say it. The fourth outfielder, Jayson Werth, has not swung a bat in a Major League game since 2005. Nobody knows who the fifth OF will be, but its looking like a race between Karim Garcia and Chris Roberson…keep your clothes on you exciting animals. As for the infield spots, well the platoons of Barajas/Ruiz and Helms/Nunez will take up two other spots, leaving one maybe two spots remaining. That leaves Coste, Greg Dobbs, and Danny Sandoval fighting it out.
The starting pitching this season will make or break the team. With a weak bullpen behind them, the rotation of Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton will have to consistently get to the seventh inning. Where does Jon Lieber fit into all of this? No freakin’ clue.
The one team with a glaring need for a starter is the division-rival New York Mets, who also happen to have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. However, will both of these teams swallow their pride and make an in-division trade to help each other out? Probably not.
So for now that leaves Tom Gordon in the closer role (oh boy), Antonio “Doc Oct” Alfonseca as the set-up man (my lunch is coming up), with Ryan “Two-Pitch” Madson right alongside him (there’s a long drive….). Rounding out the rest of the pen will be Matt Smith (sorry, no one-liner here…I actually like the kid) and Geoff “More miles from Scranton than Dwight Schrute” Geary. The rest of the bullpen is most likely up for grabs in the next few weeks.
The last piece to the puzzle has a leash on so tight you can almost hear Charlie Manuel suffocating. If the Phillies get out to a start that they have been accustomed to, a new manager will be in charge by mid-May. However, should we get off to a .500 or better start, the Manuel factor needs to be added in.
This will be his third season at the helm of the Phightins’, and in the previous two, our boys in red have missed the playoffs by a combined four games. Manuel himself has to be responsible for anywhere from 10-14 losses over that two-year span. The man has admitted to forgetting to double switch, pinch-hitting the likes of Mike Lieberthal and butchering a lineup on a nearly daily basis for the first two months of last season.
Sorry if I’m a pessimist or as I like to call myself, a realist. Are the Phillies capable of winning the NL East this season? Hell yea.
Is it going to be a run-away? Hell no.