Monday, August 09, 2004

Upgraded to Serious from Grave

For those of you keeping tabs on the Phillies, the patient has been removed from life support and moved to a private room. His condition has been upgraded to serious from grave.

Larry Bowa’s job is safe…for now. He thinks Philadelphia fans and the media make too much fuss about his status. Winning five out of their last six games on the West Coast will calm the natives temporarily.

Meanwhile, not wanting to feel left out, pitcher Kevin Millwood has been added to the DL. He joins reliever Billy Wagner and left fielder Pat Burrell. Starter Vicente Padilla comes off the list this week.

Wagner, by the way, visited a noted orthopedist recently for a second opinion on his ailing shoulder and had this to say, “I trust him because I know him. He’s done work on me before. Once you find a doctor you’ve had success with, then you trust him a whole lot more than anybody else. And knowing that he has no ties with team, his loyalty is to me. You have the comfort knowing there’s no motive for him. He’s not going to get a kick back and say, ‘Go on out there.’”

The results of this second exam corroborated the findings by the apparently less trustworthy (according to Wagner) doctor the team supplied earlier. Wagner went on to say he didn’t want to hurt the team or himself by going out there before he was capable of performing at his best. In this writer’s opinion the damage has been done. Wagner isn’t really a team player. He complains of being overworked when he goes more than an inning or is used more than twice a week and has spent more time clashing with the Phillies trainer and impugning the medical staff than battling opposing batters. He is without a doubt the biggest disappointment on the pitching staff this season and there have been several candidates for that title.

Brett Myers has done much to remove himself from that list. His last outing on Sunday against the Dodgers was one of his best as a pro. He mixed his fastball and curve nicely and moved along at a rapid pace. Myers may be coming around at just the right time for his team.

The most unsung hero of the team to date is Chase Utley. The Phillies have a dilemma to solve at second base. Placido Polanco, the starter, is a superb second baseman and very reliable contact hitter. Prior to July 31, rumors had him going everywhere from Oakland back to St. Louis, where Tony LaRussa understandably loves the guy. Utley, the pretender to the bag, is a less-proven but fearless fielder and a terrific hitter with a short, compact swing and plenty of pop in his bat. He is a very exciting player. What’s a team to do? Compounding their dilemma, the Phils have a terrific backup infielder in Tomas Perez, who fields and hits well, can play any position including first base, and is a terrific presence in the clubhouse.

So, the Phillies are back home. They salvaged what started out to be a disastrous road trip during which they lost six of their first seven games by winning five of their last six. Nevertheless, they left town trailing Atlanta by a half game and came back 5 ½ games behind the Braves. Playing less than .500 ball will do that to you every time.

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