Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Mensch & The King

Time to give Brett Myers his due, not so much for the strong outing at Coors Field where he and the bullpen blanked the Rockies 1-0, only the second time in the history of that stadium that has ever been done, but more for what he said after the game.  Myers has always been hyper-sensitive to fan criticism of the team not just himself and like the rest of the Phillies he couldn’t have been happy with the opening day booing of Mike Lieberthal and Bobby Abreu.  So, like the mensch he hasn’t heretofore been, Myers stepped up after the game and publicly acknowledged Lieberthal called a great game on Sunday.  On a team where pitchers and catchers often don’t seem to be on the same page, this was as big a statement as the line score.

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Pitching remains the Phillies biggest concern and the front end of the bullpen its weakest link.  An even bigger problem looms, however.  Charlie Manuel has had to use closer Tom Gordon far too often including in a game the Phillies led 10 – 4 at one point before the middle of the pen allowed the Rockies to make it too close for comfort.  Given Gordon’s age and physical history, all these unnecessary early-season appearances could come back to haunt them by mid-summer.

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It should come as some comfort to Phillies’ fans to see that Albert Pujols didn’t have it in for just their team.  After hitting home runs in four consecutive at-bats over the last two games, King Albert now has nine taters for the season in 13 games to go along with his 19 RBI’s and .364 batting average.  The good news is the Phils will only face him for one more series this season.  The bad news is we only get to watch him for one more series this season other than the occasional game of the week.  Don’t despair.  If the Cards get sufficient pitching and remain healthy they and their astonishing first baseman should be in the post-season again.

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The Mets 10 -2 start is precisely the sort of burst out of the chute teams have historically parlayed into winning their divisions.  Think of it this way:  it is only the third week of April and already the third place Phillies trail the first place Mets by five full games.  Meanwhile, the Phillies are hoping to end the first month of the season over .500 and they have an excellent chance to do so with a ten-game home stand coming up against two weak teams (Nationals and Marlins) and one historically weak club that is showing some promise (Colorado).

Prior to the start of the season we mentioned that the Phils play 33 of their first 53 games at home.  Normally, that would be an advantage, but over the last few seasons the Phils have had their ups-and-downs playing in front of the faithful.  Already this season more than a few players and pundits observed it was good to get away from Citizens Bank Park after starting there with a 1 – 5 record.  But if they hope to get back into this race, they have to dominate during the current home stand.


J. Weitzel said...

Seems we both used the off day to take notice of the same things: King Albert and the Mets. I hope Pujols can become the guy that can wipe out all the previous power marks set by Bonds and company. As for the Mets, my thoughts exactly on the fast start.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Pujols is tremendous. I agree with you that I am glad he only comes back one more time, yet I would love to see him play. If the Cards were still in our division, I would be much more worried.

The Mets have a losing streak in them soon. I just know it.

I agree... take care of business in this homestand, or we are in trouble. 5 games back now does not make me worried. But if we finish April 5 or more games back, then I get concerned.