Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Take the hint, Raul

(Roundtable host to Bob Feller): “In 1940, you threw the only no-hitter on Opening Day in major league history. What do you remember, or what can you tell us about that game?”

Feller: “It was cold as Hell.”

The 91-year-old Hall of Famer then elaborated on his unique feat, saying how happy he was to accomplish it in front of his teammates, fans and family.

Family was the recurring theme of the Father's Day Hall of Fame Classic Weekend in Cooperstown. The nostalgia was as thick as the summer heat, and my dad and I soaked it all in. The Baseball Hall of Fame was easily in the top five of the most incredible places I've ever been to in my short lifetime. As we walked around, my dad and I quickly realized that anyone who wasn't a baseball fan in this town was automatically an outsider. We expected that, but the feeling was still a surprise because it's usually the exact opposite. It was almost like coming home.

I would argue that the gigantic role that baseball has played in his life has kept 'Rapid Robert' going all of these years. All of the great memories and community feel of the sport have kept Feller young. Being surrounded by thousands of other devoted fans (yes, even the Yankee supporters) made us all feel like kids again, too. Feller and the other six Hall of Famers in attendance during the weekend jumped at the chance to recapture that feeling of innocence.

Feller conveniently leads me into my next topic, as tonight Jamie Moyer tied the former Cleveland Indians hurler nearly twice his age on the all-time wins list. He notched his 266th victory with yet another stellar showing on the hill against none other than Feller's old ballclub. The tame Tribe hitters were clueless against Moyer's slow deception, as they managed just two hits off him through eight innings.

Of course, one of those two hits was a moon shot by Russell Branyan to tie Moyer with another Phillie, Robin Roberts, for the most home runs allowed all time at 505. What's even more interesting is assuming Jamie plays out the remainder of his three-year contract as a starter and retires after the 2011 season, he might finish his career surrendering 548 dongs, which would match Mike Schmidt's Phillies-leading career total. It's quite a dubious honor, but obviously chalked up to Moyer's durability in the game, and it won't hurt his Hall of Fame eligibility.

One player who did hurt his own standing was Greg 'fallen-from-pinch-hitting-grace' Dobbs. As the Phils re-activated Jimmy Rollins from the DL, they designated Dobbs for assignment. Philly also ended the second brief, failed experiment with Scott Mathieson, recalling Mike Zagurski in what has to be an attempt to help the bullpen recover from one its worst meltdowns in recent memory against the Twins on Saturday.

It says something about the state of bench when you need to subtract a guy to make it better, but Dobbs has quickly turned from Mr. Dependable into Mr. Expendable. It's a sad result as Dobbs was such an integral component to the postseason-bound teams of 2007 and '08. Before I fully understood the dynamics of the situation, I was actually surprised when Jayson Werth started getting more playing time in the latter half of '08 than Dobbs, who was a better hitter. That is clearly not the case anymore.

The team is presently not making any headway with closing the gap in the division. The All-Star Break and the Trade Deadline are quickly approaching, so other major personnel changes may take place if the Phillies remain on their present course of mediocrity.

Raul Ibanez, take this as your final warning.

The 38-year-old Phillies left fielder hasn't been the player they expected him to be for a year now. He's not seeing the ball well, which was even a fact during last season as a whole when he posted the worst strikeout/at-bat (1/4.2) and ground out/fly out (1.27) ratios of his career.

Ibanez has only managed brief glimpses of his former self in 2010. The latest occurred earlier this month when he went 8-for-20 over five games against the Marlins and Red Sox, but he has returned to his usual output, hitting just 5-for-22 (.227) since. His overall batting average hasn't risen above .267 at any point this season, and his power is virtually non-existent.

I don't know how many more times I can hear Charlie Manuel say that Ibanez will work his way out of this funk. He just might, but we've been waiting for a full season now. Given a healthy number of at-bats, Ben Francisco could provide the Phillies with so much more at the plate and in the field. I'd give Ibanez another week or two at most, and then at the very least bench him for a few games. This lineup can't afford a black hole in the No. 6 spot any longer.

Tonight's win was good, and J-Roll's return was even better. Despite all the griping and negativity, the boys' ride through Interleague Play has turned out a little better than I feared. The toughest part of it is over, so it's time to finish strong. Simply summon your inner-Feller.

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