Sunday, September 21, 2014
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For better or for worse, the Phillies will gamble on Juan Pierre

I hope Juan Pierre proves me wrong, because it is really hard not to like the guy. You know a player loves the game when he shrugs his shoulder at the $55 million he has already banked in his career and signs a minor league contract at the age of 34 just so he can keep on competing. Pierre takes baseball seriously, and you can see why Charlie Manuel has such an affinity for him. Plus, he wears his socks high.

For better or for worse, the Phillies will gamble on Juan Pierre

Juan Pierre landed a spot on the Phillies bench, beating out Scott Podsednik. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Juan Pierre landed a spot on the Phillies bench, beating out Scott Podsednik. (Kathy Willens/AP)

I hope Juan Pierre proves me wrong, because it is really hard not to like the guy. You know a player loves the game when he shrugs his shoulder at the $55 million he has already banked in his career and signs a minor league contract at the age of 34 just so he can keep on competing. Pierre takes baseball seriously, and you can see why Charlie Manuel has such an affinity for him. Plus, he wears his socks high. 

At the same time, it is fair to wonder how many one-dimensional clubhouse leader types the Phillies need on their bench at any one time. If this was last year, I would understand the desire to carry Pierre on the roster. His skill set is one that has been missing from the bench ever since I started covering this beat: a guy who can lay down a bunt, a guy who can steal a base, a guy who does not strike out.

This year, though, the move feels like an extra layer of sun tan lotion while sitting on the deck of the Titanic. That is hyperbole, obviously. Regardless of the many holes that have devleoped over the last six months, the Phillies will still enter the season as the favorite to win the National League East. Still, you have to acknowledge that they are sitting in a precarious position. And while they may have had the luxury of augmenting their roster with specialists the last few seasons, right now they are in no position to be turning away a player who has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the top half of the batting order. You've been reading this blog enough this spring to know the player I'm referring to is Scott Podsednik.

Look, maybe Podsednik wouldn't have made a difference. But he at least looked like he might have the potential. We're talking about a guy who just two seasons ago hit .297/.342/.382 while stealing 35-of-50 bases. To put that in perspective, Jimmy Rollins has never hit .297 in a season, and only three times has he posted an OBP of at least .342, and he hasn't stolen 35 bases since 2008. 

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In 2009, Pierre hit .308/.365/.392, which is the type of line Manuel likely had in mind when he labeled Pierre a high OBP guy earlier this week. But Pierre hasn't hit better than .279 or posted an OBP better than .341 in the two seasons since. Forget about the Grapefruit League numbers. Podsednik was clearly the better base-stealer and the better base-runner and if his bat speed was not significantly better than Pierre's, well then I'll never be able to accurately scout a baseball player. Forget about the fact that Podsednik is two years older, or the fact that he was sidelined for most of last season with a foot injury. He looked faster, stronger, and more fluid than Pierre. He seems to bring you everything that Pierre does, except with the ability to drive the ball to the gaps, something the Phillies will need with Chase Utley on the sidelines. 

Maybe the Phillies still have Podsednik in their plans. Maybe they want to call him up at some point before June 1. But even if that is the case, I don't know that they are a team who has done enough to be able to afford to wait. 



David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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