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Saturday, March 24, 2007


JW: From the last thread. Congratulations on the mention in SI. This is by far the best Phillies blog and maybe the best baseball blog.

With eight games remaining in ST I sure would like this team to begin the process of getting off to that quick start in April the team has been talking about. So, far this team has shown me that they will go limping through April yet again.

I'm guessing Garcia begins the season on the 15-day DL. If so, here's the staff the Phils should bring north:
SP: Myers, Hamels, Eaton, Moyer, Lieber.
RP: Bisenius, Brito, Condrey, Geary, Madson, Gordon.

Smith & Fabio work out their problems at Ottawa, Warden gets dumped back to Cleveland, Alfonseca should be released. His salary jumps from a guaranteed $380,000 to $700,000 if he makes the team. I'd cut my losses here.
I have very little confidence in that bullpen. I don't believe either Geary or Madson can be successful setup/closer types although they are decent 6th & 7th inning options. Condrey is strictly mopup. There's no guarantee that Bisenius can make the jump direct from AA, but it's worth a shot. Brito is just a placeholder until either Smith or Fabio show they can get lefties out. I can't imagine Gordon getting through the season 100% healthy. I hope I am wrong about all this.

I'll second Clout's bullpen. Let's give Bisenius a shot. As for Condrey, it's not a matter of quality as much as keeping BS innings away from Madson.

Actually, if Condrey and Brito both make the pen, hat tip to kdon.

I grabbed this quote from today's Washington Post. As usual with this team, I do not know whether to laugh or cry.

"Gordon, meantime, indicated the relievers who make up the Phillies' bullpen are frustrated by the lack of defined roles, as everything remains on hold while the front office looks for a suitable trade.

'We need to know what job we're going to be doing,' Gordon said. 'I know I'm closing games. But we have a bunch of guys down there who can do the job. I don't think we have to have another piece, as long as we stay healthy. But guys pitch better having an idea what they're going to be doing. There's still time [until Opening Day], but we're down to that last couple of weeks.'"

If Lieber is going to pitch out of the bullpen this year then he should stay there to open the season. With the off days over the first couple of weeks, we don't need a fifth starter. You don't want to be yo-yo'ing Lieber around like Madson last year. His performance will suffer if he keeps going back and forth.

I really can't wait until Condrey blows his first lead...I'll have to stay away from the site for a few days!

Nice to see you come around clout, but I still think they'll keep Alfonseca. You know, because he is a "proven" closer and all.

What exactly has Brito done to make anyone think he can get lefties out any better than Smith or Castro? Does anyone remember his actual major league performance last year?

This Phillies team is an absolute mess with just over a week to go in ST. Howard and Burrell look totally clueless. They're looking at the Marlins, Mets, and Braves in the first three series. Rollins is about to gain 20 pounds eating his own words.

Good luck guys.

I agree RSB that Brito is not best suited to being a lefty specialist. He really should be the 7th or 8th starter.

I know Smith is getting killed, but he at least has the stuff to be a LOOGY.

Maybe it's because I don't pay much attention to spring training, but I just don't get the doom and gloom. The team has 2 of the best hitters in baseball, 5 solid starters and a lot of other good pieces. Vic and J-Roll seem to be for real and there is no way to shut down the middle of the lineup.

Things aren't perfect, but no team has every question answered on opening day. My major concern is still Manuel, because he won't recognize what's going wrong.

Although, if/when Karim Garcia makes the team, I'm going to rip them six ways to Sunday.

Clout: I was thinking seven-man bullpen with Alfonseca. Did you forget to list him, or are you saying six-man without him?

Clout I believe you picked the best relief pitchers to start the season. Now can we pick the best reserves. I know last year Cholly benched Burrell in certain games. I know this is wishful thinking especially since he looks so bad so far, but is it possible that he can be sent back to minors?
We can play either Dobbs or Garcia while he tries to get his stroke back. I know for the money he makes its hard to do, but whats the difference if hes gonna be benched for other outfielders. Just my thought

Watch the games, and you'll know where the doom and gloom is coming from. Take a look at Howard and Burrell and tell me this team is going to put up the same run total as it did last year. The top three hitters are not a worry, and Helms looks like he will be solid, but I am concerned that Howard is not going to come close to his '06 numbers, and Burrell remains a head case behind him. I'm the only one who seems to feel the offense is not going to be the asset everyone else believes it is for this team. I guess you'll need to see it in the regular season before you believe it.

And now I'm watching Adam Eaton, and wondering how he ever gets anyone out. This guy was a flat-out mistake.


No you're not the only one. Burrell is washed up. Rowand is a very average major leaguer. Howard cannot possibly meet expectations. The new SPs are disappointments. The pen is even more unreliable than it was a few months ago.

Bottom line is that Gillick has been a major disappointment. This team is no better than the one he inherited, and is probably worse.

"Watch the games, and you'll know where the doom and gloom is coming from."

That's the whole point RSB, you shouldn't draw conclusions from watching spring training. That's why I don't watch, because I'll just end up with a bunch of rash concludions. In trying to predict how Howard does this year, I'm going to look at his 58 HR last year, not a handful of awkward ABs in Clearwater.

I really can't believe the Howard bashing has already begun!

Last year if you watched spring training, you would have thought Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson were going to lead this team to the Pennant. Enjoy the sunshine, and the chance to see baseball, but trying to analyze the eventual success of a team based on spring training is worthless. I repeat. Worthless.

In fairness to RSB, it's perfectly possible that Howard will have a down year. I think it would be overly optimistic to expect a repeat performance of last season, production like that is just rare.

Hold on. I'm not "bashing" Howard. If you were watching the games, kdon, perhaps you'd see what I'm talking about. To say that it doesn't matter because it's not a regular season performance is an outright fallacy. You watch this man fumble around in the batter's box and tell me it's not a concern. I'm not saying he's not going to find it at some point and go on a homerun spree. I'm just telling you, he's ALREADY pressing, big time, and they're still in Florida.

You may be right that a team's spring training record is usually not an indicator of how things will go once the season starts. And it's true that what happened last year is a great example of that. But I'm looking at a team that doesn't look remotely ready to just turn on the burners and compete with the other teams in this division. So spare me that great despair and surprise when they tank yet again this April. This team has the same look of any number of recent Phillies teams which plays without an iota of confidence. That newfound 'swagger' only seems to last until that first exhibition game is played. The more things change...

Jason: I haven't seen Manuel or PG say they're carrying 12 pitchers but I may have missed it. If they carry 12 then Alfonseca probably does stick. That would mean a really, really weak 5 man bench: Ruiz, Nunez, Dobbs, Werth and either Garcia or Bourn. There would absolutely be no room for Coste.

kdon: Of all the posters here you have been the most outspoken about how we shouldn't worry about the bullpen, the team will be fine, the offense is great etc. etc. If you are correct, no one will praise you more than I. If you are wrong, especially about the bullpen, you may indeed want to take a vacation.

fljerry: I picked the pen I'd want to take north because the guys battling for spots are all fringe players and you have to go with performance. On proven players like Burrell, I don't worry much about ST. Let him work out the kinks in games. If he has a down year Karim Garcia sure as heck isn't going to be the answer.

RSB: I'm more inclined to your worried POV than kdon's happy face, but I think you put too much into ST stats for vets. I think ST stats have to be looked at for guys trying to make the team, but proven vets like Burrell, Howard, Eaton, Garcia, far less so. What you look for there is: Are they healthy? Is Burrell still favoring his foot? Does Garcia pitch like his arm is sore? What's Eaton's velocity? That sort of thing. And, yes, I agree with you that the Phils will score fewer runs this season.

Sorry, but when you say a player "looks clueless" that sounds like bashing to me.

I have seen Howard and I agree that he doesn't look comforatable...I'm just not willing to extrapolate an observation for a week out over the course of the season. Players go through periods where there mechanics are off. He'll hit 2 HR against the Marlins five days into the season, and everything will be fine.

I don't thnk he will hit 58 HR again, but anywhere from 45-55 is likely. This won't be a down season by any stretch.

I'll be in Tampa tomorrow, so I'm going to head to Clearwater for the game. If anyone has any suggestions on how to enhance my visit to Bright House Field, I'm interested to read them. I haven't been to a spring training day game but have been to the stadium for a Threshers game and to visit the team store. I should be able to get to the field shortly after the gates open at 10:35, so any suggestions on how how to grab an autograph or random things like that would be great.

"Of all the posters here you have been the most outspoken about how we shouldn't worry about the bullpen, the team will be fine, the offense is great etc."

Well...sort of. I actually do have concerns about the offense, especially the OF. I've also said in the past that I thought the team could fall to third or fourth in runs scored, so on that point, I'm in agreement with you and RSB.

I really wanted the team to sign someone like Huff or Nixon to boost the RF offense for this very reason.

On the pen, I just think Gillick is up against a salary wall, and therefore he can't afford to spend money on veteran relievers. My main problem is really ownership, for setting $95M as some sort of arbitrary cap.

If we could have boosted the payroll to $105 and picked up Spier, Huff, etc. I would have felt a lot more comforatable with the team.

I have most certainly not been a fan of Gillick in the past, and I do have my concerns. I'm just not willing to bitch and moan about not signing veteran bullpen arms when it would have meant that there wasn't money to trade for Garcia.

RSB, to answer your question about Brito, he has a much better track record as a reliever. Also, leftys only hit .239 against him, and as a reliever all hitters have only hit .194 against him, albeit in a small sample size.

I've been an advocate of moving him to the pen since they brought him up, but I guess they feel he has value as a spot starter.

What Gillick should have done, then, was funnel some of the money he wasted on Eaton into getting some bullpen help. And that's something worth bitching and moaning about.

AWH, Brito has a modest track record as a long reliever, and none as a spot reliever. Expecting him to get out the Carlos Delgados and Jim Edmonds of the world is a pipe dream.

Castro having command problems again. Just misses, then lays one in.

So no Alfonseca then. I'm not much of a believer, either, but I think they take his experience north either way. But I like your line of thinking because I don't think Alfonseca helps you win a title. That would be a hard ax to drop.

Brito still sucks...

Hell, this team sucks right now... Nine days to right the ship!

This bullpen is so weak at the back end of their bullpen, they're in a position to just go with the hottest hand if Gordon goes down. Could Bisenius notch saves for this team? I see no reason why not. If he's hot and missing bats, what's standing in his way?

Wake me up when the season starts.

RSB, he's never been given the chance at spot duty, so you don't know. For you to assume he can't handle that job without any evidence to the contrary is like me saying he's the next Gagne (who, btw, was a bust as a starter).

It's no less presumptuous than for you to say he *can* handle the job, without any evidence to the contrary. But believe what you like. We said all along that if Eude Brito makes this team, it's in trouble. For us to even to be talking about it is bad enough.

RSB does have a point. I bring Brito north because Castro and Smith both could use a year at AAA. If Brito had great stuff, it would be one thing. But he doesn't. He's a mediocre prospect at best. So we have no reason to believe he can be a decent LOOGY. But I still bring him north because it's obvious that the youngsters (Castro & Smith) need more seasoning. Ideally, we'll make a late ST trade for a LOOGY. What's Mike Myers up to? After pulling off one of the great ripoff trades in history with us, can we make Brian Cashman feel guilty and throw us a bone?

I just checked: Myers costs only $1.25M this year and is a free agent at season's end. Perfect. We'll even give 'em C.J. Henry back (although Cashman would get a good laugh at that offer!)

Sadly, I guarantee that Alfonseca comes north with this team irregardless of his poor performance in spring training. Alfonseca will procede to struggle and the Phils will finally admit their mistake by either place Alfonseca in waivers in June or trading him for "payer to be named later."

Funniest part is that I would still take Rhodes or White over Alfonseca at this point. Haven't seen a single reason to keep Alfonseca on this team except because he is a "proven veteran." Ugh.

RSB, now you're being pompous and saying I wrote things I didn't.

To recap, you wrote:

"What exactly has Brito done to make anyone think he can get lefties out any better than Smith or Castro? Does anyone remember his actual major league performance last year?"

I responded:

"to answer your question about Brito, he has a much better track record as a reliever. Also, leftys only hit .239 against him, and as a reliever all hitters have only hit .194 against him, albeit in a small sample size.

I've been an advocate of moving him to the pen since they brought him up, but I guess they feel he has value as a spot starter."

Now, if we take your question of "anyone" having reason to think he can do the job, my response was to provide some statistical information as to what management may be looking at.

Additionally, being an advocate of moving him to the pen to TRY to realize some value from him does not mean I am saying he is *going* to be any more successful there than as a starter, but it's worth a shot.

For you to twist that as though I wrote that he *could* do the job is simply wrong. You need to pay closer attention to waht people write.

Maybe we could just all admit that this season's going to be a huge disappointment and move on, and if they actually turn out to be alright it'll be a pleasant surprise. It's unlikely our offense will be as good as it was last year, and our bullpen looks to be even worse than it was - the only area in which we've improved is starting pitching, and even there I wonder how big an improvement we actually made. So just resign yourselves to the fact that this team is probably destined for .500 ball and stop fretting over it.

AWH: Why don't we add the letters BS while we're at it. Those highly relevant statistics you cited were compiled in *three games* - count 'em - of long relief - NOT in situations where Brito was called into a pressure situation specifically to get a left-handed hitter out. That's not just a 'small sample size', it's ridiculously small. I can just as easily tell you that as a starter, Brito compliled a 15.43 ERA against left-handed hitters. Besides that, if you're going to tell me that a left-handed hitter good enough to be left in a game against a lefty pitcher in the late innings, bearing down, is the same as facing a left-handed hitter in a 12-2 game in the fifth inning - I'll say you're full of it. My point is that no relevant stats, and therefore no evidence, exist to support your contention. Brito has weak stuff and weak command. The major league performance *I'm* thinking of tells me he had a 7.36 ERA last year - with 12 walks and 21 hits in 18 innings - so someone's hitting him around pretty good. Smith will be on this team, not Brito.

Jon said- "Hell, this team sucks right now... Nine days to right the ship!"

Quite honestly, this team does suck right now. Our bullpen is horrible, no matter how you look at it. Our rotation is still good, but has been poor this spring (aside from Myers and Lieber). Even our offense is looking like crap. To hell with this "it's only spring training", it's fricken time to produce and get something going.

All that and Gillick will still refuse to rid our team of Manuel. I'm sticking to my guns, saying that this team will go nowhere with Manuel at the helm. Granted the bullpen mess isn't his fault, but he needs to take some responsiility for the lack of preparedness this team has shown so far this spring. The Phils have been horrible both offensively and defensively. I'd like to see a little passion from the old man! I'd like to see him address the team a little pissed off! His coddling approach has not worked this spring, or in seasons past...

As for Brito, there is no way he should head north with the team. At least Smith and Castro have shown some potential to get proven left-handers out in late game situations (Smith more so than Castro). I'd rather gamble that Smith could figure things out due to having some success last season, than to turn the ball over to Brito in a crucial late inning situation. Smith has also shown some positive signs in a couple of his spring games too. As for Brito, he should be the second fall-back option (follwing Smith and Castro), not the leading candidate for #1 left-hander out of the pen. We are in deep trouble if Eude is coming in to face the Carlos Beltrans and Carlos Delgados of the league! I'd take my chances with Smith, unless a veteran can be found somewhere. Make it happen Pat!

Jon: Do you consider Matt Smith a proven major league pitcher? If so, please explain. Thanks.
Also, Manuel did go off on the team last week, about their poor play. The DN wrote about it. It did no good.

MG: You say you'd rather have Rhodes and White than Alfonseca. I'm with you on White, but you may want to review Rhodes 2006 performance before you include him.

Lest we forget that Rhodes was in the top 5 in the NL in bullpen holds, even with an ERA above 5. Defined bullpen roles? Get out there and pitch! How's that for a role? Maybe we should just all go home and be disappointed? Aren't we all forgetting that it's still the 2007 National League, where 82 and 80 can win you a World Series?

Clout, is Matt Smith proven? No. What about his upside? IMO, he has more of an upside than Brito. I do know I have seen some consistency out of Smith in his brief career. I have not seen that from Brito during his brief career. I'd ride with Smith over Brito, but would prefer Gillick getting off his ass and making a trade. How sad is it that we are even contemplating that Brito would have a shot at making this team...

The team is in big trouble. No pitcher is getting hitters out and we've been shut out in I think 3 of the last four games. Gillick has done a mostly poor job but you can't blame him for management tying his hands. Also, he can't just give Lieber or Rowand away although he hasn't gotten much of a return on any trade he's made. Let's face it, Leyland should be managing instead of Manuel, Gillick should have been more of a player in the FA market if he was allowed to be. They've over-valued of lot of their talent and what you see...There is no improvement coming from anywhere. Everyone says ST games don't matter. In the standings that's correct. But all signs point to another dreadful start.

Mike H: Wow! I am totally impressed. He was 0-5 with a 5.32 ERA, he blew 3 of 7 save opps, had an ERA of 7.43 vs. leftys (his job was to get them out) and an ERA of 15.15 (not a misprint) with runners in scoring position and 6.59 in late innings of close games. But he was top 5 in Holds. Beautiful.

Jon, Carlos Beltran bats right handed against left handed pitchers.

My bad, AWH, but I am sure you understand where I am coming from.

"you can't blame him for management tying his hands."

This is the perception - and the reason why Gillick continues to get a free pass in Philly. It can't be *him* - it must be ownership. But is this reality?

If the Phillies had a self-imposed cap, then why would Amaro say they could have afforded Soriano and still given Utley his 7-year extension?

Unless we know for sure that Gillick has been explicitly ordered to keep the payroll below a certain level, I don't think it ought to be used as a defense in his behalf.

Gillick has made a number of poor decisions in his tenure as Phillies' GM, and they are mounting heavily against him. The way he handles his personnel and has demonstrated his judge of talent has been sorely lacking. This guy is getting by on reputation and I'm frankly tired of the excuses - his and everyone else's. I've never seen a team spin its wheels the way this one does, year after year, without getting better or worse.

that's nice. let me know when you can actually do something about it. until then, you're just wasting bandwidth. You're tired of the excuses? so what? they don't care. they never have and they never will. you aren't gonna change anything.

The team will be fine; spring training is just spring training. I like Mike Smith; glad we are rid of White and Rhodes. Manuel and Gillick are doing their jobs. No way Howard puts up number like last year, but the Flyin' Hawaiian should make up for him, along with a better starting rotation. WE're going north with a good team.

I dunno about be glad to be rid of White. At this point I bet PG would take him back in a second.

As we've known for awhile now, the bullpen needs help. At some point the other shoe is going to drop, and there will be a trade. Let's not sit around pretending having Rick White back will make a difference. I don't care if he's having a good spring.

White is so badly out of shape that I was embarrassed to have him in a Phillies uniform.

its not horrible about white, although we could use him.

the pen is much weaker from the Lefty viewpoint than the Righty.

mark: I'm curious, you say that Victorino will make up for whatever dropoff Howard has. What exactly do you expect Vic to do this season?

Victorino's improvement(along with a better starting rotation) will compensate for Howard's dropoff. To quote you"what exactly" do I expect? I can't make an exact prediction, but I'll tell you after the season exactly what I predict. I will predict the playoffs for the Phils, but i'm not sure if Charlie Manuel will survive.

Clout - Sad to say but I still think I would rather Rhodes than Alfonseca. That is how done I am on Alfonseca.

All things considered though, the 2007 Phillies enter the season with a better team than they did in 2006. Fans seem to forget what killed the Phils last year was their crappy starting pitching. This year's starting rotation (even with Garcia on the DL to start the season) is much better than last year.

Also, the offense is going to score runs and should be approach last year's production. Yeah the bullpen sucks but after this spring training I think the biggest X factors going into the season are the defense and this self-imposed salary cap.

Way I see it, here is bad news - the Phils are going to have to clinch the NL East to end their playoff drought. Think the wildcard comes out of the NL West this year. Good news - there is no clear favorite in the NL East this year and every team has some serious question marks. That factor plus the NL East teams beating each other up a beat means that the winner of the NL East only needs 90 +/- 2 wins.

Phils just might be good enough to do that but they need alot of breaks including good health. If any really key player goes down (this includes Gordon), I just don't see the Phils making the playoffs.

If you boil it down, my mantra for the Phils this year is "90" because they have great shot of clinching NL East and making playoffs.

"Unless we know for sure that Gillick has been explicitly ordered to keep the payroll below a certain level, I don't think it ought to be used as a defense in his behalf."

I know it is a much more comforting theory to believe that Gillick is just some idiot who gives away Padilla and Abreu for nothing, but I have to belive those moves (and others) are related to an imposed cap by ownership.

I have a number of problems with Gillick (and, in general, do not think he is a very good GM), but I am willing to recognize the context in which he works.

As I said after the Abreu trade, he is closer to a hack at this point than an incompetant GM.

Just to make the above point more clear:

*Every* GM is asked to "keep the payroll below a certain level", even Cashman. To believe otherwise is just an excuse to complain.

I know it's still early but Gillick has been a disappointment. Who exactly were we bitting against for Adam Eaton? I believe seattle was the only other team that made an offer. Did they offer 8mil a year-doubtfull. Last year's bench selections were terrible. I'm sick of having him bring back Seatle re-treads. I hope he proves me wrong this season. I'm a fan of Coste but I'm assumiong he's not making the team even though manuel is a big fan. can we get anything from texas for him?

"*Every* GM is asked to 'keep the payroll below a certain level', even Cashman. To believe otherwise is just an excuse to complain."{

kdon - my response to that is that of course every team has a certain ceiling under which to plan and budget. What neither you nor I nor anyone on this damn board knows is just what that number is where the Phillies are concerned. You can feel free to blow off Amaro's assertion - and I recognize it's not easy to take him at face level - but until any of us has firm proof of this magic number that Gillick cannot surpass, let's not automatically assume he has his hands tied and can't make any moves for this reason.

In response to the 'waste of bandwidth' comment - it was the fans who ran Ed Wade out of town on a rail, the fans who have run any number of players and managers out of town. I'm not claiming we have the power to directly affect personnel decisions, but the court of public opinion has been known to carry some weight every now and then, and this is one of its primary forums when it comes to the local baseball team. So if I've got a reason to bitch and moan, this is a place where I can voice it. This is a site designed for fans to express opinions, regardless of whether team officials are paying attention. I don't actually give a rat's ass if "they" care or know what I'm typing. *I* care, as do the people who frequent this site, and that's enough. If you don't like it, CJ, then posit one of your own instead of telling me how ineffectual it all is. If you've got something to say for yourself, then say it - otherwise, you're the one wasting bandwidth.

MG - Nice call! 90 wins will be good enough to contend. Over the course of the year, see if your 2007 Fightin' Phils are on track for 90. If they are, then even with a rare bullpen implosion, they are on their way. The NL is not necessarily weak, but it has a great deal of parity. There are three teams in the East, four in the Central, and three out west who are eyeballing a pennant. 9 out of those 10 teams are looking to cobble together a 90 win season.

For the Phils, some bullpen guy or duo will have to replicate Rhodes's 25 holds. That will be the only thing, I hope, they will replicate from Sir Arthur.

Does PG have a budget? I assume so. The only way you can use it as an excuse, however, is if it is ridiculously low (which it's not), or if it had been lowered or changed suddenly, which I don't know.

But even that's no excuse for not getting the pieces you need when the pieces you need are complimentary pieces, not franchise builders. We've been discussing two main areas on this blog of late: the bench and setup relief. Those are areas where a budget should not really matter, where enterprising organizations find what they need without breaking the bank.

And if it did matter, if PG was held that close to a salary limit, then he's got money that could be freed up: Lieber, Burrell, Rowand, to name just three players available to move to get the $$ for the pieces the team needs.

(The way other teams come out winners whenever they trade with the Phillies you would think teams would be lined up to deal with PG).

That being said, I'm hoping he pulls another last-minute deal like he did last spring with Delucci. I just cannot believe he feels the bullpen is playoff caliber at this point.

Liebers out indefintley...guess he settled that situation for us huh?

I think the plague is coming. I don't know about you all, but I'm finding a bunker to hide in. This stuff is only getting worse!

90 = 15 wins a month. I don't know about you, but I just don't see that right now. I hope the Phils proove me wrong, but I am not holding my breath.

MG: Since you're in the rosy optimist camp with kdon and think the Phils have a good chance to win the East, you'll be able to test your theory right out of the box: 26 of their first 30 games are against the East.

kdon: You don't have the slightest clue what PG's money constraints were or are. None of us does. RSB's point about Amaro's Soriano comment is legitimate. They did indeed have a serious interest in Soriano. Those, like kdon, who excuse PG's moves on the basis of a mysterious spending limit are simply making excuses for him. Any bumble is answered with, "oh well he's just working within the financial constraints management set for him"

Mike H: Yep, gotta have those holds. Do you realize how meaningless that stat is? If a reliever enters an 11-3 game and his team wins, even if he gives up 6 runs, he gets a "hold." Here's a far more important stat: In late and close games, in other words when it really counted, Rhodes had an ERA of 6.59.

mark: So you say that Vic will make up for another dropoff in Howard's production but you can't cite what you mean by that, only that you'll tell us at the end of the season? Howard is a HR and RBI guy, so presumably you see a big jump in HRs and RBI for Vic, no? You want to write your prediction on a piece of paper and mail it to Jason and then he'll let us know at season's end?

Maybe I'm cynical, but I wonder how serious Lieber's injury is and whether it's related to his disgust at being sent to the bullpen. If he's dealt before the season opens, or if Garcia's injury is more serious than the Phils are saying and Lieber is put back into the rotation, I predict a quick recovery.

Here's is what would make me a believer: If Jimmy Rollins carries over his selectivity into the regular season. He is taking way more pitches than he did last year, his K/BB ratio is 4/10 and his OB is .455, more than 100 points above his BA. Now I don't expect him to put up those kinds of stats, but even if he got his OB to .360 and cut way down on his Ks, he could make a huge, huge difference in wins for this team. The last 3 seasons his April OB #s have each been sub .320 (and a combined .298).

I have stated on here that Eaton was a horrible signing.. He hasn't changed my thinking. Bisenius is probably the best ARM in the pen.. There are no REAL GOOD pitchers there.Linebrink for Rowand should have been done in FEB if at all possible.Now Phils are stuck with an injured Lieber and a Rowand hitting under the Mendoza Line. Now... even Kevin Mench and Scott Feldman look pretty good now huh?

Clout - I wouldn't say I have a "rosy" projection. The 2007 team going into the season is better the 2006 team even with some of the early injuries. That said, 90 wins for this team is going to be difficult and they need to catch a bunch of breaks including avoid injuries to some key players.

Personally, I still see the Phils hovering around the 85 or 86 win mark and missing the playoffs again but is not crazy to think they might squeeze 90 victories. Just think something like 95 victories is totally out of question.

One argument we probably won't ever settle is whether or not Gillick has a cap.

I think it is entirely reasonable to belive they do and I really can't undertand the position of "oh, we don't know for certain, so we'll just believe what we want to believe in order to complain."

I mean come on guys, he obviously has a budget. I can't logically prove it to you, but I can't see how a reasonable person doesn't think that in this day and age a baseball team doesn't have a budget.

Call me an optimist, but Rollins' selectivity will carry over this time. Every time he talks about his approach, it's "Bobby this" and "Bobby that." It seems clear that the role of getting on base has fallen squarely in his hands, and he knows it. He wants to be Abreu at the plate, and that's good. A look around the rest of the lineup finds a disproportionate number of high strikeout players, but also RBI hitters. Very important season for Rollins, and also Victorino.

kdon: The argument isn't about whether he has a spending limit. Of course he does. As you said, all GMs, even Cashman, have a spending limit. The argument is whether the arbitrary limit set by this team's ownership is a legitimate excuse for bad personnel decisions and trades. To you, it is. To me and RSB, it isn't.

Jason: Victorino has shown little improvement this spring in pitches per AB. Although I have only seen 2-3 games, I still see him swinging at bad pitches.

Rollins, on the other hand, is being way more selective than I've ever seen him before. My opinion is that he's the single most important factor on whether this team makes the playoffs this year. If his ST approach carries over, I'll be jumping on the bandwagon faster than anyone.

Wagner's wrong on both counts. the Phils don't have the best team on paper (clearly the Mets do), and the big question for the Mets isn't staying healthy, it's getting good production from their sketchy rotation.

in fact, I think they're very well positioned to deal with injuries - tons of pitchers, decent bench hitters. of course if someone like Beltran or Wright goes down they're probably in trouble, but when does a team ever have a way to deal with losing an MVP candidate?

"The argument isn't about whether he has a spending limit. Of course he does."

If only this were so obvious for everyone is the quote I was initially responding to:

"Unless we know for sure that Gillick has been explicitly ordered to keep the payroll below a certain level, I don't think it ought to be used as a defense in his behalf."

What seems to be creating the disagreement is your belief that I'm completely letting Gillick off the hook. Let me be clear: I'm not. I ripped the Padilla and Abreu trades, and the crappy FA signings as much as anyone on this board.

I have no problem criticizing Gillick. I have a problem when context (i.e. payroll contraints) is *completely* ignored, as it is in some of Gillicks more vociforous critics.

It's all relative.
The Mets are going to be scary on the offensive side this year because they've upgraded by giving Wright more bats by putting him second in the lineup and by adding Alou. It also looks like Reyes has improved his presence at the plate quite a bit.

The Braves are going to be a much better offensive team; it looks like Johnson is settling in and Francouer is going to take it to the next level.

On the defensive side, it looks like the Phillies, particularly Utley and Howard haven't worked on defense much this offseason, which they both really needed to improve on. Relatively, the other infields in the NL East are all much much better. The key to the Phillies' defense getting better is Howard. He needs to step up and work on his throws and catching. His agility for his size is pretty good. But he seems to come unhinged and get off balance when catching throws that aren't perfectly on line.

The Phillies' offense is vulnerable because production lies largely in the hands of utley and howard; utley is a streaky hitter and howard, while a bit steadier, is a very impatient hitter because he wants to get to 62 HRs and thinks he can get borderline pitches at a decent enough clip to give himself a shot. In a way, it's a tough situation with his contract because he could be thinking more of his own situation and going after HRs instead of the team's with his current contract, as opposed to simply letting the HRs come to him, and concentrating on doing whatever it takes to win ballgames; a long-term deal may help put the team first and give him more patience at the plate.

as for the pitching, i've also thought that moreso than any other position, how one pitches in ST is completely irrelevant. Kind of looking at ST records. moreover, it's a long season, and I'd rather pitchers continue to improve and strengthen as the year progresses and be at their peak in September-(October) rather than waste their peak performances now. this is not to say that players shouldn't have peak performances from the very beginning, but i think it is extrememly rare to find players who can maintain that kind of performance. most players, including all of the pitchers on the phillies are susceptible to having only a couple peak performance "bullets" in their heads and bodies over the course of a season.
who knows, maybe i'm way off.

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EST. 2005

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