Thursday, December 01, 2005

For Phils and Gillick, Things Looking Good…Then Kind Of Bad…Then Pretty Good…Then Bad Again

When Jim Thome came to town, I was more excited than I had been since the organization released that VHS version of “Whatever It Takes, Dude.” In this corner, a 32-year-old guy coming off a 52-home run season! In the other corner, a team in need of leadership and power! What could be better? And it was great…until his back gave out. Now Jim’s 35 and rehabbing an injury that will probably never go away. Oh, and what’s this? The Phils have a young Rookie of the Year at first base. Put it all together and you end up with the Phils making the right choice—a tough one, but the right one—by sticking with promising young slugger Ryan Howard and letting Ol’ Jim designate a few hits in the A.L.

Then Billy Wagner signs with the Mets. OK, see, this is bad. Really bad. Why, exactly?

1) We like Wagner. (As a rule of thumb, we like anybody who converts 38 of 41 save chances and establishes an ERA of 1.51.)

2) We don’t like the Mets.

3) We don’t want Tom Gordon. (Not only is he inferior to Wagner, but he’s 38.) Also, the way teams across the league are scrapping for anybody who a) has a faint pulse and b) has ever closed a game, successfully or unsuccessfully, in his life, whoever we get is going to cost too much. So I wish they’d just payed top dollar for proven talent.

But then I read about Abraham Nunez. Not that I had any clue who Abraham Nunez was, but it quickly became clear that he was an infielder. Dare I dream it? Might this mean the end of the David Bell era? (Look, I realize that Bell isn’t the Antichrist. Heck, he’s not even the worst guy they could have at the hot corner. After all, this is a guy who in 2004 hit .291 with 18 homers and 77 RBI in 143 games. But those numbers took a significant dip this past year, and he remains a charmless and flat-footed Phil.)

But then Pat Gillick clarified: David Bell remains the starting third baseman.

So, a lot of ups and downs during Gillick’s first days. The big up is that Ryan Howard is safely tucked away. The big, big, big down is that Billy Wagner is moving to Queens. The result is that Pat Gillick has a lot of work ahead of him.

Oh, and Pat? Julio Santana’s nice and all, but I hope you’re also aiming a little higher than that.

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