Some Memorial Day musings on “The Man,” our next enshrined athlete and Ryan Howard’s potential replacement at cleanup:
The local buzz over Chase Utley destroying the Mets last weekend proves that the former Phillie is our most-beloved athlete since … well, Brian Dawkins. Utley is among a small handful of players we still pull for after they leave town. Quick, try to name anyone beyond Chase or Dawk who remains adored by all local fans. You have to go back to Dr. J in the 1980s. I think the “World F— Champions” line sealed the deal forever.
Speaking of Utley, his resurgence with the Dodgers has reignited Hall of Fame talk. The seam heads who cherish stats like JAWs and WAR insist he’s already got the credentials, but most baseball writers don’t vote on sabermetrics. For my money, Chase is the fourth-best second baseman I’ve ever watched — behind Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar, and ahead of Lou Whitaker, the forgotten Bobby Grich and Craig Biggio. But without two or three more productive seasons, he’ll fall short of getting to Cooperstown.
Who is the next Philadelphia athlete who enters a Hall of Fame?
Dawkins should be a shoo-in, but consider this: Since 1989, the Pro Football Hall has enshrined just one man (Paul Krause) who played his entire career at safety. One out of the last 155 inductees. So a different mindset among voters will be required before we all plan that celebratory trip to Canton.
Roy Halladay will make it, but we just borrowed him from the Blue Jays in the end. Maybe the answer is Eric Lindros. He’s been turned down every year since 2010 by the Hockey Hall, but could get in next month — in part because of an otherwise weak class of candidates.
Let us now praise Pete Mackanin, the accidental manager.
We all know what the 64-year-old first-time full-timer did to restore clubhouse morale after the debacle of Ryne Sandberg. His recent yanking of Odubel Herrera for lack of hustle showed that Mackanin cares more about long-term habits than short-term results. And, while I’ve never been a fan of small-ball, an offense without punch must find ways to score. I’m just amazed when any team can pull off a safety squeeze play these days.
Phillies' hot young bat
The Phillies eventual answer at cleanup hitter might be Dylan Cozens, a 21-year-old corner outfielder who enters Memorial Day leading all Double-A baseball with 14 homers. Like most big sluggers, Cozens strikes out too much (61 in 190 ABs), but he moves well for a 6-foot-6 behemoth, even stealing nine bases this season. He entered the season ranked as the franchise’s 21st-best prospect, and has obviously improved his stock. A Phils scout told me it’s unlikely Cozens gets promoted beyond Triple-A this year. But with Ryan Howard cooked and a Phils outfield that has totaled just nine homers this season, who can blame Phillies fans for looking longingly toward Reading?