When the month of June began, most Phillies fans had visions of a positive turn to this mediocre season. The team had series against Milwaukee, Minnesota and Colorado, hardly MLB powerhouses to say the least. Common sense would have dictated that the team would this week find itself above .500, and be returning home to pad that run with a successful series against a Nationals team that has been brutal on the road. Instead, thanks to a disastrous road trip, the Phillies find themselves 4 games under .500, 8.5 games out of the wildcard AND the division lead in the NL East.
In an interview this past week in the midst of this road trip, General Manager Ruben Amaro insisted that the Phillies would “never be in a position to sell” or “blow the team up” as many have suggested, either at or before the trade deadline. In my opinion, however, Amaro is sticking to a company line that will not fly with a very knowledgable and sophisticated fan base. The fact is, if Amaro did start selling or “blowing up” this team, would it necessarily be a bad thing? Phillies fans realize that the winning, playoff run for this team is not only over, but it probably ended in 2011. Consider: Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, considered the “core” of the lineup, have both been injured, with Utley again missing significant time. Howard has been hobbling around the field most of this season as well, and is in a power funk that is actually difficult to watch. He appears as if he has aged 15 years before our eyes. Cole Hamels, the key offseason re-signing by Amaro, is now 2-10 and suffering through the worst season of his career by far. Off-season acquisitions Ben Revere, John Lannan, Delmon Young, Chad Durbin and Mike Adams have all been both injured and disappointing, adding to the misfortunes of the team. Michael Young, despite a stellar career in the AL, is obviously well past his prime. And of course there is Roy Halladay, the Cy Young staff ace who came into this season attempting to play through injury, and consequently landed himself on the DL for most of the entire season.
These injuries and performances are not the entire story, however. This team’s offensive performance this season has been as bad as any I have ever witnessed in this city, and that includes the brutal late 80s and 90s seasons of 90-100 losses and perennial last place finishes. The entire team has no plate discipline, refuses to work counts, and when they do hit do so with little or no power to speak of. Consider the team’s ironic win during this road trip where they pounded out 16 singles, while leaving 16 men on base. The result was a one-run win that they almost blew anyway. The putrid offense is obviously taking a toll on the starting pitchers as well, with Cole Hamels becoming more belligerent with umpires and reporters, and Cliff Lee hinting that he simply wants to play for a winner (and who can blame him)?
The fact is, when Amaro makes such sweeping statements denying that this team needs to be broken up, does he really think the fans overwhelmingly embrace that? Do we really believe that this team has that “one last run” left in them at this point? It is increasingly obvious that this team is a far cry from anything resembling the teams that stormed into the post-season from 2007-2011, and captured a World Series ring along the way. Those teams, besides the fact that they were younger and healthier, also played with heart and determination. They relied on excellent starting pitching as well as offensive power, neither of which this current team possesses. They also had terrific role players like Matt Stairs, a young Greg Dobbs, as well as effective fill-ins when Chase Utley was sidelined for stretches at a time. The players on those teams had terrific plate discipline, and played smart baseball both at the plate and in the field. Their gloves saved as many games as their bats did, which provided them with a winning balance.
In many ways, this team as it’s assembled actually deserves to be “blown up”. Other than Domonic Brown and despite his struggles this season Cole Hamels, what players would the average Phillies fan actually hate to part with? Obviously Cliff Lee comes to mind, but I actually believe that Phillies fans are sophisticated enough to realize that Lee is not getting any younger and actually deserves a shot to win, which is clearly not going to happen anytime soon in Philadelphia.
If Ruben’s comments had been made after the 2011 season, or the injury-riddled 2012 campaign, then they would make more sense in the grand scheme of things. The fact is that this is not the team that took this city on the most successful ride in Phillies history, it’s instead a collection of older, injured and over-the-hill players combined with younger players filling roles that they were not meant to have. I believe the fans would actually appreciate an honest GM who admits that the run is over, and it’s time to move forward. Rebuilding a winning team does not take as long as it used to, especially for a team with the fan support and resources that this Phillies team enjoys. Ruben needs to give the fans the truth. They’re smarter and more patient than he gives them credit for, and the sooner he realizes that the better off the future prospects of this team will be.Tags: Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, fire sale, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Ruben Amaro, Ryan Howard