As I type, the ninth inning of the 2009 World Series is lurching to its unsatisfying conclusion on my television. Listening to Manhattan cheerily celebrate around me is a lonely feeling. 28th and Third Avenue is surely Yankee country.
Here at the end, I’m satisfied the Yankees are better. Frankly, it feels a lot likewhen I was station ed in Germany back in 1993. The Phillies simply ran out of reliable starting pitching (as if Tommy Greene, Terry Mulholland and Danny Jackson were still here trying to be a second reliable option)- and even worse out of the bullpen. Philadelphia only won games when Cliff Lee pitched and pitched deep. And they were big Vegas underdogs in games he didn’t. In the end, the Phillies trusted Pedro Martinez- a guy who was on vacation in July- to make two Series’ starts over any of their normal rotation options. Conversely, the Yankees got real bulldog outings from their rotation in five of six games.
I also point out that while the Yankees and Phillies core hitters had similar struggles- Utley and Matsui aside- Damon and Jeter were on base repeatedly, Rollins was not. They set the table for the occasional spurts of production and gave the Phillies' pitching few easy innings. This week, Jimmy’s MVP season recedes ever further in the distance. Obviously, among the Phillies franchise players, Hamels and Lidge had very rough campaigns- but the day after day drain that Rollins took on the offense in bot hthe regular season and play-offs with his poor OBP is the team’s biggest weakness. Just look at Utley’s in-season indifferent RBI total (93!!). And Rollins salary makes this a tough issue- but I cannot imagine this guy is not off-season secret topic number one: what to do about Jimmy Rollins?
Next, the Yankees left-handed starters were able to put the clamps on the Phillies left-handed hitting (again, Utley aside). The DH was a killer in this Series- the Yankees got great production from Matsui- and the Phillies could not generate a right handed match up bat (Francisco was terrible). All year long Philadelphia worried that the left-handed power the Phillies sport in bunches could be neutralized. Finally, it was. Plus, Ibanez is probably looking at a 2010 more like the second half (rather than his MVP first half)- so a right handed bat to take some of the load off him, hit some quality DH, play when he is hurt, is a top of the list item.
So, they face an off-season with some real hard organizational questions- it is a lot easier to strategize a move from 80 to 90 wins than 90 wins to 100 wins. We mock the Yankess $450 million dollar off-season- but with the Phillies window open only a few more years, we might be looking at a $300 million version of our own. First, there is wrapping up Lee. He is a legit number one, the Phillies need a Cy Young style pitcher for the next three years, he makes as much sense as anyone else in baseball and frankly Hamels doesn’t look like a guy you can pencil in for even fifteen wins right now.
Second, the narrow window means Philadelphia probably needs to think long and hard about another top starter and yes, that means someone like Roy Halladay. It is pricin dollars and players (Rollins?), but they need another pitcher to tamp down these AL power line-ups.
The Yankees won this Series because they had three quality rotation options versus one. The Phillies simply can’t be sure of moving that number to two quality options with Hamels in 2010. Again, he very likely might be more a fourteen win pitcher (that most of his career has suggested) than a true MVP style player (that singular great play-off run). And the Phillies can’t let the window close without trying hard to find that second top guy- they owe that to three million fans who pay to see them.