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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Brief Reflections on Baseball

I've watched a bunch of games this summer and have the following observations:

1. The Philadelphia Phillies are fun to watch. And a pox on the house of my Met-fan colleague who argued that Jimmy Rollins was limited offensively and that Shane Victorino isn't proven. If Rollins is limited, then the sky is his max. Also, the advent of Davey Lopes as a Phillies' coach apparently has sprung the fleet Victorino into his newly found role as a base stealer. The team leads the National League in runs scored (significantly so). Okay, so their pitching staff is leaky, two outfielders got hurt last night and Chase Utley is on the DL, but every team has problems. That doesn't mean that this team isn't fun to watch.

2. The Phillies Look Like They're Having Fun. Charlie Manuel deserves some credit -- this is a loose ball club. The position players, at least, looking like they're enjoying themselves immensely. So does Cole Hamels. Manuel also deserves credit, I think, for mentoring some players into being better hitters, with Rollins being Exhibit A.

3. Will the Phillies Fire Charlie Manuel After the Season? Jayson Stark was on my local ESPN Radio station last week, and he had some interesting points. Stark thinks that if Manuel doesn't get this team into the playoffs -- pitching shortages, injuries and all -- that Manuel gets the axe after the season. But Stark believes that if he gets the team to 83 wins with the pitching that he has (and he made these comments before Chase Utley got hurt and before both Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn went down with injuries), that Manuel should be Manager of the Year. Yes, Stark pointed out, Manuel can make iffy pitching moves. But the team is winning baseball games, too. Manuel has grown on me -- his team plays relaxed, and what are they going to do, replace him with a Larry Bowa type? Why? Okay, so there could be someone else, but the ownership shouldn't be so quick to dispense with Charlie.

4. Battle of the Shanes. On Saturday night, Shane Youman of the Pirates faced Shane Victorino of the Phillies. I'd bet it's the first time that a Shane pitched to a Shane in MLB history. I don't think that former Mariner and Phillie Shane Rawley faced any Shanes during his day. Victorino's team scored 8 runs in the bottom of the fifth on Saturday night and won going away.

5. A Tale of Two Cities. About 3 weeks ago I watched games in Philadelphia and Baltimore on back-to-back nights. The atmosphere in Philadelphia was electric -- Utley, Howard, Rollins and rookie pitcher Kyle Kendrick. Fans got to the park early, the Phillies banged out 23 hits and won 13-3. The following night we went to Baltimore, and the once-exciting place was funereal. I suppose that's what happens when you have ownership that is possibly worse than your neighbor 2 hours and 15 minutes to the north and you're on the verge of your tenth straight losing season (come to think of it, you haven't had that much to cheer about since you won the Series in 1983). Okay, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora were hurt, but this once was the premier baseball town in America (with St. Louis a close second). The fans were listless, and I suppose it's hard to get excited when your outfield includes Jay Payton and Corey Patterson, both of whom laid eggs with the fans as far as I'm concerned because they didn't sign one autograph before the game. They should feel fortunate to be in the majors and to have fans watching their product (as it turned out, the game was exciting, and the O's won in the bottom of the tenth on a Nick Markakis hit). In contrast, Jamie Moyer stood outside in a hot sun last Saturday night, the day after he pitched, and signed autographs for at least 20 minutes, maybe more.

That's about it for now. All typos are mine.


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