After watching the Phillies 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, their eighth loss in the last nine games, I was struck by the sudden desire to fire everyone associated with this franchise.
Fire the general manager. Fire the manager. Fire the coaches. Fire the players. Fire the bat boys. Fire the clubhouse attendants. Fire the peanut vendors. Fire the pilots who fly the team charter from city to city.
This is, of course, why I’ve never been put in charge of a major sports franchise.
Still, that feeling remains, primarily because the Phillies’ defeat on Sunday was just more of the same.
Once again, one of the Phillies “aces,” this time Cliff Lee, couldn’t hold an easy three-run lead.
Once again, the Phillies offense left a small island nation on the base paths, squandering a chance to bury Baltimore in an early avalanche of runs.
Once again, the Phils’ offense disappeared entirely once Lee allowed the game-tying home run to some person named Steve Tolleson. They gave up, plain and simple.
Once again, the Phillies lost on a walk-off game winning hit by the opposition, the ninth time that’s happened this year, and once again, the winning hit was given up without Jonathan Papelbon ever throwing a single pitch.
And once again, terrible defense by 3B Ty Wigginton, who made his fourth error in as many games Sunday, led to the game-winning hit in the 10th by Orioles catcher Matt Weiters.
It’s good to see that Charlie Manuel’s mea culpa to his ball club on Thursday, that the team had no swagger and that no one feared them, affected the Phils players for exactly one ballgame.
Clearly, the message hit home.
Look, it’s really not that complicated. The Phillies, as currently constituted, are not a playoff team. They’re just not. We have to stop thinking of them that way.
This is not a case of high-priced players underachieving. This is not a case of selfish prima donnas who think their stink doesn’t smell. The Phillies are a collection of injured high-priced stars, slow, mediocre replacement players, bullpen arms who are either not ready for the big leagues or veterans who can’t get the job done, and true ace starters who are either falling on hard luck or slumping badly.
Oh, and Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton are still on the team as well.
With a lack of talent comes a lack of direction. And Charlie Manuel knows it.
Asked about his bumbling third baseman Wigginton, playing only because another high-priced veteran, Placido Polanco, has yet another injury that will likely keep him for another 4-5 days at the minimum, Manuel said, “He’s been making some mistakes, but for right now he’s the guy we have to play over there.”
He’s the guy we have to play over there. In other words, “Listen, I know he sucks, but he’s all I’ve got. So go pound sand.”
So, are there changes that can be made to the roster? It’s doubtful. Too much of this teams payroll is sitting on the disabled list, and the money just isn’t out there to go buy all new expensive players.
OK, what then? Sometimes, an organization decides it’s time to shake things up in the clubhouse by replacing a member of the coaching staff, or releasing a prominent player who is underperforming.
Is now that time?
Frankly, I doubt firing anyone is going to be the answer. Although it might feel good to see Greg Gross or Rich Dubee get fired, only because it would show that the front office is as frustrated by the Phillies’ zombie-like approach to the game at the moment, it probably isn’t the answer. The Phillies already replaced Milt Thompson with Greg Gross, and that had virtually no effect on the team’s hitting ability. And Rich Dubee isn’t the one giving up three-run home runs to ham-and-eggers.
If a firing is going to have any effect throughout the clubhouse, there are only two people that would move the needle.
Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel.
Amaro is the architect of this team. He’s the one who decided to re-sign Rollins, to throw $50 million at a closer that no one wants to use, and to go into the season with John Mayberry, Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix as the answers in left field. He’s the one who had no real back-up plan for Ryan Howard, other than play Mayberry and Wigginton there as well. He’s the one who decided to sign Chad Qualls to a two-year deal. And he’s the one who screwed up Domonic Brown’s development and gave out big contracts to Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton in recent off seasons.
Manuel is the manager of this team. It’s his job to make sure there are consequences when players don’t take second base on a wild pitch like Shane Victorino did in Sunday’s game. That’s a mental mistake, one of many Shane regularly makes. It’s his job to put his team in the best position to win. Stubbornly refusing to pitch his $50 million closer in a tie ballgame on the road, simply because it’s not a save situation, is inexcusable. Even more laughable is his defense of that school of managing, saying after Sunday’s game, “You just don’t do that. There’s a lot of managers that don’t do that. You just don’t do that.”
And let’s face it. When a team is not playing up to expectations, it’s always the manager/head coach that gets fired first, right?
Frankly, injuries have destroyed the 2012 Phillies. No Halladay, Utley, or Howard. Lee and Vance Worley both spent time on the DL. Justin De Fratus, Michael Stutes and Phillippe Aumont, young arms expected to contribute to the Phils bullpen this year, all have been hurt this year as well. And the players who have been healthy, Carlos Ruiz aside, have all underperformed.
Firing Amaro and/or Manuel won’t do any good. All that will happen is some other manager, probably Pete Mackanin or Ryne Sandeberg, would be forced to write Pierre, Mayberry, Luna, Fontenot and Wigginton’s names into the lineup every day.
After five straight division titles, everyone deserves one bad season, especially when it’s clear the baseball angels are giving the franchise a collective wedgie.