Maybe you’re with me in that you keep telling yourself “it’s early.” Well, that’s true, but it doesn’t make this awful-tasting pill any easier to swallow.
What we’re presently seeing from the Phillies is just bad baseball – there is no way to sugarcoat that. In the final game of the Giants series, defensive blunders cost the Phillies a game that was so magnificently pitched by Cliff Lee, it deserves it’s own wing in the Phillies Hall of Fame. Perhaps I’m being too generous, but you don’t often see performances like that; and they don’t usually result in a loss.
Here are some things I’m seeing…
-Let’s travel back to Tuesday night. This situation has been giving me nightmares and sums up the Phillies inabilities in a nut-shell.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth inning, the Phillies managed one run. And that was on a lazy fly ball off the bat of Carlos Ruiz. How did the Phillies have just one guy touch home plate in that situation? Lack of patience, which is the underlying story in the results you’re seeing from the offense.
Madison Bumgarner, at that point, was on the ropes having allowed a single to Jimmy Rollins to begin the inning. Rollins then moved up on a wild pitch, Hunter Pence was hit by a pitch, and Ty Wigginton singled to load the bases. They got there with patience and slap hits. It ended with the opposite.
Over the final three at-bats, with Bumgarner feeling the heat, John Mayberry Jr., Carlos Ruiz, and Freddy Galvis saw nine pitches total. Mayberry came up hacking, fouling off the first pitch, then popping out softly to first base for the first out. Ruiz then swung at the first two pitches and got the count to 1-2 before knocking in the lone run with a sacrifice fly. Galvis then rolled over the third pitch of his at-bat to shortstop for the inning-ending fielders choice.
Ugly plate appearances lead to ugly results. Before the Mayberry at-bat, Bumgarner had thrown six balls (not including the pitch he hit Pence with) to just five strikes to Rollins, Pence, and Wigginton. He was wild, perhaps tiring at that point. Instead of being selective, the Phillies decided to go up to the plate with no plan at all and try to change the game by wildly swinging. They had an opportunity to break the game in their favor, but failed because of lousy plate discipline. That sequence still tears me up.
If the Phillies were failing, but doing it with more care at the plate, then I think people would understand. But they go up and waste at-bats trying to change the game with one swing. While writing this post, I was speaking with Phillies Nation Emeritus Tim Malcolm, and we basically had the same ideas. The Yankees and Cardinals keep at-bats alive and make it hell on opposing pitchers. Foul it off, foul it off, then strike. Make the starting pitcher fatigued. The same principles the Phillies of a few years ago used to abide by.
That focus at the plate is gone as guys like Burrell and Werth have moved on. All of that chatter during spring training about changing their overall approach has been nothing more than empty rhetoric. Charlie needs to put his foot down on these guys. Maybe he needs to have them sit down for movie night. Pop in Moneyball and see if they can change.
By the way, I watched Moneyball before Tuesday night’s game. I don’t recommend doing that before baseball games anymore.
-@NickfrDoylstown on twitter mentioned that he wanted Charlie Manuel to step down and be replaced by Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs manager Ryne Sandberg. But would making him the hitting coach be a step up from Greg Gross?
It’s clear the hitting coach has no effect on this team whatsoever. Milt Thompson couldn’t reach them when the demise began, Greg Gross is doing less. Really, they’re in a tough position. Gross doesn’t have the ability to tell players that have been doing it their way for a decade (or more) to change their approach. Would Ryne be able to get through to them and at least help stop this offense from trending downward?
I don’t believe it will help, but perhaps a move like that will show the paying customer that the team is willing to do whatever it can to win. Maybe a Hall of Famer speaking lends more credence than a guy who made his living as a reserve? Hard to say.
I’d like to see Sandberg in time, but I don’t know that the time is now. He’s doing a hell of a job teaching the youngsters and keeping the Iron Pigs as one of the better programs in triple-A. Keep an eye on this.
-I really feel for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Both men came here – leaving some money on the table, not that you care about that – believing the Phillies had the best chance at a World Series title that had eluded them. Now, we’re watching Lee throw 10 inning shutouts and finishing with a no-decision. You want to scream at the offense for them. I hope they take the pitchers out to a nice steak dinner.