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MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Texas Rangers

I am Groot: Phillies vs. Guardians series preview

Previewing the Phillies’ next series with help from the MCU’s biggest misfits

Making Josh Bell their marquee offseason pickup hasn’t worked out well for the Guardians
| Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies will take on the Cleveland Guardians for the first time since their re-naming. Obviously, I’m going to take this opportunity to base the series preview around quotes from one of my favorite movie franchises: The Guardians of the Galaxy!

Cleveland Guardians

Record: 47-49, Second place in American League Central (Two games back)

The manager

“You make a better leader than I ever was, Captain” - Peter Quill, GOTGv3

Terry Francona is a prime example of the dangers in hiring a first-time manager. You don’t want to pay for someone’s learning curve only to have them experience success elsewhere. Francona started out with the Phillies and after a largely unsuccessful four years, he was fired and went on to win two World Series in Boston and an American League title in Cleveland.

You can point out that Francona’s Phillies had major talent deficiencies, and the Phillies are currently doing pretty well with a rookie manager. But you can take those narrative-defeating arguments elsewhere! Francona made his share of rookie mistakes in Philadelphia, and getting fired can sometimes turn out to be the best thing for a manager.

The last time they met

“When I look around, you know what I see? Losers.” - Peter Quill, GOTGv1

As the 2019 Phillies were collapsing in September, they visited Cleveland for a three-game set. Here are some of the pitchers the Phillies used in that series: Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, Vince Velasquez, Mike Morin (Faced four batters in the final game and all four ended up scoring), Jared Hughes, and Nick Vincent. They should feel lucky to have won one of the three games.

What’s the deal with the Guardians?

“There are two types of beings in the universe: Those who dance, and those who do not.” - Drax, GOTG v2

Not much really. After winning 92 games in 2023, they have been a disappointment this season. They have a below average offense - led by third baseman Jose Ramirez and first baseman Josh Naylor - and above average pitching and are two games under .500. Of course, that puts them in the heart of contention in the American League Central.

The Guardians appear to be in a limbo between buyers and sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. There’s a feeling that the roster has underachieved, and while they’re only a couple of games out of first place, they have a losing record and have lost four of six since the All-Star break.

For whom it tolls

“Well, supposedly, these bald bodies find you attractive, so maybe you could work out some sort of trade.” - Rocket, GOTG v1

Josh Bell was the Guardians’ biggest offseason pickup, and he has been a disappointment, putting up a .728 OPS as the team’s primary DH. The team may look to trade him, and if I were the Phillies, despite his unimpressive numbers, I’d be interested.

Bell has good career numbers at Citizens Bank Park, and he’s a switch hitter, making him a good fit for the lineup. It would be ideal if Bryce Harper could be the team’s primary first baseman, but it isn’t clear if that’s going to happen. Barring that, putting Bell at first base and Alec Bohm at third would benefit the offense - and perhaps the defense too considering Edmundo Sosa’s recent issues there.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Bell has a player option for 2024, that seems likely to be picked up. If the Phillies trade for him, that might assure that Rhys Hopkins plays somewhere else in 2024.

What we see is what we get?

“Be not as you are, but as you should be.” - High Evolutionary, GOTG v3

I held out hope that the Phillies second-half offense would more closely resemble what we thought we were going to get before the season. But the Brewers series was not encouraging. The Brewers have a good pitching staff, and getting shut out by Corbin Burnes is excusable, but it felt like there were too many bad at bats.

Bryce Harper’s home run against the Padres was not a herald of a power surge. J.T. Realmuto has gone from a great hitter to a great hitter for a catcher. Alec Bohm is quietly slumping again. And it feels like we’re going to have to wait until 2024 to see the offensive performance that we hoped for from Trea Turner.

On the other hand, baseball offers plenty of chances to turn things around. Maybe this is the series when the lineup really starts to click, and they remain that way forevermore!

The Guardians as an MCU villain


“I tried to kill you... several times... but eventually, we become friends. We become sisters.” - Nebula, Avengers: Endgame

Much like the former name of the Guardians baseball team, Nebula was a bit “problematic” for the heroes in the early days of the franchise. But she eventually shed her old ways and became a Guardian.

On a side note, I’m always confused why they take beautiful actresses and ugly them up for roles. Karen Gillen is a great actress who is tremendous in this role, and I would murder any one of you for her. But they couldn’t find any bald, black-eyed actresses to fill this role?

Non-Phillies thought

“I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.” - Gamora, GOTG v1

As a fan of both the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and movies, it’s easy for me to notice the differences between the comic and film versions of the characters. There was a mostly unrelated comic with the same name before, but the “modern” incarnation of the team started in 2006 with familiar faces like Star Lord, Rocket, and Gamora.

The characters in the early days of the comic only vaguely resembled the versions we’d later see in the movie. While the comic was generally lighthearted with an aspect of humor, the print Guardians were far more serious than the goofballs we’d get on screen.

Given the popularity of the first movie, it didn’t take long for the comic characters to begin to mirror their MCU selves. Peter Quill turned into more of a loser, while Rocket’s sarcasm and nihilism became much more prominent. (I still don’t know how movie Drax went from an ultra-serious, if way too literal bad ass to the guffawing buffoon we got in the later movies.)

After the last Guardians comic run ended in 2021, a new edition of the book was launched earlier this year. The last run featured an expanded roster with characters who we’ll probably never see in the MCU, but the latest iteration appears to have a smaller team mainly focused on the characters from the movie.

Closing thought

“We’ll all fly away together, one last time…into the forever and beautiful sky.” - Rocket, GOTG v3

After playing poorly against the Brewers, the Phillies need to show improvement against the Guardians. Losing a series to a first-place team like the Brewers isn’t awful, but with the Wild Card playoff field so crowded, the Phillies need to get as many wins as they can against teams with losing records.

Rise and Phight: 9/29/2023

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