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

<b><I>Hey! CD</b></I> is a regular Q&A column by California Dreamin, a Phillie die-hard from SoCal. His unique perspective on Phillie baseball issues & events draws grassroots interest from Phillie fans spread all over the country. Hop on the good ship PhilliePulse and send your questions to CD at <a href=mailto:connectthedots@earthlink.net>connectthedots@earthlink.net</a> and read his response to you on a future edition of this column.

Q: On Watching the Phillies in Southern California, from Jaclyn Mestichelli,
Los Angeles, CA


Hey! CD, I am a die-hard Phil's fan living in Los Angeles.  I was wondering if you knew anywhere to watch Phil's games with other phans who love the Phillies? 

CD says...
Welcome to So. Cal, Jackie, if you have just moved here. Actually, we do have a place where Phillie fanatics can come and feel right at home, almost as if they were back in the City of Brotherly Love! It's called Philly Grill, and its located on Chapman Ave. in the Anaheim-Irvine area.

They specialize in Philly Steaks, and have Philadelphia sports memorabilia all over the place. They not only have 4 screens showing Phillie, 76'er, Eagles or Flyers games, but the crowd is almost totally a Philly fanatic crowd. It's one place in Southern California where you can fully relax while watching your favorite team, never having to worry about offending Dodgers or Angels fans, there won't be any!!

Hope this helps, and if any of my other Southern California readers know of another great Philly hangout, please send me an email and I will be happy to pass it along.

Thanks for joining the Pulse, Jackie, and it's a great way to feel close to Phillie action, from either side of the coasts.

Q. On Signing Placido Polanco to a long-term contract, from Dominick Patrone, Richmond, Virginia

Hey! CD, I know that the Phils have said that they intend to offer Polanco a one-year deal. How would you read it if the Phils suddenly announced that they had signed him to a two or three-year deal? Any thoughts on this?

CD says…
Dominick, my friend, I suspect I understand where this question is headed, and I agree with you! I think you feel that if the Phils give Polanco a multi-year deal, they intend to keep him at second base, and in the process, make Chase Utley a prime candidate to be traded.

This is very perceptive on your part, and it would be very revealing on the part of the Phils. Giving Polanco a multi-year deal insures that he will be their second baseman for the duration of his contract, and would make Utley a very talented player with no position to play.

If you have read a few of my articles, you are aware that I believe Utley is already being quietly shopped for a third baseman or young catcher. The Chase Utley saga is both a very fascinating and bewildering one.

Nearly everyone in the Phil's organization fully acknowledge that Utley is the best young hitter in the system. He is a .300 hitter waiting to happen. Unfortunately, his defense is average at best, and he now plays on a Phillie team with a defensive-minded manager.

One can only speculate on how a more offensive minded manager like Danny Ozark or Jim Fregosi would have used Utley. Chances are, second base would be his to lose, and instead of wondering what uniform he will be wearing in April.

Personally, I think that unless the Phils obtain a top notch, young third sacker or catcher, I would be remiss to trade Utley. Although certainly not in the Ryne Sandberg-Julio Franco class, he will someday make the Phils regret they gave up on him so easily unless they are careful.

Nevertheless, back to your question… as transparent as the Phils generally are, and this is no criticism, a multi-year deal for Polanco would be a not-so-subtle admission that Utley's days as a Phil are numbered. If Polonco receives the anticipated one year offer, then this may indicate that the Phils still view Chase as their second baseman of the future.

Great question, Dom, and I hope this sets the stage for what may happen soon with Polanco and Utley.

Q. On the Future Destination of Ryan Howard and a Possible Trade for Adrian Beltre, from Nilesh Seshadri

Hey! CD, in your recent article, "Penny for My Thoughts," you mentioned that young slugger Ryan Howard would probably be traded.  You also indicated the Phils might trade for Adrian Beltre. Could you elaborate on both potential moves?

CD says...
Appreciate your return visit, Nilesh, and I would be happy to answer both questions. As far as Ryan Howard is concerned, his dilemma is quite simple. He plays first base in an organization with a first baseman signed for five more years.

Clearly, the Phils intend to play Jim Thome for as long as his achy back allows, and it is assumed that they hope to get at least four more productive years out of his services. Howard, on the other hand, plays only first base, and should be ready for the major leagues sometime in 2005.

This presents a potential problem for both Howard and the Phils. Though they have more than one possible solution, the most logical one is to trade Howard for a top young player, and preferably someone who can eventually play everyday.

No less an authyority than Phil's top hitting coach, Charlie Manuel, compares Howard to a young Willie Stargell. This is high praise indeed, and not without merit. Howard generates great power from the left side of the plate and will someday be a 30 home run hitter in the big leagues.

In an ideal world, Howard would be given an outfielder's glove and learn how to play left field. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and Howard remains a one-position player. So, watch for the Phils to let him play daily at Reading this year, and then if he has an outstanding season as expected, watch for the Phils to begin soliciting bids for his services next fall.

Now, as far as the Beltre situation is concerned, this is what I know. I know the Phils have begun quietly suggesting that with the signing of Doug Glanville, they may be reluctantly inclined to trade either outfielder Jason Michaels or infielder Chase Utley. They have also quietly suggested they might be open to moving both players in the right deal.

I also know that despite comments to the contrary, David Bell is still a major question mark to be ready to play this spring. After having previously announced that he would be cleared to hit in January, that timetable has now been moved to February.

Not so coincidentally, Spring Training opens in February, and the Phils must be nervous about Bell's future availability. If Bell can't play, the Phils can platoon Shawn Wooten and Chase Utley, or they can look to trade for a third baseman.

Since they are beginning to float the rumor of possibly trading Michaels and Utley, one can easily assume they would be interested in a young third baseman at a reasonable cost. Out here in Southern California, the Dodgers have financial problems, an arbitration case with reliever Eric Gagne that will cost millions, and a potential arbitration problem in Beltre.

The Phils have long been interested in him, and its possible that the interest may soon become mutual. The Dodgers are badly in need of some young and relatively inexpensive talent. It would not take much imagination to suggest that a Beltre for Utley and Michael's deal might make sense for both parties.

Please note that this is my suggestion, and I have not specifically heard Beltre's name mentioned. However, let's assume that the Phils might be interested in a young third sacker. Some interesting names besides Beltre would include Cory Koskie of Minnesota, Joe Crede of the White Sox or even Aaron Boone of the Yankees.

The David Bell story will be the most closely watched situation this spring. How it plays out, and what the Phils do to make sure it plays out well, could be a major factor in the eventual finish of the Phillies in 2004.

Thank you for the question, Nilesh, and stay with the Pulse throughout the 2004 baseball season!

Q. On Tony Curry and His Election into the Bahamas National Hall of Fame, by Scott Lusby, Oregon

Hey! CD, I know that you are a big Tony Curry fan, and I was wondering if you know that he was recently inducted into the Bahamas' National Hall of Fame? His election took place on November 22, 2003 and is quite an accomplishment for this former Phillie. Any comments on this?

CD says
Ah, Tony Curry!!  We all have our childhood memories, and mine would not be complete without memories of my love for a young and relatively obscure outfielder named Tony Curry. By the time I really knew who he was, his candle had already flickered out with Manager Gene Mauch, a victim of poor defense and sub par baseball instincts.

I have every Tony Curry baseball card ever made (there were 3!) and I still think his rookie card was among the most colorful I ever saw. For those fans unaware of Curry, he was a rookie outfielder in 1960, one of four outfield rookies on the team.

He joined Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez and Ken Walters in a platoon system that eventually eliminated both Curry and Walters. Yet, for one brief shining moment, a moment that last about three months, Curry was a star, with a batting average well above .300.  Mauch even talked in glowing terms about his young left fielder.

In fact, he made the Topps All-Rookie Team, though his .261 average was a drop of nearly 70 points from his high-water mark of over .330.  By the following spring, the spring of 1961, when I first discovered Curry, he was reduced to a pinch-hitting role. He is still mentioned as one of the worst fielding outfielders in Phil's history.

He was gone by June of 1961, and briefly resurfaced in Cleveland. Out of baseball for good in 1968, he returned home to the Bahamas, where he still lives. His story has been a sad one… of illness, and neglect. He is one of baseball's forgotten players, the one's that the Major League Player's Union doesn't want to talk about.

His induction into the Bahamas' National Hall of Fame, as a baseball player, is a great tribute to a player who might have been born 20 years too soon. Blessed with great speed and skills, he was more a victim of poor coaching than weak baseball skills. Brought up much too soon, after a wonderful year at Reading in the Eastern League, he is still a link to a period in Phillie history that produced far too many losses, and far too few success stories.

My hats off to this selection, and to a player who bridged my early childhood memories from the miseries of 1961 to the glory that was 1964.

Thank you, Scott, for your continued remembrance of one of our favorite players. Hope this is a fitting tribute to a player we both enjoyed following in our childhood.

Q. On the State of the National League, from Alan Stager, Tampa FL

Hey! CD, with the off-season moves of the National League nearly complete, who do you rate as the most improved, least improved, and how do you see the divisions stacking up?

CD says
Welcome back to the Pulse, Alan, it has been much too long since we saw you!  Your question is a timely one, given the fact that most teams will report to Spring Training in less than four weeks. Here is my assessment, with a couple caveats.

I will assume that veteran right-hander Greg Maddux eventually signs with the Chicago Cubs.

I also will assume that catcher Pudge Rodgriguez does not sign with a National league club, and instead signs the four-year deal with Detroit. 

Should Rodriguez change his mind, and either return to Florida, or surprise everyone by signing with the Cubs or Giants, everything changes.

Even so, I do not see Pudge returning to the NL, and I do believe the Cubs will sign Maddux.

Given these assumptions, I would rate the Astros, Phils, Padres and Cubs as the biggest
off-season winners in the NL. I would also rate the Braves, Marlins, Giants, Dodgers and Expos as the biggest losers.  The D'backs, Cards, Brewers and Pirates were tiny losers, and the Reds, Rockies and Mets improved slightly.

From my vantage point, the Astros seem to be the favorite for the World Series in the NL after their free-agent singings of pitchers Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. With those two added to a staff of Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller and Tim Redding, this team is nearly slump proof.

They will need to be as the Cubs are not too far behind. Maddux adds so much guile and talent to a young corp of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano.  Only the absence of a lefty starter could derail this group.

As for the Padres, I like what they have done. With the late season acquisition of Brian Giles, the return to health of Trevor Hoffman and Phil Nevin, and the continued improvement of youngsters, Adam Eaton, Sean Burroughs and Xavier Nady, this is a very talented team.  Add to this, the excitement of a new stadium, and the ingredients for a first place finish in the NL West are all there.

As for our Philadelphia Phillies, improvement has been marked and steady.  With the return of righty Kevin Millwood, and the additions of pitchers Eric Milton, Tim Worrell and Roberto Hernandez, along with versatile slugger Shawn Wooten, the Phils are primed for a first place finish in the suddenly depleted NL East.

Here then, are my early predictions for the standings of the National league in 2004. Please keep in mind that injuries, trades and rookie surprises make predictions risky at best.

However, as of today I would rate the four-playoff contestants in October to be the Astros, Cubs, Padres and Phils. I think the Cubs come in as the wildcard entrant.

I think the Phils beat the Cubs, and the Astros defeat the Padres. I then think the Astros advance to the World Series for the first time with a hard fought 7 game conquest of our beloved Fightin's.

Though standings are again subject to change, here would be my guess this late January evening.

I think the NL West looks something like this… Padres, Giants, D'backs, Dodgers and Rockies. 

The NL Central will be the strongest division and look something like this… Astros, Cubs, Cards, Reds, Brewers and Pirates.

In the NL East, it looks to me like the Phils are the class of the division, with the Braves, Marlins, Mets and Expos following in that order. If the Phils stay healthy, and Pat Burrell rebounds to form, the Phils look to be about 10 games better than the Braves.

Take care, Alan, and write these picks down and let's see how close I come to the actual finish!

And to other co-fans, how about sending me your picks…your feel for the PhilliePulse? I will post some of your predictions just prior to opening day in early April!

As usual, thank you for your continued patronage and the undying interest on our beloved Phillies. Keep the questions coming and I'll keep responding. Until next time! CD from the Left Coast

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