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View From the Other Side: Philadelphia Phillies Series Preview

I sent Peter, a/k/a WholeCamels, from SB Nation's Philly site The Good Phight a few question about the Philles. We start a three game series with them tonight at Rogers Center.

Who is the biggest surprise for the Phillies this season?

Well, it had been Raul Ibanez. I mean, we all knew he was a really good hitter, but I don't think anyone can tell you with a straight face that they expected what he has produced so far.

As far as bad surprises go, it can only be Jimmy Rollins.

I know he was a Philly and all, but why do Philly fans boo Scott Rolen? We like him around here.

Over the past couple of decades there's been an anecdotally observed Phillies front office P.R. machine that goes into motion whenever a star player starts to become expensive, and they want to get him out of town while keeping fan backlash at a minimum. The first example was Curt Schilling in 2000, then Rolen in 2002, and finally Bobby Abreu in 2006. It usually involves former Manager and current front office hatchet man Dallas Green getting in the press and saying disparaging things about the player's work ethic and character. Then, it seems that they float unsubstantiated rumors of generous contract offers (in Rolen's case, a 10 year/$140MM deal offered prior to 2002) that makes the player look ungrateful. Then, the fans turned completely against him, they dump him for spare parts.

To his detriment, Rolen made some backhanded swipes at the Phillies and their fans on the way out of town. He's a pretty cerebral, introverted guy whose outlook didn't really play well with certain aspects (read: idiots) in the Phillies fanbase. I, for one, don't boo him, but his time in Philly and then St. Louis seems to indicate that he does have kind of a prickly personality. I have wished him the best, and when healthy he is probably the best fielding third baseman I've ever seen in person.

What are manager Charlie Manuel's strengths and weaknesses?

This is probably a bad time to ask, but he keeps a loose, close clubhouse and doesn't air dirty laundry in the media. The players are incredibly loyal to him. He's a hitting savant of some kind.

On the bad side, he really struggles with in-game decisions sometimes, and is very set in certain roles for players that act to the detriment of the team as a whole (i.e., Rollins continuing to bat leadoff).

Have to ask what Philly fans think of former Jays Matt Stairs and Jayson Werth? Werth was pretty amazing against us last week. Yeah Scott Eyre was a Jay at one time too but we try to forget that.

Matt Stairs is and always will be a folk hero in Philadelphia for last season's NLCS home run. It doesn't hurt that he's been a really good pinch-hitter this season too. And, he's built like about 80% of Philadelphians, which is endearing.

Jayson Werth is a very good player, I love his outfield defense and think it's terribly underrated. He can look really bad hitting against righties, however, and it's not his fault, but when he's your best right handed bat, there are lineup problems.

Is the lousy home record just a fluke or is there a reason why the team doesn't play well at home?

There are whispers that all the championship fanfare has been a distraction, and I could have bought that in April and perhaps May. But it's almost July and they're still struggling. I have no explanation for it.

Is there anything else Jay fans should know about the Phillies?

They are playing terrible baseball right now. You get Cole Hamels tonight. And we miss Roy Halladay. That's about our only hope.