Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drum Roll, Please

The moment all of you have been waiting for....

The Phillies will finish third in the NL East this season, failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year of what promises to be a long hiatus on the outside looking in.

Built to win last year, they are surely more desperate than ever to try and win this season.  Unfortunately, they haven't got the horses, especially in the starting rotation.  Their top three starters feature a Cole Hamels on the continued way up, Cliff Lee who is enigmatic and unpredictable, and Roy Halladay, who is in decline.  Behind them are Kyle Kendrick, a perennial hopeful at best, and John Lannan, who could be a textbook example of a fifth starter were he not really a sixth one at heart!

The offense contains its own bevy of question marks, headed of course by a recovering Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Howard needs more plate discipline.  It's a worrisome sign the Phillies have announced before the first game of the regular season they plan to sit Howard against tough lefties.  Howard needs to adjust and he needs to adjust now.  The trends have been downward for several seasons now.  If he cannot alter the trend line now, he never will.

Utley appears healthier than he has in a few seasons.  How long he will hold up is anyone's guess.  This is the final year of his contract.  Will he be one of those aging stars who puts together a banner season in the final year or will he wear down under the strains of every-day playing?

Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young man the left side of the infield.  Rollins may need more range than ever to cover for Young, whose better fielding days are probably behind him; but Rollins isn't any younger either.

The outfield will be makeshift for what seems to be the billionth year in a row.  Ben Revere mans center.  He should do fine.  Domonic Brown, finally handed a starting job with no visible strings attached, gets his third chance to live up to the hype.  No one expects him to be a star fielder; indeed, he is the starting left fielder, not his more "natural" or at least accustomed position in right.  The Phils preferred right fielder, Delmon Young, starts the season on the DL.   There, at least, he cannot botch any plays.

The teams's catcher, leader and most likeable player in the last few seasons begins the year in banishment for testing positive for a substance for which he could have received an exemption.   The unfortunate fallout forced the Phillies to hand the job to Erik Kratz, who is not Carlos Ruiz' equal in any respect except, apparently, determination.

The bullpen is stronger in the eight inning than it has been for years with the addition of Mike Adams.  Jonathan Papelbon should do fine as the closer.  Getting to these two is still going to be an adventure.  The sixth or seventh inning could prove to be the Phils' undoing.

The bench is mediocre.

The manager and coaching staff don't matter unless the Phils are forced to make double switches every game.

Over the last five or six seasons the hardest ticket to find in these parts included one for a game at Citizens Bank Park.  By August of this year they could be easy to find.

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