There is no doubt Ryne Sandberg learned a lot from Charlie Manuel last year during his time under the Phils' winningest skipper in club history.
Unfortunately, one of the things he apparently learned was how to use his bullpen improperly.
The Phillies' 3-2 walk-off loss to the Rangers last night in Arlington was reminiscent of one of the more frustrating aspects of the Manuel regime that everyone hoped would disappear once 'ol Cholly left the dugout.
Good to know that getting new manager hasn't affected Phillies' obsession with saving their closer for situations which might never happen.— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) April 2, 2014
With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, and their best relief pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon, twiddling his thumbs on the bench, the Phillies went with the less-than-heralded Mario Hollands to open the ninth. The very predictable thing then happened.
Hollands walked the left-handed hitting Shin Soo Choo, gave up a sacrifice bunt to Elvis Andrus, and then walked Prince Fielder. At that point, with Papelbon playing Candy Crush or something on his cell phone out in the 'pen, the Phillies brought B.J. Rosenberg into the game for the second night in a row.
Apparently the Phillies are only allowed to use relievers tonight who also pitched in yesterday's game, too.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) April 2, 2014
The reasons for this were obvious.
If only the Phillies had been allowed to use Papelbon. That rule that says you can't use your best RP most of the time is a real problem— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) April 2, 2014
Perhaps we should bring this one up with the Competition Committee this winter.
Rosenberg then gave up the game-winning single to Adrian Beltre, handing the Phillies their first loss of the 2014 season.
Of course, there's no guarantee Papelbon would have done any better in that situation, but the Phillies are paying him $13 million to pitch at the end of baseball games. Unfortunately, no one realized there was a stipulation in his contract that didn't include using him in tie baseball games when the Phils were on the road. If that had been discussed at the time of the signing, maybe the Phils could have gotten a discount or something.
Last night continued a trend that repeated itself throughout Charlie Manuel's tenure as manager. As lesser Phils relievers entered tie games in foreign cities, Papelbon ate his nachos, worked on his karate, and watched the team lose games they may not have lost had their best relief pitcher been used.
Sandberg's overall bullpen usage these first two games has been a bit mystifying as well. No one could quite figure out why he left Jake Diekman in Monday's season-opening win for a second inning against two right-handed hitters, a move that cost the Phillies two runs. Last night, Sandberg again used Diekman in a weird spot, up 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th, with Choo on second and two out, facing the right-handed hitting Beltre.
Also questionable was his decision to bring Antonio Bastardo into the game in the 8th inning against the bottom of the Rangers' order, with the left-handed heavy top of the order due up in the ninth. Sandberg explained that move thusly (via CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury)...
"Being on the road, Bastardo is our eighth-inning guy," Sandberg said. "We’re trying to put a zero up there and trying to score in our half of the inning. We went that route."
So far, we're seeing that Sandberg is an old-school manager in a lot of ways. He's clearly an advocate of the old baseball adage that you don't use your closer in a non-save situation on the road.
It's unclear how many more games the Phillies have to lose before their manager, whoever it is, realizes that adage deserves to die.