You could see the front moving in, low and fast and fierce an angry swirl of endless rumbles. Its still hovering over Citizens Bank Park. No one is sure when or if the tempest will clear.
Powerful thunderstorms hit South Philly on Thursday before and during the Phils 4-1, rain-soaked win over the Diamondbacks. They were ultimately harmless squalls, however, compared to the downpour of play-John-Mayberry sentiment. Its become a seemingly endless storm that pounds the managers office, oh, every day now.
Some people are still clamoring for Mayberry to be in a regular platoon with Raul Ibanez in left field, but thats the baseball equivalent of getting information from an Encyclopedia while everyone else employs an iPhone. Its so yesterday. The astute have long since moved on.
Mayberry, for the most part, is already in a platoon, whether its officially acknowledged or not. Since being recalled, Mayberry has started every game against left-handed pitching, except for when the Phils faced Nationals hurler John Lannan. (Ibanezs career numbers against Lannan are excellent.) The better question, the pertinent question, the right now question is whether Mayberry should be considered for an everyday gig.
Rumble, rumble. Play JMJ
You hear it more and more these days from the media and the fans. You hear it all the time. Theres a case to be made. Thursday night, Mayberry crushed a two-run homer off the foul pole in left field. Since returning to the Bigs in early July, hes hitting .306 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. People have noticed the improvement.
Hes been huge, Ryan Howard said. Hes come up offensively, defensively whatever he did this offseason hitting-wise, its definitely worked for him. Its been a dramatic change since last year.
Like most part-timers who simply want steady work, Mayberry said its easier to play well when hes comfortable, and the best way to get comfortable is to be in the lineup regularly.
The more playing time Ive gotten, Mayberry said, the more comfortable Ive gotten. Ive become a little bit more accustomed to the role that Ive gotten a couple of years to prep for.
Some people see Mayberrys development as the 2011 remake of Jayson Werths metamorphosis from nobody to bit parts to leading man. If youre one of them, you have good company on that front. Interesting company, actually.
I look at John and hes kind of like in a Jayson Werth situation, Charlie Manuel said on Thursday when asked about Mayberry for what the manger estimated was somewhere around the 10,000th time. Thats a very good comparison. The more he does, the more hes going to get to play and the more room well find for him to play.
So youre probably wondering: whats the hold-up? If Mayberry is playing well, why not run him out there day and night? And if Manuel compares him to Werth, that has to signal significant faith in Mayberry, doesnt it?
Well, yes but also no. Manuel added that, while Ibanez entered the game in a two- or three- game slump, that shouldnt determine whether he plays every day. As everyone knows, Ibanez is a notoriously streaky hitter, and Manuel, in his own way, reminded everyone about that that Ibanez could go on a tear at any time. Over the course of Ibanezs career, its been known to happen. Sure enough, Ibanez mashed two long doubles, added a single and drove in a run Wednesday night.
Which brings us to the reason why all this rah-rah Mayberry support is nice enough, though it might also be a bit premature. With Ibanez, theres a much bigger sample size to judge his talent than with Mayberry. Though Mayberry has been excellent lately, dont forget that over a one-month stretch earlier this season he hit just .187, which had a lot to do with why he was sent back to the minors.
That doesnt mean Manuel doesnt see the marked improvement in Mayberry. He does. It simply means hes not ready to gift wrap a regular job for Mayberry just yet.
Hes changed, Manuel said of Mayberry. Hes bigger. His routine is better. Hes got a stronger core. Hes gained a little weight. Hes gotten stronger. Hes got a different approach at the plate. Hes changed his stance. Hes changed his hand position, his hitting position, his load and everything. Hes worked at it for the last two years and hes gotten better. Now, how does he get to play more? Beat somebody out. Thats how Jayson Werth got to play. Thats how he got 127 million.
It was 126 mil, but you get the point. Mayberry Version 2.0 (3.0?) runs far smoother than the original model. There are now fewer instances when he freezes up and fails to perform, and you no longer sit around waiting for Ruben Amaro to unplug him from the Phillies roster.
Still, nothing is simply handed over at the major league Level. It has to be taken. As Manuel is fond of repeating, theres a huge power-alley-sized gap between someone you pencil in as platoon player and a guy managers feel comfortable writing into the lineup each day in ink.
Ive said it before, Manuel reminded everyone. A regular player is a very, very special player. Sometimes people dont understand that.