By Joseph Santoliquito
After disappointing their loyal legion of fans, after bowing out with the their slugger too afraid to take the bat off his big left shoulder, the Phillies haven’t exactly distinguished themselves so far this offseason.
The team that thinks of itself as the New York Yankees of the National League is going to let Jayson Werth go—possibly to the real Yankees, or another team not afraid to spend to win, the Boston Red Sox. Then the Phils came off looking really bad in quibbling over $250,000 to resign first-base coach Davey Lopes, who only helped them become one of the best base-stealing teams in baseball.
Now they sign former Phil Juan Samuel to coach third base, while Sam Perlozzo moves from third base to become the first base coach, taking over for Lopes. Whoopie!!! So far, it’s the biggest move the Phillies have made this offseason, and I don’t know about anyone else out there is Phillieland, but I say it’s time to pop all those champaign bottles everyone had saved for the Phillies’ 2010 World Series triumph.
Good for Samuel coming back. That’s sure to add another 10, 12 victories to the 2011 Phillies. But meanwhile, this is a team that has a gaping hole in its lineup, with no right-handed power hitter and for that matter, no rightfielder.
Domonic Brown is not ready. He finished the season hitting .210 in 35 regular-season games and looked awful in the playoffs—completely out of his realm. Without Lopes at first base, it looks as if the Phillies may not take the kind of high-percentage risks on the basepaths. Lopes knew distance off the base. He could gauge the timing of when to send a runner–and the utmost confidence of Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel.
Manuel himself acknowledged the importance of Lopes, and all because “The Yankees of the National League” couldn’t ante up $250,000, after a season in which the Citizens Bank Park was filled to capacity every night.
The Yankees don’t think that way. Teams that think as world champions don’t think that way.
“Davey, if you were going to categorize him, he might be the best base-stealing coach I’ve ever been around,” Manuel said about Lopes. “He can read pitchers and things like that real good. Anything that could give you an edge, Davey could come up with those things real good. The percentages dictate how good our team has done.
“But we do need help in breaks and leads and fundamentals on the bases and breaks and turns. When I talked to [Perlozzo], he was so excited about doing that, which definitely played into my decision. Knowing [Perlozzo] and how hard a worker he is as far as a teacher, I think [Perlozzo] kind of got his motor running again. He didn’t need it, but he was very excited about it and I think our baserunning is going to be fine.”
Yankees’ brass is taking trips to Arkansas to talk to Cliff Lee. The Phillies, meanwhile, are jubilant over their new addition. It will be nice to see Juan Samuel back in candy-red pinstripes again. He was an exciting player during his stay with the Phillies in the 1980s (but 1987 is long gone). And so far, he’s been the biggest move the Phils have made.
Did anyone ask if Samuel could play rightfield?
CBS Philly author bio: Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area. He’s the Managing Editor of Ring Magazine, there since October 1997. He also covers high school and college sports for the Philadelphia Daily News, and has written notable front-page stories on disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy, and on the winning battle Boston College’s Mark Herzlich waged against cancer. Santoliquito is best known nationally for his stunning portrayal of a high school wrestler overcoming the tragic killing of his parents in an award-winning ESPN.com piece in 2006 that also appeared on SportsCenter and later on HBO’s Real Sports. He has been producing the popular blog on 610WIP.com since 2006. He can be reached at SantoliquitoCBSPhilly@yahoo.com.