Saturday, May 03, 2008

Magic Carpet Ride

Pat Burrell is on some kind of magic carpet ride. So is Chase Utley.

Aaron Rowand tried drafting both of them last night in his first game back at Citizens Bank Park since signing with the Giants, but Burrell shook him off at the end. Pat the Bat is in some kind of groove, hitting for average, power and in the clutch. The only issues I have with his performance last night are minor quibbles indeed: he concluded his walk-off homer with one of the lamest cap tosses at home plate ever seen in these parts. It almost seemed to be an after-thought. Then, he seemed to emerge from the pummeling adulation of his teammates gathered at home plate with a strange glad-that's-over-with-and-I-survived look. Finally, in his post-game interview with Tom McCarthy he didn't exactly seem to be enjoying his moment.

Whatever, as they say. He's being paid to hit not preen.

Meanwhile, Utley is putting together an extraordinary ride. He leads or is near the top of virtually every offensive category in the major leagues. He has turned around his early-season fielding woes. He is constantly talked about by current and former major league players as one of the best in the game today. Utley is well on his way to earning a perpetual pass to ride the carpet.

Ryan Madson is not on a magic carpet ride. In fact, he's either got a thread-bare tire that's as good as blown out or he has nothing on his pitches. When he comes into a game he's more likely to pour gasoline on the fire, not in the tank. The Phillies keep talking about adding a left-hander to the pen but another right-hander wouldn't hurt either.

JC Romero has been on a magic carpet ride all season, albeit bumpy at times, and last night's home run ball to Rowand can be excused on three counts: he'd worked four straight games; he was closing, not setting up; and see "drafting" above. One suspects Rowand was going to hit one out no matter who was pitching.

Ryan Howard can't decide whether or not he's on the carpet or off. His vaunted "seeing the ball better" phase of the trip lasted one or two short legs at most. Last night he was back to befuddlement, striking out in key situations and bitching and moaning about his futility sufficiently to get himself tossed in a tight game. Not too smart, Ryan.

Jayson Werth has temporarily left the magic carpet ride he was on. He continues to look bad at the plate as his average sinks daily. Lately, he has put together some of the worst swings seen around here in a long time.

Jimmy Rollins doesn't even have firm reservations for the carpet ride at this juncture. No one seems to know (or at least no one wants to say) whether or not he is getting closer, further away or somewhere in between in his recovery from an alleged ankle sprain. I say "alleged" because I suspect there is more damage than originally thought...or admitted.

Through it all, the Phillies have ridden to the top of the NL East. Their chief rivals have had all kinds of injury problems themselves and the Marlins have surprised everyone with their performance to date, everyone, that is, except the good people of South Florida who continue to stay away in droves.

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