After the Phillies let go Pedro Feliz and signed Placido Polanco to fill his position at third, the Phillies found themselves with a complete infield. Almost too complete as a matter of fact.
We have all heard the argument between Yankees and Phillies fans: Who has the better infield in baseball?
Clearly both teams are heads and shoulders the best in their respective leagues. Both hit over 100 homers last season (112-107 – using Polanco’s totals and not Feliz’s) and the Phillies drove in more RBI’s at 393-373. Both also featured two Gold Glovers as Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira earned theirs for the Yankees and Jimmy Rollins won his for the Phillies while Polanco was a winner at second with Detroit.
But I want to be fair on this. I don’t want you guys looking at this site and seeing a biased Phillies fan opinion without hearing the other side. In the red corner will be myself, John Russo. Opposing me in the blue corner will be a die-hard Yankees fan and fellow staff writer on the Whit and Gloucester County Times, Matt Shanley. We are going to discuss the catcher and infield of our respective teams; starters only. The paragraphs written on Yankees players was written by Shanley.
C: Carlos Ruiz vs. Jorge Posada
Ruiz: Chooch has the defensive advantage over Jorge in my opinion. He’s got great reactions and a special presence behind the plate that puts him above a lot of other guys in the league. He came into his own offensively last year in the playoffs, batting .341 with two homer and nine RBI’s. Ruiz had averaged 110 games the past three years at catcher, largely due to the Phillies hoping to keep him healthy and fresh. It worked well in the playoffs like a stated earlier. Adding Brian Schneider will certainly help keep him fresh so he can have another excellent Chooch-tobre.
Posada: Posada is easing more and more into the idea that he may not be an everyday catcher anymore. He’s patched up a questionable relationship with the team’s number two starter A.J. Burnett and, at age 38, Posada hopes to play well with every start he makes as the Yankees’ signal caller while understudy Francisco Cervelli continues to improve. In 111 games last season, Posada accumulated 109 hits, 81 RBIs and 22 home runs.
1B: Ryan Howard vs. Mark Teixeira
Howard: Howard is one of the most exciting baseball players in the National League. He brings to the plate (literally) what very few do – 45+ homers and 130+ RBI’s a season. After shedding some more weight and working on his patience (rose his average 30 points from 2008-2009), Howard could very well be on the verge of a second MVP-season. His glove has also tremendously improved and I hope to see a Gold Glove from him in the future.
Teixeira: Teix is the third-highest paid player in the Yankees infield, yet, this season, might be the best. Though he faced what some might call a slump last fall, stellar regular season numbers have become routine for the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket. He led the American League in home runs (29) and RBIs (122) in 2009 and finished second in the league’s MVP voting behind Twins catcher Joe Mauer. He’s going into this season in hopes of winning his third Gold Glove and fourth Silver Slugger, and with the American League lacking in first base talent, who’s to say both can’t happen?
2B: Chase Utley vs. Robinson Cano
Utley: There is so much I could say about the best two-bagger in the game today. Utley is one of those players people go to the park to watch. He’s a player that will bring attendance when the Phils hit the road. He has tremendous range in the field and the second prettiest swing in baseball behind Ken Griffey, Jr. His career 162-game averages are .295, 29, 109.
Cano: After a poor excuse for a season in 2008, Cano revitalized his play in ’09. He hit .320 with 204 hits, 24 home runs and 85 RBIs (All career highs). Cano’s durability has been a question in the past, but after leading the Majors in games played with 161 last season, a utility player at second base isn’t the necessity it once was for the Yanks. The biggest issue for Cano this year may be the departure of his long-time best friend Melky Cabrera from the Bronx. Cabrera was traded to Atlanta in the offseason for starting pitcher Javier Vasquez.
SS: Jimmy Rollins vs. Derek Jeter
Rollins: Jimmy brings more to the team than most people think. He’s the best fielding SS in the NL and has had some big seasons in the past. He’s also the resident psychic but offers no predictions this year. He does have high expectations for himself in 2010 as he expects to hit .300 (never done before), commit three or less errors (career low is six), steal 50 bases (47 is highest), and score 150 runs (139 is his highest). Lofty expectations from Young James. Anything close to those numbers could put the Phillies on the road to a third straight pennant.
Jeter: What can possibly be said about Jeter that hasn’t been said before? He’s “The Captain,” the hits king, and this year, he’s playing for a new contract. Yankees majority owner Hal Steinbrenner has publicly said that the Yankees don’t negotiate in-season and Jeter won’t get any special treatment. Coming off a career year in which he had the third-highest batting average in the American League (.334), the second-most hits in Major League Baseball (212), and won his fifth World Series ring, it’s safe to say that the 35-year-old shortstop isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Placido Polanco vs. Alex Rodriguez
Polanco: I’m not even going to argue for Polly to be better than A-Rod. But I will say what Polly brings to the Phils is much greater than what they had with Pedro Feliz. Sure Feliz is a better fielder with the best arm in the game from third but Polanco is a gold glover as well and can hold his own at third. But Polly brings a bat to the hot corner, filling in the only hole the Phillies had last year. He’s always on base and strikes out significantly less. He’ll hit in the two spot. Not many teams can say their first four hitters are infielders.
Rodriguez: The monkey is off his back. A-Rod finally accomplished the unthinkable; he won his first World Series title, and, surprisingly, had a large role in doing so. Last October, the Yankees third baseman batted .250 with a .423 on-base percentage. In fifteen postseason games, he batted in 18 runs, smacked six homers and reached the plate for fifteen runs of his own. Going into 2010 with no lingering hip problems or steroid allegations can only help the three-time American League Most Valuable Player.