Thursday, September 30, 2004

Now and Then

Bill Lyons, one of the treasures of local sports journalism, has a terrific piece on Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. In it Lyons contrasts the “slugger and the slapper” both of whom are without peers while taking diametrically opposed routes to the summit. Lyons, whose love of language may exceed his love of sport, describes Suzuki’s bat control thus: “Suzuki deftly places the ball, as though hiding Easter eggs.”

TR Goyne, whose Balls, Sticks and Stuff is always worth reading, made an interesting comment regarding my piece in which I praised Ichiro while wondering why there isn’t even more of a fuss regarding his chase of the single-season hits record. TR believes part of the reason the Ichiro craze has failed to capture the entire nation’s interest is a language barrier that prevents him from being interviewed on American television. I think there is much merit to his observation.

Meanwhile, over at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies are putting together a good September finish that, nevertheless, cannot make up for their overall losing records for the months of June, July and August. To put their too-little, too-late 16 – 8 stretch run in perspective, seven teams in the National League still own better overall records as of last night.

Speaking of last night, the second game against Pittsburgh did offer an interesting glimpse into the future as I would like to see it. Placido Polanco was at third base and Ryan Howard was at first. Now before anyone starts scheduling me for an appointment with a therapist, I don’t see Howard taking over at first for Jim Thome, but the Phillies should hold onto this youngster for at least another year both as insurance at first base and to see where else he might fit in. Thome, 34 years old, has missed a fair number of games this season due to minor injuries. I don’t have Bill James’ take on the following speculation, but I suspect bigger men suffer more injuries and slower recoveries than smaller men of comparable age.

Rounding out this new-look lineup, Jason Michaels was in left field and Chase Utley was at second. If the Phillies trade Pat Burrell, Michaels would be their left fielder. I have slowly come around to the arguments in favor of keeping Burrell, whose 82 rbi’s in an injury-shortened season would be difficult to replace, but I maintain the Burrell we have seen for the last two seasons is the player we are likely to see going forward; that is, a streaky .250 hitter who can look awesome at the plate one game and totally lost the next.

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