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With a Surplus of Arms, the Phillies Reach to Repeat

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There is a saying in baseball that you can never have too much pitching.     

Despite this well known cliché, many people in the Delaware Valley have recently referred to the Phillies current surplus of arms as a “problem.” Many people on radio and around water coolers have uttered phrases such as “What does Ruben Amaro do now?” and “Maybe it WAS a mistake to go out and get Pedro Martinez, after all.”

The basic premise of these comments is that the Phillies have some sort of problem on their hands; some sort of incurable surplus of pitching that will lead to tough decisions and inevitably cause tension and ego bruise. The basic premise of this article is to provide reassurance that this is not true at all. In fact, it is not even close to reality. Having too much pitching is like having too many solid job offers.

Allow me to break this situation down, M.C. Hammer style:

As currently constructed, the Phillies have the reigning World Series MVP in Cole Hamels. They have the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in Cliff Lee. This is an impressive duo, for sure. In addition, the Phillies also have a three time Cy Young award winner and sure Hall of Famer in Pedro Martinez, a 250+ game winner in Jamie Moyer, and a certain rookie of the year candidate in J.A. Happ. This is quite a set of five arms. If this was their five man rotation, there would be safety in numbers. But the crazy thing is I have yet to mention their BEST pitcher over the past 8-12 weeks. His name is Joe Blanton, and he has been the Phillies horse for much of the year. His presence within this equation creates a logjam. But does it really create a problem?

The 2009 Phillies are the first team in the history of major league baseball to acquire two Cy Young award winners mid-season in the same year. The decision for fifth starter is between Moyer and Pedro, two aging veterans with experience and credentials. Now, let’s compare these men with the Paul Abbots, Amaury Telemacos, Bruce Chens, and Matt Beeches of yesteryear. Just take a moment to reflect on these names. Still see a problem?

Stop. Hammer Time.

Having an extra quality arm safeguards against sudden injury and also creates an intangible factor: competition. The Phillies have a multitude of guys who are now pitching for a job each and every time they take the mound. The results have been noticeable. As a result of the logjam, Jamie Moyer has been rightfully moved to the bullpen. Moyer demonstrated some ego bruise and apparent feelings of “misleadership” on the part of Phillies brass. Controversy has ensued; Moyer has been widely criticized for his off-handed and somewhat diva-like commentary and response. But the reality is this: Moyer is a competitor. His performance in Tuesday night’s win over Arizona is proof of this; he was intense and motivated and perhaps pitching with anger. And the results were astoundingly positive.

Since the “problem” began with the acquisition of Cliff Lee in late July, we have witnessed a rookie (J.A. Happ) responding by pitching for his life and nailing down impressive victories. We have witnessed a truly great talent (Cliff Lee) switch leagues and do immediate damage with his arm and his bat too. We have witnessed a legend of the game (Pedro Martinez) resurrect what seemed to be a dead career. And most recently we’ve seen an aged veteran (Moyer) shake off his misguided comments and pitch an absolute gem to finish off his 257th career win.

What we haven’t witnessed yet is the end result. That can only come in time and will be determined by much more than just the six arms I have mentioned. Clearly, this team needs Brad Lidge to get right in order to have a legitimate shot at defending their crown. But, do the 2009 Phillies have too much pitching?

No way. "It’s all good."

Home Page photo: www.latimes.com

Cliff Lee photo: Andrea Kohalmi:  amkjag@yahoo.com