Let's begin by acknowledging Ryan Howard's salary increase of more than 100% is nothing to sneeze at. Let us further note his salary is the largest ever paid to a player with fewer than two years total service , exceeding the $690,000 Kerry Wood earned in 1999. And finally, let us not forget the increase matches that paid to Albert Pujols, the current barometer for all things excellent in baseball.
That said, the Phillies have blown yet another public relations opportunity, something at which they excel. In the scheme of things the magical one million dollar mark would have probably left all parties happier, even the Phillies brass, who now must answer questions regarding their reluctance to establish Howard as the new standard when it comes to early financial rewards. The Phillies could have saved face if that's what they wanted by giving Howard a salary of $999,999.99 even though it is clear Howard and his entourage would have been happier had the figure increased by one penny.
As the old saying goes, baseball is a game of inches.
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Chris Coste nearly worked his way onto the 25-man roster in 2006 with his great Spring. Still, he was the last cut a year ago as the Phillies headed north and had to wait until the season was underway before getting his summons to the Show.
At this early juncture of the Grapefruit League Greg Dobbs is the odds-on favorite to win at least one of the bench spots given his quick break out of the gate, but it is early. With Karim Garcia also in camp, the competition for the two open spots will be keen. Coste is a fan favorite who provides a lot of versatility. Garcia was brought back from two years in Japan and given a contract that guarantees his release if he doesn't make the 25-man roster. And Dobbs is making loud noises with his bat.
It's a nice dilemma for the Phillies to have at this point, but something will have to give as April approaches. Since both Dobbs and Coste have minor league options remaining it would appear one slot is Garcia's to lose, but the Phils have a recent history of bringing in lots of bubble-type players only to release them in short order.
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Jim Salisbury has an excellent piece in this morning's Inquirer on Cole Hamels' impressive and exhaustive workout regimen to strengthen his back. If nothing else it is an impressive display of the young southpaw's determination to remain healthy and make a serious contribution to ending the Phils' long playoff drought. Salisbury and teammate Aaron Rowand refer to Hamels as a "ghost" presence mainly due to his absence from the clubhouse as he toils in the training room in a daily routine of exercises far more rigorous than those of your average major league ballplayer. That sort of commitment may not induce his teammates to hit the weights and measures at quite the same pace, but it will no doubt make a deep impression.