From time to time, our friends at NL East Chatter post the latest, best exchange between NL East rivals — with questions posed by bloggers for each team. This week, to mark the Phillies-Nats toe-to-toe match-up here at Nationals Park, I asked my colleague over at (the newly redesigned and ujpgraded) Phillies Phandom five questions about the ponies. He came back with what I thought were some pretty good, and interesting, answers. As those lovable Phuzzies are in town, I thought it might be useful to reprint the Q and A for the benefit of our worldwide audience.
Q: This question has been asked a thousand times, but needs to be asked again: if Brad Lidge can’t hold down the end of a game, who can? And can the Phillies survive the post-season without him?
A: Lidge is toast. He’s finished. I don’t know who can do the job, but my top choice is Brett Myers, who showed he could do it two years ago. Myers looks good so far working in late innings, but that doesn’t make him a surefire bet to be a great closer (See Ryan Madson). Chan Ho Park is another option, but he’s too valuable in the sixth and seventh innings. I hope to see J.C. Romero back before the end of the season because I think he has the mindset to close. But… all those options have question marks. This will be an issue from now until October.
Q: Cole Hamels seems to have found his stride: which is great news for the Phils in the playoffs — but is J.A. Happ now a better pitcher, and do you pitch him ahead of Hamels the rest of the way? And maybe Lee, Martinez, and Happ are your one-two-three-four in the playoffs. With Blanton there, Hamels sits. Who woulda thunk it.
A: This has been a great debate for weeks now. Here’s my 1-through-4 right now: Hamels, Lee, Blanton, Happ. Hamels, even though he’s been sub-par most of the year, is a proven winner in the playoffs. Lee, while he’s probably the better pitcher, doesn’t have two MVPs. Give Hamels the benefit of the doubt. Let him pitch Game 1 in a series, especially if he continues to pitch very well… Blanton is No. 3 because he’s been the team’s most consistent starter since May… Happ over Pedro at No. 4 because Pedro would be a valuable contributor out of the bullpen – a shutdown guy in the seventh inning perhaps (a la Randy Johnson years and years ago for the D-Backs). That’s the way the roations should set up, regardless of how each inidividual performs from now to the end of the regular season.
Q: The Phillies just got swept by the Astros in Houston and Charlie the Man said that his team looked complacent. With a six game lead in the East that’s what it looks like. What or who is going to get them going. And when?
I don’t know. They all feed off each other. Typically, it’s J-Roll that lights the fire, but in all honesty…Raul Ibanez is the big piece here. The guy is starting to turn the corner and get back on track. He was our best clutch performer for the first three months of the season. I think it will be a different-guy-a-night thing before the rollercoaster hits full stride. I’m concerned about the lack of hitting in key situations, but something tells me the Phillies will keep finding ways to win when it matters most. They are an all-or-nothing team and nothing will really change that. You just hope the ON switch is, uh, on come playoff time.
Q: That bullpen sure is shaky: Chan Ho Park? Jamie Moyer? Too late now, you’ve got what you’ve got. But it’s going to take some management. Who can the Phillies count on in those vital middle innings?
I disagree. The bullpen is very strong (albeit banged up injury-wise) except for Brad Lidge. The Phillies’ pitching, in general, has been excellent since the All-Star break. The elephant in the room is Lidge and only Lidge. The rest of the guys are doing a good-to-great job. Hopefully, all of our walking wounded (Madson, Clay Condrey, Romero) will get 100 percent healthy before the postseason.
Q: If you had to do it all over, would you trade Michael Bourn for Brad Lidge?
Yes. I know Lidge has been absolutely dreadul this year, but nothing beats a World Series championship. And without Lidge, the greatest October in my lifetime would never have happened.