Everyone knew the Phillies were going to struggle to score runs without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup every day.
Everyone knew the Phillies were going to miss Cliff Lee when he went on the DL.
And everyone knew the Phillies had issues with age and competed in a division that got a lot better during the offseason.
But what everyone didn’t know was that the Phillies were going to completely collapse in on itself, like some black hole in a galaxy far, far away.
After Wednesday night’s 10-6 loss to the Mets, completing a three-game sweep at the hands of the team most expected to bring up the rear in the NL East in 2012, the Phils have officially hit rock bottom.
At least, we HOPE this is rock bottom.
Wednesday night’s loss marks the first time since May of 2007 that the Phillies were four games under .500. Five years ago to the day.
So, forget about the rivalry with the Nats. Forget about the Braves. Forget about the Marlins and the Mets. The 2012 Phillies are embarrassing themselves. Hunter Pence has been a butcher in right field, dropping an easy fly ball in Wednesday night’s game after numerous misplays throughout the season. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .224 with an OBP of .274. Victorino is hitting .246. Mayberry is at .225 and is slugging .268. And while the rotation has been pretty good (Halladay has the highest ERA of the top five at 3.28), the bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster.
Jose Contreras’ ERA is 8.59. Kyle Kendrick’s is 7.32. Schwimer is at 8.53, Herndon’s is 4.70, Stutes’ (before he went on the DL) was 6.35, and Brian Sanches brings up the rear with an ugly 11.25 ERA. The only relievers with ERAs under four are Bastardo, Qualls and Papelbon.
This three-game series against the Mets was the worst baseball this franchise has played since the early 2000s. And the team is pinning their hopes of contention on Utley, a 33-year-old player with two bad knees, and Howard, a 32-year-old trying to come back from a torn Achilles.
Forget about the fact that no one has ANY idea when either player is coming back. It would be incredible if either player, when they do return, was able to come back and perform at 60-70% of their former levels.
Chances are, they will not be riding into Citizens Bank Park on white horses.
Granted, it’s still early. But the pages of the calendar are turning quickly. And so the question must be asked, are we witnessing the end of the golden age?
Is this it? Does the sellout streak end this year? Is the bandwagon about to get a lot roomier?
Is the five-year playoff run over?
Charlie Manuel has talked a lot about the players pressing, trying to do too much. But really, if you objectively look at the roster, you see that the team’s best hitters are Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton and Pence. Three of those four players are scrap heap/bench players.
Frankly, outside of the starting rotation, there really just isn’t that much talent on the field. Anytime Erik Kratz is getting a big at bat in the 8th inning of a game you trail by one run, you know the well has run dry.
Not only that, the play on the field has gotten sloppy. On Tuesday, the Phils forgot how to execute a rundown, which led to a Mets rally. On Wednesday, Pence’s dropped fly ball led to another Mets rally.
So now, the revolt. As the Phils choked away yet another two-run lead in the 7th inning or later this season, Twitter absolutely lost its crap. Here’s a sampling…
@DawninPhila I think summed things up quite succintly…
Its over. The Golden Age is dead.
— Dawn in Philadelphia (@DawninPhila) May 10, 2012
@23YanksgoYard added his two cents (even if he is a stinkin’ Yankee blogger)…
So…how long until all the Phillies fans jump ship and stop caring about the team? I say by the All-Star game.
— Andy C (@23yanksgoyard) May 10, 2012
There’s a real good chance it won’t take until the All-Star Game, dude.
Phils beat writer Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted the worm has officially turned at Citizens Bank Park…
Fan base meltdown in 3, 2, 1. It’s ugly, folks.
— Matt Gelb (@magelb) May 10, 2012
@JeffSkversky, Sportscaster for Channel 6 Action News, noted the horrific numbers of the Phils bullpen so far…
The Phillies bullpen is the worst in @mlb. They have a 7.92 ERA + hitters have.315 average vs. their relievers in their last 16 games
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) May 10, 2012
Hide the women and children.
@coutinho9 decided to help by putting the Phils-Mets series into language we can all understand…
This Mets/Phils series reminds of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine shouts, “Oh My God I’ve become George.”
— Rich Coutinho (@coutinho9) May 10, 2012
And finally, @petzrawr chimed in with this depressing thought…
I just heard an E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chant. Oh my god, it’s the 90s again.
— Ryan Petzar (@petzrawr) May 10, 2012
Now, I want to caution people not to overreact, because it is still just early May. The 2007 Phillies were in the same exact position, and they put a run together and won the NL East. But that was a much younger team, with stars just entering the prime of their careers. This is the opposite of that.
Panic is in the air. No one is ready for this glorious run to end.
No one is ready for the Phillies to be SELLERS at the trading deadline instead of buyers. But perhaps the organization needs to take a step back before it can take two steps forward.
Perhaps some tough decisions need to be made about the futures of Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Chase Utley and others. There’s nothing the Phillies can do about Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, who are both under contract for another three and five years, respectively.
Do the Phillies eschew Hamels and instead chase a bat like David Wright or Josh Hamilton, should either player be made available? Or should the Phils concentrate on shedding payroll as much as possible and start to rebuild? It’s hard to imagine that scenario, given the amount of money Amaro has committed to guys like Rollins, Howard, Halladay, Lee and Papelbon.
And although it’s difficult to remember right now, let’s not discount the fact that the Phils still have one of the best starting rotations in the National League. If they start playing intelligent, fundamental baseball, figure out a solution to the bullpen struggles and string together some offense, there is still time to put a winning streak together and get their mojo back.
But on May 10, 2012, things are bleak. Those tasks appear to be too big a hurdle. And now, it looks like the Golden Age could be over.
It had to happen sometime.
Perhaps that time is now.