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Phillies Weekly Wrap-Up Week One: Three up, Three Down

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Each week, Philly2Philly’s Matt Babiarz will wrap up the previous seven days of Phillies’ baseball with Three Up, Three Down.  It’s a rundown of 3 positives and 3 negatives from the past week.

THREE UP!

1. Charlie Says, “Eight is Enough!”Charlie Manuel: AP, Zalubowski

Lost in the excitement of Roy Halladay’s dominating opening day performance was the fact that Charlie Manuel actually took the ball from his ace after eight innings and 92 pitches, despite the fact that Halladay had retired 24 of 26 batters after allowing two “excuse me” singles in the first inning.

Maybe Charlie recognizes that just because his ace starters CAN close out games doesn’t mean that SHOULD close out games.  And although I hated that 4-year, $50 million deal for Jonathan Papelbon, it could be worth every penny if Manuel trusts the back of his bullpen enough to keep the three aces fresh into October.  We’ll have to see if that trust extends down to the 7th and 8th innings, where the choices are a sore-armed Mike Stutes, a fire-extinguished Antonio Bastardo, and…gulp….Chad Qualls.

2. If You’re Panicking, You’re Not Alone

The Phillies dropped two out of three to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 19 years.   They scored six runs in a three game series. They are below .500 for the first time since 2009. 

Before you trek over to the Walt Whitman bridge and looking for a low railing to jump over, here is some information that can settle you down.

Joining the Phillies at 1-2 are the powerful Anaheim Angels. The highly anticipated Miami Marlins are 1-3.  And here are the teams that started the season 0-3: the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Giants.  

Still not feeling any better?  Imagine being a Red Sox fan as your team got shelled for 26 runs, or a Yankee fan who watched Tampa Bay hang 18 on you in a weekend series.  A more immediate rival, the Braves, joined the Phillies in scoring 6 runs through three games.

So, for as much as we should be concerned about a painful first series and what looks like a glaring offensive weakness, the fact is that almost every top team is heading out for some Compound W in hopes of removing its own warts.

3. DEE-FENSE!   DEE-FENSE!   

Okay, so here is something else to take your mind off of the Phillies’ offense.  The team’s defense has the potential to the best in the majors.

Consider this. Last year, the Phillies committed only 74 errors over the entire regular season.  That was the second-lowest total in baseball (Tampa Bay led the league with one fewer).  

The Pittsburgh series saw the Phillies commit only one error (albeit one that led to two runs on Sunday), but this team is a strong bet to finish the season with the best defense in baseball.   With the exception of first base (the source of Sunday’s Ty Wigginton error), the Phillies usual starting lineup will feature Polanco, Rollins, Galvis, Mayberry Jr., Victorino, Pence and Ruiz.  Every player in that group fields his position extremely well and many possess outstanding arms to turn hits and runs into outs.

Add to that an athletic pitching staff that fields its position quite well, the Phillies are not likely to give away many runs this season as they attempt to scratch out wins.

THREE DOWN!

1. May the Best Man Sit

One troubling trend with the Phillies in recent years is their seeming attachment to certain players whose performances do not warrant big league playing time.  Whether it is a Rule-5 commitment, a player without minor league options, or the dead weight of a big salary, we have seen a number of players who have stayed on the roster for things other than on-field success.

As Spring Training wrapped up, the closest roster battle was between Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre.  Podsednik clearly outplayed Juan Pierre throughout the spring.  He hit .362, was 5-for-5 on steal attempts and played very well in the outfield.  Pierre, meanwhile, hit .289 and was thrown out on three of his five steal attempts.  The fact that Podsednik could be sent to the minors until June 1st probably sealed his fate however, and so Juan Pierre was added to the roster as the guy who could manufacture runs for a powerless offense.  

After sitting through minor league quality performances from David Herndon, Danys Baez and Michael Martinez in recent years, it would have been nice to see the Phillies come north with all of the guys who were actually playing the best baseball.

2. Bench Upgrades?

Through one weekend, it seems that Amaro’s three main additions may be duds.  The combination of Laynce Nix, Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton has gone 1-for-16 with a grand total of zero RBI.  
 
These additions should be a cause for concern, as Laynce Nix is most likely the below-average player we have seen for years, while Wigginton and Thome probably won’t provide much other than the ability to play the positions where the Phillies are desperately thin.

 

Brian Wilson photo: ESPN

3. Alter Egos are for Comic Books (and San Francisco Giants)

It was clear during Jonathan Papelbon’s first save of the season that the new Phillies’ closer takes his intensity to another level when the game is on the line.  You could even say that he takes on a different persona in those situations.

Unfortunately, we also found out this week that Papelbon actually does dabble in the different persona realm.  I have already heard two stories about Papelbon’s alter ego, “Cinco Ocho,” who apparently makes random appearances in interviews and other off-field activities.

In light of this news, all I can ask is that Phillies fans follow my lead in not encouraging this ridiculous habit.  For one thing, any connection between an athlete and Ocho Cinco is a recipe for losing.  Secondly, the alter ego thing has been done by a closer already, and we are all pretty familiar with the attention-starved Brian Wilson.  Not only does Wilson epitomize the word “tool,”  but he may be the best example of an athlete trying way too hard to seem like he is not trying hard.

So, in this season’s first Three Up, Three Down column, I am making a promise.  Any local reports, broadcasts or attempts to market “Cinco Ocho” will be immediately and emphatically discarded by me.  I can only encourage each of your to do the same.  

Keep our Phillies pure, everyone!

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Photos:
Charlie Manuel: AP, Zalubowski
Brian Wilson: ESPN