It’s getting down to the nitty gritty, and this weekend set hosting the Phillies is the last series of significance for the Mets. For the Phillies, however, each of the last 16 games have importance, as they sit one and a half games out of a highly competitive wild card race. The Phillies are chasing the Padres, but also have to fend off the Dodgers, Rockies, Brewers, and even the Braves, who are only 4 1/2 games behind San Diego.
To get an idea on what’s going on in the mind of a Philly phan, we once again called on David Cohen of The Good Phight.
(Also, you can go to The Good Phight to read my answers to David’s questions.)
1. Many Mets fans are still a little nervous about the Phillies taking over first — especially if Pat the Bat and Co. pull off another sweep. From the Philadelphia perspective, is the NL East Championship still in the sights, or is it all about the Wild Card?
It’s all about the Wild Card. The Phillies winning the East would be a collapse of monumental proportions by the Mets or a huge surge by the Phillies. For instance, if the Mets go 7-10 in their remaining 17 games, the Phillies would have to go 14-2 to win the East. That’s not going to happen.
2. What’s the latest on Cole Hamels? Will he be back before the end of the regular season? Available for postseason?
He’s been throwing regularly and reportedly is feeling fine. The best case scenario is that he has three starts before the season ends.
3. If there’s a chance that Hamels could do more damage to his elbow, but his presence could mean making the playoffs or not, is it worth rushing him back? Or is the team more concerned with his long-term health?
I don’t think it’s worth rushing him at all. The Phillies medical staff has had a terrible year. It could be chance, or it could be a change in personnel. Whatever it is, I don’t trust that Cole will be fine when he comes back, even if they say he will be. I’m very nervous that the words “Tommy John” will be in a newspaper article along with Cole’s name sometime soon.
4. How is sports talk radio responding to the Phillies’ recent surge? Negative? Positive? Any scapegoats? Any love for Pat Burrell?
I am so glad that I can answer this question by saying I have absolutely no idea. Listening to sports radio in Philadelphia is a form of torture prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. Thankfully, no one has forced me to listen to it in a long time.
5. Do you have confidence in anyone coming out of the bullpen? Is Jose Mesa really STILL on the roster?
JC Romero is having a great season. Clay Condrey has been very good in most of his appearances (and terrible in a few, thus his 4.50 ERA). Bret Myers has been pretty dominant, except for a few high profile blow-ups (including that awful awful Braves game). But the rest are no better than your average AA bullpen. As for Mesa, he should be unemployed but for some inexplicable reason is still being used in important situations.
6. Is Mesa’s presence solely to make Antonio Alfonseca look better?
(Kind of like an ordinary girl hanging out with ugly girls to make herself look prettier?)
Both are horrible, especially at this point in the season, but if someone had a gun to my head, I would absolutely take Alfonseca over Mesa. In a heartbeat.
7. Who do you see as the toughest team to beat out for the Wild Card?
The Padres. With ten games at home and only seven on the road, they have the most favorable remaining schedule. That, and a 1.5 game lead.
8. Aaron Rowand, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and J.C. Romero (among others) are impending free agents (in addition, Abraham Nunez has a club option, I believe). Do the Phillies bring any of them back?
Definitely not Lieber or Garcia. Lohse at a low price would be fine as a fifth starter. Romero has had a great season for the Phils, so again, for a low price would be a valuable arm in the pen. Rowand is a tough call and will depend on his price. If they sign him, they can possibly trade Bourn or Victorino for pitching (although I don’t trust Gillick’s ability to trade for pitching any further than I could throw Shawn Andrews). But there’s lots of disagreement among fans in the know about what to do about Rowand. Definitely no to Nunez. He’s been a huge bust and will continue to be one.
9. Charlie Manuel’s contract is up as well. Is it a foregone conclusion that he’ll get re-upped, or does Pat Gillick have someone else in mind?
It’s not a foregone conclusion at all. I don’t know what Gillick will do, but GMs usually like to bring in their own guys when they can. Manuel is a hold-over from the Wade era.
10. Manuel for NL Manager of the Year? If not, then who?
I don’t know who, but I know it shouldn’t be Manuel. He’s been pretty good, don’t get me wrong. He obviously knows how to get the most from hitters and keeps his team even keel despite injuries. But, he can’t manage a bullpen and makes frequent tactical errors during games. I’m sure every manager does, but Manuel does it frequently enough that I think he’s not manager of the year.
Thanks again to David. Be sure to check out The Good Phight over the next two weeks to keep up to date on the Phillies’ race for the wild card.