Jul 022010

July 2 Philadelphia Daily News

“IT OFTEN WENT unheard in the celebratory din that has enveloped the Phillies over the last few seasons. But if you caught a club official in a reflective mood, he’d wipe the champagne from his eyes and allow that luck had played a role in (take your pick) making it to the playoffs or getting to the World Series or riding a float down Broad Street.

We all like to believe that good results spring from our hard work and wisdom, and those are certainly elements in almost any success story. Except winning the lottery.

But the reality remains that, in professional sports, there are certain aspects that can be controlled. The decision of whether to keep Cliff Lee after acquiring Roy Halladay comes to mind.

And there are other developments, potential season-wreckers, that are as difficult to pin down as a cloud. Injuries top the latter category. Every team has players get hurt or go into unexplainable slumps. The Phillies were fortunate that in the last few years they never reached a critical mass.

Now they’re beginning to know how the Mets felt last season.

Look, I’m no physician. But when Chase Utley and Placido Polanco had to go to New York for third opinions on their injuries, that wasn’t going to end well. Think about it. If you have an examination and are told you’re fine, you’re not going to say, “Thanks, doc, but I think I’ll go get another opinion.”

So yesterday’s news that Utley had surgery on his right thumb shouldn’t have been a palm-to-forehead moment for anybody.

J.A. Happ’s rehab doesn’t seem to be going so swell, either.

Now, right on cue, comes the bugle cry from the vox populi demanding action. The paying customers want a starting pitcher, a couple of relievers and an infielder before the trading deadline at the end of the month.

This is understandable. It would also be a mistake to try to cross everything off that shopping list.

There are reasons why nine previous National League teams since the 1942-44 Cardinals have made it to back-to-back World Series and none has made it to a third. And maybe the biggest is that it’s rare to stay lucky for that long.

The Phillies’ stated objective has always been to be good enough to compete for the division title and hope to get hot at the right time. Even without Utley for a couple of months and Polanco either following him into surgery or playing with pain for the rest of the season, they should be good enough to do that.

That assumes they don’t have a bunch more injuries, of course. And if they do, it probably won’t matter anyway. It would make little sense to further raid a depleted farm system in some sort of quixotic quest. Better to keep Domonic Brown and Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton and try, try again over the next few years.

Nobody wants to hear this, but just because the Phillies sell out every game, it doesn’t mean they have unlimited resources. Could they afford to raise the payroll? Probably. But at some point they are going to have to start replacing older, higher-priced players with younger (and cheaper) guys. That’s just how it works.”

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