As Clearwater shuts down for another 11 months of obscurity and go back to being one of those completely normal U.S. towns where a disc golf game can become an alligator attack, the Phillies are left with questions. Questions that will undoubtedly have them all staring wistfully out of bus windows as they pass through endless patches of Americana on their way to the Cradle of Liberty.
Fortunately for them, the questions all have answers. People just seemed unwilling to say them, out loud. Why answer questions when you can shrug and wink ambiguously?
I prefer to assume I know what the future will bring, because then I can live in a constant state of either surprise or sweet, sweet vindication.
Who will lead off?
Well we didn’t really know this was a question until recently, but apparently Charlie Manuel’s been gazing longingly at Juan Pierre all spring. As his manager’s pupils turned into tiny hearts, Jimmy Rollins was right over there, telling people, you know, he could have gone to the Brewers if he wanted to, he just, um, didn’t want to right now. There have long been questions on Jimmy’s prolonged legitimacy as a leadoff hitter; namely, whether or not the primary reason he’s still doing it is ‘nostalgia,’ and , Charlie’s cooking up some folksy magic for Opening Day.
That magic is that Juan Pierre, at 34 years old and the defending champion of being caught stealing in 2011, will lead off. Why? Because Charlie sees him as one. And, I don’t know, speed and stuff. Look, I’m not the engineer of how Charlie feels about things. I just know that when he’s enamored with somebody, he doesn’t stop giving them chances. So we’re going to see a whole lot of Juan Pierre chances this year. And I don’t think we’re going to wait too long for the first one.
I can’t wait for Charlie to explain to Jimmy how batting third is just “leading off for the cleanup hitter.”
Who will play first base?
You probably Phillies have to start the season as some sort of half-assed collective of second guesses. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Phillies will probably wind up ending the season that way, too.
They spent part of the winter collecting gentlemen who could frequent the right field foul line, and if Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton are any indication, their requirements were “Yo, can you hang out with a glove? Cool, bro. Cool.”
Thome made that swift stop while playing first the other day, and I think we can all make wide, sweeping assumptions that his return to playing in the field will be full of plays exactly like that one. Wigginton, on the other hand, has that “background bench player” stigma to overcome, so if he wants to make a real difference, he should say something quirky or blue collar in the paper and then hit a game-winning home run. I actually don’t know what he’s waiting for.
Then, when those two aren’t doing it, there will be John Mayberry, who is looking for sustained success to put on his resume. With the blossoming friendship between Charlie and Juan Pierre, John’s going to see his playing time severed in the outfield, so first base is going to wind up being where he spends a lot of his season. Is he adept defensively? I don’t know, but he is, like, eight feet horizontally. That’s got to come in handy at least once. As a freakishly tall person myself, that is a mantra I’ve come to know well.
“Being this tall has got to come in handy at least once!”
–Me, staring into a mirror, sobbing and holding an ice pack on yet another head wound from a ceiling fan
How about that rotation?
It’s very good!
How also about that bullpen?
Hopefully it won’t get used too much, but if it does, Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo are in it. Also, you can always bank on some young arm becoming a factor because our farm system’s talent is mostly in the form of unproven pitchers with whom most Major League hitters are unfamiliar. Besides, was there a moment this offseason when Ruben wasn’t at least considering a deal for some left handed reliever?
Jose Contreras and Michael Stutes are all but guran
How will age affect this team?
Well they’ll probably get hurt a lot more and they won’t be as good.
How will Freddy Galvis work out at second base?
Really well defensively, surprisingly well offensively. He’ll finish, like, fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting. Fourth, or… or like, tenth. His only prayer is that he’s a hot prospect with less exposure than Dom Brown had in this scenario. So maybe he won’t be smothered to death by our overwhelming Philadelphia-ness. But we’ll see.
When will Ryan Howard and Chase Utley come back?
Ryan in May, Chase in July. Ruben Amaro, in an attempt to really gain people’s trust, will construct a complex series of marionette puppetry in case Chase isn’t ready in time, and spend the latter half of the season controlling his “second baseman” on the field, in the dugout, and at press conferences, speaking in a painfully poor “Chase Utley voice” that everyone, in their eagerness to accept hope blindly, completely believes.
How will the Phillies fare with more competitive teams in the NL East?
There are also more playoff spots now, too, so. Everything works out nicely. Except of course for Ruben Amaro who could probably be put away for this kind of behavior.
So you see! You can’t say that the Phillies have more questions than answers, because every question is answerable. There is perfect balance in the universe, and I daresay we’ve achieved it hear in Philly, outside of all the drugs and murder and pollution stuff. But it’s baseball season! Whose paying attention to that now, anyway?