Because the AL won the All-Star game, and clinched home field advantage for the World Series, no matter who they play, the Phils will need to decide on a designated hitter for Games One and Two, and if necessary, Six and Seven of the World Series. It’s no secret that there’s no obvious choice for the spot.
The Phils have a few potential candidates, but with a lineup that has clicked so well, one can’t help but wonder if adding a DH will prove to be a disturbance.
However, it doesn’t really matter. Like it or not it’s part of the game, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has to make a decision.
Last year, in the same situation, Manuel again waited and waited to clue the media in on what he was thinking regarding DH. Now after hearing Manuel’s thought process from last year, we can expect him to think heavily about match-ups.
When LAA/NYY use a right handed pitcher, the likely candidate would appear to be Matt Stairs. Stairs, the power-hitting lefty, is tailor made for the DH spot, lacking in speed and fielding skills. He’s also no stranger to postseason heroics, sending Jonathan Broxton’s fastball deep into the October sky last season.
Stairs admits he strides to the plate with one goal every time: sending one into the upper deck.
The downside to Stairs is that he struggled mightily this season. Because of this, you have to have a back-up plan for when the opponent throws a lefty, or if Stairs were to struggle mightily.
There’s no cut-in-stone way to go here. You could use Greg Dobbs, but he’s a lefty, go with Miguel Cairo, but he’s old and may not be the best option, perhaps even use Eric Bruntlett, but he’s not known for his bat.
However, the best option involves one of General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s most useful trade-deadline acquisitions, Ben Francisco.
Francisco was a slip-in in the deal Cliff Lee headlined with the Indians, perhaps the best deal made at the deadline.
He has proved his worth time and time again this season, both in the field and at the plate. So why not utilize both?
Here’s how it would work: You take Francisco and make him the starting left fielder against all left-handed pitchers. You then make Ibanez the DH. This not only provides you with a defensive upgrade, but also with an upgraded bat in the lineup. Ibanez still gets his at-bats in, and Francisco can become a baserunner in front of the red-hot Carlos Ruiz.
Manuel says he hasn’t decided, but I’m sure he’s looking for everyone to step up. In October, even the 25th man matters.
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