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Sheffield Gets Served, Soriano On The Horizon

Gary Sheffield could only sit and watch as Bobby Abreu claimed his place as the best right fielder in New York (No disrespect Shawn Green). After his trade deadline arrival from the Phils, Bobby A batted a Mantle-esque .330, paired with 7 home runs, 42 RBIs, and slugged a Ruthian .507. He was one of the few stars that shined in the dim lit sky that was the Yankee’s postseason offense by hitting .333 while reaching base in all four postseason games. Abreu’s exceptional play during the final half and postseason forced Brian Cashman to flip Sheffield to Detroit in exchange for three minor league pitchers a.k.a. 2007 in-season trade bait.

I’m sure Shef is eager to improve upon his dismal 2006 season. Making his return to the field on September 22nd, Sheffield batted .250 with two homeruns and collected only 6 RBIs for the remaining 9 games of the season. It was apparent the hand injury still lingered even after his return. Subtracting his 2 bombs, his only other extra base hit had been a double. Furthermore, his 6 RBIs came at the expense of the forgotten element of the AL East – Tampa, Toronto, and Baltimore – who were auditioning minor league pitchers for the following season. His lackluster offensive production followed him into the postseason where he only could manage one hit. Sheffield’s RBI single in the 1st inning of Game 1 tamed the feared middle lineup combo, featuring Sheffield, Jason Giambi and A-Rod, combined to go 1-34.

Starting Sunday the Phillies can tender offers to players who filed for free agency. Priorities for the Phils during the off-season are to improve the bullpen, acquire a player who can bat behind Ryan Howard and to get rid of Pat Burrell at any cost. Targeted prospects of the Phils, made by various sources, include outfielder Alfonso Soriano, pitcher Miguel Batista and infielder Mark DeRosa.

Raise your hand if you want Alfonso Soriano playing left field for the Phillies in 2007. For all of you who didn’t then you must have read Bill Conlin’s column in the Daily News on Friday. He chronicled the continuing problems of strikeouts and runners left on base with Soriano plugged in the lineup in place of Burrell. His point was well delivered in the scenario of what if Howard, Soriano and Utley loaded the bases. He indicated that Howard running in front of Soriano is like having driving a Chevette clogging up the fast lane. Also, who drives those three guys across the plate if a situation like that occurs?

Despite his well articulated argument, I’m going to have to disagree with it. Conlin’s attitude toward acquiring Soriano is comparable to the Phillies outlook on acquiring superstar caliber players. Instead of pondering the worst possible outcome of a situation that hasn’t even happened yet, try to embrace the positives of having a quality high priced player, i.e. Soriano, on this team.

He is an offensive powerhouse who can hit to all fields with power who can separate the lefty combo of Howard and Utley, he can bat anywhere in the lineup and is leaps and bounds better defensively than Pat Burrell. How many times has Pat Burrell’s inability to track down and/or field a baseball hurt this team? There isn’t a number that exists to add up his failure. How many times did you leave your seat to get a hot dog when Pat Burrell stepped to the plate with runners on base? You might not be a psychic but you knew the outcome of his at bat before everyone else did.

Now, plug Soriano into those situations where Pat Burrell has failed. Even if Soriano comes out successful in only 30 percent of the time, the Phils are playing in October.

Hopefully, by this time next week I can cross Alfonso Soriano off my Christmas list.

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