When the Phillies called up Domonic Brown in 2010, you may recall that the capacity crowd at Citizens Bank Park gave him a standing ovation as he prepared for his first major league at-bat. In a way it was understandable; Brown was considered one of the very best prospects in the game, if not the best. Now even though he did not immediately take the baseball world by storm like a certain young man who plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (some guy named Mike Trout, you may have heard of him), his potential was still there, and Phillies fans and the Phillies organization itself were hopeful that he would reach it.
From 2010 to 2012, Brown played in 147 games, and he did not hit particularly well, nor did he field particularly well. His play may have raised a concerned eyebrow or two, but it also could simply be chalked up as a young player struggling to adjust to the major league level. Surely there were going to be some growing pains. He dealt with injuries and inconsistent playing time in 2012 in particular, so really, the 2013 season was his first legitimate shot as an everyday major league outfielder.
Looking at his numbers on paper, one might say that he ‘arrived’ in 2013, as he finished with a slash line of .272/.324/.494 and 27 home runs. He even made the All-Star team. Looking more closely at his year, one would discover that nearly half of his 27 home runs came during a hot streak in the month of May. But all things considered, it was a pretty good year. Certainly not phenomenal, but still pretty good.
At the start of this season, Brown taking the next step was one of the few things to look forward to for this Phillies squad. As we approach the final month of the season, the only step Brown has taken is a step backward. He has virtually no chance of coming close to the numbers he put up last year (although he could reach 21 doubles for the second straight year, if that counts for something), and his fielding seems to be as poor as it was when he was a rookie. That might be excusable when you’re a 22 year old going through some growing pains, but when you’re 26, it starts becoming a liability.
Brown’s play has certainly been a liability, despite the fact that he has been healthy, and he had consistent playing time (before Grady Sizemore entered the picture). He has not emerged as the young phenom like the Phillies hoped he would, but at this point, I would not be surprised if they were just hoping he could be a serviceable player. Even that is looking more and more like a pipe dream.
General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has stressed that there must be patience for Brown, and yet he has also admitted that the Phillies will have to look for outfield help if Brown is not the answer. So, is Brown the answer? Fans, pundits, and everyone in between can provide their own answer to that question, but it is Brown who needs to be the one to respond. He just has to do it soon, because his time as an outfielder for the Phillies may be running out.