Thursday, November 06, 2003

Red Zone

Monday, April 12, will mark the regular-season opening of Citizens Bank Park. The Cincinnati Reds, professional baseball's oldest franchise, will be the opponent. These and other schedule details are reported today in the Inquirer and Daily News, with the Inky again providing the more extensive coverage.

In other news, a backhoe operator working on Citizens Bank Park may have found Pat Burrell's lost mojo yesterday. Guess there was no need to send Burrell to Clearwater for extra instruction after all. . . .

Elsewhere locally, Bill Conlin tacitly acknowledges my point Tuesday that his column analyzing the Billy Wagner trade was a bit of a mess. In his "When I'm King of World. . ." piece today, Conlin writes:

I'm only going to say this once. In answer to e-mailers asking if I really like the Phillies' acquisition of closer Billy Wagner: Yes! I'd do it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Some readers apparently misunderstood about my comment that the Phillies went high in parting with righthanded pitching prospects Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio. Hey, to get Billy Wagner, they had to go high and should have gone high. Yeah, I would have parted with Gavin Floyd (but not Cole Hamels) had the Astros insisted. No way a kid 2 or 3 years away would break the deal. These are, after all, the Phillies, an organization whose system has produced three 20-game winners since 1947. Of that trio, Fergie Jenkins did his winning elsewhere and Chris Short did it once. Only Robin Roberts made a habit of it. The fear that a Taylor Buchholz or Zeke Astacio was going to reverse 56 years of grim pitching history defines lottery odds. . . .

Conlin's point is well taken. Even if Buchholz is a fixture at Minute Maid Park for the next 10 years, the Phillies had to make this deal. What was so impressive -- and surprising -- about it was that it's something real ballclubs do. As with the Jim Thome and David Bell signings, as with renting Kevin Millwood for a year, the Phils are finally reversing two decades of uninspiring, patchwork, and patently futile attempts to build a competitive team on the cheap. It's a delightful process to watch and be part of. And it's about damn time.


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