Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Praise For Some....

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard clearly represent the most public faces of the Phillies now, but Jimmy Rollins remains the heart and soul of the club.

During the course of this seesaw season J-Roll has become the de facto team spokesman, the player the media inevitably turn to whenever they want to take the pulse of the club, and the always obliging and affable shortstop is a more than willing interview. He has never shied away from addressing the realities, including his own role in them.

Whatever frustrations Jimmy engenders as a leadoff batter, and there have been plenty, there is no mistaking his tremendous value as a defensive player and his virtues as the team’s ignition switch. True to form, as the season wears on Jimmy heats up at the plate, raising his overall average by fifteen points in just the last fourteen games. He has already set a club record for home runs by a shortstop (18) with 44 games remaining and is on a pace to equal his career high in rbi’s. He is third in the league in runs scored (trailing Utley by three) and has stolen 27 bases.

It’s hard to believe the 27-year old Rollins (he’ll be 28 in November) has been with the club for six seasons already. To put those numbers in perspective, Jimmy is a month older the Utley and a year older than Howard.

Whenever the camera zooms in on Jimmy, in the dugout or on base, he is invariably chattering away with teammates or opposing infielders, a wide smile on his face. He loves the game and it shows.

* * * * * * * * *

How about that Randy Wolf? Prior to the game I spoke with Jason Weitzel of Beerleaguer and both of us were pulling for Wolf to have a good night. Some night, eh? Seven innings, four hits, two walks, two strikeouts and two earned runs. Oh, and two hits and two rbi’s. I hope Wolf played two’s in the lottery before the start.

Wolf will be a free agent after this season. Beerleaguer has speculated he will be likely to return to the Phils out of a sense of loyalty to the club that stood behind him as he underwent Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation. Certainly he is making a strong case for himself, showing marked improvement in each of his four outings since his return. A revitalized Wolf would certainly help anchor next year’s rotation.

* * * * * * * * *

What should the Phillies do about David Dellucci? The guy is on a monster tear ever since he was given a chance to play regularly. That’s all he ever asked of the club. Dellucci is “only” making $950,000 this season, a relative bargain for a veteran. He becomes a free agent after the season and the guess here is he will be far more difficult to sign once he hits the open market than he would be now. No one is ever going to mistake him for Gary Maddox, but he gets to balls well and isn’t afraid of the fence. His arm is his only glaring defensive liability.

When Dellucci spells Pat Burrell in left, Shane Victorino usually starts in right. Victorino is one exciting ball player. He runs down everything in the outfield and has a terrific arm. When he took over in centerfield following Aaron Rowand’s injury, he hit for average. Upon Rowand’s return, Victorino was again relegated to a part-time and pinch-hitting role and his average dropped. Now that he is playing more or less regularly again, his average has begun to climb. He has also shown some pop lately, hitting two home runs while driving in five in his last two games. Victorino is an exciting player to watch, especially when he runs the bases.

An outfield of Dellucci, Rowand and Victorino would be short on arms but long on heart.

This alignment would once again underscore the dilemma of what to do with Pat Burrell. Many people argue a guy who hits 25 – 30 home runs and drives in 85 – 100 runs is too valuable a commodity to deal, but it is quite clear the Phillies want to do just that. They tried to move Burrell prior to the trade deadline but found few takers. One rumor had them sending Burrell to Baltimore, but he reportedly exercised his no-trade clause. Other rumors indicated Burrell would only consider a trade to the Yankees or Red Sox. Who can blame him or, frankly, them for passing?

The best chance to move Burrell might come if the Phils package him to an acceptable warm-climate contender with fading phenom Gavin Floyd. Floyd’s stock has not risen much at Scranton, where he remains inconsistent. It is doubtful another year at AAA is going to help him get over the hump, but Floyd is a starting pitcher and as such remains a member of the most coveted group in baseball today. There should be plenty of clubs who are willing to take a chance on a former number one pick who is still in his early ’20’s.

* * * * * * * * *

Dallas Green. What can we say about him that might diminish him further? How about this: can you induct a fellow into the team’s Wall of Fame one week and fire him the next?

Once or twice a season, Green can be counted on to open his big mouth and publicly ridicule some player. This time, however, the Big Mouth took aim at Charlie Manuel, whom he criticized on a radio show. Yesterday, as reported by Jim Salisbury, Green was on the field prior to the game when Manuel walked by. Apparently, Charlie went over to the Big Mouth and gave him a piece of his mind, finger wagging and all. The whole thing was over quickly and according to Salisbury, Green didn’t respond as it happened.

Green, of course, was enshrined for something he accomplished 26 years ago this October. There are many, including several of his former ballplayers, who have publicly stated that the 1980 team won the World Series despite or to spite him. Regardless of how one views that magical season of long ago, Green has done nothing since to endear him to fans or players alike. The only memorable event that comes to mind was his brief tenure with the Chicago Cubs during which he managed to land a Phillies prospect named Ryne Sandberg as a throw-in as part of a trade. There are many who believe Green was less than honest with all parties concerned in that deal. Incredibly, the Phillies ownership didn’t see it that way and invited him back.

Since his return as a senior advisor Green has remained in the background for the most part save the occasional sally forth to utter some public ridicule.

Once again, Mr. Montgomery, the debt to Mr. Green has been paid in full. Consider the enshrinement your final payment and do the right thing. Tell the Big Mouth goodbye.

By the way, does the wall plaque show him with his mouth open?


Mike H. said...

Very good stuff, Tom. J-Roll is also one of the league leaders in runs. When he scores in the first inning, the team follows suit with a win. I have resigned myself to the fact that he is not Ichiro and won't have a .400 OBP, but as long as he is a top three in the NL in runs, I have no complaints.

Mike H. said...

Oh, and one other thing. If Barry Bonds retires or moves to the AL, can Burrell and Floyd be shopped to San Francisco? Burrell is from northern California and always hits well in their stadium. I'm merely thinking out loud to see if it's a viable option.

Tom Goodman said...

Burrell remains a huge obstacle both fiscally and in the lineup. It's difficult to imagine where he might consider going given the few public disclosures we've heard thus far. Most people assume he wants a warm climate, but the Yankees and Red Sox hardly qualify on that front. He seems much more determined to resist any trade that is not to a contender. What is clear is the Phils definitely need a righthanded bat that will produce more consistently. As of now, Pat is among the least liked players on this least by the fans and columnists. One would think he'd want to escape if for no other reason than that.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I think Charlie may actually see what a lot of us see about this team.

Good for him for spanking Dallas.

Corey & Carson said...

Nice piece on Rollins. I've always liked him and have maintained he needs to bat further down in the order, because his skills are more conducive for a 6 hole hitter, and a damn good one at that!

I'd love to see the Phils bring in a true leadoff guy next season. Just imagine what the offense would do!

RickSchuBlues said...

It's nice indeed to see Wolf round back into form. I predict the Phillies will sign him to a 2-year deal with an option year in the off-season. Gillick has to know he is needed and furthermore appears to want to stay.

Agreed also on Burrell (of course), Green, Dellucci, and Rollins. I think we're pretty much eye-to-eye on everything, Tom. How does that happen?