Hey CD, What's The Phillie Pulse On...

<b><I>Hey! CD</b></I> is a regular Q&A column by California Dreamin, Southern California's Phillie die-hard. His unique outlook on Phillie baseball issues appeal to Phillie fans in three continents. Hop on the goodship PhilliePulse, send your questions to CD at <a href=mailto:connectthedots@earthlink.net>connectthedots@earthlink.net</a> and read his response on a future edition of this column.

Q: On the Health of Eric Milton and the Status of Chase Utley, from Andrew Long, Bloomfield, NJ

Hey! CD
, what do you know about Eric Milton's health and the status of Chase Utley? Will Utley make the team?

CD says...
Welcome to the Pulse, Andrew, nice to have you here!

First, here's my response to your query about Milton. Eric Milton has recovered from his knee surgery and pitched effectively for the Twins in September and on into the playoffs against the Yankees. He should be fine for spring training.

However, much like Scott Rolen and his back, Milton will always have to monitor the strength of his knee. His knee problems are chronic, though not career threatening. By all accounts he understands this and does therapeutic exercises to maintain the strength and flexibility of the knee joints.

What a timely question on Utley!! If I had to answer this last week I would have said that Utley was a cinch to make the roster and quite possibly start at second base for the Phils. In the last couple of days, however, reports leaked from Philadelphia that the Phils may sign free agent outfielder Doug Glanville and send Utley back to SWB to work on his defense.

If this is true, I find it utterly without foundation! Utley is going to learn nothing by going back to the minors; he's had two very solid seasons at the Triple A level. His defense is really a case of "what you see is what you get" scenario… Utley has always had defense issues and probably will for as long as he plays.

It is my opinion that the Glanville story really revolves around the uncertainly of third baseman David Bell. If Bell is unable to play, then Glanville might be a player to come in for defensive purposes or pinch run.

Frankly, I can see no other reason for Glanville to be considered as a player with the Phils. While I always admired his work ethic and his classy personality, he is not the hitter that Utley is and would only take a roster spot that could be better used.

Let us hope that the Phils don't feel such pressure as to win "at all costs" in 2004, that they would sacrifice their long-term future for a short-term gain. It is definitely time for Utley to play and I hope the Phils will be smart enough and employ Utley as their starting second baseman.

Q. On Art Mahaffey, Dallas Green and Richie Allen, from Michael L. Lahr, New Brunswick, NJ

Hey! CD
, I was wondering if you could verify a game that I faintly recall. I was only six at the time and Art Mahaffey was facing Wally Moon at Dodger Stadium. I remember that Dallas Green replaced Mahaffey and a young pre-rookie named Richie Allen played. Please remind me what game it was?

CD says…
With great pleasure, Michael. You, my friend, attended the last Phillie game of 1963, a game that Mahaffey started against the Dodgers. The Phils were completing a very successful season with a West Coast swing and had taken 2 of 3 from the Giants in San Francisco before completing their season in LA.

The Dodgers were preparing to meet the Yankees in the '63 World Series while Mauch's Men were trying to finish in fourth place in the tough NL. The Phils won the Friday night game 5-3 and won a 12-3 laugher on Saturday night behind Dennis Bennett. With a win on Sunday, the Phils would not only sweep the NL champion Dodgers but also finish with a sparkling 87-75 record and fourth place.

Art Mahaffey, just back from a serious ankle injury, did start the game and was replaced by Dallas Green with the score tied at 1-1. Green was then replaced by lefty Chris Short, who shut out the Dodgers the rest of the way. The Phils scored 2 runs late and won 3-1 to complete a season ending three game sweep.

Of particular interest that weekend was the play of a youngster, just called up to play left field. He impressed Mauch with his speed, power and baseball knowledge. This player would become one of the greatest players in Phil's history beginning the very next year, 1964. It was Richie Allen.

Hope this jogs your memory, Michael! Come back any time.

Q. On the Phils's Offer for Curt Schilling, from Adam, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Hey! CD
, I keep hearing reports from the owner in Arizona (Colangelo) that the Phils really didn't offer much for Curt Schilling. Is this true?

CD says...
It's heart-warming to know that a Phillie fan reads the Pulse from across the Atlantic! Great to have you with us, Adam, and just like they say yonder, "Herzlich Willkommen, Herr".

So much has been said and speculated regarding the Schilling story. The truth lies somewhere between Colangelo's reluctance to satisfy Schilling's desire to go home to Philadelphia and the Phil's reluctance to bring him home. As with most stories that involve so many people, it just depends on whom you choose to believe.

For what its worth, here is my take. Curt Schilling left the Phils on very bad terms with some people in the organization. Outspoken, opinionated and stubborn, there is little doubt that Schilling alienated some key higher ups within the Phils system.

However, I believe the Phils were never adverse to bringing Schilling back, though clearly they wanted Kevin Millwood more. When the Phils contacted the D'backs about Schilling, they offered infielder Nick Punto and pitcher Carlos Silva. There are various reports that the Phils offered another minor leaguer also but those reports are unconfirmed.

What can be confirmed was that the D'backs demanded either of two minor league gems, Cole Hamels or Gavin Floyd. This was never going to happen and when the D'backs refused to budge on their demands, the Phils lost interest. They probably believed one of two things… either the D'backs were not serious about trading Schilling to the Phils or that their demands were so excessive that no compromise was possible.

When Boston decided to hire Terry Francona as manager, it greatly piqued Schilling's curiosity and interest. The Red Sox-D'backs deal happened quite unexpectedly and suddenly, that it was then left to GM Theo Epstein to persuade Schilling to waive his no-trade clause and go to Boston.

Once Epstein stayed at the Schilling home for Thanksgiving dinner, the deal was sealed. Epstein, ever the intelligent and disarming charmer, was not going to let this deal slip through his fingers. Less than 24 hours later, Schilling was convinced and had agreed to terms.

It is interesting that the Phils were able to acquire lefty Eric Milton from Minnesota for the very same offer that the D'backs turned down. This was at least a confirmation that the Phils offer was not as ridiculous as Colangelo had deemed it.

Although only Schilling knows the inner wheeling and dealing of this story, it is my opinion that Colangelo was never serious about trading Schilling to the Phils, and was willing to settle for less in return to get him out of the NL. It is well known in Arizona that Schilling was not the most popular player on the team, and Colangelo never appreciated Schilling's comments about the offense, the open roof or various other aspects of how the D'backs conducted business.

As for the Phils, I will always believe they had mixed feelings from the beginning about reacquiring Schilling and were not overly disappointed when it didn't work out. In the end, the he bottom line speaks for itself...the involved parties ended up happy. Arizona traded Schilling and acquired slugger Richie Sexton with the money they saved by jettisoning Curt. The Phils ended up with not only Milton but also Kevin Millwood, a combination that, I safely claim, made them happy.

Schilling seems happy in Boston, and will now attempt to help them break a curse that has lasted since 1918. As frustrating and nerve-wrecking this whole episode was, we‘ve got nothing but the best wishes for all concerned. We hope each one is happy with their end of the bargain.

Dank dir, Adam, fuer dein Besuch. Komm' bitte wieder vorbei!

Q. On the Recent Free Agent Signing of Shawn Wooten, from Nilesh Seshadri

Hey! CD
, do you think the Phils made a good deal in signing Shawn Wooten?

CD says…
Thanks for joining the PhilliePulse crowd, Nilesh!

The signing of Shawn Wooten was a very solid move and it indicates to me that the Phils are still unsure about the health of third baseman David Bell.

What is ironic about the signing is that only days before, Wooten had turned down a similar deal with the Anaheim Angels who refused to offer him an opportunity to compete for a starting position with them. Yet, just a few days later, he accepted a similar role with the Phils. Confusing? No doubt. Believable? Not for this writer. I think the Phils have promised Wooten that if Bell is unable to play, then Shawn will have the opportunity to compete for the third base position.

Regardless of what happens with Bell, the acquisition of Wooten is likely to be a popular one with Phil's fans. He is a right-handed hitter who can catch, play first and third base and hits with power. He will instantly remind Phillie fanatics of Pete Incaviglia; both by his built and the way he attacks the ball with his swing! He has also been working out diligently and has lost 20 pounds.

Wooten will provide the Phils with a power bat off the bench, and give Jim Thome an occasional day off against tough lefties like Randy Johnson. He will also allow Thome to rest when the Phils make their three trips to Montreal and their unforgiving Astro Turf.

As a whole, it is likely that the more Wooten plays, the better he will appeal to the Phillie en masse for his hard nosed approach to the game, and the talent he brings to the table.

Thanks for the visit, Nilesh!

Q. On the possibility of bringing back pitcher Cliff Politte from Pat, Philadelphia, PA

Hey! CD
, I noticed that Cliff Politte wasn't offered a contract by Toronto. Do you think there is any chance the Phils might bring him back to pitch in our bullpen?

CD says…
Although I have learned never to say never when it comes to reunions in baseball, this is not a reunion that I expect to occur. For one thing, the Phils seem content with their right-handers out of the bullpen, and with maybe one spot left for a righty, you can expect to see that spot filled by Josh Hancock, Geoff Geary, Amaury Telemaco or Eric Junge.

Another reason is that the Phils are just not very fond of short right-handed pitchers, and Politte is one of the shorter righties in baseball. Although he does throw hard, he is not the type of pitcher the Phils like to have on the mound.

And finally... for whatever reason, Manager Larry Bowa just did not have much confidence in Politte when he was with the Phils. Bowa, much like most managers, develops trust in certain players and rarely wavers from that. It was quite obvious that Politte did not have that trust from Bowa and it was no surprise when he was traded to Toronto for veteran lefty Dan Plesac, now retired.

Look for Politte to probably get a minor league deal somewhere with an invitation to spring training. As a side note, probably the most lasting memory that Politte left as a Phillie was as the pitcher who probably cost the Phils a chance to draft and sign Mark Prior. During the last week of the 2000 season, Politte started a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The loser of the game would earn the right to draft second in the 2001 draft, while the winner would choose fourth. Politte, to the consternation of many Phillie fans, won the game 4-2 and ensured the Cubs a last place finish in the NL race.

History shows that the Cubs selected Prior, now one of the top five pitchers in baseball, while the Phils selected high school star Gavin Floyd. Actually, many teams would be happy to have either pitcher, as Floyd's ceiling is just a notch below Prior's!

Thanks for the question, Pat, and drop in again soon!

Q. On the Phillies Long List of Pitchers with One-year Contracts, from Patrick Weiss, PA

Hey! CD
, the Phils seem to have a ton of pitchers with one-year contracts. Do you think Ed Wade is being shortsighted in this regard?

CD says…
Great observation, Patrick, and welcome aboard the PhilliePulse.

It is Wade's intention to have a few pitchers with one-year deals so that he has some financial flexibility for the 2005 season. In reality, the only two pitchers that are on one-year deals are the Mills Boys, Kevin Millwood and Eric Milton.

Theoretically, both could become free agents at the end of the 2004 season and leave Philadelphia. Realistically, they probably both would like to stay and this could provide excellent motivation for them to pitch well this season. Although one never can be sure, it would be a surprise if both were back after '04; the chances are that the Phils will sign one of them and let the other leave.

Although it is purely conjecture on my part, my guess is that the Phils would like to keep Millwood if at all possible. Whether they do or not will be determined by two things… his performance in '04 and who his agent is. It is no secret that the Phils relations with current Millwood agent, Scott Boras, are acrimonious. However, it would surprise no one if Millwood decides to change agents in hopes of bettering his chances of remaining with the Phils.

If this happens, and Millwood pitches well through the All-Star break, watch for the Phils to open up negotiations on a long-term deal. If, however, Boras remains his agent, the chances of Millwood staying beyond '04 are slim.

As for Milton, I expect the Phils to bide their time and have a wait and see attitude with him. Although talented and young, he is coming off an injury marred season and the Phils will be curious to see if Milton's recovery allows him to pitch all season with good health. If he is healthy, he will win, and if he wins, the Phils will reward him.

Frankly, Patrick, I think the Phils approach is a wise one and if the Mill Boys do well, the Phils will do well. This is where they say, it is a win-win situation all the way around.

Thanks for the question, Patrick, see you again soon at the Pulse!

Q. On the Off-season Workouts of Pat Burrell, from Paul LaQuesse, Bridgeport, CT

Hey! CD
, after his terrible season, is Pat Burrell working to improve his hitting? And just what do you think happened to him last year?

CD says…
Hi, Paul, its great to see a Phillie phanatic from Connecticut, and welcome to the Pulse crowd! By the way, I receive more questions about Burrell than I do about any other Phillie player, so you are not alone in your concern for Pat the Bat.

For his off-season routine, Pat did what he felt was the wisest course of action… stayed away from baseball for a few months. He did meet with hitting guru, Charlie Manuel, in Arizona. They played golf and talked hitting philosophy, nothing more. In Manuel's opinion, the last thing Burrell needed was more advise.

Burrell does plan to get to Clearwater, Florida, early in January and work on his hitting stroke, but I suspect you will see a much different player this year. For one thing, I think the Phils will leave him alone this time, and this may really be all he needs. Pat was inundated with "advise" beginning with Mike Schmidt to Greg Gross, then Larry Bowa and down the rank and file, and ending with the grocery store clerk. Believe me, such humiliation isn't healthy for any man's self-esteem.

In his desire to try and improve, he made the fatal mistake of listening to everyone and eventually became so messed up at the plate that he was but a mere shadow of his former self. I think he finally realizes that he just needs to relax and let his natural hitting ability take over. If he does this, he will be fine, and the Phil's offense will be about 50 runs richer.

By the way, Paul, the best philosophy I ever learned on hitting came from none other than home run king, Henry Aaron. When Aaron came to bat in a World Series game, catcher Yogi Berra of the Yankees noticed that the Louisville Slugger trademark was facing towards the pitcher. Berra mentioned this to Aaron upon which Aaron replied, "Yogi, I don't come up to the plate to read, I come up to hit!" Wise words, indeed!

Appreciate your question, Paul, hope to hear from you again soon!

Q. On the decision to Non-tender Travis Chapman, from Manuel Villa, San Juan Puerto Rico

Hey! CD
, I was surprised to hear that the Phils did not offer a contract to one of their best prospects, infielder Travis Chapman. Why did they let him go?

CD says…
A Phillie phanatic from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico! Great to hear from you, Manuel.

Your question has baffled a many a Phillie fan lately, including this writer. I am also a Chapman fan and have been ever since he made his debut in 2000 by hitting .316 at Batavia.

My eyes told me then that Travis has the look of a ballplayer; from the intelligent way he plays the game, to his desire to improve himself in any way possible. Unlike many players, Chapman improved at every level and was even voted to start in the International League All-Star game last summer.

Nevertheless, the Phils made a decision to remove Chapman from their 40-man roster and is now a free agent and available to any team. The Chapman debate is an interesting one and has probably evoked more disagreement among Phil's fans than any other player in the organization. To some, like me, Chapman is a Joe Randa-type player, who would be a solid major leaguer for many years, not spectacular, but always steady.

To others, he is an AAAA ballplayer, the type who is always a bit too talented for the minor leagues, but not quite talented enough to make their mark in the major leagues. For their part, the Phils felt that with Juan Richardson, Terry Jones, Kiel Fisher, Wilmington Baez and possibly even Jake Blalock to man the hot corner, the chances of Chapman making the big leagues were slim.

Although unfortunate for many Phillie fans who hoped that Chapman would get an opportunity in Philadelphia, the fact remains that this is probably the best thing for Travis. It is very likely that he will find a team willing to give him a chance to make his mark in the big leagues as either a third baseman or as a utility player and then the debate will cease forever.

In the end, it is not anyone's opinion but his performance that will ultimately answer the Travis Chapman question. He was a credit to the Phils organization and ultimately to himself. And he will continue to be a credit to any future organization that will court his services. I am sure that I speak for Phil's fans everywhere when I say, "all the best to you, Travis, we‘ll be rooting for you wherever you go!"

Thanks for your question, Manuel, and do write again from San Juan! When you do, please share me how you came across my column.

To the Readers of PBN/The Insiders and my ConnecttheDots and Hey! CD columns...

2003 is coming to an end, and my better-half Cami and I would like to THANK YOU for having made my eight months of writing about our favorite Phillies Team, an unparalleled experience. Not only have I been immersed in what I love to do, diving deep into Phillie phandom, but also enjoying the rewards that came with touching people's lives - building friendships that could last a lifetime.

As 2004 dawns upon us, allow me to invite you to continue making the PhilliePulse alive as we altogether venture into a new era, a new spirit, and a brand new Phillie attitude!

We wish you and yours a very Happy New Year, a Prosperous 2004 and all the desires of your heart coming true! Go Phils!

CD from the Left Coast
connectthedots@earthlink.net

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