Here is part two of our interview with Jayson Stark, senior baseball writer at ESPN.com, former Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of “Worth the Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies.” Go here for part one, if you haven’t read it yet. And now:
Last season the Phillies got a jump from Jayson Werth. Any players in 2009 who could supply surprising output?
Not to that level. But Eric Bruntlett has made amazing strides offensively. And with no other right-handed bat who can play the outfield, I bet he plays more out there than people think. He’s been doing that one-handed drill off a tee that turned around Jimmy Rollins’ stroke the year of the hitting streak. And you can see the results.
Also, Eric Bruntlett could steal 30 bases if he played semi-regularly. So that’s my out-of-the-blue pick.
Place Chase Utley in the context of other second basemen you’ve seen during your life. How does he rate?
I don’t know that there’s anyone quite like him. I always thought Roberto Alomar was the best second baseman I’d ever seen, but Chase is much grittier than Alomar was. Jeff Kent is going to be a Hall of Famer, but Chase is way better defensively, more complete offensively and a much better teammate and leader. So face it. If Chase Utley keeps this up, he’s a Hall of Fame second baseman one of these years.
You should hear people on other teams talk about this guy. He’s every player’s favorite player to watch. Even Hank Aaron picked him!
What three things must occur for the Phillies to return to the postseason in 2009?
1) Have to have a healthier pitching staff than the Mets.
2) Utley and Rollins – the two regulars who were hurting last year – need to stay healthy and return to 2007 levels.
3) As the only potential right-handed presence in the middle of the order, Jayson Werth needs to be a force, so they can break up all the lefthanded bats.
Of the minor transactions made by the Phillies in the offseason (everyone but Raul Ibanez and Chan Ho Park), who could make the biggest impact in 2009?
Boy, not much to choose from. It would have to be Mayberry, because Ronny Paulino is already gone and all those relievers they signed are just inventory.
Tell me about the new book, “Worth the Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies” — is it a collection of rumblings and stats, or is it a much more personal account?
It’s all of the above. Here’s how it came about:
As October rolled along, I couldn’t believe how many Philadelphians came up to me at the ballpark or emailed me just to thank me for telling the story of this team the way THEY saw it – not the way the rest of the world looks at Philadelphia. And it got me to thinking someone had to write a book for these people. My friends at Triumph Books agreed and were committed to releasing it by March.
So this is a book written for Philadelphians. Just so people understand, I’m not a Phillies fan, because I cover baseball for a living, so I’m not a fan of any team. But I AM a Philadelphian.
And because I am, I understand what that World Series and that season meant – and still means – to all those people. So I’ve tried my best to capture that. This book is meant to take you on a journey, from spring training to the parade floats, and allow you to relive the thrills, understand the transformation of the men who made it possible and describe how all the planets lined up just right to allow it to happen the way it did.
As I was covering the postseason, a lot of people urged me to put all my columns about this team in a book. But we did better than that. We took the pieces I’d already written and reshaped them and reworked them, then added thousands of words of new material. There are also a bunch of Useless Information tidbits on the postseason that only my demented mind could possibly have been responsible for.
This book has gotten amazing response so far. So I’m really looking forward to going around, signing copies for people all over the area and talking about an amazing season and a fun book to write.