We all forecast this to be the Phillies’ Hindenburg season. Crash. Burn. One hundred losses. Countdown to Eagles kickoff.
Somehow, it’s turning out worse.
Incredibly, the dreck that Ruben Amaro assembled and Ryne Sandberg directs has been more dreadful than we envisioned. Look at the numbers: 23 losses in 29 games; last in the Major Leagues in runs scored and run differential. Among the worst in nearly every category in hitting, fielding and pitching.
After a week in which they lost three games by a combined score of 41-8, something’s got to give. Another three-plus months of this zombie horror show would be unfair to fans, players – hell, even to Franzke and LA.
Some change may be imminent. President Pat Gillick virtually confirmed Sunday the club plans to hire veteran baseball exec Andy MacPhail to tow this truck out of the ditch. Assuming that occurs before mid-July, MacPhail will neuter Amaro and handle the all-critical trade moves that will reshape the franchise.
But what about Sandberg? We all agree the manager has been dealt a tough hand, but is he the right guy to lead this sorry mess even through the rest of the season?
I say no. I say the Hall of Fame second baseman needs to clean out his office now. And make sure he packs up pitching coach Bob McClure while stuffing everything else in moving boxes.
The sins of Sandberg are too many to fit into this short column. For a man regarded as a heady player, he has shown an innate ability to mismanage game situations. The “Fundamentals Manager” presides over a cast that can’t even navigate a sacrifice bunt. He has misused relievers, alienated players both young and old and – by Gillick’s own admission — failed to protect Maikel Franco last week when the rookie third baseman was run for arguing with umpires.
Franco is among several youngsters on this squad who could use a guiding hand. But take a look into the dugout during games. You never, ever see the manager talking to his young charges. By some accounts, there are nights when Sandberg utters fewer than 100 words between the first and ninth innings.
The nadir, of course, came last Tuesday. Sandberg and McClure impotently waved the white towel toward a sleeping bullpen – an image that will be tied to them like Richie Kotite’s two-point chart running in the rain. What followed was Chase Utley lambasting McClure in front of the world. As Inquirer columnist Bob Ford so brilliantly wrote, that was the instant Sandberg lost his currency with this group of 25.
He should be gone. Now. Replacing Sandberg with Juan Samuel (and, yes, it’s his turn rather than another Larry Bowa term), won’t extricate this sorry club from the bottom of the standings. But it will show everyone – fans, players, the rest of baseball – that what’s occurring out there now will not be tolerated.
We all deserve that much.