Put Me In, Coach
Right now, Shane Victorino is batting lead-off for Team USA in the Olympic Baseball qualifying tournament and smacking the ball every which way, it seems. And, according to words uttered on Daily News Live yesterday, the starting centerfield job for your 2006 Phils is Victorino's to lose.
Hail to the Victorino.
A seemingly small move like this represents just how different this Phils club has become in the last month. When in Ed Wade's eight-year tenure do you remember someone up-and-coming being given this kind of confidence vote in the off-season, especially over a "proven veteran"? Perhaps the days of Gregg Jefferies and Kenny Lofton are gone, although the later certainly provided ample value last season, his injury and lone gunman way of life nonwithstanding. Maybe this will eventually be a club with a little more fluidity through the ranks, with recent stars like Burrell, Myers, Utley and Howard having paved the way for a mini-renaissance.
The truth is, the best full-season player in AAA last year deserves this shot and it might not be much of a stretch to grant such a prospect that kind of shot. But before we all get haughty and hesitant, attaching Marlon Byrd's name as a qualifier to every sentence on the subject, it bears mention that GM Gillick has announced this "move" 5 months before the start of the season. Again, Wade would be and was miscast in this part. Gillick is a guy that seems to have a very clear mind on how to establish an organizational culture from the top down. As I type this, his 68-years-of-age isn't entering my mind every five seconds. His energy is actually palpable. I feel good about next season already. His blue-chip Rule 5 prospect provides more youth, presumably at the top of the order, and is every bit as promising for a good year as anyone else the team could conceivably bring in to fill the spot. At a discount price, to boot. After all, if you don't trust your best prospects to produce, why even have a farm system to begin with? While it's certainly possible that it may not work out, it's a prudent move nonetheless and crosses one more thing off the list of gotta-haves this off season. CL likey the decision almost as much as we likey the timing. Go win the gold, Shane, we've got a spot waiting for you when you're back.
A small grey lining in the whole thing is the continued repression of Jason Michaels from the/a starting lineup. From J-Mike's perspective, it must be incredibly frustrating to be regarded as a bubble player for so many years, but the flipside, little consolation though it may be, is that the Phils might have one of the best fourth outfielders in the majors. All the more reassuring to know that Endy Chavez, should he remain on the squad, is still at the bottom of the depth chart.