Cataldi: Phillies window finally closed — with crashing authority
The team president thinks three good decisions out of 10 is impressive. The ace of the pitching staff is 2-11. The closer blew three saves last week and lectured his teammates about fundamentals. Listen very closely, Philadelphia. That sound you hear is the window of opportunity slamming shut on the most successful era in Phillies history,
It’s over. I know it, you know it, even the Phanatic knows it. The only people who still have faith in the 2013 Phillies are the three men running the team — president Dave Montgomery, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel — and deep down they must suspect the truth by now, too.
The Phillies have been a .500 team, at best, for two years. Since Ryan Howard ripped his Achilles tendon on the final play of the 2011 playoffs and sounded the death knell on a 102-win season, the Phils have been a sad facsimile of their glory days, a team with many of the same names but none of the old magic.
Unfortunately, this reality still eludes the people running the team, and especially Montgomery, a man who actually said last week: “God knows we’re all trying to bat 1.000 on decision making. The reality is, I think we do better than the .300 standard in baseball.” That milestone is for hitting, not decisions. Doesn’t he realize that? Shouldn’t somebody tell him?
Montgomery also said in that interview that Amaro is not the only member of the front office responsible for the dysfunctional make-up of the current team. The president insisted that all of the major moves were organizational decisions. In other words, if you’re expecting this to be Amaro’s last chance here, forget it. Montgomery is fiercely loyal, to a fault. Amaro is going nowhere.
Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has been healthy all season, and he has already lost more games before July 1 than any Phillies pitcher in 76 years. When he gets no offensive support, he loses, 2-1. When the team does hit, he finds a way to give away the lead. He was the MVP of the 2008 World Series, and he is the LVP of the 2013 season so far. He doesn’t need a pitching coach. He needs a shrink.
And Papelbon, the quirky closer with a big mouth, is not faring well these days on or off the field. His comments about the Phillies lacking fundamentals would have been far more effective if he didn’t violate the fundamentals of his own role by falling behind hitters, walking the leadoff man, and giving up big home runs.
They are a mess, these 2013 Phillies. And they will remain so until Montgomery stops living in the past. The core of star players he keeps waiting for has been here all along, and they are not good enough anymore to continue the most exhilarating era in Phillies baseball.
The window has closed. It’s time to start looking for a new one.
Stupid is as stupid does in Atlanta
On the day I became a full-time radio host at WIP in 1990, my co-host Tom Brookshier pointed to the microphone and said: “That’s a loaded gun. Be careful.” I will leave it for others to decide how well I have heeded Brookie’s advice, but I know I’ve never been as stupid or reckless as the hosts in Atlanta who mocked ALS victim Steve Gleason last week.
The radio geniuses at “Mayhem in the AM” in Atlanta thought it was hilarious to simulate a voice for Gleason and have the terminally-ill former NFL player make ignorant comments during one of the most ill-conceived bits in radio history. They were fired for their gross lack of judgment, but no punishment is harsh enough for such an evil act.
As someone who was there at the birth of the sports-radio format, I have seen the demands of the profession evolve from straight sports talk many years ago to the mix of sports, current events and entertainment that are essential for survival today. Hardcore fans ask me all the time why I don’t just stick to talking sports. I always give the same answer: “Because I’m trying to keep my job.” Straight sports simply does not hold enough of an audience. You can look it up. The ratings don’t lie.
So I fully understand why those bozos in Atlanta tried to be funny; it’s part of the job description, especially in big-city morning radio. What I will never understand is how a man courageously battling a horrific disease could ever become fodder for satire. It is unimaginable, and it is unforgivable.
Remember these three names, please: Steven “Steak” Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini. If you ever hear their voices, change the station. They have lost the right ever to work in radio again.
Flyers turning backs on proud legacy
After what happened with the Flyers last week, you are forgiven if you now believe there is no justice in the hockey world. Danny Briere, a true gentleman who has embraced Philadelphia, was told he will be released from the Flyers after six years of exemplary behavior here. Ilya Bryzgalov, a braying jackass who has maligned Philadelphia, is still on the team. Go figure.
The current state of our underperforming hockey team is on full display right now as GM Paul Holmgren decides which of his many roster mistakes he can undo. The new collective bargaining agreement allows two exemptions from the salary cap for bad contracts.
At 35, Briere was an obvious choice for one of those moves, but not nearly as obvious as Bryzgalov, 33, who has been an embarrassment on and off the ice in his two years here. The Russian goalie still could still get cut, but only if the Flyers make another move in net before that.
The situation begs several simple questions: Why is Bryzgalov’s status contingent on finding a veteran goaltender? Exactly what justification could there be for keeping him and the remaining $34.5-million burden on the salary cap? Is this just another example of the Flyers holding out hope that Bryzgalov is something other than the biggest bust in team history?
The Flyers have always personified the best qualities in professional sports: loyalty, honor, commitment to excellence. If they keep Ilya Bryzgalov, they will be turning their backs on their own proud legacy. He needs to go. Now.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Charlie Manuel, who has done a horrible job managing the Phillies this season, finally snapped after Friday night’s loss. Oh, don’t worry. He didn’t vent his anger at any of the players who have underachieved. No, he went after a reporter, which is basically what bullies do.
» The feisty skipper actually agreed with closer Jonathan Papelbon that the Phillies lack fundamentals. Manuel said he’s been preaching the same thing to his players for two years now. Hmmmm. Then this means they have tuned him out, no? What else could it mean?
» The Sixers will either have to come out from hiding Thursday night to participate in the NBA draft or the rumors that they have disbanded the franchise are true. In the past quarter-century, no Philadelphia team has ever elected to disappear — for more than a month now — the way these clueless novices have.
» In a Philadelphia fan poll last week, 55 percent said they enjoyed football more at dirty, old Veterans Stadium than at clean, new Lincoln Financial Field. Sometimes a place fits a city, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the moral of that story.
» Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is so bored, he jumped off the balcony of his apartment building into a swimming pool last week just to provide some exciting video for his Instagram followers. Hey, at least he’s finding new way to express his stupidity. You’ve got to give him that.