According to today's Inky, Pat Gillick is pointing a finger at Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Wes Helms for the team's early season foibles. He also has problems with the bullpen, but he sees that as his own making, so he downplayed that apparently.
While there's no doubt that the struggles from these three players have been a problem, Gillick is a fool if he's not also turning the light around and focusing on his own shortcomings with respect to these three players.
How is it partly Gillick's fault? Let's take a look at each of these guys:
Wes Helms: Gillick pulled an Abe Nunez with Helms. In the off-season, Gillick gave Helms a 2-year contract worth almost $5.5 million. Why? Because Helms just had a career year. Paying good money after a career backup has his best year is stupid management. Now Helms is doing what he does best - being utterly sub-average.
Pat Burrell: Burrell's power has disappeared, and no one knows why. Without his power, Burrell is a big strikeout machine who can get on base but can't do much else. Burrell certainly needs to pick it up this season. But, Gillick needs to understand that he has possibly contributed to this situation. Coming off a season in which he hit 29 home runs and drove in 95 runs, Burrell was bombarded this off-season with his general manager saying that he was trying to trade Burrell because Burrell didn't do enough in the lineup and struck out too much. What kind of message does that send to one of your big power guys? That he's not doing enough, and he better do more, especially to cut down on those evil strikeouts. Well, Burrell has done that - his strikeout rate is down slightly (from around 28% of at-bats in the past few years to 25% this year), but his power is non-existent. Pat might as well have "Thanks for the encouragement, Boss" plastered across his back in big letters.
Ryan Howard: Ryan Howard is on pace for 28 home runs and 109 runs batted in. That's not that bad a season. Of course, following his incredible MVP season, it's a big let down, but shouldn't we have expected something like this? Shouldn't Pat Gillick, who's been around baseball a lot longer than I've been alive, have expected this? Regression to the mean is a basic concept everyone in sports management has to have some grip on. Add to the natural regression a player who feels scorned for being paid $900,000 after the best offensive year in franchise history (thanks Pat!), and Howard's performance is not very shocking at all. Disappointing? Sure. Surprising? Not at all.
Gillick can complain about the middle of his lineup all he wants. And there's certainly truth to the fact that all three guys need to step it up. But, Gillick also has to realize (and the Philadelphia media needs to point out) that much of the blame for all of these problems lies at his own feet.