Changing of the Guards

This title works on two levels.  First, after last night’s Eagles debacle, I think it’s high time Philadelphia turns back into a baseball town.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Eagles, but I love the Phillies more and over the past couple years I’ve gotten tired of hearing about the Eagles in the heart of the baseball season.  During the football season is fine and you can’t deny there’s plenty of football and related items to keep busy with this season.  I just think the Phillies might be gaining some momentum in the Philly sports scene at the same time the Eagles are slowing down.  

The second and more dramatic torch passing is occurring at the first base bag in Citizen’s Bank Park as today Ryan Howard was named NL rookie of the year.  Ryno received 19 of 32 first-place votes and fairly convincingly beat out Astros outfielder Willy Taveras the Braves’ touted right fielder Jeff Francoeur who finished second and third respectively.  Despite starting the season in the minors and being sent back at one point, he led all rookies with 22 home runs and hit .288 with 63 RBI in 88 games.  His 11 homers in the final month of the season was a rookie record and certainly kept the Phils in the playoff hunt.  Howard, who turns 26 next week, is the fourth Phil to win the award alongside Scott Rolen, Dick Allen and Jack Sanford.

Of course the biggest wish of fans this off-season is to allow this stud to keep playing and develop his power.  Let’s not forget he also struck out a solid 100 times this season, which averages to more than one per game.  Whether or not this comes at the expense of Jim Thome remains to be seen.  Despite previous rumors, the Twins GM has stated that he is not looking to pick up big contracts.  The Phils could either pay part of Thome’s salary in a deal that would send him packing or continue to pay him handsomely as an overpriced pinch hitter.  Inquirer reporter Jim Salisbury weighs in with his comments on this situation (and others) over on a Metsblog podcast – though I must warn you, it’s nothing you haven’t heard already.  I think we should forget the prospects of Ryan playing in the outfield.  Not only would Gillick have to move Burrell and Abreu, based on last year’s spring training Howard is absolutely horrible in the outfield.

So newly appointed Pat Gillick is left with quite the conundrum (though he’s faced similar ones before) – a potential Hall of Famer vs. a rookie of the year.  They’re both lefties so a platoon is out of the question.  Though sports people say all the time that having two quality players is a good problem to have; over here in England they call it something else: redundancy.  Fortunately the GM meetings started today so Pat should know real soon what he options are.

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