2012 Spring Training

Writer’s Roundtable, Part 1: Press Panic

The Big Piece is among Phillies Nation's biggest concerns.

The grass is getting greener, the birds are retreating back to the Northeast, and my allergies are flaring up; these are, of course, the telltale signs of baseball’s return. The comments on both the blog and our Facebook page have been heating up with both optimism for the 2012 season but also some legitimate concerns for the Fightins. The Phillies Nation crew got together and put together the top reasons to panic as well as the top reasons to have faith in the Phils, or press on. Feel free to take a look at ours and add in reasons of your own!

Today, we panic!

Time to Hit the Panic Button

Who will step up offensively? – Pat Gallen, Editor-in-Chief

It’s an honest, legitimate question – and I don’t know that there is an easy answer. No Chase Utley for the foreseeable future; no Ryan Howard ’til who knows when. Who will be asked to do more than usual?

Start at the top with Jimmy Rollins – he will need to be a superior table-setter every single day. There is really no choice. Shane Victorino cannot regress; he must continue to be one the Swiss Army Knife of this lineup. And Hunter Pence will have to put the offense on his back at times. But beyond that, it is anyone’s guess as to who will be the person to step up large. If they can’t find that person, then runs will be hard to come by and the pitching staff will have to be near perfect.

Left Field – Ian Riccaboni

I don’t have a fancy title for my area of panic. Over the off-season, I wrote glowingly of how a 1B platoon could outperform Howard in a small sample and my enthusiasm of the acquisitions of role players like Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton, Juan Pierre, and Scott Podsednik. But as the season draws closer, I have a larger and larger knot in my stomach. The scary part is I can’t tell if it’s the “Raul Ibanez was so bad defensively and so mediocre offensively in left in 2011 that anyone else will be better” knot, the “I don’t know what to expect, this could have a great outcome” knot, or the “the season starts in less than 10 days and we may not have a left fielder” knot.

If it’s the latter, there’s a certain beautiful danger to that. We could be absolutely fine. In fact, Ibanez (.245/.289/.419 and -21.8 UZR/150) was so “blah” last year that just about any warm body should be an improvement. But the disappointing Springs thus far from Nix (.200/.333/.200) and John Mayberry Jr. (.206/.254/.270) and Dom Brown’s demotion make me want to do something crazy like start Lou Montanez (.326/.362/.465 this Spring) in left.

To be fair, Montanez, Pierre (.295/.367/.318), and Podsednik (.333/.400/.444) have been playing out of their minds and above their level in Spring Training. The difficulty comes in figuring out if that performance was “real” or not. If it was real, and Nix or Mayberry have a disappointing start in LF, will Charlie know when to change course and let someone else win the job?

The Missing (Big) Piece – Amanda Orr

No matter the situation, worrying is a part of being a Phillies fan. It doesn’t matter how well the Phillies are doing, there’s always going to be that little bit of anxiety.  Worrying comes naturally in Philadelphia.  Entering the 2012 season, I don’t see how Phillies fans can’t be worried.  It seems like many fans are questioning how well the Phillies will do this season.

As if Chase Utley’s injury wasn’t enough, there’s Ryan Howard’s.  Howard had a setback with an infection, but it’s doubtful he’ll miss the entire season.  Even though he should be back by July at the latest, it still takes a Big Piece (literally) out of the lineup for 3-4 months.  Every game counts, even if it’s early in the season.  Missing two key hitters in the Phillies’ lineup could lead to a poor start.  This could mean that the Phillies could be playing catchup, chasing the other teams in the division, rather than being the ones being chased.

Besides the right side of the infield, there are other question marks like the bullpen and left field.  The list seems like it’s getting bigger.  Right now, I’m pressing the “Panic” button.

The Phillies Nation TV spin-off? It may be “Meet the Phillies” – Kieran Carobine

The injury bug might make the Phillies grow up sooner than they are ready.  Chase Utley’s statement on Sunday pretty much summed up everyone’s fear of the most.  He will not be ready for Opening Day which most likely means youngster Freddy Galvis will be your starting second baseman for the Phillies.  Galvis is good defensively and has a very good arm but makes hardly any noise at the plate.  This Spring, he is hitting better than expected but I do foresee some learning pains going into the season.  With Ryan Howard out and Placido Polanco always ailing, we could have our very own show of ‘Meet the Phillies’ every night at CBP.

It may be time for Ruben to start turning over rocks to find offense. Nick Staskin, Retired Beerman

The past two seasons have ended because the team has not been able to score in the postseason. Why? Nobody gets on base.

There wasn’t any real turnaround from the starting 8, aside from Mayberry becoming an everyday player as opposed to almost everyday. Now, with the injuries to Howard and Utley, the offense is even worse. I don’t know where offensive production is going to come from, and aside from Ruiz, I’m not sure who can even draw a walk.

More question marks than Matthew Lesko‘s suit. Jonathan Nisula

With Ryan Howard sidelined with no timetable for a return due to his injured achilles and Chase Utley now on the shelf also with no timetable for return with knee issues, the Phillies offense all of a sudden looks no better than mediocre. Ruben Amaro Jr. brought in some players to help fill the holes, but it won’t be enough. Not even close.

The Phils will now have to play with replacements at first and second base to start the season, and their lineup will look much different without the usual three and four hitters around. This could even cause a chemistry issue, as the team may struggle to gel together with so much shuffling going on. I’m worried that the Phillies offense will be near the bottom of the division, forcing the pitching to carry them–and there’s only so much the starting pitching can do.

Is Utley the man we thought he was? Would Mac still want to have a catch with him? Or is he crushing on Wilson Valdez these days like the rest of Philly? Don M.

Wilson Valdez is a slick-fielding, strong-armed, weak hitter.  People talk about Valdez as though he were a perennial MVP candidate when in reality, he was a utility player, most famous for hitting into double-plays and pitching that wonderful 19th-inning.  Do I wish we had him right now given the injury to Utley? Yeah, I guess so – but if he’s the difference between us winning and losing in 2012, we have problems that run deep.

Galvis will be given a good, long look, and the one that many said was “Major League ready, defensively” will have his chance to see what he can do in The Show.  Given what we know about the Utley injury, I still am shocked to hear all the venom being directed towards Amaro. Utley had a full off season to prepare himself for the 2012 season. After missing the first 46 games of 2011, why not see a specialist earlier? Why hide so much from the organization and the fans?

Why does his selfishness get a free pass in this town?  When Howard has a setback, he gets blamed. When Utley has a setback, Amaro gets blamed.  I just don’t get it.

No room for improvementsCorey Seidman

The Phillies no longer have room to improve if they want to stay under or closely above the luxury tax threshold. I’ve been asked a lot recently if I think Ruben Amaro will make another big trade this season. The answer is a definitive no just because there is very little left to trade and the Phillies simply cannot continue to take on salary.

They need Domonic Brown to pan out because they need an inexpensive but productive everyday player. They need a guy to hit .290/.360/.500 while making $700,000. Most of the top prospects in this organization currently are pitchers. Which is great, it ensures that the Phillies’ rotation should remain strong over the next decade if things go well. But that position player outlook is bleak with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both dinged to a large degree and Brown failing to progress into the player we thought he’d be by now.

Win-now cities tend not to look too far into the future… but the future isn’t as favorable to the Phillies as it was seven months ago.

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