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Brian McCann is an easy out.


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Just in case you need another reason to hate Philly.

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Bob Ford: Phils' biggest obstacle is themselves

By Bob Ford

Inquirer Sports Columnist

The Phillies might not win the National League for the third straight time this season. They might not even make the postseason for the fourth straight time, particularly if Sunday's loss to the Cubs is any indication.

The 2010 season has been frustrating and puzzling, as their powerful offense has suffered through unexplained slumps and their pitching has been occasionally good but never great.

Chicago Cubs' Derrek Lee runs after hitting a three-run double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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But, please. Enough with the notion that what will keep the Phils from seeking another run at the World Series is the presence of a great Atlanta Braves team.

The Braves are a nice team, really nice in some ways, but the notion that leapfrogging the Braves would require super-human effort is ridiculous. The Phillies, if they play as they can, have nothing to worry about, either from Atlanta or from their alleged co-rivals, the Mets.

For the moment, let's take a look specifically at the Braves and figure out why they are considered such a roadblock for the Phillies.

One reason is history. The Braves were the wall the Phillies couldn't climb for more than a decade, and that stretch of prominence is not that far removed. The manager, Bobby Cox, is the same, and he is enjoying a valedictory tour following his decision to retire after this season.

Otherwise, the Braves are nothing like the team that so recently dominated the division. Those Atlanta teams were built on great starting staffs, just enough offense and some decent power production in the launching pads of Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field.

What do the Braves have now? Well, they have a 51/2-game lead over the Phillies and they have a great player in second baseman Martin Prado and an ace starter in Tim Hudson. Beyond that, they have as many peaks and valleys as any other team.

This season, the Braves began with a 13-18 record and were six games behind the Phillies on May 9. Within the space of 15 days - which says more about the NL East than it does about the Braves - Atlanta went from fifth place to first place as part of a monthlong spurt during which the Braves were 20-5.

Now, winning 20 out of 25 games is nothing to discount, but it is the kind of run the Phillies have made themselves. Maybe not this season. But maybe just not yet.

Bookending their bad start and their hot four weeks, the Braves have since lolled about playing just over .500 baseball. Nothing to be proud of, nothing to be ashamed of, but considering the plight of the Phillies, something upon which to build a division lead.

So, they have built a division lead. Well, great for them. There are still more than 70 games to play.

On Saturday, a few hours after the Phillies improvised an improbable comeback against the Cubs, the Braves sent Hudson out against the Brewers and he was whacked around. Almost a mirror of Phils' ace Roy Halladay, Hudson, who has a gaudy 2.60 earned run average, is now just 9-5 on the season, and he's lost four of his last seven starts. His overall record and ERA are good but not the stuff that carries a team to a division win.

Beyond Hudson, Atlanta's staff includes talented young Jair Jurrjens who is just back from the disabled list and carrying around a 4.75 ERA. Kris Medlen had a good first half of the season, but he has just 15 career starts and how he will hold up is unknown. There is Derek Lowe, who won Sunday to go 10-8, but with another ERA over four runs per game. There is Tommy Hanson, also just above .500 and another ERA over four runs. Perhaps on a given day, with one given game to win, Tim Hudson would be a problem, but there isn't much separating the starting staff from that of the Phillies.

One great difference between the teams has been the bullpen.

Atlanta's has been more consistent in closing out games, leading up to the 21 saves in 24 opportunities for Billy Wagner. The Phils have just 18 saves as a team, partly because there have been 10 complete games. That's a chicken-egg equation as manager Charlie Manuel has allowed Halladay and Jamie Moyer to finish games because he is not confident in the bullpen. The hope is those extra innings don't take a late-season toll on the starters.

The real question, though is whether, with one game to save, you would feel any more comfortable with Wagner than you do with Brad Lidge. By the end of the season, the difference could be minuscule.

On offense, the Braves are 12th in the National League in slugging percentage. Among their players with enough at-bats to be eligible for league leadership, only Prado is hitting better than .270. Troy Glaus and Brian McCann, the all-star MVP, have decent power numbers, but they are also easy outs. Chipper Jones, the holdover from the previous era, is battling a hamstring injury and has been inconsistent at the plate.

The Braves did make a Braves-like move recently, sending away talented, but undisciplined shortstop Yunel Escobar in favor of Alex Gonzalez, one of those quiet professionals more to the liking of their grumpy, old-school manager.

It was a sensible short-term deal, but the Phillies are capable of making some moves of their own before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They merely have to decide if it is worth the effort this season.

If the Phils don't go for it this year, hopefully it won't be because they think Braves are a magical, uncatchable team. The Braves are fine, but they aren't as good as the real Phillies, should the real Phillies choose to show themselves this season.

The only NL East team truly capable of keeping the Phils out of the postseason isn't found in an opposing dugout but in the mirrors of their own clubhouse.

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But, please. Enough with the notion that what will keep the Phils from seeking another run at the World Series is the presence of a great Atlanta Braves team.

The Braves are a nice team, really nice in some ways, but the notion that leapfrogging the Braves would require super-human effort is ridiculous. The Phillies, if they play as they can, have nothing to worry about, either from Atlanta or from their alleged co-rivals, the Mets.

This is the attitude I can't stand. Idiots like this guy that feel like if the Phillies played to their potential then they would have a 15 game lead in the division by now. It's like they are still bitter from all those division championships we own and now that we're back in 1st, no other reason makes sense to them except for their struggles. :rolleyes::rolleyes:

One reason is history. The Braves were the wall the Phillies couldn't climb for more than a decade, and that stretch of prominence is not that far removed. The manager, Bobby Cox, is the same, and he is enjoying a valedictory tour following his decision to retire after this season.

What do the Braves have now? Well, they have a 5 1/2-game(now 6 :P ) lead over the Phillies and they have a great player in second baseman Martin Prado and an ace starter in Tim Hudson. Beyond that, they have as many peaks and valleys as any other team.

Oh, ok. I'm glad to know that our only good players are Hudson and Prado, that makes me feel good about our chances this year, lol

This season, the Braves began with a 13-18 record and were six games behind the Phillies on May 9. (It's called a slump) Within the space of 15 days - which says more about the NL East than it does about the Braves (once again, not in due to our talent and clutch hitting and pitching, but to the failures of the other teams :rolleyes: )

So, they have built a division lead. Well, great for them. There are still more than 70 games to play. (Can anyone find a more bitter homer journalist?)

Beyond Hudson, Atlanta's staff includes talented young Jair Jurrjens who is just back from the disabled list and carrying around a 4.75 ERA. Kris Medlen had a good first half of the season, but he has just 15 career starts and how he will hold up is unknown. There is Derek Lowe, who won Sunday to go 10-8, but with another ERA over four runs per game. There is Tommy Hanson, also just above .500 and another ERA over four runs. Perhaps on a given day, with one given game to win, Tim Hudson would be a problem, but there isn't much separating the starting staff from that of the Phillies.

I could say the same thing about the Phillies' staff, beyond Halladay and Hamels, no one else has an ERA lower than 4.44, and the only ones with a W-L record above .500 is Halladay(10-8) and Kendrick (5-3).

On offense, the Braves are 12th in the National League in slugging percentage. Among their players with enough at-bats to be eligible for league leadership, only Prado is hitting better than .270. Troy Glaus and Brian McCann, the all-star MVP, have decent power numbers, but they are also easy outs. Chipper Jones, the holdover from the previous era, is battling a hamstring injury and has been inconsistent at the plate.

Glaus, right now?, yes, and McCann? ummm, which McCann have you been looking at lately?

...but the Phillies are capable of making some moves of their own before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Could you please sound even more like a jealous 15 year old girl? Of course they are capable, lol.

yep, I definitely agree with =abrahamburger= , nothing more than a stupid homer trying to make the Philthies fan base feel better.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this story.

There have been excuses non-stop, all season from the media, ESPN (joke of a network) and analyst. Every time they slump, there's always a new reason. Injuries happen every year to every team, they have plenty of talent/power on that team, so no excuse. As for the "mediocrity" of the Braves staff, what exactly do the Phils have besides Halladay? The Braves aren't as sharp as last year starter wise, but were not the team desperate for a starter if I'm correct.

Also, Wagner >>>>>>>>>> Lidge, ANY DAY

Besides that, I'm enjoying the hate

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i like how he points to the ERA of our starters as an argument that we have a bad rotation outside of Huddy. gotta love those stat guys for other teams. the only stats that matter at the end of the day is the W/L record and the last time i checked, the Brave's were doing a little bit better. go **** yourself with a corncob, philly.

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If Brian McCann is an "easy out" with his lifetime .359 OBP, then the following are even easier outs:

Jimmy Rollins

Placido Polanco

Raul Ibanez

Carlos Ruiz

Shane Victorino

Just going by this season, every Philadelphia Phillie is an easier out than Brian McCann, with the exception of Chris Utley.

This is why I like our chances every time out no matter if Hudson, Hanson, Medlen, Jurrjens, or even Lowe is on the mound against the Phillies.

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It was a sensible short-term deal, but the Phillies are capable of making some moves of their own before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They merely have to decide if it is worth the effort this season.

You heard it here folks... if the Phillies don't try to win the division this year, it's because they've decided that it's just not worth it.

Ah, sportswriters.

To be fair, this article is not anything worse that I see from our local fishwrapper.

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Can it get any worst? :huh: If they were going to be as bad as they are they could at least lift up the Atlanta sports teams instead of beating them down all the time.

Oh, I agree that Atlanta sports writing is terrible. But stupid homerism to me is just as annoying as stupid local bashing.

Could we get just one actual journalist that could do some real analysis? Get involved in the minds that run the team and bring an unvarnished understanding to the readers?

I'm not even just talking Braves here, but all the Atlanta-area pro teams.

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