Ryan Howard finding a seat on the bench with Greg Dobbs, Rod Barajas, Jayson Werth and Michael Bourn for last night’s game against the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson was something that raised eyebrows and caused a few to say to no one in particular, “Hmmph.”
Cosmetically, I suppose, it makes sense in that it was left-hander Randy Johnson pitching and Howard is a left-handed hitter. Add the fact that Howard got a cramp in his hamstring during the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s loss and perhaps manager Charlie Manuel was just being safe than sorry.
“(Howard's) played five days and Randy is pitching,” the skipper said before the game. “I figured from a conditioning standpoint, everything kind of points to me giving him a day off. He'll rest tomorrow although he is available to pinch-hit. He had a cramp and once he got over it he was fine.”
But from another point of view – namely Howard’s – that explanation was just silly. Though Howard is hitting .133 in just 45 at-bats against lefties this season, he hit .279 with 16 homers against southpaws in his 2006 MVP season. Interestingly, Howard has never faced Johnson during his career, though Johnson has faced such notable Phillies as Ruben Amaro, Mike Schmidt, Bob Dernier and Floyd Youmans.
How does Randy Johnson get to face Floyd Youmans but not Ryan Howard?
Regardless, the notion of sitting Howard against Johnson doesn’t work anymore. Sure, Johnson can still pitch and he showed that by holding the Phillies to just one hit and no walks on just 61 pitches through six innings. But that famous fastball, apparently, isn’t what it once was and in sticking it to the Phillies last night Johnson relied on a slider that got in on the right-handers as well as the overzealousness of the hitters.
How overzealous were they? Well, the Phillies were so anxious that even with Johnson out of the game the Phillies went down in order in the seventh inning against reliever Doug Slaten on 10 pitches.
Anyway, in regard to sitting against Johnson, Howard said:
"It is what it is. It's fine. It's done. It's good.
“I told them I was alright. It was my hamstring. I told them it was alright. I'm sure when I grabbed my left leg, which is the one where I had the quad injury, everyone thought it was that. My quad is fine.”
The Phillies, however, are not in the best shape. After all, it’s quite reasonable that “The Team to Beat” could be up to a dozen games behind the New York Mets in the NL East before the first full week of June.
What did Jimmy Rollins, the author of the “team to beat” quote have to say about getting swept by the Diamondbacks and falling below .500.
“Unfortunately everything that went right for us in Atlanta went wrong for us here,” he said. “We get tomorrow off. Regroup, come back and get some wins against San Francisco.
“The losing record is only one game below .500 fortunately but we do have to play better ball. Things we did in Atlanta we have to do the rest of the season.”
With 109 games to go in the season, the Phillies’ best chance rests with the wild card. But if it will take 95 victories to win the wild card, the Phillies have to go 69-40 the rest of the way. That’s .633 ball, which is about what the Red Sox and Mets are doing these days.
Can the Phillies do that too?
No one asked me, but I think the Arizona Snakes would be a much more menacing nickname than Diamondbacks. I don’t like snakes, in fact, I’m probably afraid of them. A Diamondback does nothing for me. Snakes and Bugs would be a better team name… the Arizona Flyin’ Bugs? That has a nice ring to it.
If you are like me and a fan/participant of endurance sports, it’s worth noting that Martin Dugard has a blog. I just discovered it yesterday after hearing him interviewed on The Competitors radio show from San Diego.
Speaking of cycling (wasn’t I), the 2007 Men's Pro Cycling Tour hits the area starting this Sunday with a race through downtown Lancaster. It culminates on Sunday, June 10 with the U.S. championship in Philadelphia.
Interestingly, folks in Lancaster complain about some of the top cyclists riding through their downtown streets, while in Philadelphia they turn the event into an all day party.
Yes, in that regard I believe the people in Philadelphia are smarter than the people in Lancaster.
Back to baseball…
The Phillies, the very minor flap with John Smoltz was fascinating not because of what Smoltz said regarding Brett Myers’ move from the rotation to the bullpen, but because of the way the Phillies reacted to it.
You know, because the Phillies go to the playoffs every year and the Braves have just one World Series title in their 124 seasons in the Major Leagues… wait, I think I got those mixed up.
Anyway, from the way I read the stories from the long-forgotten sweep in Atlanta last weekend, it sounded as if the Phillies reacted as though Smoltz offered his sage opinion regarding Myers’ move to the bullpen instead of simply answering a question posed to him by a writer.
Come on… baseball players don’t go around offering their opinions to anyone who will listen.
Oh wait… I forgot about this guy.
Digressing again, assistant GM told writers last weekend that Smoltz really ought to just butt out.
“The Phillies have a great deal of respect for John Smoltz and what he's represented to the Braves and to this division. He's a Hall of Fame pitcher. At the same time, I'm not sure it's appropriate for him to be making comments about personnel decisions that we've made as an organization.”
The entire thing could be a matter of poor reading comprehension on my part, but I don’t understand why the Phillies chose to comment at all, nor why they would be so dismissive of John Smoltz. In fact, I remember talking to him back when he was closing games for the Braves and asked him about the move from the rotation to the bullpen and how it affected his golf game.
Big time, is my many years removed paraphrasing of the conversation.
Back then Smoltz said that the training regime for a reliever was much more intricate than that of a starter. As a reliever, Smoltz had to be ready every single day and he had to train for that during the off-season. As a starter, he could pace himself a little more.
Certainly, in regard to Myers, I don’t think he injured himself because he wasn’t strong enough, stretched out or couldn’t handle the work load, but the everyday-ness of relieving could have caused a slight muscle weakness. Myers will definitely work all of those issues out if he has a long-term future as a reliever/closer.
Hey... Barry Bonds comes to town tomorrow. I bet he gets booed.