Commentary: Season Heating Up, Phils Cooling Off

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, July 22, 2008 10:47 AM | Comments: 71

So tonight begins a three-game series with the Mets. First place is on the line tonight and all week.

Tonight is also game 100. The Phillies sit at 53-46, a very borderline good team. Though their run differential stands at a stout +75, you wouldn’t know it. The offense has looked bad. The pitching holds up for the most part, but shows signs of deteriorating. To be short, this is a team on the verge of destruction.

I say this in hopes I’m completely wrong, but I can’t help but add the problems.

1.5-dimensional offense

So Chase Utley will knock in runs and get on base. And Ryan Howard will knock him in. But then what? Pat Burrell gets on base, but who gets him home? Pedro Feliz? One out of eight times. Geoff Jenkins? Please. Jayson Werth? Carlos Ruiz? Chris Coste? The bottom of the order reeks. Not to mention Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino haven’t done much of anything with situational hitting.

Maybe they can help themselves by spreading the offense. I don’t know — Ruiz in the two-hole, trying to pull the ball and hit behind the runner? Burrell in the three-hole? Still, hitting is hitting, and I’m not confident with more than half of the guys the Phils have.

Not enough starting pitching

So Cole Hamels is good. Joe Blanton? I don’t know — maybe a guy with an ERA over 5.00 in the American League can translate to the National League. Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer are nice back-end pieces, but you can’t trust Kendrick to get the job done in a late-season game, and Moyer is Moyer. Brett Myers? Do we know he’ll be effective? Clearly there are too many questions. There are no Rich Hardens and Carlos Zambranos and Ryan Dempsters. There are no assurances here outside of Hamels.

Breakdown of the bullpen

Tom Gordon went on the DL because he broke down. JC Romero has felt stiff. As has Rudy Seanez. Suddenly Joe Bisenius was on the roster. Adam Eaton is in the back of the bullpen. Clay Condrey moved up in the depth chart. Isn’t this a problem? I’d like to think Lidge/Romero/Madson/Durbin will hold up all year, but the team desperately needs a contingency plan. There’s a week left to get it.


Jimmy Rollins practically said the team will turn it up soon, but not now. Cole Hamels complained about getting too much time off. Pat Burrell suddenly spoke out against being taken out in games. Sure, some of these arguments are valid and correct, but it seems everything is being piled on now. Teams that self-destruct have these problems. They can’t keep their mouths shut. We saw it with the Mets.

The Mets

And about those Mets. I’d like to think, like most, that they’re too old and worn down and talentless to win the East. But how do they keep finding guys who can contribute past their primes? Fernando Tatis? Sure the bullpen is rough (Billy Wagner’s pain could spell big trouble), but when I see them, I see an offense that can rattle off runs. I see a rotation that can head into the seventh of most games. And I see a bullpen that can piece it together just enough to win. Sound familiar? Yeah, like your 2007 Philies. Who won the East.

Painfully obvious things

And the painfully obvious things keep plaguing the Phils. Victorino flying out. Rollins grounding out. Jenkins swinging at low and away. Howard swinging at low and away. Waiting on Kendrick’s changeup. Hamels giving up a solo homer or two. Romero’s walks. The first inning of most games. So Taguchi. By now most of us fans know every little problem the Phils continue to encounter. And for some reason they’re not fixed. They’re not even recognized. Only yesterday did Charlie Manuel publicly speak out about the lack of situational hitting. Why so late? Can they see this?

Manuel, in general

Going back to dissension and even the painfully obvious, is Manuel the right man to manage this team? I dn’t know. He is the right man to get a group of guys on track, but once they’re on that track, he seems to never be able to reach them to the finish line. He failed with the Indians, a group of players rich with talent. Now with the Phills he has a group fo aplyers rich with talent, but they’re faltering hard. A reader just e-mailed us, saying Manuel is not a leader. He doesn’t take charge of the team. I agree. Once a team hits the playoffs, hits the success mark, they need an extra push to put them over the top. Sometimes it’s a great trade. Most times it’s the manager. A manager who can bump his team to that highest level (see Tony LaRussa, Ozzie Guillen, Jim Leyland, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre) will win championships. Manuel seems to regular, too soft, too comely. This group of players — high on talent but short on the ability to bring it together — needs a fire.


This isn’t me saying, “Oh, the Phils won’t win the East.” It’s me saying I’m exceedingly weary about this team’s chances. I’m not confident at all. Not until they go on some kind of run where the offense looks crisp, pitching goes deep into games and the bullpen is in shutdown mode. They did it in May. And May seems so far away. But now they’re sloping down the schedule, and they need to find it again. Can they? I don’t know.

Avatar of Tim Malcolm

About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew Vazzano

    I wish Mets fans were that optimistic about their own team.

    Great post, and I wish you terrible, terrible luck tonight. ;-)

  • Posts: 0 Jeffrey

    I was with you pretty much all the way until the part about Cholly. Phillies fans need to stop being so fickle about this guy. Decide whether he’s a hero or a goat and stick with it.
    Now you’re back to the schtick about Manuel being “too soft.” Wasn’t it just weeks ago that he benched Rollins and everyone agreed that Charlie was a no-nonsense guy who wouldn’t take no crap from nobody?
    He’s the same guy today he was when he was hired, when the Phillies won the East last year, when Jimmy got benched, and when he complained about situational hitting after Sunday’s game.
    So which is it? Genius or bum?

  • Posts: 0 Tim Malcolm

    Good point, Jeffrey. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to say, but the more I look at the hardships, the more I see an inability to change and improve.

  • Posts: 0 Louis

    they just scare me to watch right now… and it doesn’t mean i think they’re going to fail… i’ve just seen it too many times to be comfortable. having them finish yearly a game or two out of the playoffs for about 5 years was enough to make me question any sort of “sure thing” with this team. let’s hope blanton gives us a spark tonight and propels us to at the very least take this series because we need it.

    go phils.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Couple things:

    1. …. Shane Victorino should “The FLY-OUT Hawiian”

    2. ….Of the 5 managers you mentiond… 4 of them are going to the Hall-of-Fame.. and Ozzie Guillen already has 1 World Series ring. Kinda unfair to judge Manuel against some of the greatest managers EVER.

    3. …. Do we like Jayson Werth or not?? When he gets regular playing time, he does well.. when he sits a few games in a row, he gets rusty.. that is what happens when players platoon, and I think we need to stop holding that against them.

    4. …. one of the old tricks that teams used to use, but not so much anymore is to go through the Media to send a message. Billy Wagner did it a couple months ago calling out his teammates.. and I think there is a little back-and-forth going on right now with this Phillies team. Maybe Hamels should have pitched right after the break.. but he has a history of breaking down, so they wanted to rest him more. Rollins needs to step his game up.. if you are hurt, sit. If you aren’t hurt, start playing baseball.. MVP…. Burrell shouldn’t be benched unless its an absolute no-brainer.. he’s on 2nd and you need a faster runner… you are up a run in the 9th… etc…

    Thats enough from me for right now

  • Posts: 0 bull

    Totally agree, Charlie has been like this for years and now is the time the team needs a manager and he is not one. I think he has a photocopy of the lineup card that he doesn’t take down.

    The team needs a wakup call, someone tell them they are in a pennant race.

  • Posts: 0 Tim Malcolm

    “Of the 5 managers you mentiond… 4 of them are going to the Hall-of-Fame.. and Ozzie Guillen already has 1 World Series ring. Kinda unfair to judge Manuel against some of the greatest managers EVER.”

    Of course it’s fair. Manuel has been to the playoffs. He can be compared to guys who take their teams to World Series, no matter how great they are. I’m not going to compare him to Cecil Cooper.

    “Do we like Jayson Werth or not?”

    I think he does get rusty, absolutely. But he can’t hit righties. We’ve always known that. How can a team operate when there are all these players sitting and starting and up and down? Nobody gets it done.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    yeah werth has shown hes a platooner. he plays everyday sometimes because they cant justify sending jenkins out there. werth cant hit righties at all. its a shame because thats the only element hes really missing.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    as much as we knock New York….. If Rollins and Victorino played there.. there asses would be booed like crazy for their lack of production..

    and I’m REALLY surprised that people day in and day out place blame on Manuel, Jenkins, So Taguchi, Carlos Ruiz, Werth.. etc..

    If we are going to be bashing players and having debates on lack of production, can we please talk about how the starters aren’t playing anywhere near their potential..

    Rumor has it that the reason the “Holliday and Fuentes -for- Carrasco, Marson, Happ and Victorino” trade didn’t go down, was because the Phillies were not willing to part with….. SHANE VICTORINO.. If we are unwilling to move him, maybe he should think about playing better?

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    THEIR* asses.. my bad yo’s

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    yeah, why would you nix the deal because of victorino? id want marson replaced and happ replaced in it. but you can work around that.

    they asked for WAY too much. i want to know if donald can play. if he can, then jimmy better get his ass in gear or id send him out of her.e

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    Jeffrey made some good points. What you see is what you get with Cholly. The team had success (winning the division last year) in spite of or because of his managing. Tim also made a valid point in questioning whether or not Manuel’s approach in managing can guide the team to make that last step to not only make the playoffs (again) but beyond. Manuel was quoted about a need for another quality starter and better situational hitting. The best the owners can come up with for Manuel is Joe Blanton. Will that be enough? As for situational hitting, the solution lies more with the team and less of a possibility from outside (owners’ reluctance in mortaging the future in their futile search for a quality hitter). Concerning situational hitting, I agree with Tim… “Pedro Feliz? One out of eight times. Geoff Jenkins? Please. Jayson Werth? Carlos Ruiz? Chris Coste? The bottom of the order reeks…”. Manuel is practically pleading for them to execute with RISP. That response will be crucial in the remaining 63 games.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    The bottom of the order does suck. but so do shane and jimmy right now. theyre total garbage at this point. i dont know why shane is still here. and the only reason jimmy is here is because hes the mvp and its hard to trade the mvp without pissing people off

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I don’t think we should be calling for their heads, their trade, or their release…

    But they need to step it up.. Utley, Howard, and Burrell make enough contact that if there are runners on base, they can drive them in..

    Rollins .336 OBP% and Shane Vics .345 OBP%

    So Victorino is 87th overall in MLB.. and Rollins isn’t in the top 100…. sons of bitches are stealing money this year, getting paychecks without doing their jobs

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    This team is proof alone that you can’t just win on talent alone. You have to produce as a team, small ball is the name of the game and we like to live and die off the longball.

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    Let me correct that, not longball necessarily, but individual performances. There’s too much “me” and not enough “we”.

  • Posts: 0 Adam F

    1st, I think manuel should be more of a co-manager/bench coach. I think his inter-game decision making has always been atrocious. Stop taking Burrell out in the 7th or 8th in a tie game or even a close game unless it means putting a faster runner in scoring position. I watched him pinch run So Taguchi for Burrell after Burrell walked to load the bases with 2 outs when the team was down 1 run. Makes ZERO sense!

    Obviously his management of the bullpen has also always been an issue. He loves setting up lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchups and it seems to burn the team a lot. Especially when a reliever is cruising thru the lineup and he decides to take them out only for his matchup to fail. I think manuel is a good locker room manager but not a good in-game manager (if that makes sense).

    Overall, i am disappointed in this organizations lack of committment to winning now. Although Joe Blanton might be an improvement from Eaton. Acquiring a 5-12 pitcher with an ERA around 5 is not a move a team makes to push them to the world series. Should have pulled the trigger on Holliday too to reignite this anemic lineup even though its giving up a lot of minor leaguers (although i think all of the phillies farm teams are in last or close to last place so talent cant be that good).

    I am praying that this means they will go after an ace free agent pitcher in the off season such as sabathia but ive been a phillies fan way too long to think that that will happen. i guess i just have to wait for dave montgomery to kick the bucket.

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    “1st, I think manuel should be more of a co-manager/bench coach. I think his inter-game decision making has always been atrocious. Stop taking Burrell out in the 7th or 8th in a tie game or even a close game unless it means putting a faster runner in scoring position. I watched him pinch run So Taguchi for Burrell after Burrell walked to load the bases with 2 outs when the team was down 1 run. Makes ZERO sense! ”

    That actually does make sense.

  • Posts: 0 Jeepin

    Let’s not panic. This team is doing fine. While, I am not a Manuel fan, he certainly is doing a fine job to this point. My grip is Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. They need to get on base, steal some bases and produce a few more timely hits. Utley, Howard and Burrell is a pretty darn good trio. As for the bottom of the order while not having a great year but that’s why they are the bottom of the order. Overall, they are not terrible. Remember the days of Bell and Leiberthal, now that was painful! Starting pitching needs a number two starter, fhopefully Blanton works out. The bull pen is having a fine year. Look at their ERAs. So overall, the Phils are slumping right now a little but being tied for first really is nothing to complain about. Have faith and be patient!

  • Posts: 0 christopher

    phillies take two of three this series, build some momentum for the next few series afterwards, and win the division this season. geoff and half the people on this site turn towards self mutilation to get their masochist fix in the meantime.

  • Posts: 0 bob k

    Charlie never was a good judge of pitching ,EVER…He always left pitchers in too long..I dont see why he cant see that, and leave those decisions to the pitching coach……The Phills need Jimmy Rollins to Step Up..Howard,Utley,Burrell dont seem to fire this team up the way Rollins does..The bottom of the order fizzled at the same time..whats up with that?……..But I’m optomistic,the METS SUCK,and we will work it out.

  • Posts: 0 Rob E.

    I think Taguchi needs a phanton DL trip to bring up Golson. Lets see what he has, he is 24, a former 1st round pick and I think it is time for his to step up.

  • Posts: 0 Mike T.

    Chris, who are you calling masochistic? I don’t think masochism is it at all, really. I think it’s just trying to shut people up who have no clue what’s going on in the sport of baseball.

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    I understand it’s a long season, but isn’t the objective to have your best starting pitcher start as many games as possible? Why didn’t Hamels start last Friday on his normal rest, then he could have started a game against the Mets. Instead, he is missing this series and we have Brett Myers starting a game that Hamels could have. Any idea why? Let’s hope Blanton pitches the rest of the year the way he did against us in Oakland…..Go Phils!!

  • Posts: 0 christopher

    people flipping out about an out of context, vague quote from jimmy rollins, are masochistic. people who complain about this team non-stop, even when they’re winning (and don’ t act like that doesn’t happen around here), are absolutely masochistic. there’ s intelligently analyzing the team and pointing out their problems, and then there’s “fuck that player, i don’t want him on the team next year! fuck that guy too! blow this team up!”

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Interestingly there’s a report out there that we’ve inquired about Nady and even more suprisingly Matt Kemp…

  • Posts: 0 Kyle

    Mike Lieberthal era, are you kidding? His worst year as a Phil, 2001, in which he only played 34 games, he still had a 73 OPS+. He had four seasons above 100 OPS+, including 2 over 120!

    He doesn’t even come close to Mr. Ruiz’s ineptitude!

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    we are flipping out because jimmy is playing poorly and hes being a douche about it.

  • Posts: 0 Adam F

    “That actually does make sense.”

    TJ…Care to explain how that makes sense? Burrell’s run means nothing. They are down 1 run with 2 outs and the bases loaded and burrell is on 1st. Sure enough the very next batter jenkins pops out to 2nd and the inning ends. Taguchi is up later in the game in a crucial situation and blows it obviously.

    Jeepin…Do you see ruiz’s numbers?? how are you going to say that lieberthal was any worse than ruiz. The guy should just stitch GIDP to the back of his jersey. he is a rally killer. and defensively feliz has been good but offensively hes been just what his career numbers would predict a .250 hitter with 20 homers. I think people saw him hit 20-22 homers/yr in sf and thought he could hit 30 in philly…not so unfortunately.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Lieberthal was a great Phil and it’s disgusting the way some fans trash his name, the guy was part of this team and put his body on the line for it for a long long time and we should be wishing for Marson to follow in his footsteps.

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    I like Nady more than Kemp, we need guys who hit for average. Nady is one of them but I’m not sure what they would give up without it being too much.

  • Posts: 0 Mike T.

    I don’t know why, but I feel like GIDP is going to launch one tonight.

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    Adam.. Obviously Manuel didn’t think that Jenkins would pop up and then have Burrell’s spot be up again before the end of the game, if this was in the 7th as you claim, especially us being the away team. Say Jenkins gets a hit, Taguchi is faster than Burrell and can make it to third on a single, possibly producing a run on another single. You have to think like Manuel did at the time rather than saying it was dumb in hindsight.

  • Posts: 0 Kyle

    If Carlos does indeed hit a homerun tonight, I am not sure how I will celebrate, but something that rare would indeed be a cause for a celebration. If they can get four runs off Santana, they can win this puppy.

    I think it’s a must win, actually, if they want to take the series because I don’t have much faith in Myers tomorrow.

    I would go all in for Kemp. He’s young, inexpensive and you could control him for awhile; which would insure them from Burrell leaving next year. But no way LA would trade Kemp. No way.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Ill go with Nady and marte. put a nice package together for the pirates there.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    “inquiring” and “trying to obtain” are two different things… no chance in hell that the Dodgers give up Kemp for anything we don’t want to keep

  • Posts: 0 Mike T.

    Nady’s having a career year, he’s playing way over his head. Kemp, on the other hand, has a ton of potential, and he’s young.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Does Pedro Feliz hit Santana well?? We need him and Werth to have nice games tonight too because the top-2 can’t be counted on, and I’m not feeling Utley and Howard carrying us tonight against Johan.. what kind of name is Johan anyway..

  • Posts: 0 Kyle

    Nady would be a great fit. I always liked him when he was with the Mets and was glad he left New York. He would be nice in right field. Only 54 strikeouts and a .527 slugging percentage.

    Plus the Phils would control him for next season too.

    But from everything I read, they’d have to part with too much.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I think Nady sucks and the Pirates are morons if they don’t trade him for whatever they can get… I hear that they are asking for crazy returns on him.

    Kemp was sought by a lot of team last year.. and I want to say the Dodgers were in on the Santana talks too, but didn’t want to part ways with Kemp, Loney, and Eithier ??

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    There are reasons why guys like Nady play for a different team every year, or 3 different teams in one year.. etc.. He’s just not that good.. I really don’t see him as much of an improvement to this team

  • Posts: 0 Chase

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    i hope youre joking chase.

  • Posts: 0 Mike T.

    What a win over the Durham Bulls… haha man, what a joker. The conversations that took place when acquiring Kris Benson were similar to like, “hey man, I have a 25 gallons of expired milk, i’ll give them to you for free. they’re only expired by like 3 days.” “sure, why not.”

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Yeah of all the injured guys to take a chance on they picked him.

  • Posts: 0 Rob E.

    Kemp is not coming here. The Dodgers are the hardest team to trade with. There was an article about how Ned Coletti should be fired becasue of his unwillingness to deal. He has made great signings though.

    -Jason Schmidt
    -No more Garciapara
    -Juan Pierre

  • Posts: 0 VonHayes

    I don’t think the Mets are as old as people think. Phillies are actually older.

    Avg Ages:
    Starters: Mets 31.6, Phils 29.9
    SPitchers: Mets 29.0, Phils 30.0
    RelPitchers: Mets 30.6, Phils 32.2
    Bench: Mets 29.9, Phils 33.8
    Overall: Mets 30.4, Phils 31.3

    Maybe living in New York is more stressful and they just look older.

    I stick to my March comments. Trade Howard or Rollins and get pitching pitching pitching pitching. I don’t know who is out there anymore, if anyone, but you never know.

  • Posts: 0 Gavin

    The Phillies dont have a good offense.

    Name all the guys on this team that have a .300 batting average.

    Name all the guys on this team that have over 1.000 OPS.

    Don’t cheat.

  • Posts: 0 Soapy

    Rob, don’t forget Andrew Jones

  • Posts: 0 TJ

    Jamie Moyer and Tom Gordon bring our averages up about 3 years in those categories.

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