The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Based on that axiom, the Philadelphia Phillies are loonier than Jeffrey Goines.
It’s time to shake things up with the local baseball team. This just ain’t working. After a 10-4 start to the month of July and Phillies fans finally starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, the team was turning a corner, this flawed collection of players has Lucy’d the football away from us once again.
After a humiliating and disgusting 15-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night, the Phils have followed that 10-4 stretch with four losses in five games. They will enter the series finale against the Braves on Sunday afternoon hoping for a split and a chance to reach the .500 mark once again.
They are allergic to prosperity. They are opposed to success. Like Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting, they push us away before we can embrace them. Maybe it’s some weird baseball attachment disorder or something, but whatever it is, one thing is clear.
This team needs a shakeup.
The current mix of players on this roster simply isn’t working. The core cannot hit consistently, cannot pitch consistently, and they play terrible defense. Sure, they’re capable of decent stretches because, after all, this is the fifth-largest payroll in baseball and there are some talented players here, but it’s never, ever sustained.
Zack Wheeler should be the NL Cy Young front-runner at this point. Bryce Harper, when healthy, is one of the few players who provides any kind of spark. J.T. Realmuto has largely been good this season, and Jean Segura has been the team’s MVP.
But that’s what’s maddening about this ball club. They’ve had the same good players for a few years now, but have never been able to break through. They tantalize with a stretch of solid play only to follow it up with a brutal string of baseball, generally against losing teams, just at the point where you think things are finally turning around.
At this point, the Phillies shouldn’t be “sellers,” and they absolutely should not go into another full rebuild. However, Dave Dombrowski’s approach to buying should perhaps be a bit different than we’re thinking.
If he gets the opportunity to move a big piece of this team’s core, he shouldn’t hesitate to do it, given the right conditions.
There’s almost no one on this team who should be untouchable. Wheeler, Realmuto and Harper are probably the only ones who should stay no matter what, but I could even be talked into moving on from them under the right circumstances. Everyone else should be fair game, again, not for prospects, but to use in deals where you swap out one set of quality players for a different set.
That’s easier said than done, of course. Those types of blockbusters don’t usually happen in MLB anymore, but if anyone can do it, it’s a seasoned, Hall of Fame executive like Dombrowski. Clearly he has to see that nothing is going to change with this team unless he shakes things up.
Could that mean simply going out and trading for Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel and a starting pitcher for the middle of the rotation? Could it mean trading for a top starter like Max Scherzer? Perhaps, but it feels like simply adding a couple of players to the current mix isn’t going to change much.
But hey, maybe that’s just the kick in the rear end this team needs. Whatever it is, they need something.
Center field is still a need, as is the back of the bullpen, but if the Phillies are going to stay in this, they absolutely must upgrade the starting rotation. Aaron Nola has been hugely disappointing, with his 4.64 ERA on the season, his 5.86 ERA over his last 12 starts and his 6.10 ERA over his last eight. He cannot be counted on. He must improve. Zach Eflin is injured and, when he was healthy, was only putting up a 4.12 ERA with a .274 batting average allowed. Pretty mediocre.
The team’s decision this off-season to give Vince Velasquez, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson a combined $11 million guaranteed was a disaster. Velasquez’ horrific performance on Saturday night raised his season ERA to 5.45, while Moore’s is a ghastly 6.23, and Anderson, who is rehabbing in AAA Lehigh Valley, is sporting a 6.96 ERA.
Incredibly, after a performance in which he lasted just 2 1⁄3 innings and gave up six earned runs on five hits, two walks and three strikeouts, Velasquez had the unmitigated gall to complain that manager Joe Girardi removed him from the game too soon.
“Only 53 pitches. I have a lot of arm left, man,” he said after his ERA in his last 10 starts rose to 7.74. “I know I have more room to kind of make those improvements and go deep as far as I possibly can. It kind of threw me off guard being taken out early, but Joe made the decision.” (quote via Scott Lauber, Philadelphia Inquirer).
The ridiculousness of these comments only underscores the desperate need for a roster shakeup. Players continue to make excuses for their failures and seemingly believe a long winning streak is simply going to happen, as if dropped from the sky with a thud on their clubhouse floor.
Maybe if they crossed their fingers and wished real hard, they could play consistent baseball for more than a two-week stretch too!
The team and their fans have been waiting for the winning to begin for four years. It hasn’t happened yet and perhaps it’s unreasonable to assume this collection of players is going to figure it out. At some point, enough is enough.
Thanks to a New York Mets loss on Saturday, the gap between the Phillies and first place in the NL East remains just four games, tied with Atlanta for second in the division. Dombrowski apparently still plans to add before the trade deadline and he’s reportedly willing to go over the luxury tax to do it. But Dombrowski may be past the point of simply adding players to this current collection of underachievers and excuse-makers.
Everyone is tired of watching this team do the same thing, day after day, week after week, year after year. At some point, the insanity of it all just becomes too much.