This week, my Phillies podcast Hittin’ Season produced its 500th episode.
That’s right, 500 individual episodes of Hittin’ Season have been broadcast since the pod’s launch back in May of 2015 under its previous title “The Felske Files” and, to be honest, it’s pretty amazing. You have to love something a lot in order to do it 500 times and I guess, despite everything they’ve put us through over the last few years, I love the Phillies.
Producing 2-3 podcasts per week during an extended postseason drought has often been rough, but in some ways, podcasting during a rebuild creates a number of interesting discussion points. Anytime a baseball team takes a new direction, invests in youth, makes radical changes in the front office and promotes young players, it’s exciting.
Yes, as Phillies fans, we’ve had a few big wins to celebrate over the course of these 500 episodes, but unfortunately, the team has languished for the majority of that time. As a result, I’m left to ponder an important questions.
Where the heck are we?
Are we any closer to the postseason now than we were then? Was the waiting worth it? Did we suffer needlessly? Was the tear-down rebuild a failure? Where do we go from here?
Make no mistake, the 2021 Phillies are better than the 2015 Phillies. That’s not in dispute, but the rebuild was designed to move the Phils to the front of the analytics wave, to fill the farm system with lots of good, young players, to give the Phils a bunch of high draft picks, and create financial flexibility to make the big splashes in free agency.
So far, the only thing that’s happened are the free agency splashes. Nothing else has come to fruition and, as a result, a top-heavy roster that has the 5th-highest payroll in baseball continues to languish around the .500 mark with nary a young prospect anywhere on the 26-man roster.
This week, as he announced a series of major front office changes, new team president Dave Dombrowski essentially admitted that the previous regime didn’t get the job done. It feels as if the Phillies are still no closer to figuring out how to use advanced data and analytics into making better ballplayers now than they were when the rebuild began 500 episode ago. A cursory look at young players who have either stalled or outright failed at the big league level is disturbing.
Former No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak and former No. 8 overall pick Adam Haseley should have taken over the center field job by now. Neither are anywhere close to being everyday Major Leaguers and can’t even stay on the roster as bench bats. Former No. 3 overall pick Alec Bohm was just sent down to the minors because he is incapable of fielding ground balls and throwing it accurately to first base. He also has yet to learn how to hit with any semblance of power.
Former second round pick Scott Kingery has languished in the Majors and after getting sent down to the minors earlier this year was lost for the season due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. The oft-injured Spencer Howard, the organization’s former top pitching prospect last year, also couldn’t stay healthy, couldn’t maintain velocity, and was shipped off to the Rangers in the Ian Kennedy/Kyle Gibson deal. Promising young players Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr failed, too, to say nothing of the lesser prospects like Darin Ruf, Tommy Joseph, and Dylan Cozens.
In many of those cases, those players were hyped more than they should have been, but it also isn’t unreasonable to think that maybe one of those guys could have been turned into a core member of the ‘21 Phils. But after three years of torturous rebuilding and another three years stuck in .500 limbo, the big league roster is crowded with inconsistent veteran pieces that don’t fit, two legitimate stars in Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, and the only decent position prospect to make anything of himself in the Majors, Rhys Hoskins. They have one ace starter, Zack Wheeler, and an enigma in Aaron Nola, their best home-grown pitcher since Cole Hamels.
It almost feels as if it doesn’t matter what Mick Abel, Bryson Stott, Andrew Painter or any of the other prospects in the organization does right now. Once Phils prospects hit the Majors, they might as well be hitting a brick wall.
I wish I could say that, 500 episodes after we launched The Good Phight podcast feed and the Felske Files/Hittin’ Season podcasts, the State of the Phillies is strong, that they had achieved their goal, but Dave Dombrowski showed us all this week that it isn’t. Organizationally, the only thing that’s better now than it was in 2015 is the presence of Dombrowski himself.
So for now, we soldier on in the hope that the Phillies will have reached the postseason before another 500 episodes of Hittin’ Season are broadcast into the ether.
It’s all we can do.
Make sure to catch Episode 500, featuring a State of the Phillies roundtable with Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher, Trevor Strunk and Chris Jones right here!