Ron Costello

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Phillies add Mets' Asdrubal (As-DROO-bull) Cabrera to their infield.
Interesting following the Phillies prior to the trade deadline and, rather than see who they got, but who they didn't get. First, there was Manny Machado. Like some clubs, the Phillies didn't jump on the bandwagon and try to get Mr. Machado by throwing a slew of prospects Baltimore's way.

They didn't get J.A Happ or Favorite Son Cole Hamels, a bold statement that they are happy with their rotation. Two things the Phillies need to get: 1) a shutdown arm coming out of the bullpen; and, 2) Another middle of the lineup bat for the regular season and the playoffs. By sniffing around the trade current trade winds, who knows? They could come up with either one or both by 4 p.m. on July 31, when the sniffing ends. My best guestimate is their strategy will be the same: If we can get the two or more players to strengthen the ball team, good. If not, we're not giving up our best prospects.

Suddenly finding themselves in a division race, the Phillies are walking the line between improving the club now, without giving up the future. It seems as if the club is dipping its toe into the trade water to see how warm it is, at the same time showing the Faithful — abruptly awakening like a hibernating polar bear — that what they're witnessing isn't a mirage.

The Phillies already left the Orioles at the altar after the birds dangled two-month-rental Manny Machado for the best pitcher in the Phillies system, Ranger Suarez. Mr. Suarez made his major league debut Thursday night in Cincinnati.

Speaking of warm, perhaps first-baseman Carlos Santana — who declared he'd start hitting with the weather got hot — is the club's MVP and could replace Kate Bilow as the local weather forecaster.

You might wonder how hitting .215 could bring an MVP award. I'm glad you asked.

Consider the intangibles with Mr. Santana. Is he part of the reason for the improvement in Maikel Franco and Odúbel? Is he part of the reason Rhys Hoskins has 55 walks? And is he part of the reason the Phillies are much better at working counts?

Yes to all three. Like Chase Utley, Mr. Santana is the guy you want on the team. He's taught the young Phillies how to feed off each other, to work the counts, and resiliency — they recover quickly from a whopping.

True, Mr. Santana is hitting two-fifteen, but he has 16 home runs, 62 RBI's, a .353 OBP, and is on course for 100 walks. Plus, the leadership intangibles he brings to the field every day — in my mind that spells MVP.

The Phillies could use a shut-down pitcher out of the bullpen and another bat to dangle in the middle of the order.
The big bat they need will come in the form of Manny Machado after the World Series. Mr. Machado just got a taste of the Faithful and the treatment they give to a guy who played his heart out here day after day after day. If the reception the Faithful gave Mr. Utley didn't impress Manny, blood isn't running through his veins. Coupled with about $500 million, little less or a little more, Philadelphia is the fit for Manny Machado.

Finally a quick story about Carlos Santana.

My wife, brother, and I were sitting in first row seats just off first base at CBP, just out of reach of that annoying netting. Next to my right sat a young family: Mother, father, and two blond daughters, I'd guess ages five and eight, cute as two daffodil buds. After the third inning, Mr. Santana comes off the field and bounces the ball toward us but it took an odd hop and went elsewhere.

During the Phillies at-bat, an official came out of the dugout — wasn't a coach or a guy in a suit, my guess one of the young analytical geniuses that sit in the dugout during the games. He comes over and says to the people along the first row, "When Mr. Santana comes off the field next inning, he would like to toss a ball to this little girl," and he points to the older daughter. "So please let it go."


Sure enough, after the top of the fourth as the Phillies headed to the dugout, Mr. Santana pointed to the family, then one-hopped the ball their way. Without interference, the father caught it and gave it to his daughter. Mr. Santana made sure she got it, smiled and waved.

That's MVP right there in my book.


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