The Twins start a three-game series against the Phillies tonight at Target Field. In advance of the series, I asked Eric Chesterton from The Good Phight about the Phillies’ season. These are his answers.
1. I know the Phillies got off to a hot start this year, but they seem to have cooled off a bit. What's the general overall sentiment about the team among Phillies fans right now?
I think it's some combination of boredom and anticipation. After finishing with the worst record in baseball a season ago, the novelty of bad baseball has worn off. Watching Murphy's Law play out on a nightly basis is amusing the first dozen or so times you see it, but it becomes depressing after two weeks or so. Still, things are better than they were last year. J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams should all be up before the end of the season. As rookies, they won't make the Phillies much better, but they'll at least provide a window into the future.
2. What has been the biggest bright spot for the Phillies so far this season?
There have really only been two bright spots for this team: The starting rotation and Odubel Herrera and I'm going to go with the latter. Just over a year removed from being selected in the Rule 5 draft, Odubel has emerged as a real piece of this team's future. After a 3.9 fWAR performance that was one of the best Rule 5 seasons in history, Herrera has doubled his walk rate, added over 50 points to his OBP, and started hitting for more power. You usually have to move heaven, earth, or Cole Hamels to pry a franchise cornerstone from another team. The Phillies were able to do it at the meager cost of a 25-man roster spot on the worst team in baseball.
3. Do you have hope for the future?
Absolutely! The Phillies have stockpiled an enviable collection of prospects in the high minors. Over the next 10 months, most of the home-grown members of the next good Phillies team will make their major league debuts. As evidenced by this offseason's Ken Giles trade, the front office is taking the longer view to rebuilding and not chasing immediate wins when there is an opportunity out there to add some future wins to the bank. I'm not quite sure they have the sort of Hamels-Utley-Rollins-Howard core in the system to lead them to a World Series, but there at least seems to be a competitive team in the pipeline.
4. Coming from another team with a well-paid, veteran first baseman who many feel is under-performing, how are Phillies fans dealing with Ryan Howard? What do they want to see him do or happen to him?
Considering a (idiot) fan threw a beer bottle at him during a home game two weeks ago, I'd say that Phillies fans are not dealing with the final year of the Ryan Howard Experience in the most productive way. At this point, even the non bottle throwers among us want to see him gone, for everyone's benefit. There's a decent amount of fan pressure for him to retire, but he'd have to leave money on the table to do that. No one's going to trade for him at this point, so that's out. Assuming the Phillies don't cut or DFA him, he'll be around playing 1st base on at least a part-time basis for the remainder of the season.
5. Fans in Twins Territory are generally fans of Andy MacPhail. How do you think he's been doing as Phillies President and are you happy so far with the front office changes the Phillies have made?
I was more a supporter of Ruben Amaro, Jr. than most internet Phillies people, but I have to admit to being entirely on board with everything that has happened since Andy MacPhail took over. In his introductory press conference--from the first moment we met him--the Phillies announced the release of PHIL: Their proprietary database. Since, he's expanded the team's analytics department and brought in a young stats-friendly GM. For an organization that spend the last decade flatlining while everyone else was zigging and zagging, the MacPhail era is a breath of fresh air.
6. I hear Peter Bourjos plays for the Phillies now. Is he living up to all of your expectations?
Talk about damning with faint praise. Yes, Bourjos is living up to my expectations with good defense and a .567 OPS, but that doesn't mean he's good. He's probably gone by the trade deadline either in a trade or when he's DFA'd to make room for a promoted prospect.
7. I am personally a fan of NPB and specifically the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Do you know who Slyly is and what do you think about him? (Note: If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please google "Hiroshima Carp Slyly")
I was not previously aware of Slyly, but am grateful you brought him to my attention. The discovery of Blue Phanatic sounds oddly similar to Charles Darwin's experience in the Galapagos. Strangely enough, there's also a third Phonetic: The Apostate Red Phonetic, who, one week each year, brings terror to the Philadelphia region. I'll have to consult with my fellow Good Phighters to figure out how Slyly fits into the taxonomy of Phanatics we have constructed. My early impression is that things have gotten more fun as a result of this finding.