The question has been asked, “What makes the 2012 Phillies so much different than Phils teams of the previous five seasons?
You know, when the Phillies were actually good.
Injuries have played a major role, as has age. The bullpen is much worse than it ever used to be as well.
But if you ask Charlie Manuel, there is something else, something far worse, that has made the Phillies the worst team in the NL East this year, and one of the worst teams in all of Major League Baseball.
“One time, we had the greatest attitude and best hustle of any team I ever had,” Manuel said on Saturday. “Teams used to tell me. General managers used to tell me they had just as much talent but we had more heart. I always thought we had the talent and the heart. Seriously. We kind of slipped a little bit. I think our play shows that.”
Read those comments by Manuel again.
That is a Major League manager, a highly successful manager, leveling a devastating criticism against his ball club.
Charlie Manuel is saying that his team has no heart. Manuel is saying that his team is slipping, that they don’t try as hard. He is saying that these same players who, at one time were revered for their hustle and heart, are longer thought of in the same way.
Charlie Manuel is saying that his once highly successful baseball team has gotten fat, rich and happy.
And he is absolutely right.
“One time, we had the greatest attitude and best hustle of any team I ever had. Teams used to tell me. General managers used to tell me they had just as much talent but we had more heart. I always thought we had the talent and the heart. Seriously. We kind of slipped a little bit. I think our play shows that.”
Does this alone account for the Phils’ 45-56 record after Saturday night’s crucial 2-1 loss to Atlanta? Does this account for DL stints for Utley, Howard, Halladay, Lee, Stutes, Galvis, Contreras and others?
Of course not.
But what Manuel’s comments show is that these players, whom Phillies fans have come to think were warriors on the field, hustling to the last out, fighting to the last at-bat, grinding to the last strike, are no longer the same players.
And perhaps that’s what everyone needs to understand. The players who remain from the 2008 championship season are simply not the same guys.
Jimmy Rollins just received a three-year, $33 million contract with a vesting option for a fourth year. It is likely his last big multi-year contract. Shane Victorino is likely disgruntled by the front office’s lack of interest in giving him a contract extension, which is probably effecting his play on the field (just my speculation). Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have been hurt, and both are making a gazillion dollars as well.
In 2008 and 2009, the Phillies were trying to change the mentality of a franchise and win a world championship. They were trying to make the Phillies relevant again in Philadelphia. They wanted to cement a legacy for themselves.
And because they won a World Series in ’08, went to back-to-back World Series in ’08 and ’09, and have made the Phillies one of the marquee teams in all of baseball, they have accomplished every objective a baseball player could want to achieve.
For many of these guys, there just may not be much left to play for.
Charlie Manuel spends more time in the clubhouse with these guys than anyone. He sees them in the dugout during games. He has been with this team for a long time and knows these players better than anyone.
So for Manuel to say what he said is particularly damning.
The Phillies are not going to the playoffs this year. Losing the first two games of this three-game weekend series against Atlanta, a series they had to sweep, scoring just one run in each of the first two games, proves this is just a bad baseball team.
The only thing left to do is objectively look at the roster, decide where the problems are, and sell off every player that will allow you to improve the team. Ruben Amaro shouldn’t give these guys away, but he also shouldn’t be caught up in the memories of 2008 and 2009.
These are different players now. What the Phillies need are younger, hungrier, talented players to help this team transition into the future, and take the place of those players who Manuel believes have no more fight left in them.
Kudos to Charlie for speaking the truth. And shame on those players who have lost their heart.