|From the TOY BOX: Target the Phillies||| Print ||
Written by Peter L. Shanski (Contact & Archive) on February 21, 2003
The Phillies are the hot pick in the NL East. If you ignore the fact that the Atlanta Braves finished a mere 20 some games ahead of the Phillies in 2002 and the fact that no team could play as badly and indifferently as the 2002 New York Mets, all things seem rosy in the City of Brotherly Love.
The addition of first baseman Jim Thome, 342 home runs and multiple 50 home run years, something no Philly has done; third baseman David Bell, a defensive addition and clutch hitter; and 18-game winner pitcher Kevin Millwood, makes the team one of the most improved in baseball. Equally important was last season’s exile of whiny, injury-prone, mal-content Scott Rolen to St.Louis, where he joins “Boo Hoo” Drew, for steady Placido Polanco, addition by subtraction, has Philly fans cautiously optimistic. Will the team be the new Texas Rangers and lose 10-9 or the new Atlanta Braves and win 3-2? The consensus seems to favor the latter.
The pitching could be very Atlanta-like. Behind Millwood, 12-3 after the All-Star break, is Vincente Padilla, an All-Star and 14-game winner in his first year and Randy Wolf, a lefty with pinpoint control and a measly 3.20 ERA. The fourth and fifth starters will come from Brandon Duckworth Brett Myers and Joe Roa, the International League Pitcher of the Year going 14-0 at Scranton before coming to the bigs late last year, where he went a respectable 4-4. Duckworth and Myers got valuable experience last year and are expected to only get better.
The Phillies after years of low budget losing spent big for Thome and Bell, signing them to long-term contracts, Thome for 8 years and Bell for 4. Millwood, the team's consolation prize for missing out on Tom Glavine, is only signed for one year, but all of the other key players have long term contracts. Former All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal and the awesome Bobby Abreu, check out his stats, were signed up last year. Pat “the Bat” Burrell signed for six years earlier this month. His 2002 numbers were very Mike Schmidt-like. If he cuts down on his strike outs he will be one of the league’s elite young power guys.
If that isn't enough, the Phillies return former All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and have Marlon Byrd, who led the International League in runs and extra-base hits, pegged for centerfield. Byrd is the potential Rookie of the Year. He is one of the strongest men in baseball and has been compared to Willie Mays. Both had tough times with their first look at major league pitching. Now Byrd just has to adjust, as Mays did, to justify the comparison.
The questions for Philly fans are: will Rollins prove to be a worthy lead-off hitter, his batting average dropped to .245 and his on-base percentage is a weak .308, the bull pen, and will Larry Bowa screw it all up?
Go red and white!