Monday, March 21, 2011

Age Before Beauty

The Mets unceremoniously dropped him and are still on the hook for $6 million but the Phillies have apparently seen "something" and taken a flyer on Luis Castillo because Chase Utley isn't going to play baseball in 2011. Oh, management has kept mum about Utley's prognosis but it doesn't take an advance degree to surmise he's done for this year. All that remains now is for the Phillies to delay surgery long enough so that Utley's recovery will extend into 2012.

Castillo, meanwhile, cleared waivers and was signed to a minor league contract by the Phils. They are "only" on the hook for the major league minimum salary, which is still serious money in anybody's economy.

Scouts say Castillo, 35, has slowed down in every phase of the game; if so, the old geezer would fit right in with the Phils' ancient lineup. The reality must be the Phillies alleged brain trust isn't all that comfortable with the idea of Wilson Valdez being the every-day second baseman. I dunno, from where I sit his defense is far better than Castillo's at this juncture. Any offense he would provide would be a bonus, frankly, even on a team that doesn't have much offense to begin with.

Speaking of offense, I've been posting a lot lately about the Phils' troubles at bat. For reasons hard to fathom, many observers believe their pitching will overcome the anemia I predict. Losing 3-2 or 4-3 would still be losing. If the Four Aces throw to a collective ERA in the low 3's they could still be losing without run support. GM Ruben Amaro received all manner of kudos for re-signing Cliff Lee, but he let some big offense leave without much of an effort when Jayson Werth signed in Washington. The smart money probably believes, and they ain't called the "smart money" for nothing, Werth's agent Scott Boras was never going to seriously negotiate with Amaro, so it might be unfair to suggest the Phils' GM screwed up, but on the other hand he didn't appear to make much of an effort to acquire a solid right-hand bat to make up the difference.

Maybe Amaro believes Ben Francisco or John Mayberry can hold the fort until Domonic Brown returns and develops, but more than a few hints from Charlie Manuel this past week suggest the manager isn't so sure.

If all this weren't troubling enough, we are treated daily to variations on "normal soreness" in discussing the nicks and bruises being suffered by other key elements of the squad, namely Brad Lidge and Placido Polanco. Both these players insist they will be ready for Opening Day and while they cannot be said to be whistling by the graveyard at this time, both have had enough physical ailments recently to make the rest of us wet our lips.

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