Greetings from SkyHarbor International Airport. Cheers for Paul Hagen for filling in for me so I can spend the day travelling to Oakland. Looks like Chase Utley has snapped his 0-for-24 streak, but the Phils are down 3-1 as I write this and are staring their first sweep of the season dead in the face. Don't look now, but the Marlins, Mets and Braves are all within five games of the NL East lead.
Just thought I'd recap from stuff from the weekend since I've been a tad negligent with the blog.
I appeared on Daily News Live Friday with Pat Gillick, and the Phils GM had some interesting things to say. I wrote this in Saturday's paper and I'll write it again here: it sounds like the Phillies are going to be players on the trade market this summer. David Montgomery's "Shame on Us" comment to Rich Hofmann a week ago kind of set the tone, and everything front office members have said publicly indicates that they are going to try to improve this team before the end of the summer.
Which is why this reality check comes at a good time.
The Phillies spent much of the first third of the season compensating for their various weaknesses through a few magnificent individual efforts (Chase Utley and Pat Burrell's blazing start, a hot streak by Jayson Werth, etc) and some dramatic come-from-behind wins. But against arguably the two best teams in the American League right now, they could not hide from those weaknesses.
1) At times, having a pitching staff that simply "gives us a chance to win" is not good enough, particularly when you are facing superior pitching. The Phillies are going to have to have games where their starter goes tit-for-tat to shoulder some of the burden from the offense. And those games can't all be started by Cole Hamels. Are the Phillies going to be able to make a serious play for someone like C.C. Sabathia? I don't know. But Gillick addressed the concern that the Phillies don't have the prospects to make a serious play for such a pitcher by raising the possibility of trading someone who is already on the roster. Charlie Manuel said it a couple of nights ago: good pitching often beats good hitting. Which is a problem for a team that is built on hitting.
2) I still think the Phils would like to find another lefty reliever. As good as the bullpen has been, it can get better.
3) I was interviewed the other day by a Japanese filmmaker who is working on a documentary on So Taguchi. It was kind of odd answering 20 questions about a guy who plays once every few days, but they take their players seriously over there. I like Taguchi. He's a good guy, he's very professional, he's well-liked by a his teammates, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Phillies look to upgrade that defensive replacement/pinch-runner position that they have developed. That's strictly my opinion, but I think it would make a lot of sense.
Anyway, that's that. The trade market really isn't going to heat up for a few more weeks, so all of this is still a ways off. But it's interesting to think about, particularly now that the Phils have hit their first rough stretch of the season.