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.