Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Ruben Amaro spoke on Monday and pissed a lot of people off.
Speaking to CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Amaro said a lot of things about a lot of things. He spoke about Dom Brown (thank goodness Ruben always believed in him!), about Ben Revere (don’t give up on him too soon, you vultures), about Delmon Young (fits and starts, guys, fits and starts), about the struggles of some of the team’s veterans (specifically Ryan Howard) and about whether or not this team should have some TNT strapped to it and blown to smithereens at the trade deadline (which it should, but it won’t).
And while all of those issues have already been discussed by pretty much everyone else already, with not a whole left to say on the matter, I won’t steal someone else’s words and make them my own.
But there was one comment by Amaro that was worrisome, and it may be precisely the reason this entire project needs to be “blown up” and started anew.
"“Domonic [Brown] has allowed guys to work with him — Steve Henderson, Wally Joyner, Chase [Utley],” Amaro said. “I wish some of our veterans (*emphasis mine) would take advice like that. It doesn’t happen all the time. They get locked into their way of doing things. They know what they need to do to have success, but sometimes a new voice helps.”"
If you’re looking for a reason why some of the veteran players on this team keep doing the same things over and over again with predictably bad results, perhaps this is a clue.
Amaro is saying the veterans on the team aren’t receptive to coaching. He even calls special attention to Brown’s desire to work with the Phillies’ two hitting coaches as if to highlight the lack of work the veterans are putting in with Henderson and Joyner.
Of course, Amaro did not single anyone out, and it would be unfair to do so here. I have no idea who is soliciting help from the coaching staff and who isn’t. But one player in particular seems to be struggling mightily, with no sign he’s coming out of it. Per Salisbury:
"Henderson and Joyner are the team’s new hitting coaches. One of their tasks was to help Howard become a better hitter, but he’s hitting just .251 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. His on-base percentage is .294 and he has struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances.“We added complementary players this winter because we thought our veterans would play at a higher level,” Amaro said. “Part of our problem is we’re not getting the production from our veteran guys. Howard hasn’t produced like we thought he would, Jimmy has done some things lately. Chase hasn’t been on the field. Ruiz has been hurt.“That’s four guys we were counting on [who are] not producing, and that puts heat on the complementary guys. Once we get guys back I think we’ll be OK because our starting pitching has kept us in a lot of games.”"
May 29, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) reacts to striking out during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Red Sox 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
There is no more important a hitter on the Phils than Ryan Howard. As I noted yesterday, the Phillies filled out their roster around the edges in the offseason because there were no real game-changers available, and certainly none at a price that wasn’t exorbitant. The Phils were counting on Howard, Utley, Rollins, Ruiz and the starting rotation to all have solid years.
But Utley has been hurt for the last month after taking a swing in batting practice. Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games, came back for about two weeks, then got hurt again. Rollins has been decent at times, but has struggled with his consistency (nothing new) and has shown a surprising lack of power (.385 slugging percentage with just 4 HRs).
Of course, Howard’s lack of production is the key here, mainly because he is tasked with being the team’s biggest “run producer.” And he ain’t producing runs. As noted by the guys at Crashburn Alley yesterday, Howard is no longer only having troubles with breaking pitches and left-handed pitchers. He’s also now struggling to hit fastballs thrown by right-handers.
So, let’s see if we’ve got this straight. Ryan Howard can no longer hit righties, lefties, fastballs or breaking balls.
I’m not sure where we go from here.
Much of the blame can surely be blamed on his injuries. His Achilles likely hampers him somewhat and he’s now also bothered by a bad knee. One was hoping Howard could regenerate himself much like David Ortiz has done for the Red Sox this year, but it’s clearly not going to happen in 2013.
But is there also a refusal by some of the team’s veterans to solicit advice from the coaching staff? Or is the advice of the coaching staff being ignored by some of the veterans on the team? If so, that would be flat-out stupid. None of these guys is hitting well enough to eschew the advice of men paid to help the team become better hitters.
The Phillies are a team that can’t keep it’s head above .500. They are close to getting buried in the NL East and, while still in the conversation for the wild card, clearly don’t have the pieces or consistency necessary to be a realistic playoff contender.
If there are players who aren’t willing to listen to the coaching staff and continue to be unproductive, it’s time to move them. Because the status quo isn’t working.
Ruben Amaro said a lot of silly things in his interview with Salisbury on Monday.
But what’s even sillier is for a player to refuse help when he’s struggling to be productive. And while I have no proof as to whom Amaro was referring, I have my suspicions.
Whoever it is, please get some help. Because going it alone ain’t working.