Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ask Mr. B!

A re-occurring feature of this blog is an opportunity to ask the wise Mr. B (the sage plush toy pictured just right) any question concerning the future. Today's question: what exactly is the story with the Philadelphia Phillies?

It has been a hard month- a calendar month where the Phillies have officially been a sub.500 team. The difficult schedule aside, the Phillies are five games under break-even since June 7th. Remove the troubled Braves from the equation and the Phillies are a whopping eleven games under facing the duress of the four weeks or so. They were called on to face a difficult test- and really, really struggled.

This rabbit is inclined to give them a semi-pass. The Phillies entered this brutal month of eighteen road games and a small home slate populated with the Angels, Red Sox and Mets up 3 games- and exit it up 1.5 games. They let the Mets back in- but kicked the Braves back out. And let’s not mark down the Braves too much- if this division is going to be won at 87 wins, the Braves were capable, prior to their six to love beat down by the Phillies, of getting to that number.

My problem lately with the Phillies is the utter arrogance with which they have approached this slide- like they’re a 98-win team that can afford to tinker with an eye toward the long-term.

Let’s start with Myers’ demotion. I mean: that is arrogance, right? We have surplus major league starting pitching that the Phillies can afford to remove Myers for a month? He’s pitched worse than Eaton?- a guy who hasn’t pitched like a major leaguer in two years? Myers is the candidate for psychological rehab? Myers hasn’t been great- but demoting him while Eaton is in the rotation is a luxury. Get rid of the worst, low ceiling rotation option- survive now- and engage in experiments some other time.

Rollins is still batting lead-off. We all know he’s totally miscast as a lead-off hitter- not enough OBP and his power bat is wasted by zero consistent RBI opportunities. This is a tolerable situation when Jimmy is putting up MVP numbers and his fragile psyche needs stroking. But the team is struggling, he is struggling, his OBP is down to .337 (Brunlett is .320). The Phillies can’t afford this luxury anymore. It is a three year experiment experiment, an agenda we all know doesn’t work. Change it. Get Werth, Dobbs in there. Now.

Ryan Howard. Fine- his power numbers and RBIs obviously justify his everyday presence in the line-up. But must he hit clean-up against left-handers? Or even quality lefties? Hit him fifth or sixth- and put Burrell in there fourth. He’s having an all-star season, with as many dingers as Howard. Again, forget the agenda. Reward production.

We all know Gordon is not the second best reliever in the ‘pen. Why does he, other than arrogance and an agenda, get he ball in big spots? His ERA is over five, in the best bullpen in the National League- and he has 33 appearances? including a big one against the Mets?

That is four key guys- Myers, Gordon, Howard, Rollins- who are doing things they shouldn’t be doing due to hubris. And I haven’t even started on Jenkins and Victorino. This division is probably gonna come down to a game or two either way- and the Phillies have six guys they’re trying to string along in positions of responsibility they don’t deserve at the expense of guys who would be adequate replacements until they start hitting/pitching again: Madson/Durbin for Gordon, Burrell clean up for Howard versus LHP, Werth leading off for Rollins, etc.

They’re damn complacent for an outfit that is rapidly approaching a month and a half of losing baseball. Rolling Happ out there was a nice story, beating Santana was fortunate- but who in heck are the Phillies to be surrendering games to the Mets? Philadelphia is not some juggernaut. The Mets played these four games like it was a fifth game in October; the Phillies were engaging in rotation experiments. These were important games… division rivals, and we were running a Happ out there.

It worked- but what does it, and this weekend say, about the intensity, win today mentality? It needs to change with 70 games left- particularly since the Mets can boast a rotation seemingly a whole notch over Philadelphia.

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