Surprises & Red Herrings
Every season at least one or two players come out of nowhere or the neighboring zip code called relative obscurity and put together a fine season. Chris Coste was last year’s poster boy followed closely by Shane Victorino. My nominee for this year’s Phillie who will surprise to the upside is Matt Smith.
While all of us wring our hands over who is going to be the set-up guy in the bullpen, Smith is there right under our collective noses. To be a candidate for Pleasant Surprise of The Year, a player must have little or no major league experience that would indicate good things are in the offing. Smith’s resume? Twenty-six games with 20.2 innings pitched. Check. To surpass all expectations a player must have shown flashes of brilliance or at a minimum coolness under fire. Matt Smith versus
This guy has the tools and the bet here is he is about to get the experience.
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A number of bloggers have pointed out the Phillies like Carlos Ruiz’ bat a lot, his glove and arm a little less so and his command of English nearly not at all. Well, I am going to assume he won’t need a consecutive translator to put down one or two fingers, wag them, point toward or away from his thigh or set a target. Exactly how much is Ruiz suppose to say to veterans like Jamie Moyer or Jon Lieber at this point in their careers? And precisely how much that he might say to Brett Myers if he could is going to get through that guy’s head anyway? Does Cole Hamels pause long enough between pitches to even have time to listen to a catcher? As for Adam Eaton, surely during his stints in
The language thing is a red herring. The Phillies don’t trust Ruiz despite evidence he can handle the job and bringing in Rod Barajas is hardly going to improve the Panamanian’s confidence.
* * * * * * * *Wiser heads than I have cautioned against counting out the Atlanta Braves this coming season. Certainly any team with the Jones boys, Jeff Francoeur, and Brian McCann will score some runs if they all remain healthy, always a question with Chipper, but the rest of their lineup is hardly formidable especially since they inexplicably traded away Adam LaRoche. In the end, health is really the watch-word for this entire team. Tim Hudson, John Smotlz and Mike Hampton all have a lot of mileage on their arms and must remain in the lineup let alone healthy or it will be a long, hot season at Turner Field. I see them finishing fourth. Last place is already written in stone for the Nationals, who might be better off given all of their top minor league prospects a long look at the big league level.