In the Bleak Mid-Winter
Well, it’s probably under 20 degrees out right now, so it sounds like a good time to write about baseball. The trucks have left, the gear is in Clearwater, and now all we are waiting on are the pitchers and catchers. No doubt some are already there. Not Papelbon, of course. My posts have been quite sparse this off-season, but there just hasn’t been a lot of time to write. Plus there really hasn’t been much to write about, really. Here are some various thoughts.
One of the somewhat new things the Phillies are doing is using several hitting instructors in camp and breaking up the hitters into small groups to receive more individualized instruction. That sounds nice, but this certainly isn’t the first time the team tried to get the hitters to be more disciplined. It may have a better chance of working with younger hitters, but not so much with established major league hitters.
I was listening to Mike Missanelli interview Mike Schmidt the other day on the radio and it sounded like Schmidt is the new Minister of Propaganda for the Phillies. Schmidt said there was no way the Phillies would be a door mat this year and basically said they would be competitive. It’s nice to be optimistic, but then there’s just being silly. Optimistic for the Phillies this year would be to win 80 games, and that’s if Hamels and Lee pitch the whole year, which isn’t happening. And let’s remember that they traded away two players that accounted for most of their power last year, so the offense is going to be non-existent. But that’s okay, because the Phillies are now committed to rebuilding, so I don’t know why Schmidt is stuck in the “hey, we can still compete” mode. By the way, Vegas’ prediction for the Phillies is 68.5 wins.
As for my good friend Jonathan Papelbon, he is still with the team. As we all know, there were some bites from the Brewers, and some lesser ones from other teams. The Phillies really need to find a way to deal him. I know there are those who say he is a good teammate and that is backed up by some younger guys in the bullpen. That may be true, but he’s not the best representative for the team and the city, and will become a lighting rod for fan criticism and vitriol should he start off poorly. This is on top of the fact that Papelbon clearly would rather be on a winning team (despite what Mike Schmidt might say).
Regarding the Ryan Howard situation, it is clear that no team wants him unless they get him for the major league minimum, or thereabouts. This means the Phillies hae to hope that he has a good spring and a strong start to the season. This would make him more desirable to an American League team. If he doesn’t, then it could be a tough situation. Last year, Howard kind of pouted when he was benched, then he found himself back in the lineup on a regular basis. Ruben Amaro already said that it would be better if Howard was elsewhere, so that just adds fuel to the lame-duck first baseman fire. Charlie Manuel has said that Howard needs to be in better shape, and I have heard that he is in better shape. However, you have to wonder if that really matters at this point, as his numbers have been declining for quite some time.
I could go on, but I will wrap it up. I do like the Chad Billingsley pickup but am not crazy about the Aaron Harang contract. While he had a good ERA last year with the Braves, his WHIP was an awful 1.4. Chances are good that he won’t have another year with an ERA under 4.00. But, it’s a one-year deal so it isn’t that bad. More to come later…