Philadelphia Phillies, Hunter Pence: Nice Enough to Win the 2011 World Series?

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Philadelphia Phillies, Hunter Pence: Nice Enough to Win the 2011 World Series?
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
June 22, 2011: Manager Charlie Manuel mugs the scene in STL. The Phils could go mugging the rest of the NL.

Were the Phillies nice enough to beat Boston, San Francisco or the New York Yankees in the playoffs this year before the Hunter Pence trade?  Maybe.

After the trade, are they good enough to win the 2011 World Series?  Perhaps. 

Pence, 28, was batting around .310 with 11 yokes and 62 rib eyes (RBI) heading in to Saturday’s games.  The former Houston Astros outfielder should fit like one of the last pieces to a prize-winning puzzle. 

If he keeps his eyes on the prize, then he could be a right-handed-batting boon for Philly.

The Phils have been hurting against left-handed pitching virtually all season.  Adding Hunter in a hitter friendly park ought to help alleviate the pain.

Plus, he’s a former Astros teammate of Roy Oswalt, who spoke with and had high praise for Pence: "He's a good, hard-nosed player [who] gives 100 percent on the field.  He's going to put his work in.

“His first year in, he had the aura about himself that he wanted to help carry the team even though it was his first year.  He has a leadership mentality as far as not wanting to accept second fiddle on anybody."

With Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, etc., the Phillies don’t exactly lack leadership on the field or in the clubhouse, but it’s good Pence has those fiddle skills.  He’ll have a familiar friend to win with in Philadelphia.

Len Redkoles/Getty Images
June 24, 2011: Manuel yucks it up befor the game in Philly. His squad is probably smiling over their latest addition.

Playing on a potentially World Series-winning team for the first time in his career, Pence’s haughty numbers could improve by playing on a squad not too long ago considered the best offensive force in the world.

Manager Charlie Manuel could place Pence just about anywhere in the lineup, but he would seem to fit best in the fifth spot behind Ryan Howard—a left-handed slugger from the St. Louis area.  Hunter helped the Astros beat the Cardinals last Wednesday and Thursday.

The Cardinals could be considered the Phillies most dangerous challenger in the NL this season, except the Redbirds are involved in a shootout with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh for the division crown.  Don’t sleep on the NL Central, though, the last time it was this jumbled, the Cards won the World Series (2006).

This is a new day, though.  With the rise of Vance “The Vanimal” Worley and Ryan “Mad Dog” Madson, the Phils appear poised to run through the other National League teams this season—and they know it.  They also realize it won’t be easy.

On their way to winning the 2010 World Series, the Giants smashed off on the favored Phillies last season in the National League Championship Series.  More recently, San Francisco mashed on Philadelphia and left the Phils’ manager with a sour taste on his tongue.

He saw his team lose their first back-to-back home games since the season was a baby (April).  It was also their first consecutive losses of the season since early June. 

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
July 28, 2010: Tim Lincecum rocks and fires in Philadelphia. He was virtually unhittable on that fateful day for the Phils.

Going further, the Giants ended the Phillies’ nine game winning streak.  Damn…ouch…or whatever you want to call it.  I’d call it rubbing in the face of an enemy—a team still remembering the playoff knockout from last season. 

Judging by his press conference in the aftermath, courtesy of, the seasoned Manuel seemed like he was rubbed the wrong way:

"They're good pitchers.  You say they're great pitchers," he said.  "To me, I don't know how great they are.  I think as they move on into their careers, there's the longevity part and things like that. I think that's when the greatness might come by."

Allow Lincecum to retort—and retort he did.  Tim drew "Oohs" and "Aahs" from the MLB world outside of Philadelphia.  If this was a hip-hop/rap a’capella rhymes battle, then Lincecum would’ve drawn more oohs than Manuel (quote source linked above):

"I'm sure he was just speaking out of frustration and dealing with their first home series loss.  It's something they're not used to.  Maybe it has something to do with how things went last year in the LCS.  I have no idea.  You'll have to ask him."

I’d ask Manuel as part of my writer duties, except I don’t want to get smashed on.  Whether or not Hunter Pence becomes a smashing success depends on large part to his production in the vaunted lineup Manuel trots out almost daily.

Scott Boehm/Getty Images
July 29, 2011: Hunter Pence stands in the box for one of his last swings as an Astro in Milwaukee. He'll join the Phillies this weekend.

Manuel virtually taunted the vaunted Tim Lincecum and his San Francisco Giants pitching mates.  I’m not sure how smart it was for the manager to do that, although his comments came in response to a question from the media. 

The Giants weren’t the only top NL contender adding solid outfield bats.  San Francisco added Carlos Beltran, who is bouncing back and steadily rounding into his former Astros self.

Funny how the lowly Astros seem to be the center team of this article, but it’s really about the Phillies and the rest of the contenders—trust me.

The trustworthy proverb was again proven.  It’s definitely true that the rich get richer—especially in MLB—and right now the Phillies could be playing with house money.

Pence is good money in the outfield and on the base paths—adding another dimension the Phillies needed this season.  Dare I spit his game is almost the splitting image of a certain $126 million man (Jayson Werth)?  Yes, I dare.

All of the WS contenders in 2011, except for the Yankees and Redbirds, have one thing in common—daring pitching staffs with good stuff. 

The Cards’ staff seems to have gotten better with the Colby Rasmus trade, but their position in life remains to be seen.  The Cards also have a former Astro (Lance Berkman) on their squad.

Comparing position players with the rest of the contenders for the World Series title, the Phillies can go head up with any of them.  In my opinion, the Phils and the Astros are in a dead heat for the NL pennant, and both teams are nice enough to win it all.

I’m going with the Giants, though, for right now.  If you haven’t heard of me, then it’s all right—a small thing to a giant.  You, my beloved readers, don’t know, however, what you’ve been missing.  Make sure, though, to catch the next edition of Lake’s Phils-Giants Grudge Report.

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