“…I the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”
Yes, Nation, this protracted offensive shortfall has reached biblical proportions. Right now, the team is paying for the sins of its father, namely, Ruben Amaro. We all remember Eric Bruntlett, right? He was about as bad an offensive player as has ever put on a Phillies uniform, and when his contract ran out, there was great rejoicing. Well, when we were finally rid of The Beard, Ruben went out and signed another player with mediocre speed, slightly above-average glove skill, and a .270 career OBP.
Credit where credit’s due: RAJ has, along with his predecessors, assembled one of the top lineups in recent baseball history, plus a solid starting rotation and a bullpen that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself.
But this bench, while never really a strength of this team, has finally reached unacceptable levels. Out of the eight opening day starters, none has a league-adjusted on-base-plus-slugging (OPS+) below 94, or just about average. Not one of the team’s bench players is slugging higher than .370, with the highest OPS+ belonging to Exxon Wilson Valdez. That OPS+? 68. SIXTY-EIGHT! There are 29 major league teams, apart from the Phillies, and 28 of them have at least one bench player with an OPS+ better than 68.
The problems with this are obvious and serious, particularly for a National League team. When your starters are worn out or mired in a slump, or when your entire left side of the infield is hurt, the idea is to have some decent hitters to bring off the bench so you’re not replacing a former NL MVP with a guy who has played sixteen years in the big leagues without even once performing at replacement level for a full season.
The worst part is that RAJ knew the dangers of the dead bench, had a whole offseason to fix it, and signed two over-the-hill veterans for far more than they were worth. Ross Gload doesn’t have any offensive skill Greg Dobbs doesn’t have, and, as a 1B/OF guy, hasn’t hit for even league-average power since 2006. Castro and Valdez we’ve been over. Yet Gload and Castro are both signed to major-league contracts (Gload, inexplicably, for two years), when their production and more can be had for less money.
The smartest money RAJ can spend right now is not for Roy Oswalt or Jayson Werth or even Cliff Lee. It would be to somehow make the numbers work on a deal that would jettison Gload, Castro, and/or Valdez. Take the payroll hit—right now, the Phillies are throwing good money after bad by continuing to play their bench players—and find someone (anyone) to fill in.
I don’t know where this production is going to come from (a minor-leaguer like John Mayberry? A free agent like Elijah Dukes?), but it’s out there, and with every at-bat the likes of Valdez and Castro get, the more serious the punishment the team and the fans suffer for the sins of their general manager.