With enough baseball played to identify strengths and weaknesses, the time is right for Pat Gillick to play a hand.
This afternoon isn’t just the final game of a three-game series with the division leader. It’s the last game before the Phillies come home to meet their maker.
Not to look ahead, but tomorrow the curtain goes up on a six-game homestand, following an emotional, gritty series with the Mets. Perhaps I’m wrong, but this isn’t just another mini-homestand. This is a natural, target area on the schedule where changes could occur. At this point, enough baseball has been played, and Pat Gillick knows the game well. It's time.
It’s safe to assume Gillick will use the next week, which sees three against Milwaukee and three against Washington, to figure out, first-hand, what he has and what he needs. Interestingly, Scranton also begins a mini homestand during this time, so all the players he has to work with are right in front of him. It’s also intriguing that the Nationals, who come in on Monday, could be shifting into a rebuilding mode. Several of their bullpen arms would look good in a Phillies uniform.
The two names mentioned most as having their heads resting on the chopping block have never been more unpopular: Charlie Manuel and Bobby Abreu. It's no secret Manuel's personality and Gillick's personality are like oil and water, and Abreu was shopped all winter. Considering how many questionable decisions the skipper has made, and considering how well Shane Victorino showed in his fill-in opportunity in center field, there's no reason to believe the two are 100 percent secure.
Game 3: Mets, Phillies
This isn’t just an opportune time to reevaluate the team; it’s also a good opportunity to start a winning steak. The Phils clearly have the upper hand pitching-wise this afternoon, sending Brett Myers (2-2, 2.75 ERA) to the mound against Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 10.13 ERA). Myers has been a monster on the road (2.36 ERA) and in day games (1.31 ERA).
With reports on how cranked up the team was following yesterday’s loss, expect the Phils to turn it up today, and ride it a little into the homestand when they host the Brew Crew. Tomorrow begins a revenge situation, at home, against an inferior team, and on Saturday, Aaron Rowand is expected to return to the lineup.
The Phils have lost seven of their last eight contests, but starting today, those fortunes will reverse. Of course, they would love to win them all, but in reality, many teams, including the Braves over the last few season, just "hover" into June. That’s what the Phillies will do. Their 23-22 record is by no means a disaster. A win this afternoon would have them four back of the Mets for the division lead.
Free publicity derailed
Beerleaguer is featured this morning in Philadelphia's daily Metro newspaper.
Awesome, but how's this for bad luck: The paper, which circulates primarily to Philadelphia's train commuters, was not delivered today because of a massive power failure that wiped out the entire Northeast rail line.
You can still read the interview on their Web site here, but still. Typical. So typical.
Update: Josh from Metro, who did the interview, said the papers were in fact delivered today, so 150,000 around the city were able to read about Beerleaguer after all. Thanks for the update, Josh.