Friday, July 28, 2006

Holes To Fill

Many of you presumably stop by Swing And A Miss to commiserate, be entertained or momentarily avoid the work piling up at your day job.   So, sit back, grab that mouse and let’s get started.

By Monday we can all stop logging onto ESPN’s Insider every 45 minutes to check out the latest trade rumors.  The guessing games and speculation will be over for another year and your Philadelphia Phillies will either have moved several veterans, stood pat or made a modest deal.  

We needn’t waste time or energy here recapitulating the leading candidates in this melodrama, but if you want to read a fine summary of those players currently up for parole (his term), read Jim Salisbury’s excellent piece in today’s Inquirer.   Jim suffers for all of us.

Regardless of the outcome, I am prepared, indeed expecting, to suffer again next year.  That’s right, sports fans, I do not anticipate the 2007 version of our Philadelphia Phillies will provide a marked improvement over the current edition.  There are simply too many holes to fill at one July trade deadline or subsequent off-season.  This is going to take longer than we want.

If pitching was the weak link in 2006, the potential departures of Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber, average or below though they have been, hardly points to an improved starting rotation next year.  Randy Wolf?  He makes his first start of the year this weekend.  Put him down as a complete unknown quality at this juncture of his career and rehabilitation.  Ryan Madson?  He remains a project at best and a middling middle reliever at worst.  Cole Hamels?  Full of potential, which doesn’t mean that he will fulfill it imminently.  See his first six or seven starts for confirmation.  Brett Myers?   Still the king of the hill in this town despite his personal problems.  Gavin Floyd?  Scott Mathieson?  A promising future but based on the experiences of some other rookie pitchers of late, it’s far too early to count on him.

The relief corp won’t offer much of the same either if Rheal Cormier departs or, more to the point, reverts to his every-other-year effectiveness.  Ryan Franklin?  No one wants to see him back in town with a baseball in his hand.  Arthur Rhodes?  No one wants to see him in the 215 area code preparing to walk the first batter he faces.  Geoff Geary and Aaron Fultz should return.  Tom Gordon is likely to return as well.  Fabio Castro will either be in the Witness Protection Program full time or at Reading.  (By the way, for those who are counting, and Jason Weitzel and I are, he was last sighted 21 days ago somewhere in the vicinity of the Phillies bullpen.)  There are a few other guys out in the same bullpen whose names I still haven’t committed to memory.  They can leave, too, as far as I am concerned.

The outfield is a mess.  David Dellucci could be gone before I post this morning.  If this guy doesn’t have his bags packed, he is less of an optimist than I assumed.  Pat Burrell will be back to torment us another season, taking an inordinate number of called strikes in the process.  Aaron Rowand will probably be back.  If Bobby Abreu doesn’t privately want to be released from his sentence in Philadelphia I am badly misreading him.  He looks pained to me.  Frankly, he is my poster boy for a guy who needs a change of scenery.  I would not mind seeing Bobby back in town, but I no longer believe it is in his or the Phillies’ best interest to play out the string.  (Maybe the Phillies will package Abreu and Lidle in a blockbuster deal.)  Shane Victorino is going to get a chance to play more next season.  His batting average has dropped dramatically over the last few months since he lost his temporary starting job to incumbent Rowand, but his hustle on the base paths and in the field has not suffered, proving once again that a player needs regular AB’s to stay sharp.  (Ask David Dellucci for confirmation.)

The catching situation is another disaster zone unless one believes Chris Coste can be the every day guy, which I don’t.   This spot is right up there with number two starting pitcher for problem demanding most immediate attention.

Apart from third base, the infield is set for some time to come.  I would not be at all surprised if the Phils offered David Bell, yes, that David Bell, a one year deal to return.   There are simply too many other holes to fill.  


Oisín/Wizlah said...

I partly agree, Tom. I think next year will be remarkably similar to this year, but there's always the chance we get lucky with a significantly younger rotation.

On a related note, I'm kind've annoyed that Charlie has been let play out the season. It seems wiser to plan to make your trades *and* get a new manager in for when the trades are made, so that the new guy can get to work on the team immediately. If there's major issues with the guy which crop up by October 1st, you have to start all over again. If not, you're that bit closer to a solid base for '07, and maximising the chance of getting lucky with young guys.

Given that we may well be relying on some combination of young pitching and ruiz/coste catching, I'd rather get the new guy working out these players to get a better feel for how they're going to do things now, rather than losing time in spring training and april (every Phillies Phan's Phavourite Ph**king month). Surely that's a better plan?

Tom Goodman said...

Getting lucky is not a thing I want to count on with this franchise, the law of averages notwithstanding.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

True. Although a fair chunk of our misery with this season is to see the worst possible outcomes that were sketched out for the rotation come to pass. I'm more miserable at the inevitable breakdown of wade's team (with added failure sprinkled on top from the likes of franklin etc). Next year (pending sensible moves now and in the offseason) I'm happier whatching a new team start from scratch. And if we get lucky, so much the better. As tom g noted, we've had precious little excitement this year. I think we've got greater odds of that in '07.

kuff6 said...

I think you are right on Bell, much as it pains me to say. Watching him crank out the hits in his contract year has filled me with rage. Last year, if he hit righties within 50 points of what he is doing this year (2006 vs. RHP: .290; 2005 vs. RHP: .199 in 430+ at bats), we would have made the playoffs easily.

RickSchuBlues said...

I think that even if Burrell and Abreu are held over 'til the end of the season, that's it. It's more than wishful thinking. It's obvious, as you say, that Abreu is desperate for a change of scenery. He has nothing better to do these days but take long walks out of the batters box after borderline strike calls (such an endearing trait). And Burrell is more or less down to being platooned at this point. Keep doing that and he's bound to start grumbling, and I would bet you his willingness to join more than two other major-league teams will increase by leaps and bounds. If they end up keeping Dellucci, you know it's a certainty that Burrell is through here in two months - but even if not, I can't help but believe he's going to go the way of Vicente Padilla no matter what.

For the record, I could care less what the Phillies get in return for either of them. I don't care that Abreu is the second-best outfielder in Phillies history. He will never be a proud part of Phillies history. Enough is enough.

RickSchuBlues said...

No more David Bell! No more David bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell! No more David Bell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: You must have loved watching Bobby getting picked off first base in a tight game. Maybe he was thinking about his condo in Manhattan.

RickSchuBlues said...

I would have booed that stiff until security hauled me out of the stadium.