Monday, October 09, 2006

For Phils, What Should Have Been

The Philadelphia Phillies aren't in the postseason, and the sin of that is, if they were they would be one of the best teams going.

First, the Phillies by far had deeper, and arguably better starting pitching than most of the thinned-out, broke-down rotations that qualified to pursue the National League pennant.

Second, the Phillies' offense, multi-faceted with the speed/power of Jimmy Rollins at the top of the order, a revived Chase Utley right behind, and mighty Ryan Howard cleaning up in the cleanup position, probably would have scored some runs. Which is more than, on, the San Diego Padres, the New York Yankees, the Minnesota Twins, did.

Thing is, to win in October, you've got to win September. The Phillies ultimately didn't, losing just often enough in the final week to allow the Los Angeles Dodgers and Padres to win the three-way race to the wild card (with the Padres surging to the NL West title and L.A. snaring the wild card).

L.A. and the Pods are terribly flawed compared to the Phillies. But they took care of business where the Phillies could not - something the hometown team rightfully should fret about all off-season.

Torre, the Lion Tamer, out in The Bronx Zoo?

I used to cover the New York Yankees in the bad, old days, when the Bronx Zoo was open for business and Geore Steinbrenner more resembled the Mad Hatter than Daddy Warbucks.

During my first year on the beat, in 1982, Steinbrenner, full of fury after having lost the '81 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, employed three managers and six pitching coaches. More aptly, some would say tortured.

More incredible, still, the zoo keeper put 54 different players in pinstripes that season, astounding considering the 25-man roster capacity usually has a limiting effect on just how many bodies you can jettison at one time.

All that nonsense continued for the better part of a decade - in which the insanity always trumped the endless investment of millions. The Yankees did not win because they could not get out of their own way, or check the turbulence at the clubhouse door.

Joe Torre ended all of that. During his reign, Steinbrenner's reach was shortened. The Boss couldn't secure through bullying became routine because baseball people started to rule the day.

Now Torre is in trouble because a hot Detroit pitching staff ended the Yankees' October run. The Bombers may have won four World Series titles under Torre, but none since 2001 - and that is simply not acceptable to GMS III.

So expect Steinbrenner to waive the most successful manager employed by the Yankees in the last half century.

The Yankees are about to fall down the rabbit hole, where the Mad Hatter - and chaos surely await.