Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grudging Congratulations

I've noticed recently that if a pitcher doesn't throw a fastball in a hitter's count, it means he's not giving in, and if he does throw a fastball then it means he's not afraid. It makes me wish that we could just call pitchers frightened quitters and get away with it.

It was that quick swing and power that we all remember well, but it wasn't for our team.

Instead, Scott Rolen's blast off Kyle Kendrick in the fourth inning ruined his night and foretold the rest of the game. I can't imagine Phillies fans would react with appreciation in Citizens Bank Park, but I admit I'm happy for Rolen that he hit his 300th home run - not just because he's on my Fantasy Team.

Exactly one half of those bombs were hit for the Phillies, and though he's now spent more seasons with other teams (and winning a World Series with St. Louis), I still feel like Rolen is a Phillie at heart. He spent his formative years with us and enjoyed some of his best seasons before injuries took their toll and likely prevented him from possible Hall of Fame consideration.

It's also good to see him finally put up some solid numbers again in the twilight of his career. I don't know how many years he has left in the tank, but live it up, Scotty.

As for guy who hardly ever gets injured, Chase Utley might possibly need to make a trip to DL after he foolishly decided to play thumb wars with second base in tonight's game. The base won hands down and Utley was tagged out trying to stretch a single into a double. The guy who played nearly an entire game with a broken wrist three years ago needed to be lifted in the ninth inning when he couldn't properly grip a bat with his swollen right thumb. This is not promising news.

I was also surprised that Utley slid head-first into second base. It's a sliding technique coaches at all levels discourage for the very reason Utley may have to miss a few games or worse. Utley was one of the few players I'd noticed who usually tried to slide feet-first, and he's so far the ONLY one I've seen do that on the always-dangerous slide into first base. It's one of the reasons why he's my favorite Phillie. Like the Scott Rolen of old, Utley displays a mix of power and speed. His work ethic and approach to the game are admirable, and though he's a star, he shies away from the spotlight and never does selfish things like admire his home runs after they leave his bat (Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino are good about that as well).

Can you tell I'll miss his presence if Chase is forced out of the lineup?

On a final note, it's interesting that the Phillies managed to do so little against a strikeout pitcher that didn't strike anyone out. Johnny Cueto left the magic up to his sparkling defense, easily erasing the nightmare of his previous outing against Philly last year when he allowed nine runs in the first inning. The way they've been hitting lately, it wasn't far-fetched to expect a similar outcome. But Cueto, Rolen and the Reds in general are on fire right now, and the Phils stepped into the flames.

Shame on me for not putting Cueto on my Fantasy Team as well.

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