Out of Left Field: Citizen's and Pitching Staffs

A lot of ballparks - especially the ones with corporate names tied to them - wind up getting a nickname. As the Phillies settle into Citizens Bank Park, rest assured that some other name will likely emerge as the favorite of Phillies fans to call the place. Plus, the Phillies made some upgrades to their pitching staff, including adding starter Eric Milton. Question is though, just how good is the staff and are they getting the respect that they deserve?

Citizens Bank is paying $57.5 million over the next 25 years to have exclusive naming rights to the Phillies new ballpark, but we all know that doesn't actually give them ‘exclusive' naming rights. Their name and logo may be on the brick walls, but the only people who really have exclusive naming rights are the fans. It's a natural phenomenon to shorten given names and provide nicknames to things we love; so, the obvious question to answer is "What the heck are we gonna call this place?" Let me just take a moment to throw out some names that, while certainly enticing, won't make the ultimate cut. For instance, "The Safety Hazard" or "The House That OSHA Left" may be popular right now, but will eventually fall out of vogue. We're looking for something that's not only catchy and rolls off the tongue, but will also stand the test of time. "The New Home for the Feral Cats" is a little bit long, and we don't want people thinking that we're calling our team "The Feral Cats," although, in deference to Dave Barry, that would be a good name for a rock band.

There are already several names being floated around, and some websites have been conducting polls, with no clear winner at this point. These seem to be the most obvious choices:

CBP—a little too obvious for me, with no real flair. Plus, if you add ‘Park' to the end of it, as in: "We're going to CBP Park to catch a game," it becomes redundant.

The Cit—not bad, although it's an easy mark for jokes: "The Cit? Is that next to ‘The Stand,' or did you guys just name it that because Pat Burrell did so much ‘sitting' last season?" Also, by changing the first letter our park becomes named after acne. Juvenile, I know, but we're talking about baseball fans here.

City Park—this seems to be the favorite of the talk radio crowd, but it's confusing to me. It conjures visions of feeding pigeons, instead of visions of watching baseball. It may have made more sense if the park were actually closer to the city.

Citizen's Park—this is my favorite because it easily removes the corporateness from the name and gives it back to us, the people who will spend hard earned dollars supporting this team. It's not "Citizens" the bank, but "Citizen's" the people: It's OUR Park, plural possessive. It keeps in line with the patriotic history of our city, and is a close cousin of the stadium she replaced.

Ultimately it's up to the citizens to decide what name stays, unless Dan Patrick or, God forbid, Chris Berman beat us to it.

Speaking of which, ESPN SportsNation conducted a poll last week asking: "Which team has the best rotation?" Do you know where the Phillies rotation finished in the poll? Nowhere…because they weren't even included. The five rotations that you were allowed to vote for were: Astros, Cubs, Athletics, Red Sox, Marlins, and Yankees. Excuse me, but I have a bone to pick.

In fairness, this poll was taken the day after the Cubs had signed Greg Maddux to go along with Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement, so I can't take exception to them being included.

The Astros signed Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens to go along with Wade Miller, Jeriome Robertson, and Roy Oswalt. The only member of that group that didn't win at least 14 games last year was Oswalt, and he may actually be the best of the group, so again no issues with them being included.

The A's have had the best three-man rotation in baseball for several years with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. They added Mark Redman, who won 14 games for the World Champion Marlins last season, and heralded rookie Rich Harden. Depending on whether Harden lives up to the hype will determine if they should have been included, but I'll take no issue at this point.

When it comes to the Red Sox, Marlins, and Yankees, however, I do take major issue. How could ESPN rank these five-man rotations ahead of our Phillies? The Red Sox added Curt Schilling to go with Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. That's fine. But their four and five guys are Tim Wakefield and Byung-Hyun Kim. Yes, THAT Byung-Hyun Kim!

The Yankees boast Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, and Javier Vasquez at the top of their rotation. But their four and five guys are Jon Lieber and Jose Contreras. Now, Lieber won 20 games for the Cubs in 2001 and he may come back from injury and be that good again. Of course, historically, he had never won more than 12 games in a season prior to that. Contreras has pitched a sum total of 71 big league innings, and he was spotty at best. Plus, we have no idea how old this guy is, but he doesn't look a day under 50 to me.

Finally, the Marlins. Yes, they're the World Champs. Yes, Beckett was a world beater in the playoffs. Yes, they have their best pitcher, A.J. Burnett, returning this year. They also have last year's Rookie-Of-The-Year Dontrelle Willis and Brad Penny, both of whom won 14 games. But their fifth guy is Carl Pavano. Pavano seems to be a decent pitcher, but he had a losing record (12-13) and an ERA of 4.30 last year. Pavano's lifetime record is 39-50 with a 4.61 ERA! How are any of those rotations better than our's this year?

All of our guys won at least 14 games last season, except Eric Milton who is coming off injury. But in Milton's three seasons prior to his knee injury, he was 13-10, 15-7, and 13-9. Our fifth starter, Brett Myers, was 14-9 in his first big league season last year. That stat alone makes our rotation better than any of those six except the Cubs and Astros. Our top three guys may not be named Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, but our five guys stack up with any of the others, and should be better than several of them.

Are we the deepest rotation in the majors? Maybe not, but we should at least be in the discussion. I look forward to watching our five guys beat up the visitors in Citizen's Park this year.

Columnist's note: I welcome any feedback, please send your comments to dncurry@comcast.net.

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