December 14, 2004

Tip-toeing around Scranton

Two players, Marlon Byrd and Ryan Howard, may need to start the season in Scranton, and everyone's fighting like hell to prevent that from happening.

There were two intriguing articles by Paul Hagen this morning, including a story that Marlon Byrd was close to being dealt to Milwaukee for relief pitcher Jeff Bennett until GM Doug Melvin had second thoughts. The other is on prize young slugger Ryan Howard already wanting out.

Should Byrd remain a Phillie, as it appears this morning, he should have a single, specific job with the organization next season: starting CF for Scranton.

If a team as bad as Milwaukee, who just lost their own starting CF Scott Podsednik, won't even deal a spare part for Byrd, that what is he really worth, other than a young body you might still have a chance to develop? At best, he becomes the center fielder of the future they envisioned only a season ago. He's not blocking anyone else’s progress except perhaps Shane Victorino, 24, who was acquired yesterday in the Rule 5 draft. Yet there’s still this urgency to move him.

One has to wonder what AAA really means. Is it a place to develop and rehab talent, or a reformatory for misfits? The sense is players, and the organization, tend to view it as the latter.

It raises a concern the Phils would rather not go through the hassle of sending a player like Marlon Byrd to Scranton out of fear they'll have a malcontent on their hands. Top pitching prospect Gavin Floyd should be in Scranton, too, but I know the organization will use the slightest sign of progress as an excuse to bring him up rather than risk dispassion.

In Hagen's second article, Ryan Howard has apparently earned the right to request where he plays next year after 39 MLB at bats. Howard said ...

"I'm looking for an opportunity to contribute at the big-league level and it doesn't appear that can happen here. My goal is to get to the big leagues and help a team."

Trade talks are off the table, which indicates the Phillies believe Howard is the first-baseman or left fielder of the future. If that's the case, then shouldn't he be in Scranton, playing first base or left field every day?

Howard is a dynamic presence to the club, but I'm on the fence whether he should start the season in Scranton. It will never happen, but what's worse is there appears to be no question about it. Sure, there's the risk of injury, or a drop in production that might lower his trade value, but the real reason it will never happen is to prevent distention.

Boy, who knew playing professional baseball in Scranton was such hell.


At 3:35 PM, Blogger will travel said...

SWB does not have the greatest stadium, it is a mini-Vet with a carpet, and the after game night life is probably great, are right..this is probably where both Byrd and Howard should start 2005 unless they win spots in the Spring. And who is Jeff Bennett anyway, a record of 1-5, 4.79 ERA, and if he is a "fireballer", he sure did not strike out many..yet it is the Brewers who are backing away!? Maybe Allentown gets the AAA team and SWB get a New York-Penn league team in 2006.


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