Search

2 Philadelphia Phillies The payoff to a rare off-season spending spree will be a wealth of runs and victories

March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003

Table of Contents
March 31, 2003

Baseball Preview 2003

2 Philadelphia Phillies The payoff to a rare off-season spending spree will be a wealth of runs and victories

If the Phillies turn out to be electrifying this season, some
credit should go to Electrical Workers Local 98. On Nov. 7, as
free agent Jim Thome was leaving a dog and pony show of the new
ballpark being built in South Philly, he was greeted by 50 or so
Local 98 members with signs and hats that read PHILADELPHIA WANTS
JIM THOME. The stunned Thome walked over to the group, accepted a
hat and pressed the flesh. "That caught me off guard," says
Thome, who has had at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 100 walks and
100 runs in six of the past seven seasons. "Their generosity was
great. It's something I'll never forget."

This is an article from the March 31, 2003 issue

Thome comes from blue-collar stock--his father, Chuck, worked as
a foreman for Caterpillar in Peoria, Ill., for more than 30
years--and has a commoner's touch, which has already made him a
popular clubhouse figure. The electricians' show of affection
helped tilt Thome toward leaving Cleveland after 12
seasons--that, and a sixth year that Philadelphia gave him on a
contract worth $85 million.

For a franchise with a decade of buzzard's luck, the confluence
of happy events last winter was startling. Having seen how
quickly the charm of new ballparks has worn off in other cities,
the often parsimonious Phillies took an advance on the added
revenue that will come with the opening of their new stadium next
year and waded into an oatmeal-soft free-agent market to sign
Thome and third baseman David Bell. Their good fortune was
compounded when 18-game winner Kevin Millwood landed in their
laps, as the Braves shockingly traded a potential ace for a spare
catcher within their division. Millwood, who signed a one-year,
$9.9 million deal with his new team, is a free agent after the
season. "In the past we always felt limited," lefthander Randy
Wolf says. "Now we have all the components to do something
special."

The optimism is palpable, a vivid contrast to dirges of recent
years when marquee players--first righthander Curt Schilling,
later third baseman Scott Rolen--were at odds with the
organization. Not to paint it with too broad a brush, but the
feud between Rolen and the team last spring was six weeks' worth
of Jerry Springer. The 8-18 start under combustible manager
Larry Bowa (Rolen would be traded to St. Louis in July) sabotaged
the season. These Phillies will be ready to play from Day One.
"We're ready to win now, but it takes getting off to a really
good start and getting pitching," catcher Mike Lieberthal says.
"I wish I could say our pitching was like our lineup. We'll be
near the top of the league in runs. But our pitching staff isn't
like Atlanta's, where they can say, 'O.K., [Greg] Maddux, we can
pencil him in for so many wins.'"

Though it lacks the proven track record of the Braves' staff, the
Phillies' rotation has shown signs of excellence. Millwood is
supported in the rotation by the energetic Wolf, against whom
teams hit .196 after the All-Star break, and intriguing Vicente
Padilla, 25, who wore down in the second half but should be fresh
after skipping winter ball. Padilla throws explosive two-seam and
four-seam fastballs, a biting curve and a change, but is dropping
the slider from his repertoire at the urging of Joe Kerrigan, the
new pitching coach. Kerrigan was a dervish in camp, strapping on
shin pads to catch his pitchers, lecturing them on situational
pitching, instructing catchers on how he wants them to frame
pitches.

With a robust middle of the order (Thome, MVP-in-training Pat
Burrell and Bobby Abreu) the Phillies likely won't repeat the
dubious distinction of leading the majors in runners left on
base. The catalyst will be shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who worked on
his line drive stroke with Tony Gwynn in the offseason and should
improve his .309 onbase percentage from the leadoff spot. The
lineup will put on a show, one that will be seen by an additional
5,000 season-ticket holders. Also, on the first day of
single-game ticket sales, the Phillies eclipsed the previous
record of 8,400 by nearly sixfold--a combination of the Thome
Effect and the Veterans Stadium finale. As Local 98 knows, Philly
is amped. --M.F.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON BIG CATCH The signing of Thome turned the Phillies into an instant contender.COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES MILLWOOD

IN FACT

Last season, as a member of the Indians, Jim Thome reached base
by way of a hit or a walk in each of his final 55 games--the
majors' longest active streak.

ENEMY LINES

An opposing team's scout sizes up the Phillies

"There's No question that the moves they made will pay off
handsomely. Jim Thome isn't going to have any trouble adjusting
to NL pitching, and I think he was a steal at [$14] million a
year. He has a great makeup and will immediately become a leader
in the clubhouse. David Bell is no Scott Rolen, but he's one of
the steadiest performers I've seen in a long time. He'll hit 15
home runs and bat .270 to .280.... The main question mark is in
centerfield. They really want to play Marlon Byrd there, but he's
having a terrible spring. He's confused at the plate.... The guy
who's going to be the biggest surprise will be Ricky Ledee.
Hitting guru Charlie Manuel has gotten Ledee to drop his hands
and bat position and change his grip.... Jimmy Rollins is really
p-----off. His agent wants a contract extension, but the front
office won't give it to him. I think Rollins is going to carry a
grudge.... Kevin Millwood had a hell of a year in Atlanta, but
why would they trade him for a backup catcher? Money was one
reason, but he also had some arm problems. The Phillies say he's
healthy, and he looks like he's sound.... Brett Myers has a
chance to be a good one. He has a great arm with a nasty
curveball."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

SS Rollins
2B Polanco
1B Thome
LF Burrell
RF Abreu
3B Bell
C Lieberthal
CF Byrd

JIMMY ROLLINS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 62 .245 11 60 31

PLACIDO POLANCO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 151 .288 9 49 5

JIM THOME[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 6 .304 52 118 1

PAT BURRELL

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 36 .282 37 116 1

BOBBY ABREU

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 25 .308 20 85 31

DAVID BELL[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 109 .261 20 73 1

MIKE LIEBERTHAL

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 140 .279 15 52 0

MARLON BYRD* (R)

R 101 .297 15 63 15

BENCH

TYLER HOUSTON[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 263 .281 7 40 1

TOMAS PEREZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 377 .250 5 20 1

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Kevin Millwood[#] 22 18 8 6.3 1.16 3.24
LH Randy Wolf 56 11 9 6.8 1.12 3.20
RH Vicente Padilla 29 14 11 6.4 1.22 3.28
RH Brandon Duckworth 178 8 9 5.6 1.45 5.41
RH Brett Myers 126 4 5 6.0 1.42 4.25

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Jose Mesa 33 4 6 45 1.37 2.97
RH Terry Adams 157 7 9 0 1.39 4.35
LH Dan Plesac 224 3 3 1 1.24 4.21

[#]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

2002 RECORD
80-81
third in NL East

MANAGER
Larry Bowa
third season with Philadelphia