Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jamie Moyer
Jamie Moyer, 43, adds veteran
leadership to the Phillies.

"Realistically, I think probably it would be a stretch to think we're going to be there in '07," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick stated on Bobby Abreu's last day in Philadelphia. Blinking red lights and claxon alarms went off as Gillick stepped from the podium, some fans grateful for his honesty, others furious at an assumed lay-down-on-the-tracks 2007 season to follow.

On July 29, the Phillies were 47-54, five games behind Wild Card-leading Cincinnati. Since (and counting) July 29, the Phillies are 14-8 and have picked up 2.5 games on the Reds in the Wild Card. Second baseman Chase Utley has emerged as the leader of the club, highlighted by his almost charging the mound when Nationals starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz drilled Aaron Rowand in the back with a fastball, two batters after hitting Utley.

Who the Phils Gave Up
Andrew Baldwin 8-8 4.04 ERA Clearwater (A)
Andrew Barb 6-2 2.23 ERA Lakewood (A)

Cole Hamels has pitched like an ace, Jon Lieber pitched a brilliant complete-game shutout against the Mets, and Randy Wolf has had a terrific comeback from a year-long absence due to "Tommy John" surgery. The offense has scored nine or more runs eight times in twenty-one games, and in three of their last six games. And surprisingly, the Phillies haven't even needed All-Star closer Tom Gordon, who is sidelined with shoulder problems. Clearly, this is a rebirthed team, and now they're in the playoff hunt, just two games under .500.

So, on August 19, Pat Gillick re-acquired Jamie Moyer, both of whom who are familiar with each other from Gillick's days as a GM in Seattle. At 6-12, Moyer doesn't appear to be an eye-opening acquisition, and appears to be an acquisition typical of the Ed Wade era: a waiver-wire, over-the-hill pitcher. Phillies fans have certainly seen plenty of them: Turk Wendell, Mike Williams, and Valerio de los Santos to name a few. However, Moyer will likely be replacing the 1-4, 7.23 ERA-wielding Scott Mathieson, who has shown he has the stuff, but not the smarts to pitch in the Major Leagues. For Moyer and cash, Gillick sent Class-A prospects Andrew Baldwin and Andrew Barb to Seattle.

Pat Gillick
Pat Gillick was a seller at the end of a July
and is now a buyer in mid-August.

For Moyer, it is a homecoming; for the Phillies, it is that one last push for a playoff spot, one that eluded them by one game last season. Moyer adds veteran leadership to not only the starting rotation, but to the clubhouse as well. He will be facing players who have yet to face him, and is thrust into the playoff hunt in front of a fanbase starving for playoff baseball.

"He's a guy who's going to lend a lot of stability to our pitching staff," Gillick said at a press conference announcing the trade. "He not only brings experience, but this guy can win. He's kind of a guy who's flown under the radar for a long time."

Moyer's statistics away from Safeco Field are not to be relished, as he is 2-7 with a 5.29 ERA. His new home field will be Citizens Bank Park, often maligned for the way it welcomes line drive homeruns. However, after Sunday, the Phillies will be playing their next ten games in what are commonly referred to as pitcher's ballparks: Wrigley Field, Shea Stadium, and RFK Stadium. After a seven-game homestand, the Phillies will play at Dolphin Stadium, Turner Field, and Minute Maid Park. Another six game homestand follows, and then the Phillies will wrap up the season at RFK Stadium and Dolphins Stadium again. So, Moyer shouldn't have too much difficulty with homeruns outside of Philadelphia.

Chase Utley
Chase Utley has become the unofficial
leader of the team.

As for Mathieson, who will be bumped out of the rotation as a result of the acquisition, there are two options. The more likely option is that he will be sent down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, with the injury to closer Tom Gordon, a second option has become a possibility: Mathieson goes to the bullpen to serve as the closer. Mathieson has good velocity (reportedly hit triple-digits on his fastball several weeks ago) and can rediscover himself in a limited role. However, the Phillies may balk at putting a close game in the hands of a rookie unconfident in himself.

When the season started, the Phillies had no left-handers in the rotation. Now, halfway through August, they have three in Hamels, Wolf, and Moyer. This change in arms signals a call to arms as the Phillies take aim at making the playoffs for the first time since 1993.