As the Phillies lost two out of three to the Mets in New York this weekend, the calls for selling grew ever louder.
They came from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal…
“…Even in the Phillies’ own clubhouse, players are full of conflicting opinions. But at some point, whether it’s before the July 31 non-waiver deadline or not, the Phillies will face a reckoning. At some point, they will need to stop using their fan support as an excuse for keeping their older, fading club intact.”
from ESPN’s Eric Karabell…
— Eric Karabell (@karabellespn) July 21, 2013
…and from another ESPN Sports Center Anchor, Kevin Neghandi…
It’s time to sell, RAJ. #Phillies
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) July 21, 2013
Not that the Phillies should listen to everything national writers have to say. In fact, most of the time, national writers are too removed to have a real sense of how a particular team is actually doing. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. No national writer can follow every single team’s day-to-day ebbs and flows.
That’s our job.
(OK, it’s mainly the job of the beat writers and we just kinda vomit our thoughts in one thousand word blog posts, but still.)
After being shut out by perhaps the best pitcher in the game, Matt Harvey, on Sunday, the Phillies fell back to one game under .500. That they lost to Harvey is not surprising or especially incriminating. Everyone is losing to Matt Harvey right now.
Saturday’s loss was the killer, with Cole Hamels once again pitching ineffectively and the offense failing to take advantage of a vulnerable Zack Wheeler. It was the game the Phils had to have if they wanted to win the series, and they didn’t get it.
Now, the Phillies face a huge hurdle. This week, they play perhaps the two best teams in baseball, on the road.
On Tuesday, they start a three-game series in St. Louis against the best team in the National League. The Cardinals enter Monday with a 59-37 record, good enough for a .615 winnning percentage and an NL-best +126 run differential.
Following that, the Phils travel to Detroit to take on the Tigers, who lead the AL Central with a 53-44 record and possess probably more talent than any other team in the American League.
Oh good. Miguel Cabrera. This will be fun.
It would shock absolutely no one if the Cardinals and Tigers matched up in the World Series against each other this year, and those are the next two opponents on the Phils’ schedule.
Time is running out. While the Phillies probably have until August 31 to trade big money contracts like Cliff Lee‘s and Jonathan Papelbon‘s, there is less time to make a decision on players like Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young and Delmon Young. None of those players would likely clear waivers, meaning if the Phils were going to deal them, they’d have to do it by the end of this month.
It seems silly to make grandiose decisions like this based on six games. But that is the math that Amaro and his team are using, so that is the premise under which we must go forward.
What’s not helping the decision making process is how poorly the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals have played. Since May 1, the Braves are 38-34, while the Nationals are 35-36 and the Phils are 37-35.
Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to see why some people still have hope the Phillies can take this division. Even after losing two games to the Mets this weekend, the Phils remain 6 1/2 games behind Atlanta and half a game ahead of Washington in the NL East. They lost no ground.
This division of mediocrity is giving the Phils false hope.
Perhaps Ruben Amaro knows this. If the Phillies really feel as though they are contenders and that they could make a run for the division title, why wouldn’t Amaro start adding pieces right now? Today? Because every game they lose now with an incomplete bullpen or because they’re an outfielder short is one they cannot make up later.
These losses count just as much as losses next week and next month.
If the Phils are going to add, they should do so NOW.
Of course, they should not be buying. This is not a playoff team. Even if they add another bullpen piece or two and an additional part-time outfielder, there are no difference makers out there that could elevate the Phils to another level. Even though the Braves and Nationals are flailing, this really isn’t a playoff team.
This is a seller’s market if ever there was one. That’s why it would be a huge missed opportunity if Amaro and the Phils didn’t take advantage of the trade chips they have at their disposal.
The only player I wouldn’t mind seeing them re-sign is Utley, and even that probably wouldn’t be the smart baseball move. Everyone else should be available for the right price.
Of course, this team is never going to go into a full rebuild mode. It’s not the way Amaro thinks. Amaro doesn’t do any “five year plans.” He uses a year-by-year approach to try and patch together a roster that can compete. So, wishing for a full tear down of this team is wishing for the impossible.
There will be no clearing of the decks.
Still, Amaro hasn’t added anyone. And he hasn’t traded anyone away either. He’s as confused as you are about what this team is.
This week, these next six games against two of baseball’s very best teams, will probably determine the fate of the Phillies.