Philadelphia PhilliesOur friends over at The Pizza Project (blog writters from Montco) regularly review area pizza restaurants.  They recently gave their “optimistic” run down of the 2012 Phillies.

Chase Utley’s career trajectory is plummeting faster than Rick Santorum’s chances to snag the Republican nomination!

Ryan Howard’s ACL surgery was apparently performed by Jared from Subway, who did the stitching with one hand while downing a Chicken Teriyaki with the other.

With the lineup reeling from a lack of pop, Ruben Amaro went out and spent $50 million on…a closer with an affinity for late-game chicken and beer.

The opening-day five-hole hitter is Ty Wigginton, some guy who I believe was recruited from a South Jersey slow-pitch softball league.

And for some ungodly reason, David Herndon and Kyle Kendrick are still on this team!

Yes, all is ominous in the skies above Citizens Bank Park. It’s enough to make you think that the Phillies may be in for a major plummet from the National League division cat bird’s seat that they have held for five straight years all the way down to fourth behind the big-spending Miami Marlins, the always-pesky Atlanta Braves, and the fast-emerging Washington Nationals. Well, feel free to jump ship if you like, but I have the Phillies winning 94 games and putting the division on lock for another year.

And why is that?

Roy Halladay.

Cliff Lee.

Cole Hamels.

Vance Worley (this one could make me look like a moron, but, screw it, I like the guy).

Do you think the Phillies did not see this coming? Do you think they didn’t see Placido Polanco breaking down like that ’92 station wagon you just kept driving because the seats were so comfortable? Heck, even if Ryan Howard was healthy, his production has been sliding for years. Just like Chase Utley may never be able to round second again without risking leg destruction on par with that of the ill-fated Barbaro, Howard will never return to the colossus who cranked 58 homers without breaking a sweat. This is why you go get a Roy Halladay. You could put the Phillies ace on the mound and surround him by the Pittsburgh Pirates’ single-A squad. He is going to get his 19 wins out of sheer determination and will.

As for Cliff Lee, this is why you don’t run your team by listening to the idiots calling Philadelphia’s talk radio stations. If one were to judge by listening to Wally from Wilkes-Barre or whatever, the Phillies should have tossed Lee to the highest bidder this off-season. “Got two or three guys who are willing to carry the veterans’ donuts in Clearwater this spring training? We’ll give you one of the best lefthanders in the game for them.” Sorry, but you don’t dump a guy for having one lackluster outing – no matter how high-profile – unless you are prepared to end up looking like an idiot when he is throwing 30+ shutout innings for someone else while you have Joe Blanton struggling to hold down his spot in the rotation. (Note: Don’t get me wrong. I was – and still am – mad at Lee for blowing that lead against the Cardinals. Getting raked by Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker? You have to be kidding me! This is a huge year for him and he better represent, especially in the playoffs.)

Then, there is Cole Hamels. Is there any doubt that Cole is going for 20 wins this year? Matt Freaking Cain just got 20 mills over five years from the San Francisco Giants. If Cole can put up two dimes in a walk year, he will be in the market for a summer home in Dubai. Plus, he will finally be able to afford that much-needed voice transplant surgery. Give him a voice like Brittney Griner’s and you will have a man more feared then Stalin at his enemy-assassinating peak.

The major question is Worley. Was last year a fluke? Will opposing batters no longer be transfixed by his Mohawk-and-goggle routine, thus allowing them to concentrate on whaling his upper-80s fastball into the stratosphere? Will he suffer from the fact that he is no longer going up against the other team’s fifth starter every outing? Anyway, as I have said, I am a fan of Worley’s. I like his moxie. I like his competitiveness. I like the way he storms off the mound after a big strikeout. I like the way his curveball drops off the table when it is really on. And most importantly, I like the way he “hides the ball.” Actually, I have no idea what “hides the ball” means. But I am going to put him down for 16 wins anyway.

Is this year’s offense going to be a feared juggernaut? Clearly not. This being said, I do not believe they are without strengths and I fully believe that they will – while frustrating us often with their inability to get two or three guys to cross the plate – squeeze out enough runs to keep the win column fully stocked. This year, we get a full season of Hunter Pence. He’s got two years before he can go on the free agent market for the contract that will set him up for life. Something tells me he will work extra hard to transfer some of the fireworks he sets off during batting practice to the part of the day that actually counts. Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins will continue to be Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. In other words, they will come up with some big hits when they are not popping up to the second basemen while swinging at a first-pitch fastball at their eyebrows.

I know that John Mayberry has struggled. But I fully believe he will bounce back during the summer months and make very decent strides toward becoming a passable major league starting outfielder.
There is also the fact that, although you may not believe it based on the average Phillies fan’s level of hysteria, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are not in fact dead.  No, they will return at some point and offer some offensive stats, no matter how meager and unworthy-of-their-salary they may be.

And finally, I make these three statements and I will completely stand by them:
1) Juan Pierre will revive his career by stealing 70 bags as the Phillies part-time leadoff hitter.

2) Tyjimlaynce Nixinthome will combine to hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 ribbies as sluggers off the pine.

3) Freddy Galvis will launch his future Hall of Fame career by smacking 30 doubles and exhibiting the grace of a young Fred Astaire while manning the middle of the infield on both sides of the bag.

I think the hitting will be decent enough to win the Phillies a very respectable number of games. The bullpen may not thrill me, but they’re not going to be flushing games down the toilet. Chad Qualls will serve as a perfect innings-eater on the nights when Joe Blanton pitches. When we have non-scrubs toeing the rubber, you most likely will only need three pitchers at most. Once fully healthy, Michael Stutes will build on a solid 2011 campaign that saw him fading down the stretch. Antonio Bastardo also saw his game lilting as the season went on last year, but I love his stuff when he is on. Maybe I am crazy, but if Jose Contreras can get healthy, there is no one I would rather give the ball to. And then of course, you have the closer. Jonathan Papelbon! He wasn’t paid 50 million to blow games. Get the ball in his hands up one run and you might as well put it in the books. (Oh wait, he blew a save against the Orioles in game 162 last year, costing the Red Sox a playoff berth. Gulp. That’s OK though. He probably had a Chik-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Deluxe going cold in the clubhouse.)

Before I close, a word about the National League East: The Miami Marlins have picked up some big-time pieces. Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle. Loud-mouth manager Jose Guillen. Add that to already-in-place studs like Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, and whatever Mike Stanton is calling himself these days, and you have one heck of a roster. But there are also serious egos there. They will take time to mesh (if they ever do). When was the last time Jose Reyes helped a team win anything?

How about the Washington Nationals? They have quietly amassed some serious talent. On the mound, they boast two big-time arms in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. If he stays healthy after Tommy John surgery, count on Strasburg for big strikeout numbers, 17-18 wins, and a heaping helping of ballpark electricity. They also have an intriguing mix of established talent (Ryan Zimmerman, Xavier Nady, Michael Morse) and young ballers on the make (Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond). Still, something tells me that these guys are still a year away from legitimate contention.

Finally, there’s the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. When you talk about these teams…oh, forget it. These teams aren’t worth talking about.

So there you have it. The Phillies forecast for 2012. A lack of runs, a large amount of wins, and a veritable motherlode of angst. As Hunter S. Thompson would say, “Buy the ticket. Take the ride…”*

*…and enjoy a second-round playoff departure. Sorry. We have Pete Orr on our team. You have to be realistic.

 


The Pizza Project

The Pizza ProjectIn addition to local pizza reviews, The Pizza Project blogs about a variety of other topics such as Philadelphia Sports, music and beer. Make sure to check out their website below and to follow them on Facebook as they post humorous and insightful content on a regular basis.

Just a nibble: http://twitter.com/ThePizzaProject
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The full pie: http://thepizzaproject.blogspot.com 

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