Bill Conlin: Phillies' pitching rotation? Lee can only do so much
WHEN I'M KING of the World . . . Scouts, scribes, fans and baseball people of every level and description will be reminded that one remains the loneliest number . . . Every game starts and ends on one pitch thrown by one pitcher to one hitter. A No. 1 starting pitcher will get about 34 starts. Cliff Lee started 31 times for the Cleveland Indians last season. He was the pitcher of record in a remarkable 25 of them. His 22-3 record won him the American League Cy Young Award.
WHEN I'M KING of the World . . .
Scouts, scribes, fans and baseball people of every level and description will be reminded that one remains the loneliest number . . . Every game starts and ends on one pitch thrown by one pitcher to one hitter. A No. 1 starting pitcher will get about 34 starts. Cliff Lee started 31 times for the Cleveland Indians last season. He was the pitcher of record in a remarkable 25 of them. His 22-3 record won him the American League Cy Young Award.
One great pitcher for 31 games . . . That left 131 starts for the rest of the Indians' pitching staff. That means in an 81-81 season, the rest of the pitchers won just 59 games. Blame mediocrity on the other "ones."
Roy Halladay, history's most popular almost-Phil, was runner-up to Lee for the AL Cy. Roy started 33 games for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was 20-11, an even more amazing 31 decisions in his 33 starts. That's almost a Robin Roberts Era stat. In 1956, Robby went 19-18, getting the decision in all 37 of his starts. (He also served a staggering 46 homers and gave up a prolific 328 hits in 297 1/3 innings pitched.) No wonder fans were hollering, "Get the married men off the field."
The point is, while it is always great to have an ace with Hall of Fame ability and records to match, teams that go deep into the postseason travel on the hopefully hard underbellies of the guys who follow the ace in the rotation. Even if Lee unfurls an 11-0 record for Charlie Manuel, the Phillies will be in dire straits if everybody else not named Joe Blanton pitches to his ERA.
Did anybody else see October swirling down the drain when Cole Hamels melted down - again - during a winnable getaway game by McCovey Cove? It could have been grim foreshadowing of the terrors a Division Series encounter with the pitching-rich, offensively improved Giants could supply. Right now, even with Cliff Lee, the Phillies' front end does not match up with a Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito alignment. And who would you prefer in a Game 4, Jonathan Sanchez or Randy Johnson? I know, you'd settle for a Game 4.
When I'm King of the World . . .
A no kinder or gentler monarch will cut his losses in the e-mail wars . . . In a Philadelphia Magazine profile of my alter ego this month written by Deadspin sports-blog editor A.J. Daulerio, he paints a picture of an obsessed e-mailer who never passes up a chance to lash back at critics. I would like to respond that A.J.'s interpretation is all wrong, that I am in total control of an activity that consumes more time and energy than writing columns. But any denial of my addiction to hissing matches with hit-and-run chronics swarming at me like kamikazes would be the all-wrong response. I am guilty as charged. Therefore, I have super-glued my right middle finger to the "delete" key and vowed to become the "Soup Nazi of E-Mail" - No Reply For You. The NRFY policy will apply only to scatalogical insulters, haters and beraters. I'll be the judge . . .
At least Pat Burrell had some good times to lift his oft-battered self-esteem during his Phillies years. He'll always have the lonely World Series hit that earned him the reins of the Budwagon with Elvis at his side. Pat showed enough flashes of the player the Phillies drafted No. 1 overall in 1998 to establish a fan base that forgave his snail running speed and often-awkward swing. But Rays fans have showed zero mercy to the AL designated hitter who ranks last in almost every offensive category. The only good thing: Pat has yet to wave at a fly ball in left-center. But the Rays are being dragged down by more than their no-dimensional free-agent acquisition. The No. 1 cause of most heartbreak for underchieving contenders, lousy pitching, has turned Joe Maddon's World Series squad into just another talented lineup struggling to get 27 outs . . .
Now that uberprospect Dom Brown has been promoted to Reading, there are just five good reasons to sit in the heat at a Clearwater Threshers game: 1. Great ballpark; 2. Two-for-one beer nights; 3. Philly cheesesteaks; 4. Shortstop Freddy Galvis; 5. Outfielder Steve Susdorf. Galvis can play defense in The Show right now. Susdorf is an outfielder from Fresno State who is hitting a combined .373 at Lakewood and Clearwater. The guy is a lefthanded, gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter who looks like he could be a Greg Gross-type spare outfielder down the road.
As for Dom Brown, scouts earn their money - and reputations - shining their projections off high ceilings. I saw him a little short of the Sistine Chapel Friday night. Forget the 0-for-4. He was robbed by the Fort Myers first baseman and later smoked a liner that top-spinned to the rightfielder. But in rightfield, he ran a circuitous route to a towering drive he should have gotten to before it hit the base of the fence in right-center. In the sixth, he stuck up his glove to nonchalant a soft liner hit right at him. Oops. It ticked off the leather and fell behind him for a two-base error. Physically, he's built like Alfonso Soriano, long-striding and toothpick lean. It will be fun watching him dance to the Phillies' No. 3 hole on that high ceiling.
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