Rain and Raul

Growing up in the Poconos, we used to get our weather on a station called WNEP, channel 16 on your television dial. WNEP had a forecaster named Tom Clark, who used to stand out in the backyard behind the station in Moosic, Pa. and read God's mind for us. The picture to the left is not an actual picture of Tom Clark, but it is the closest representation I could find on a quick google search.

Now, I tell you all of this only to say that I am not Tom Clark. I am not Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz either. As a matter of fact, I have never even owned a bow tie.

The moral of the story is that I do not have much experience predicting the weather. But I am looking outside right now and seeing that there are tiny droplets of water falling from the sky. And I am looking at a radar map and seeing a giant mass of green spreading over southeastern Pennsyvlania like that slime from You Can't Say That on Television. And I am looking at the hour-by-hour forecast and seeing that there is 100 percent chance of rain with the chance of Thunderstorms at 7 p.m. So I am going to go ahead and say that tonight's game looks like it might be in jeopardy.

So, everything that you've been reading from me about the Phillies have two weeks worth of games without an off day might turn out to be fallacy. If I'm Charlie Manuel -- which, like Tom Clark and Hurricane Schwartz, I am not -- I am hoping that the skies clear and ball is played. Because it seems like every time the Phillies get a little bit of momentum on the field this year, something happens to take it away. The only time they have played four straight games, they won the last three. . .and then had to sit for two days thanks to a scheduled off day and a rainout in Washington, D.C.That isn't the biggest reason they are 5-6 (a pitching staff that has allowed 26 home runs has that dubious distinction), but it certainly has contributed to the prolonged feeling-out period.

In about three hours, I'll steal that nifty little rain jacket off that cat and head down to the ballpark and give you an updated forecast.


In today's paper. . .

Throughout spring training, folks back home would routinely ask me what I thought about Raul Ibanez. Like almost everyone else in the Delaware Valley, I didn't have much first-hand knowledge about him when the Phillies signed him to a three-year deal in the offseason. Everything I heard from players who had played with him and personnel men who had watched him play was positive. But on the surface, the Phillies were replacing Pat Burrell with a left-handed hitting 37-year-old outfielder whom the metrics said was not a huge upgrade as a fielder.

Well, it didn't take long in spring training to realize that Ibanez would be an excellent fit for this line-up. You just had to watch him play. He was much faster on the basepaths, yes, but more importantly he was a much different hitter at the plate. That's not to diminish what Burrell accomplished here in Philly. But it was evident last year that the Phillies were in dire need of some consistency in the middle of their line-up. And if I could pick one word to describe Ibanez, it is consistent. Other than Chase Utley, I'm not sure I have encountered another ballplayer who is as locked in to the next-pitch, next-at-bat, next-game mentality that is required to put together a consistent season at the plate. So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Ibanez gave props to Utley yesterday after he hit his game-winning home run against the Padres.

Eleven games does not a season make. But the Ibanez you are seeing right now is the same Ibanez we saw all spring. As I've said all along, I think some hesitation about the length and size of the Ibanez deal is warranted. It's hard to dismiss someone who thinks the long-term ramifications of the deal are risky. Nobody can predict what is going to happen next year or the year after. But I think that right now, Ibanez is exactly what the Phillies hoped he would be for this line-up.


Ryan Howard, flashing some leather.