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Five Reasons Why the Phillies Won't Win in 2006

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Time to flip the script and think about what can go wrong!

I'm as optimistic about this team as anyone, but the Phillies face a long, hard road to the postseason no matter how you look at it.
1. The Black Hole:

Alright, this is no laughing matter. As detailed by our own David Cohen, the 7-8-9 spots in the lineup were among the very worst in baseball. Replace Bell with Abe Núñez and you're still struggling.


2. Bullpen: Whether it was ultimately good or bad to let Billy Wagner go, the inescapable conclusion for the Phillies is that their bullpen, particularly the back end of it, is worse than last year. Add in a crusty old set-up man (Arthur Rhodes) and an even crustier closer (Flash Gordon) and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Once again, the writing is on the wall: the team will be wedded to a set of strict roles in the bullpen, results be damned. Those high leverage innings belong to some less risky arms. And the mere fact that Rheal Cormier is still employed tells me that this team just isn't ready.

3. Pat Gillick: The jury is still out, but (see #2) Gillick seems to cling desperately to some outmoded concepts -- veteranosity, clutchitude, and dirty uniforms over results. Has the game passed him by? His last three teams all did very well, but seemed to collapse shortly after his departure. The recent decision to dump Ricardo Rodriguez was an encouraging sign, but it would have been even better to have not traded Padilla for him in the first place. Some mashers (like Russell Branyan) were available to sub for David Bell, or hit off the bench, but instead Gillick goes and grabs Núñez and Alex Gonzalez, two players whose virtues are modest at best.

There has to be a happy medium between the Milhousian ineptitude of Ed Wade and the antediluvian talent evaluation philosophy of Pat Gillick, but once again the Phillies scrreeeeeewed it up.

4. Regression: Few honest phans can tell you that they predicted with any certainty the amazing .900+ OPS breakout season of Chase Utley, nor the emergence of Ryan Howard (at least in a Phillies uniform). Did we see their true level in 2005, or are they somewhere above/below? If it's below, factor in some age-related decline for Abreu, the effects of nagging injuries for Burrell, and the drop-off from the outstanding Kenny Michaels platoon of 2005, and suddenly your dynamite offense is pretty ordinary.

5. Poor decision-making by field staff: My more polite way of saying "Charlie Manuel is challenged by modern baseball." Slap-hitting Núñez batting second? That's possible. Strict bullpen roles, damn-the-rotator-cuffs!? Let's do it again. The troubles the field staff experiences with things like the double-switch have been beaten to death, but other daily issues like lineup composition/scheduling days off, over-valuing defense, and bullpen management can have cumulative effects that can cripple a team for the stretch drive.

I still really like this team and I think they have a good chance. But most of the above items relate directly to the overarching theme of poor resource management. Keep Polanco last year, for instance, and trade Bell for scrap, and maybe you win the Division last year. Give the Cinderella-before-midnight Aaron Fultz of 2005 a few of Cormier's innings back in June and you might salvage a game.