Not-so far-fetched predictions from the Phillies great beyond.
This will be Pat Burrell’s last season with the Phillies.
Even though Pat the Bat has two years left on his deal after this season, Burrell would skip lukewarm Philadelphia for the sunny south as quickly as he can turn a blonde’s party dress into a crumpled pile on the floor. This guy longs for the warm weather and tan bodies of Miami U. He’s never embraced his role as team centerpiece, and never will. Where was Pat when the Winter Tour spread good cheer across the Delaware Valley? I can name $50 million good reason why at least one weekend should have been spent at a suburban shopping mall signing autographs instead of .... well, maybe not. If Burrell has another productive season, Pat Gillick will trade his right-handed slugger while his stock is still high.
Randy Wolf will replace Ryan Madson in the starting rotation.
Because Madson is brittle and the bullpen will need him. I look at Madson and see "stick" and know sticks break easily. I also see the kind of jerky delivery that frayed Wade Miller’s rotator cuff. I’m satisfied with his pitch selection, but concerned about his durability.
The Phillies will draw 500,000 more fans than last season.
Enough to make up what they lost from 2004. It can’t possibly be as stinking hot as last summer, can it? That July-August stretch was a nightmare for players and fans alike. Buff guys like Burrell looked like Olympic sprinters. Vicente Padilla appeared to shread 10 pounds of water weight every time he pitched, and that was just from his head.
But more than weather, this is an exciting product. There’s Howard, who can hit 40, Abreu and Utley, who could win the batting title, and Rowand patrolling center field like G.I. Joe. At $15 bucks for the cheapest seats, this is the best sports value in town. That's what hockey fans are bamboozled into spending to see minor-leaguers skate around the Spectrum.
Nice knowing you, Eude Brito. Don’t get comfortable, Rob Tejeda.
Brito was a one-hit wonder, and if the starting rotation stays healthy, we may not see Robinson Tejeda’s face much, either. Brito is too small to be a starter and only has value as an emergency spot-lefthander out of the bullpen. Tejeda has two major threats: Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels. If healthy, Hamels will zip right past him.
Gary Varsho will assert himself as a top managing candidate.
If Manuel’s club sinks 10 games out by the end of May, he’s toast, and the in-house answer would be Varsh, a guy many people around baseball expected to be a major-league manager by now. If the Phillies go far, expect Varsho to get interviews with other clubs.
Bobby Abreu will be just as productive, but more unpopular than ever.
Because he’s the scapegoat if the starting pitching breaks down. I don’t envy Abreu, who went from having five countrymen on his team last season to having none if Tomas Perez doesn’t come north. Meanwhile, he’s surrounded by no less than five players who are better-loved, and he’s got more talent than all of them. I see Abreu as someone who will quietly request a trade, which will come out in the papers and only make him more unpopular, even though the vocal masses wanted him traded anyway.
Pat Gillick will make a deadline deal that will make heads spin.
At 68, Gillick isn’t standing pat. He targeted the Phillies as a team damn close to a championship and pounced. He’s got the connections and respect to pull off a deal. I see Zito, Pettitte, and a batch of minor leaguers I’d drop in seconds to take a chance and go for it right now.