Something just isn’t working, gang.
After an infuriating 9-6 loss at the hands of the Giants in San Francisco, the Phillies remained relegated in fourth place in the NL East, one game behind the New York Mets and two games out of the second wild card, with two teams in front of them. They lost despite having 21 baserunners in the game (10 hits and 11 walks). They gave up a damaging, two-run single to the opposing team’s closer, Will Smith, in the first plate appearance of his 11-year career.
They have lost four out of their last five series. The team is drowning. And there is no sense of urgency. Prior to Sunday’s game, Kapler noted the team still has a run left in them.
He’s the only who sees it.
“There’s so much time between now and the end of September,” Kapler said before Sunday’s game. “And one of the things that we saw, and that is really important to point out, is that at the beginning of the season, for the first month of the season, the baseball world was actively talking about the Washington Nationals (who now lead the NL wild-card race) having no chance to go to the postseason. They were left for dead. And then when we had the last couple of series against the Mets, the same thing was said about them.
“There’s an ebb and a flow to this sport and they can come in six- or eight-week stretches. So I think, under the circumstances, our job, our responsibility, both as a leadership group and players in the clubhouse, is to say, ‘Wait a second, we’ve got seven weeks to go, that’s a lot of time.’ There’s a lot of ability to pass other people in the standings during that time period. So that’s how I feel.
“I think there’s a healthy balance between urgency and having a clear big-picture approach and we try to strike that balance on a daily basis.” (quotes via Jim Salisbury, NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Of course, the manager is paid to be optimistic. He’s not paid to give up or wail about the path the season has taken. As fans, that’s our job. Kapler’s job is to keep his players believing in themselves and their chances. Expecting Kapler to come out and be as negative about the team as we are is unreasonable. However, it is reasonable to expect him to speak with more of a sense of urgency.
The 2019 baseball season is now a sprint. There is NOT “so much time between now and September.” The marathon is over. The pennant race is here, and to hear Kapler tell it, the team still has lots of time to get itself right.
When the manager isn’t speaking with a sense of urgency in public, you wonder what the message is in private. You wonder if the players are also not playing with a sense of urgency. Of course, urgency may only go as far as that evening’s starting pitcher, and last night, Jake Arrieta’s bone spurs wouldn’t allow him to throw breaking pitches and, when you’re only throwing fastballs and you can’t throw them fast anymore, you get lit up.
Arrieta’s season should be over. Get the damn surgery.
The Nationals have Max Scherzer (he’ll be healthy soon), Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. The Mets have Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Zack Wheeler.
The Phillies have Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta (whose season may soon be over), Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas and Vince Velasquez. How hot can one reasonably expect this team to get, especially with a decimated bullpen full of failed starters, cast-off veterans and youngsters unable to rise to the occasion? t, especially with a decimated bullpen full of failed starters, cast-off veterans and youngsters unable to rise to the occasion?
Nick Pivetta was brought into the game in the bottom of the 8th inning laslast night t nigto get an important out. They wanted him to throw high fastballs to Kevin Pillar, who has a tendency to chase that pitch. Pivetta through a meatball that Pillar hit for a go-ahead triple. Smith followed with him humiliating single to right after Pivetta had fallen behind him 3-0.
The offense scored just two runs with three separate bases loaded opportunities last night, leaving 15 runners on base. Even though six runs should have been enough to win the game, the Phils refused to allow the Giants to hand the game, and a series split, to them.
Something needs to change.
Maybe it’s the manager. Maybe it’s the hitting coach. Maybe it’s the pitching coach. Maybe it’s the general manager. Maybe it’s all four. Maybe the entire organizational philosophy has to be re-evaluated, including the general manager, because virtually nothing this team has tried to do has worked.
Maybe PHIL is broken.
The Phillies either didn’t evaluate the ability of Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin properly this off-season, or they haven’t been able to figure out how to get either pitcher to maximize their abilities. The Corey Dickerson trade has worked so far (although it would be nice if he wasn’t subbed out for Sean Rodriguez moving forward) but previous moves for Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, Jose Bautista and Justin Bour did not. J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins and, yes, Bryce Harper, have underachieved this season.
The bullpen was decimated by injuries, and now two of the most important arms in the ‘pen, Pivetta and Eflin, are converted relievers. While other teams, the Astros and Red Sox to name two, have managed to make that strategy work, the results in Philadelphia have been pretty awful.
Players aren’t getting better in year number two and, in some cases, the veterans and younger guys have regressed. The rotation is a disaster, and that had nothing to do with injuries, with the exception of Arrieta.
And so far, no one other than Maikel Franco has been held accountable. But hey, at least they’re hustling, right?
When this many things go wrong over the course of two seasons, perhaps the process wasn’t right. Perhaps it’s not all just bad luck.
The Phils have a lot of good players on this team, but at the moment, they are a bad team, and don’t seem to have any answers.
When that happens, sometimes it’s necessary to bring in new people to ask new questions. On Episode 309 of Hittin’ Season, Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and I ranted about the current state of the Phillies, their fall to fourth place, and next steps.