The torture that was the 2012 Phillies season is finally over. And sadly, it ended just as I predicted before the season even began; without a playoff bid. I was hoping to be wrong about that.
Since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, each year they have taken exactly one step backwards. So this year, missing the playoffs seemed like their destiny. They lost the World Series in 2009; lost the NL Championship Series in 2010; lost the NL Division Series in 2011; and now, the next logical step has arrived. The Phillies will go home early without even a sniff at a post-season run.
Remember happy days like these?:
For now, they are gone :O(
The first casualties of the 2012 disaster are already accounted for. Bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo have all been given their walking papers. More fallout is probably on the horizon, but it will probably involve players, not coaches.
So who else should stay and who should go? Here are some thoughts, starting with the offense:
In 195 at-bats, Kevin Frandsen hit .338, which led the team. And for an entire month, he played with a stress fracture in his leg, yet he still kept hitting. I say put him at 3rd base and get a back-up in case of injuries.
If the Phillies do not re-sign Juan Pierre, they are insane. He hit .307 in 394 at-bats, led the team in stolen bases with 37 and he is the best bunter you can find anywhere.
Bring Shane Victorino back! After a depressing second half with the Dodgers, his price will go down, possibly to the point where the Phillies can afford to resign him. John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown can platoon and then the Phils need another outfielder or two.
Needs to Go: Nate Schierholtz, Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez. Martinez is good defensively, but hit only .174 in 115 at-bats. They can find a better utility guy. And we are stuck with Laynce Nix for one more year unless someone is willing to trade for him…not likely.
Back-up Catcher: In – Erik Kratz; Out – Brian Schneider.
Relief Pitching: Jonathan Papelbon stays and probably Antonio Bastardo. I will also put in votes for Jeremy Horst and Phillipe Aumont. The maybes are Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus, although DeFratus needs to be 100% healthy, which I feel is still in question. Michael Stutes may return, but no one is sure in what condition.
Please Go Away: Josh Lindblom – trade him (if anyone wants him). He has been awful. This team needs some veteran help in the pen.
Please Come Back: Ryan Madson!
As for starters, unless someone’s arm falls off, stick with the usual 5: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay (pray he gets healthy), Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.
And of course, all the usual suspects, like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, etc… will be back. But will they be healthy? That is the looming question.
To give an idea of how badly the injuries hurt the team this year, consider this: I may be missing some, but by looking at the team stats, at least 49 different players made an appearance for the Phillies this year, rotating in and out of the 25-man roster. Also, only 2 players of those 49 reached 400 or more at-bats; Rollins (632) and Mayberry (441). That is scary.
So the season is over and the healing (quite literally) shall begin. Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about this season? Feel free to leave comments below.
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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
After a dismal, 12-inning, 2-1 loss to the Pirates last night, the Phillies are now a frightening 12-31 lifetime at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. They simply cannot win in this ballpark. Could it be cursed? This place is like a haunted house of horrors for the Phils.
Even with the entire line-up together for the first time all season, the Phillies still looked like zombies out there. Shane Victorino came off the DL and with the whole gang all together again, one might think it would break the sleep spell on this dreadful offense.
That simply did not happen.
The biggest victim of the night was pitcher Cole Hamels. This poor guy left it all on the field, pitching eight innings of one-run ball. And what did he get to show for it? Nothing. His team left him hanging.
The offense came out of 12-innings of play with a measly six hits. And two of those six hits were courtesy of the pitcher, Hamels. So they gave Cole only four hits and one run to work with. This should be a criminal offense ;o}
Let us count the 0’fers: Victorino, 0-for-5. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Domonic Brown, Carlos Ruiz…all 0-for-4. As a team, they complied 40 at-bats, six hits and left seven men on base. Disgusting.
Last year, in a similar slump, the Phillies fired hitting coach and all around nice guy, Milt Thompson. So is Greg Gross next to go? Because if this keeps up, the team is going to be looking for another fall guy. But they only one to blame are the players themselves.
No one seems to be getting too worked up over all this as they are still in first place, thanks to the pitching. But the Marlins and Braves are creeping up closer and something is going to hit the fan when the Phillies drop out of first because they cannot score more than one or two runs in a game. As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see the disaster coming.
But the disaster can easily be averted. This team need to get back to the basics. Stop swinging for the fences, stop swinging at bad pitches and for heaven’s sake, would someone please inform this line-up that they need to adjust their swing when a pitcher is tossing all kinds of off-speed crap at them? They cannot just stand up there and pray for a fastball. Pitchers have this teams’ number now and they need to adjust.
In the league, the Phillies rank #2 in fly-ball outs. If there was a stat specifically in short pop-ups, I am pretty sure they would be #1 in all of baseball. Also of note, they rank 19th in the majors in runs scored and batting average. For a first place team, this is pathetic.
So the house of horrors continues tonight. Kyle Kendrick will start and game time is 7:05pm. Bust out your four-leaf clovers, rabbit’s foot (artificial, of course), horseshoe, crucifix, #7 pendant, voodoo doll, lucky jersey or whatever you have and start praying for the curse to be lifted!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Hope springs eternal for all 30 MLB teams this time of year. Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. At the first crack of the bat, anything is possible.
For the Phillies, 2011 could be all that and more. The potential of this team is unlimited. But potential does not guarantee success, as execution and a little bit of luck will play a major role in the outcome.
However, the Phillies do have plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Here are five good omens for the Phillies as they begin spring training.
If you have not heard all about the Phillies starting rotation, you are probably living in a cave. The media frenzy in Clearwater, Florida is in full swing but luckily, the players are not buying all the hype.
In a press conference on Monday, all five starters, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, looked very relaxed. They were so laid back that if one of them had dozed off, it would not have been surprising.
And it would be hard to blame any of these guys for taking a cat nap while reporters asked Lee all the same questions he has been answering repeatedly since signing in December. It became so redundant that a media member actually asked him if he liked the food in Philadelphia. Lee responded with, “I like Philly cheese steaks, but that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philadelphia.”
The fact that none of these pitchers take the attention too seriously is a very good omen for the Phillies. This rotation understands what it takes to win and how to avoid distractions, like ridiculous questions from baseball-starved reporters.
Their nonchalance in the face of all the hype is even more impressive when you add in the overwhelming talent and potential of this group which includes three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star selections and three postseason MVP awards.
In short, things look very good for the 2011 Phillies pitching staff.
Jimmy Rollins Becomes An Early Bird
Known almost as much for his consistent lateness as his batting average, Jimmy Rollins has never been a timely guy. He is normally the last player to report to camp every year. But for the first time in his Phillies career, Rollins arrived early.
Not only did Rollins show up a full week early but he arrived in excellent physical condition as a result of a more disciplined off-season routine. At 32-years of age and entering a contract year, Rollins obviously realizes the importance of the 2011 season.
It is important for Rollins as an individual and also for the team as a whole. After a very bad, injury plagued 2010, J-Roll needs to get back to being the engine that makes this Phillies offense go.
Arriving early to camp is a good sign that he is ready to do just that.
Brad Lidge Is Healthy
In his first year with the Phillies in 2008, Brad Lidge threw just one pitch off the mound in Spring Training and just like that, he tore the meniscus in his right knee. Lidge recovered well from surgery and went on to pitch the best season of his career and help the Phillies win a World Championship.
But in 2009, Lidge had a complete reversal of fortune. By the end of June, Lidge had blown six saves and landed on the disabled list again with a sprained right knee. Lidge finished the year with season with an 0-8 record, an ERA of 7.21 and he converted 31 saves in 42 opportunities.
Lidge then spent most of the first half of 2010 on the DL after elbow surgery. And although he finished the season much improved from 2009, questions about his healthy still lingered.
This year, Lidge reported to camp healthy and raring to go. When asked about the upcoming 2011 season, Lidge responded, ” Fans should be pumped up. I know I am.”
And if Lidge can channel his 2008 form while avoiding injury, the Phillies will have the anchor they need at the end of the bullpen to help propel them to another post-season.
Versatility And Depth
The Phillies have a handful of players in camp that they feel can fill multiple roles. Last year, Wilson Valdez was a lifesaver filling in for injured players and short stop, second base and third base.
This spring, the Phillies have decided to try him out in centerfield as well, in case Shane Victorino goes down. With Jayson Werth off to the Nationals, options in center are slim and Valdez has a rocket for an arm.
John Mayberry Jr. is another player who could fill other roles. Normally an outfielder, Mayberry played first base in college and will see time there this spring to add to his versatility.
Delwyn Young, a non-roster invitee, might be another possibility. He has played infield and outfield, although the odds of him making the team are not very good.
Still, the fact that the Phillies have a number of viable options for their bench is a good thing. And their willingness to experiment, moving players around, means they have confidence in this group they have assembled.
Competition In Right Field
Competition is good. It breeds motivation. Players like Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload have plenty of motivation since the departure of Jayson Werth.
The huge, gaping hole in right field is theirs for the taking. It will be a matter of whoever plays the best wins. The starting spot could go to one player or maybe two in a platoon situation.
Brown is especially anxious to show what he is made of. After a less than inspiring major league stint at the end of 2010 and then a bad showing in the Dominican Winter League which he left early, Brown has something to prove.
Only three days after leaving the Dominican Winter League, Brown went straight to Clearwater to work on his swing. With the help of hitting coach Greg Gross, Brown found the flaw in his swing and has spent the last two months fixing it.
There is nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in a ball player. Each of the right field-hopefuls have their work cut out for them.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies returned home today after a very bad road trip hoping to turn things around against the Rockies. For starters, they fired their hitting coach, Milt Thompson and replaced him with Greg Gross. Thompson is the fall guy for this severely underachieving offense. But would this slap to the face be the wake-up call the Phillies are certainly in need of?
At first, it looked like the same old routine of hitting into double plays and leaving the bases loaded. But in the 5th inning, the offense woke up and figured out how to score some runs. Three straight hits, including an RBI double from Raul Ibanez, got things started.
Ryan Howard even stole a base, as his teammates giggled in the dugout after seeing the big man scamper to second. Jayson Werth hit a sac fly and then Ross Gload, getting a rare start in the outfield, smacked a 2-run homer for his second hit of the night.
The only starter who did not contribute tonight was Wilson Valdez who went 0 for 4. Everyone else, even the pitcher, got a hit. Ibanez finally looks like RAUUUUUULLL again! He had 3 hits and 3 RBI tonight. Ibanez likes hitting 3rd, as I mentioned yesterday. Jimmy Rollins, back in the lead-off spot as I also suggested yesterday, seems to have found his groove as well. J-Roll collected 2 hits and a walk.
On the mound, Roy Halladay returned to his usual dominating form after allowing 6 runs (5 earned) in his last outing. Tonight, he pitched extremely well, allowing only 5 hits and no runs over 8 innings. Oddly enough, the hitting was a bigger story today than 8 shut-out innings from Halladay. Because we expect Halladay to be good; but the offense has been so bad, seeing the Phillies score 6 runs was more exciting.
JC Romero pitched an easy 9th inning and looked very sharp. He hit the leadoff batter, but was lights-out after that. The Phillies won by a score of 6-0 and Halladay finally experienced some run support. Hopefully, this win will be a much needed boost for the team.
The starting pitching for the rest of the weekend has finally been announced. Kyle Kendrick will be brought up to pitch Saturday as Jamie Moyer is placed on the DL. And on Sunday, JA Happ will get his first start since 4/15/10 when an injury sent him to the DL.
As for Moyer, the news is not good. An MRI showed that he has both a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor pronator muscle; those injuries are to the left forearm and elbow. The two injuries may require surgery and this may also signal the end of Moyer’s career. He is going for another exam early next week and should know for sure after that. Either way, the injuries are more serious than what Happ had this year and Happ missed more than 3 months.
Moyer is in the last year of his contract with the Phillies and it is unlikely that a team would sign a 48-year old pitcher fresh off multiple injuries and possibly surgery. So Moyer may have pitched his last inning. Then again, if anyone can bounce back after such damage, it would be Moyer. I wish him luck :O)
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Hitting coach and former Phillies player, Milt Thompson, was fired last night. In the wake of an extended hitting slump, the Phillies management probably felt that someone needed to take the fall. And that person is Milt Thompson.
In an interview on Comcast Sportsnet, Thompson said he was not mad about and understood they wanted to make a change. Thompson has been the hitting coach since 2005 when Greg Gross was fired. Oddly enough, the person taking Thompson’s place now is Greg Gross.
Thompson told the press, “I’m the hitting coach and when the team doesn’t perform, it lands on me. I’m not going to make excuses.” He went on to say, “They want a new voice, so I have to respect that. I have nothing but good things to say about the Phillies. I have been a part of the organization for a very long time, and I had some good times.”
Thompson played in the outfield for the Phillies from 1986-1988 and again in 1993 and 1994. He was part of the 1993 Championship team that went to the World Series that year but did not get a World Series win until 2008 as the hitting coach.
On a personal note, I like Milt very much and he is a lot of fun to be around. He helped me with my batting on three different occasions as part of the Baseball 101 program for women and I always felt like he treated the ladies just as he would the big league hitters. And he always took the time at games to say hello when he saw me. Milt is a great guy and I will miss him.
As for the players, I can only imagine what they might be thinking right now. They basically got him fired. In my opinion, these guys would not be in the majors unless they know how to hit. The hitting coach is an important part, but should he really take the fall for guys who are just not doing their jobs?
That is not up to me of course, but maybe this change will light a fire under them. Because once a team starts cleaning house, no one’s job is safe. You have to think if the slide continues, that is possible the other coaches and even the manager may be next. If the players stop to think about that, maybe that will be some motivation for them.
Best of luck to Milt in the future! And good luck to Gross as well; he will have his hands full with this bunch.