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The Boys Are Back in Town!

April 4, 2009

by Christine Cartafalsa

As quickly as it started (and in the nick of time to sooth the sour souls of Eagles fan everywhere) Spring Training officially ended with a 9-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. It's official - Pat - and Elvis - have left the building. Burrell went out with a bang, leading things off in the first inning with a blast into the left field stands from a fast ball right down the middle courtesy of Cole Hamels. Through the fits of giggles Burrell attempted to suppress while in the batters box, I imagine it was a well-planned home run for both teams and a nice little reminder of what his absence from the Phillies after eight years of service just might mean to the starting line-up.

I needed to pull out the World Champions T-Shirt that I impulsively bought following the parade last year and ponder over all of the other names and numbers that will no longer grace (or demean) the backs of jerseys at CBP this year. It did not necessarily blur my sight with tears, but I found myself missing almost each and every one of those names because, like 'em or not, they were all part of a team that finally broke a curse and gave the city of Brotherly Love what they wanted.

I will miss Burrell because he was great to watch. I would always begin to twitch whenever he came up to bat because I didn't know what it would mean. I still say Raul Ibanez is an upgrade offensively over Burrell because of the consistency he can bring to the plate. However, not knowing what Burrell could actually accomplish in his time at the plate created an ambiance of mystery and excitement when he could either strike out looking or win the game for the Phils by smashing a home run at the prime moment, sending the team over the rails of the dugout to celebrate like jumping beans in the middle of the field. Consistency for the team can help the Phillies with their cause to win it all again, but from a fan's point of view the tension may just be that priceless.

I like the underdog which means that I will miss Adam Eaton and, despite how unpopular that one statement just made me, I think it's safe to say that we all will. After all, who is Philadelphia going to pick on now? Despite putting his heart and soul into the 2008 season, Eaton unfortunately fell right back into the hole that he had dug himself in 2007. Perhaps the town was too demanding for him. We are fans that know what we want and, without having the privilege of a yesteryear to think back on, there wasn't much Eaton could do to redeem himself here. Baltimore is a better place for him and I am happy to hear that he made the roster as their fifth starter. Hopefully, he will learn to shake off the pitches that are bad and please the new powers-that-be as he vowed to do. Sorry Philadelphia - as the fifth starter he will most likely not be pitching when the Orioles visit Philadelphia. You'll have to save your boos for someone else.

I stated once before that if Geoff Jenkins could be paid as a cheerleader rather than a ballplayer, he would probably have a lifetime contract with the Phillies. Unfortunately for him, he was signed as a ballplayer and just didn't seem to work out the way the Phillies had hoped. Apparently Ruben Amaro, Jr. has no trouble fitting the bill and released Jenkins just as spring training was coming to a close. Regretting nothing and holding no ill feelings, Jenkins took at as a professional, grateful that the year he did spend here turned out to be a triumphant one. No word yet as to whether or not Jenkins has signed with another team and I wonder if he'll see this a sign to hang up the spikes and finish on top.

J.A. Happ is obviously not gone, but his name is not where it should be. The man who jumped whenever the Phillies asked him to in 2008 has finally made it to the big leagues, but will spend most of the time in the bullpen doing... well, whatever it is that they do out there while waiting for a chance to pitch. Chan Ho Park marginally beat out Happ for the fifth starter position despite have not having an ERA under 4.81 since 2001 as a starter and going 2-10 in the minor leagues as recently as 2007. Park finished his last season with the Dodgers as a reliever with an ERA of 3.40. Respectable, yes, but nothing that is a ringing endorsement to say he's ready to handle at least six innings.

Other names are missing from this year's roster as well (Seanez, Taguchi, Gordon), but new names take their place (Ibanez, Taschner). It's too early to say where they help the Phillies this year and it's too early to already be thinking about the 2009 postseason. We have 162 games to look forward to so let's not rush them. Another parade? Fantastic! But how about the simple pleasures of jumping the Phillies Express, eating hot dogs and chopping your way through to the prime standing room locations should your seats turn out to be terrible. Prepare yourself for Brad Lidge's first blown save and for Chase Utley to finally carry a batting average over .300 again. Bathe yourself in the victories and hang your head over the pathetic loss. Win or lose, it's all great.

But winning it all again would be nice, wouldn't it?


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