That’s about the extent of the Spanish ingrained in my vernacular and it guided me through 10 days in the sun-drenched Dominican Republic, which is where I’ve been hiding during my Beerleaguer sabbatical. Actually, if you see me today, walking the streets of Reading, I’m easy to spot. I’m the bright pink one.
Part education, part recreation, baseball was part of this trip. On Wednesday night, I attended a round-robin playoff game between La Romana and Licey, which featured none other than Beerleaguer favorite Carlos Ruiz, catching for Licey, former Phillie Jose Offerman and a host of native talent from the majors. More on this experience later. Needless to say, it was a blast.
I checked e-mail twice during the trip. My wife and I lodged at Altos de Chavon, a design school located in the Casa de Campos region of the Dominican, about a 20-square-mile resort area just outside the sugar mill town of La Romana. She was there to instruct a design class as part of an exchange program. I was there to relax and take in the sights.
Internet access was limited, and largely unwanted. I heard about Penn State’s Orange Bowl win two days ago, when I also read about the Phillies signing of pitcher Ryan Franklin.
So let's re-belly up to the bar of public opinion, shall we?
Phillies sign Franklin to 1-year, $2.6 million deal
My first reaction was surprise at the size of this contract. It seems quite reasonable to me, considering the colossus deals others are getting. But that’s about the only reaction it garnered, mild satisfaction that Pat Gillick hadn’t overpaid, and a smidgen of hope that Franklin will flourish in his new setting.
Franklin is regarded as a 32-year-old, right-handed "innings-eater," who, in the past two seasons, regurgitated those innings into a 5.00 ERA with Seattle.
By virtue of being a starting pitcher in a market starved for them, his signing is viewed as more of a significant acquisition than other offseasons. He’s not a lock to make the starting rotation, and he obviously wasn’t coveted enough to up this small asking price.
He’s been a regular since 2001, but is one of those nondescript pitchers, not unlike Cory Lidle, who can get lost even among the home fans. Pitching his entire career with Seattle (he was a 23rd round selection by the Mariners in 1992), few Phans have actually seen him pitch, and I’ll admit to being one of them. His best season came in 2003 (11-13, 3.57 ERA), the year after Vicente Padilla’s all-star campaign (14-11, 3.28 ERA).
It’s only natural to compare Franklin with Padilla. Each was essentially waved by their former team, worked in the same general spot in the rotation, and were said to be in need of new beginnings. The 2005 season was miserable for Franklin, who also served a 10-day suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. The Phillies don't view it as an issue and neither do I. Padilla had a rough go after an injury-delayed start, but settled in to become a steady force for about a month and a half. Even so, the Phillies did not want him back, for their own reasons. Side-by-side, Padilla is the better thrower for his electric fastball, but pitching wins, not throwing.
"I think Ryan pitched better than his numbers dictated," Gillick said at Wednesday’s news conference. "He's an excellent competitor who comes right after the hitter. He doesn't fool around. He's going to pitch a lot better than he has the last couple of seasons. We think he's going to bounce back and take a spot in our rotation."
Scanning the scouting reports, we’re looking at a nice selection of pitches, including average velocity on his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, slider and curve with average movement, and a plus change, according to Stats Inc. Surprisingly, the Phillies don’t have a starting pitcher who matches that description, even though the rotation projects to be entirely right-handers without blazing stuff.
The biggest needs remain front-line starter and set-up man, which cannot be bought anymore, only traded for. In the meantime, I’m perfectly fine with Gillick making an instinctive decision like this.
If I were a GM in the National League, I’d make at least one signing or trade like this every season, to bring someone in from the American League to make a fresh start, or to even make a "sentimental" choice. John Schuerholz, GM of the Braves, has done it with great success. I feel confident Gillick can also do it, and perhaps that pitcher will be Franklin or Ricardo Rodriguez, the pitcher who came over in the Padilla trade with Texas. Frankly, for the entire rotation and bullpen to work, something will need to click. There are no sure bets anywhere, including Franklin.
"From my standpoint, he's going to pitch a heck of a lot better than the 15-loss season [in 2005]," assured Gillick. "He has been one of the unlucky guys on the club to lose 15 games back to back. He had the second-least run support in the American League and I think he's going to get a lot more over here. If he loses 15 games, he's going to win 16 or 17. I'm pretty sure of that."
The home runs are a pain – he surrendered 28 in 2005, 33 in 2004. Citizens Bank Park – pending modifications – could work against him, but playing for the Phillies will not. They’re a better team than Seattle and among the best in the National League. They have a supporting offense that should boost his win column and make the innings easier to handle.
It’s refreshing to see a pitcher sign here by his own free will, even if he was a Gillick disciple. "Innings-eater" isn’t a point to be taken lightly. For a team in the Phillies' situation, with questions in the bullpen, Franklin can bide the Phillies time at the outset until some of those questions are answered.