Watch how Marco Scutaro legs out his bloops and bunts. Watch how Scott Rolen digs a single into a double against a rookie outfielder. Watch how Jon Lester studies his opponents and schools them with the same pitch, over and over.
This is how baseball should be played.
Now watch Jimmy Rollins swing up and pop the ball into the shallow outfield. Watch Shane Victorino get caught stealing yet again in a tight spot. Watch Ryan Madson throw an 0-2 high fastball to a man who can only hit the high fastball.
This is how baseball should not be played.
It’s baffling, downright stupifying that the Phillies are playing 13-19 at Citizens Bank Park. Then again, is it?
Forget statistics. Just watch the Phillies in action.
They’re a bunch of uppercut-swinging, impatient, often lost and unaware, overly aggressive, fence-seeking, pitch-waving hitters. How many times must I watch Jayson Werth fall to a knee when fishing for an unhittable pitch? Or Ryan Howard completely miss a low-and-outside slider? Or Rollins pop up a first pitch?
Of course, these offensive offense is just a piece of the rhubarb.
Mangerial mishaps. Like taking Carlos Ruiz out for Chris Coste, a lesser offensive player and much lesser receiver. Fault Madson for making that pitch to Rod Barajas, but someone had to call the 0-2 fastball.
Baserunning blunders. Like Victorino trying to steal a base with two outs in the eighth after roping BJ Ryan for two runs.
Fielding follies. Like Rollins and Chase Utley forgetting a play never ends, as the intelligent Scutaro took two bases on a walk.
Then there’s pitching, which goes far beyond the performance on the field. As of this writing, the Phillies have two inexperienced starting pitchers, one over-the-hill starting pitcher and one inconsistent starting pitcher, not to mention a fifth who is having a shaky season despite his “ace” status. Can the Phillies rely on their current rotation? Absolutely not.
This rotation’s performance has made it laborious for the relievers, who are dropping like flies and being overexposed to the point of complete breakdown. Chad Durbin? A middle reliever being pushed far beyond his boundaries. Clay Condrey? Ditto. JC Romero? Facing too many right-handed hitters. Jack Taschner? Tyler Walker? They should never pitch in important spots.
The Phillies need more than reinforcements. They need new relievers, strong outings and, most of all, a rotation that can ensure quality starts. When your “ace” has just two starts of seven innings or better, you’re in complete trouble.
Oh, and why the heck is Paul Bako taking up a roster spot?
This is a confusing pie — a confusing one to write and understand, but that’s because so much is wrong with the Phillies. It doesn’t show via wins and losses, but watch six games against superior teams, and you’ll notice all the many cracks. They’re only getting worse, and it’s because there’s no urgency to change.
At some point things might completely fall apart, but that’s if the front office doesn’t act. They need better bench players. They need smarter hitters. They need more dominating starting pitchers. They need organized and stable relievers. And they need leadership that’s not only loose and friendly, but geared toward winning every situation.
The 2008 Phillies won because they had a superior bench, smart hitters when necessary, strong starting pitching, an outstanding bullpen and decisions that paid off more than not. These 2009 Phillies?
They’re playing the way baseball shouldn’t be played.
It’s time to change that.