Connect The Dots... A Blip On The Radar Screen

It is one of the ironies of this baseball season that as poeple throughout the land celebrated a special day on Thursday, a day appropriately called May Day, one could almost hear the exact words being spoken among the brass of the Phillies minor league organization. The proverbial call for "May Day, May Day" has multiple some, a clebration of May 1, and to others a distress call for help.

Given the Phillies sinking minor league organization record, it was not hard to decipher that this "May Day" call was certainly not a celebration. But is this really a time of distress, as our minor league record sinks further below the proverbial .500 level of which we fans have become so accustomed, or is this merely a blip on the radar screen, a blip that will eventually disappear into the clouds as our record resurfaces into the stratosphere?

The answer is a complex one....with no simple solutions, but it is not difficult to closely examine some potential causes of our what may be seen as a distress signal. First, let me say that our farm system has really been the crown jewel of the Phillies organization for several years. A solid group of people led by Mike Arbuckle, Marti Wolever, Sal Artiaga and Dallas Green have led to successful scouting, drafting, signing and developing of several fine players that now constitute the core of the Phillies varsity. Players like Pat Burrell, Randy Wolf, Jimmy Rollins and Mike Lieberthal are home grown products of our system.

This season on the farm has had a different feel as teams that normally have been very successful, have been struggling. Here are some potential reasons why. First, three of the best prospects in the system, Brett Myers, Marlon Byrd and Chase Utley are now in the major leagues or at least have been for parts of the season, having varying degrees of success, but big leaguers nonetheless. This is obviously the goal of any organization....but a big hit to the farm system. Second, the organization had visa difficulties with several fine minor leaguers like Carlos Cabrera, Erick Arteaga, Robinson Tejeda and Josue Perez. These players are now state side but are just now rounding into shape and their absence cut into the depth of the organization. Cabrera, in particular, was a big loss as he is a potentially outstanding pitching prospect. Their reappearance on minor league rosters should benefit teams such as Lakewood and Clearwater. Third, the weather on the east coast has been especially cold this spring and seems to have put a chill in the bats of many of our better hitting prospects like Terry Jones, Ryan Barthelemy, Carlos Rodriguez and Anderson Machado. It is hoped that as the temperature goes up, so will their batting averages. And fourth, many of our best young prospects were left behind to train in extended spring training, deemed too young and inexperienced to be exposed to the rigors of a full minor league season.

A careful study of the rosters indicates that number one pick, Cole Hamels as well as outstanding minor league prospects Jake Blalock, Kiel Fisher, Esteban Delos Santos, Scott Matheison and Jean Machi are nowhere to be found..their names will dot the rosters of Batavia and the Gulf Coast League Phillies in June.

So.....where are we exactly? Is this May Day call a celebration announcement or a distress signal calling for immediate help? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle and patience will be needed before a definitive answer becomes clear because for every dissapointment there has been a success story. For every frustration, an exultation! For the Ryan Howards, Gavin Floyds, Danny Gonzalez's, Taylor Buchholtz's and Elizardo Ramirez's are succeeding, their radar screen is pointed nowhere but northward. And the Phillies hope that several draft and follow prospects who elected to go to a junior college will soon sign with the Phillies, including players like Steven Doetsch, Jason Fletcher and Cory Carter. This will add talent and depth to an organization that has been deep for quite some time...but could probably use some nourishment.

So, on the day after the yearly cry of "May Day, May Day", we need not necessarily look to it as a cry of distress....perhaps, rather a blip on the radar screen that will soon disappear like planes passing in the evening sky.

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