Many experts are saying that the Phillies are in trouble in the NLCS against the Giants. Personally, I disagree.
If the Flyers taught the city of Philadelphia anything, it's not over 'til it's over.
Many experts are also saying that the Phillies need to make a change in Game 4, and I agree with them; the Phillies do need to make a change, just not the change most experts are saying.
The experts are saying the Phillies should start Roy Halladay on three days rest instead of Joe Blanton.
As you probably saw in the article I wrote about A.J. Burnett, starting Halladay on three days rest would be the worst thing the Phillies could do. If they start Halladay, then that means Oswalt and Hamels have to go on three days rest too.
Even if they lose Game 4, I would rather have the big three rested than have them pitch on three days. Pitching them on three days rest means the series is likely over.
However, I do think the Phillies need to make a change to the lineup in Game 4. That change is simple: insert Ben Francisco into the lineup in left field and bench Raul Ibanez.
I understand Ibanez makes a huge amount of money (it's a terrible contract and the Phillies are stuck with him), but the reality is Ibanez is absolutely killing the Phillies right now. He is 0-for-15 at the plate, with strikeouts in half of his at-bats, and he has hit into a double play (so he actually has made more than 15 outs); he also dropped a fly ball in Game 1 that had he caught, the Phillies would have won.
Should the Phillies stick with Ibanez in game 4 or play righty Ben Francisco?
I know it was a tough catch, but he was under it and should have made the play; any good fielding left fielder catches that ball.
See, that's the problem: Ibanez is in the lineup for his bat, and if the bat isn't hitting, then he shouldn't be in the lineup.
Francisco is faster and better defensively, and he can not do any worse at the plate. Even if Francisco goes 0-for-4, his defense still makes him a better start than Ibanez.
I have long been a fan of Francisco and a detractor of Ibanez. I have said since day one that Ibanez's contract was ridiculous and that Francisco could put up the same numbers as Ibanez if given the playing time.
I will make it clear that I don't like Raul Ibanez as a ballplayer.
I think his hitting is average and he can't field. As a Phillies fan, I dislike him because the $13-14 million a season he is making will be the main reason the Phillies lose Jayson Werth in the offseason.
If they had not signed Ibanez to that ridiculous deal, they could platoon Dominic Brown and Francisco in left field and the two combined would make about $1 million and probably give you equal or more production at the plate and better defense than Ibanez.
The nice part of this argument is Charlie Manuel can sit Ibanez down without making it look like he has lost faith in Raul.
See, the Giants are pitching lefty Madison Bumgarner in Game 4 this evening, and Manuel often sat Ibanez in favor of Francisco when a lefty was on the mound. This way, Manuel can hide behind the fact that he is making the move simply to get a right handed bat in the lineup and that it is not because he lost faith in Ibanez.
Thus, he can sit him down without making Ibanez look bad. He has a built in excuse already provided by the left handed pitching matchup.
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline wrote a great article about how Manuel may have already phoned it in on the Phillies because Charlie said that it was getting kind of late to be making moves. To that I say, Charlie, you are paid to manage the Phillies, and any manager can see a guy who is a below average fielder and is 0-for-15 at the plate shouldn't be in the lineup.
Look at Bruce Bochy, who sat down Andre Torres in favor of Aaron Rowand; Torres was only 0-for-8 in two games, and the series was tied. Good managers recognize when changes need to be made and have the guts to make them.
The next 24 hours will tell us a lot about Charlie Manuel's ability to manage this team. If he sits Ibanez down, then the Phillies might still have a chance in this series.
If Charlie sticks with Ibanez, then his stubbornness may just cost the Phillies their chance at a third straight World Series appearance.
Here's hoping Charlie does the right thing for the team and the city. Playing Ben Francisco tonight is really a no brainer.