Phillies: You Snooze, You Lose
When, weeks ago, I was downplaying the Phillies’ lack of lineup offense and suggesting cryptically that with this team I could put Moe and Larry at right field and second base respectively and still win the National League, I was also making a very big assumption.
That assumption was that the Phillies’ starting pitchers would be brilliant in every game they pitched. Obviously, that was foolish. Over a long, 162-game season, even a staff as talented as the Phils’ is occasionally going to get injured, or have someone leave the team because of a twister, or have their 39-year-old closer miss games because of elbow problems, or get rocked, or, God forbid, give up four runs. And when the team behind them is only averaging three runs, that’s not good.[SIGNUP]
Before last Wednesday’s matinee win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, where the Phillies scored eight runs on 12 hits, the offense had been as limp as Charlie Sheen after a bender (no matter what porn star was in his house).
The following statistics are courtesy of my good friend Jayson Stark, ESPN’s preeminent baseball reporter, who, while we’re all eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles in the morning, has his face buried in box scores and record books. Until Ben Francisco hit a (ninth inning!) home run last Tuesday, the Phillies had gone 14 straight games without scoring more than four runs. No team had had a winning record in a stretch of 14 or more games since 1972, and no National League team had done that since 1967!
They also went 153 consecutive at-bats and 173 trips to the plate by the 3-4-5 hitters without any of them hitting a homer, until Francisco hit his.
During a span last week, Ryan Howard had been hitting .186 with 18 strikeouts and only one home run. Since the 10-run game the Phils played against Atlanta a while back, Francisco had hit .196. Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins had been in all-world slumps. Wilson Valdez returned to being Wilson Valdez.
What does this all mean? The Phillies have to inject some juice into the lineup, some fresh meat. Yes, I’m suggesting that the front office has to go out and make a deal for another hitter, preferably a left-handed-hitting outfielder who can platoon with Francisco in right field. The 1993 Phillies went to the World Series with a platoon of Pete Incaviglia and Milt Thompson in left, and Jim Eisenreich and Wes Chamberlain in right.
You know why? Because none of those four players was good enough to be an everyday player. It’s the same today. Ibanez has hit the wall as a player. He should only play now against right-handed pitchers and be platooned with John Mayberry Jr. Francisco is what he is—a fourth outfielder—and the Phils need to find a lefty bat to platoon with him.
With the Phillies coming up on a 20-game stretch during which they’ll be playing teams much better than the ones they’ve faced thus far this year—the Braves for six games, the Marlins, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Texas Rangers, et al—these offensive woes are likely to become glaring. Now, Ruben Amaro Jr. and his multiple assistant GMs can sit around and wait for Chase Utley to return, or for Domonic Brown to go through his month of at-bats in extended spring training and then triple-A and hope that those two factors alone will improve the Phils’ offense. But when you snooze you lose. It would be prudent for the Phillies to be proactiveright now rather than reactive later.
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The Sixers played hard and with heart in the five-game-series loss to the Miami Heat, and the question is whether this team showed off a “young core” that can only grow, get better and eventually contend for an NBA title. I’m not seeing it.
Thaddeus Young is a spunky player, but he’s merely a bench player in this league made efficient by the brilliant coaching of Doug Collins, who was savvy enough to put Young into situations where he could take advantage of mismatches. He is not a starting forward in this league. He can’t shoot it, and he can’t maneuver off the bounce to get to the basket.
Jrue Holiday had his moments. People around the league have been raving about him. But is Holiday a future superstar or merely a good, solid player? I don’t see the kid becoming Chris Paul or Deron Williams, and certainly not Derrick Rose.
So what else is there? Lou Williams? Once and forever a bench player.
Andre Iguodala? He closed out the playoff series with a good game, but Iguodala has become a guy who elicits groans from his hometown fans whenever he rises up to take a jump shot. Once you lose your fans, once they don’t believe in you, it’s very difficult to continue to be successful. The Sixers need to trade him for multiple players who can grow to the next level.
Elton Brand? A nice rebound season. But next year he’ll a year older. And Brand, with all due respect, looks like a sedan that might have regular trouble getting up a hill because the odometer says 85,000 miles.
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So far as the Flyers are concerned, I’m terrified by this Boston series. The Bruins have been waiting one long year to get another crack at the Flyers, after making NHL history by losing four straight games after gaining a 3-0 lead in the series and a 3-0 lead in game 7 of that series. Revenge is a powerful motivator. I got the Bruins in seven.
1. I love to read my morning Inquirer. And I love Frank Fitzpatrick as a guy. But this Morning Bytes column of his? Of the 100 quirky, curmudgeonly views he puts out over the course of a month, am I being harsh in saying that only about two of them are remotely funny?
2. Can’t someone muzzle Donald Trump? I don’t care how much money he has. The guy’s a total tool.
3. When Carl Lewis was a precocious kid running the halls of Willingboro High, who would’ve thunk that when kids and teachers were yelling to him, “Run Carl, run,” they were talking about political office? (Cue the rim shot.)
4. The stories I read about some policemen in Philadelphia engaging in illegal activities to make extra money reminds me why college athletes shouldn’t be paid. The premise is this: If you pay players, they wouldn’t take any excess money from boosters or agents. Sure. Just like if you increased the salary of policemen, they wouldn’t consider going on the take. A law school professor I had once began a class by saying this: “People are no damn good.“ And he’s right. When there’s a way to make extra money, people will always take that option, no matter how much they’re already being paid.