We all waited through 84 dreadful games to finally see the Phillies line-up back together again. Chase Utley came back and now, Ryan Howard is back. But game #85 with Howard, Utley and the old gang together was fun for about 2 or 3 innings. And then, reality set in.
Howard started off his 2012 season with a monster double to center field. Cheer rang out among fans excited to see the big man back again. But by the 3rd inning, we all began to wonder why the offense was still not getting it done.
The Phillies sprinkled 5 hits here and there, two of which were from Howard. The Braves did not have many hits either as Kyle Kendrick finally found his groove after his last regular start spot in the rotation was pushed back a few days. Maybe getting skipped finally gave Kendrick the incentive he needed to step up his game.
And he did just that; Kendrick was great through 7 innings. He allowed only 4 hits and did not give up a single run, even after getting into a tight spot in the 7th inning. But he did not get any run support from his teammates and then was pulled in the 8th in favor of Antonio Bastardo.
Bastardo was awful; he had no command and walked 3 batters, even walking a run home with the bases loaded and 2 outs. If I was managing this team, I’d have pulled him after the first 2 batters based on the season he has had so far and his obvious lack of control at that moment. But you know Charlie Manuel; he is going to stick with “his guy” until he gives up 5 runs, including a grand slam to Brian McCann.
And this exactly what happened. I am so tired of people going on about “roles” in the bullpen. This is my 8th inning guy, this is my middle-relief guy, etc… Because in the same breath, they will tell you that these guys are only human, not robots. That is correct. However, it totally contradicts the theory of bullpen roles.
If they are in fact human, then they are prone to having good days and bad days. If a guy is having a bad day, like Bastardo, then you use someone else, regardless of their “role!” Not to do so is counterproductive, detrimental to your team and gives the impression that the 8th inning guy (or whatever-inning guy) HAS to be a robot in order to succeed. And yet you have just stated he is NOT a robot. See my frustration with this?
Human beings are NOT made of metal; they are flexible. And as such, they should be flexible in their “roles.” Charlie also loves to talk about showing confidence in “his guys.” Well how much confidence do you think Bastardo has now after that disastrous outing?
Sometimes, you need to step in and save someone from themselves. Tell him, “Today is not your day. You’ll get them the next time.” That disappointment HAS to be better than the one that comes with allowing 5 runs in the 8th inning of a previously scoreless game, followed by getting chewed out on the bench by your pitching coach in front of everyone.
I have a lot of respect for Manuel and the way he manages. When things are going good, his style works very, very well. You can afford to let a guy go a little further. But when times are bad, like they are now, you have to adapt. And in my humble opinion, that is the part he is getting wrong right now. And this team, 13 games back in the NL East, cannot afford ANY wrong moves.
I still love ya, Charlie. But seriously, do “your guys” a favor and show some tough love. This team needs a swift kick in the rear, on all sides of the ball. And now we can only pray that it is not already too late.
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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography