David Bell Deserves Fans Benefit of the Doubt

If you've been following Phillies message boards and chat rooms this winter, there's been a recurring theme; David Bell is a weak link in the Phillies lineup. Fans have lamented the Phillies signing Bell and have prognosticated about dealing him to the highest bidder (if anyone would even bid). In a twist of the great William Shakespeare, I have come not to bury David Bell, but to praise him.

David Bell is a good player. He is exactly the kind of hard-nosed, win-at-all-cost player that fans in Philadelphia love to have on their teams. The problem is that we haven't really gotten to see that – yet.

When David Bell went down with an injury last season, it was because he ran full speed into the infiled fence surrounding Veterans Stadium in his attempt to catch a foul pop. Bell never slowed in his pursuit of making the play. He wound up head and shoulders into the metal fence and seemingly bounced up with no apparent damage. The next day, he was in agony.

If Bell made any mistakes in his inaugural season in Philadelphia, it was that he didn't speak up about just how much pain he was in. Had he done so, he might have been able to return late in the season. And, his average – not to mention his reputation – might not have fallen to the staggeringly low levels that it did. Playing hurt only served to aggravate the injury and prolong Bell's return to the lineup.

David Bell has never been accused of not giving everything he can on every play. He's not going to lead the league in hitting or in homeruns or probably in any other offensive category. That much is true and it's nothing new. Ed Wade knew that when he signed Bell and the fans knew it, too. While we weren't getting a league leader, Philadelphia was getting a tough player who brought something else to the team; Leadership.

Remember, that when David Bell signed, nobody knew if Jim Thome was going to be coming to Philadelphia. In fact, it was Bell who helped to convince Thome that he should sign with the Phillies. That was Bell's first test of leadership. Making plays like the one that put Thome out with a severely injured back and hip became another sign of Bell's leadership on a team that was badly in need of a leader.

When you think back on David Bell's season, remember too, that he tried not only to play through the pain, but tried on a number of occasions to return to the lineup. The next time that you have a back ache, try picking up a baseball bat and swinging it. Trust me, it won't feel too good. Keep in mind too, that it likely hurts less than if you were swinging at a 90 mile per hour fastball or adjusting the swing midway through to hit a curveball that was spinning toward the outside corner of the plate. Bell did return very late in the season in an attempt to give the Phillies whatever he could that would help them into the playoffs. It was a failed attempt, but it was also a needed attempt.

Nobody knows for sure if David Bell is fully recovered, even now. The reports are all positive, but then again, they generally are in January and February. It's only when the spring training games begin that we'll start to discover whether or not David Bell is ready and able to go. We can rest assured that he'll be willing, it's the ready and able parts that are tougher to know about for sure.

David Bell's Season Averages

(per 162 games played)
























Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories