In recent years, ever since they started rubbing elbows with baseballs big boys heck, they are one of baseballs big boys the Phillies have focused on trying to win that seasons World Series.
But it is the responsibility of any organization to keep an eye on future seasons, as well. The Phillies have done that. No matter how much you detested the Cliff Lee trade of December 2009, it was made partly because the Phils management had an eye toward the future and wanted to restock a farm system that had become thin after several big trades. In approaching trades, Phillies officials are always looking to obtain players they can control for more than one season. So even as they are looking to win now, they look ahead.
One has to wonder if we are seeing some of that philosophy in the teams handling of its current closer situation.
Ryan Madson, who deserved some consideration for first-half team MVP before he went down with a swollen right hand in mid-June, is back from the disabled list, but he still hasnt been re-anointed as closer, even after going 15 for 16 in that role after Jose Contreras went down three weeks into the season.
Antonio Bastardo handled save situations while Madson was out and has continued to do so very impressively, we might add.
When Madson first came off the DL last week, manager Charlie Manuel said the righthander would be back in the closers role after a short break-in period. It makes sense to ease a guy back in to the roiling waters of the ninth inning. But Madson has so far appeared in three games he was twice strong and once a little shaky and Manuel still isnt ready to publicly say Madson is his closer.
Well see how it goes, Manuel said after Wednesdays game in Chicago, where Madson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a 9-1 blowout of the Cubs.
The night before, Bastardo racked up his fifth save (in five chances) since Madson went on the DL. He did so by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth in a 4-2 win.
Weve got two good guys right now, Manuel said. Thats a good problem to have. I dont mind those problems. Well see where it goes. Weve got confidence in both. Im not afraid to use them at any point in the game.
Madson got his long-desired chance to close when Contreras went down with an injury in April and he did not lose the job when Contreras came back for a brief stint before going back on the DL. Now, Bastardo has staked a bit of claim to the job in the wake of Madsons injury.
We fully expect to see Madson get saves chances in the ninth inning in the very near future.
But you have to wonder if something interesting is going on here.
Madson, of course, will be a free agent at seasons end and he and agent Scott Boras will be angling for big money, big years and a closers tag. Madson is good enough to get all three and teams interested in his services will extend beyond Philadelphia.
The Phillies may want to ride Bastardos hot hand a little longer in 2011 cant hurt but they may also be keeping an eye on 2012, to find out if he can do the job whenif Madson leaves, and to give him more experience going forward. The team actually has a responsibility to take both of these approaches because not only is it in a win-now mode, but it will remain in that mode next season.
If Bastardo continues to close, Madson could become quite valuable in the role in which he prospered from 2008 to 2010 eighth-inning setup man. His work in the eighth was a major difference-maker in the Phils run to the postseason in 2008 and their success in it.
Madson likes to say he is a team-first guy and will do anything for the betterment of the club. If his ego can handle going back to the eighth inning after having some success as a closer, and if Bastardo (13 hits in 36 13 innings) can keep dealing in the ninth, the Phillies bullpen could become stronger.
And Madson shouldnt worry about what pitching in the eighth will do to his free agency. Boras is a magician look at the rabbit he produced for Jayson Werth and Madson has a magic arm and enough success as a closer to be marketable in that role. This tandem will have its day on the free-agent market.
The Phillies open a 10-game homestand on Friday night during which they will entertain a team that has some trade pieces that intrigue the Phils and two teams that could be possible postseason opponents.
Lets skip forward to next week first. The NL West-leading San Francisco Giants come to town for the first time since they danced on the Citizens Bank Park lawn after beating the Phils in last years NLCS.
The homestand closes out with a visit from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have surged into serious contention in the NL Central and could be on their way to their first winning season since 1992.
The Pirates series will take the Phillies to the non-waiver trade deadline and that brings us to the team that comes to town Friday night. The San Diego Padres will hold a yard sale of talent and a number of their players interest the Phils, in particular right-handed hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick and right-handed reliever Mike Adams.
Adams has been the NLs top setup man this season and, besides effectiveness, has a quality that always appeals to the Phils he is under control beyond this season. It would cost the Phillies to get Adams (and maybe Ludwick) but if they did he could be added to a nice late-game bullpen mix of Bastardo, Mike Stutes and possibly Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus as the Phils potentially move on without Madson next season.
The Atlanta Braves have filled their impressive bullpen with low-priced, mostly homegrown guys such as Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters. It might behoove the Phils to follow that blueprint.
Rollins on a roll
Jimmy Rollins is hitting .406 (26 for 64) with four homers and three doubles in his last 14 games.
Rollins, set to be a free agent at seasons end, says he is not making a push for a new contract. We believe him on that. The guy has always been a streaky hitter and hes on a good streak, the kind of streak weve seen in the past. Rollins also says the contract is not on his mind. We dont believe him on that.
He likes being a Phillie, wants to stay a Phillie, and wants to be paid for his contributions, past, present and future. He would not be human if he didnt think about it, and after Roy Halladays problems with the heat Monday night, we now know that everyone on the Phillies roster is indeed human.
Theres someone else who doesnt believe that the contract isnt on Rollins mind.
This is his free-agent year, said Manuel, pointing out the motivational aspect of that.
Manuel also pointed out that Rollins likes to win and be part of a winning show. When hes contributing, his style of play is infectious.
At the same time he sees the type of team we have with this pitching and he feels very much part of it and he wants to win, too, Manuel said.
Manuel doesnt care what has prompted Rollins hot streak. He just wants it to continue.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org