Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Behind the Mets' 8-Ball

It has fallen to Paul Hagen to write the latest Phillies think-piece in the local papers- full of the requisite hang-wringing and evasion. Paul encapsulates their problems professionally:
On paper, the Phillies haven't had the best talent in the National League East this season. Not with Freddy Garcia winning only once before going on the disabled list; closer Tom Gordon sidelined by a strained rotator cuff after nine appearances; Brett Myers shelved with a strained right shoulder; only four home runs from the third-base position; reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard missing time with a strained left quadriceps; leftfielder Pat Burrell seeing less and less playing time as his average slips toward .200; and a bullpen era (4.79) that entered yesterday fourth worst in the league.
To read that, it is frankly a sort of wonder that the Phillies are hanging around. But to me, the wonder is misplaced. The Phillies 40-36 mark is directly reflective of the myriad of concerns listed above. Well- that and the injuries they’ve suffered haven’t been a season-ending disaster (for the most part). Ryan was going so bad, that it actually helped the club to get Howard out of the line-up for a few days. Garcia was no great shakes- replacing him with a AAA player meant they were able to keep his 5-ish ERA in the rotation; as the Sharp Cereal Professor would say: nothing wrong here! Alfonseco has been the best closer they’ve had this year- and got his job by default. The Phillies aren’t bad, the injuries short term haven’t mattered much- but they simply aren’t real great either.

It feels mysterious because their level of contention is not merely a reflection of them. Candidly, it is mostly a reflection of the Mets. When the Mets were cruising to a super 100-win season, the Phillies wholly lacked the essentials, the winning criteria, to get to that sort of number. But when the Mets go out there and tank two dozen games in three weeks- well, heck, Philly can do better than that! Even with Rollins batting lead-off!

I think the Phillies are on a sort of glide path to 85-88 wins- it is up to the Mets to decide if that is competitive in National League East or not.

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