…they pull me back in”.
(cue heart attack)
As the Phillies’ “slump” becomes ominously longer and longer, I have found myself resigned to the fact that a team can’t make it to the World Series, or even the playoffs, EVERY single year. I have had the best three years of my life in terms of baseball fandom. I must keep telling myself that it was only a year and half ago when I was one of two million Phillies fans on Broad Street, celebrating the 2008 World Series championship on that beautiful Halloween day.
Does this mean I’ve already given up? “Crud no, I want them to play ball”. This is virtually the same exact squad that has been taking the field at Citizens Bank for the last two years. Barring a 2009 Mets-like 18-car pileup full of injuries, there is no reason why this team shouldn’t win the NL East again.
Through 64 games this season, the Phillies are 34-30. Through 64 games last season… another World Series season… they were 36-28. Only a two game difference. Then they went on to lose 9 of 12 to bring their record to 39-37. Record-wise, virtually the same. This time however, the rest of the NL East has come locked and loaded with outstanding and scary talent (Strasburg, Heyward, Davis, Hanson) and the resurgence of veterans and the “unlikely” (Hudson, Lowe, Pudge, Glaus, Livan Hernandez, Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Pagan). The other four are healthy, gritty and hungry to overtake the Phillies, if not wreak havoc on their effort to make a fourth straight postseason appearance.
So what do the Phillies need to do to overcome all of this? First and foremost, they need to get Jimmy Rollins back. He is unquestionably the leader of this team. He doesn’t put up the numbers of Utley, Howard or Werth, but he sets the table. In the 12 games he’s been in this season, he has hit .341 with 11 runs, two home runs, seven RBIs, four doubles and a triple. And the Phillies looked GREAT in those games. The other 52? Not so much. He is planning to come back this Saturday and I couldn’t be happier.
Their pitching needs to be more consistent. You never know what you are going to get from day-to-day with the starters. Moyer gets lit up. Moyer pitches an 8-inning gem. Kendrick gets chased. Kendrick sets ‘em down. Hamels has been becoming more consistent stringing together quality start after quality start, but even so, you never know which Hamels you are going to see. Even Roy Halladay has been joining the party. Halladay pitches a perfect game. Halladay gets bombed. Incredible.
The only thing that has been consistent with the pitching has been Joe Blanton… consistently bad. It seems the curse of the Adam Eaton contract has taken effect: 1-5 with a 7.28 ERA. This is why the rumor mill is spinning like crazy over the Phillies talking with Pedro Martinez for another mid-season call-up. This team also needs to get their young hurler J.A. Happ back off the D.L. as soon as they can to stabilize this shaky rotation.
And they just need to hit. Simple. Every player goes through slumps, but the moons seem to be aligning all the wrong way with this offense. I honestly believe this will work itself out, but they need to do it quickly. It’s only mid-June, but the next thing you know, it’ll be September.
This season is reminding me of the 1979 Phillies. The Phillies were the three-time division champions. They made the biggest free agent acquisition in their history, signing the hit machine Pete Rose. And like 2010, they fielded pretty much the same exact squad. The result? 84-78. Fourth place.
The next year? World Series Champions.
After just taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx, this team ain’t getting rid of me yet.
About the Author
Written by Bryan Sargent
Bryan Sargent is a lifelong Phillies fan, currently residing in the least hospitable city for such a person as himself, New York City. This coming January he will be attending Phillies Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, FL. He is currently documenting the entire process on his blog (http://www.bryansargent.com). You can contact him at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @BTSargent.