Phillies season at a crossroads
Charlie Manuel once said that he loves baseball because there is no masking your identity.
“This game is great because you are who are you are after 162 games,” Manuel said. “You can’t make no excuses. Your record is who you are.”
The Phillies former manager was a sage at times when talking baseball before the game in the dugout.
Halfway through the 2014 season, the Phillies are who they are. The Phillies are ten games under .500, in last place in baseball’s weakest division, eight-and-a-half-games behind the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, who completed a four-game sweep in Philadelphia for the first time in a half-century.
During a critical stretch in which Sandberg said ‘it’s win now time,’ the Phillies are 2-8 during their last ten games. There is little consolation except that maybe that the club is going on the road, where it is mind-boggling 18-19.
Typically only good teams win on the road. Why can’t the Phillies hit or win at home?
“I don’t know,” Ben Revere said. “That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer. All I can say is that we got to play better here.”
The Phillies will have the chance to do that but the odds are that when they come back the following weekend for a homestand against the Nationals, the club will be buried at bottom of the division and all of the talk leading up to the All-Star break is who the Phillies will be able to deal. Teams with the seventh worst record in baseball typically aren’t buyers at the break.
“The Phillies have a lot of issues,” a NL scout said. “They have problems but it shouldn’t be a shock. We saw those problems when they left spring training.”
In late March, the Phillies limped out of Clearwater looking like one of the worst teams in baseball. However, Chase Utley, who had the worst Grapefruit season of his storied career, somehow turned on the switch on opening day, and would have won the NL Player of the Month award if it weren’t for the Rockies MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki.
“What’s frustrating about this team is that it just can’t hit with runners in scoring position,” a NL scout said. ‘It’s not all bleak for this team, if you look at it. There are bright spots but they can’t hit when it matters.”
The starting pitching figures to get a boost when Cliff Lee returns. Cole Hamels has been as good as any pitcher in the game over the last month. The rest of the rotation should be decent at worst. And then there’s the resurgent bullpen, which has been very good since late May, thanks to the development of Jake Diekman, Justin DeFratus and Mario Hollands. Jonathan Papelbon has been dependable and Ken Giles looks like he belongs. But what does it matter if they can’t score runs?
Revere is one of the few Phillies hitters, who is heating up as the dog days arrive. “We have the talent to do it,” Revere said. “We just got to get up there and do the job.”
Time is slipping away. Phillies fans don’t need a whole season to know who the Phillies are. It’s apparent halfway through the campaign that the second half will be tough to watch.