Because maybe if it's on paper, it'll read that you're the favorites to win the division.
The Phillies are the chic, trendy pick to win the N.L. East this season. Now when I think chic and trendy, I don't think of a guy eating a cheesesteak from Tony Luke's with Cheez Wiz dripping down the corner of his mouth to his chin, finally settling on the second "L" on his Aaron Rowand "Phillies" jersey. But yes, picking the Phillies have become as trendy as chai tea and half caf lattes at Starbucks.
It probably has to do with America's love affair with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. It's merited. Chase Utley had a hitting streak of 35 games last season (snapped by the Mets in early August), and hit .309 in the three hole last season. Howard? He's a beast. Batting average: .313...OBP: .425...58 HR's and 149 RBI's are just monstrous numbers.
Jimmy Rollins, unfortunately for Mets fans, has the talent to match his bravado, hitting a decent .277 from the leadoff spot, with 25 HR's. The starting pitching is plentiful in Philadelphia, as there are six decent starters to choose from (a problem the Mets wish they had). And Aaron Rowand provides a heart and soul guy not seen in Philly since the days of Lenny Dykstra (yeah, that Lenny Dykstra).
But I'm about to lay the smack down as to why the Philadelphia Phillies will not only not win the division, but why they aren't even going to contend for the wild card...my top 10 reasons why the Phillies will come up empty:
- The Bullpen: They got away with one last year. By all rights and purposes, Tom Gordon should have been reduced to fossil status last season. By the end of the year, he almost was...check out his ERA by month: 0.84, 2.19, 2.70, 4.63, 9.64 (in 4.2 August innings), and 3.60 in September. WHIP: 0.84, 1.05, 1.10, 1.63, 1.50, and 1.60. Batting average against: .114, .213, .229, .288, .263, .282. And outside of Ryan Madson, the names that Charlie Manuel has to choose from for middle relief don't exactly strike fear in my heart. Antonio Alfonseca? Holy extra digit, Batman! And do you realize that at press time, Matt Smith is the only lefthander in the Phils' pen?
- The Starters: Let's not make these guys out to be the Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, and Avery of their time. Cole Hamels is studly, but may very well have a sophomore jinx tagged on him (I doubt it...but it is a possibility). The Met hating Brett Myers is good as long as he hits the strike zone as well as he hits his...(come on, you know where I'm going with that, right?) Freddy Garcia was a good pickup, but is he going to keep the ball in the yard (little known fact: Citizens Bank Park is the size of your average suburban backyard)? Is he going to stay healthy? Is his fastball ever going to rise above 85 mph? And how come we have to hear Julio Franco jokes from the peanut gallery known as the national baseball media, yet Jamie Moyer is simply known as crafty? He's old! Not quite as useless as Julio on the field, but almost as old. Adam Eaton, mark my words, will turn out to be the biggest waste of free agent dollars in the 2007 season. It's going to haunt the Phillies if this is the guy that causes Jon Lieber to be traded somewhere.
- Pat Burrell: Burrell's numbers aren't bad as a whole (25HR's, 95 RBI's). But his .258 average and 131 K's are not what you want protecting Ryan Howard. You want more damning stats? RISP in 2006: .222 in 153 AB's. RISP with two outs: .167 in 78 at bats. Bases loaded: .240 with 17 RBI's in 25 at bats. These numbers are bound to hover around that area or worse considering that the Phillies have been trying to trade him all winter...and that the Phillies "faithful" have made Burrell their official whipping boy, as detailed by me here.
- Charlie Manuel: Look at the managers in the National League east for a second. You have Manny Acta in Washington, Fredi Gonzalez in Florida, Bobby Cox in Atlanta, Willie Randolph here in New York, and Manuel. If you had to pick one manager to potentially have rumors of an in-season firing surrounding him who would you pick? Who would you pick if you had to lay $100 bucks on it? Acta? With the lack of talent surrounding him that would be cruel. Gonzalez? Would there be a worse P.R. move than firing Gonzalez after letting go of Joe Girardi? Cox? He's been in Atlanta since the civil war...you think he's going anywhere at this point? Randolph? We're talking about the Wilpons here, even Art Howe got one year longer than he should have...you think they're going to develop a short fuse all of a sudden with Willie? Guess who that leaves...
- Wes Helms: If you put the Mets and Phillies infields side by side, you could make the argument that Howard, Utley, and Rollins cancel out the Mets trio of David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado. That leaves Wes Helms vs. Jose Valentin. That's a tough call, but considering that Valentin provides power to the lowest power position on the board, and that Wes Helms, who's never had more than 274 AB's in a season, I gotta say that Wes Helms has some proving to do. He hit .329 last year in 240 AB's, but also had 55 K's which would translate to about 120, 130 K's through a full season. Do you want Wes Helms in the same lineup with Pat Burrell?
- 10,000: This team is headed towards a distinction known by no other franchise in professional sports history. They are 43 victories away from 10,000 losses in their history. Think about that...it's mind boggling! The San Francisco Giants, who have been playing baseball just as long as the Phillies, have a total of 8,702 losses. That's almost 1,300 less losses than Philadelphia. If the Phillies languish around .500, you don't think that 10,000 is going to hang over them like a scarlet number? (By the way, if the Phils start out 39-42, loss number 10,000 could come against the Mets on July 1st, Sunday night, on national television.
- Karim Garcia: Come on. You expect me to take a team that has Karim Garcia on it seriously? Really? The Latino Bambino? Enemy of pizza delivery men everywhere? I frankly don't care if he makes the team or not. His aura already wafts through the city like that smell that hit NYC back in January.
- Adam Eaton: I know I mentioned him way back in reason number two, but allow me to reiterate: This signing was so bad, it deserved it's own write-up. Adam Eaton got $24.5 million over three years for going 18-9 with a 4.55 ERA in 193 and 2/3's innings. Sound reasonable? Those were composite stats over the last two seasons. When Kris Benson got his "overpriced" contract, he at least pitched 200 innings in one season. And one more thing that may or may not have anything to do with anything, but Adam Eaton once landed on the disabled list...for stabbing himself in the stomach.
- Pat Gillick: Genius my ass. His big plan was to trade Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for nothing, but have all this salary to improve the team. His big purchase with that extra money: Adam Eaton. And now, he's going to have to figure out what to do with Aaron Rowand. With trade rumors swirling around him, Gillick is going to have to hit a home run in dealing him. Does he get bullpen help? Does he get another starting outfielder back? Does Jon Lieber get traded for bullpen help? Is there any chance that Braden Looper can be returned to the Phillies in that deal so that he can log important innings for the Phils (insert evil laugh)?
- John Kruk: He isn't going to make a throw, field a grounder, hit a double, or even put on a uniform (praise Buddha) for the team that he once starred for this season. But you know what he will do? Piss me off without fail. What that has to do with the Phillies finishing out of the money in 2007? I don't know. But John Kruk was a Phillie, he pisses me off, and he's already predicted the Phillies would win the division. I don't know how, but he will cause the Phillies demise...someway, somehow. This might be a good start:
Prediction: Third place, 82-80