Red Sox Nation [red soks ney'-shuhn] Noun
1. An imaginary tool used by the Boston Red Sox organization for marketing purposes.
2. A synonym for the annoying band of bandwagon-jumpers who adopted the Red Sox as their team after the 2004 World Series title. E.g.: Citizens Bank Park was invaded by Red Sox Nation, all of whom have been diehard fans for almost four years.
3. A gimmick that sickens true Red Sox fans.
[Note: the faux dictionary entry has nothing to do with the rest of this post. But it did make me feel better.]
I’m in a bad mood after watching the Phils drop their third series in a row, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit pessimistic as I look at the big picture. I realize it’s not all doom and gloom, as evidenced by the following:
- The Phils are in first place in the NL East
- Chase Utley is probably the early season MVP
- The bullpen has been the best in baseball thus far
- Ryan Howard might — just might — be coming around
So the Phils certainly have the inside track to the playoffs as of right now, and given the way they’ve started most seasons, I can’t be too upset about it. But if the ultimate goal really is to win a World Series, then there’s a long, long way to go to get to that point.
Case in point: this Red Sox series. Despite missing David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis for the entire series, and despite starting an overweight, over-the-hill Bartolo Colon on Monday, the Red Sox managed to take two out of three at Citizens Bank Park. Not to read too much into a midseason series, but if you’re into “measuring sticks” and things of that nature, then the Phils failed this test miserably.
Watching Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick struggle against a patient Red Sox lineup cemented in my mind the one move the Phils need to make if they want to compete in October…
The Phillies need to add a top-flight starting pitcher.
Now I grant that every team can stand to add a good starter, but here’s the thing with the Phils: it’s really all they need. Their lineup doesn’t have any holes, the bullpen’s in good shape (if a LOOGY is needed, there’s several candidates within the organization, as we talked about in this month’s MMLBRC), and with J.A. Happ in AAA and Kris Benson still hoping to make it back this year, it’s not like the Phils are short of quantity in the rotation.
But what the Phils have in quantity, they lack in quality. Moyer, Kendrick, and Adam Eaton — if they keep their ERAs under 5.00 — are certainly good enough to get the team through the regular season, but I fear for them come October. They all get by by nibbling with okay stuff, which is not a recipe for success against playoff-caliber lineups. I know it’s cherry-picking a bit, but let’s look at the records of those three against teams that appear playoff-bound (Cubs, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox).
Moyer: 1-1, 4.23 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 19 H, 6 BB, 11 K in 17.0 IP (vs. Cubs, D’Backs, Red Sox)
Kendrick: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2.11 WHIP, 16 H, 3 BB, 6 K in 9.0 IP (vs. D’Backs, Red Sox)
Eaton: 0-1, 13.50 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 K in 4.0 IP (vs. D’Backs)
The Phils are 2-4 in those games (they’re 3-1 against those teams when either Cole Hamels or Brett Myers start). Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it also reaffirms what we see when we watch these guys pitch.
So who’s available?
Well, we won’t know for certain until closer to the deadline. MLB Trade Rumors gives a rundown of the possibilities, and I’d stress that the Phils should be looking for something better than what they’ve already got. A couple of names that interest me: Erik Bedard, Zack Greinke, A.J. Burnett, and Ben Sheets. C.C. Sabathia would require a boatload in prospects and likely won’t be worth it. Bedard and Greinke are under team control past this year and would be preferable to the other two, but it’s not certain they’ll be available (though the odds are better concerning Bedard now that Mariners GM Bill Bavasi has been canned).
As we get closer to July 31, we’ll check back in and see who’s actually available — and whether the Phils have a chance to get something done. In the meantime, they’ll lick their wounds on their day off and try to rebound against the AL West-leading Angels on Friday.