The Phillies Look to Run…Fast

On June 3rd the Phillies signed outfielder and serious speedster Willy Taveras to a Minor League deal. He will report to the team’s Triple-A squad. However, it would be a big surprise if Taveras lasts a month in Lehigh Valley. The reasons include but are not limited to right fielder Jermaine Mayberry hitting .286 and the Leftfield spot belonging to top prospect Dominic Brown. Taveras will be on the big league team sooner rather than later because simply put, he can produce. In the five full seasons Taveras has played he’s averaged nearly 39 steals a season (including 68 in 2008) and has a lifetime average of .274. Even in his last two seasons, during which his batting slumped he racked up more than 90 steals. His speed, and defense will surely help the Phillies, especially in Leftfield where Raul Ibanez can be a liability.

Also interesting to note are the ramifications for the current Phillies’ roster. To date the Phillies have used Ben Francisco and Ross Gload as outfield substitutes. With the arrival of Taveras, it should be expected that he will become the number one defensive replacement. And as Greg Dobbs continues his two-year hitting slump and Ben Francisco shows no improvement at the plate, Taveras will have the opportunity to become the primary pinch-hitter.

Long-term could this mean the Phillies are preparing to move or jettison Raul Ibanez? I’d say no, but the Taveras signing could be one of those wait, see, and hope for the best scenarios. Raul’s settled pretty nicely into a .240-.250 batting average, which certainly pleases the organization as he hit below .220 through May  1, but his defense will continue to be average and it seems clear that he will not hit like the Raul Ibanez we saw in the Spring of 2009. If the Phillies really are intent on re-signing Jayson Werth,  and all reports say they are, Raul Ibanez and his $11-million salary may have to go. Willy Taveras is seven years younger than Ibanez a plus defensively and on the base-paths so if he can hit like his career numbers dictate don’t be surprised is Ibanez becomes expendable.

 

Endnotes

– Insta-Bond: In one of the most rare of occurrences, pitcher Armando Galarraga one out from a perfect game became the victim of one of the most typical occurrences in a baseball game; a bad call by umpire Jim Joyce. Bad calls happen every game.  But in the mire of the events we got to see how two real men act facing adversity. When the call was made, Galarraga’s teammates argued, as did his manager Jim Leyland. Galarraga simply smiled; not a smirk, or sneer just an understanding smile as if to say, “quis ero, ero [what will be, will be].” Then in true Man fashion he walked back to the mound and got the next guy out, completing his game, his shutout, and his path to the Hall of Fame. It was class personified. A strange dynamic will now play out between umpire and pitcher. They will be linked forever in history, and I expect at some point, maybe not this year, maybe not next year, Jim Joyce will call a Galarraga game. We should watch it closely as Jim Joyce knows he owes Armando ‘man of the year’ Galarraga some serious love.

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