Sunday, September 19, 2004

Challenges Abound

The story of the Phillies 14th inning loss to the Montreal Expos Saturday night, their fifth loss in six games to a sub .500 team, could be found on page four of the Sunday Inquirer Sports section.

For all intents and purposes it might as well have been placed on the Obituary page.

At least some of the blame for this latest loss rests squarely on the shoulders of two relief pitchers, one genuine, the other an impostor. Billy Wagner, the genuine one, was unavailable to pitch last night as he served part of his two-game suspension for the tantrum he threw last Sunday against the Mets. Wagner, it can be fairly said, owes his team big time for the lousy season he’s had.

Having used all of the other available arms present (Felix Rodriguez was also absent for legitimate personal reasons), Larry Bowa was forced to press starter Brett Myers into a relief role. Myers gave up the winning run in the top of the 14th inning.

There have been rumors recently the Phillies were considering moving Myers to the bullpen next year or trading him for a centerfielder. One outing is insufficient to judge his relief capabilities though the thought here is that Myers doesn’t possess the temperament to succeed in a relief role. He simply isn’t cool under fire, a characteristic that would seem to serve relievers well. (On the other hand, Dennis Eckersley wasn’t exactly cool under fire or most other circumstances either and look where it landed him.)

Whatever role the Phillies’ brass decides best suits Myers, trading him would be a huge mistake. Kevin Millwood is likely to leave after this season. Eric Milton will be courted by at least the Yankees and Red Sox and may depart as well. Randy Wolfe will be returning from two stints on the DL. Vicente Padilla spent nearly two months on the DL this season, too. Gavin Floyd could probably stand another few months at least in AAA ball. Trading Myers, whose potential remains unlimited, would leave the Phils without a proven healthy arm at the very least. Moreover, the likely departure of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, with whom Myers has locked horns more than once, might be very salutary for the entire staff.

If we think this dismal season has been challenging, the off-season promises to be more so.

No comments: