Nats vs. Phillies Q&A with Kevin McGuire

Philly sports blogger Kevin McGuire is the latest to participate in the guest prognosticator feature. He blogs about the Phillies at Second String Blog.

WFY: Has having Four #1 starters — Tunnelman, Loose Laser, Late Riser and Kid Quantum — I mean Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels — made this season World Series championship or bust to you and the Phillies fanbase? How did you like Sports Illustrated cover story on them?

KM: Without a doubt. When the team acquired Roy Halladay and later added Roy Oswalt I thought the message was sent that last season would have been a disappointment unless there was a parade down Broad Street. Now with Halladay, Oswalt and the re-addition (probably not a word) of Cliff Lee there is no question that this season is all about winning another World Series.

I enjoyed the SI piece although by the time it reached by hands much of the information was already mostly common knowledge so I didn’t learn too much from it. But the theme is that the Phillies’ starting rotation is full of hype, and despite what some may say, I don’t see much of a reason to not believe it.

But all that matters is October.

WFY: Which overpriced contract is less-bad: Ryan Howard ($125 million extension that starts in 2012 after making $20 million per annum the last two years) and his rapidly approaching old-player skills or late-bloomer Jayson Werth ($126 million over 7 years) and his small body of work?

KM: Nationals fans may call me biased (I’m ok with that) but I still lean toward Jayson Werth’s contract and I’ll tell you why. People come to the ballpark to see Ryan Howard. They aren’t coming to see Jayson Werth.

Howard is one of the premiere power hitters in the league and he is an RBI machine. Please tell me when it became a crime to be one of the top RBI men in the game because if driving runs in is wrong then I don’t ever want to see Ryan Howard do right.

Werth is a solid player, I won’t argue that, but Howard has proven that he is capable of putting the team on his back down the stretch (yes, I am fully aware of his last two postseason series) and if I were in charge of signing a player to a mega contract I wouldn’t hesitate to offer it to Howard before I did to Werth.

WFY: Does it frustrate you that it took so long for the Phillies ownership to become self-aware? Here, they are the biggest one-team market in the majors, but until the last 5 years or so, they ran it like a mid-range market. Now they are the Yankees of the NL.

KM: Believe me, as a fan since my younger days I was as frustrated by ownership as most Phillies fans but I never stepped away from the game. Yes, it took some time for the team to develop a formula for success on the field but in the end it has made things more rewarding for me as a fan to watch for so long. You say the last five years have seen the Phillies turn the corner (which is mostly true) but the system put in place goes back much farther than that as the team really focused on developing homegrown talent to start competing again. Today it is easy to forget but the keys to the 2008 World Series championship team were Cole Hamels (World Series and NLCS MVP), Ryan Howard (2006 MVP), Jimmy Rollins (2007 MVP), Chase Utley and Pat Burrell. All were products of a dedicated farm system.

For all the attention and hype the Phillies are receiving now, they have still only won one World Series in this stretch of time. Until they win another title they are probably more like the Atlanta Braves than they are the Yankees.

WFY: When I was at Citizens Bank Park for Opening Day 2005 (a block of 4 tickets was easily available 5 days before the game) I noticed a lot of fans wearing the Mike Schmidt era gear with the maroon and powder blue colors. Is that stuff still popular? Also, what’s your take on the blue cap and cream uniforms? The regular set is pretty good, except for the worst numerals in the majors.

KM: I LOVE the 1970’s-80’s maroon and powder blue uniforms, and I’m not sure if the majority of Phillies fans feel that way or if it just the trendy thing to wear. I have three Phillies caps and two have the old baseball “P” on it and as I type you these response as I’m wearing a t-shirt with the old “P” on it as well. I wish the team would break out the retro gear more often but for some reason they appear to not take to these uniforms by their own choice. There are rumors they will wear them at home at some point this season, perhaps during a 1980’s themes night or weekend, but no confirmation just yet.

As for the blue hats on cream jerseys, I’m a big fan. It’s a nice throwback to the mid-20th century Phillies and as far as alternate home uniforms in baseball go I would rank them at or near the top. I love that for an alternate uniform the Phillies went with a full head-to-toe uniform that pays homage to the past rather than a solid red or blue jersey on top of the regular pants. No offense to any fans of the many teams that do so (your Nats included) but I always thought that look was kind of hokey (WFY: I could do without it) and just looks terrible (Atlanta, I’m looking at you!).

And you don’t like the numerals? Never heard that complaint before!

WFY: Back in 2005, I determined that the Phillies would be the Nats rival and I think it is safe to say that Nats fans feel that way. Now, granted it is probably mostly due to the actions of the Nats front office over the last two years, but Washingtonians are well-experienced in disliking Philly teams (Eagles, Flyers). Does the Phillies fanbase view the Nationals as a rival? If not, is there room in your eyes for a rivalry to grow?

KM: When it comes to a “rivalry” I think most Phillies fans view it as a regional rival but there is no reason to truly get worked up every time the Nats come to town. There is clearly potential for the rivalry to develop but in order for that to really take the next step the Nationals need to become a threat within the division. I happen to think the future looks bright for the Nationals with a healthy Strasburg and Werth and Zimmerman leading the offense.

The Phillies are right now on top of the NL East and the real threat right now is Atlanta. New York is still the top rival in the division but now that the Mets have tumbled even that rivalry has lost some luster.

Personally I’d love if Pittsburgh returned to the NL East and that rivalry could be rekindled, but the Pirates aren’t exactly a threat either…

WFY: What is your prediction for this series and the season series between these I-95 rivals? Am I going to owe a friend another half-smoke or is he ponying up for cheesesteak for the first time in five years? What is your favorite cheesesteak too?

KM: The Nationals will be going up against Joe Blanton in the series opener, so that may be the best shot at picking up a win in the opening series between the two sides this year. After that you get Roy Halladay, who is 1-0 and has allowed one earned run in two games) and Cliff Lee, who is going to be looking for redemption after a rough starting Atlanta. Yeah, uh, good luck in those two games.

Seriously though, like I said before, the Nationals always seem to give the Phillies some trouble, even against the better pitchers on the staff, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Nationals put some runners on the bases even against Halladay and Lee. It’s not like Halladay keeps everyone off the bases (well, he has done that once before) so Washington should be able to get some runners to work with. The question will be if guys like Werth and Zimmerman can take advantage or if other batters can bring those guys home. I can’t see it happening too much in the second two games of the series, but we shall see.

I think the Phillies will waltz to a season series victory in 2011 so I think you may have to be shelling out for another half-smoke. Sorry!

I answered some Nats vs. Phillies questions for Second String Blog as well.

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