There’s been a lot of speculation recently about what the Phillies will be doing at the upcoming trade deadline. After an uninspired first half, the Phillies looked like sure-fire sellers coming into July. Once the month started, however, they won 4 straight series heading into the All-Star break. This included 2 out of 3 wins in their series with the contending Pirates, the NL East-leading Braves and the White Sox, who…uhh, well that’s a series the Phils should have won anyway. It also included a 4 game series against the underachieving-yet-talented Nationals, in which the Phils won 3 of those games. They rolled into the All-Star break at 48-48, not great but still within striking distance.
In the first game after the All-Star break, they laid a 13-8 beating (which wasn’t even that close) on the Mets to pull one game ahead of .500. Things were looking legitimately interesting. If you follow the team, you know what’s happened since. They dropped the final two games of the Mets series, got swept by the Cardinals in a series where they scored a grand total of 5 runs in three games, and dropped the first two games in their series against the Tigers (I’m listening to the final game as I type this up). As disheartening as the Cardinals series was, this series against the Tigers has been equally brutal if not worse. The first game was a 2-1 loss in which the Phillies once again failed to provide run support for the now 4-13 Cole Hamels. Hamels has been admittedly hit-or-miss this year, but he’s had more than a few losses in which he has pitched well enough to win and did not receive any support. Last night’s game ended up being the inspiration for this post.
Looking at the lineups before last night’s game, I told my dad that the game should be entitled “Lambs To The Slaughter”. Starting for the Tigers was Max Scherzer, owner of a 14-1 record and starter for the American League in the All-Star game. Starting for the Phillies was Cliff Lee…wait, no he wasn’t. Lee was scratched from his start with a stiff neck, so the Phillies rolled out Raul Valdez, he of the 7.59 ERA coming into the game. Valdez had to face a lineup that featured Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and oh yeah, triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Max Scherzer had to deal with a Phillies lineup that went a little something like this:
3B Michael Young
1B Kevin Frandsen
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
DH Delmon Young
LF Darin Ruf
RF Laynce Nix
C Erik Kratz
CF Michael Martinez
Sweet freaking crap, will you look at that lineup!! Your leadoff hitter is 36 years old. Your #2 hitter is a utility man. Your #5 hitter is a perpetual rain cloud. Your #7 hitter spells his name “Laynce” and was hitting .178 at the conclusion of the game. Listening to today’s game as I type this, he just had his first RBI since April. Your #9 hitter is the immortal Michael Martinez. Here are some fast facts about Michael Martinez:
- He’s the only human being who has ever driven me to compare him to herpes.
- He was hitting .111 at the conclusion of last night’s game.
- He makes Mario Mendoza, the man who the Mendoza Line (a batting average of .200) is named for, look like Ty Cobb.
- He has pictures of every executive in the Phillies organization doing horrible, awful things. It’s the only explanation.
In case you missed the game, and I pray for your sake that you did, the Phillies lost 10-0. It could have easily been 15-0 or more. This game marked the 10th time this season that the Phillies have given up 10 runs or more. Please read that last sentence again.
I’m going to give the MVP of this game to my boy Laynce. He went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts. He bobbled a ball in right field, which allowed Torii Hunter to take an extra base and eventually score. Finally, he ignored being waived off in the field not once, but twice and ended up colliding with both Chase Utley and John Mayberry, Jr., who came into center after some defensive shuffling.
This last part of Nix’s game speaks to a greater issue with this team. Imagine that Utley gets hurt when Nix collided with him. This is a team that has been besieged by injuries. Currently, they are missing their team leader in batting average (Ben Revere, .305), steals (Revere, 22), runs (Domonic Brown, 51), home runs (Brown, 24), and RBI (Brown, 69). Their big free-agent acquisition, Mike Adams, is done for the year. Ryan Howard, regardless of your opinion of him at this point, is out for another few weeks. Roy Halladay is still weeks away from coming back. Utley and Carlos Ruiz have missed time. Their best pitcher (Lee) missed last night’s start. If we are still lying to ourselves about the Phillies being contenders, and only their front office is probably still doing that at this point, they can’t afford any more injuries.
Why, you ask? Well, in addition to the talent you miss, look at who is replacing them. In addition to having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, the Phillies have one of the worst benches as well. Take a look around…you have Nix (batting .178), Martinez (batting .111), John McDonald (4 hits in 41 at-bats this year). Humberto Quintero, who was recently picked up by the Mariners after refusing to be designated for assignment to the minors again by the Phils, played a decent chunk of time at catcher. Something named Ezequiel Carrera started the season on the Opening Day 25-man roster. As for the bullpen, you have seven relievers who have appeared in at least 10 games with an ERA over 4.00. This speaks directly to Ruben Amaro’s complete inability to put together a baseball team.
It’s not just this year, either. Last year’s bench featured Nix, Martinez, Ty Wigginton, Mike Fontenot, Hector Luna, John Bowker, and a shot Jim Thome. If you’ve followed the team, you know that the Phillies have regressed every single season after Amaro took over as general manager starting in 2009. They lost in the World Series in 2009, lost in the NLCS in 2010, lost in the NLDS in 2011, missed the playoffs and finished with a .500 record in 2012, and are almost certain to be a sub-.500 team in 2013. Oh, and they have a payroll of around $165 million, which is the 3rd highest in baseball. Anybody still want to tell me that Amaro knows how to build a team?
As I was writing this post, the Phillies went from being up 3-0 on the Tigers to being down 11-3. Martinez and McDonald have joined Nix in the lineup as the Phillies wave the white flag on their 8th straight loss. I still want to comment on the Phillies’ signing of Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but that will be done in another post, as I don’t want any potential good feelings I have on that signing to be lumped in with my thoughts on the morass that the Phils have found themselves in lately. The only silver lining is that maybe, just MAYBE, the Phillies front office will realize that this team is sub-standard, just like its GM, and make the right moves at the deadline. Maybe you don’t exactly tear down the house, but you do need to knock down some walls, replace some studs, and hire a new contractor to do the building while you’re at it.