Bill Conlin | Home-grown pitching slump is due to end

Posted: July 20, 2007

IN THE PHILLIES' year of the non-save, it is nice that No. 1 draft pick Joe Savery has formally joined this pitcher-starved organization.

If the 6-3 Rice lefthander (and the Owls' best hitter, as well) is the real deal, he could be in the rotation as early as 2009. That assumes he will overmatch the short-season, Class A New York-Penn League, where he will

audition with the Williamsport Crosscutters, get bumped up to Lakewood, or even to Clearwater, then begin next season in Clearwater or Reading. Once in Reading, he's as close as somebody's DL assignment to The Show.


Savery will

provide more evidence that this ownership's quarter-century pitching nightmare is nearing sunrise.

Notice . . . I have written 119 words so far and haven't mentioned Phillies' 10,000-plus losses a single time. And I agree with the organization's overworked spinmeisters that the hands of this team are clean of the Original Sin implied in a

tradition that began when the Phillies were clearly the brokest, most clueless and least talented organization in all baseball history. The bad, old days are a speck in history's rearview mirror.

But they have not exactly been replaced by the good, old days of 1976 through 1983, 8 years when five postseason visits included two pennants and the club's one World Series title.

For an ownership now in its 26th season, one is the loneliest number. One postseason since the 1983 pennant they shared with the fading but powerful

nucleus left by the Carpenter family. One for the last 23.

If a common thread winds through the entire span of 124-plus years and 10,000-plus losses, it is the frayed, constantly unraveling constant of lousy pitching.

This ownership is up to its frequently arched eyebrows in a relentless and often fatal inability to scout, sign, develop and profit by a nourishing flow of farm-grown pitching. I'm not going to take this case by case - neither of us has the time or patience to hear the retelling of all the horror stories of bad drafts, sore arms and serial underachieving.

But Marvin Freeman represents a typical case. Marvin was a reed-thin, 6-7 righthander drafted in the 1984 second round. He was from Chicago and had the baseball pedigree of a violin bow maker. That is not a tortured analogy. When the Expos drafted him out of high school in 1981, Marvin was earning up to $500 a week by hand-crafting concert violin bows as part of a program rewarding skilled artisans from his trade school. Freeman didn't sign, and the Phillies drafted him out of Jackson State. The Yankees drafted immediately after the Phillies in 1984. I had been pushing for the Phils to select a high-school lefthander from Toms River, N.J., who had struck out an amazing 27 hitters in an extra-inning game during a lights-out season.

The Phillies selected Marvin Freeman instead. The Yankees picked Al Leiter. Scouting

director Jim Baumer said Leiter had succeeded against inferior high-school competition. Did I mention Freeman came on the cheap? Whatever, he was 4-5 here over four seasons, was traded to the Braves for somebody named Joe Boever, was released by them and signed by the Rockies. In 1994, he was 10-2 with a 2.80 ERA.

Leiter retired with a 162-132 record and three World Series rings won with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Yankees. He won from 10 to 17 games in 10 straight seasons.

I mention that necklace of double-figure victories for a reason.

During this ownership's first 25 seasons, only three starting pitchers drafted, signed and developed by the Phillies have had double-figure seasons. (Although Kevin Gross was a 15-game winner in 1985 and Don Carman won 13 in 1987, both were drafted and developed on the Paul Owens and Dallas Green watch.)

First-rounder Pat Combs won 10 in 1990. Second-rounder Randy Wolf won 11 in 2000, 10 in 2001, 11 in 2002 and 16 in 2003. His 16 wins represent the high-water mark for a home-grown pitcher in the Giles-Montgomery tenure. First-rounder Brett

Myers won 14 in 2003, 11 in 2004, 13 in 2005 and 12 last year.

All but Wolfie's 16 are totals you expect to get from a No. 4 starter on a contender. A lot of smoke and mirrors went into

Ryan Madson's 11-9, 5.69 ERA last season.

Summing up: From 1995 to 2004, Al Leiter produced double-figure victories in 10 straight

seasons. Since this ownership took over in 1982, all the pitchers drafted on their watch have

managed to produce 10 or more victories only 10 times through 2006.

Of course, All-Star lefty Cole Hamels already has 11 and might be headed for 18 to 20 wins this year. He's the first Phils home-bred pitcher in the last 25 years with the right to turn around if you hollered, "Hey, ace."

Myers started to turn around. Then he remembered he's the closer whenever he pitches again.

If Joe Savery turns out to be a fast-tracker, the rails are lined up, ready and rusty as hell . . . *

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