The 2015 Phillies find themselves the awkward stage of rebuilding that mirrors the initial stages of male puberty. In the newly-pubescent case, the afflicted notices a few stray hairs in previously hairless territory and an outbreak of unsightly red and, in severe cases, purulent blemishes. As if unsightly appearance weren't punishment enough, hormonal wildness also renders the adolescent male's speech an unpredictably absurd oscillation of pitches. But in that awkwardness, as unfortunate as it is at the time for all involved, are the makings, however hard they may be to recognize, of what will undoubtedly become a clear-complexioned and full-bearded baritone destined to woo whichever suitor he fancies.
The current iteration of the Phillies are that awkward pubescent male. Starting right fielder Jeff Francouer is the purulent pimple; Freddy Galvis is the long black hair on the chin that would be more trouble to shave than it's worth; the starting rotation after Hamels is the cracking voice: you never quite know what quality of performance will emerge. Most teenagers do everything in their power to conceal the signs of this unfortunate phase by talking less, if at all, and blowing their parents' money on crappy acne wipes.
The signs of the strapping, baritone Phillies of the future are not yet quite visible with Aaron Nola, J.P. Crawford, and Maikel Franco still developing in the minors. The remaining members of the the Phillies dynastic days--Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz--somewhat mask the unfortunate inevitabilities of this stage of development. But with 25 roster spots to fill, the Francoeurs, Galvises, and O'Sullivans become very noticeable far too often.
Wouldn't it just be more fun if the Phillies laid their awkwardness bare and trotted out absurdist lineups for the purpose of revealing and revelling in the meaninglessness of their current age? I'm glad you think so too.
If the Phillies choose to embrace the absurdity of being an older team with few presently available opportunities to showcase the future, they should arrange a lineup designed to highlight that self-acceptance post-haste. Here is what that lineup, consisting of players currently on the 40-man roster, might look like, arranged in their batting order:
Leading off: center fielder, Ryan Howard. Center fielders have to cover a lot of ground and, often, they have to cover that ground quickly. Ryan Howard, even the 2015 slimmed-down version, doesn't cover ground. It would be unfair to say he doesn't cover ground well, because plenty of other baseballers fit that description. Most accurately, Howard simply doesn't cover ground, full stop. The traditional leadoff man is a player with a good on-base percentage and decent speed. Howard, especially currently, is neither of those things.
Batting second: starting pitcher, Jeff Francoeur. Pitched 7 innings for the Padres AAA affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas last year and wasn't bad. In 7.1 innings over 8 relief appearances, Frenchy struck out 5 against 4 walks (3 HBP) and had a solid 3.68 ERA. Sure, it's a small sample against lesser competition, but it still happened. He clearly enjoyed his experience too as he provided an extremely bubbly interview about the topic:
Typically, managers look for contact ability out of their second hitter to advance the speedy leadoff man. Frenchy's free and violent swinging should work well for us.
Batting third: third baseman, Aaron Harang. I'm contractually obligated to mention Harang in every post I write for The Good Phight, but even if that weren't the case, the Harangutan is a good fit for the hot corner. In his brief stint with the Phillies, he has already shown a penchant for confidently fielding balls hit his way.
Welcome to the hot corner, Mr. Harang. The third spot in the order is typically reserved for a team's best hitter. Aaron Harang is most certainly not that.
Batting cleanup: catcher, Ben Revere. If outfield routes are any indication, he would be a terrible framer with a lot of wasted movement making him anything but a quiet and still receiver. Also, watching him try to throw out stealing baserunners would never get old. Revere's three career home runs should play well out of the cleanup spot.
Batting fifth: first baseman, Freddy Galvis. Galvis is in many ways the anti-first baseman, if you conceive of a first baseman as a defensively challenged masher. Freddy's carrying skill has always been his ability to field a premium position at a high level while the bat always lagged behind. On our absurd baseball team, that seems like the perfect profile for first base.
Batting sixth: second baseman, Grady Sizemore. No absurd Phillies lineup would be complete without Grady Sizemore--a player three leg injuries past broken. Second base is the place for misfit toys and, even on this team of misfit toys, Grady somehow sticks out as not fitting as well as the others.
Batting seventh: left fielder, Domonic Brown. We've seen Brown try to play defense in left, and we know he's one of the worst defensive left fielders in baseball. It's unfortunate when you're left in your natural position for this absurd team, but a lot of things about Dom Brown's career have been unfortunate, so this probably won't bother him too much.
Batting eighth: right fielder, Carlos Ruiz. Right fielders typically have strong arms, so it may seem odd that, on this absurdist team, I have slotted a natural catcher--a position that demands a strong arm-- into right field. Ruiz's insertion here is a reflection of my confidence that his arm, prodigious as it might turn out to be, will not compensate for his utter lack of range.
Batting ninth: shortstop, Darin Ruf. Shortstop is a position that requires good range and a strong arm. Ruf has neither, so he is the perfect fit for our anti-baseball team version of the Phillies. Sad as it may be, Ruf is the best hitter in this lineup. That's just the guy you want batting last.
This was the most absurd lineup I could make out of Phillies currently on the 40-man roster. What would you like to see the Phillies do with their lineup to embrace the meaninglessness of their current season?