Go figure… it’s warm in Florida

Let’s start with what you are going to see in the first dispatches from the Phillies’ training camp in sunny Clearwater, Florida. They pitchers will be doing the requisite calisthenics and running along the outfield grass. They will be images of them smiling and laughing while playing catch – maybe even a whoop or holler from a hitter as the crack of the bat gives off the aurality of a shotgun report as a line drive rockets toward US-19.

It’s fun just imaging it.

But then it happens. Some TV reporter – or maybe even a coach or player – will come on the screen with a Cheshire-cat grin as they inform viewers that the current temperature is 68 degrees and the weekly forecast is only calling for temps in the mid-60s.

“Getting a little chilly down here,” someone will condescendingly spit through that grin.

Frankly, those moves are nothing more than the refuge of an ultimate hack, so get ready for it. Just resist the urge to shout back at the TV, “Hey Hack, I guess you’re trying to point out that it gets warm in Florida. Right? Gee, I didn’t know that. Guess what? It snows in Pennsylvania during the middle of February. Sometimes it even gets cold and I didn’t even have to get the meteorological society stamp of approval to figure that one out. Now get back to your 30-second ‘report’ while I sit here and wait for the 17 minutes of weather in a 22-minute ‘news’ report.”

Thanks for indulging that little rant. I do it so you don’t have to.

Anyway, here are the other stories you can expect to read (and then hear) about this week from Clearwater:

  • Pat Burrell’s health, outlook for 2007, whether he can “protect” Ryan Howard and his thoughts on Mike Schmidt’s assessment of his game. No, there will be no shortage of Pat Burrell reports this spring/season.
  • The bullpen – specifically, who is the set-up man. Will Antonio Alfonseca or Ryan Madson be able to fill that role or will the Phillies have to make a trade to get that much-coveted reliever?
  • Who is the odd man out in the rotation? Is Jon Lieber on the block or is Adam Eaton going to the ‘pen? To a lesser degree, can 44-year old Jamie Moyer continue to rack up the innings and be an effective fifth starter?

    Better yet, can 23-year old Cole Hamels continue to pitch as well as he did to close the 2006 season or is he doomed to suffer another injury? Has Brett Myers really “matured” or will he resort to his old habits when the new contract and season settles in?

  • Ryan Howard and the long-term contract issue… Let’s see if he turns out to be more like Willies Stargell and McCovey than Joe Charboneau or Bob Horner.
  • Charlie Manuel’s contract. In the last season of a three-year deal most fans would be content to let the skipper walk away. However, most fans don’t go into the Phillies’ clubhouse.
  • Who is going to be the every day catcher?
  • Who is going to be the every day third baseman?
  • Most importantly, are the Phillies really ready to challenge the Mets and the Braves in the NL East?

    So many questions and a lot of fun trying to figure out the answers.

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