The past few weeks in Philadelphia sports have been dominated by the firing of Andy Reid, which is ironic given that this event was as predictable as the sun rising in the East, or Andrew Bynum missing another month of action. Ironically, the Phillies have taken a back seat to the Andy Reid melodrama in an off-season that is probably their most crucial since their winning run began in 2007. The winter meetings have come and gone, and the Phillies fan base are still awaiting the “big move” by general manager Ruben Amaro that strangely looks like it will never happen. Why the current lack of movement by Ruben Amaro given the current state of the Phillies isn’t at least sharing some local sports headlines is puzzling.
The current state of the Phillies is tedious at best, and disastrous at worst. Their outfield situation, despite the acquisition of light-hitting Ben Revere to anchor center field, is still a hodgepodge of Darin Ruf, John Mayberry, and Domonic Brown. All of these players are offensive and defensive question marks, and while Revere provides stability in center, he is far from the long ball hitter that this team desperately needs. All of the big-name free agents (of which there were few anyway) are gone, so only a trade could provide them with the possibility to land an effective long-ball threat.
There is also the issue of the health of some of the team’s biggest stars, namely Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. Doc seems to be the most worrisome injury of all three, because he is the key ingredient to a dominant pitching rotation that can mask some of the inferiority of the team’s offense. His 11-8 season in 2012 with an ERA over 2.00 for the first time in 5 years (4.49) and the fact that he is turning 36 in May, should be enough to concern any Phillies fan. More worrisome to me is that we haven’t heard a peep from either the organization or Halladay himself regarding exactly how he feels or is progressing from his injury. Rather than worrying about where Andy Reid will be setting up camp next season, maybe local sports outlets may want to look into the former Cy Young winner with under 2 months until training camp remaining? Just a thought.
The conditions of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are equally unclear. The prospects for Howard seem to be more definitive, his return to the lineup last season showed that, while he can still hit the long ball, his already limited mobility obviously took a hit from the Achilles tear at the end of the 2011 Phillies post-season. His 14 homers and 56 RBI in 71 games was less of a concern than his .219 batting average, which I believe can be partially attributed to the fact that he usually has slow starts to his season offensively, and last year his season happened to start around the All-Star break.
Chase Utley’s condition seems far more complicated. Despite the lack of confirmation from the organization, it is obvious that Utley’s physical problems are chronic at this point. At 34 years old, his playing time, power numbers and batting average have all declined significantly since 2009, when he blossomed as a superstar in the World Series loss to the Yankees. Again, this offseason has been devoid of any clear indications that he will start the season on time, and there has been a lack of any stories indicating how he is progressing in the local media as well.
Add to the mix of problems the fact that Carlos Ruiz will be missing the first 25 games of the season due to a positive test for amphetamines, and there are really no signs pointing to this team charging out of the gate come Opening Day. The teams in the National League East, save for the Marlins and the Mets, have all improved their rosters, most notable the already formidable Washington Nationals. If Ruben Amaro is simply banking on a healthy Howard, Utley, and Halladay, and an outfield tandem that will suddenly live up to all their lofty expectations, than that would seem highly irrational given the advancing ages of these key players and the relative youth of the Nats and the Braves. I believe he still needs to make a significant move not just to grab headlines, but to infuse this lineup with some kick offensively, and hopefully get younger in the process.
Given all of these worrisome issues surrounding the only local team that has won a championship in the past 3 decades (yes, it’s been 30 years now since the Sixers beat the Lakers), the local media seem determined to follow the future career of a former Eagles coach, who never won a championship and lost more games than Rich Kotite since 2008. With Spring Training right around the corner and the current condition of the Phillies sputtering toward oblivion, let’s hope that focus shifts to baseball both in the press rooms and the general manager’s office as well.Tags: Ben Revere, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Ruben Amaro Jr., Ryan Howard