It’s all ‘April showers’ for the Phillies

By Nick Pitts
April 24, 2008

gina mulranen/submitted photo

Not many Philadelphia Phillies fans are going to forget how last season ended any time soon. Every time I need to be reminded of the incredible September, I just look at the National League East Champions pennant hanging above my bed.

Oh, what a September it was.

But what about last April? Has the city forgotten about that?

I sure haven’t. Granted those glory days of beating out the New York Mets helped me to forget it for a little while. But now that April’s here again, I remember oh too well.

4-11 was the record the team boasted this time last year, one of the worst starts in their long history. For a very long time now, a typical Phillies season has been something like a closer-race horse, starting off slow and then running like hell to the finish.

This year through the first 19 games, 9-10 is where they stand, good for fourth place in the National League East.

The Phils have yet to reach .500, by the way. At least the Mets didn’t sweep them at home this past weekend, but it was close.

The heavy caliber artillery unit that is the Phillies offense has been quiet so far in March and April. Newcomers Pedro Feliz and Geoff Jenkins have a combined four homeruns and the team has already been shutout at home by the Houston Astros.

It also doesn’t help to see both reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, as well as outfielder Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list.

Alright, number time. Ryan Howard’s average is a sore .182, the lowest on the active roster. But in Clearwater during spring training, Howard averaged a .313. Why do you ask?

It is simple really. The Phillies are not a cold weather team.

Spring training has been down in Clearwater, Fl. for as long as I can remember. Clearwater is in southern FL and even in February and March temperatures reach well over 70 or 80 degrees.

With nighttime temperatures at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia lingering below 60 degrees most nights, homeruns seem hard to come by. I guess that can explain why Philly has left over 130 men on base.

I think perhaps it is time to make a change in the spring training ways.

I’m not about to say that the Phils should go and train in Minnesota or Alaska during the winter or anything like that, but at the same time how much sense does it make for a team from Philadelphia to train in Florida, only to come back to Philly and freeze for the first two months of play?

Maybe it is time that the Phillies train at good ol’ Citizen’s Bank in February and early March, regardless of how cold it is.

Sure, so many of the other teams go down to Florida and that is where the Grapefruit League is held. I don’t want to see them pull out of a league that is so vital to them in spring. But I do want them to come up and play more exhibition games in Philadelphia before the season starts.

We have seen the struggling in April so many times. Aside from starting the regular season in the middle of May instead of the end of March, why not get acclimated in the weather that your team will spend two months playing in?

The good news is that Pat Burrell and Chase Utley are off to great starts, batting .339 and .351 as of Sunday, April 20.

These two have been anomalies in a lineup that has seen its hard times already.

Although I don’t miss those hot summer nights of roasting in Citizen’s Bank, I do miss seeing and hearing that 50-foot liberty bell.

Nick Pitts

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