Four Things That Make Me Worry About the Phillies

Plus: Random thoughts on lazy kids, Chris Christie and Justin Bieber

With spring training in full bloom, the natural tendency for any baseball fan is to micromanage their squads and come up with a list of things that could go wrong. Normally, when it comes to any baseball season, the average fan can come up with at least 10 flaws. When I think of the Phillies, the absolute BEST I can do is four.

So here are my biggest concerns for the 2011 season, a season that has the Phillies placed as a 2-1 favorite to win the National League and a 5-2 favorite to win the World Series: [SIGNUP]

1. Brad Lidge. The right-handed closer rebounded amazingly well from a very shaky early season last year, but Lidge is now a year older and the arthritic condition in his lower body isn’t going to be doing him any more favors this year. We may go through some trying times this entire year with Lidge, which means the Phils are going to have to coax a few more saves from the likes of Ryan Madson. In the past, Madson hasn’t fared well in that situation. But something tells me he’s figured it out. And hear this: it is possible that when the playoffs roll around, it’s Ryan Madson who’s the closer for this team and not Lidge.

2. The Utley/Rollins factor. We have to decide this: did Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins simply have sub-par seasons last year or have we already seen the best of both of them. In other words, are they on the downside of their careers? My sense is that Utley — whose numbers have declined over the past three seasons where he has been bogged down by injuries that can only come with age and attrition — will never get back to being the ferocious hitter we used to know. I think Rollins will come back well. Remember, he’s playing for another contract and the little shortstop does have a flair for the dramatic.

3. The Fifth Hitter/RF Factor. I’m not that worried about it. I have a lot more faith in Domonic Brown emerging this year as a solid major league player, and I think Charlie Manuel will be smart enough to know when to enforce the lefty-righty platoon in right field with either Ben Francisco or John Mayberry Jr. I have a mild concern about platooning in the five spot in your lineup. But I also know if all else fails, Rollins can hit fifth with Shane Victorino moving to the leadoff hole.

4. A Consistent Left-Handed Reliever. The Phillies were so dissatisfied with J.C. Romero they let him walk after last season. And then they were so desperate, after the trade for Dennys Reyes fell through, they had to reach back out for Romero. I’m not that comfortable with that. The two left-handers the Phils will have to call on to get out a tough lefty hitter in the seventh of eighth inning are now the inconsistent Romero, who has trouble throwing strikes, and still-green Antonio Bastardo, who thus far has been nagged by injuries and hasn’t yet been able to throw off a mound.

Put it all together, though, and the Phillies have fewer problems than probably ever other team in the big leagues. Who’s going to challenge this team in the National League when the Phils throw out starting pitching bulls such as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? Nobody. Rest easy fans. Until we get to the Red Sox.

A few random thoughts of sports and otherwise….

* Loved the NBA all-star weekend. But JaVale McGee got robbed from winning the slam dunk contest. Blake Griffin jumped over the hood of a car? So what? Now jump over the roof of the car, Sparky, and you got me.

* I’d love to play hoops against that little goof Justin Bieber. You wanna try that crossover dribble on me, I’ll hit you so hard your voice will go up an octave or two. MVP my ass.

* Closely following that story of the teacher at Central Bucks East who got suspended for blogging and saying some of her students were lazy louts. I teach a college class. I gave my students, college kids whose parents pay almost 50 grand for an education, a simple reading assignment. Next class, first three students I asked questions to, based on materials they were assigned to read just a day before, couldn’t answer the question. I threw the entire class out and turned up the intensity in subsequent study plans and assignments. I get where this teacher is coming from. I love the outrage of the parents in the C.B. East district. Instead of actually being proactive and maybe putting a little more pressure on their kids to be better students, they blame the teacher. That’s a lot easier.

* Governor Christie of New Jersey is one of these guys who gets off on power. Christie, obviously, is supporting the Wisconsin governor’s movement to bust unions. He compared his regime in Jersey to the U.S. hockey victory over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics in how they are inspiring the country. Ugh. Stop the posturing, Tubby. The fact is, unions just give it up willingly anymore to Republican bureaucrats such as yourself because working for reduced wages with shitty health plans is better than not working at all. That’s what all you power monger politicians have figured out.

* Watching Rihanna sing at the NBA all-star game, my impressions were that her thighs were too thick and not in proportion with the rest of her body. Stay off the curried goat, baby girl! Ironically, two days later, TMZ ran a photo of her climbing into a limo and the back of her thighs were dotted with cellulite lumps the size of Titleists. See what I mean?