Not even in our worst nightmares could any Phillies fan have forseen such a fate. The last place Phillies (16-19) celebrating a series victory over the even-more-last-place San Diego Padres (12-23).
If not for the efforts of Cole Hamels (5 hits, one ER in 7 IP) and a 3-2 victory, the Phillies might be trailing the NL East-leading Washington Nationals by more than six games. So, as of May 13 (Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms out there) the 2012 Phillies have a long way to go…in the standings… and this season… before they can live up to the success of Phillies teams of recent years.
Five consecutive NL East titles, two NL Pennants, one World Championship
and a progressively increasing regaulr season win total (89, 92, 93, 97 and
102, which broke the club record set in both 1976 and 1977).
Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie Ashburn and Tug McGraw are not walking through that locker room door – and even if they were they will not be part of the active roster. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are not walking through
that door anytime soon and even when they do, both will be at reduced capacity.
What this means is the current Phillies have two choices. Either win with what
you’ve got or become sellers in July. That’s right. Rumors have begun that Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz could be on the trading
block should the Phillies fall further out of contention over the next 6 weeks.
Hit the panic button. Change the manager? Might help in the short term, but it makes about as much difference as changing the hitting coach or raising the price of hot dogs at the stadium. Charlie Manuel has been changing the lineup just about every night (23 different lineups in 35 games so far this season) but all that does is rearrange the talent level already in the dugout.
Ruben Amaro has boldly been swapping out fringe players, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by racking up frequent EZ Pass miles between Allentown and Philadelphia. Michael Schwimmer, Raul Valdes, Brian Sanchez, David Herndon, Erik Kratz, Joe Savery, Jose Contreras, Jake Diekman, Hector Luna, Justin DeFratus, Jeremy Horst, Mike Fontenot & Pete Orr have and will be shuttled back and forth trying to shake things up – not to mention Domonic
Brown. Freddy Galvis was a welcome surprise to start the season – at one point leading the team with 5 RBI but minor league players are not the answer. Changes must occur at the major league level.
Recently, Jake Diekman, Hector Luna and Raul Valdes were brought up from AAA and while they may move the needle a bit here or there, they were in the minor
leagues because they weren’t able to make the major league club in the first place. Diekman comes very highly touted as a lefty with some serious zip but that still doesn’t mean he will supplant Antonio Bastardo as the lead portsider coming out of the bullpen. If he does then Bastardo’s 2011 effectiveness was an illusion and they might as well allow fans to try out for bullpen duty.
Hector Luna has amassed 732 major league at-bats, roughly 100 more plate appearances than a full-time player in a given season. For that effort he has a .265 BA, 18 HR, 86 RBI, 51 BB/145 K and this is over 312 games in parts of 8 seasons. Are we counting on Hector Luna to fire up this offense with his thunder stick, or just
grasping at straws? Why don’t we see if the stadium vendors want a chance to
play? That suds salesmen really has some well-developed forearms from lugging
those frosty brews around. Maybe he can hit a curveball? The cotton candy man
makes change very quickly. Can he turn the double play?
While it is true that 35 games compared to 162 is a mere 21% of the season – but it is
enough of a sample size to understand some very alarming trends. Of the 30
major league teams in 2012, the Phillies rank in the lower half (16th place or worse) in categories such as Runs scored (19th), On Base Percentage (22nd), Slugging (20th), OPS (22nd) and of course RBI (18th). Now if anyone thinks that Ryan Howard and
Chase Utley can bridge that gaping chasm between the Phillies offense and the
scoring output of the MLB elite, more power to you – because you will need it!!
If PECO sent 1.21 jigawatts into Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies might have a
chance but $178 million dollars has to buy you better production than this.
The pitching has been excellent overall (13th in overall ERA, while the starting
rotation ranks in the Top 5) but the defense has gone south right along with
the offensive offense and the putrid bullpen (aside from Jonathan Papelbon who is 10-10 in save chances).
The positive news is that Joe Blanton (3-3, 3.24 ERA) and Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07) have paired with Roy Halladay (3-3, 3.20), Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28) and Cliff Lee (0-1, 2.17 in 4 starts) to comprise a formidable starting staff. Without those starters plus Papelbon (2.57 ERA, 10 SV in 10 SVOP over 14 games) this team would be the San Diego Padres, who the Phillies just barely beat in a weekend series.
Actually the Phillies are 3-9 in games started by Halladay and Lee so there is much room for improvement there. The bullpen has been as effective as they Keystone Kops while the Phillies defense has been a comedy of errors. Combine that with an ineffective offense and a collection of creaky old veterans (Jim Thome, Laynce
Nix, Placido Polanco) trying to stave off another DL stint AND the galling
fact that Raul Ibanez (.273, 7 HR, 21 RBI) is playing better than Hunter
Pence and you can see why Ruben Amaro and the Phillies braintrust have been punching walls and pulling out their hair this season.
$178 million dollars sure doesn’t buy what it used to… Maybe it is best to do what the Padres have done? Give up on winning, keep payroll low, play second-rate talent and hope that the fans show up to the ballpark anyway. Or… in translation the period of time between 1985-1992 at Veterans Stadium. For fans who don’t remember those days it was like attending a funeral 81 times a year and knowing that the pallbearers were being paid millions to stink up the joint!
At least when expectations are low and the mood is already sombre there is no hope of winning. Then when you surprisingly break the .500 mark it is reason to
celebrate. Thankfully the Houston Astros (who are essentially a minor league
team disguised in major league uniforms) are up next. If an Astros series
following a Padres series doesn’t fix what ails you then there isn’t much point
of getting up in the morning!
Two choices for Phillies fans… you can either hit the snooze button and wait until September or you can hit the panic button and get worried.
Snooze button? OR Panic Button?
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