Since the Braves have won the first two games on this home stand and so many people seem excited again about the team’s chances to win the National League East, I thought it would be good idea today to get a sampling of what’s being written about their primary competition in the division: Philadelphia, New York and Florida. I’m sure I will hear about this from Stan Kasten in Washington.
You know what stands out? Nobody seems to be terribly thrilled. (That said, I still don’t see the Braves winning the division. For my one-sided debate with Mark Bradley, click here for this week’s Wednesday Face Off.)
Around the division:
♦ Former major-leaguer Eric Young wrote for ESPN that the Phillies fans shouldn’t be concerned, despite a recent stretch that saw the team lose seven of eight games. Here’s his kicker: “The biggest reason why there is no reason to worry about the Phillies, even when they fall into ruts like the one they’ve experience the past 11 days or so, is simple: No other team in the N.L. East has the kind of talent the Phillies have. The Mets’ have major holes in their rotation, the Marlins are too young and the Braves don’t have enough hitting to make the necessary run.”
♦ Rich Hoffman, a pal from the Philadelphia Daily News, counters that there is something to worry about — and that the Phillies need another pitcher to close the deal. The core of his argument: “It is true that Brad Lidge will have to come back and be Brad Lidge again, or none of this will work. It is also true that Jimmy Rollins will have to be some semblance of Jimmy Rollins again or this offense never will reach its potential, especially in the absence of the injured Raul Ibanez. But more starting pitching would help everybody. … It is what fixed a floundering Phillies team last summer and it is what will be needed to fix a floundering Phillies team this summer.”
♦ John Harper of the New York Daily News said the Mets are so desperate to create offense that in Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis — with a runner on base and nobody out – manager Jerry Manuel “tried what amounted to a fake-bunt, hit-and-run that backfired as [Livan] Hernandez swung and missed and [Luis] Castillo was thrown out stealing.” Quoth Manuel: “With the lack of offense, we have to be creative.”
♦ The Newark Star-Ledger referenced New York’s injury problems – Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes all are on the disabled list – and said the issue is magnified by the recent struggles of Gary Sheffield. Sheffield is hitting only .250 in June after a .348 May and Manuel has rested him in three of the last four games. That leaves no protection in the lineup for David Wright. Manuel on Sheffield: “It’s no secret that his legs [are] still somewhat bothering him.”
♦ Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald notes that the Marlins went from a potential crushing defeat (blowing a 6-1 lead) to defeating Baltimore in 12 innings, which lifted Florida to a .500 record for the first time since May 13. The most relieved player: closer Matt Lindstrom, who was handed a 6-3 lead in the ninth but allowed three runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning.