After unfurling one of the greatest seasons in the history of lefthanded pitching - 27-10 for a Triple A-level Phillies team - Lefty tasted, and imbibed, the fruits of victory. He made the rounds of the sports writers association banquets and reported to spring training with bronchitis and an extended hangover. Lefty threw too hard too early and developed shoulder tendinitis. Next, he attempted to lead a clubhouse rebellion aimed at removing rookie manager Danny Ozark. Carlton also had issues with rookie catcher Bob Boone, who had replaced released catcher John Bateman. The result was a rarely seen dead-cat bounce from 27-10 to 13-20, one of the most profound reversals in major league history.
Neither ace Hamels nor closer Brad Lidge was ready for the rigors of the regular season after arm stiffness in Florida shut them down. The only starter close to last October is Cy Old, Jamie Moyer. His repertoire of cleverly disguised gahr-bahge is less dependent on opposing batting order and climatology than on strike-zone dimension. Pinched=Pummeled. It is a simple formula. But even while battling the inconsistent work of umpire Adrian Johnson on Saturday, Moyer was able to keep the Phillies close in what Johnson helped turn into a 15-walk atrocity. I mean, four Jamie Moyer walks in 5 2/3 IP? Yo, Adrian . . .
With ramrod-stiff Joe Blanton, you get what he gives you. It appears Chan Ho Park has reverted to his Texas identity, Chan Ho "Duck!" after pitching well enough to win the job he hopefully has lost. The guy's nickname should be "The Hangman." The difference between the hang time on Sav Rocca's Eagles punts and "Duck!'s" breaking balls is you can fair catch a punt, whereas a hanging breaking ball often travels an additional 400 feet. Ironically, the one pitcher better now than a year ago is Brett Myers, who made himself smaller and fitter. Now, if he can lengthen his stride and drive lower over that landing leg . . .
When I'm King of the World . . .
Professional baseball men will receive a little more respect from fans than was forthcoming after the Phillies let Pat Burrell and his one World Series hit follow the Clydesdales into the sunset and acquired Raul Ibanez . . . I rarely go to bed until the last West Coast game is completed. One thing baseball beat writers didn't get in the years before the Internet and MLB packages was what was going on in the other league. It was the dark side of the moon. You saw the All-Star Game, maybe the TV Game of the Week. That was it until the World Series.
I saw Ibanez play often the past 3 years and didn't need Pat Gillick to tell me the Phillies were getting one hell of a ballplayer. Yet when I uncurbed my enthusiasm for Raul's all-around game, despite his age, I was buried by peeved naysayers. "Worse fielder than Pat . . . " "Horrible arm, can't run the bases . . . " "Lacks Pat's leadership and long-ball threat . . . " Yadda, yadda, yadda. Weeks and weeks of yadda, yadda and anti-Raul ranting. Maybe it's too early to say "I told you so," but, here goes: I told you so. The guy was the Phillies' best player the first month. Pat Burrell, whose defense also has been perfect, has one homer and 12 RBI for the scuffling Rays.
When I'm King of the World . . .
A baseball draft will be graded 5 years after the fact . . . We'll pretty much know how Andy
Reid & Co. did in the Eagles draft by midseason - I like it, by the way - but it takes an average of 5 years before a baseball draft can be evaluated. Let's grade the Phillies' 2004 performance in a draft overseen by Ed Wade and Mike Arbuckle. Their top four picks in 2004, outfielder Greg Golson, catcher Jason Jaramillo, lefthander J.A. Happ and catcher Lou Marson have all played in the majors. But stardom is running out on Golson, traded for Rangers outfielder John Mayberry in a change of scenery swap. Both are in Triple A. Jaramillo is a Pirates catcher who became expendable when Marson was presented as the Phils' catcher of the future. Happ is about to replace Chan Ho "Duck!" in the rotation. The cream was at the top of this class. Nobody after Round 4 is currently projected to have a big-league career. Grade: "B," with Marson and Happ the only projectable impact players . . .
What's the difference between Manny Pacquiao and a chainsaw? You have to refuel a chainsaw. I've been following boxing more than 60 years - my first TV fight was Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Louis. Come to think of it, Pacquiao is a watch-charm Marciano. The left cross that rendered Ricky Hatton instantly unconscious was the most perfect punch I have seen - or didn't see. Hatton was on the way down by the time I realized he had been hit by something terrible, but unconfirmed, until I hit the replay button on the remote and discovered he had been hit on the no-replay button. *
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