Phils And Yankees: Not Their Year
CLEARWATER – As the Yankees hoped that after his minor stumble on some balky carpet that Yogi Berra has that insurance, you know, the kind that pays you cash, which is just as good as money, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay met up in Clearwater in a dream match-up. Literally a dream, because you don’t need to spend looking much time at either roster to realize that despite the Phillies’ glittering rotation and the Yankees’ three Hall-of-Famers in waiting, neither of these teams is going very deep in the post-season (presuming they make it at all). This is contrary to Conventional Wisdom, which was last heard from telling you that Cliff Lee was going to the Yankees last winter, just as it had told you he was going to them last July. Lee is part of the Yankees’ most obvious problem: based on performance so far, Bartolo Colon is a) a vampire and b) their number two starter. Colon, with his ten-pitch warm-up sessions and newly refound control, has been a joyous mystery even to his new pitching coach Larry Rothschild. But comebacks like his almost always fizzle before the first of June and the Yanks have a long way to before Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, and/or Dellin Betances join the rotation or buy them a veteran starter. The Yankees are also aging alarmingly. I will spare you my usual pronouncements on how moribund Derek Jeter is, but the recent pronouncement that Jorge Posada would not even be used as a temporary back-up catcher should tell you exactly how little the Yanks think he has left. The joke around here is that Cameron Diaz was feeding Alex Rodriguez popcorn in that Super Bowl luxury suite because he now gets too tired doing it himself. Jesus Montero offers a glimmer of youth but the reality is that in two at bats today, Roy Halladay made him look like he’d never been to the plate before (to be fair, Halladay did the same thing to Robby Cano). The Yanks only matchup with Boston at the back of the bullpen and if their lineup is better than Tampa’s, it isn’t much better. The Phils have an advantage the Yanks don’t – the NL East may be as bad as the AL East is good, but they have two enormous crises. I ran into my old friend Ruben Amaro in the hallway just before first pitch and he swore he felt better than he looked – and he looked exactly like a General Manager of a team with a devastating rotation and no second baseman or right fielder. Chase Utley’s injury is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside some tendinitis and it would be called “indefinite” if only Amaro was that certain. Nobody has any idea what’s next, and Utley’s absence not only puts a Wilson Valdez or Josh Barfield in the lineup, but it also deranges their batting order and perhaps places Jimmy Rollins hitting in a three-hole for which he is ill-suited. Right field may be a bigger problem still. You could make a viable platoon out of Ben Francisco (who absolutely kills lefties) and John Mayberry, Jr (he homered again today) but both hit right-handed. In news that should terrify every Philadelphian, Domonic Brown’s replacement four of the last five days has been Delwyn Young, a scat back of a utility infielder who was not good enough to stick with the Pirates. This is a team that is suddenly in deep trouble on offense – Halladay looked gorgeous for six innings today but they got him only three hits before Sabathia left) and as awe-inspiring as the Four Aces look, having Brad Lidge close for them is like owning four Maseratis and employing a staff of blind valet parkers.
I think the Yankees still have an edge in the lineup as well as the bullpen. They led the league in runs scored last year by a good margin, Martin should be an offensive upgrade over Cervelli, and I think that Rodriguez, Jeter, Granderson, and Teixeira all could have better years than they did last year, and Andruw Jones can’t do much any more, but one thing he can still do is crush left handed pitching. While Boston added two star players, they also lost two players who had great offensive years in Beltre and Victor Martinez. Yes, Tampa Bay (and Baltimore as well) could have very good lineups, it’s (as always) a tough division.
The Phils’ have been doubted before, but in March? Come on…Utley’s production was down last year and his replacements did quite well. Pitching is worth alot in baseball and the Phils’ have pitching. Is it that Yank fans are hoping for the Phils’ to not go deep in the playoffs? Afraid to face Lee?
The NL East – bad? Though Philly fans (oh, my apologies, “phans”) may not like to admit it, they’re going to be facing stiff competition from both Florida and Atlanta. The Fish have a solid 4 in Johnson (one of the best pitchers in baseball), Nolasco, Vasquez (he’ll do well being outside of NY), and Sanchez. Also, Gaby Sanchez, Morrison, and Stanton have another year under their belt. Look out for them in 2011.
As for the Braves, well, they probably some of the deepest pitching in baseball. On top of their starting 5 in Hanson, Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, and Minor, they have Beachy, and Lopez waiting with top prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado ready to burst onto the scene mid-to-late 2011. And they imroved that lackluster offense greatly with the addition of Dan Uggla.
Am I saying these teams will win come in, and knock the Phillies down 1-2-3? Absolutely not, but to say that the NL East is “bad” is preposterous.
It is that metaphor in the last sentence! Why could I not have had students like you writing in my comp classes? God, you are great! In other news, I went to a poetry reading last night, and the poet was an award winning Cornell grad who was there in 1975. My question for her (since the audience had exhausted all the good literary questions!) was, “Did you ever see Keith Olbermann?” She had not seen you there…and then I started wondering if you had arrived there yet. She said her sister may have seen you. Finally, the ad newspaper carried a giant color photo on the front page yesteday. Headline: Tampa focal point of baseball spring training. It went on to describe all the different camps and even had directions to all the various fields. The photo shows the crowd getting autographs from Yankees outfielder Ken Swisher…at Steinbrenner Field…where you tweeted us from the other day. A guy in the picture with sunglasses looks just like you! Could it be? Keep having fun there and writing like a champ! YOU, sir, are the English teachers’ Babe Ruth!
Make that NICK Swisher. Sorry. No cigar.
Sorry, but I’ll take Tex, Cano, Jeter and A-Rod over A-Gon, Pedroia, Scutaro and Youkillis; Russell Martin over Saltalamacchia, and Granderson over Ellsbury. As for DH, I can’t really decide but, for the sake of argument, let’s give it to Ortiz. Where else does BOS have an advantage over the Yankees? Crawford over Gardner, of course. And the Sox 4 and 5 pitchers may be better than their Yankee counterparts but 1, 2, and 3 are a pretty even match. And the Yankee bullpen is, on paper, the best in the AL. So, where’s this huge discrepancy btwn the Yankees and their New England bitter rivals?
As for the Phillies, that starting rotation is massively impressive but they’re not gonna have their way w/a slightly improved NL East, especially if their offense is compromised, as it looks to be right now.
Finally, the ad newspaper carried a giant color photo on the front page yesteday. Headline: Tampa focal point of baseball spring training. It went on to describe all the different camps and even had directions to all the various fields. The photo shows the crowd getting autographs from Yankees outfielder Ken Swisher…at Steinbrenner Field…where you tweeted us from the other day. A guy in the picture with sunglasses looks just like you! Could it be? Keep having fun there and writing like a champ! YOU, sir, are the English teachers’ Babe Ruth!