Blame Cole Hamels. Blame Jimmy Rollins. Blame Brad Lidge. Blame Charlie Manuel.
Whoever you blame for the Phillies early troubles, keep in mind what this team has gone through. No team in recent memory has had to work with these things …
- Offseason distractions – however good – such as television, commercials, documentaries, charity work and publicity.
- A reality television show featuring the team’s bullpen.
- Dozens upon dozens of feature stories, sitdowns with reporters, revealing life stories.
- A plethora of important financial decisions, including a dozen arbitration cases.
- The World Baseball Classic, taking a few everyday players away from spring training and straight into competitive play.
- First-week celebrations that focused on the previous year, not the one at hand.
- The largest target in baseball on their backs.
- Huge media attention upon starting play, including the opening night spotlight and regular face time on highlight shows.
- Finally, once all of that passed, the sudden death of the franchise’s most important and popular personality.
Factor in your usual Phillie malaise at the plate and mound and you have a diabolical concoction of poor baseball. We know that Hamels has to shape up, and we know that Rollins has to shape up. We know that Lidge must rebound, and we know that Manuel must get his team in order. It’s very likely that all four of these things will occur. But we also must remember that the Phillies have suffered through some unbelievable setbacks and obstacles in a very short span.
If things are this poor in two weeks, there is surely cause for great concern. But we have to trust our title here – we have to understand that this team is still trying to kick-start its season. While the Marlins and Blue Jays have had little to no obstacles because of their shrunken fanbases and small goals, they’ve powered out to quick leads in their leagues. The Phils, we can say, haven’t even opened the season.
These next three games against Milwaukee will give the Phillies the opportunity to start moving on from the rough breaks that filled the last few months. Then they go on the road, starting out in the wasteland known as Dolphin Stadium, hopefully with all the weight off their shoulders for a showdown with the division-leading Fish. Then, some real assessments can made.
Until then, let’s just get the motor started.