Monday, January 18, 2016

In baseball, as in life, nothing's certain.

In 2009, perhaps the most dangerous left-handed clutch hitter in Phillies history, Chase Utley, was on top of the world: 31 home runs, 93 RBI, .282 AVE, and a .397 on-base percentage.

Very solid numbers; numbers the Phillies could count on for the next 5 years.

Or so it seemed.

Who knew that his knees were developing patella tendonitis AND Chondromalacia patella, both crippling diseases from 'wear and tear,' which cut  his numbers nearly in half, starting in 2010. With that short beautiful swing, he could no longer drive the ball like he once did.

And in 1963, perhaps arguably the most talented and celebrated rookie in Phillies history, Dick Allen, came on the scene with tremendous expectations. Who knew he would be driven out of town on a rail of boos and racial intimation 6 years later, after he hit .288 with 32 home runs in '69.

As they say in my neighborhood: "Ron, you never know."

Nothing in baseball is ever 100 percent, but one thing you can count on. Sometime between the end of this season, and the end of the 2017 season, J.P. Crawford will settle in as the Phillies' shortstop for the next 15-plus years.

That does two things. It first solidifies the left side of the Phillies infield defensively and offensively, pairing up Crawford with Maikel Franco. There might not be another left side combination better in major league baseball.

Secondly, it moves Freddy Galvis out of the shortstop role and into a fight for second base with Cesar Hernandez.

Or, a third possibly, it provokes the Phillies to sign a free agent (slugging) second baseman for 2017. There's not a player in the Phillies' system destined for second base. At least, I can't find one.

But Galvis, maybe the best athlete on the Phillies, has steadily improved with the bat, and moving to second would be a natural transition for the 26-year-old infielder.

Thus, setting up a position battle for second base.

Hernandez will be 26 in May and his offensive numbers are similar to Galvis'. Galvis hits more home runs but Hernandez has a better on-base percentage. They both can run, have great range, and are solid defensively.

The Phillies must give Galvis time at second as they did in four games at the end of last season. And because of Hernandez's versatility — he can play second, short and third, plus veteran Andres Blanco in the infield mix — the Phillies have lots of  options. Both Hernandez and Galvis should get equal playing time at second.

Then let the best man win.

It's a good situation for the Phillies. Both players should be at the top of their game — trying to win the second base job for 2017. They'll have to hit, stay injury free, run and steal bases, and play stellar defense.

It's a battle Phillies' fans can enjoy the entire season.

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Roncostello@mail.com



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