Hey, CD...What's the Phillie Pulse on...?

Hey! CD 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 Spring Training in Clearwater, Florida, from Ben Hancock, Columbia, TN


Hey! CD, I will be in Clearwater, FL. For spring training and will see about a half dozen Phillie games. Do you have any special insights as to what to look for? Thanks!

CD says...
Great question, Ben, and welcome aboard the Pulse!  I envy you, my friend… enjoy it and get lots of autographs!  As for what to watch for, here are my suggestions. 

I would certainly watch David Bell to see how healthy he appears. Watch him in batting practice and see if he is driving the ball normally.

I have commented before that when I saw the Phils play the Angels in early June, I watched their batting practice and Bell was having trouble hitting the ball out of the infield. I knew something was wrong, but it wasn't until later that we all realized his problems were back related.

I would also look to see how the pitchers are throwing; does it appear free and easy, and are they throwing breaking pitches. A pitcher with a tender arm generally avoids throwing breaking pitches in practice.

Watch to see the top of the order at the beginning of the games. It seems that there is still discussion of having Jimmy Rollins bat near the top of the order. If he does, watch to see if he makes a greater effort to stay away from the high pitch. This has been his albatross.

I would also keep track of which Phillie player look to be in good shape, and who appears in need of losing a few pounds. I mention this because last spring Bobby Abreu reported to camp weighing 20 pounds more than the previous season. He contended that it was muscle, but most Phillie watchers were skeptical.

Abreu finally admitted that he was overweight and has vowed to report to camp much lighter this spring. In fact, most of the Phils seem to be very determined to report in tiptop shape. Such players as Kevin Millwood, Jim Thome, Marlon Byrd and Abreu have made ‘being in great shape' a priority this year. This can only be good news for them… and the Phils.

One more suggestion… I would keep a little diary of observations. Get to the park a good two hours before game time and take notes. You will be amazed at what you see, what you feel, and how often your observations will later prove correct.

Oh, and one more thing, Ben, have fun!!!  Thanks for becoming the newest member of the Phillie Pulse!

Q. On the Possible Acquisition of Catcher Ben Davis, from Pete Burns

Hey! CD, if we trade for catcher Ben Davis, would this cause a playing time problem with three catchers already on the roster?  I am including Shawn Wooten as the third catcher.

CD says…
It's great to see you back to the Pulse, Pete, and thanks for the question on Davis.

First, let me tell the readers where the Ben Davis talks started, and why. Actually, it started in my newest Connect the Dots article, but I didn't just pick his name out of the sky!! 

In reality, it began late in December when the Phils announced the signing of Shawn Wooten. At the signing, GM Ed Wade mentioned that the Phils might sign outfielder Doug Glanville as a free agent. Word filtered out that if and when Glanville was signed, the two players who would be affected by this signing were outfielder Jason Michaels and/or second baseman Chase Utley.

The speculation was that they would either be sent back to Triple A or traded. Rumors started that if they were offered in trade, one possibility was to acquire a solid young catcher in return. No names were mentioned.

Fast forward to this week. The Mariners are now very much interested in signing World Series hero, catcher Pudge Rodriguez, as a free agent. The interest is probably mutual, but the Mariners must rid themselves of a catcher first. On their roster is the veteran Dan Wilson and 27 year old Ben Davis. Wilson will be very difficult to trade, as he is a 10/5 player, 10 years in the league and 5 years with the same team.

This leaves Davis as the probable player to leave if the Mariners determine they can sign Pudge. Now, Davis is still young, talented, and a local product with strong Philadelphia roots. He also hits left-handed. It would not seem unreasonable to assume that the Mariners might ask the Phils if they have interest in acquiring Davis and they might accept Michaels and a second level prospect in trade.

Before we dismiss this out of hand, consider this point. While the Phils appear deep in catchers with Mike Lieberthal, Todd Pratt, and Wooten, they are actually quite vulnerable. If Lieby goes down, they are reduced to starting Pratt, who will be 37 years old in two weeks. Wooten's weakest position is catcher, the Phils signed him to play third, first and pinch-hit.

Davis would give the Phils flexibility and some youth behind the plate and would guarantee that a Lieberthal injury wouldn't necessarily derail our playoff hopes.  I have never said the Phils are interested in Davis, and they may not be. However, keep one more thing in mind.

It does appear that Michaels is going to be traded and we must ask ourselves the question… does it not make more sense to acquire a player in a position of need than just bring in another middle inning reliever, as the rumors indicate.

Acquiring Davis, who hit 6 HR and had 42 RBI in only 80 games last year gives us great strength behind the plate, both for this year and in the future. This also somewhat solidifies a position that is an organization wide black hole at the minor league level.

Again, Pete, thanks for the question, and stay with the Pulse all season!

Q. On the Phils Interest in Ben Davis, from Dazzie Vance, aka Quick Comet

Hey! CD,
I think the Phils have zero interest in Davis. However, a good AAA or AA catcher might interest them. Pittsburgh has JR House at the Triple A level and Ryan Doumit at Double A. Another scenario might be to trade Utley and/or Michaels to the Red Sox for catcher Kelly Shoppach.  What are your thoughts on this?

CD says…
QC, you have a very thorough knowledge of minor league players and your scenarios are very interesting. Frankly, I would walk to Boston or Pittsburgh if we could pry any of the three catchers you mention away from their teams. Especially for outfielder Jason Michaels, who might look very good in Pittsburgh, but would not start in Boston.

I might trade Utley for Shoppach, who is now rated Boston's #2 prospect. He looks like a solid young catcher for the future. However, it says here that Boston would not dare trade him with incumbent catcher Jason Varitek primed for free agency.  Boston is already over 100 million in salary and must sign Pedro Martinez and Trot Nixon to extensions for 2005. Having a low cost, high return youngster like Shoppach is invaluable for the Sox.

Looking at the Pirates, you present an interesting player in House. He is no longer listed among the top 10 Pirate prospects, which leads me to believe he is hurt. Doumit, a former high school teammate of Phillie draftee Jason Cooper, is now listed as the Pirates #10 prospect.

If House were healthy he would be a nice addition for the Phils. I doubt that the Pirates would let go of Doumit, who seems to have great long range potential for the Bucs. However, keep this one thing in mind when talking about the Phils making a trade that involves Michaels, Utley or any other player in their organization.

All teams have philosophies, things they believe in and ways they conduct business. GM Ed Wade has done some remarkable things to make the Phils a top rate team… but trading for young prospects is not one of them. He always insists on acquiring major league ready talent.

In fact, the only trade he has ever made where he sent a veteran to another team and acquired a prospect was when he shipped lefty Omar Daal to the Dodgers for minor league hurler Eric Junge.  If history is any indication, Michaels or Utley will not bring a prospect in return, but a major league ready player.

This is another reason that I think Davis may be a possibility. He provides the Phils with a major league ready catcher, as opposed to Shoppach, House or Doumit. Nevertheless, QC, your grasp of the minor league systems outside Philadelphia is quite impressive, and a future job as a major league GM may be in the offing for you! 

Take care, and thanks for writing to the PhilliePulse.

Q. On How You Became a Phillie Fan, from Thomas Boyd, Philadelphia, PA

Hey! CD
, it's good to see a person who understands the passion, yet despair, of being a Phillie fan!  Are you originally from Philadelphia, and if not, how did the Phightins capture your heart?

CD says…
Ah… Thomas, I know Philly despair, though I am a California native. As a small child my dad took me to my first baseball game between the hometown San Francisco Giants and a team called the Philadelphia Phillies. At the time I knew nothing of this team called the Phils, but I was told about the wonders of Willie Mays, Sam Jones, Orlando Cepeda, Mike McCormick, Jim Davenport and Willie McCovey.

I remember the game like it was yesterday. I was amazed by the green of the grass, the smell of the stadium… and the red and white of the Phillies uniforms!  I was also confused that no one was rooting for these Phils, and the crowd was happy with a hometown victory for the Giants, 7-3.

I felt myself rooting for this strange team; with players I had never heard of, players like Pancho Herrera, Robin Roberts, Bobby Malkmus and Jim Owens.  In fact, Owens had been the starting and losing pitcher that day.

The next day, filled with the wonderment of youth and the new discovery of a game I would grow to love, I convinced my dad to purchase for me my first pack of baseball cards. For only a nickel, 5 cards and a stick of delicious bubble gum was the prize!

When I opened the pack, to my astonishment were not one, but two Philadelphia Phillies… Malkmus and Owens! I took this to be a sign that this team and I would become inseparable, and so we were. I vowed to follow their exploits for the rest of the summer and my initial excitement turned to despair. Within weeks of my new discovery, the Phils embarked on a losing streak that lasted nearly one month.

My new team, the one to which I had just pledged my undying loyalty, lost 23 straight baseball games that summer. I remember how much I liked pitcher Johnny Buzhardt because he was the winning pitcher in the game before the streak began, and the pitcher who ended the streak.

So, my friend, I know despair, from the 10 game losing streak of 1964 to the Black Friday when Greg Luzinski dropped a fly ball. And though I am now in Southern California, my allegiance has never changed… a Phillie fanatic forever, though I live 3000 miles away!

Hope this answers your question, Thomas, and feel free to visit the Pulse anytime!

Q. On the Injury to third Baseman Aaron Boone and its Possible Affect on the Phillies, from Dominick Patrone, Richmond, VA

Hey! CD,
now that Aaron Boone has injured his knee and appears gone for the season, how does this loss for the Yanks affect the Phils?

CD says…
Dom, my friend, the Pulse would not be the same without a great and timely question from you!  This is a question that is probably on the minds of many Phillie fans and the answer lies in what you believe to be the status of David Bell.

As you are well aware, Bell remains an enigma after a back injury last year. He insists he is healthy, and the Phils acknowledge the same thing. So, if we assume that Bell is healthy, then the Phils may decide that they like the lineup of Bell at third and Placido Polanco at second base.

Assuming this is the case, then the Yanks loss of Boone affects the Phils not one iota.  However, if the Phils feel Bell is healthy, and they become convinced that youngster Chase Utley can handle second base, then Polanco may look very enticing to the Yankees.

Keep in mind that the Yanks have long been interested in Polanco so they may well inquire as to his availability. My guess is that it would take an Alfonso Soriano to interest the Phils and I do not see the Yanks relinquishing him.  So, it does not appear that they would make great trade partners.

However, lets look at another scenario, the one that theorizes that David Bell is not healthy and the Phils are in the market for a third baseman. Having the Yanks suddenly become a competitor for a player of the same position is never a good thing. Remember, for the Yankees, money or price is never a problem.

I mentioned last week that it would not surprise me if the Phils developed an interest in Adrian Beltre, the young third baseman with the LA Dodgers. Not surprisingly, Beltre was immediately mentioned as a player the Yanks might pursue now that Boone is injured.

So, if the Phils are quietly in the market for a third sacker like Beltre, the buyers list just got one team larger, and the Phils chances of acquiring the player just got slimmer. The Yanks are the 800-pound gorilla that no one cares to compete with.

Stay tuned on this one, Dom, as the Yanks are likely to act quickly, and it will be interesting to see if the Phils get involved in any way.

See you again soon at the Pulse!                                                                                                                                                    

To My Co-Fans: Thank you for your continued patronage and the undying interest on our beloved Phillies. Keep the questions coming to connectthedots@earthlink.net and I'll keep responding. Until next time! CD from the Left Coast

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