Yesterday’s 140-plus comment thread read like the last testament for passengers of the Titanic. However, there is one survivor, and his name is pawnking, Beerleaguer’s voice of reason (no offense to the poster who actually calls himself ‘voice of reason’).
Readers may refuse this, but I will toss it out like a life raft anyway. No matter how bad the wreckage, this piece always floats:
"It’s a long season."
There it is. Grab it, and paddle toward the deserted island known as Phillies nation.
Nothing survives using less energy in the vast ocean of baseball better than a .500 team in mid June, even an ugly one like the Phillies. After a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Mets, the 33-33 Phillies are floating on their own bloat, using little oxygen, moving only in starts and fits.
This is the mantra of pawnking, the guiding principle of one of Beerleaguer’s best readers. I don’t know pawnking personally, but he claims to be an accountant by trade. He’s all about the bottom line, in business and in baseball. Not a week goes by without a reminder about the long season, and that the Phillies were just one win away from forcing a playoff with the Astros last year.
Though pawnking hasn’t posted on this space in a while, he’s been active on his own site, writing the following post on Wednesday (yes, just two days ago), entitled "Why the Phillies will win the World Series." It’s a bulleted post, including the following points.
Pawnking writes: We have only one team to beat in the NL East. The Braves are not going to make the playoffs this year. The Nats and Marlins also have virtually no shot. That leaves only the Mets to battle the Phillies for the NL Eastern crown.
Beerleaguer: The Mets and Phillies are the only teams without losing records in their own division. While the Mets appear to be in a class by themselves, the Nats, Marlins and Braves are teams the Phillies should beat the rest of the way. The Phillies will do better against the Nats than the previous series in RFK.
Pawnking writes: Though the Mets have a great 1-2 punch, the rest of their rotation is weak (See Jose Lima, who actually started 3 games for them this year). Furthermore, I question the ability of Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez to remain effective over the entire season.
Beerleaguer: I have my own small doubts about Glavine and Pedro, but we’ll wait and see. The Mets are still the better team, with a much better pitching staff. Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez are gone, replaced by potentially better arms in El Duque and Alay Soler.
Pawnking writes: The Mets have played about as well as can be imagined, and the Phils have played as poorly as can be imagined. Things will even out.
Beerleaguer: I agree with this. According to Hardball Times, the Phillies have the worst record in close games and are losing those games in spite of having a good closer and servicable bullpen. Agree with pawnking here: things will even out somewhat, and the Phillies will rise above their current .500 mark.
Pawnking writes: The Phils weakest areas have been starting pitching and defense. With the worst starters banished, and the defense cannot help but get better, the Phils should improve simply due to regression.
Beerleaguer: There is an outstanding piece by Marcus Hayes of the Daily News this morning on defense, I would even call it the best single piece on the Phillies this season. It starts like this:
"The Phillies held pregame fielding practice yesterday for the first time since spring training, and for the first time during the season since Charlie Manuel was named manager."
Beerleaguer: No need to explain how outrageous this is. Defense is half the game. More from Hayes:
"The Phillies' fielding fiasco featured in the first two games of a crucial series with the Mets, completed yesterday, served to display the gross miscalculation made by Manuel and general manager Pat Gillick.
"Before the season began, to the questioned hearing of listeners, both opined that their infield might be the best in the National League East."
I can’t begin to explain how satisfying it was to read this piece. With Manuel, you could point to tactical errors over his tenure, but nothing this contemptible as manager of a professional team. Perhaps it’s time for the hitting guru to be replaced by a baseball guru. Manuel was a nice, dull blade after Bowa's edge, but the Phillies have outgrown him. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Brett Myers and Ryan Howard have peaked physically as players. It takes something more to get them to harness that talent every day.
And it’s worth repeating how brutal the leadoff situation has become. Bobby Abreu’s on-base percentage sits at .454, best in baseball and about .40 points higher than his career average. Image leading off a ballgame by getting a man on base nearly half the time.
Pawnking writes: Even if, for some reason, the Phils don't win the NL East, the Phils will likely win the WC. They came close last year, and the contenders for the WC all have their weaknesses.
Beerleaguer: The Phillies currently have one of the worst starting staffs in baseball, and the worst receiving corps in baseball, serious weaknesses the other contenders don’t have. The Phillies will still hover and stay in the Wild Card hunt, but this is a worse team than last season, and worst defensively. This new concept called "practice" won’t hurt, but Pat Gillick should consider some "defense-first" moves, such as recalling Carlos Ruiz from Scranton or making a trade for a young defensive catcher. Sal Fasano should return to his role as hard-luck blue collar hero by hanging out on the waiver wire.
|National League Wild Card Standings|
Pawnking writes: Once the Phils get to the postseason, their 1-2 punch with Myers and Hamels can compete with anybody. If there's anything the Astros demonstrated last year, it's the fact that if you have 2 dominant starters, you can go deep in the playoffs.
Beerleaguer: I have more faith in Hamels becoming a dominant, stretch-run starter than Myers. But I see neither of them as post-season pitchers, at least not yet. Can't agree with PK here.
Pawnking writes: Most important, the Philly faithful seem to have officially written off this team for dead. As we recall from last year, it was only when officially given no chance that the Phils started playing with resolve and ability. Since this has happened in June and not September, we have plenty of time to make up any lost ground in the NL East and the WC.
Beerleaguer: In other words, "It’s a long season."
There's that life raft again.