Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished commentary . . .

IT'S NOT EASY to focus during the helter-skelter of an NFL exhibition game. My mind wanders easily, particularly during those interminable stretches when the High Number guys are seeing what for many of them could be the last NFL action.

But it was hard not to notice that Michael Vick spent a lot of time running for his life, which is something he does about as well as any quarterback forced to run for his life has ever done. For smallish QBs like Vick, there is a high bug-on-the-windshield factor.

And it was hard not to notice, at least in the Steelers mismatch, that the undersized linebacking corps was getting bounced around like 4 a.m. Black Friday shoppers in line for the opening of a Toys 'R' Us.

So much talent . . . So many potential holes . . .

A bizarre analogy popped into my head: The exhibition-season Eagles reminded me of the most beautiful auto I have ever owned. It was a Jaguar (JAG-you-are) Mark IX. I bought the thing used in 1965 for more money than I could afford. OK, if you have seen Hitchcock's suspense masterpiece "Vertigo," Kim Novak was driving a British racing green Mark IX when Jimmy Stewart started stalking her. Mine was funeral black . . . the interior was like a British men's club - burled walnut everywhere, deep red Morocco leather, fold-down desk on one seat back, pull out bar on the other. And plenty of power generated by the classic 2000 cc inline six that also powered Jaguar's famed XKE sports sedan. One problem: The transmission was a two-speed Borg-Warner contraption that was always spot-off. When I took it to Aamco, they laughed at me. The engine blew on my way to trade in the elegant lemon.

When the Eagles line up all those speed guys behind Vick on offense, they will be as sleek while standing still as that Mark IX. But if Todd Herremans, now Vick's blind-side tackle, can't keep the speed rushers off him, well . . . get ready for a lot of those whiny transmission sounds my pride and joy used to make. And if the linebackers are tackling running backs and receivers 15 yards downfield, clouds of blue smoke are certain to follow.

That said, 10-6 with at least one playoff victory seems doable, with the disclaimer that nobody knows what Andy Reid will unveil for his offense in the real games.

Charlie's two-headed manster

Ryan Howard hit No. 30 yesterday, a bomb to left-center that raised his RBI total to 104. But my 2011 Phillies offensive MVP is a two-headed manster named Raul Mayberry, a switch-hitting beast that now has 29 homers and 108 RBI.

When the Phillies headed north from spring training, the Geek Chorus had anointed Raul Ibanez with, "Thank God it's his last year" status. John Mayberry Jr. made the Opening Day 25-man, but would appear in 28 IronPigs games before coming back to pound his way into at least a platoon situation with Ibanez. Dom who? . . . Did anybody out there think Michael Gabriel (Turbico) Martinez, a mouse that roars, would come to Sept. 2 with 170 at-bats and 23 RBI, while filling in for both Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco? Geek Chorus said, "Give the bum back to Washington . . . "

Now you know why Ruben Amaro makes the big money - or should, if he doesn't.

If it was a fight they would stop it

The big trade-deadline moves were Hunter Pence to the Phillies for a quartet of minor league prospects and Carlos Beltran plus $4 million to the Giants for top minor league pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

And how's that looking at the head of the stretch?

Beltran, who logs so much whirlpool time he should be registered in Jane's Fighting Ships, has one homer and four RBI for the gasping World Series defenders.

Pence, an entertaining, quirky, master of the unorthodox, is lighting it up for the Phillies and has restored Charlie Manuel's offense to a semblance of what it used to be before age and injury intruded. Hunter is batting .327 after 28 games with seven homers, 17 RBI and a sizzling .968 OPS. And Eddie Wade even kicked in $1 million to help nudge Ruben off the Luxury Tax doorstep.

Who could ask for anything more?

The Clearwater Threshers go into the final four games of the second half of the Florida State League regular season with their playoff chances dangling by a thread.

But, at least, a prospect laden team that has underachieved somewhat has control of that thread.

All four games are against the North Division-leading Dunedin Blue Jays, the first three at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium bandbox. It is a compact auto of a ballyard and the Jays, who lead the FSL in homers, have a huge edge at home. Clearwater will host Dunedin Sunday afternoon with first place possibly at stake. Because no team can win both halves of the split season this year, there will be no wild-card team. The Threshers will have to win the division - or hit the beach Monday.

Bye-Bye Trivia . . .

Since all anybody had to do was go online and check the comments after this column to read the Googled trivia answer, I am dropping the weekly question. Too bad, it's a win for Barney Google and a loss for independent thought and genuine baseball smarts. The Mickey Mice win again.