CD's Connect the Dots... Coffee Break

Pull up a chair. Put your feet on the desk, its OK, it's coffee break time. If the players can have three days off, so can we! As for me, I like my coffee hot with cream and lots of sugar. But whatever your taste incoffee, sit down, relax and enjoy the break, you have earned it.

Yep, we finally made it.....All-Star break time, and though our beloved Phils might have preferred to keep playing, its never a bad idea to take a break, catch some rest and prepare for what promises to be an exciting second half. And lets face it, though the first half sometimes seemed like a roller coaster ride with more twists and turns than straight ahead speed, all in all our heroes had a fine first half.

So lets have some fun, do some projecting and see what might happen in thesecond half and on into October. Now understand, baseball is a funny game and just when you are sure you have it figured out, something happens to show you how little you really know. I mean, who thought Nick Punto would not only pinch hit for Pat Burrell this year, but would actually be hitting 50 points higher? And please tell me if you didn't think Tinkers to Evers to Chance didn't have a better chance of making a comeback than Cormier to Wendell to Plesac? And how many Phillie faithful would have selected Mike Lieberthal in their top batting average pool this break after he appeared nearly broken down and out this Spring? See what I mean?

Nevertheless, let us put on our prognosis prescription glasses and see where our Fightin's might end up come October. Lets assume, for assumption's sake, that the Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants are givens to have two of the four-playoff births when the dust settles. And furthermore lets project a solid Houston team getting more solid by the day and winning the NL Central. This probably leaves the Phils in a tussle with the Dodgers, D'backs, Cubs, Cardinals and maybe the Expos for the Wild Card birth.

Here is my take on these clubs.....Dodgers have no hitting, and Kevin Brown is hurt, so forget them. Cubs are the Cubs, so forget them. Expos have no home, so forget them. That leaves the D'backs and Cards as the teams most likely to get in the way of the Phils playoff dreams. And they are both dangerous, playoff-tested clubs with solid lineups and good managers. However, if the Cards don't pitch better and if the D'backs slip back to earth (and I think they will), thedoor is there for the Phils to kick it open.

Now, lets project even further and assume the Phils make it to the Roundof Four with the Giants, Braves and Astros. How would the Phils stack up? As I have been preaching all year, this team is all about pitching, pitching and more pitching. And pitching generally decides a short series. With Kevin Millwood, we have the best pitcher in the tournament and he could be expected to hurl twice. With Randy Wolf, we have the best lefty, and he might go twice also. Vicente Padilla is a wild card because you never are sure what you will get from him, but if we get anything at all, we are getting a lot because no one has a better fourthstarter than Brett Myers. Put Brandon Duckworth in long relief with the likes of Carlos Silva, toss in the savvy of Dan Plesac, Rheal Cormier, Turk Wendell, Terry Adams and Jose Mesa and you have the makings of a great playoff staff.

The Braves would counter with Maddux, Ortiz and Hampton, the Giants have Schmidt, Williams and Moss, and the Astros have Oswald, Miller and Robertson.Advantage.....Phillies. The Astros bullpen is certainly deeper and younger than ours, but in a short series, experience often means more than talent, and the Phils have the experience.

Hitting wise, we come out a poor fourth to those teams but we, more than any of the other teams, have the wild card.....literally and figuratively. You see, only the Phils have a guy, two in fact, who have basically disappeared this year, our very own Killer Bee's, Pat Burrell and David Bell. Just suppose, and remember, its coffee break time and discussions become more animated during break time, Burrell and Bell begin to hit like they were expected to, but have not.

Suddenly, a lineup with Marlon Byrd, Placido Polanco,Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu,Lieberthal and Jimmy Rollins becomes a dangerous eight. The Phils, although still not quite the offensive juggernaut of the Braves, Giants or Astros, become a team very difficult to pitch to. And with the prospect of their solid pitching staff shutting down the likes of Bonds, Sheffield, the Jones Boys and the Astros Killer Bees....well, you get my drift.

I know, I know, the donuts probably gave me a sugar high, and the coffee probably gave me too much of an adrenaline rush but...hey, its coffee break time and I have till Thursday to come down. Until then, could you please pour me another cup, and not so stingy on the sugar, please. Bottoms up!

Columnist's Note: Suggestions, questions and comments welcome. Please Contact me at connectthedots@earthlink.net and I will respond! CD


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