Friday, September 28, 2012

Prepare Yourselves

It was altogether fitting the Phillies' home season ended with Jimmy Rollins popping up for the final out.  For the first time in 12 years the Phils finished one game under .500 at the Bank.  For a team some observers in March thought was still able to contend, a losing record at home sums up its shortcomings.

Now they go on the road for the final six games of this miserable season.  Will they continue to run out a boatload of youngsters auditioning for spots on next year's roster?  Yes...and no.  Roy Halladay gets the start this weekend.  Some commentators have seriously postulated Halladay has "earned" the right to pitch this game given his stellar career, commitment and work ethic and, oh by the way, the "clean bill of health" he received from the non-medical staff of Rich Dubee and Charlie Manuel when throwing a bullpen session the other day.  File this decision under "Give Me A Break!!!"

On another mysterious front, Chase Utley continues to take balls at third base.  Clips showing him doing everything from charging balls to deliberately bobbling balls and picking them up to hurry a throw across the diamond.  Anyone who has watched Utley knows how determined he is about everything baseball.  The same people will have noted he double clutches on a lot of throws to first base.  I've never seen any other second baseman except Chuck Knobloch turn more plays into close ones on routine balls hit to second.  Utley may have the reflexes for third (though I secretly doubt it), but he doesn't have the arm.  If he gets a chance to play there before the season ends, the Marlins' and Nats' grounds crews won't have over-water the patch in front of home plate; they should be able to lay down bunts without any help.

All of the Utley-to-third nonsense is predicated on putting Freddy Galvis at second base next season.  Galvis will clearly improve the defense up the middle, but do the Phils need another automatic out in their lineup?

The starting rotation next year features at least two dependable pitchers in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (provided the latter gets some run support), one huge question mark in Halladay, an erratic number four guy in Kyle Kendrick and a back of the rotation type in Vance Worley, who had a marvelous freshman year and a sophomore year marred by injury and...well...perhaps familiarity.  Jonathan Papelbon will be the overpaid closer.  As for the middle relief and setup man?  Take your pick from a half dozen faces, or go get someone proven.

The problem with that last suggestion is obvious:  the Phils have to go and get someone proven to play the outfield.  Rumors they are interested in B.J. Upton are disturbing to this fan.  Upton has had some behavioral issues and his bat has, too, in the last few years.  Signing Upton would be a mistake.

The Phils find themselves in the position of a football team trailing by two or more touchdowns with about 12 minutes remaining in the game.  The temptation is to keep throwing deep and make up ground as quickly as possible.  The better approach is take it one score at a time, mixing up the offense.

The Phils won't score all of their needs in one year, so prepare yourselves for a longer rebuilding period.