Marlon Byrd is finally showing us what all the excitement was about, and the Phils are just so much the better team because of it. Not that anyone has noticed due to the extreme slumps of Burrell, Bell and Co. but the Phils had a HUGE hole in center field, a hole that Byrd appears ready to fill. Watch for Byrd to move up in the order soon, if he is hitting, he is much too versatile to hit eighth.....I know, I know, he is about as popular in Philly as rain in June, but admit it, fans, JD Drew can flat out hit....his average is now a cool .343. Boo him all you want, but I say if Drew had signed with the Phils, only Lieby, Burrell, Rollins and Abreu would have been in Philly red Sunday to play in the double-header against the A's..…
That's how much the failure to sign one player can change the course of a team's future direction. As to whether the Phils would be better or worse, ah, that's a discussion left for another article!.... Whenever the talk turns to replacing our fifth starter, it always seems to be Brandon Duckworth who gets nominated for demotionhood. It says here that unless last years All-Star Vicente Padilla begins to pick up the pace, he may end up in the bullpen, not Duckworth. Don't mean to belabor the point but since the two inning appearance in the 2002 All-Star game, Padilla is 8-13. I do not believe Padilla's problems are arm related, I think they stem from thinking too much, and not letting his natural talent take precedence. Just a for what its worth on my part!
By the way, found the penny yet? No? That's okay, I am on a roll now.... isn't it ironic how one inning can change the whole outlook of a homestand? If Mesa gets the Mariners in the ninth inning on Thursday, we leave for Anaheim on a 7-5 note, feeling pretty good about our 3-3 split with the Beasts of the West, Seattle and Oakland. Instead, one ill placed curve ball gave us a 6-6 stand, not exactly what the doctor ordered, yet certainly better than the 4-6 we entered Sunday with.....Is there anything in baseball better than a doubleheader sweep? On a Sunday with 37,000 fans on hand?
Ah, ain't baseball grand.......until the next time the Phils blow a ninth inning lead! By the way, did anyone else think Larry Bowa was picking on the wrong guy when he very publicly criticized Mike Lieberthal for an admittedly poor base running mistake on Friday night? Hey, last time I looked, Lieby was hitting about 60 points higher than the next highest Phillie, and playing well, although probably playing in pain.
You see, pain and catchers go together like a horse and carriage. Anyway, I say Mike Lieberthal is hardly the problem with the Phils, and at this point is probably our MVP.....So, Sammy Sosa got his bats mixed up when he accidentally picked up the corked model and used it in the game? Hope my dentist is a little bit more careful about his choice of his tools of trade when I make my semi-annual visit this July!
Hey, all you David Bell bashers out there. Oh, you know who you are. You are the ones writhing with pain at the thought of 17 million dollars being spent on a .200 hitter. Well, I did a little research on Mr. Bell and I am here to tell you to relax, he will be hitting .260 before you know it. David Bell is a solid .260 hitter and though he will never be Scott Rolen, he will be an asset to the Phils, just like he was for the Mariners and Giants, book it!
Isn't it interesting how we suddenly all became University of Texas fans this week and watched them play with more than just a passing interest. Couldn't possibly be that a certain third round pick named Tim Moss was batting leadoff for them? Nah, I didn't think so....we have just all turned into Coach Auggie Garrido fans. Anyway, I don't know about you but I blinked when Moss was rounding third base, and when I opened my eyes he was high fiving his teammates in the dugout. He may be a two-tool guy but his speed tool is Grade A as far as I'm concerned.
Ok, pretend you are Curt Schilling, and you are preparing to throw your first pitch to a batter on a warm August evening. You turn around to position your players. Would you prefer to be positioning Jim Thome, Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco or.....players named Cintron, Overbay, Hammock and Barajas. I love the youth movement the D'backs are embarking on, but I suspect some of the veterans may not be quite as excited about the new learning curve. The old saying that you won't know the players without a scorecard was meant for an Arizona fan this September.
Meanwhile, Down on the Pharm.....is it true that #1 pick Cole Hamels struck out 13 hitters in 7 innings on only 85 pitches. Pardon me while I do some math. Either Hamels had some big time control of his pitches or the teams decided that since it was going to be a double-header they would play with a three ball, two strike count for the day. Don't look now, but Hamels is beginning to make 16 teams look very foolish for letting him fall to the Phils at 17 last June. He already has tremendous control of three pitches, and any manager will tell you that many a successful pitcher in the big leagues got away with only two. If Hamels and righty phenom Gavin Floyd stay healthy (pardon me while I cross my fingers....there!) the Phils may have an incredibly dominating righty-lefty duo in about four years. Stay tuned! ….
While we are talking about the minor leagues, our won-loss record is nothing to write home about unless you enjoy writing unhappy letters, but a Top 10 Prospect List that includes Hamels, Floyd, Taylor Buchholtz, Ryan Madson, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Elizardo Ramirez, Anderson Machado, Juan Richardson and Jake Blalock is still nothing to sneeze at.....Gene Mauch used to say that .300 hitters hit .300. Bobby Abreu certainly is beginning to prove the point. If ever the Phils had a .300 hitter, it is Abreu. Although he started slow, and forever seems to disappoint Phillie fans, don't look now but Abreu is slowly closing in on .300 and is well on his way to over 110 RBI. On a team with Thome, Burrell and Lieby, this is significant.
Speaking of Thome, doesn't he fit the Phils like a glove? Ditto Millwood. His tenacity in pitching Sunday while very ill with a cold is something that youngsters Myers and Duckworth can someday hang their hats on. Its called professionalism, and Thome, Millwood.....and Bell all spell the word with a capital P.
Well, friends, that's it for now….care to pay me that penny you owe me? No you say? …that's eh, okay, save it for a rainy day…..I would have talked for free anyway!
Columnist's Note: Mail, I get mail, and it is always appreciated. Comments, questions or suggestions regarding the preceding article are welcome. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond! Thanks!