|From the Phillies Facebook, yesterday|
And neither has been too bad.
The truth is, this team is way more than one or two pieces away from getting fixed, and at this point may be too difficult to fix. This team is 13(!) games behind the Nationals, and a solid five behind the Marlins for fourth. It would be funny if it wasn't pathetic. Back as early as April the problems were already obvious with this team- bad bullpen, lack of timely hitting, undisciplined mistakes- and nothing was done about it. The front-office, which handed a defective product to the manager, did not go get a real set-up man, no regular player got shipped out for bad performance, the line-up was not measurably altered. They tried useless moves like shipping Joe Savery up and down the Northeast extension, calling up and down the Hector Luna's and Jason Pridie's of the world, and adding and subtracting the Brian Sanches's of the world from the 40 man. Absolutely none of these moves did anything to change the dynamic, shake up the roster, or fix a problem. Hence, this team finally totally crashed out in June and went 9-19, and has followed suit with a 1-4 start to July.
In many ways, I feel for Utley and Howard. This franchise has been a winner through their career. Sure, they've been on non-playoff teams, but those teams were in the race and finishing second. Now, they arrive for a team with a double-digit deficit in the standings, and are going to be expected to carry this team back by many fans. They can't. Unless the two of them are going to hit in eight of the nine spots, run the bases for their air-headed teammates, and throw the eighth inning for the team. The truth is, they can't change this all themselves. There are still some bad players on this team.
The one guy who can fix this, at least beyond this season, is the guy who put this bad roster together- Ruben Amaro Jr. His team, which won 102 games a year ago, and 97 before that, simply fell off a cliff this year. Injuries have killed this team- Halladay, Lee, Worley, Howard, Utley, Schneider, Nix, Thome, Martinez, Contreras, De Fratus, Herndon, Stutes, and Galvis have all appeared on the DL. Obviously, that's going to drag you down, there's just too much talent missing there. The team still had problems anyway though- no set-up man that was solid from day one, a bad situation in left-field, a worse hole in the middle of the line-up where the power needed to be, and little to no depth for the bench. I'll even go a step further and say the manager we have, while a very good one, is not adept for the job he has this year, because his players aren't consistent enough. Ruben put together a bad product, period.
For him to fix it, he may have to realize he can't fix the 2012 product with the pieces he has. The good thing for him is that he doesn't start 2013 with a terrible product. He has a top-notch one-two punch in his rotation, and he simply has to fill that three hole up (sign Hamels), then he can go young at four and five, with Worley already here. He has a top notch closer, and some young arms that can grow in lower leverage spots, but getting a solid set-up man or two could turn this weakness into a strength. He has five positions filled very well (Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Pence, Rollins) for next season, if he wants them all, and all he needs to do is make sure they get to Opening Day healthier. He has some youngsters that can fit onto the 2013 roster (like Dom Brown) in starting or important roles, all he has to do is turn them loose, and he can save some coin. He essentially needs a third starter, two bullpen guys who can throw the 8th, an outfielder and a third baseman. He starts his 2013 bench with Laynce Nix on it. That's a good start, and can be grown from there.
The two big guys in the line-up probably can't save the 2012 Phillies. The guy who signed their deals can make sure this team doesn't fall off into second-division status for a while. To be fair, that's not an option. The Phillies have invested big money in this team. The fans won't keep coming if they go into rebuilding mode. Ruben's not going to get time to rebuild. He has to re-load.