Since the middle of last season, it is no secret that I have supported some changes in the Phillies coaching hierarchy. Obviously the 2012 season was riddled with injuries to key players, and a poor performance by Roy Halladay. However, as with Andy Reid and his regime which has finally been terminated, I believe that there are coaching mentalities which become embedded after a period of time, and in my opinion no one on the current Phillies staff embodies this phenomenon more than pitching coach Rich Dubee.
Dubee has been with the Phillies organization for well over a decade now, but more amazingly has been in his current position for nine years now. There is no debating the fact that his performance 5 years ago when the Phillies captured their second World Series title was impressive, considering the fact that that particular squad had one legitimate ace in Cole Hamels. Thanks to key performances by hurlers such as Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer, and some home run power and key hitting with men on base, that team was able to overcome the fact that it did not possess a world-beating pitching rotation. 2009 was nearly as successful, with the acquisition of Cliff Lee propelling the team to the World Series yet again, where they fell to the New York Yankees. After a second round exit in the 2010 playoffs, the team re-acquired Cliff Lee for the 2011 campaign as well as veteran Roy Oswalt, and the result was a 102-60 record that season, the winningest record in baseball. Yet, once again, the post-season result was a quick exit against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In my opinion there were several coaching moves since the 2008 season which have added to the fact that this team has not won an additional championship. The loss of Jimmy Williams and Davey Lopes were key subtractions from this particular offensive group that I do not believe they ever replaced, but are rarely discussed. But even LESS discussed is the one coach that has survived every season since 2008 with little or no criticism, pitching coach Rich Dubee. The Phillies have always been quick to pull the trigger on batting coaches such as Milt Thompson or Greg Gross when the offense is having issues. However, in the past few years when pitching has become just a big an issue, no critics seem to be heard when it comes to Rich Dubee, and when there is, it is quickly noted that Dubee is “Charlie’s Boy” and his position is secure.
Consider the past couple of seasons, when Dubee has actually had to concern himself with the performance of the pitchers on the team due to injuries and personnel changes. Coming off the 100-win season in 2011, when the club had a 3.02 team ERA and surrendered 120 home runs, last season those numbers dipped to 3.83 and 178 home runs surrendered. Injuries were obviously a major factor, but Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels were healthy, and Halladay, despite his poor performance, also pitched the majority of the games. With regard to Halladay, however, no coach on the team mishandled his physical condition with more carelessness than Dubee. To begin with, Dubee was defensive during the second half of the season that there was anything seriously wrong with Doc, despite his numerous poor starts, and even his physical appearance during some of the mid-summer scorchers that the team played through. More infuriating, however, was the fact that Dubee refused to put his foot down and shut Halladay down for the final month of the season. Granted, Charlie Manuel is the manager and should have final say, and the Phillies were playing for a long shot at the post-season, but if the coaches were concerned about the long-term performance of their ace, they should have acted with decisiveness and sat him down.
Thus far in 2013, the Phillies pitching performance is among the worst in all of baseball, with a 7.08 team ERA and 9 homers allowed already, including Cole Hamels’ first career grand-slam surrendered. Ruben Amaro must take some of the blame for this, as this patchwork bullpen seemed less than stellar from the start. But again, if the offense was sputtering for at least 2 seasons the way the pitching has, is there any doubt that the batting coach carousel would be in full swing? Yet again, no criticism of Dubee, who in my opinion is still not being assertive enough handling Halladay’s condition, and in fact seems more stand-offish about that whole situation.
Rich Dubee is the prime example of what I like to call a baseball “institutional man”, to steal a phrase from The Shawshank Redemption. He has been at that position for nearly a decade, and despite his early success, has never adjusted his tactics to handle a pitching staff that isn’t composed of “Four Aces” anymore. He’s being protected by the head coach, which is only enabling the situation as well. I have always thought that this club should reach out to Jamie Moyer to replace Dubee as pitching coach, given his ability to work with fellow pitchers during his tenure with the team. He seemed to love the area, and the fans would welcome that move with open arms. But to be honest, at this point I would accept any replacement as a breath of fresh air. The definition of insanity is the tendency to repeat the same techniques while hoping for a different result. This aging Phillies team doesn’t have the luxury to keep that pattern going, and it’s the FANS that are the ones going insane…Tags: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Rich Dubee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt