Before I begin, let me just note what this piece will be like. It’s going to be insane ramblings about a game that causes people to go insane. We’ve all felt like this from time to time, but sometimes, specific games push you over the edge. If there is a lack of coherence with the writing, you’ll have to excuse me for that.
Without further ado...
What the hell, man?
You have to feel for someone like James Norwood. He’s had to experience some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows all within a span of about a month. I consider myself fortunate that my father is still among us on the Earth, but for James to lose a father, right after getting traded and making the Phillies’ initial roster, that has to be beyond words tough. Prior to last weekend’s outing against the Mets, he was actually pitching pretty well in the role of “don’t expect too much from me” guy he was given. It was only six innings, but it started to feel like the team had someone available in those middle innings where you could hand him the ball if down a few runs and reasonably expect he would keep the game close.
Basically, the opposite of Brandon Kintzler.
These last two outings against the Mets, though, have been abysmal. So bad, in fact, you have to wonder if he should still be around, but I’ll circle back to that in a second.
On a different side, last night and today, the fans have directed their wrath at Joe Girardi. He, after all, is the one with the final say about who pitches and who doesn’t. Bringing in the closer with a 7-1 lead is crazy talk, and he has shown a lack of willingness to use any of his “top” guys in a situation like that, so he did what probably anyone else would have done and brought in his mop up guy, the 26th man on the roster. It’s a six run lead in the final inning and all he has to do is throw strikes and the game is over. It certainly felt over. After all, after Bryce Harper grounded out in the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies had a 99.8% chance of winning the game. Mentally, it would be good for Norwood to exorcise the demons of his last outing, a 1⁄3 of an inning debacle on national television. We’ve seen this type of move all the time and nary a word is said.
You could quibble with the decision to leave in Norwood for even that long, but it’s not as though someone was warming up simultaneously with Norwood. Even the fastest guys to warm up need a few and closers usually get their routine started earlier than the middle of an inning. So, playing devil’s advocate, what else was Girardi supposed to do? Was he too late to act yet again? Is he too lenient with his leash on relievers? I don’t know.
John Stolnis and the gang have spoken quite a bit about the perception of the clubhouse from the outside. We don’t know what it’s like in there without actually being around the players, but from our vantage point on the outside, John’s used the term “country club atmosphere.” There’s a lot of “It’ll be fine, just relax” and no fire and brimstone coming from the team. It’s possible it’s happening behind closed doors, but we just never see it from anyone. All we see and hear about is the player’s maintaining the same monotone “Let’s get ‘em next time!” responses that never go over after a bitter loss like that. Is that Girardi’s fault for cultivating that particular type of group, for allowing that go on? Is he supposed to be in there flipping tables, throwing bats, etc. to try and fire his team up? Again, I don’t know.
There are many things Girardi is receiving heat for these days. The aforementioned clubhouse atmosphere, the lack of backing up players on the field, the extremely questionable bullpen moves and the erratic lineup that is constructed each day. People are calling for his head after this one loss, but I’m not sure that’s entirely constructive to do. If the team were to let him go because last night’s game was the final straw that broke the back, with all those other reasons as ammunition to justify the firing, fine. That’s not a problem. But to call for his firing simply because the Phillies suffered an admittedly historic loss would be reactionary and wrong.
However, as anyone who watches this team can see, something needs to change. In the hopes of maintaining some kind of grip on the team, a person has to be held accountable for last night’s game. It’s “only one game”, but these are the types of games that can harm seasons. With the weather forecasted for today, it’s likely they’ll be stewing over this loss for some time.
As I mentioned before, Norwood has struggled the last two outings and it would be completely within reason to send him out. He has no options left, so he’d need to be designated for assignment, in which case the team would risk losing his services, but that might be necessary to help save this season. They have tried accumulating as many high octane arms as possible to help navigate this season, but sometimes a shakeup is necessary for a roster. They aren’t making any major trades, any surprise releases or any other move that would impactfully change the roster, but a small move like this could help show that if someone isn’t doing their job, there has to accountability for outings like that.
Like I said before, this is a completely rambling piece that jumps from one thing to the other. There are no easy answers to the current state of the team, but we’re rapidly hurtling toward “something big needs to change.” We’ll just have to wait and see.