Out of Left Field: I've Got Mail

After writing about the Phillies road trip and how it may turn out to be a good thing rather than a bad thing, the Phillies went out and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks. By beating Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb, and getting a fine outing from Brett Myers, the Phillies began to look like the team that came into the season with such high expectations. I am taking complete credit for that sweep, so I thought I might take a little time this week and answer some questions from my inbox.

The first question comes from one L. Doughty, formerly of Pittsburgh, now residing in Milwaukee, who asks: The Phillies have many rumors swirling around them about "optioning" certain players to the minor leagues. I've heard people talk about sending Jason Michaels, Brett Myers, and even Jimmy Rollins to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. My question is, how does this work, and shouldn't the Phillies be very careful about this process?

Thanks for the question LD. Rules concerning options and waivers are the most misunderstood part of the game and have led to some embarrassing moments for professional baseball people. In a nutshell, a player must be protected on the 40-man roster after three years as a pro or be subjected to the Rule 5 draft (Rule 5 procedures are a completely different issue.) In his fourth professional year (assuming the player is added to the 40-man roster) he has three years of options, meaning that the player can be called up to the Phillies, or sent down to SWB, as many times in those three years as the big club chooses. Note that this is three YEARS of options, not just three options - a common misperception.

After those three years, the player is considered "out of options" and must either remain on the 25-man roster, or be placed through waivers prior to being sent to the minor leagues. Using the players you mention above, the Phillies could "option out" Jason Michaels and Brett Myers without any problem, but Jimmy Rollins would have to be placed on waivers before being sent down, meaning any other major league club could claim him.

At least a few major league clubs would put in a claim on J-Roll, which makes this rumor somewhat preposterous. Of course, the Phillies (in most cases) could remove the waiver request if anyone did claim him, but there have been a few gaffes over the years when General Managers have mistakenly placed players on "irrevocable waivers" and lost them to another team. LD, you may remember that this happened to the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1990 when they lost prospects Wes Chamberlain and Julio Peguero to the Phillies after the Pirates GM (his name escapes me at the moment) placed them on irrevocable waivers. After a stink, the Phillies and Pirates ended up working a trade, sending Carmelo Martinez to the Pirates in exchange for Chamberlain, Peguero, and Tony Longmire. Martinez only played one more season after that trade, while Chamberlain and Longmire were members of the Phillies 1993 NL Championship team.

The next question comes from a P. P. of the Dominican Republic, who asks: Why do people keep referring to Placido Polanco as "Pipp?"

Thanks for the question PP. It may have something to do with the fact that Polanco was recently placed on the Disabled List with a leg injury described as "the same injury" that caused him to miss time last season. Chase Utley was recalled from SWB and promises to see plenty of action over the next few weeks. With a hot prospect at AAA, and Polanco entering a free agent year, it is no secret that this is a make or break year for the Phillies concerning their second base situation.

Utley has been making his case to become the Phillies regular second baseman for two years now. Offensively, he appears ready to start everyday and if he can show some defensive prowess in the short term, the Phillies may break off negotiations with Polanco and attempt to move him prior to the trade deadline, or let him leave via free agency after the season. This may very well turn into a Lou Gehrig/Wally Pipp situation for the Phillies if Utley plays well enough and the Phillies continue to play well as a team. Polanco, who was hitting .223 with just one RBI when he was placed on the DL, may become a forgotten man…except in legend like Pipp.

Our final question comes from a G. Gross, from Philadelphia, who wonders: "Will Charlie Manuel be named the Phillies hitting coach by the end of the season?"

That's a good question GG. It seems to have become in vogue to predict Charlie Manuel as a replacement for darn near everyone. The Sporting News opined that he would replace Larry Bowa as the Phillies manager by mid-season. The Phils sluggish offensive start brought some fans to call for Manuel to replace hitting coach Greg Gross.

The frustration is easy to understand. Larry Bowa told everyone who would listen that the Phillies were committed to striking out less and walking more this season. However, the statistics so far this season point to less walks and more strikeouts. Add to that the fact that the Phillies two biggest offensive question marks, Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell, chose to work on their techniques over the winter with instructors other than their hitting coach. Rollins worked with Tony Gwynn, while Burrell worked in Arizona with Manuel. Since Manuel is Jim Thome's personal hitting guru, and Burrell seems to have gotten his groove back, the intrigue surrounding Gross and Manuel is multiplied.

To be fair, the Phillies have improved in most team offensive categories since Greg Gross was named hitting coach after the 2001 season. Also, it may have been a little too much to ask for a team that boasts Jim Thome and Pat Burrell to cut down on strikes, but these are partial season statistics we're talking about and the offense is definitely showing signs of life lately. If this trend continues, Philly fans will move on to another subject, perhaps focusing instead on when Mike Schmidt will be fired as Clearwater Threshers manager.

DN Curry comes to you Out of Left Field every Thursday at PhillyBaseballNews.com. You can email him at dncurry@comcast.net.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories