Saturday, May 17, 2008

Easing Back In

Random thoughts....

Jimmy's back and doing what he does best, sparking the team. While he was out of action the Phils played well enough, but with him back in the lineup they are simply a much better team. In two weeks he's demonstrated why he was the MVP.

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One by one, the young stars of baseball are signing long-term deals. Chase Utley, David Wright, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, et al.

But not Ryan Howard.

Neither Howard nor anyone advising him has ever forgotten or forgiven that $900,000 salary following his MVP year or this year's arbitration hearing. A testiness has settled over the relationship and nothing seems to improve the situation. A .181 batting average is also unlikely to improve the atmosphere. Nearly $11 million salary in a two year period and he and the Phillies are further apart than ever. He is never going to sign a long-term deal here. Look for the Phils to sign Cole Hamels to one, however.

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The American League has been the scene of some strange happenings this season. First, Detroit, picked by many including yours truly to run away with their division despite some questionable pitching, started horribly, rallied mightily, and then tanked astonishingly. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals have neared the .500 mark after many seasons of losing nearly twice as many games as they won.

The Yankees are a mess, which really comes as no surprise. The Orioles are competitive, which comes as a big surprise, and the Rays are the toast of the AL East, which is surprising if for no other reason than their top pitcher missed most of the first month plus of the season. Despite playing better than at any time in their woeful history, the Rays still cannot attract fans. Neither, of course, can the Marlins, who are the big surprise of the NL East. South Florida is the worst state for professional baseball. Even a franchise in North Dakota would outdraw the teams in the Sunshine State.

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The NL is going to win this year's All-Star game, not that I would care except for this nonsense about home-field advantage in the World Series. The balance is starting to shift when you look at the number of young stars (see long-term contracts above) who ply their trade in the Senior Circuit.

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My Reverse Curse has never been as on target as recently. Upon my return from Spain, I read a number of blogs to catch up. I posted a comment over at BS&S regarding Jayson Werth and his trouble getting jump on balls in centerfield and his declining batting average. Boom. Boom. Boom.

I knocked Howard in this space more than a few times and he has started to hit, at least one a game for eight games, along with two home runs in consecutive games after I mocked his power. (I'm still not convinced he's back, by the way.)

But nothing I could say or do is going to RC or RRC Brett Myers.

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I continue to read comments by players about how tough Philadelphia fans are. Howard has said he hears the boo birds and understands...because it's Philadelphia, not because he is striking out a new record pace. Even Jayson Werth said so in a transcript of a blog Q&A prior to his big night with the bat. Asked about the difference between playing in LA and here he said the ballpark, which is better here, and the fans, who are not. In fairness, he was also quoted after last night as saying how grateful he was for the curtain calls.

It's just a reflex action with athletes at this point. Philadelphia could turn out to be the most understanding and forgiving atmosphere for professional athletes in America and they'd still be saying how tough the fans are.

Myths die hard, but when you're reading through the obituaries, imagination dies first.

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