Brian Michael’s Interview with

Brandon Lee of Mets Paradise recently sat down with Phillies Nation’s Brian Michael for an interview about the Phillies. Before they ripped each others heads off, Brandon was able to ask Brian some question about the Phillies, what he thinks of the Mets, how he thinks the Phillies will do this year, and more:

Brandon Lee:  There’s been a lot made about the Mets/Phillies rivalry, what do you think about it? How do you see the Mets?

Brian Michael: Honestly, I loathe Mets fans (and the Mets) – probably because we are so alike in many ways. We both have that inferiority complex that we’re afraid to admit, are fans from birth, are knowledgeable about our teams, and won’t back down from a fight. The rivalry on the field almost got interesting, but then the Mets faded as the Phillies made the playoffs. Conversely, the Mets were good in previous years but the Phillies were not. When both teams are playing up to their potential, it’s one of the best rivalries in baseball.

BL: Personally, my favorite player on the Phillies is Chase Utley, just love the way he plays. Are there any players on the Mets that you like, or do you hate them all?

BM: Everyone hates Jose Reyes (including I’m sure plenty of Mets fans). Daniel Murphy is starting to be a Phillie-killer, so I’m not digging him either. I used to like David Wright, until he went ice cold last year. But, you have to respect Johan and his competitive spirit to be the best. Like Halladay, that’s the kind of guy you want on your team.

BL: Yeah, I can understand why some people don’t like Jose but personally, I’m a huge fan of him. You mentioned Roy Halladay, who the Phillies made a big trade for this off-season. What do you think of the trade? Do you think the Phillies are better off with him instead of Cliff Lee, considering who else they gave up?

BM: Well, I think they would have been best with BOTH of them, but I guess you can’t be greedy. The way the business end of things sat, it made more sense to get Halladay. Lee was certainly a fan favorite and no one will forget his dominance down the stretch and in the playoffs. But to lock down Halladay for 4 years is something you can’t pass up. I will say this though, the Phillies may have overestimated how difficult it would have been to resign Lee, but you can’t bank on that.

BL: True, but the Phillies could have signed Lee for less than $20M and kept some prospects… but it’s a though call because Halladay is a better pitcher. There is a lot made about where the Phillies play (Citizen Bank Park), being an easy park to hit in. As someone who watches the Phillies a lot, do you see a significant difference between home runs on the home and road? Do you ever see a ball hit on the road that doesn’t get out, that you thought might have been out at Citizen Bank Park?

BM: The Phillies are an offensive juggernaut, there’s no denying that. Their lineup is built around speed (top 3), power (middle 3) and contact (bottom 3) and is legit top to bottom. As for CBP, the Phillies were top in the NL in homers both at home and on the road. In fact, they hit 8 more homers on the road. Boston, Texas and the Yankees all hit more homers at home. I think the new Yankee Stadium has become the new band box of MLB. But yes, I’ve certainly seen balls hit that would be homers at CBP and not other places… both of our teams play lots of games at the Marlins huge park… not to mention Citi Field.

BL: Good point, I don’t think the Phillies are good because of the park they play in. Just ridiculous to think that that’s the reason they are the best team in the NL. Speaking of the park, I’ve been there a few times and its absolutely gorgeous. I feel like Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park have a very similar feel to them, in that they are both very modern. What is your favorite part of the park? Do you think they could do anything to make it better?

BM: I was sad to see Veteran’s Stadium go since it was a place I grew up in, but Citizens Bank Park has overwhelmingly made up for that loss. The food and drinks and sight lines are amazing. We had a big road trip up to Citi Field last season (and will again this season) and I think most people would agree that it’s similar to the Bank. I just think there are way too many ads around the stadium, and what’s with the policy of no grilling in stadium lots? That sucks.

BL: Yeah, I was very sad to see Shea go. Me and my dad were at one of the last games there and we left the stadium in tears. Cole Hamels was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2007 and 2008, but then he struggled in 2009. What do you make of this? Do you think it was just an off year or have hitters figured him out?

BM: Well, it was a variety of things. Mainly, Cole was not able to get in the conditioning during the off-season that he was accustomed to. With a World Series MVP comes many responsibilities (like banquets and appearances), opportunities (like those ESPN Magazine commercials) and interviews; so he spent less time working out. Also he never had a great 3rd pitch, so he couldn’t get out of trouble when he didn’t have his stuff. However this year, he has recognized the need to stay sharp and has also improved his curve and developed a cutter.

BL: Hypothetically speaking, if Chase Utley’s, Ryan Howard’s and Cole Hamels’ contracts all expired at the same time, and you could only keep one of them, which one would it be?

BM: It depends what time, but I would say Chase at this point.

BL: The Phillies traded Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud in the Halladay trade. Who do you think was the biggest lose? Who’s the top prospect in the Phillies system now?

BM: I think as a pitcher Kyle Drabek had the most potential to help the Phillies on a major league level. It’s hard to judge prospects of course, Carlos Carrasco was supposed to be awesome, but he failed to impress after being traded last season. For this year though, I’d say Domonic Brown is the top prospect. He can hit for power and is fast and would be a solid addition to most outfields – but probably not for another year.

BL: Jayson Werth is going to be a free agent after this year. Do you think the Phillies will hold onto him, or let him walk? What kind of contract would you offer to him?

BM: Werth is going to be expensive, both in general and for the Phillies to keep considering Howard’s and Rollins’ contracts are expiring soon as well. I would offer 3 years / $45 million, but he’ll probably find a better one.

BL: The Phillies line-up is amazing, one of the best in baseball. But what do you think is the biggest weakness for this team?

BM: The bullpen. It was shaky last year and may have even cost them the Series. There has been quite a bit of turnover this year, but most are still question marks. I’m pretty confident in the rotation, lineup and defense.

BL:For the Mets, a lot of their hope for this season is resting on Oliver Perez (it’s a scary thought). Is there a player on the Phillies that you feel, if they perform well, the Phillies will be success in 2010?

BM: Brad Lidge, no question.

BL: Placido Polanco is back with the Phillies after spending time there from 2002-2005. He’s a second baseman and he’s won two Gold Gloves there but now he is going to move to third. How do you think he is going to do there? Do you think he fits well in the Phillies line-up? Where do you think he’ll hit in the line-up with Rollins and Victorino at the top of the order already?

BM: Offensively he is an improvement over Feliz, but defensively I think he might struggle with the new position. Second to third is a much bigger leap than one to or from shortstop. In the lineup he doesn’t have to do anything amazing a .260 clip is fine with me. He’ll probably hit 7th.

BL: Who do you think is the biggest threat to the Phillies crown of best team in the NL East as well as the best team in the National League?

BM: I would say the Braves in the east, maybe the Mets, but there are so many ifs with you guys (if they stay healthy, if Perez rebounds). The Nats won’t be as bad as they’ve been, so I think the East will be much more competitive than recent years. Overall in the NL I think the Cards will be the toughest.

BL: Overall, what did you think of the Phillies offseason? What do you think they could of done better?

BM: I think it was decent. Ruben Amaro is positioning himself as a premier GM in baseball by going out and getting the pieces the team needs to win.  Sometimes he may be a bit quick to sign someone, almost bidding against himself at times, but things have worked out so far. I think his hands were tied with the Lee deal so I don’t fault him for that. Obviously it would have been great to keep him though. The Polanco deal was ok, but I would have liked to see less of a liability in the field. The Phils havea history of strong defensive third basemen.

BL: Last question, where do you see the Phillies finishing in 2010? Do you think this team is better than the ones from 2008 and 2009?

BM: World Series Champs. They are better on paper than the previous teams and have the experience.

BL: Yeah, fans have to be confident with the team the Phillies have put together.

BM: For sure.

BL: Well that’s all I have, thanks for your time. Looking forward to this season, should be really interesting

BM: Yeah definitely. Thank you too.

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