The Phillies offense is not unlike an old-fashioned yo-yo, expending kinetic energy unevenly depending on the amount of force applied, gravity, tension, friction and of course, attentiveness. While this offense has overcome injuries, slumps and the constant slings and arrows of an impatient media (ahem), it has in fact also overcome most opponents.
Today the score of both games of a doubleheader amounted to a 13-5 drubbing of the plummeting Florida Marlins (10.5 GB tied for last after a five HR, 9-1 bludgeoning in the series opener). Preservation of the first six-game Phillies win streak (8-2 in last 10 games) of 2011 with a 5-4 extra inning nightcap was the stat that mattered. 43-26 is good for best record in the NL East (5 game lead over Atlanta). The New York Mets have sneaked into third @ 8.5 GB. Florida is now tied with Washington at 10.5 back with their recent freefall of 6 straight losses, 9 of their last 10 and 16 of their last 18 games).
Oddly enough this happened while Kyle “Gilligan” Kendrick tossed 7 strong innings for the win in game one and Roy “Cy Young” Halladay struggled to maintain a 4-2 deficit long enough for the bullpen and the offense to come back and salvage the victory. It may be safe to say that the NL East is no match for the Philadelphia Phillies head-to-head. It may also be safe to say that the surging Phillies are not looking forward to interleague opponents coming up on the schedule (Seattle, Oakland).
Chase Utley (.275, 3 HR, 12 RBI in 21 games) is back – and hitting (.375 in last 10 games). Ryan Howard (14 HR, 56 RBI) is walloping the ball all over so that even his outs make noise. Domonic Brown (24 G, 4 HR, 11 RBI) is playing every day and seeing the ball very well. Shane Victorino (40 Runs, .832 OPS, .357 OBP) and Jimmy Rollins (.258, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 99 TB, 39 R, 11 doubles and 14 SB) have become very comfortable atop the order while Placido Polanco (80 hits, .304 BA) could be headed for his first start in an All-Star Game.
Despite all that, Carlos Ruiz notched the walk-off RBI one full inning after Victorino’s clutch two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. These guys have been putting up a lot of two-out hits and turning them into RBI, which is what makes a winning team (although +58 run differential through 69 games is really razor-thin). Overall, this teams ranks 14th in Runs (289), 21st in BA (.248), 13th in OBP (.322) and 21st in SLG (.378). After all that, it is safe to say that on their current 11-game homestand (34 runs, 10 HR, 53 H, 98 TB, 22 XBH, 34 RBI in the past 7 games alone) this Phillies team is en fuego.
Domonic Brown has recovered from a hand injury and his disastrous attempt to play winter ball. It would seem the young phenom has transformed into a young major league talent – and a force to be reckoned with. Chase Utley is back in the lineup every day, seeing the ball well, regaining his swing and even flashing some leather on defense.
Seems taking all of Spring Training and the first 8 weeks of the regular season off to rest has done wonders to heal Utley’s chronic knee ailment. Still a work-in-progress will be the evidence of wear and tear on that knee after another three months leading up to the MLB postseason. Maybe a day off or two per week would prolong Utley succumbing to more complications but who can sacrifice his bat from the lineup?
Ryan Howard may finally get the respect he deserves as the horse of this team. Howard has taken one game off in 2011 and while few have noticed his improved defense or svelte physique without sacrificing power, no one has forgotten this man’s ability to knock home 140 runs while mashing 58 HR. Jimmy Rollins has learned to share the spotlight with Shane Victorino and hitting savant Placido Polanco. Rollins will gladly continue to share that spotlight considering that in his MVP season the Phillies made their first postseason since 1993 only to be swept by Colorado in three NLDS games. Jimmy may be playing for a new contract but he knows that winning is about TEAM even more than about GREEN!
GM Ruben Amaro has said that there is no help coming via trade or waiver wire. In recent years he has claimed that no deals would be done only to bring in the likes of Cliff Lee (once via trade, once via $120M free agent contract), Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez, Mike Sweeney, Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs and Wilson Valdez. Perhaps this is the year when help comes from inside the organization rather than a deal for Joe Blanton or Tad Iguchi? Maybe getting Chase Utley back and being patient with Domonic Brown were the best “moves” for the team? With Ryan Madson atop the new bullpen pyramid which includes Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and cameo appearances by Jose Contreras can Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Joe Blanton, Danys Baez and JC Romero make contributions or stay out of the Phantastic Phour’s way effectively enough or do they still need to make a deal?
What about Raul Ibanez (.241, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 99 TB), Ben Francisco (.216, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 61 TB) and John Mayberry (.231, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 38 TB in 104 AB)? Are these three good enough to comprise one starting OF or does the front office simply have to go out and get a Ryan Ludwick or Matt Kemp? This is not just a rental because next year Ibanez will be gone and someone has to play left field so might as well think long term. Same goes for shortstop.
Would we rather see Wilson Valdez platoon with Freddy Galvis in 2012 or would the Phillies actually pay Jimmy Rollins $13M per season? Less expensive options might exist on the free agent market but at what dropoff in talent and team leadership? Cole Hamels can either go to arbitration for 2012 or sign a Cliff Lee-type deal to lock up the 27-year-old long term. Can the team really make any other choice or will they do to Hamels what they did to Howard? How did that work out letting him twist in the wind with arbitration until they finally signed Howard to a $25M per year extension?
Potentially the Phillies brass is looking at Howard, Lee, Halladay and Hamels collectively making $100M per year – plus Rollins @ $13M. Ibanez ($10M) comes off the books as might Lidge ($10M) but Blanton ($8.5M) and Kendrick ($2.5M) are signed through 2012. Now how do you extend Ryan Madson?
Questions abound as they always will but things look far better when you have the best record in baseball – even if your payroll does hover dangerously close to the $170 million mark.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com