Final piece not worth asking price

Vance Worley.

Worley has been nothing short of spectacular in his first real test in the big leagues. He joined a short list of current and future Hall of Fame pitchers, who gave up one run or less in six consecutive starts. On a staff of aces, he has been the best starter for a full month.

Yet the clamor for a championship in 2011 is growing so loud that Worley could be packing his bags by Sunday’s trade deadline — possibly to Houston in a deal for Hunter Pence. At least that’s the latest story being suggested by the ever-growing army of “insiders” on the Internet, including top reporters like Buster Olney of ESPN and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

Well, here’s one vote for keeping Worley, not just in a deal for Pence, but in a deal for anyone. Teams wait years, sometimes decades, for a young pitcher to come along and dominate the way Worley has. Not so many years ago, Roy Halladay was Vance Worley. So were Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

Granted, J.A. Happ was performing similar mound miracles two years ago, and Kyle Kendrick before that. The failure rate on projecting the success of young pitchers is high, yes, but not as high as the regret rate when a good, young pitcher becomes great for another team. With an aging staff, the Phils can’t afford to sacrifice their future.

Worley doesn’t light up a radar gun with 95-mile-an-hour heat or mystify with a stunning off-speed pitch. He dominates with something equally impressive: pure confidence. At 24, he doesn’t just occupy the mound, he commands it. While Kendrick gets twitchy with men on base, Worley sneers.
Worley has so captivated in his brief stay here that he already has three nicknames. First, it was “Frames” for his distinctive glasses. Then it was “El Vanimal” for his ferocious demeanor. And now, it’s my own admittedly lame “Sir Vancelot,” because of his warrior mentality. Three nicknames for a rookie has to be a record.

The real story of Vance Worley is a simple one. He is a young pitcher who has enjoyed stunning success on a staff of brilliant pitchers. His potential far exceeds a fine young talent like Pence, or any other players on the market.

The Phillies need to add one final piece to their excellent team, a right-handed hitting outfielder to bat behind Ryan Howard. But no hitter is worth losing Vance Worley. No hitter is worth risking the bright future symbolized by the fearless kid with the crazy glasses.

Big Red protects most, but not all

When Kevin Kolb is traded to Arizona, Andy Reid will be losing his biggest and most clueless fan. Even though the coach broke his promise to give Kolb back the starting job, no one loves Reid more.
Speaking to Howard Eskin on the Dan Patrick radio show last week, Kolb said: “Andy is such an unselfish guy, and he doesn’t have an ego. … I have seen him take the bullet for so many players that the media has no idea about and the fans have no idea about.”

Yes, Reid does take bullets for his players, but not all. After the playoff loss to Green Bay, the coach committed the most unconscionable act in the past decade. Reid said, “We can count. Those points would have helped,” after David Akers missed two field goals in a five-point loss. A few days earlier, Akers had learned his daughter had cancer.

Michael Vick threw a season-ending pick in the final moments of that game. The offensive line was manhandled for 60 minutes. The red-zone defense remained pitiful. And Reid squandered timeouts and screwed up a challenge. But the only one getting a finger pointed at him was Akers.

To this day, Reid has provided nothing close to an explanation for that extraordinary lapse. In short, yes, Andy Reid has the back of most of his players. Unless he slides a knife in it the way he did with David Akers.

Sorry NFL, not buying your act

Before the NFL lockout, I was annoyed with the preening players and disgusted by the billionaire owners. Five months later, I feel betrayed and abused by both sides.

Remember, it all began when the owners pulled up in their chauffeur-driven limos at a meeting in March and cried poor. Decked out in beautifully-tailored suits, they claimed they couldn’t make ends meet in the current system. Then they refused to back their claims by actually showing their books.
The players were at least more sympathetic, with the physical dangers they face and the strong limitations on the length of their careers. Of course, they embarked on a brilliant campaign to alienate the fans — first by hiring a confrontational labor boss, DeMaurice Smith, and then by dragging out the deal for an extra week for no good reason.

The bottom line on this appalling mess is that neither side cares at all about you. If they did, they would have found a common ground long before this. If they did, they would have avoided the layoffs and the missed paychecks of so many innocent bystanders — and prevented a lockout that was about ego and greed.

So I’m sitting out the high fives and cartwheels. When I watch the NFL, I will be cheering for the game, not the people.

– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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