Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sweeney Swoon

Man, it must suck to be John Mayberry, Jr.

The kid was a highly touted prospect when he was traded from the Texas Rangers before the 2009 season, and he made an immediate splash after a late May call-up when he hit a three-run homer in his first big league game, off Andy Pettitte at Yankee Stadium, no less. Mayberry continued to impress during Interleague Play, getting eight hits in his first 25 major league at-bats, three of them home runs.

National League opponents proved much more difficult for Mayberry, as he managed just four hits through the rest of the season while striking out 16 times in 32 at-bats. Then, this younger and more versatile kid named Domonic Brown out-shined Mayberry and everyone else in the Phillies' farm system, earning his call-up last week after Shane Victorino went on the DL - a move that had all Phillies fans yelling at the organization, "What took you so long?!" Brown is a star in the making and has all but locked down a spot as a starter with the team in 2011.

Mayberry, who has never hit better than .268 in any season in the minors, finally got his shot at redemption earlier this week when Ryan Howard was the latest Phillie to catch the injury bug. Of course, Mayberry has played just four games at first base in his professional career, but the Phillies were gambling that he would flash some of that pop he showed early last season.

Oh wait, the Seattle Mariners just put 37-year-old Mike Sweeney on waivers. Sorry kid, we'd rather take a chance on him.

I understand the Phillies' thinking in this move. Sweeney is a lifetime .298 hitter, who can stroke the ball to all fields, and he's one of the most respected and well-liked players in the game. He was also tearing it up in the minors during a recent rehab stint.

The key word in that previous sentence was rehab. The perpetually sore Sweeney would be a no-brainer as a DH replacement, but for the Phillies his best value is a right-handed bat off the bench. Due to injuries, Sweeney has played just 27 total games at first base since 2006, and now the Phillies expect him to play there every day until Howard's return.

I admit that it'll be nice to see a former Wilmington Blue Rock in a Phillies uniform, but did Ruben Amaro need to make such an impulsive buy? Having Sweeney in the lineup won't make much difference if Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth don't continue to hit like they have been. I've beaten this topic into the ground already, but Amaro could've simply waited for a solid relief pitcher to hit the waiver wire. Whether it's Sweeney or Mayberry in there, it won't change the anxiety we all feel in the pit of our stomachs late in the game when the Phillies' fate lies in the hands of Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson. And unless the relievers hook up a wire to the dugout, they won't feel Sweeney's positive influence from the bullpen.

As of this posting, the Phillies have not yet decided who they're dropping from the 25-man roster to make room for Sweeney. Cody Ransom and Greg Dobbs are possibilities, but they provide more flexibility in the field. Mayberry could only play first base, so there's not much use for him when Sweeney arrives later today. It's the reverse of what happened to Kyle Kendrick last month when he was demoted to Triple-A, but came right back to the big league club before even throwing a pitch for the Iron Pigs when Jamie Moyer got hurt. Mayberry won't complain when he gets the ax, but I'm sure he'd give anything to have Kendrick's good fortune.

Sorry dude, the old man won out.

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