The Sins of the General Manager and the Perils of the Dead Bench

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, June 03, 2010 03:18 PM | Comments: 75
Analysis, Issues, Opinion, Payroll, Posts, Raising Questions

“…I the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”
–Exodus 20:5

Yes, Nation, this protracted offensive shortfall has reached biblical proportions. Right now, the team is paying for the sins of its father, namely, Ruben Amaro. We all remember Eric Bruntlett, right? He was about as bad an offensive player as has ever put on a Phillies uniform, and when his contract ran out, there was great rejoicing. Well, when we were finally rid of The Beard, Ruben went out and signed another player with mediocre speed, slightly above-average glove skill, and a .270 career OBP.

Credit where credit’s due: RAJ has, along with his predecessors, assembled one of the top lineups in recent baseball history, plus a solid starting rotation and a bullpen that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself.

But this bench, while never really a strength of this team, has finally reached unacceptable levels. Out of the eight opening day starters, none has a league-adjusted on-base-plus-slugging (OPS+) below 94, or just about average. Not one of the team’s bench players is slugging higher than .370, with the highest OPS+ belonging to Exxon Wilson Valdez. That OPS+? 68. SIXTY-EIGHT! There are 29 major league teams, apart from the Phillies, and 28 of them have at least one bench player with an OPS+ better than 68.

The problems with this are obvious and serious, particularly for a National League team. When your starters are worn out or mired in a slump, or when your entire left side of the infield is hurt, the idea is to have some decent hitters to bring off the bench so you’re not replacing a former NL MVP with a guy who has played sixteen years in the big leagues without even once performing at replacement level for a full season.

The worst part is that RAJ knew the dangers of the dead bench, had a whole offseason to fix it, and signed two over-the-hill veterans for far more than they were worth. Ross Gload doesn’t have any offensive skill Greg Dobbs doesn’t have, and, as a 1B/OF guy, hasn’t hit for even league-average power since 2006. Castro and Valdez we’ve been over. Yet Gload and Castro are both signed to major-league contracts (Gload, inexplicably, for two years), when their production and more can be had for less money.

The smartest money RAJ can spend right now is not for Roy Oswalt or Jayson Werth or even Cliff Lee. It would be to somehow make the numbers work on a deal that would jettison Gload, Castro, and/or Valdez. Take the payroll hit—right now, the Phillies are throwing good money after bad by continuing to play their bench players—and find someone (anyone) to fill in.

I don’t know where this production is going to come from (a minor-leaguer like John Mayberry? A free agent like Elijah Dukes?), but it’s out there, and with every at-bat the likes of Valdez and Castro get, the more serious the punishment the team and the fans suffer for the sins of their general manager.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    Man all these “new” Jeff’s around here are making me worry, cause most of them are speaking out the wrong end.

    I don’t need “real” in front of my name you all know me so I will keep my title as is….

    That being said, here is my take.

    our 3-4-5 hitters are killing us, take away the fact of how much money they make and all that crap, they are absolutley killing us. We have always been a streaky team but since we are missing guys like JRol and Polly, we can’ do much until they start getting their act together.

    The bench problem spans from several issues, one lack of talent to some degree. Lack of use is a big one.

    Gload, was the best pinch hitter in baseball but also played a lot more for the Marlins in the lineup. Not sure he fits what the Phillies need.

    Dobbs, was the best pinch hitter in 08, but once again remember that year Howard was out for over a month and Dobbs was his replacement and really got into a good routine that he carried the rest of the year. I think his confidence is in the toilet and needs new scenary

    Castro is a fielder period.

    Valdez, is here because Jason Donald is “beating out throws from Cabrera in Cleveland” due to the Cliff Lee trade.

    Schneider is a backup catcher period.

    Francisco is not a good pinch hitter, he is a good 4th outfielder, but Cholly plays him like a pinch hitter. When we were hitting and our starters were pitching into the 7th and 8th he was rotting on the bench, that is mismanagement. We have a 37year old+ Left Fielder that needs to be platooned at this point, USE FRANCISCO, or bring up Mayberry, my LORD THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL FOR THAT ONE!!

    So what Cholly needs to do is Platoon Ibanez and Ben hit Ben 2nd if Polly is still out otherwise hit him 6th platoon Valdez and Castro at SS till Rollins is back and bury them 8th in the order.

    That’s is my suggestion for the bench nothing will matter if our 3-4-5 hitters do not wake up SOON!

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    J-Roll and Polly at the top of the order sets the tone for the 3-4-5 hitters. Period.

    Dobbs needs to go. Useless.

    I agree that Ben Fran needs more playing time…maybe a platoon would work. I wasn’t for it initially but now I think it’s worth a try.

    Castro was brought in for his glove and he’s actually been ok at the plate. Not recently but in the beginning.

    Valdez is who he is. A call-up because we needed someone. He’s better than Eric Bruntlett, though!!

    Gload is a good pinch-hitter, but I agree….maybe he played more in Florida and fit into their needs better. Still, I have more confidence in him than Stairs.

    Schneider’s a good back-up. No worse than Coste or Bako. No issue there.

  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    First off all, the “Exxon Wilson Valdez” thing is neither clever nor funny, and should just be let go.

    Who knows where the Phillies would be without the defensive play of Valdez and Juan Castro. Halladay does not get the perfect game without the plays those two made.

    The bench is not the reason the Phillies have struggled since Zach Duke broke them. Utley-Howard-Werth are the reason. If those guys are hitting, the Phillies don’t worry about who is batting in a 1-1 game in the 8th inning.

    Finally, no speculating about Utley’s health until he says he is injured. Otherwise, you are just making excuses for his poor play. I know about the Golden Boy treatment he gets in this city, and criticizing him is sacrilege. But he is hurting the team right now.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Valdez and Castro are both better than Bruntlett. People have short memories I guess.

  • Posts: 0 Ted Bell

    Phillippe Aumont (1-6, 7.43 ERA overall at Double-A) has a 10.60 ERA in his last seven outings and has allowed six or more runs four times during that stretch. He has walked 29 batters over those 28 innings and hit five others. Yikes.

    I’m Ted Bell.

  • Posts: 0 Brett

    When Utley gets hurt, he doesn’t tell anybody and he plays through it. He’s done it before. There is no excuse for the way this team is playing right now, but as far as Utley, he looks like he’s playing hurt.

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    I’ll be there tonight, cheering my arse off – Cannot wait to see our boys and especially the good Doctor pitching! Go Phils!

  • [...] The Sins of the General Manager and the Perils of the Dead Bench … [...]

  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    Utley is like the Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail (just a flesh wound as he loses a leg) – one of the reasons he is the golden boy. When you look at Howard, Werth, and Vic – their swings haven’t changed – they are slumping for any number of reasons. Utley no longer spins his right foot – it could be that he intentionally or unintentionally changed this, but it could also mean that he changed due to pain/injury.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    In that case why do we have managers in baseball. Would Phil Jackson be a great head coach without Jordan, Kobe, And Big Daddy?? I agree it falls on the players but the coach or manager have there part. Yes Phil Jackson had a great Bulls and Laker teams. The one thing he is great at is getting his players to play at a high level. Also the way he handles them. Like when he had Dennis Rodman. My problem with Cholly is the lineup garbage. I understand you change it up when its not working but to put Valdez in the number 2 spot. Then Dobbs up top. Are you kidding me. I would of had Vic, Ultey, Werth, Howard, Ibanez. so on…..Also I have a problem the way he handles his pitchers. The bottom line guys like Utley and our big hitters are world hitters. They will hit. The weather is hot and we are home. I would like to see them win 10-2 tonight. Just tear the ball cover off. Give Doc a little lead and its over. Tear off a 3 to 5 game winning streak. Then we can relax a little here.

  • Posts: 0 Ted Bell

    Good point on the lineup Jeff, (especially since Victorino, Ultey, Werth, Howard, Ibanez and have swinging the bat so well for the past two weeks).

    I’m Ted Bell.

  • Posts: 0 Brian Sr. of CO

    I know some people are saying platoon Raul with Ben Fran, but I completely disagree. He has had quite a few chances in the last few weeks. I think he has left more men on base than anyone else. 6 in one game, 4 in another, 3 in yet another. 1 double in a game that I recall, which thankfully he was hit in, but I am curiouse if he could hit someone in with anything. He seems to be the FURTHEST from clutch. So if he can in fact hit to ball, but he isnt clutch in any way shape or form, maybe he is hitting in the wrong place? I dont know. What is Gload like in the field. I dont think Gload has had anywhere near enoug at bats. In Florida he was the main go to guy, and he led the league in hits as a Pinch Hitter, then comes here, RARELY gets used, and his numbers go down. Ben Frans plate appearances I believe have gone up, and he is doing less. Its seems to me, give Gload the plate appearances and he will sharpen up yet again and kill teams as a Pinch Hitter. And Chuck is right, if anyone says that Valdez and Castro are the same or worse then Bruntlett, you either a. have a VERY short memory, b. Are a brand new fan talking out there butt trying to make sense, or c. Are just plain clueless honestly. They are not starters people. There is a reason why they are bench players and JRoll and Palanco are the starters! That being said, that does not excuse the rest of the offense from sleeping. If they are also saying that this slump will get fixed when JRoll gets back in the lineup, like some fans are saying, it will be too late. No one player, or even two for the VERY short time that Palanco has been out as well should drive a team into a complete tailspin like they have been on. A slump maybe, but scoring something like 11 runs in 13 games is NOT a slump. It is a tail spin. A tail spin thankfully coming very early, and willl hopefully get it out of these systems. if this team gets on a hot streak, they can easily win 11-13 in a row, and still win upwards of 15 out of 20. They are capable. And they could have a winning streak well over 8, which the braves just hit, and yet is their franchise record for wins in a row. Some of this MUST go to Milt as well. I dont even bother calling him a “hitting” coach.

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Not to get too off target – I want to know if this site might have a book review section. I have read some local history and am now enjoying the heck out of Riche Wolfe’s compilation, Remembering Harry Kalas – there are others I would like to read any suggestions?

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    The Phillies are 28-24 right now… MOSTLY WITHOUT

    Rollins, Happ, Madson, Romero, Lidge…and decent stretches without Blanton and even Polanco

    …anyone complaing about our BENCH PRODUCTION should just jump off the bandwagon now

    Seriously.. I can understand talk about Utley, Howard, Werth struggling… or whatever happened to Victorino’s speed-game and energy, etc .. but to have to read complaints about Wilson Valdez and Greg Dobbs is ridiculous

    There are reasons that Wily Taveras was available.. and that Jermain Dye didn’t get signed, etc …

    There are reasons that the guys we DID sign didn’t have offers to be full time players in other cities.. and those same reasons enable us to pay them low salaries, which makes us able to afford Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, etc ……… spending extra money for BENCH PLAYERS is the defenition of “YANKEE” …… Lets all calm down a little, realize that we’ve got a great team that is banged-up right now.. but still 4 games above .500!

    Anyone that doesn’t think this team makes the playoffs again this season, raise your hand..

    I think a lot of us had Phillies and Braves both in the playoffs this year, so to see us 1-2 in the NL EAST is no surprise.. and again, considering our injury status.. we should be thankful that we had guys to keep us playing great through the first stretch … Juan Castro, Paul Hoover, Nelson Fig, etc. . … good job Ruben

  • Posts: 0 teejvee

    Th ereality of the situation is that the Phillies could be behid by a very big number ( 7-8) as early as next weekend.

    That would be a huge problem given that the division is so much better all around than last year and they have some tough raod games.

    Nationals w/ Strasburg, Marlins w/ Johnson and Nolasco, Mets w/ Santana and Pelfrey, Braves w/ Lowe and Hudson and Hanson, Dodgers on the road, Padres on the road, Yankees on the road.
    Lots of losses there.
    Slump or no slump , the Phillies would be underdogs in every one of those games unless Halladay pitches.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    Yes those guys are struggling ted but i would rather have utley and vic batting up there then valdez. they will hit the ball. the braves have good pitching and we hit them when we are going good. there lineup doenst scare me. the mets are just plain bad. if we are hitting they have no chance. they stink. washington is average and please dont give me strasburg. lets see him face some big boys in the major league before we make him doc gooden.

  • Posts: 0 teejvee

    Oh I’ll give you Strasburg. There is every indication he is much better than Tim Lincecum. It did not take long for Linceum to start mowing down hitters in the bigs.

    Can you see Utley, Howard, Werth or Ibanez touching that fastball?

    Me neither.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Strasburg will look great in his first start.. against the Pirates ….. and then he’ll struggle at time with major league hitters

    The Phillies were UP a very big number when everyone was healthy.. and the Braves started slow.. now the roles are reversed a little

    in the end, things will balance out and these are still two of the best teams in the National League …Overall, I still think the Phillies are probably 5+ games better than the Braves .. so we’ll see

    but everyone hitting the panic button needs to relax a little .. its June 4th

  • Posts: 0 teejvee

    Phile were up big when everybody was NOT healthy. Only one guy has been different . Rollins.

    Health has very little to do with why the Phillies are tanking.

    The fact that Howard and Utley haven’t hit a ball out of the infield in a month-that’s got a lot to do with why they are struggling.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    the fact that they are missing their #1 and #2 hitters… guys that, when on base… create huge holes in the infield, and go can 1st-to-3rd .. etc…

    I would say that has a lot to do with it.

    also, losing Rollins and Polanco, in favor of Castro, Valdez, Dobbs on DEFENSE… a few errors, extra baserunners, getting down early in games,.. and then you see guys pressing even more at the plate because they need to get back into the game

    its all related…

    When healthy.. this is the best team in the National League

  • Posts: 0 teejvee

    Fair points, but I still can’t buy the whole thing.

    Right now, they are (unquestionably) the worst team in the National League.

    And that is much more related to lack of performance by the players who are there than the players who aren’t.

    Of course, we all know that could change in a series.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    WORST TEAM. LOL. You are such a moron. First off nobody is as bad as the Mets. Your closer cant hold a lead. They cant score runs for Santana. They stink. I guess Murphy wont help since he is out for the year. lol. The mets are no problem. Washington will come back down to earth and finish with a bad record. We kicked there butt when we were hitting. When the Phillies are hitting like we were, we will have a 8 game lead. Teejvee is just a moron.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    This is a problem for me.. that a Phillies fan (because the Phillies are in a 10-15 game low point of the season) calls them “the worst team in the National League”

    I understand that you mean RIGHT NOW.. the way that they’re playing.. but these players have proved to me that they are in it for the long haul

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the ball starts jumping off their bats tonight, day off, back at home.. warm summer air

    Phillies can, and will .. win 9-of-10 … 13-of-15, etc at some point this season to rebound from this current lapse, so they’ll be fine

  • Posts: 0 teejvee

    not that complicated . I said RIGHT NOW.
    Cheezus what team is worse?

  • Posts: 0 AT

    Definitely tapping mayberry would be the best option or see if lofton would consider coming back. Laugh,, but kenny could still do more than our bench right now.

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