Friday, April 07, 2006

Cue The Optimism

OK, enough wallowing in self-pity and loathing.

The Cardinals have departed, taking Albert Pujols with them fortunately, the sun would have come up over Citizens Bank Park this morning had it not been overcast, and the Phillies expect to show up tonight when the Dodgers hit town.

For all that went wrong in the opening series of the season, this is still an exciting team.  

But make no mistake about, it is a team in transition.

If you read the national media there are stories everywhere about J-Roll and Ryan Howard.  Those who jump all over Jimmy for that uppercut swing and lack of patience should remind themselves he carried this team for the last two months of 2005, is a tremendous shortstop, loves the game, and is happy when the camera is on the Phillies, not just him.  He hit .375 during his 38-game hitting streak and, still, some are taking him to task.

Howard?  What can you say about this kid?  He has all kinds of talent and the most even disposition I’ve ever seen in a player of whom so much is expected.

Everyone in baseball speaks of Chase Utley as a throw-back player in the best senses of the term.  He came up with a great reputation as a hitter and a no-so-great one as a fielder and has made himself a fine second baseman through dint of hard work.  His glove alone should tell us everything we need to know about Chase.

Pat Burrell is still young and should be coming into his prime.  Aaron Rowand is a bulldog with the fielding grace of a gazelle.   Madson, Floyd and Hamel are young and full of promise albeit raw and unfulfilled with the latter two.  Brett Myers is still young and by all accounts has the best stuff on the entire staff but he is forever failing to deliver when it counts.  He alone among all the young players is the most frustrating to watch.

The flip side of this group of young players is the list of aging veterans, some of whom are well past their primes and others of whom have been around so long they are taken for granted.  No one better fits that description than Bobby Abreu.   The opening day booing when he was introduced was unseemly and uncalled for.  When he pulled up short on the fly ball in Wednesday night’s game, he wasn’t doing anything he hadn’t done for years and, in that case, was the correct play anyway.  Until he shows otherwise, Abreu is an adequate outfielder who is going to draw 100 bases on balls, get between 175 – 200 hits, and hit between .285 and .300.  I’d take that any day.

The pitching staff is loaded with middling starters, young and old, and the bullpen with journeymen of similar age discrepancies.  More than any other facet of the team, it is a staff cobbled together from too many disparate sources.  Again, the youngsters represent the best hope:  home grown and developed.

It’s tough to accept this team is in perennial transition, but the truth is next year they should begin to see their way clear of a number of contracts that have limited their options of late and when they do they should be able to point to the core youngsters and tell any free agent or draft pick, you will have a lot of good people around you if you sign here.

In the meantime, it’s going to be an up-and-down season with the cast of characters currently in residence.  Get used to it.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

You're right. But like a lot of teams in transition, they have a chance for the ups to overshadow the downs, which is usually what happens to "teams of destiny". I think their 2006 destiny might be helped with at least one tweak: adding a bench player, and subtracting the 12th pitcher. In the modern game, a 5-man bench is really a 4-man bench, because managers will never use the second catcher, for fear lightning might strike the in-game receiver. In non-DH [i.e. real]baseball, this translates to an inability to match right-left pitching changes, and leads to things like your #8 right-handed hitter left to face a right-handed closer at the end of the game, before an already hostile "home crowd".