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Philadelphia Phillies AN EXERCISE IN PHUTILITY

CLUELESS/NL East

Who was the Phillies' leading vote-getter for the 1997 All-Star
Game?

Danny Tartabull. That's right, the same Danny Tartabull who
signed as a free agent before last season and then didn't have a
single hit. Nada. Tartabull injured his foot with a foul tip in
the opener and had just seven official at bats all season. For
that the Phillies wound up paying $2.3 million, or $328,571 for
each of his seven outs. Obviously, Tartabull did not represent
the team in the All-Star Game, but maybe he should have. After
all, who better epitomizes the Philadelphia story?

Since John Kruk, Mitch Williams and the rest of the Phillies'
lovable rogues reached the World Series in '93, the club has
finished below .500 every season and a combined 103 1/2 games
out of first place. Their attendance has declined steadily--from
3.14 million in '93 to 1.49 million last year, worst in the
National League. Curt Schilling is the only player to have
played through the entire drought. "It's miserable when you've
been winning all your life and suddenly you're having your head
kicked in daily," says Schilling, who nevertheless in '97 won 17
games and set a National League record for a righty with 319
strikeouts. "For the last four years it seems like we've been
cursed. Every time we did something positive, it was always
followed by a double negative."

Injuries have decimated the team. Since '93 the Phillies have
placed 23 pitchers on the disabled list, including five before
last season even started. Of course, the front office is partly
to blame for the carnage--it has a bad habit of acquiring
players who are past their prime. Last season, along with the
35-year-old Tartabull, the club signed wizened free agents Rex
Hudler, 37 ($2.4 million for two years), and Mark Parent, 36
($800,000 for two years), and the trio combined for a .182
average, five homers and 18 RBIs. It also signed 35-year-old
righthander Mark Portugal ($4 million for two years), who made
just three starts before shutting down for the season with an
elbow injury.

The first half of the '97 season was terrible, even by
Philadelphia standards. The Phillies won just four games in June
en route to a 24-61 start, sparking speculation they might break
the Mets' major league record of 120 losses in a season.
Fortunately, that prolonged period of misery finally pushed
Philadelphia to commit to rebuilding, which in turn has led to
their two stickiest dilemmas in '98.

Former All-Star centerfielder Lenny Dykstra is making an
unlikely comeback from back surgery, but he doesn't fit in with
the youth movement and could cost $11.5 million over the next
two seasons. Meanwhile, the prospect with perhaps the highest
ceiling, J.D. Drew, may never play for the Phillies. Drew, the
second pick in last June's draft, is engaged in a vituperative
contract dispute with the franchise and may not sign before the
May 25 deadline, when he would go back into the draft. Nothing
comes easy in Philly.

"We're not trying to delude ourselves," second-year manager
Terry Francona says. "We don't have a Barry Bonds. We have a lot
of kids who are question marks, but we have begun to answer some
of the questions."

The Phillies do have Schilling, '97 Rookie of the Year third
baseman Scott Rolen (he recently signed a four-year, $10 million
contract) and young talent in rightfielder Bobby Abreu and
shortstop Desi Relaford. And the '97 team did right itself
sufficiently to win 44 games after the All-Star break. Schilling
insists that if he did not believe the Phillies could reach the
postseason before the end of his current contract in 2000, he
would have waived his no-trade clause and allowed the team to
deal him last summer.

For now, at least, the club's future lies in the hands of
42-year-old acting general manager Ed Wade, who joined the
organization as a summer intern in '77, working for $2.50 an
hour. Wade is a true company man. During that summer of '77 he
met a Veterans Stadium usher named Roxanne, whom he would marry
in '81; Phillies centerfielder Garry Maddox served as his best
man. Wade studied under "the Pope," Paul Owens, the former
general manager who turned an awful ball club into the '80 world
champions.

Wade likes to quote his former boss, who preached patience by
saying, "You don't get better a yard at a time, you get better
by the inch." To illustrate, Wade holds his thumb and index
finger an inch apart. Alas, to measure how far the Phillies are
from a championship, Wade would need a much bigger hand.

--T.C.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS WHAT NEXT? First baseman Rico Brogna appears to be anticipating another long season in the City of Brotherly Love.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [Lenny Dykstra]

By the Numbers

1997 Team Statistics (NL rank)
1997 record: 68-94 (fifth in NL East)

BATTING AVERAGE .255(12) OPP. BATTING AVG. 265(9)
RUNS SCORED 668(13) ERA 4.85(12)
HOME RUNS 116(14) FIELDING PCT. .982(3)

OFF-SEASON MOVES

WHAT THEY NEEDED: Pitching to go with ace Curt Schilling. A
centerfielder. Middle infield help.

WHAT THEY GOT: Second baseman Mark Lewis, shortstop Alex Arias
and outfielders Doug Glanville and Bobby Abreu, a hot prospect
from Houston.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS: It means that no matter how many Alex Arias
fans fill the Vet, the Phillies will still be awful. This is a
team that lost a good second baseman (Mickey Morandini) and a
good shortstop (Kevin Stocker), picked up no reliable starting
pitchers and believes Glanville is the solution to all their
woes. Lenny Dykstra, injured for the last 250 years, returns to
center. At least he's fun to watch.

THE X-FACTOR

The Phillies front office isn't thrilled about the return of
Lenny Dykstra, the onetime wall-banger who hasn't played a game
since May 1996. In fact, the team, which has to pick up his $6
million 1999 contract if he gets 500 plate appearances in '98,
strongly encouraged Dykstra to retire. Funny thing, though. The
Phils--maybe baseball's least-talented team--have only one way
to avoid the cellar, and that's for Dykstra, 35, to overcome
serious back injuries, bat leadoff, play center like a demon and
restore enthusiasm to the morguelike Vet. For all that to
happen, Nails will need--cha-ching--500 plate appearances.

Projected Roster With 1997 Statistics
Manager: Terry Francona (second season with Philadelphia)

BATTING ORDER B/T BA HRs RBIs SBs

CF Doug Glanville[***] R .300 4 35 19
LF Gregg Jefferies[***] S/R .256 11 48 12
3B Scott Rolen R .283 21 92 16
1B Rico Brogna L .252 20 81 12
RF Bobby Abreu L/R .250 3 26 7
2B Mark Lewis R .267 10 42 3
C Mike Lieberthal[***] R .246 20 77 3
SS Desi Relaford* (R) S/R .267 9 53 29
OF Lenny Dykstra** L .261 3 13 3
IF Rex Hudler R .221 5 10 1
OF Midre Cummings L/R .264 4 31 2
IF Alex Arias[***] R .247 1 11 0
C Mark Parent R .150 0 8 0

STARTERS W L IPS BR ERA

RH Curt Schilling 10 11 7.3 1.07 2.97
LH Matt Beech 4 9 5.7 1.53 5.07
RH Tyler Green 4 4 0 1.54 4.93
RH Mike Grace 3 2 0 1.10 3.46
RH Mark Portugal 0 2 4.6 1.61 4.61

RELIEVERS W L IPS BR ERA

RH Garrett Stephenson 8 6 6.4 1.24 3.15
RH Mark Leiter 10 17 5.9 1.58 5.67
RH Ricky Bottalico 2 5 34 1.51 3.65
RH Jerry Spradlin 4 8 1 1.40 4.74
LH Darrin Winston 2 0 0 1.08 5.25
RH Wayne Gomes 5 1 0 1.64 5.27

[***] New acquisition
(R) Rookie B/T: Bats/throws IPS: Innings pitched per start
BR: Base runners per inning pitched
*Triple A stats **1996 stats