Oh, the yuletide spirit is among us. As families and friends gather over the holiday season, unwrapping gifts and perusing old photo albums, let us not forget what the Philadelphia Phillies should be wishing for this Christmas season.
Anyone wishing for Ruben Amaro Jr. (and his bad contracts) to take a hike out of the city via the Schuylkill Expressway will be out of luck. You might as well cross that off your wishlist. A more reasonable approach to drafting a wishlist is necessary. This season is not about erasing bad memories but forging stronger bonds for the coming year.
While they may not deserve it, the Phillies are in need of several gifts. 2013 wasn't very kind to the organization. It's time to recollect and move forward with a realistic wishlist. Not a scroll of paper asking for a new Mercedes, in-ground swimming pool or a new spouse, but a pragmatic list that is realistically attainable.
Wish No. 1: A healthy Ryan Howard
The truth is that the Phillies are a better team when Ryan Howard sees at least 620 at-bats per season. Unfortunately, a concrete causal relationship between Howard and Phillies' wins doesn't exist because of so many other variables. However, when Howard missed the majority of the last two seasons, the Phillies suffered. The last time he was fully healthy, the Phillies played in October.
Howard's days of producing a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 4 or 5 are likely over, but the Phillies have missed his presence in the heart of the lineup. In his last two seasons at full strength, the big lefty averaged 32 home runs and 112 RBI.
His strikeout percentage climbed to nearly one in every three AB over the last two injury-plagued seasons. No one can tell for certain if his injury problems are behind him, but if they are, the Phillies will be a better team with him in the lineup. Even if he does strike out 190 times in 2014.
Wish No. 2: Jonathan Pettibone's emergence as a viable starter
Apparently cash-strapped, the Phillies are not going to sign Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana after all. With one of the top one-two punches in Major League Baseball (Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee), the Phillies need the back end of their rotation to show up and be productive for 200 or more innings.
The onus is on Jonathan Pettibone. The righty saw 100.1 innings last year and finished with a semi-respectable 4.04 ERA. His win-loss record of 5-4 is forgettable though. With a low strikeout rate, Pettibone relies on his control and command.
He didn't appear to be too hit-or-miss last season though. His worst stretch came between Memorial Day and June 15th. Of the 45 earned runs he allowed last season, 33 percent of them came between the aforementioned span. Needless to say, Pettibone is crucial to the Phillies' success moving forward. A few more steps in the right direction will satisfy everyone in Phillies Nation.
Wish No. 3: A Jesse Biddle promotion
A 5-14 record in Double-A Reading is nothing to write home about, but the organization's top prospect is gearing himself for a MLB debut in 2014. As for the pros, Biddle has heat, and his 10-plus K/9 rate is recognized as something he could come close to retaining when he reaches the majors.
The cons are his inconsistency and 5.33 walk percentage. If the local product can fine-tune his command and control more appropriately, the Phillies could see him in July. After all, no one is confident in Kyle Kendrick or Roberto Hernandez.
Wish No. 4: No Jonathan Papelbon Jerseys
Let's get it over with. Even if the Phillies have to eat $8 million of his remaining salary per annum, they should do it. Papelbon acts as if he hates Philadelphia and, because of his attitude, Philadelphia is growing to hate him.
Aside from Amaro Jr., if anyone will be getting booed on Opening Day, it will be the closer. No one trusts Papelbon. His age and contract make him nearly untradeable. The Phillies are essentially stuck with him unless they give him away, eat the majority of his contract and accept pebbles in return. Dump the guy already.
Wish No. 5: A dinger for Ben Revere
After 342 MLB games and 1,400 plate appearances, Revere still has warning track power. Nothing more. Imagine if Revere was standing in the box, staring down Stephen Strasburg. Upon Strasburg's leg lift and delivery, Revere squares on the ball and boom, it goes flying into the left field bleachers? Citizens Bank Park would go nuts.
I know most people are still unsure of what to think about the center fielder. He was traded for a fan favorite, Vance Worley, and was abysmal to start in 2013. Revere did bounce back, but an injury ended his season. Nothing more than a wallop over the fence would get fans more energized for Revere.
But then again, who am I kidding? Former Phillies center fielder and Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn had just 29 career HRs. Ashburn is the guy the organization chose to name the center field concourse after, as if he could hit a ball there.
Regardless, a homer from Revere would be nice to see.