The Phillies have done themselves no favors during the first half of the season. Their mediocre play has left them in 3rd place in the NL East and 9.5 games out of first. Losing 3 out of 4 against the Dodgers this past weekend did not help their case either.
And so the rumor mill begins to turn with names like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in the mix. If the team does not pick up their play significantly in the next few weeks, this could signal the end of an era. It is hard to envision a Phillies team without Utley or Rollins, but that may soon be the reality.
The most persistent rumor recently has the Red Sox making a run at 3rd baseman Michael Young. The Phillies signed Young as basically a 1-year rental, so his departure would not be surprising. Utley is in the last year of his contract, so losing him is also a possibility, although not one that most people would be very happy about.
Utley may be the most beloved player in franchise history. If the Phillies trade him, they run the risk of alienating a large portion of their fan base. This is guy who blurted out the F-word on national television, not once, but twice, and people still say he can do no wrong. That is a powerful show of affection, especially in a city like Philadelphia.
Rollins, on the other hand, may not be missed quite as much. While he is the longest tenured active Phillie and a former MVP, Rollins still has that magical ability to piss people off. He has made derogatory comments in the past about Philly Fans and he has been criticized for a lack of hustle. More recently, Rollins said he was “not disappointed” with the team’s 1-3 performance in Los Angeles this past weekend.
While Rollins has a point, that being he believes the team will overcome, it still rubs some people the wrong way. Personally, I like Jimmy. He speaks his mind and I respect that. So seeing him in another uniform would be quite a shock. It would not, however, induce the same type of freak-out that losing Utley would.
On Tuesday night, the Phillies pulled out a 3-1 win over the best team in baseball right now, the Pirates. That is still weird to say… However, even that win may not help quite the trade rumors. A sweep of the Bucos might be helpful, but even in a win, the Phillies still have some very obvious, glaring problems.
The bullpen, for example, is a huge mess. It took 3 pitchers who combined to load the bases to get the Phillies through the 8th inning last night. It did work out, but could have easily ended in disaster. The offense is getting better, but they are still not hitting consistently with runners in scoring position. And the defense is very shaky; Delmon Young dropped a routine fly ball last night which is a prime example of the issues on the field.
All we can do now is hold our collective breaths, wait and hope the Phillies can pull out a string of convincing wins before the All-Star break.
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography