Earlier this week, I was told by a friend that I am overly negative about the Phils. This took me by surprise.
I don’t dispute that my sarcastic nature sometimes manifests itself in snarky comments, smart-aleck quips and a general attitude of pessimism.
So, really, I guess my critics are correct. I don’t know why I was surprised. I AM overly negative about the Phillies.
Why should I be so negative? Because Ryan Howard’s injured Achilles started oozing puss and blood to the point he had to have a surgical procedure done to stop the liquid from pouring out of his giant left foot, setting back his recovery time and return to the field? Because Chase Utley told the world that his knee was doing great, then suddenly disappeared from sight for the entire spring, only to finally admit that his other knee was now so painful that he won’t start the season on time too? Because Domonic Brown, a hitter with extraordinary potential, played left field with the defensive wizardry of a spazzed out eight-year old hopped up on Mike & Ike’s? Because Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino’s contracts are up after this season, with no new deal yet signed by either player (even though all sides remain “optimistic”)? Because the offense has seen way too many guys named Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre appear in the Grapefruit League starting lineups? And because the Phillies feature an offense without their two best players and a collection of others who have seen their offensive production steadily drop every year since 2007, a trend that looks likely to continue in 2012?
Really, what’s there to be negative about?
I know, I know, that’s just more negativity. And frankly, I don’t want to be negative. I want us all to imagine Care Bears sliding down rainbows onto cotton candy clouds while sipping on golden lemonade, singing KC and the Sunshine Band all day long.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a nice idea to focus on 10 positive things about the Philllies, a team that won 102 games last year and still has enough firepower to win their sixth straight NL East title. If they don’t screw it up!
1. Hunter Pence For A Whole Season:
Perhaps this sentiment was uttered best by @DelcoNate on Twitter this week…
— Nate (@DelcoNate) March 28, 2012
He is so right. A full season of Hunter Pence unmolested by large arctic creatures will only help keep the Phils afloat while Utley and Howard continue to work their way back.
2. Ryan Madson Is Not A Phillie:
No one is really sure how close the Phillies came to re-signing Ryan Madson this offseason. But for whatever reason, the Phils decided to change gears at the last moment and sign Jonathan Papelbon to a long-term deal instead. Now, the Papelbon deal is still an albatross, just too much money and too many years for a closer, no matter how good he is. And when Madson signed his one-year deal with the Reds, it seemed like the Ruben Amaro’s mistake had been made even bigger. Now, Madson is set to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2012 season. It’s a positive that the Phils’ new closer is Tommy John-free… at least for now.
3. Ryan Howard is NOT Being Paid $26 Million This Year:
My colleague here at TBOH decided to point out the obvious…
— John Ricco (@john_ricco) March 28, 2012
I’m not sure John got exactly what I was going for here. But, thanks for playing, Ricco. Now, go make another pie chart!
4. The Nats, Braves and Marlins Have Just As Many Question Marks as the Phils:
The NL East got tougher this offseason, no doubt about it. All three teams should be very competitive and give the Phils the best run for their money since 2008. But let’s not forget, all three teams have major question marks themselves. The Nationals have a black hole in center field and at the leadoff spot in their lineup. Steven Strasburg, their #1 pitcher, will likely be shut down for all of September, and has never pitched a full Major League season. Gio Gonzalez has major control issues. What will they get out of Jayson Werth? Can Michael Morse repeat his 2011 in 2012? The Marlins have an ace pitcher in Josh Johnson who is maybe the most dominant starter in the game when healthy, but he has trouble staying that way. Are Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Mark Buehrle a good enough 2, 3 and 4? And what about Carlos Zambrano? Will he murder any of his new teammates before the season is over? Will Ozzie Guillen slur a whole race of people on Twitter at some point? And the Braves, while they have a lot of good young pitching, are dealing with injury issues of their own. Third baseman Chipper Jones will start the season on the DL, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens’ health is still questionable, Jayson Heyward needs to rebound from a disastrous 2011, Fredi Gonzalez’ competence as a manager is in question, and the team must get over their epic collapse from last year. The Mets were never able to recover after blowing division leads in 2007 and ’08, and no one knows how the Braves will respond.
5. Jim Thome Hasn’t Wet Himself Yet Playing First Base:
In fact, Thome has actually made a couple nice plays in the field, including a beautiful stab in Thursday’s 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays, brought to you courtesy of Crashburn Alley. If Thome can play once or twice a week (anything more than that would take a miracle of science unseen since Awakenings) and hold up physically to the demands of bending over and stepping on first base, the Phils will have another big power bat in the lineup. SIDEBAR: DeNiro’s character actually falls back into his catatonic state in Awakenings, so let’s forget I even mentioned it.
6. The Phillies Are Not The Mets:
Michael Natelli of District on Deck said it best on Twitter this week…
— Michael Natelli (@MNatelliReport) March 28, 2012
The Phillies were not the victims of a massive Ponzi scheme that bilked the franchise out of billions of dollars, resulting in the team selling off its best players and assuring their fans they will be lousy for years to come. The Phillies also do not play in a stadium that looks like a lifeless tomb. I’ve never been to Citi Field, but I’m not sure if there’s a ballpark that looks more unappealing on TV than that one. And Mets fans still have to think about 2008 and 2009 every day. Folks, when a knuckle ball pitcher is your staff ace, things aren’t going your way.
7. The Phillies Still Have Halladay, Lee and Hamels:
The concerns about the offense are real, but the starting rotation still appears to be among the best, if not the best, in the National League. Halladay and Lee show no signs of slowing down, and Hamels is playing for a new contract. One might expect a slight regression from Hamels, given how amazing his 2011 was, or maybe he’ll be even better; that cutter has become an absolutely devastating pitch for him. Even with a regression from Vance Worley and the uncertainty of Joe Blanton, the starting rotation should get the Phils into the playoffs again this year, no matter how bad the offense is. Of course, everyone thought the same thing about the San Francisco Giants last year, and they ended up on the outside looking in.
8. Stud Young Bullpen Arms:
Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimmer, Joe Savery, Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes are all good, young, strong arms either already playing for the big league club or starting the season in AAA. They all have a bright future and should allow the Phils to supply the ‘pen with a stable of good and cheap arms. SIDEBAR: Notice I didn’t include David Herndon on this list. This is not an accident.
9. Citizens Bank Park:
I can only think of five ballparks (Fenway Park, PNC Park, AT&T Park, Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards) that are either as good or better than Citizens Bank Park. It really has become the place to go in Philadelphia. The atmosphere in the park is tremendous, the food is great, and the sightlines are awesome. It’s also a very pretty park to look at on TV, and has seen a lot of history already in its eight-year history. The Phils really did it right when they built The Bank.
10. Freddy Galvis Has Shown Pop This Spring:
Freddy Galvis can never match what Chase Utley gives the Phillies when he’s healthy. That being said, Galvis’ spring has been very promising, especially at the plate. While he’s not getting on base at a very high clip (right around .300), his slugging percentage is very good for a second baseman and he’s hitting for a decent average while driving in runs. He’s also played a flawless defensive second base. No one is saying he’s going to be a Rookie of the Year candidate or anything, and the hope is that Utley will come back soon and Galvis will head back down to the minors once that happens. Still, at just 22 years old, there’s still room for him to grow and it’s exciting to see a young prospect get a real chance to play every day. It’s a sink or swim scenario for Galvis, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does.
See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? And there was almost no sarcasm in any of those points (I concede #3 was a little mean, but it was too humorous to leave out). I really do believe the Phils will do well once again this year, and make the playoffs. With a second wild card team now in the mix, the starting rotation, and enough offensive performers to at least make the Phillies competitive, they’ll most likely win somewhere between 92 and 95 games. Whether that gets them a sixth straight division title or one of the two wild cars spots, we’ll just have to wait and see.
I hope I’ve sufficiently proved that I am not a Mets or Braves fan.