They’re hurt. They’re older. They’re determined to play. Charlie Manuel will have a tough time balancing time off with going for broke.
Aside from breaking news, one of my goals on Beerleaguer is to publish stories that haven’t been written before, but today I’d like to focus on “preservation,” even though it was the subject of Tim Malcolm’s blog entry on Phillies Nation yesterday. It's related to this week's thrust of conversation and it’s a trumpet I’ve sounded before, this idea of building in personal days for players like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. It’s especially relevant now that Utley has suffered the first major injury setback of his career, a hip injury that will reportedly linger.
Days off are a nice concept. Too bad they never happen. The season may be 162 games, but it seems like a third of them are tabbed “must wins” for one reason or another: rubber matches; the first or last game of a crucial homestand or road trip; games with division rivals; games to snap a long losing streak; games to keep winning streaks alive, the entire month of September, etc. There’s never a proper time to sit someone like Utley, Rollins or Howard.
Instead, under Manuel, the only rest has been for the weary of bat. Players sit when they aren’t hitting, and even then, they must be mired in a brutal funk. But all things considered, how much is there to gain in resting the best players, recognizing that the playoff race always goes down to the wire and every win is vital? The Phils are indeed a year older, but are mostly in their prime. There’s something to be said about squeezing every last once from this group while they still have something great to give.