So, who would you say is the Philadelphia Phillies team MVP?
By this, I am not asking, Who is their best player? Rather, who can they least afford to lose for long stretches, if not the entire season?
Truth be told, I would rather be asking, "Will the Phillies win 100 or 105 games this year?" Or, "When they win their 11 postseason games, will they lose five games or fewer?"
These questions may, hopefully, still be asked down the road, but admittedly all the talk about second baseman Chase Utley's patellar tendinitis and rookie rightfielder Domonic Brown's hook of hamate injury has me wondering whose loss would impact the team most negatively.
While we're on the subject, I liked H20 much better when it did not mean Hook of Hamate, and yes, I'd much rather talk about Hamels' hook (and how frequently he throws it) than this new-hook that I would prefer not to know anything about.
But let's not get hooked on semantics here.
Which player could the Phils least afford to lose for an extended period of time?
I was going to do this in a slideshow format, but I've been fighting carpal tunnel syndrome from all the grueling typing I've done on my last few shows, so here is my list in a standard article format.
As one of the five most valuable members of my household, I can't afford to be disabled.
Before reading my list, please note that I gave some consideration to who each player's backup is.
So, without any more hemming and hawing, here is how I would rank the 10 Most Valuable Phillies in descending order (of value) from 10 to one.
10) Roy Oswalt
Oswalt is considered a No. 3 or a No. 4 on this staff, but only on this incredible rotation.
He was absolutely brilliant with the Phils last season (7-1, 1.74 in 12 starts) and figures to have another strong season as a co-ace.
Then again, the squad has three other stud starters and a pretty good No. 5 as well.
9) Cole Hamels
Hamels rebounded in a big way last year, even if his won-loss record (12-11) did not do justice to how well he pitched.
Just like Oswalt, if it weren't for the other three members of R2C2, his placement would be higher.
8) Shane Victorino
Shane is becoming a veteran, emotional leader for this team who contributes much-needed speed and terrific Gold Glove play in center field.
If he thought more like a speed demon than a power hitter at the plate, he would be even more valuable.
7) Brad Lidge
We'll never see him approach his amazing 2008 campaign, where everything worked out perfectly, but Lidge pitched quite well the last couple months of 2010.
And as well as Ryan Madson (just missed my list) has pitched as a setup man, Lidge is still the man for the ninth.
6) Jimmy Rollins
A few years ago, it would have been silly to have rated J-Roll this far down the list. After all, he won the National league MVP in 2007.
But Rollins, whether due to age, injuries or a combination of both factors, has not been that same compelling offensive player since. Still, his glove and his effervescent leadership are huge for this team, and when he does hit, the team wins a great majority of the time.
5) Cliff Lee
Lee, despite missing some turns with injuries, was second in all of baseball (to new teammate Roy Halladay) in complete games last year.
Given his postseason success, he merits a higher place on this list than either Oswalt or Hamels. Given the presence of the other three aces, it's hard to rank him any higher.
4) Roy Halladay
If Halladay entered 2010 as the unofficial "best pitcher in baseball," then last season only cemented this status in most pundits’ eyes.
Perhaps winning the Cy Young unanimously in your first year in a new league and throwing a no-no in your postseason debut will do that.
Funny how that works.
3) Carlos Ruiz
I actually thought of placing "Chooch" at No. 1.
My reasoning? I'm aware that he still has not won a Gold Glove or been voted onto the All-Star team, but the man plays the most important defensive position of the starting eight and does so brilliantly.
He calls a great game, throws runners out when given the opportunity, and he has developed into arguably the best No. 8 hitter in the league.
What other No. 8 hitter batted .302 with an OBP of .400 and a .293 batting average with runners in scoring position?
2) Ryan Howard
Yes, he still has a hole or two in his swing, and he still makes Phils fans nervous whenever he has to throw the ball to second base. I also realize that he had a down year—by his very high standards—in 2010.
But what other Phillie can give you his consistent production and inspire as much fear in opposing managers and pitchers?
That was a rhetorical question.
1) Chase Utley
The Phillies weathered the regular season storm pretty well last year when both Rollins and Utley lost significant amounts of games due to injuries.
Phillies Nation, obviously, hopes that the team—to say nothing of most pleasant surprise Wilson Valdez—is not put to such a test in 2011.
If you’re reading this column, I don’t have to sell you on Utley’s worth. The perennial All-Star is their only logical candidate for the vital No. 3 spot in the lineup, plays terrific (if slightly underrated) defense and spurs his team with his all-out, hard-nosed play.
While the Phillies would not relish any of these 10 players (and others, including Ryan Madson, Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco) missing significant playing time, the thought of losing Utley creates the most apprehension.
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