Friday, July 22, 2005

Spare Us

That 12 – 1 home stand is not only a distant memory at this stage, it has entered into the nether reaches of aberrations and mirages.

The Phils simply cannot string together a series of games that include good pitching and good hitting on the same day.

There is no point in a recap of yesterday’s effort other than to say you know you are in big trouble when Endy Chavez gets half the team’s hits.

So the Phils drop two of three to a Dodgers team that came into the Bank six games under .500 and sporting a lineup that included a fellow who had been in the Mexican League a month before and a few others who had called Las Vegas home until recently. Hardly the stuff of legends.

* * * * * * * * *

I am not here to bury Tim Worrell, who has enough problems without my piling on, but it is a little strange the Diamondbacks wanted a guy with his recent history on and off the field. Not as surprising, however, as the Phillies interest in the player they received in exchange for the 38-year old reliever. Here is the scouting report on the newest Phil, Matt Kata, from Stats Inc.:

"Kata has somewhat of a gliding swing, making it hard for him to adjust to off-speed pitches. He does have some power. Kata has above-average speed and is an intelligent baserunner. He is a very good second baseman, with above-average range. Kata has experience playing shortstop and third base, although his arm is not really suited to much action on the left side of the diamond.”

You want more? Here is Ed Wade on the newest Phillie:

“We thought that Kata was a good fit for us. Our scouts have always liked him. He opened the season with Arizona last season before he dislocated his shoulder. We just think with his versatility that he has a chance to help this season, and going forward, also.”

Wade is really priceless. We sure are going to miss him.

“A good fit for us.” Where? Spelling Chase Utley? The Phillies already know Kata can’t play on the other side. Half a utility infielder.

“With his versatility…he has a chance to help….” Watch out Tomas and Ramon, there’s a new guy in town and his has at least one good arm.

Finally, you want piling on? Try this on for size: the Phillies also sent cash to Arizona in this deal.

Maybe the Phillies do have a plan and I just can’t see it. Let’s call it the Shawn Wooten Plan.

1. First, acquire a player whose career has been marked by modest accomplishments (to be generous) at his previous known addresses.
2. Next, tell the press your scouts have long coveted him.
3. Further, tell the press he brings versatility to the club.
4. Make sure he doesn’t have one specific position at which he excels.
5. Rarely play him.
6. Release him within six months or designate him for assignment he won’t accept.
7. Feign ignorance when the subject is brought up.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Infinite Capacity

My capacity for outrage seems infinite. The only question is where to begin?

I cannot resist a final swipe at the All-Star process, that is until they play the game itself and the Commissioner shows up. Then, I’m sure I will have additional fodder.

Should Jimmy Rollins have been named an All Star? The number of NL shortstops having good let alone great years is admittedly small. Rollins did not finish among the top five in votes at his position, but, then, we know how that works. Jimmy just doesn’t have enough ballot stuffers in his camp at that moment. Maybe if he swung at fewer high pitches and got on base more often he could rectify that. Still, rather than name him, how about Omar Vizquel, who is having a better year? And if we want to reward players regardless of position, I would have chosen Pat Burrell, who despite his ups and downs, has made a significant comeback and is among the league leaders in rbi’s. Burrell earned a spot. So the NL carries one less shortstop. Who cares?

Then there is Billy Wagner. OK, his stats say the southpaw is having a very good year, though some (including me) would say the numbers belie a soft first half. But the real issue is do you want someone representing a team which he holds in disdain? And for those of you who say, lighten up, he’s representing the league I say, he is introduced as a Phillie and wears a Phillies cap. By the end of this month the whole matter of his attitude towards the Phillies will probably be moot anyway. I expect Billy to go bye-bye.

* * * * * * * * *

The just-concluded series against the Pirates was vintage Phillies baseball. Up. Down. Up. Down. So, they return to the less-than-friendly confines of CBP for a three game set against the division leading Nationals. The Phils have a solid shot at entering the All-Star break below .500.

For weeks I have defended the players, insisting they were trying their best. Having lost 19 of their last 26 games I have to conclude their best just isn’t good enough. The split in Pittsburgh did change my mind about one thing, however; I don’t think I have ever watched a less intelligent team. They show an almost universal lack of patience or discipline at the plate. With one or two exceptions they haven’t a clue about how to work the count. Almost no one among them goes the other way with a pitch. Name someone who consistently moves runners along. They don’t hit and run. They are a team that simply lacks the fundamentals when it comes to batting.

As for pitching, I don’t know what to make of Brett Myers. Last night’s outing could have been even worse were it not for some defensive gems including one by Pat Burrell. Myers ran out of gas quickly on a night that wasn’t that warm according to the broadcasters. He took to walking around the mound in a visible and unsuccessful attempt to regain his composure. He didn’t like the calls he was getting. When he stepped back on the rubber he seemed to be in a hurry to throw the next pitch, to literally get it over with since he wasn’t getting it over in the other sense. In sum, he handled himself poorly and the results showed it everywhere but in the total number of runs he gave up. Myers has pitched poorly in three out of his last four outings. Prior to last night he pitched a real gem against Atlanta. But last night’s effort erased that memory quickly. Now in his third season Myers exhibits a lack of consistency one expects from a number one or two starter. Each time out has become an adventure again. He cannot be relied on.