World Series: Charlie’s big gamble

CC & LeePHILADELPHIA—No matter what else happens, Charlie Manuel will be remembered as the second man to win a World Series for the Phillies. Since 1883 and after 50 previous managers, only Charlie and Dallas Green have hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season.

So whatever happens after the 2008 World Series, Charlie’s legacy is safe in Philadelphia. Winning baseball teams are like Haley’s Comet around here.

But will Charlie’s legacy take a hit if the Phillies lose the 2009 World Series to the Yankees? And if so, will it be because of his decision NOT to send Cliff Lee to the mound for a rematch against CC Sabathia on short rest in Game 4?

Well, that all depends.

First of all, Charlie has painted himself into a corner a few times during the postseason. One time came when he used both J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton in Game 2 of the NLDS. Another time was when he went with five pitchers to get three outs in Game 2 of the NLCS. After each of those instances the question that was asked was, “Did Charlie just [mess] this up?”

Each time the answer was, “We’ll see.”

And that’s where we are once again. Charlie is backed into a corner with Joe Blanton scheduled to start against the Yankees in Game 4. If it works and Blanton comes through with and the Phillies steal one from Sabathia again, the manager looks like a genius. After all, he will go into the pivotal Game 5 with his best pitcher properly rested and ready to go against another pitcher working on short rest.

Better yet, the pitcher (A.J. Burnett) is one pitching coach Rich Dubee is quite familiar with going back to his days with the Florida Marlins. Though he won’t say it one way or another, one gets the sense that Dubee thinks Burnett is a bit of a whack job, to use a popular term.

So in that respect, if the Phillies go into Game 5 with the series tied up at 2 games apiece, Manuel looks pretty darned smart.

Again.

Still, it seems as if the manager has his cards all laid out on the table and is waiting to get lucky with one on the river (to use another term). Clearly it seems as if the Phillies don’t believe they match up well against the Yankees are attempting to use any favorable twist they can to their advantage. The biggest of those appears to be Cliff Lee on regular rest in Game 5 against A.J. Burnett on short rest.

Nevertheless, there is an interesting caveat to all of this and it has to do with Charlie and Lee…

If Charlie was so adamant about not pitching Cliff Lee on three days rest, and says that even if the pitcher had campaigned to pitch in Game 4 it would have no affect on his decision to stick with Blanton. According to the way Manuel phrased it, even if Lee had burst into the office, flipped over a table, knocked some pictures off the wall and screamed at the manager to, “GIVE ME THE BALL!” Manuel says it would not have mattered.

“We didn’t talk very long on Cliff Lee,” Manuel said.

But why did they talk at all?

Let’s think about that for a second… if Charlie’s mind was already made up, why did he ask Lee anything? Could it be that Lee emitted some bad body language or hedged when Manuel asked if he’d pitch in Game 4?

Or could it be that the Phillies placed too much trust in Cole Hamels?

For now everyone is saying all the right things. That’s especially the case with Lee, who says he’s ready for whatever the Phillies give him.

“It was a pretty quick conversation, him asking me if I had ever done it and me telling him no and saying that I think I could,” Lee said. “Basically that was about the extent of it. Pretty quick, brief deal. I just let him know I’d pitch whenever he wants me to pitch. I think I could do it, but he makes the calls.”

So the season comes down to this. If the Phillies fall into a 3-1 series hole and end up losing the series, will it tarnish what Manuel has already done for the Phillies?

We’ll see.

Pedro Martinez anyone?

pedroJamie Moyer turned in a quality start on Wednesday night, which is no small feat.  After all, heading into that game nearly every other batter reached base against the 46-year old lefty this month. Moreover, that one ugly inning reared its head again for Joe Blanton on Thursday afternoon.

Just when it looked as if the big right-hander had turned the proverbial corner, up came a couple of bloop hits and a three-run homer to bite Joe in the rear. Just like that and a five-spot was stuck on the board.

Cole Hamels? Yeah, he looks like he’s back to form. And Brett Myers? Sometimes what you see is what you get.

So it goes that if the Phillies are going to parade down Broad Street for a second straight year, they are going to have to get the pitching together. After all, that’s how they did it last year. Sometimes, though, that’s easier said than done. Every team wants pitching and because the quality stuff is spread so thin, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might have to get creative if he wants to bolster up the worst rotation in the Majors.

How creative? We’re not sure. But how is this for an idea…

Pedro Martinez.

Yeah, that’s right… why not take a flyer on Pedro Martinez?

Look, we know all about it. Pedro is 37, he gets hurt a lot and his best days are clearly in the past. Last season for the Mets, Pedro went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts – clearly the worst season of his big league career and the third season in a row where he missed a significant portion of the season because of injuries.

After going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 2005, Martinez went 17-15 with a 4.74 ERA in 48 starts in three combined seasons. When his contract ended after the Mets choked away another September, they just let him walk away – and so did everyone else for that matter.

But really, Pedro’s worst season ever is still significantly better than what Moyer, Blanton and Chan Ho Park have done this year and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the 46-year-old lefty a two-year deal. It would take significantly less – like a prorated deal for the rest of the season – to bring Martinez on board.

Better yet, if he doesn’t pitch well the Phillies can always say, “Adios.” No harm, no foul.

eatonThat might not be the Phillies style though. Apparently going after someone like Martinez might be thinking waaaaaaaay out of the box. Or was it? Last spring the Phillies took a chance on veteran Kris Benson and when it was clear he couldn’t pitch, they cut him loose. Since then Benson signed on with Texas where he has appeared in four games and has a 7.80 ERA…

That’s the same ballpark as Moyer and Blanton.

Plus, when ex-GM Pat Gillick knew he wouldn’t be able to sign Randy Wolf, he panicked and gave a three-year deal to Adam Eaton.

Remember how well that turned out? Yeah, well it still wasn’t as bad as Moyer, Blanton and Park have been this season.

Yes, the plan is for the Phillies’ staff to pitch better and based on past performance that’s not out of the realm of possibility. Still, what if those guys don’t turn it around? What then? It just seems silly not to take a shot on someone like Pedro Martinez when bigger projects like Eaton, Park and Benson were signed up with seemingly not a second thought.

Vote for Pedro? Shoot, how bad could it be?

*

Note: We’re going to be away from the ballpark for a couple of days while my wife recovers from an appendectomy and pneumonia. As soon as the ol’ girl gets her mojo back, we’ll be back at the ballpark.

Until then… hospital food!

Adam Eaton graphic from The Baltimore Sun

Stuck with ’em

Phillies Mets BaseballBaseball guys like to trot out the clichés when there are no words or reasonable ways to describe the action on the field. Lately, the one most used by the Phillies has been “That’s baseball,” which has replaced, “It is what it is,” as the cliché de guerre.

Those phrases have been reserved for those hard hit balls from Jimmy Rollins that found gloves instead of turf as well as the opposite – when the balls hit off the Phillies’ pitchers find the grass (or the stands) rather than mitts.

Crazy thing that baseball.

Nevertheless, as the first significant landmark of the long season approaches (Memorial Day), there have been some constant themes of the season that we just can’t shake. For instance, there is Rollins and his streakiness, Raul Ibanez and his hotness, Cole Hamels and his healthiness and, of course, the starting pitchers and their ineffectiveness.

Here it comes in black and white:

The Phillies enter tonight’s game in Cincinnati with a 6.35 starter’s ERA. Only Boston and Baltimore in the hitting-happy American League are even within shouting distance of the Phillies’ starters with a 5.76 ERA.

Uglier? The Phillies’ starters have an ERA almost two runs higher than the league average, while the opposition is hitting .308 against them (yes, that’s the worst in baseball) while reaching base at a .376 clip.

Again, it’s the worst in baseball.

Here’s one more thing about the starters and their awful numbers… the starter’s OPS is a robust .921, which kind of makes it seem like they face Alfonso Soriano with every hitter.

Get an OPS of .921 for a career and get ready for a ceremony in Cooperstown.

Here’s the amazing part – the Phillies are tied for first place in the NL East. In other words, sometimes a good offense is the best defense. However, the Phillies can’t expect this to keep up because it never does. At some point they will need to pitch well and pitch well consistently.

Yes, duh.

Along with the catchphrases like, “That’s baseball,” and, “It is what it is,” manager Charlie Manuel has brought out the time-tested classic, “These are the guys we have.” That might very well be code for, “Hey Ruben, get us some help.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s line about the team needing to perform better is code for, “I’m trying, but good pitchers cost a lot.”

The worst of the bunch are Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park. Currently, Blanton has the sixth-worst ERA in the Majors at 6.86 and if Moyer had been able to accumulate enough innings in his seven starts, his 8.15 ERA would be the worst.

Think about this for a second – a 46-year old pitcher going just 35 innings in seven starts for a 8.15 ERA and a 1.042 OPS against… yeah, Steve Carlton wasn’t even close to being that bad when the Phillies waived him in 1986 at age 41.

In the short-term, Moyer and Blanton aren’t going anywhere. In fact, Moyer has another season left on his contract. When asked if a move to the bullpen were possible for Moyer, pitching coach Rich Dubee said, flatly, “No.”

If only Moyer could face the Marlins every time out…

The only option for now is for lefty J.A. Happ to take over a spot in the rotation for Park. Of course Park just lasted four outs in Sunday’s start against the Nationals directly on the heels of back-to-back strong outings in which he gave up just two runs and eight hits in 12 innings. But of the underperforming trio, Park is the only pitcher with versatility.

Besides, Memorial Day is approaching. Since 1968, more than half of the teams in first place at that first signpost go on to win the division.

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  • Jason Kendall of Milwaukee got the 2,000th hit of his career last night. He only needs 48 more to tie Johnny Bench… Jason Kendall gets more hits in his career than Johnny Bench? How does that happen?
  • The Nationals’ Cristian Guzman is leading the National League with a .385 batting average, but for the first 37 games of the season his batting average and on-base percentage were the same. Yes, that’s right, Guzman had not walked once. That changed on Monday night when he got a free pass in the fifth inning of the Nats’ 12-7 loss to Pittsburgh.
  • On Sunday Brad Lidge broke his streak of six games of allowing at least one run. During his streak the Phillies’ closer had one save, and allowed 11 hits and nine runs in six innings.

On another note, Geoff Geary, one of the pitchers Lidge was traded from Houston for, has had streaks of five and four consecutive games in which he allowed at least one run.

Check it out.

Seventh inning: Big effort from big Joe

MILWAUKEE – Joe Blanton struck out for the third time to lead off the seventh. That’s a good thing because it means manager Charlie Manuel wants the right-hander to gobble up some innings.

However, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin got up in the ‘pen shortly before Prince Fielder pounded a long home run over the bullpen in right field. J.J. Hardy followed with a single to right a pitch later which brought Manuel to the mound to summon Madson with one on and no outs.

Then those damn thunder sticks started up again…

Between the wieners, the Fonz, arresting Charles Barkley, fried cheese, and those damn thundr sticks, these people are nuts.

Sinker baller that he is, Madson got two grounders and a pop up to right to end the threat.

The Phillies are six outs away from winning their first playoff series in 15 years.

Blanton’s line:

6+ IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR – 107 pitches, 72 strikes

Not bad… not bad at all.

End of 7: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Sixth inning: Roof ball and sausage races

MILWAUKEE – I have seen a lot of baseball games, but this is the first one where I saw a fly ball hit the roof of a dome and bounce back toward the infield so that the third baseman had to make a diving catch.

No, that doesn’t happen very much.

Here’s what happened:

With one out, Jayson Werth hit what looked like a can-of-corn to left field. Suddenly, though, the left fielder pointed at the roof and the infielders started to scamper about. Next thing we knew, Craig Counsell was sprawled out on the infield dirt with the ball in his glove for the second out.

I’m not sure about the ground rule for a roof ball, but I bet it’s goofy.

Speaking of goofy, the Mexican chorizo sausage won today’s big race between the sixth innings. Yesterday the Italian sausage went wire-to-wire in a closely contested race for the victory, which cost our pal Todd Zolecki a few dimes. You see, Todd is a compulsive gambler and he will bet on anything from a dog, horse, sausage, flip of a coin, cockfight, a mouse in a maze or an arm-wrestling bout. Yet with a strategy of always betting on the Polish sausage in the Milwaukee race, Todd is 0-for-2 this series.

Tony Gwynn Jr. singled to open the sixth to make those thunder sticks pound away, but Joe Blanton quieted them by retiring the next three, including Ryan Braun on a whiff.

That’s 99 pitches in six for Blanton.

End of 6: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Fourth & Fifth innings: Book those flights soon

MILWAUKEE – The Phillies are more than halfway through this one and the scribes are scrambling to make reservations to Los Angeles. My guess is that the rates are going to climb quickly by tomorrow when the run on them by folks from Philly.

Who knows, maybe we can all crash at Larry Bowa’s pad?

Meanwhile, after Jayson Werth’s homer, Game 1 starter Yovani Gallardo has retired six in a row. It looks as if the Brewers and the Phillies have gotten comfortable.

The same can be said for Joe Blanton, too. When J.J. Hardy singled to lead off the fifth, it was the first hit for the Brewers since Ryan Braun got a two-out single in the first. It was a run of 10 in a row for the big righty, who is on the way to turning in his best outing as a Phillie.

Then again, playoff wins are always big for the Phillies.

Following Hardy’s single, Blanton retired three straight, including two strikeouts in a row. His pitch count is a robust 75, which is the only thing likely keeping him from throwing a complete game.

End of 5: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Second inning: Left on base, ibid


MILWAUKEE – The Phillies are back to putting runners on base, while Jayson Werth is back to striking out. Actually, it’s been feast or famine for the Phils’ right fielder who has a pair of two-hit games and six strikeouts in 14 at-bats.

However, Pat Burrell got his first hit of the series. Not so coincidentally, the hit came off Jeff Suppan, a pitcher Burrell has a career .429 batting average against with three homers.

Still, the Phillies got back to leaving runners in scoring position when Greg Dobbs, starting for the first time in the series, laced a single to right-center. He advanced to second on a wild pitch to give the Phillies a big opportunity to break it open a bit with just one out, but Suppan bore down and whiffed both Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton to end the threat and strikeout the side.

Meanwhile, Blanton looks pretty good on the mound through two frames. He got two pop ups during a perfect second and five of his six outs have come on soft flies.

Still, with 36 pitches through two innings, Blanton might be piling them up a little too quickly.

End of 2: Phillies 1, Brewers 0

Good day for Baseball in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Pretty cool day so far. After all, it’s not every day that a guy like me wakes up, goes to the ballpark, talks to a Hall-of-Famer near the cage during batting practice, heads up to the press box and is greeted by another Hall-of-Famer who hands out the day’s lineup card.

After chatting with Robin Yount and Harry Kalas, I had waffle fries and the best veggie dog I ever tasted for lunch. Usually those things taste like pencil erasers, but the people in Milwaukee know their wieners.

After that, the great writer from The Inquirer, Phil Sheridan, took my photo beneath the huge Rollie Fingers poster, which was pretty cool. Needless to say, I learned a lot about ol’ Rollie when I was a kid.

Besides, wieners, they also know how to make a lot of freaking noise in Milwaukee. As the fans walked in this morning, the ushers handed out those thunder stick things and now everyone is beating the hell out of them. With the lid closed on Miller Park, it was almost impossible to hear yourself think down on the field.

But Jimmy Rollins didn’t have to think – just swing. And on the sixth pitch of the game, the Phils’ leadoff hitter lined one into the seats in right field.

Suddenly it got eerily quiet.

They got noisy again soon, though. When Ryan Braun laced a two-out single to left against Joe Blanton it sounded like they were beating a tin trash can with a crowbar. Thankfully, when Prince Fielder ended the inning with a fly out, the fans all got up, put down the thunder sticks and went to the concourse to get a wiener or some fried cheese curds.

They eat a lot of weird things out here.

End of 1: Phillies 1, Brewers 0

Saturday morning: Rain o’er the Phillies

In an odd way, rainouts and doubleheaders are kind of fun. Oh sure, they create a lot more work, confusion, time away from home and standing around for baseball players, coaches, officials and scribes. Rainouts and doubleheaders turn a team’s best laid plans into the mush inside of a pumpkin. Pitching matchups are ruined, bullpens are taxed, players get tired and injuries occur.

It’s just a big mess.

But there is something intriguing about the extraordinary. Rainouts and doubleheaders are not natural, therefore they force extreme measures. OK, the rain part is natural, but the previously mentioned groups of people are used to keeping tight schedules. When the routines are knocked askew, things go haywire… fast.

That’s the fun part. A little chaos now and again is healthy. So instead of watching a ballgame on Friday night, we all got to stare at raindrops as they bounced off the tarp covering the infield at the Bank. We also got to stand around and wait for word on how the pivotal series with Milwaukee Brewers was going to shake out. When it became obvious that there was no chance for the game to be played on Friday night, it was time to wade into the maelstrom.

For starters, the starters were hardly an issue for the Phillies. After pitching on short rest last Sunday in New York, Cole Hamels will get an extra day off before taking the ball on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Joe Blanton will also get an extra day of rest before pitching on Sunday, though Brett Myers will not have that luxury.

Myers declared himself fit to pitch on just three days of rest after a regularly scheduled between starts bullpen session on Friday afternoon. However, since both the Brewers and Phillies both had days off, a potential Myers (on regular rest) versus CC Sabathia matchup loomed for Monday.

If the coaching staffs for both teams had a say, there would be a baseball game on Monday. But they don’t have a say – just the players union and the league can decide when made up games can be played. As such, no one wanted to give up one of the last days off remaining in the season.

“I don’t like doubleheaders,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s tough to win a doubleheader. It’s also better for our pitching if we play straight through. Everything falls better that way.”

The Phillies and Brewers players were unmoved by that sentiment.

“I talked to the players, we’d rather play a doubleheader,” Phillies player representative Jimmy Rollins said. “We’ve done it before. It’s a day-night, so it’s not like you’re going out there right after one game. We’ll get it in and preserve the off day.”

That means two games and two different admission fees on Sunday. It also means long rest for Blanton and short rest for Myers.

Most importantly, it means there is a really good chance the Phillies will leave the city on Monday trailing the Brewers in the wild-card race… the Mets? Forget it – the Mets aren’t pulling a choke job two years in a row.

The point is doubleheaders are difficult to sweep. Trailing the Brewers by three games, the Phillies can pull even with a series sweep. But that’s where the chaos enters the picture – Sunday will be a wild, all-hands-on-deck day for the Phillies. Pitchers arms will be spent come Monday when what really is needed is some good, old fashioned pacing. A handful of the Phillies’ relievers are leaking the proverbial oil as it is now, but wait until they head to Atlanta early next week. Throw in the fact that Blanton has hardly been the innings-eating pitcher as advertised since joining the Phillies in July means the team might have to rely on the Brewers’ late season freefall to score the coveted sweep.

Yes, sweeps are difficult to achieve. But get one here and a brand-new monkey wrench will enter the fray for the final fortnight of the season.

Break out the gauze, ice and duct tape. It’s going get bumpy.

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Speaking of bumpy, check out Pat Jordan’s epic on the star-crossed Barry Zito in The New York Times’ “Play” magazine.

The money quote from Zito? “… Hot chicks don’t dig ballplayers.”

No. No they don’t.

Also, Milwaukee Todd chatted up Pat Burrell about the chance he could be playing his last games with the Phillies. If Burrell departs it would break up the link with Jimmy Rollins, who have been teammates dating back to Single-A ball in 1998.

Meanwhile, Boston Sully got behind the scenes with the machinations involved in determining when Friday’s postponed game will be played.

Going up top

It took the three tries for the legendary, prolific mountaineer Apa Sherpa to summit Mount Everest. Only after hooking up with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund, and a group of Kiwis was ol’ Apa able to reach the rooftop of the world.

But since that first successful ascent up Everest, a lot has changed for Apa. Raised in the foothills of the mountain in Nepal in 1960 or 1962 – the Nepalese don’t keep track of such trite things such as one’s birth year – Apa moved his family from the highlands of the Himalayas to the Rockies of Utah, because, as he once told an interviewer, “the schools are better.”

He also summated Everest 17 more times since that maiden effort with Sir Ed’s boy. That’s more than anyone in the history of mountaineering.

Like Apa Sherpa, I moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to Lancaster, Pa., because “the schools are better.” At least that’s what I tell people from Philadelphia. This morning on the shuttle bound from the car rental joint to the main terminal of Denver International, I told some Texans I was passing the time with that “Philadelphia is the ugly step-brother of New York, Washington and every other major Northeast city.”

But as my man DMac says, “Philadelphia will do…”

At least for the time being.

Anyway, unlike Apa, I reached the summit of the first peak I aimed for. I also did it without any technical gear other than a pair of Brooks Radius shoes and blue and red-trimmed Brooks running shorts. Yessir, I ran to the top of Twin Sisters Peak, which is located to the east of the more famous Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I ran to the top of Twin Sisters in 67 minutes, took a short drink, checked out the view where I saw the town of Estes Park, some clouds, what I think was the city of Boulder, and a whole bunch of lakes. I stood there with the view and felt the stiff wind through my flimsy clothes and looked down at the tree line a few hundred feet below the edge of the peak as one of those dreaded altitude headaches began pounding against my temples.

That was my cue to get down.

With that, I headed down the same route from which I climbed. Fifty-four minutes later I was at the trailhead where my rented car was parked.

Yes, 67 minutes up and 54 minutes down for the slowest nine miles I ever clocked.

And yes, unlike Apa Sherpa, I ran up my first mountain on the first attempt…

Of course Twin Sisters Peak (pictured above from the back porch) isn’t quite Everest. My run started at 9,000 feet of altitude and rose to a little more than 11,400. Though it’s quite a bit of climbing packed into those four-plus miles of trails, Apa’s mountain is three-times higher than mine. For a sea level dude like me, the daily runs in Colorado from 7,500-feet up and over 8,100-feet are pretty substantial. Going up to 11,400-plus takes some effort.

Apa, of course, probably looks at something like Twin Sisters as a walk in the park. In fact, a walk in the park might have been the best way to describe my pace as the trail became rockier and the wind a little more fierce as I pushed on past the tree line. If I can run up over the tree line with relative ease, Apa probably would have skipped up while juggling flaming torches.

Hey, I’m not exactly Jon Krakauer here… or even CSN’s Lance Crawford, who once did a technical climb up the famed diamond of Long’s Peak. Lance, our resident Apa, took mountaineering classes in Estes Park, practiced on some smaller climbs, and then took down one of the most famous “14ers” in the Rocky Mountain chain.

Legend has it that Lance performed a series of one-armed, fingertip pushups at the summit of Longs.

I believe the legend.

And while I was in Colorado running up a mountain and visiting such places as Boulder, Black Hawk and the exquisite Sundance Lodge [1]in Nederland, I also was privy to a few more tales that could be called legends, stories and, better yet, rumors. The fact is stories and rumors are the currency of ball writers everywhere and this is no different in Colorado. In fact, folks I talked to told me that the Colorado Rockies are debating whether or not to trade away All-Star outfielder and 2007 MVP runner-up, Matt Holliday. Because the Rockies were/are beset with injuries all season and Holliday’s contract status doesn’t exactly give a ballclub much wiggle room when contemplating a move toward rebuilding, the so-called conventional wisdom looks at Holliday’s days as a Rockie as numbered.

The Phillies, they say, are a team that could package a deal for a player like Holliday.

I’m not so sure. After cornering the market for overweight, right-handed and underachieving Opening Day starters in the acquisition of Joe Blanton, the Phillies cleaned out the cupboards and sent the top-notch minor-league prospects to Billy Beane in Oakland. Therefore, to get a star like Holliday, the Phillies would have to pick up all of the remaining years on his contract and throw in some big leaguers like Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and whomever else the Rockies fancy.

Meanwhile, after being told the Holliday tales, I countered with the idea that the Phillies had long been interested in side-wheeling left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes. The Phillies have just one lefty in their solid corps of relievers and Fuentes has always given them fits. But when I broached the idea of Fuentes being dealt from the Rockies to the Phillies, I was told, “Take him. You can have him.”

From the outside Fuentes seems like a good fit for the Phillies’ bullpen. After all, he strikes out more than a hitter per inning, has a respectable 3.23 ERA and has saved 16 games in 20 chances. Plus, Fuentes has not allowed a run since June 30 and is hell against the Phillies. In 16 career appearances (including three playoff games), the lefty has never allowed a run when facing the Phillies.

But Fuentes has whetted his peak in the closer pond and likes it. In fact, he told the Denver Post in last Sunday’s edition that if he gets traded, he would like to go somewhere to be the closer. A free agent at the end of this season, Fuentes said he would seek out a gig as a closer during free agency.

That kind of eliminates the Phillies right there. Brad Lidge is going to be the closer until at least 2011.

So that leaves us with a lot of unfinished stories with plots left to twist. The non-waivers trading deadline is just nine days away and even though the Phillies already made a move for Husky Joe, it doesn’t seem as if Trader Pat Gillick is finished with the wheelin’ and dealin’.

At least it doesn’t seem that way if ol’ Pat wants to go out standing on top of the mountain.


[1] If you ever find yourself in Nederland or on the Peak-to-Peak Highway an hour west of Boulder and Denver, you owe it to yourself to have a meal at the Sundance. The first time I ever heard Ted Leo’s song “La Costa Brava” I immediately thought of the little spot just off the road near Nederland. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Sundance; have an ever-changing menu with tons of choices and some of the best fresh-brewed iced tea ever tasted. Plus, the view can’t be beat. It’s always hard not to stare at snow-capped mountains through large picture windows (or on a sun/windswept deck). My wife and I snuck away for a quiet dinner last Thursday where she had homemade chicken marsala and I had tofu steaks with a citrusy teriyaki that came with grilled veggies and fantastic mashed potatoes. Man, what a place.