Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim ... wonderful places to live or visit - scenic, historic, and entertaining. Seattle boasts of its Space Needle and view of Mt. Rainier, Oakland sings its praises with the historic Jack London Square and scenic trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. And not to be outdone, Anaheim stands tall to being the home of Mickey Mouse and his playpen, Disneyland. Yes, great places all ..... but to a baseball team about to play all three of the cities resident baseball teams - the Mariners, A's and Angels - it is a schedule fraught with uncertainty and danger, a virtual West Coast version of a trip into the Bermuda Triangle.
Call it the luck of the draw, fortunes fate or just plain old bad luck but the Phillies, Philadelphia's resident shining nine, is scheduled to meet these three teams the next nine days. The success or failure of this foray into the Triangle of Baseball Powers may well decide the fate of the Phils over the course of the next few months. Don't believe me? It can't be that serious, you say? Ok, lets take a closer look at this Talented Triangle of Baseball Triumphets.
The Mariners, of whom the Phils play host for the first three games of the triangle, merely have the best record in baseball over the past 3 seasons, with win totals of 116, 93 and this years sparkling 37 wins. Trust me, this team has taken winning to an art form, as witnessed by their recent 4 game sweep of the AL Central leading Twins ..... in Minnesota! Led by hitters Ichiro Suzuki, Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez, this team is swift, powerful and punishing.
If by chance the Phils can get past the Mariners in decent shape, in come the Oakland A's, merely the 2nd or 3rd best team in a very strong AL. Only the fact that they play in the same division as the Mariners obscures the strong possibility that with Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez and current hitting star Eric Byrnes, this team is also capable of scoring binges that leaves one dizzy with trepidation.
And should the Phils withstand the A's arsenal, they then will enjoy a cross country flight to the land of the Magic Kingdom ..... and merely the reigning champions of the entire baseball universe, the Anaheim Angels. Ah, but they are slumping this season, and this could be a welcome breather after six brutal games with the Mariners and A's, you say. Not too fast, as the Angels are preparing to welcome back off the disabled list the part that accelerates the Angel engine, centerfielder Darin Erstad. Of course, you can pick your poison if Erstad isn't 100%, Garret Anderson or Troy Glaus will do just fine.
Friends, this is merely the offensive side of the troika, if its pitching you desire, your wish is my command. Try Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, Ryan Frankin, Barry Zito, Ted Lilly, Mark Mulder and Jared Washburn on for size. This is a potential Who's Who of the pitching staff for this year's AL All-Star game, and the Phils are the lucky recipients of an early scouting report.
There is a fairly popular cereal on the market that advertises itself as the Snap, Crackle, Pop cereal. To take license of this description and apply it to the Mariners, A's and Angels, is not really far from the truth. Snap your fingers and as quickly as you do, the Mariners are capable of scoring 4 runs in a hurry. Crackle is the sounds of the bats meeting ball that Messrs. Erstad, Anderson and Glaus command as they send spheres to the far reaches of Angels Stadium. And Pop is the sound of the catcher's mitt as Zito, Mulder and Hudson throw fastballs and curves over, around and through the unanswered swings of enemy batters facing the A's.
It certainly does not seem a particularly appetizing menu for the next nine days. And it isn't! But where there is faith - there is hope - and the Phils are not entering this Triangle without hope. Lets examine the ways our beloved Phils can navigate these potentially bumpy waters and come out safe and sound.
The Phillies do have some advantages as they enter this foray, one of them being two home games with resident Cy Young candidate Kevin Millwood on the hill. Millwood is a very strong hurler anywhere but particularly in the confines of the Vet, where he finds the mound comfortable and the surroundings appealing. If Millwood is at the top of his game, and if the Phils can scratch out 3-4 runs against the likes of Moyer and Mulder, the Phils may be able to steal a game or two.
The second big
advantage takes place in Philly where the AL teams are unable to use their
designated hitters. This is a potentially HUGE advantage for the Phils, it
basically makes HOF in waiting slugger Edgar Martinez useless, except for an
occasional pinch hitting appearance. This is no small advantage, try removing Jim Thome from the Phils lineup and see how it looks. Alas! no such advantage
exists when the Phils trek to Anaheim,
but, the Phils may employ Pat Burrell as a DH on occasion or two while
The final advantage is that the Phils have shown a fitting ability to play to the talent level of their opponents. Witness the 2 of 3 series with the Giants, 4 of 6 triumphs with the Astros, the 3 of 6 wins against the Braves, and the recent 3 game sweeps of the Expos. So, the Phils are capable of looking this Triangle right in the eye without blinking. How it turns out will be fascinating and revealing.
However, one thing is sure. Should the Phils flounder badly as they navigate the waters of the Western Version of the Bermuda Triangle, they will have a greater chance of visiting the Space Needle, Golden Gate Bridge or Disneyland .... as tourists while on vacation in October.
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