Thursday, July 29, 2004

On and Off the Field

The deterioration of the atmosphere in the Phillies clubhouse is accelerating, especially within the pitching staff.  On consecutive nights two of their more reliable relief pitchers, Rheal Cormier and Tim Worrell, gave up game-losing home runs to the Florida Marlins.  Meanwhile, alleged closer Billy Wagner has left the team temporarily to have his ailing shoulder examined.  Reports in the Philadelphia Daily News suggest Wagner’s return to the club next season is definitely not a foregone conclusion, his health notwithstanding.

To make matters worse, reports have resurfaced concerning pitching coach Joe Kerrigan’s sour relationships with many of the Phillies’ hurlers, especially but not exclusively Brett Myers.  Whispers about Kerrigan’s troubles with his protégés have circulated for two seasons, occasionally rising in decibels such as a shouting match he had with Myers.  Now, apparently, none of the pitchers have anything good to say about him.

Cormier, a temperate man from all indications, remarked the other night that everyone is walking around the clubhouse on pins and needles.  He also noted a defeatist attitude has crept into the locker room.  Jim Thome, a fair and reasonable man if ever one put on a uniform, had no comments.

Coupled with Larry Bowa’s performance the other night when he labeled the efforts of his team “embarrassing” numerous times, the situation has reached a crisis.  GM Ed Wade may be looking for help on the field prior to the July 31st trading deadline, but the bigger problems are off the field.  It will be extremely difficult to jettison so much of senior management at this juncture of the season, but there are more than sixty games left and all hope should not be abandoned. 

Amidst all this sturm und drang the Phillies have fallen further behind the Atlanta Braves on the heels of the 13th straight loss to the Florida Marlins at Pro Players Stadium.  Typical of how unlucky they have been, on Tuesday night Jimmy Rollins crushed a ball to center field that would have tied the score at that point, but it bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double nullifying the second run that would have scored easily.  And last night Jim Thome crushed a ball to left field that bounced off the clock at the top of the wall, just missing going over the fence.  Phillies-killer Jeff Conine fielded the bounce perfectly and limited Thome to one of the longest singles in memory.  Both hits would have tied their respective games and given the Phils a much-needed lift.

Things went downhill from there, on and off the field.

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