Waiting For The Bell To Toll

David Bell was supposedly the top free agent third baseman available last off-season, but since arriving in Philadelphia he has struggled at the plate, and been jumbled around in the Phillies oft-changing batting order. What the son of Buddy Bell has brought to the team is a solid stopper at third base and a great leader in the clubhouse. But many fans are still wondering, when will his offense come alive?

Sure, nobody expected David Bell to be Scott Rolen when he arrived in Philadelphia this past February, but it isn't unfair to say that to a degree, Bell has been a disappointment. One year removed from batting .261 with 20 home runs and 73 RBI for the National League Champion Giants, Bell is hitting just above the Mendoza line at .207 and only has three home runs through the first two and a half months of the season. Yes, his numbers aren't quite up to par, but what he brings to this club isn't just about his offense.

It's very hard to replace a Gold Glove third baseman, but the Phillies sure found the perfect guy for the job. Bell holds a commanding .963 fielding percentage and already has 54 putouts and 128 assists. To say that he has been a rock at third base is an understatement, and his teammates sure appreciate his effort at the hot corner.

If Bell can somehow come out of this funk that seems to be plaguing many of the Phillies hitters, he would be one of the more complete players on this team. His uncanny defensive play turn hard groundballs that could turn into outfield doubles, into outs, which is a welcomed site after watching the Placido Polanco third base experiment last season. Even though he can play every infield position except first base, third looks like a perfect spot for Bell.

Having a guy like David Bell in the clubhouse is a great benefit for young players like Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers, Pat Burrell and Marlon Byrd. Each of them, as well as Jason Michaels and Nick Punto can benefit from this veteran's experience and knowledge of what it takes to win. When the Phillies brought him and Jim Thome to this team, the organization built a foundation for solid leadership for the coming years. It will be interesting to watch the aforementioned Rollins, Myers, Burrell, Byrd, Punto and Michaels develop after being around Bell for a couple of seasons.

The Phillies are built to win now. If Bell can turn his season at the plate around and put up the type of numbers he's certainly capable of, he will become even more of an integral part of this ball club. In order to be the leader he's able to be, he must put up those numbers, in order to keep the attention of the youngsters on this team. So on many levels, Bell's turnaround may just be the key to the 2003 season.

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