First allow me to apologize for a slow past week. Myself and a few other Phillies Nation staff were preoccupied ripping though the seedy underbellies of London and Amsterdam and well, as you can imagine, computers were not always accessible. But we’re back in full force and ready to start enjoying and commenting on some Spring Training and WBC Phillies baseball.
Two quick reminders first before we play catch up on the latest Phillies news. First, Phillies Nation will be sponsoring a tailgate party on Opening Day, April 3rd. Details can be found at our myspace.com shadow site. So, if you like free beer and hanging out with fun Phillies fans, I strongly suggest you attend – even if you don’t have tickets to the game. Second, the two divisions of the Phillies Nation Fantasy League (Delaware and Schuykill) will be holding drafts over the course of the next few weeks, so be sure to keep an eye on the Yahoo! pages for info. More draft details will be posted as the dates near, but if you’ve signed up and are not planning on participating, please delete your team as we having others still looking to join. Now to some Phillies news.
The Phils have amassed a 7-4 record so far in the Grapefruit League, but have been plagued by sloppy play and injuries. While some comfort may be found in the Phils’ ability to overcome adversity and win ball games, the plethora of mistakes are certainly troubling. It is unlikely that during the regular season it will be as easy to win games featuring a host of errors, baserunning gaffes, and bunting mistakes as the Phils have experienced these past two weeks. Nonetheless, there is not much need for concern on these issues as yet, the team is just shaking off the winter cobwebs. Like we said in the last post, the Phils need to come out of the gate strong this season and the momentum of a successful spring training can only help. I would like to see Jon Lieber and Jimmy Rollins in particular perform as well as they did in the closing months of last season. Lieber is 10-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 13 starts in September and October over the last two regular seasons with the Phillies and Yankees and of course JRoll finished on fire with a 36-game hitting streak.
Speaking of starting with strength, two Phils have been flexing their muscles recently in Florida. Ryan Howard, while beginning to make contact against lefty pitchers is still crushing the ball against righties. He has smashed six homers so far despite battling a high fever during the first week. Similarly, Alex Gonzalez, who only hit 9 HRs all of last season, has belted three dingers so far. Hitting like this could greatly increase his chances to play more at third base. With the extent of David Bell’s back injury still unknown, Charlie Manuel will continue to evaluate potential replacements. To that end, Ruben Amaro, Jr. has mentioned that trade talks involving sending Tomas Perez to the Marlins have been put on hold. Still, even with Bell out of the picture the Phils have a lot of backup infielders, so don’t be surprised if those talks resume shortly.
Finally, I wanted to share two things that have left me scratching my head. The first involved Chase Utley’s Ryan Howard impersonation during the WBC game versus Scott Mathieson and Team Canada. Upon smacking a towering drive to deep centerfield in the eighth inning, Utley prematurely raised his arms in celebration. The ball was eventually caught at the warning track, leaving Utley looking foolish. Though WBC games might have a different sense of competition about them, I’m puzzled by the move from the otherwise level-headed Utley. Not that it’s a big deal as I’m sure we all forgive Chase, it was just a bit uncharacteristic for a guy everyone is looking to as the team leader. The last puzzling piece of this post pertains to the 2006 Phillies slogan: "Red Means Go." While I can appreciate the traffic light pun, the line seems cornier than usual and not very catchy. How about using the color in its more traditional sense, like "red hot" or idiomatically, like "paint the league red," or perhaps just something simple like "World Series or Bust." Slogans might not seem like a big deal, but then again, why do phrases like "Whatever it Takes, Dude," "Ya Gotta Believe," or "Cowboy Up" invoke a sense of determination that "Red Means Go" does not? Anyone have a suggestion for something better?