Monday, March 22, 2010

Phillies Preview with Balls, Sticks, & Stuff

Starting today, I'm previewing the competition across the NL East by chatting with some of the best team bloggers in the division. We're getting started by talking about the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies with Tom from Balls, Sticks & Stuff.

Finish this statement: The Phillies will repeat as NL Champs if...

...they have some luck go their way. They'll certainly make the playoffs, but to advance several rounds, things have to go your way a bit.

And this one: The Phillies will be worse than expected if...

...they suffer some bad, bad, bad luck. In 2009 they had the worst closer since the sales team in Glengarry Glen Ross before Alec Baldwin tore then a new one. Raul Ibanez missed have the season and Jimmy Rollins OBA never got above .300. On top of that, Cole Hamels ERA spent most of the season north of 5.00. All of that happened and they still won the National League East by six games and made it to the World Series.

I really don't want to seem cocky, because these are the types of things I never thought I'd write about the Phillies, but this team is a bunch of winners. They've showed that.

The Phillies added Roy Halladay, but gave up Cliff Lee. Did they miss an opportunity to have a historically great team by keeping both?

It depends how you look at it, and believe me, I've spent the entire winter doing just that, and, well, moving snow. I think by keeping Lee, the Phillies would have closed the door to contending very much after 2011 or 2012. By keeping him, they MIGHT have sealed the deal on another World Series, but they CERTAINLY would have been in trouble a few years from now. I fully expect Tyson Gillies [and Domonic Brown] to be in the outfield in a few years and Phillipe Aumont to be on the big club in some capacity. Unfortunately the firm of Utley-Howard-Rollins-Werth won't be around forever.

You can't forget, the Phillies have very few periods of sustained success. There was the 1976-1980 teams, and really, that's about it other than a few lightning in a bottle teams here and there (1950, 1993) and I think the current regime is very wary of drifting into insignificance again. They want to contend year in, year out. They don't want the golden era of Phillies baseball--and that's what this is--to end.

My heart wanted to keep Lee, my head tells me it was the right thing to do.

Brad Lidge in 2008 had one of the best seasons ever for a closer. Last year, he had perhaps the worst season for a closer ever. What do you expect this year? Shouldn't he have been replaced by now?

Lidge was healthy in 2008 and unhealthy in 2009. When you look at his career, whenever he is unhealthy, he is atrocious, and whenever he is healthy he is quite good. The question I ask over and over is, how do we get him healthy again and keep him that way.

Give me your take on Ruben Amaro's overall performance as a general manager so far.

Signing the deal he did with Roy Halladay is amazing. The guy is one of the top three pitchers in baseball and Rube got him to sign essentially a three year deal for $60 million with a team option for a fourth. In doing so, he didn't break the rule Pat Gillick put in place when he got here: no free agent pitchers signed for more than three years. It's a rule I think is spot on on even with a guy like Halladay it's the right thing to do.

And lets not forget, the Lee trade was pretty good too. I give Amaro a lot of credit for how he handled the summer of 2009. When J.P. Riccardi, the GM of the Blue Jays, went a little whackadoodle, Amaro kept his cool and moved on to Lee. A lot of general managers wouldn't have been able to turn the page like that.

Outside of those deals though, Rube does have some head-scratchers. Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco are signed for contracts that are way too long given their age. I think Ibanez will spend significant amounts of time on the disabled list in the final two years of his deal and Polanco has been declining for a while now.

Will Jimmy Rollins bounce back, or is he simply in decline?

A bit of both. Will he bounce back from his sub-.300 OBA in 2009? Yes, no doubt about it. Having said that, I do think his best offensive years are behind him. That's not to say he isn't quite valuable when you look at his overall game, but I do think we've seen his best. Let me tell you though, one of the most beautiful things in the world is a Jimmy Rollins triple in front of a packed house at Citizens Bank Park.

Is Chase Utley a Hall of Famer?

Does the pope wear a funny hat?

Look, he's entering his age 31 season and already has three seasons of at least 30 home runs, which is tied for first all-time among second basemen. His career .902 OPS is second only to Rogers Hornsby among second basemen and at the rate he is going, he'll have more hits than Joe Morgan. As for defense, some say average, some say above, some say excellent. Plus he's got three division titles in a row, two National League pennants in a row and of course, a World Series title. When you combine all that, you have yourself a Hall of Famer my friend.

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