I received a one-sentence e-mail yesterday from Tom Goodman, who writes about the Phils at Swing and a Miss. "Are you psyched?" it said.
About what, I thought. I immediately surfed onto ESPN.com to see if there was a trade. Nothing.
Oh. He must have meant the rest of the season. In that case, no.
The big discussion will center around trade speculation, and I'm bracing for a huge amount of writing and traffic before the deadline. I keep reading Yankees with Bobby Abreu. If that's the case, another team should be involved, and there's no way they shouldn't come away with Philip Hughes (RHP) in a deal with New York. Let the Yankees choke on the salary and bend over backwards to get a third-party involved. They're desperate for Abreu. Pay up, or simply shop him to another team like Boston, which is richer in resources. Or how about the novel idea of keeping Abreu instead of giving him away?
As you noticed, I took the week off. I used the all-star break like the players would, to take a few days off to regroup and do some other writing for work. I didn't watch the all-star game, and the absolute last subject I wanted to write about was Bill Giles and that whole mess. I don't give a hang about ownership. I like baseball too much.
What am I excited about? I'm excited to watch Cole Hamels develop. I want Ryan Madson to make me a believer. I'm still interested to see what Randy Wolf can do, just to show whether he's worth resigning after the season. There must be strong loyalty from both sides. After all, the Phils are paying him 9 million to rehab. After the season, the Phils should be able to keep Wolf for a bargain price. They know more about his health than any other team.
I'd hate to see anyone but Carlos Ruiz get playing time behind the plate, and if the organization had any spine, they'll let Lieberthal sit there while his contract runs out. For how much the Phillies invested in Lieberthal, he hasn’t been good enough in three years. He never showed any desire to lead or win and I’m not disappointed to see that era come to an end. The change in clubhouse culture starts right there.
Instead, a regime as cutting edge as the Phillies will likely send Ruiz down, in favor of the aging mediocrities they have ahead of him. The reason? Jon Lieber likes throwing to Sal Fasano. Cory Lidle likes Lieberthal. Then when the offseasons hits, and they're left with Ruiz and Coste, they will have no good idea whether they could carry the load, all because Lieberthal and Fasano were the catchers during the second half. Then, they’ll overpay on another veteran they don't really want to sign, someone like Jorge Posada for example.
Ruiz would be my catcher the rest of the way just to see what they need to do in the offseason. Who knows, maybe they will need to sign a big catcher like Bengie Molina. But maybe not.
I will be happy for Ryan Howard if he breaks Mike Schmidt's record. I will be even happier if he does it while making strides in the field and cuts down on his strikeouts.
As for what I'm not looking forward to? How about watching Lieber and Lidle pitch for a team going nowhere. Lidle becomes a free agent after the season, and I want him moved before that happens, sent to either Boston or St. Louis for position prospects. Earlier this season, I entertained ideas that the Phillies should consider keeping him around. But now, I’d rather roll the dice with a young starter and speed up the process.
Same goes for Lieber. At 36, he’s too much of a risk to give him $7.5 million next season. He’s not the right type of veteran for this team. I’d rather have the younger Wolf be that guy.
Unless the Phillies make a huge charge on the Mets, Beerleaguer will be all about rebuilding from now until October. Believe it or not, it could still happen, but the scale could be totally tipped in just one week. I’d estimate there’s a 75 percent chance of an all-out rebuild, with a corner outfielder leading the way. Thing is, Abreu is probably out of the top five of players I’d trade.
There's going to come a point in the season, possibly right now after the all-star break, when the Mets are going to go in a slump. I'm sure a lot of the Mets players in the all-star game - Beltran, Reyes, Lo Duca - accepted some pats on the back like they had already wrapped up the division, but the truth is, it's going to be very hard to do what they did in the first half.
Starting pitching is the primary reason. Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine kind of struggled through June, especially Pedro. Now he’s on the 15-day DL with a hip inflammation. Alay Soler wasn’t cutting it and was optioned back to the minors. Mike Pelfrey was called up. Steve Trachsel is their version of Cory Lidle – he keeps them in games, but never dominates. Orlando Hernandez is probably as inconsistent as Ryan Madson right now.
Willie Randolph will have a tough task keeping the offense from sleepwalking through the rest of the season, or playing games just to pad stats. They begin a six-game road trip tonight against the Cubs before heading off to playoff-hopeful Cincinnati. Then they host Houston for three.
This could be the eternal optimist talking, but two teams are bound to have better second halves, and those teams are Atlanta and Philadelphia. I still expect the Mets to win it, but I think they will take the division with less games than they have over the division right now. That's what happened to Chicago last season, allowing the Indians to make it interesting right at the end. The Mets hold a 12-game lead over the Phils.