Paul Hagen: Injury-ravaged Phillies should not act out of desperation

Posted: July 02, 2010

IT OFTEN WENT unheard in the celebratory din that has enveloped the Phillies over the last few seasons. But if you caught a club official in a reflective mood, he'd wipe the champagne from his eyes and allow that luck had played a role in (take your pick) making it to the playoffs or getting to the World Series or riding a float down Broad Street.

We all like to believe that good results spring from our hard work and wisdom, and those are certainly elements in almost any success story. Except winning the lottery.

But the reality remains that, in professional sports, there are certain aspects that can be controlled. The decision of whether to keep Cliff Lee after acquiring Roy Halladay comes to mind.

And there are other developments, potential season-wreckers, that are as difficult to pin down as a cloud. Injuries top the latter category. Every team has players get hurt or go into unexplainable slumps. The Phillies were fortunate that in the last few years they never reached a critical mass.

Now they're beginning to know how the Mets felt last season.

Look, I'm no physician. But when Chase Utley and Placido Polanco had to go to New York for third opinions on their injuries, that wasn't going to end well. Think about it. If you have an examination and are told you're fine, you're not going to say, "Thanks, doc, but I think I'll go get another opinion."

So yesterday's news that Utley had surgery on his right thumb shouldn't have been a palm-to-forehead moment for anybody.

J.A. Happ's rehab doesn't seem to be going so swell, either.

Now, right on cue, comes the bugle cry from the vox populi demanding action. The paying customers want a starting pitcher, a couple of relievers and an infielder before the trading deadline at the end of the month.

This is understandable. It would also be a mistake to try to cross everything off that shopping list.

There are reasons why nine previous National League teams since the 1942-44 Cardinals have made it to back-to-back World Series and none has made it to a third. And maybe the biggest is that it's rare to stay lucky for that long.

The Phillies' stated objective has always been to be good enough to compete for the division title and hope to get hot at the right time. Even without Utley for a couple of months and Polanco either following him into surgery or playing with pain for the rest of the season, they should be good enough to do that.

That assumes they don't have a bunch more injuries, of course. And if they do, it probably won't matter anyway. It would make little sense to further raid a depleted farm system in some sort of quixotic quest. Better to keep Domonic Brown and Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton and try, try again over the next few years.

Nobody wants to hear this, but just because the Phillies sell out every game, it doesn't mean they have unlimited resources. Could they afford to raise the payroll? Probably. But at some point they are going to have to start replacing older, higher-priced players with younger (and cheaper) guys. That's just how it works.

The situation looks grim. Mortgage more of the future for a short-term fix would be satisfying in the short term, but teams with help available have a stick-'em-up gun stuck in general manager Ruben Amaro's ribs right now. If low-cost moves are available, make them. Otherwise, hold on tight . . . and hope to get lucky again.

Around the bases

BOOMERANG: The New York Daily News is reporting that the Mets have made trading for Cliff Lee their top priority. Phillies fans don't want to hear this. The Phillies' front office probably doesn't, either. When they traded Lee to Seattle during the offseason, nobody anticipated that the Mariners would be so awful that the stellar lefthander would be available at the deadline to teams that they might have to get past just to make the postseason.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY: According to Bill Arnold, there have been a total of 2,252 home runs hit on Independence Day. Duke Snider has hit the most (nine), followed by Willie Mays (eight).

Two players with Philadelphia ties are tied for fifth on the list with six long balls each: Frank "Home Run" Baker, who played for the Philadelphia A's from 1908 to '14, and Sarge, former Phillies outfielder and current broadcaster Gary Matthews.

HITTING 300: Everybody knows that Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick gave up Scott Rolen's 300th career home run at Cincinnati on Monday. But did you realize it was the sixth time a Phillies pitcher was victimized when an opposing hitter reached that plateau?

REVENGE: Vladimir Guerrero says he doesn't hold a grudge against the Angels for cutting him loose at the end of last season. That might not be true. Going into last night, Guerrero, now with the Rangers, was 10-for-16 (.625) with four homers and nine RBI against his former club.

FISH STORY: Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez takes issue with those who blame him for the firing of manager Fredi Gonzalez. The assumption is that the front office had to choose between the manager and the star after Gonzalez took Ramirez out of a game and made him apologize to teammates after he loafed after a popup that fell in.

"Our relationship was good after that," Ramirez said. "I think there was much more respect for each other."

Maybe. Except that the Miami Herald reported that Ramirez "openly celebrated" the news that Gonzalez had been canned.

FINGER-POINTING: Giants manager Bruce Bochy was pretty blunt in suggesting that defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum might want to think about working a little harder. "I think Timmy will tell you other parts of the game, like conditioning, can play a role," he told reporters. "Matt Cain will tell you it helped change him. He turned it up a notch in the conditioning part. That could be the case with Timmy."

Phair and phoul

AS JOHN MCENROE SAID, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was suspended one game for "aggressive arguing and inappropriate contact" with home plate umpire CB Bucknor.

Now, there is no excuse for touching an umpire. Ever. Period.

But this is a joke. The only way to tell that the brim of Manuel's cap brushed Bucknor's forehead is the way Bucknor reacted. If he had kept his cool, nobody would have even known that the contact had occurred. Good umpires know when to make a point . . . and when to let something slide.

DUDE! One question surrounding the remarkable public fall from grace of former Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra - a new book claims that his persona as a stock-picking savant was a carefully concocted hoax and that he admitted using steroids to enhance his earning potential - is how he convinced others to follow his financial advice.

He might have provided a clue in an interview with the Daily News in November 1995 when he first revealed an ambition to manage in the big leagues. And one of the things that attracted him to the job, he said, was the power it would give him.

"Because of the control you have. People who know me know that I'm a control freak. Managing is going to give you as much control as you could want," he said.

Another part of that quote wasn't included in the original article. "I'm a great liar," he bragged at the time. "I can look people right in the eye and lie and they believe me."

Apparently he was right. At least until it all came crashing down.

ON DECK: Two reasons not to get too worked up about the series against the Braves that begins Monday at Citizens Bank Park: It's still not the All-Star break. And after four games against the Pirates, beginning last night in Pittsburgh, the Phillies should have a little momentum coming home.

If they don't, then the Braves are the least of their worries.

BRING HIM UP: Righthander Carlos Carrasco, once considered among the best and brightest of the Phillies' prospects, is expected to be called up from Triple A Columbus by the Indians soon. "He's close. We're monitoring [him] and he's throwing well," manager Manny Acta told reporters. "All along, the plan has been to get him up here."

Carrasco was traded to Cleveland along with catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jason Donald and righthander Jason Knapp for Cliff Lee last July.

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