Photo: Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso
Ryan Howard returned Friday night perhaps prematurely in a move that was supposed to light a spark under the Phillies and propel them to victory. Howard himself was effective, going 2 for 4 with a double. There were two major problems with last night's despicable loss: 1) The lineup was constructed out of sentimentality for the good ol' days and of course scored no runs, and 2) The Phillies bullpen still absolutely sucks.
In Tyler Jett's piece on Philly.com earlier, Manuel spoke of what I feel was suspect lineup construction:
Manuel said he wants Victorino hitting second again because that is the spot in which he batted when the Phillies' lineup was prolific in the past. Because Howard and Chase Utley are back, Manuel said it was a good time to bring back the vibes from the Phillies' previous division championship runs.
Oh really? In that case, sign Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett as free agents (since they are without teams), coax Geoff Jenkins out of retirement, and trade the Marlins for Greg Dobbs, because the "vibes" from the past could help the Phillies win right now. And why stop there - Pat Burrell must still be in decent enough shape.
Of yesterday's starting lineup, the one hitting the absolute worst all season - .248-hitting Shane Victorino who is much worse batting left-handed against right-handed pitching- batted second on that sentimentality. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard right now are shadows of their old 2008 selves, particularly with Utley's cartilage-impared knees and Howard's balky achillies heel.
Juan Pierre has been a steady .300 hitter and baserunning presence at the top of the lineup all season. Better bat him 6th, right?
Further - the third spot in the batting order should belong to the team's best hitter. The Phillies have Carlos Ruiz contending for a batting title, .001 points below all of baseball's leader. Yet, he was not batting third. I'm surprised that with the whole sentimentality theme Ruiz was not batting 8th as he did in 2008.
Chase Utley cannot bat third for the Phillies anymore, period. He is no longer the team's best hitter, and will not magically regrow cartilage and return to his old self. Especially right now when he's on his two on, one off schedule the team needs more stability in the three-hole.
This is the lineup I would play right now:
- Rollins, SS
- Pierre, LF
- Ruiz, C
- Howard, LF
- Pence, RF
- Utley, 2B
- Victorino, CF
- Polanco, 3B
I would love to see Manuel adjust given what he has and how people are playing, but I sincerely doubt he has the guts to do so. He would rather fail being loyal than win.
Last night's loss is often attributed to the bullpen. Some suggest that a healthy Contreras and Herndon would have made this team better, but people fail to remember that Contreras was not healthy last season and was never likely to be healthy this season, and Herndon was not slated to even make the team had a second left-hander actually worked out. Chad Qualls (as I've regularly stated) was awful the last two seasons and he signed to be the team's key setup man this season.
As the team has lost and lost and lost some more due to a putrid bullpen, Ruben Amaro has absoultely refused to address the Phillies' achillies heel (aside from Howard's) other to shuttle some guys named Schwimer, Rosenberg, Valdes, Diekman, Horst, and Savery back and forth to AAA. The inaction has got to be demoralizing to the players on the team and cause starting pitchers to try to be too perfect and never relax and pitch as they should.
I don't care what lineup the team plays, I don't care if Howard, Utley, and Halladay all come back, and I don't care how well the starters pitch. With all this chatter about "well let's see how the Phillies do between now and the trading deadline to see if we can make a run", they have absolutely no chance until the bullpen is addressed.
To not acquire any relief help is to give up. We do not need to wait and see how they do.