Monday, July 09, 2007

C- For the Phillies

Well, yesterday’s win was a perfect capper to the first half of the Phillies’ season, right? The Phillies scored eight runs- which the club categorically can do. Unfortunately that sort of total only gives them a kind of sporting chance to win. Adam Eaton sort of slopped through- but he’s got eight wins, should win fourteen-fifteen, so I think he gets a pass. It is more that his “success” is so emblematic of what passes for accomplishment around the Phillies lately. Anyway, you cobble together another unique bullpen solution- Madson has it going today so let’s pitch him until he falls over- and the road trip was merely a bad one versus a disasterous one.

Maybe they were, you know, stretching Madson out? Just sayin’.

Heading into the all-star break, clearly the biggest ray of hope for the Phillies isn’t about them. No rather, it is that the Mets have shifted into an increasingly tepid ballclub- two starting pitchers hurt, corner outfield problems, core line-up issues (Beltran and Delgado are simply minuses right now), a bench worse than the Phillies (I know, I know- how crazy is that?). That tepidness is extending into weeks and weeks now- maybe it won’t go away! So the Phillies still have a chance if just cause the pace has fallen from 100 wins (impossible) to something more like 88-92 (merely improbable!).

I picked the Braves pre-season to win this division- and I am still pretty confident in that selection. They are the club with the most chips and front office competence to improve themselves for August and September.

Still, to their credit, the Phillies are completely relevant. They’re less than five back- a trade we all would have taken late April. They’re healthier in the field then they ever were the second half of last year- and reinforcements might be en route to the bullpen. And again, the Mets and Braves are simply less imposing than six weeks ago.

Yes, any grade you give the Phils can’t be better than a “C”. Frankly, they should win more than they lose- and you can’t say that about them. But I kind of want to give them a little credit: credit for hanging around, not giving up after they were utterly buried by April 25th. Throughout May, they gave the Mets a chance to let them back in to the race. They seized a chance to sweep the same Mets to become germane. Maybe they have a little more stomach for a fight then they get credit for.

Charlie deserves credit. The guy has clear flaws, particularly concerning game day strategy, for a big league manager. Consider two things though:

First, guys play for him- and just like the determination the club showed for Charlie after Gillick’s fire sale, this year is another example. They could have gone comatose after their awful start or any of a half-dozen injuries: two closers, three starting pitchers, Ryan Howard. Put it this way, they’ve been not much better than terrible for the better part of two weeks- but no one doubts they’ll show up after the break still trying. Charlie has kept the “we’re not too good” problem from turning into a “why bother?” problem.

Second, he’d made the call that saved the season. You can roast the move of Myers to the ‘pen all you want. The bullpen was beyond horrible- and Myers restored a little order down there- just long enough for the team to take advantage of a five week span of good play. The fact there even is a second half is due to Charlie’s bold call here. He might have cost them a game here and there- but he saved the season.