First on the Cole Hamels elbow crisis that I, along with many other Phillie fans, am losing sleep over. I know nothing on the subject other then what I have read. I saw him signing autographs at the game today against the Blue Jays but did not get a chance to ask him anything. So no free insider information on that subject from yours truly. Other then the non-stop comments on how much my dad thinks that Cole Hamels' wife is controlling him after reading that sports illustrated article. "When I met him he was so mature, I thought we were the same age!" Really Heidi? Being five years older than him, being on survivor, and showing your body to the world in Playboy gives you the room to call Cole Hamels mature?" They got a lot funnier and dirtier than that.
Second, on Chase Utley... he is making his way back more quickly than anticipated. I personally do not want him to re-aggravate his hip by being lured by the statistical wonder of a 162 game season. He has been batting lead-0ff and is getting his hacks. His starts at second base also seem to be going well. Knock on wood. And pull your left ear if you're Jewish.
In between listening to my dad's perverted jokes that have no actual punchline and his jokes that do have punchlines that aren't funny to anyone except for him... I got to see some baseball games. One thing I immediately noticed is that Raul Ibanez seems to be a pretty adequate alternative to Pat Burrell. Up until Sunday, I had never seen the man play in person and never really paid attention to his games as an AL player on the Mariners. Things we have all heard about Ibanez are that his defensive skills are comparable to Pat's and he will add a little more consistency to our already potent lineup. From what I have seen, Ibanez is surprisingly more agile and faster than his predecessor. Watching him run up the first base line and take turns going to second, he has a little more juice in him then we were all told to expect. To put this into terms that we can all expect to see translated on the field: If Burrell hit a double play ball to short, he was out at first 9 out of 10 times. I would say that if Ibanez hit that same ball, he will be thrown out 8 times out of 10. This may not seem like news to take a St. Patty's day shot of Irish whiskey to in celebration, but it improves our champs. This little bit of extra speed will also most likely mean that Ibanez stays on base and is not replaced for Eric Bruntlett in the later innings, giving us more options off the bench (by the way, Bruntlett's beard is the blondest bush of playoff hockey I can every hope to achieve).
Speaking of options off the bench, Charlie may be hard-pressed to use Brett Myers in some hitting situations after his playoff performance at the plate last year. He followed it up by smacking a single down the first base line today and then moving a runner over on a short chopper. The dude has slimmed down in a major way and hopefully he can keep the weight off this time and not let his drunk munchies get the best of him as they did back during the 07 season when his 30 pounds crept back on as the dog days of summer progressed. Brett pitched 5 innings of 4 hit, no run ball and was in command at all times today. I'm looking for a career year from B-My. Ryan Howard also dropped some weight and it is very noticeable. I watched the big man take ground balls at first base for half an hour at a practice facility before today's game (Tuesday) and he is moving more quickly from side to side and to the base.
I've seen numerous games at Bright House Networks Field, the Phillies home away from home, and a few away games here and there. The away game this year was at Legends Field, or as the most obnoxious franchise in sports decided to rename it's field - George Steinbrenner Field. I've heard the grumblings about Yankees fans through the grapevine, most notably in Bill Simmons' works, but they were in full force at this game. There were the countless senior citizens there just like every other spring training game, but there were also people you could only find at a Yankees game. I'll let you use your imagination. I was hearing things like "that championship was a fluke," which I just brushed off. The Steinbrenner faithful are just suffering from not winning a ring in 9 years that they want to take it out on us. Fine. I guaran-damn-tee that their 400 million dollar plus shopping spree does not bring them another championship any time in the near future.
As for some of the long-shots, I have been very impressed by John Mayberry Jr. This kid is an inch taller than Ryan Howard and has some power along with speed. Speed that makes my 150 dollar poker stack all-in hand loss look slower than Manuel's hobble to the pitcher's mound (no I'm not bitter). Speed that makes my two poker losses in Canada look slower than Dikembe Mutumbo running up and down the court while wagging his finger (screw electronic poker tables). Anywho, Mayberry looks like he can be a complete package. Other future Phils include Jason Donald, who seems like a feisty Utley and Pedroia type. Lou Marson looks less like a catcher and more like an middle infielder, which is great news. Some speed and athleticism can really help out a catcher.
This also marks the first year out of the three that I have attended spring training that I have gone to the practices and workouts in the morning. With five baseball fields other than the one inside the ballpark and a few specialty fields, such as only infields and extra bullpens and batting cages, there is plenty of baseball to be seen if you arrive early enough. Every single player in the Phillies organization was there - all the way down to the possibly and probable 16 year olds from other countries. Watching the workouts on all of the fields made me realize how competitive the major leagues really are. There were 5 catchers on one field, none of which I had ever heard of and all of which had probably never heard of Clearwater or Tampa before they arrived here this spring. Besides the five catchers on that field, there were at least 10 more. There are position battles just to get to be the back up's back up's back up's back up. And you have to be one hell of a ballplayer just to make it there.
Another cool thing about these morning workouts is the free-for-all that applies to stuff you can get. My uncle would be having a field day down here with the balls stuck on top of the mesh of the batting cages. I personally grabbed a bat and two broken bat heads from the trash can of the minor league batting cages. I also found two balls and bought a ball for 5 dollars before I knew I would be so lucky as to retrieve two. Talked to Anthony Hewitt for a minute, he was our first round pick and is only 19 years old. He seems to be a pretty nice guy and doesn't seem to be overtaken by the limelight that he will soon be under.
Quick rant... enough about the World Baseball Classic. As soon as I saw that David Wright hit a walk off double to eliminate Puerto Rico and keep the U.S. a-rollin, I had a twinge of excitement, before realizing that Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino will spend more time away from the Phillies and have more of a chance of getting injured. Can't we just have college kids play in these contrived tournaments? Do we really need to risk players like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis to win some meaningless competition that is a tune-up for the regular season? I'd like to read a Red Sox blog on how they feel about this. I feel the same way about the Olympics. What was the greatest moment in Olympic history and maybe even sports history? The Miracle on Ice. That is 20 college kids beating the Soviet Union, winners in '64, '68, '72, and '76. Do we really need to have our professionals playing basketball and hockey at these games? And hockey is during the NHL season. World Baseball Classic? If 162 games plus the playoffs isn't enough baseball then extend the season (I would have no objection to more baseball), but these competitions will only blow out pitchers' arms more quickly and injure players at a higher rate. I feel pretty strongly about all of this. Feel free to comment if you feel differently.
So that is all with regards to spring training, if i missed anything in there I will be sure to let you know. Back to the dreary weather of Pittsburgh. Go Pitt!