Commentary

I’m already tired of the 2017 Phillies

Thursday is when I watch my daughter alone, no day care, no babysitters, no family for hundreds of miles. It’s just me and her every Thursday.

Yesterday the Phillies met the Rangers for a day game at Rangers Ballpark. Great, right? Since it’s sweltering hot outside, she and I can play while the Phillies game entertains us in the background.

But as 2 p.m. approached yesterday, and I switched on the television, I groaned. “I kinda don’t want to watch,” I said. Which, from a distance, might sound ridiculous. I mean, prospect Nick Pivetta is on the mound. Aaron Altherr has been hitting well. Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp have had good months of May. There are tons of great reasons to watch the Phillies, from Odubel Herrera to Maikel Franco, from Cesar Hernandez to Freddy Galvis …

No. Actually there aren’t. Not right now. And maybe not for a while.

This isn’t good. It’s not good when a lifetime rabid Phillies fan is already groaning about *having* to watch the team in mid-May. The Phillies are 14-24, third worst record in baseball, and while some of that is luck, and a lot of that is late-game implosions, it’s really, really hard to keep telling yourself that while the team loses another, and another, and another.

It’s easy to point to Pete Mackanin’s bad bullpen usage, like staying with Joely Rodriguez (ERA 6.97 now) when he’s throwing deep counts and fooling nobody, or not putting his top two relievers (Hector Neris, Pat Neshek) to work in higher leverage spots.

But what about making some real changes when things aren’t working? But that’s difficult, because the Phils’ 40-man roster is full, keeping high-performance triple-A relievers like Pat Venditte and Hoby Milner (both pitch lefty, by the way) out of an opportunity to save this sinking ship.

We’re waiting for a starter to emerge. Maybe it’s Zach Eflin, until the Rangers light him up for seven runs. Maybe it’s Nick Pivetta, but every team seems to figure him out too quickly. Vince Velasquez can’t get through six. Jerad Eickhoff suddenly can’t go very deep into games, either. Jake Thompson? In the bullpen? Hey, maybe Aaron Nola can help us. Maybe.

But when your pitching coach is saying these things (via Meghan Montemurro of the News Journal), maybe there’s a bigger problem:

“Cameron and I have talked about this: You’re calling a pitch you think he can throw over the plate in a 2-2, 3-2 count instead of the right pitch,” McClure said. “If the guy can’t execute the right pitch you think is needed, say a 3-2 slider or a 3-2 changeup with the bases loaded and he walks the guy, that’s not on you. Because you’ve got to call what you think is the right pitch.”

Yeah. Time is about to run out on Cameron Rupp’s existence as an everyday major league catcher. Sorry. Maybe he can hit a bit, and that’s nice, but if his pitch calling routinely results in negative outcomes, he shouldn’t be catching everyday starting pitching. And he especially shouldn’t be catching young pitchers like Eflin, Pivetta, Velasquez, Eickhoff, Thompson and Nola.

And that same clock is ticking on a lot of these Phillies, who are doing the same old Phillies thing, rebuilding or not. A nice Franco game is fine once in a while, but I’m a little tired of the weak grounders and early-count swings. A .216 average with a .282 on-base percentage? Work a count and stop worrying about being a star.

Galvis may be a great defender, but boy am I sick of the Barry Bonds impersonation at the plate. His hollow numbers have to improve a little, or else …

Well, forget or else. J.P. Crawford probably won’t be here until 2021. Move along.

Michael Saunders? I advocated for him, but another OBP under .300? I thought these were patient Phillies. I thought this was a new day.

Herrera? What the heck is going on here? Forty-one strikeouts in 161 plate appearances. A .298 OBP. He looks utterly lost out there. What the heck is going on here?

I’m tired of playing the “hopefully we can get to the hot Phillie in the lineup” game. Because that’s basically what we’re doing right now. Typically one Phillie hitter is hot, maybe two if we’re lucky, and we have to wait every three innings for that hitter or hitters to come along.

And I’m tired of knowing that if this team hasn’t blown a team out of the water by the sixth inning, we’re screwed. Because here comes Rodriguez to give up a hit, a walk and a homer. Here comes Edubray Ramos to surrender a hit and throw a lot of pitches, leading Mackanin to bring in Joaquin Benoit, who gives up a bunch of hits and wonders why he’s in the game in the seventh.

I’m tired of knowing that if it’s a tie game in the seventh, sorry, but I should turn off the game right now.

I’m just tired. And it’s mid-May.

This isn’t good.

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