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Funky 4 Plus 1 Grace SI Cover

Sports Illustrated

The boys are back in town and the aces (plus Joe) are the stars.

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Even though The Phightins fell short of last year's goal of a world championship, they are highly regarded as the 2011 World Series favorites.

One major cause for all the accolades and esteem is the assemblage of one of baseball history’s most prolific pitching rotations. Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated senior writer, dubbed our boys The Legion Of Arms even giving each of the Phillies four aces plus Joe superhero personas:

Tunnelman, a.k.a. Roy Halladay; Loose Laser, a.k.a. Cliff Lee; Late Riser, a.k.a. Roy Oswalt; Kid Quantum, a.k.a. Cole Hamels; and The Sidekick, a.k.a. Joe Blanton.

In the Phillies deck of cards Blanton isn't the ace that his super-powered rotation mates are -- he really seems like just a sidekick -- maybe a jack. But after all the hype has ebbed and the games have been played, just being Joe might not be a bad thing.

Let’s be honest, the Phightins’ pitching staff is sick. This is bad news for opposing lineups.

A four-game series versus the Phillies could easily result in an O-fer -- I mean O-fer the series. This staff is bad news and they will merchant slumps and extract confidence like it’s mandatory. I would approach the series like this: try to scratch out one hit per game; work a walk or two over the series; drop down a sac bunt; or, if all else fails, feign injury. This way, you make it out of the war with minimal damage to your batting average and your confidence still in tact.

Seeing the best of the best for four days is mentally exhausting which can lead to physical failure. So facing the back end of a normal rotation is like shooting fish in a barrel. Hitters are salivating as they fight to get to the batter’s box.

No disrespect, but this is how the rest of the league is looking at Blanton. So what, you gonna make your living off of "Mr. Perfect Game" Halladay or "Every Day" Joe Blanton?

Now before you think of me as a Joe Hater, stop it! I’m just expressing the sentiments of hypothetical player. I’m just sayin’. I’m a Phightins phan and I want Joe to have a career year and I think he will.

Now, that still doesn’t change the fact that he’s looked at like he’s Marlon in a Jackson Five comprised with four Michaels! Adversely, I feel this sets Joe in a unique position to flourish.

Joe doesn’t have anything to prove as far as being a big league pitcher is concerned. He is, although, part of a stellar staff that exhibits and commands a particular level of domination. Blanton can be positively affected by learning from and utilizing the knowledge he attains from these superstars as fodder for his own personal progression.

I don’t know Joe personally, but I do know the mind set of the athlete. I’m almost positive that Joe can’t wait to go out and prove he’s so much more than a "Sidekick."

He should have a little chip on his shoulder for being conceived as a mere mortal. He’s been overlooked and underestimated. Hell, with the other four starters you could plug the Phillie Phanatic in that fifth spot and they’d still be prolific. This is where Joe steps in and shows that he is just as integral a part of this rotation as any of the aces.

Joe, it’s your show every five days. The mound has no idea what number starter is pitching. You are the ace on that day and I believe you’re up to the test to prove that you are the anchor of the Philly Phive.

Good luck!

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