The Phillies lost again on Monday, 5-4 in 10 innings, to the visiting San Francisco Giants. They have lost four straight and six of their last seven. They are 10-17 in the month of May, 6-14 against the National League East, and 3-10 in one-run games. At 21-28, they are seven games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season.
A team managed by Pete Mackanin.
Most importantly, as the Memorial Day holiday has come and gone, they are 11.5 games out of first place in the National League East. Even with the extra wild card in the National League, the Phils are six games off the pace, with multiple teams in front of them.
Those are the facts, and they are not in dispute. They boast a $230 million payroll, the largest in team history and fourth-highest in baseball, and have the reigning MVP and Cy Young runner-up on their roster, both of whom are playing as well this year as they did last year. And yet, the Phillies continue to play losing baseball.
They seem incapable of stringing together team-wide competence. When the offense is hot, the starting rotation falters. When they get a big hit late, the bullpen gives up a soul-crushing homer. They waste outstanding pitching performances and play horrific defense.
They have been embarrassing, and there is little reason to think that, despite optimistic quotes from some players, things will turn around.
There is a sense of hopelessness among the fanbase because they’ve seen this all before. Each season, despite new faces in new places, the same problems remain and, predictably, the same results will continue unless team president Dave Dombrowski can do something about it.
Is there anything he can do to save the 2022 season? And do you trust Dombrowski to fix the long-term issues that have plagued this team since their last division title in 2011?
Many, if not most fans, want Dombrowski to fire the manager, and even Girardi’s staunchest believers would have to agree that a 131-140 record in three seasons as the Phils’ skipper is lackluster, especially when on considers the talent he’s had on hand. Would firing him make the team better? If they did, who would take over? Would that be a better solution? Dave Dombrowski has to make that calculation.
And what about the clubhouse? Is there something wrong there? Does Girardi’s renowned intensity suck the fun and energy out of the room? Remember, the Phillies didn’t do so well with Gabe Kapler letting the players do their own thing in the locker room, and everyone said Phils players needed “a boss” to take control.
They have had multiple hitting coaches and pitching coaches. They have hired new fielding coaches. They are revamping their dysfunctional farm system.
They are doing things. But are they the right things?
Despite their talent, do the Phillies simply have a bad mix of players, both on the field and off? Do they not have enough players who have been on winning teams in the past?
Consider that while Bryce Harper was a star on four separate Nationals teams that went to the postseason, he never experienced a single series win. J.T. Realmuto has only played for disappointing Marlins and Phils teams, and Nick Castellanos has bemoaned the fact he has just two postseason series under his belt, both losses with the Tigers in 2014 and the Reds in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler have never reached the postseason. Kyle Schwarber has, but is that enough?
Is there something else happening inside the clubhouse we don’t see? Castellanos and Schwarber were supposed to come in and provide a different voice and set a different tone. But you rarely see Schwarber quoted in the media, and while ticked off, Castellanos seems as lost as the rest of us as to why this is happening.
On the field, Dombrowski leaned in on bad defense this off-season with the additions of Schwarber and Castellanos, knowing full well he couldn’t fix the gloves in one year. Instead he decided the Phils would try to mash their way through it.
In May, the Phillies are 16th in runs scored as a team, with a .710 OPS that is 15th. The defense has been every bit as bad as feared. They are giving away a ton of outs. It’s a losing combination.
Dombrowski also has not been able to fix the perennially substandard-to-gawdawful bullpen, with Corey Knebel failing to be the lock-down closer the team was hoping he’d be.
Corey Knebel is the first pitcher to allow a game-tying/go-ahead HR in the 9th inning of consecutive games this season. pic.twitter.com/OdvPpEnWHy— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 30, 2022
Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand have been middling at best, and none of the homegrown arms are progressing as hoped. There is no confidence that any late inning lead, or any large middle-inning lead, is safe with this bunch.
That’s a lot to fix, and it cannot be done with the wave of a wand. There have been stories about the lack of energy and fun with which the Phillies have played this season, but is that because leadership in the clubhouse is making it difficult for players to play their best, or is it simply the result of losing? And will an easing of the schedule in the second half help matters? It didn’t last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be able to take advantage any better in 2022.
It is only Year No. 2 of the Dave Dombrowski era in Philadelphia, not nearly enough time to render a judgment on his job performance. But for a team with big pockets and a load of superstars, the task of “fixing” the Phillies seems more complex and lengthy than most had thought it would be.
If you believe in Dave Dombrowski and his track record, then you are likely optimistic about the team’s chances of turning things around sooner rather than later. Dombrowski’s resume is glowing for a reason, and it’s why Middleton talked him out of retirement to run a team once again. But if you believe the problems in this team run so deep that not even Dombrowski can solve them, then you are likely resigning yourself to the continuation of substandard baseball we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing.
And while we wait to see which is true, the Phils are wasting yet another summer.
On the latest episode of Hittin’ Season, I talked about the current state of the Phillies with Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher. We discussed the fate of Girardi, faith in Dombrowski, clubhouse issues and lots more.
Do you have confidence in Dave Dombrowski to fix whatever is ailing the Phillies?
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