After the Phillies beat the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS, a reporter asked Charlie Manuel the following question: “Charlie, the Cardinals pinch hit Punto, Holliday there late and you had Bastardo to face Punto. Had the Cardinals gone Holliday there instead of Punto, were you prepared to bring in your righty there immediately to face Holliday?”
Unlike many questions from sportswriters, it was a direct, simple inquiry about baseball strategy. Nothing fancy there. Here is how Charlie Manuel replied: “You know, I don’t know if I would have did that or not, because I might have let our righty face Holliday there. I don’t know. Really, I don’t know.”
Hey, man who’s paid to manage a baseball team, what would you do in this very specific situation? “I don’t know.” Fire him. Fire Charlie Manuel now. He’s been out-managed in the past three postseasons and lost three winnable series. He couldn’t get a team with this much talent out of the first round of the playoffs. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Goodbye.
While they’re at it, fire first base coach Sam Perlozzo and third base coach Juan Samuel; the Phillies had a terrible season running the bases. Fire hitting coach Greg Gross (seven career home runs when a player) and pitching coach Rich Dubee (a career minor-leaguer). Fire Mick Billmeyer and find somebody who can properly steal signals without getting caught.
Ryan Howard tore his Achilles on the final, hilarious play of the 2011 season. When he comes back, trade him for Alex Rodriguez, who Yankees fans want out. The Phillies should also get what they can for Chase Utley; the only thing receding faster than Utley’s hairline is his baseball skill. Jimmy Rollins had a decent postseason, but he cares more about making fun of fans on Twitter than baseball nowadays. He can go.
Cut Placido Polanco, his 2-for-19 performance in the playoffs and his giant head. Don’t bring back Raul Ibanez, who couldn’t hit a fat pitch over Citizens Bank Park’s short porch in right in Game 5, a homer that would have won the game. Get what you can for Shane Victorino, who played golf the day after elimination instead of crying all day in his bed like a real man. Hunter Pence has only been here a little bit, but he’s on the hot seat. Carlos Ruiz has worn out his welcome, though; trade him while the market is still relatively high.
Give Roy Halladay a copy of Joe Morgan’s Baseball for Dummies to let him know that, yes, baseball games do indeed begin in the first inning, not the second. Get rid of Cliff Lee, the biggest goat of the 2011 postseason, the nine-figure pitcher who couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead. (If the Phillies get rid him and decide they want him back, he’s already shown he’ll return like a kicked puppy.) Keep Cole Hamels, the only pitcher who did his job these playoffs, but get the remaining pitchers backpacks to carry their dogs in so they learn something from him. Get rid of Roy Oswalt, a guy who cares so little about this team he left it in the middle of the season to go tend to his farm.
The less said about the bench, the better. Get rid of all of them, except maybe Wilson Valdez. (He can go in the bullpen.) Get rid of the Phanatic (his skits are getting old) and the giant bell in center field (it’s tacky as hell). Fire Pistachio Girl and leave her to her art-rock performances. Axe Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler and figure out a way to hire someone – anyone! – from the Kalas family already. Trade Domonic Brown, the once-heralded prospect who couldn’t get onto the field at AAA Lehigh Valley at the end of the season. If anyone really needs to go, it’s him.
Finally, fire Ruben Amaro Jr. and the rest of the front office. Amaro took a team that won the World Series and guided it to a worse finish each year. As first base coach, Davey Lopes guided the Phillies to the fourth-most stolen bases in his four years in Philadelphia, including a record 88% stolen base success rate in 2007. And he just wanted a raise. “It’s the principle of the thing,” Lopes said when he didn’t get one. Without him, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were thrown out stealing in crucial situations in the 2011 NLDS. The raise Lopes wanted could have been made up with two weeks of sales of women’s “Pence’s Proverb #1: Let’s go eat!” t-shirts. This franchise won’t win another World Series until it’s willing to spend on everything, not just players.
There. Did I do it right?
The Phillies being the favored team in the postseason is a relatively new experience, and it’s not easy that the season is over before anyone wanted it to be. Every time a favored team like the Phillies loses, a lot of people treat the loss like a moral failing, as if the losing team just didn’t want it enough. Eh. Not everything needs to teach everyone an important lesson. Sometimes you just lose.
That the playoffs are a crapshoot and the Phillies could easily have won the series against the Cardinals is no reason to overlook the real problems with the Phillies: Much of their lineup is in decline, they didn’t get any power out of third base this year, the quality starting pitching the Phillies had this season isn’t going to hold up forever. But there’s no need to go overboard with all the suggestions above (most of which were serious things said by fans either to me, on talk radio or on the Internet).
The 2011 Phillies gave their fans one of the most memorable regular seasons in team history. It seems like the end of the world now, sure, but the talent that produced those 102 regular season wins isn’t going away. The Phillies will be back next year. They’ll be good again and might even play a little better in the postseason. The sky is not falling. The Phillies are a powerhouse. Their run is not over.
Or, maybe …
Best I can tell this Phillies squad hasn’t won anything without Geoff Jenkins. Any chance they can coax him out of retirement?