Contrary to popular consensus, this is not panic but it is indicative of what 2011 may hold. Phillies have Four Aces but not even the Fantastic Four can win games without run support. Ask Cole Hamels what it feels like to have to win every game 1-0 (1.4 runs per game avg. in 2010 – closer to 1.1 RPG in second half) . Roy Halladay gave up six runs and 10 hits in 6-2/3 innings vs. Milwaukee (his worst start since he allowed 6 runs in 6 IP in a loss at the New York Yankees June 15) while Cliff Lee (7 hits 4 IP) barely gets off the hook for a 3-0 deficit in today’s series finale. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee can’t beat Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and the Milwaukee Brewers? Joe “Bagadonuts” Blanton (7 IP, 7 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) reduced his season ERA from 10.75 to 7.27 and still the team blows the game in 12 innings to Milwaukee. How? Madsen eats the lead to tie it so that 3 innings later, Kyle “Gilligan” Kendrick opens the floodgates allowing 2 unearned runs on 3 walks and one base hit. During those three innings Romero, Herndon, Bastardo and Contreras competently maintained the deadlock to afford the offense several chances to break through. Mind you, Brewers alleged “closer” John Axford valiantly tried to hand the Phillies the game with walks and wild pitches. Nine hits for the Phils… all singles! 12 innings and lose 6-3, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory en route to losing their first series of the 2011 season. Not the end of the world, just a bad series.
Over the last 8 games (Milwaukee and Florida mostly) the Phillies are hitting .204 (3 for 223) with runners in scoring position including 17 scoreless innings and being outscored 18-3 vs. Milwaukee. Florida now sits in a virtual tie in NL East standings despite a two-game split (one rainout) over the weekend. Clearly there is reason for concern. Jimmy Rollins has one RBI over 16 games from the #3 hole. JC Romero is already sidelined with a calf strain, Brad Lidge has not thrown a pitch in 2011 and we all know about the absence of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and Jayson Werth. Aside from Ryan Howard (.293, 15 RBI and 2-6 one RBI this series), Shane Victorino (.311, 9 RBI, 2 SB of 3B) and Placido Polanco (.375 and a 3-run HR today to break the 17 scoreless innings skein), this offense (averages 10+ LOB per game) is having serious trouble hitting water while falling out of a boat!
Where do we go from here? It is too early for panic as 17 games in a 162-game season is not enough of a sample size… or is it? Phillies are headed to the West Coast with a lot of questions to answer. Ben Francisco, John Mayberry, Jr. Ross Gload and Raul Ibanez – at least two of them are supposed to be starters. Mayberry has started just one game but has proven to be a pinch hitter extraordinaire (.444). Aside from Mayberry, the other three are hitting a combined .240. Cloning Polanco might be the answer. His seasonal averages of 616 at bats, 187 hits, 10 home runs, 65 RBIs with 91 runs scored are solid. Add a lifetime .990 fielding percentage to his offensive production and this veteran could still start somewhere for every team in baseball. Since we can’t actually clone Polanco then it may be time to find some more realistic answers.
Players that fans want to hang in effigy in this young season include Ben Francisco, Raul Ibanez, Joe “Heavy JB/Bloaton” Blanton, Danys Baez, David Herndon and Kyle “Gilligan” Kendrick. Those of us who chose not to believe the Phillies preseason PR are now proven correct. Ben Francisco is not the next Jayson Werth nor are Baez, Herndon and Blanton better than they had previously proven. You can’t argue with results. The problem is that you also can’t increase the trade value of these players by rolling them out on the field at watching them blow it! No team in their right mind is going to actively seek to add players like Blanton or Kendrick when it means taking on lesser players with poor track records and inflated salary. Sports radio shows have been burning the phone lines with cries to trade this dead weight but none of them can possibly think that this is easier than selling ice to an Eskimo. Major League teams rarely make trades to add salary especially when it brings back inferior talent. Ruben Amaro is not going to swing a deal for Michael Young (TEX), BJ Upton (TB) or Ryan Ludwick (SD) by dangling Blanton or Kendrick on the line. Blanton may prove delectable bait for the average man-eating shark, but not for the average MLB General Manager.
Amaro has already inquired about Young, John Jay (STL) and Eric Chavez (NYY) but the Phillies have a depleted minor league system thanks to offseason and deadline deals for Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay. It’s a shame that when Amaro traded Cliff Lee to Seattle to “replenish the minor league system” he failed to bring back any serious prospects. The three warm bodies (JC Ramirez, Phillipe Aumont and Tyson Gillies) returned in that deal were not among Seattle’s top 10 prospects according to Baseball America and have garnered zero interest anywhere else. This of course followed sending prospects Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco to Cleveland for Lee and Ben Francisco in July 2009. The decisions to sign Blanton, lock up Raul Ibanez and pursue Halladay rather than Lee or to get Francisco rather than lock up Jayson Werth have now come to fruition. Phillies claimed that they could not have Lee and Roy Halladay (the latter cost prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis D’Anard and Michael Taylor) together on the same team. Oddly enough, Lee would have cost $10M less per season to re-sign in 2009 than it cost to go get him this past offseason. Factor in Roy Oswalt plus Placido Polanco with the losses of Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs, Mike Sweeney, Chad Durbin, Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth and it is confusing how the Phillies salary ceiling becomes more flexible after the fact. Theoretically, they could have let Blanton go, not signed Ibanez to a three-year deal (28 other OF would have signed for $10-$15M and produced more than Ibanez), kept Werth and added Halladay plus Oswalt to Cliff Lee AND saved approximately $30M. Blanton, Moyer and Kendrick could have been traded away and brought back a better package of prospects than the Three Stooges from the Seattle Lee deal. Incidentally, Lee was then traded to Texas 6 months later for Justin Smoak along with Class AA pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and AA infielder Matt Lawson and relief pitcher Mark Lowe.
Amaro has been part of a Phillies braintrust that has been VERY effective swinging trading deadline deals for Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Matt Stairs, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Kyle Lohse and Mike Sweeney. Pat Gillick taught his pupil well to maintain perspective of what is best for the franchise both long and short term. In recent years, the future (prospects) has been mortgaged for the present (4 division titles, two NL pennants, one World Series championship) but now it is time to re-evaluate. Ibanez is in the final year of his contract while Blanton and Kendrick will remain overpaid and underperforming through 2012.
If the Phillies are to make a fifth straight postseason run, they need an infusion on offense – not to be confused with an offensive infusion. This could be the defining lynchpin of Amaro’s career and the pivotal moment to determine the course of the Phillies current championship run. Who will it be? Chase Utley? Domonic Brown? What is possible or at least realistic? Phone lines are open people. Let’s tell Uncle Ruben what to do!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org