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Pre-season Roundtable

P. Baker:  So I'm getting an interview with Christina Kahrl and the BP group on Saturday afternoon regarding the Phillies in general, and more specifically the Phillies chapter in BP2007 (written by Kahrl).  Any general topics or specific questions you want me to ask?  I want to address her assertion that Manuel's rigidity vis-a-vis lineups and bullpen usage and roles severely hindered the team and how, with respect to the lineup, that harmed the team's high-quality offensive attack.

David Cohen:  I glanced at the chapter this past weekend and found it strangely rosy about the Phils and Gillick.  I'll go back and look at it more tonight.

Alex Falzone:  I'd just ask, generally, why she might think this is the year for the Phightins, even though pundits have been saying that the last couple years and it hasn't happened yet.  What makes the outlook this year different from the last few?

David Cohen:  I just re-read the Phils part of the book last night.  It strikes me as overly generous on the Abreu trade.  I think a bunch of questions about that seem fair game.

P. Baker:  I think maybe they (subconsciously) overrated the prospects that were sent to Philadelphia.  I also think there's a tendency among analysts to treat the Phillies like a mid-market team for whom "salary flexibility" is a noble goal, but honestly, who can blame them with the way the Phillies have treated their stars over the last decade?  Their comments on Abreu were a little disparaging too, insinuating that he is now basically a walk-machine.

jonk: Bake, you fool, you know that they are all closet Yanks fans. Sheehan sleeps in his Jeter jersey.

David Cohen:  I found the comments about Abreu more warranted - after the HR derby in 2005, he really did lose his power.  But, the trade is still inexplicably bad.

Alex Falzone:  The impression I got from it was (in Kahrl's eyes) that moving Abreu indirectly led to getting Garcia, Eaton, resigning Utley, etc.  The salary flexibility allowed Gillick to shore up multiple weaknesses on the team.  It wasn't salary flexibility in the mid-market sense, but knowing that the team has a payroll ceiling and trying to improve the team while staying within that constraint.  I don't necessarily fully agree with that POV (I forget who, but somebody wrote that we could still have afforded Abreu and gotten Garcia, et al), but from an outsider's perspective, I can see it making a lot of sense.

P. Baker:  There are probably multiple valid perspectives, and perhaps our being "too close" to the team and its operations for the last number of years have somewhat skewed our ability to be objective as well, especially considering how poorly Abreu seemed to be treated while he was here.  And by ostensibly shoring up those weaknesses, they've left a glaring hole in the outfield.

Nonetheless, the Phillies' payroll has risen only slightly while the rest of the teams' payrolls have skyrocketed.  Relative the rest of the league, their payroll has dropped, they're not investing in international scouting, their farm system is bereft of position prospects at the higher levels, they're poor at recognizing their strengths and weaknesses on the big league roster, their franchise player is built like Mo Vaughn, is 27, and has a similar skill set, their "big splash" acquisition is a 30 year old with conditioning and arm problems...

Contrary to most of the fans, I'm pretty pessimistic about the team and its immediate future.

What also kills me is that Ryan Howard is probably going to turn into a BETTER hitter, at least in the short term, but his triple crown stats might falter a bit as his OBP rises, and it's just a matter of time before the WIP morons jump on him for striking out too much, being out of shape, "looking like he doesn't care," etc.

Alex Falzone:  I'm in the same boat, in terms of not being optimistic about the team's future, but that's entirely due to my lack of faith in management.  I still think that the players can make something happen, in spite of management's history.  But I don't see any sustained championship run, a la the Braves.

Shore:  I think we probably have the best team in the NL this year.  Playoffs are a crapshoot, but I'll take our chances.  Shore calls World Series.  I believe it comes down to star players in their prime (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Myers), a good blend of youth and veteranosity in the top tier of supporting players (Victorino/Burrell, Hamels/Moyer), a deep rotation, and the apparent flexibility to make a minor move or two when the need arrives.

I think the Mets will be undone by their rotation; I think they're a 3rd place team unless Pedro makes a miracle comeback.

David Cohen:  The optimistic me agrees with Shore.  But then I remember that I'm a Philadelphia sports fan and this is the Phillies we're talking about, with essentially the same management group in place.  Something's going to go wrong, like giving Abraham Nunez and Rod Barajas 1000 plate appearances between them, or signing Jose Lima to replace injured Garcia and Moyer, or Hamels, Howard, Utley, and Rollins all catching a terrible virus that sidelines them for 4 months, etc. etc.

P. Baker:  Even without resorting to inexplicable "doom and gloom" events, I think it's reasonable to think that Howard may backslide a moderate amount, Cole Hamels (or any of the starters) may experience a moderate to severe injury and lose significant time, Victorino will not thrive, the bullpen will remain a mess, etc....

jonk:  I feel good about the Phillies chances this year, but the Mets have a better offense with the chance to be even more productive than last year.  The Phils can't expect Howard to be better, and I think Chase pretty much maxed out and Burrell is likely not to put up more than a .900 OPS.  Who else can we expect to really out perform last year's numbers?  The Mets can probably expect David Wright to play a bit better and Jose Reyes all the sudden became a patient hitter (and he is 4 years younger than Rollins).  Yeah, our rotation is superior, but I am not sold on them yet.

Anyway, the main reason why I'd be pessimistic about the future is because we don't bring any good free agents in nor do we trade for good young talent.  All of our stars are home grown.  Howard, Utley, Burrell, Myers and Hamels.  Our middle players are home grown too.  Ruiz, Victorino and Madson.  There ain't no more of these players in our organization.