Bill Giles knows the Phillies. The chairman of the Phillies to a group of local fans recently at a charitable gathering at the that peeled through a few layers of some common beliefs, and some not-so-familiar ones.
Giles’ words also touched on a cautious undertone. Though Phillies fans and some of the so-called pundits today are ready to anoint the Phillies World Series champions, without even bothering to play in October, Giles isn’t—just yet.
“Hopefully, we can do it for you guys again and win another World Series,” Giles told the small audience Thursday night. “Our bullpen is a little worrisome; our Achilles' heel going into the postseason is who is going to pitch and how well in the seventh and eighth innings. We need two of our better hitters hitting in October.”
Giles said he would rather have the Phillies play Arizona, which currently sits in first place in the National League West, than the Milwaukee Brewers, which top the National League Central Division and features MVP candidate Ryan Braun and dangerous slugger Prince Fielder.
“The advantage I feel we have over Arizona is they have a lot of young players, and I can remember when we were a young team that made the playoffs in the mid-1970s against the Cincinnati Reds, and how a young Reds team played against us last year,” Giles said. “Arizona has many young players, and young players get nervous in the postseason sometimes. But it’s something you never know about in the postseason. In 1983, we lost 11 of 12 regular-season games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and came back and killed them in the playoffs to make the World Series in ’83.”
Giles stated he’s been very pleased with the Phillies’ starting pitching. He said it’s been by far “the best staff in the history of Phillies’ baseball that I’ve ever been involved with. This is the best pitching staff I’ve seen in my life.”
The Phillies’ chairman also broached the topic of Ryan Howard. When asked by a guest of the Phillies’ management has been pleased with the way Howard has been hitting this season, Giles bluntly responded, “No. When we gave him the $25-million contract, he was a better hitter than he is now. He’s been a little Jekyll-Hyde this year. But I think part of the reason is that he’s playing on a bad ankle, basically a bad leg right now. Hopefully, he’ll come around during the playoffs.”
And finally, the changing economic state of baseball was addressed. Giles feels it’s a problem that may nip the Phillies in the future, and openly said “we have to lower that luxury tax. Because of that, you won’t see some of our players next year—[Raul] Ibanez, [Brad] Lidge, [Roy] Oswalt, you probably won’t see next year. We can’t afford it. I love John Mayberry, he’ll be our left fielder next year.”
As for future free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins, “He wants to stay here and we want him to stay,” Giles said. “The problem is, he thinks he’s worth more than what we think he’s worth. Rollins came up in our system and has been a great player, but he’s also been hurt the last few years. We would love to see him back, though.”