Ricky Won't You Please Come Home

If there is one thing that the Phillies brass needs to focus on in the off-season, it is the pitching and whether or not some of those aboard are worth keeping around. There is also the problem with Mike Lieberthal's swing, which is actually finding the right pitch to hit now that the season is ending. There is a need for Pat Burrell to keep his head on straight and stop flailing too often when he swings. And there is a need to nail down the center field answer…wait a minute. That one is easy!

Ricky Ledee is the one that got away in my book and I know many Phillies fans feel as strongly about him as I do. In the seventy three games that he played before being traded to the San Francisco Giants, he was hitting .285 with an OBP of .393, and 26 RBI in 123 at bats. His field work was always tight, making both the routine plays and some truly outstanding ones, he proved to be one of the really strong links in the Phillies chain. Whether coming off the bench to pinch-hit or playing the outfield, he gave you a sense of confidence when he was in the game and there was little doubt he was going to get the job done. Focus is something the Phillies seemed to struggle with this year and Ledee was among the few on the team who never appeared to lose his. With the Giants he has not lost any of his strengths and the sting of the reality of losing him is even stronger with the Giants and Astros now tied for first place in the Wild Card race.

Ricky Ledee is also a fan favorite for the clear allegiance he felt about playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. When Ed Wade called Ledee to inform him he'd been traded his first words were, "Please don't tell me I've been traded". He loved playing for this city and this team. It was the first time he felt like a real part of a team. He wants to be here, he cares about being here and some might say it's a reach, but it seemed that this team went slowly down hill after he was gone. If nothing else you cannot deny that his presence made a difference.

There are of course a couple of people standing in line for the CF job. Marlon Byrd was brought back up from AAA Scranton after Ledee was traded. Byrd had been sent down to work on problems he was having at the plate. But Larry Bowa made it clear that Byrd is not protected for next season. "If spring training started tomorrow he'd have to win a job as the starting center fielder," the Phillies manager was quoted as saying. And as for Jason Michaels he too is a possibility but the likelihood of him securing the job seem slim. He has been great off the bench and I suspect he will remain in the same role next season. And the other player in the rotation, Doug Glanville sounds like he is on his way to the front office as his playing career looks to be just about over.

So then there is our boy Ricky. It certainly doesn't hurt to have a player on this team who has been to a World Series (with the Yankees in 1999). And his strength on the field and at the plate is always solid but there was an even more important component that he brought to the Phillies; leadership. In the clubhouse, Ledee was known for being a strong leader and his spirited energy and strong mindedness made a great impact upon the team. Bowa acknowledged that the trade was a particularly tough loss to the club but that it was unavoidable. That of course is debatable. But leadership is something that was a major hole in the Phillies lineup. Ledee has been acknowledged as the reason Bobby Abreu began to turn himself around after Ledee got on the right fielder and encouraged him to start coming to the ballpark earlier to work on his swing. It obviously worked. So thank you for that one Ricky Ledee.

The Phillies brass needs to focus on pitching and deciding if Kevin Millwood is worth keeping around as well as making a firm decision on Eric Milton and Corey Lidle. Center field should be the least of their worries but it is a question mark that must be removed. In my opinion, center field has been spoken for. And right now, the Phillies everyday center fielder is wearing the wrong uniform.

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