The Phillies will play Florida State on Thursday. Florida State is ranked in college baseball’s top-10, and the Phils won’t be using many regulars, but I think the professional nine should still be slight favorites in this one. It’s significant because at least it will be a game to talk about. News is pouring out of Clearwater at a furious rate, it just isn’t that interesting. The Phils weren’t accurate with their cutoff throws today. Big story. If the accuracy of their outfield arms is what brings this team down, well, let’s just say I’d be surprised if anyone bemoans cutoff inconsistency during the regular season. No, there’s been a lot of non stories, and some that are worth maybe a fleeting bit of interest, like Chase Utley’s “body soreness.” I used to get that too during the first week of baseball, but that was because I hadn’t thrown, fielded a ground ball or hit in about 9 months. I guess Chase could empathize.
The biggest story I’ve heard and one that is actually good news is the reports of how good Cole Hamels looks. He’s apparently shown up in Clearwater looking like the kid who hit puberty hard over summer break. Everyone is raving about his condition, the command he already has of his pitches, and his velocity. Cole’s velocity was a bit of a revelation last year, and this year they say he is already throwing harder in camp than he did all of last spring. This is incredibly reassuring, because if you remember Cole showed up for spring training in ’09 throwing about 78 miles per hour. I think we remember how that played out. The new, beastly Hamels sounds intriguing and for all the talk about Blanton getting to face the bottom of other rotations, it could be Hamels that really benefits from facing his share of 3s, 4s and 5s.
We’ll get our first real look at the Phils and Hamels on Saturday. They have a weekend home and home with the Yankees. The Phils take Friday off to squeeze in an organizational golf outing. Good times all around there. I don’t know if you heard, but Ryan Howard’s WAR in a scramble is 14.6. Pretty heady stuff. I think the game on Saturday is on MLB network. Don’t hold me to that, but if you are frothing at the mouth to see the Phillies, Dom Brown and a host of AAA players, give it a peek and try it out. 1pm Eastern.
If you follow the blog, you know I tried to motivate Tiger Woods when I saw him before the Super Bowl*, but clearly that isn’t working. Tiger lost in the match play to Thomas Bjorn on Wednesday and Bjorn didn’t exactly have to play lights out to beat him. Tiger just isn’t as good a putter right now as he used to be, and he isn’t as clutch. You could link both these things back to confidence, but it is getting to the point right now, where it is almost sad to see how he is playing. And, the vultures are circling. Rory McIlroy is talking about him coming to the end of his career. Hank Haney is firing off snarky tweets and then acting like he’s surprised anyone is even paying attention. It’s starting to bother me.
Here’s the deal. I was never a Tiger fan. I still am not. I always liked to root against him a bit, because it was kind of a contrarian thing to do, but I never hated him like I hate a say….Ian Poulter. And, what Tiger did off the course didn’t bother me or make me hate him either. It didn’t impact me in any way. Obviously, he’s a dirt bag, but what does that have to do with me watching golf? Nothing. And, it didn’t have anything to do with these other pros playing golf either, but now that Tiger is down they are all strong all of sudden. It’s chirp-chirp and take your shots while you can. And, honestly, it’s total BS. Because, while Tiger the man may not deserve one ounce of respect, Tiger the golfer still deserves every bit of respect you can muster. I think the people who played in Tiger’s era of dominance still get it. They know what is up. Take Bjorn for example. His comments after the round are pure class.
Q. What did you say to Tiger there at the end?
THOMAS BJORN: That’s between me and Tiger, really. But what I will say is that the game of golf needs him back at his best. And I’ve always been a great friend of his, and we’ve always had a good relationship. And I want to see him back at his best because I think it’s much more fun to go up against him when he’s absolutely at his peak. And so it was things down that line. But what was exactly said, that stays between me and Tiger.
That’s the gentlemanly thing to say, and the harder thing to say right now. The guys running their mouths about his lost mystique should really be writing him thank you letters because they can have their careers where they win a couple of times, grab a top-10, fall ass backwards into 1 Major and they make about 50 million dollars. If Tiger never came down the pike they’d be about as popular as the WNBA or bowling right now and still playing for 180,000 first prizes. So, everyone should really zip a lip, and go back to picking out flat brim hats and green pants, because kicking Tiger while he is down takes no heart. Show some class.