The Phils have taken yet another amazing journey to the post-season in 2009. One of the guys who’s been with the team, in the locker room, through pretty much the entire season is John R. Finger from CSNPhilly.com. Finger has been covering the Phils for years for the new and improved Comcast SportsNet website. He’s really captured the pulse of this team in his columns and blogs. I caught up with him this morning, before game one of the NLDS to talk Phils baseball. Here’s our exchange:
SHAY RODDY: Obviously you were right in the middle of the clubhouse celebration. How did it compare to celebrations of previous years? How do you think having been there plays in to the Phils' attitude now?
JOHN R. FINGER: Honestly, after the first time the Phillies clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time in forever, the clubhouse celebrations have lacked the raucousness. Mostly, it seems like players go nuts with the champagne and stuff out of duty and traditional rather than anything else. Plus, a beer company sponsors the “celebration” now, which makes it oh so authentic.
Nevertheless, those situations are always fun. Contrived, but fun.
SR: Charlie Manuel made an interesting decision bringing in Brad Lidge to pitch the final out. Is this just Charlie’s class on display, or has he not completely moved on from using Brad as closer?
JRF: There has been no indication by anyone that Brad Lidge will not close games. He might not get the call every time in the ninth inning–in fact, I’ll wager Manuel sizes up the matchups before bringing in the ninth-inning guy. That very well could be Lidge in certain situations.
About the ninth inning against Houston in the clincher… that was very cool. Everyone wants a boss that shows loyalty and is looking out for you and in that regard, Charlie Manuel came up huge. Lidge definitely appreciated it, too.
SR: Jamie Moyer is out for the playoffs, which means an already thin bullpen loses another piece. Is anything really lost here, or is he a replaceable part of the pen?
JRF: Jamie Moyer is replaceable, but somehow he really got to be pretty good coming out of the bullpen. No, there wasn’t a big body of work to draw from, but he adapted better than most people thought he would. I didn’t like the sulking after he got moved from the rotation, but you have to give him big props for steeling up his resolve and doing the job.
But, yes, Moyer’s left-handedness will be difficult to replace.
SR: What’s your biggest concern heading into the playoffs?
JRF: More than the bullpen, the Phillies' situational hitting might be the biggest concern. They just didn’t get it done in the last months of the season as far as manufacturing runs. Teams can’t always slug their way to a win in the playoffs, so they have to be able to have some offensive savvy. I’m not sure if the Phillies can do that if they don’t get some type of a running game going.
SR: Where do you see this team going?
JRF: There’s no reason why the Phillies can’t go back to the World Series. That’s the beauty of baseball — the conventional wisdom rarely pans out. However, to get there the Phillies will have a tougher road and they will need a lot of things to go right. I think they can beat Colorado and probably Los Angeles, but I’m not sure how well they match up with the Cardinals right now.
But then again, we’ll see.
SR: What is the biggest key to winning the World Series for this team?
JRF: Pitching and defense are always the biggest keys and it will be no different this year. The Phillies did it with pitching last year and I’m afraid they are going to have to dial it up (and then some) if they want to repeat this year. Tall order.