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.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Mike Fassano

    May 19, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I’m not sure if I want to feel sorry for you, or scold you.

    • Yeager

      May 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      I’m going with feeling sorry. I’m enjoying the team.

  2. PROFESSOR ALPHONSE DATTOLO

    May 19, 2017 at 11:51 am

    I HAVE BEEN A PHILLIES FAN FOR 57 YEARS AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY RODRÍGUEZ IS STILL ON THE TEAM! HE IS TERRIBLE! I DO NOT KNOW WHY THEY EXTENDED PETE’S CONTRACT. HE IS A TERRIBLE MANAGER!

    • Justin McElroy

      May 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      This isn’t the manager’s fault. He’s been given very little talent to work with. Do you really think this team is on the level of the Nats or Cubs, or even the Rangers?

  3. Dottie Bostick

    May 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I won’t admit how long I’ve watched and rooted for my Phillies. “I had really high, very excited hopes in April. Shot down in May.” It’ll be a
    l-o-n-g long sad season!!!

  4. denzen

    May 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Seems strange to me that anyone would be concerned about losing players like Edubray Ramos or Joely Rodriguez from the 40 man roster.

  5. SIPP

    May 19, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Interesting article… Too bad you weren’t around in the 50s and 60s. I’m 70 and went to games in Connie mack Stadium. Yeah, I even remember the A’s. So shut up, you fair weather whiner. Suck it up. It will get better. If you had been paying attention, you would know that everybody has said this years is a learning and planning season. So, they’re learning. One game at a time.

  6. Will Schweitzer

    May 20, 2017 at 1:06 am

    I completely agree with your statement on Rupp. If anyone is interested in a backup catcher with some pop in his bat, the time is now to trade him and free up a roster spot that we will need before next season.

    Ramos needs to go, both for his inability to pitch at the major league level, and his unprofessionalism in throwing at a man’s head for having the audacity to be happy at hitting a home run off of him last year. Take that macho clown act someplace else, son. Still, no sense starting the service clock of young pitchers just to have them pitch to Rupp in a losing season. Venditte should be up, but that’s about it. Let Velasquez start so that he gets in some innings before he is bumped to the bullpen in a couple of years. He’s the next Ryan Madson.

    Not worried about Franco, Herrera or Galvis. All three play hard and are pieces of the future. Slumps are contagious. The only thing that truly concerns me on the field is Rupp’s ability behind the plate, and Tommy Joseph fielding like a drunken baby giraffe on roller skates. Saunders is a placeholder – no harm done.

    Remember – this season is just an audition for 2019. Who stays, who loses their role to a hot prospect, and who gets replaced by a free agent. This was never going to be our year, but this team as it is today isn’t as bad as it has looked this past month.

  7. Lefty

    May 20, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Tim,
    I have felt this way many times, it can be very hard to watch. But then I think of mid-winter, and how horrible it is not to be able to sit and turn a ballgame on. That usually snaps me out of it.

    We enjoyed such a wonderful stretch back in 06-11, making the latest editions very difficult to stomach. But, just like this year’s Rockies and Brewers, our Fightins will be back one day too!
    Go Phils!

  8. bruce

    May 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    These are difficult times for both the team and devoted fans. Personally, my patience wears thin when I see the team becoming non-competitive as if they were in the dog days of August. I understand the rebuilding process that we as fans have to see through and exercise patience. However, I don’t think it’s asking too much to see some life in the team and make for interesting games of competitiveness. It’s the manager’s responsibility to remind players of who they are and what they owe to their fans. Regardless of the team’s current problems such as the bullpen and slumps of individual players, I want to see the team live up to their time-honored nickname of the “FIGHTINS” Phillies.

  9. joseph goldberg

    May 20, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    The 2008 team went 5-13 from June 10-29 and had other stretches of bad baseball. The 1980 team had a 4-9 stretch in April, a 2-6 stretch late May into early June, 2-8 stretch later in June, a 3-9 stretch in July, 2-6 in early August, and finished with 87 wins. Those were great teams.

    This year’s team is young and one in transition. They just went through the most difficult opening six or seven weeks of a season I can ever remember, with 12 games vs Washington, 6 with the Mets (when they were healthy and playing well), 3 in LA, 4 in Chicago, 2 with Seattle when they were red hot, and 3 vs Texas when they also were red hot. That’s 30 of their 39 games against playoff teams, and most at their best. Relax….

    • Jaron B

      May 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      And the 2011 team ended the year on an 8-game loosing streak followed by a 4-game winning streak to close a superb season (102-60).

      I thought that this team could win more based on the first 6 weeks of last season. I ddn’t realize their tough schedule, so it might be a stretch of 6-8 weeks beginning soon.

      So, let’s give them til the pre trade deadline to see what happens, but Tim is right: they are tough to watch simple because there’s stuff they can do to quiet the calls for guys from Allentown (top-3 record in minor league baseball but some of our AAA prospects have plate discipline issues). Pete doesn’t use the bullpen effectively DESPITE the fact starters don’t pitch deep into games – he’s using that as an excuse for not using his best relievers often enough. Our team blows late leads but that’s because the starters do need to get us to the 6th inning more often. The offense could use some plate discipline, too, but they’re also developing themselves. I know this: we have no one who deserves that all-star nod either because they have flaws mentally, perform very far below expectations, or aren’t used often enough to justify sending them to the Classic. Time for someone to step up.

  10. George Feaver

    May 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

    I am a Phils fan for forty years and I too cannot get too excited about what’s at the major league level right now.
    It is encouraging to see some interesting “low floor-high ceiling” prospects on the cusp but I would be so much more interested if the players ahead of them could be flipped…

    Get something for Rupp and bring up Alfaro…
    Get something for ToJo and ride with Hoskins…
    Maybe get something decent for CeHe while his value is high? Move Galvis over or dabble with Valentin while waiting for Kingery.
    Crawford is going to get his shot – it’s inevitable and he’s warming up in LV…
    Do something with Saunders and let’s play Quinn and later Cozens. Keep Howie K though
    Nick Williams could also get in the mix…

    How about this lineup for 2018?
    LF Quinn
    CF Herrera
    RF Altherr
    3b Franco
    1b Hoskins
    C Alfaro
    SS Crawford
    2b Kingery
    Bench
    Knapp
    Stassi
    Galvis
    Kendrick

    Cozens, Williams lurking

    Oh… Pitching?

    Just have to spend money and get what you can…

    The Phils can SPEND

  11. Salazar1985

    May 21, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Can someone tell when Herrera & Franco will come up from their extended Spring Training stint? They shown “some” flashes (not many), but am wondering when Pete sits one or both for an extended period of time.

  12. Unser4ever

    May 22, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    In addition to the subpar play of the big league team there is still no elite prospect in this system. The pieces acquired in all of those trades made in the last days of Amaro’s tenure brought back little value…better than what was there before but not real difference makers with the exception of maybe Alfaro. This team is two or three drafts away from really improving their farm and providing some relief for the big club. Til then I’ll take the losses and hope for a better draft position.

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