Don’t look now, but the Phillies have silently won 3 of their past 4 games, only losing to the Reds in a Friday night heartbreaker. Despite losing reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard for a few days with a knee strain, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and company were able to acrrue 14 runs against the Reds’ pitching. Recently promoted starter Jon Lieber received the nod on Friday night in the first of a three game series in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, Lieber’s 5 2/3 innings, 1 hit gem only granted him a no decision due to another blown save by closer Tom Gordon.
More dominant starting pitching from Cole Hamels on Saturday and Freddie Garcia on Sunday helped the Phillies take the series against the Reds though. Hamels was phenomenal on Saturday, pitching his first career complete game and striking out 15 batters. Utley provided all the offense Hamels needed, hammering a solo HR and finishing the game with 3 RBI’s. On Sunday, Garcia got his first win in a Phillies uniform, pitching 5 innings and giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. The Phillies also enjoyed welcoming Ryan Howard back to the lineup. Howard, out a total of 3 games, instantly bolstered Philly’s lineup with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a 2-run HR in the ninth. Utley again came through for the Phillies offense with 2 doubles and 3 runs scored.
So as the weather has warmed up across much of the east coast, the Philadelphia bats seem to be following suit. The bullpen still needs a lot of improvement, but if the offense is able to establish a better cushion into the later innings, perhaps Matt Smith, Geoff Geary, Brett Myers, and especially Tom Gordon can settle down, loosen up, and close out some games. As the warmer weather continues into this week, let’s see if the Phillies winning ways will continue as they travel home to host Houston, Washington, and Florida.
Well, here we are, 12 games into the season, and our beloved Phillies have found themselves among the worst teams in baseball. With a 3-9 record and currently struggling in extra innings to fend off the Washington Nationals, a team that many saw destined to lose 100 games this season, the Phillies already seem to be in big trouble. Despite the fact that they have 150 more games to play, the backbone of this team is nonexistent; the power and presence of Utley, Howard, and Burrell in the middle of your lineup and the solid starting pitching core of Myers, Moyer, Hamels, and newcomers Garcia and Eaton. Thus far, the sluggers’ bats have been ice cold, much like the weather, and although Moyer and Hamels have made stronger appearances, pitching as a whole has been ineffective.
So what’s going on here? Jimmy Rollins stated that the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East this season. So far, he’s the only one holding up his end of the bargain. Lackluster effort, fundamental mistakes, and poor management seem to be at the root of these problems. Going into this past offseason, Pat Gillick needed to address a glaring problem, the bullpen. If Gillick’s answer to this problem lies in the hands of Antonio Alfonseca and now Francisco Rosario and turning to 39-year-old, oft-injured Tom Gordon to close, the Phillies may become the hapless team losing 100 games this season.
Even though we can knit-pick and analyze the flaws of the players and lack of blockbuster moves in the offseason, the majority of the problems revolve around skipper Charlie Manuel. Just seeing him walk around makes me believe that he’d make a better mascot than a coach. His dry grin, upsightly physique, and lack of emotion has many believing, myself and Howard Eskin included, that Manuel is not the man for the job. Who then you ask would be in line to take over Manuel’s throne? Well, first guess would be Milt Thompson, a former Phillie outfielder and current hitting coach. Thompson is young enough to relate to the Phillies talented up-and-comers and just may be what the Phillies need; a change from the ordinary. Manuel, Larry Bowa, Terry Francona, Jim Fregosi…yikes! Perhaps Thompson could become the Willie Randolph of Philadelphia.
Now if we look outside the Phillies organization for a new hire, I can only think of one man for the job…Joe Girardi. I understand that he expressed interest in working in broadcasting, but this would be the perfect situation for Girardi. A chance for redemption against the Florida Marlins for sending him packing, despite the fact that he won NL Manager of the Year. In addition, Girardi can challenge his cross-town rival Mets from when he was a Yankee. If this man can turn the Florida Marlins, a $17M payroll team, into a playoff contender, there’s no telling how far he can go with the Phillies talented nucleus. Perhaps then, Jimmy Rollins’ spring season comments won’t seem so far-fetched!