I am loathe to admit this publicly but I find myself almost feeling sorry for Larry Bowa. What’s a manager to do when many observers expect his team to win its division yet for most of the season his starting pitching has been very inconsistent, one of his top starters has been disabled for two months, another spent a few weeks out of commission, his most dependable long relief pitcher just went on the DL, one of the two set-up men he acquired during the off-season can no longer be trusted to get anyone out before giving up a few runs, and his closer is poised to land on the DL for the second time in two months?
Even if Bowa had the patience of a saint (and I have it on authority he does not) he could not be expected to take all of this lying down. And sure enough, following last night’s loss to the Marlins, the Phillies 9th loss to the Fish in 10 games this year, 21st loss in the last 24 meetings between them, and a major league record 12th straight loss to an opposing team at their stadium, Bowa steamed.
Randy Wolf and Kevin Millwood, counted on heavily in the pre-season, have been big disappointments. Millwood seemed to be turning things around following the All-Star break with two good outings, but his last start, against Florida, saw him reverting to earlier form. Wolf started last night’s game in Florida and pitched effectively but got no decision. Vicente Padilla, a strong number three starter, has been disabled for much of the season and still is not expected back before early to mid-August at least. Brett Myers, a phenom in the making a mere two seasons ago, cannot even be called “inconsistent” having virtually imploded over the last month or so. Only his last outing, another loss, gave any glimmer of hope. Strangely, Myers seems to disappear from everyone’s radar screen between starts, almost as if no one wants to admit he might not be as good as they hoped. Eric Milton alone has been very dependable, at times superb, yet no one really knew what to expect of him at the start of the season with his history of knee problems.
In the bullpen things are equally discouraging if not bizarre. Ryan Madson, a rookie sensation and by far the Phillies most consistent and reliable pitcher all season, was just placed on the DL after injuring his hand shagging fly balls. I wish I were making that up. Rheal Cormier has been reasonably reliable despite giving up a home run last night that cost the Phils the game. Tim Worrell, alternating between set-up man and closer as Billy Wagner ebbs and flows from the DL to tender arm to another possible stint on the DL, has largely been reliable, too. Roberto Hernandez, on the other hand, is not likely to see the ball from Bowa much more this season unless things get even more desperate. Hernandez has a nasty habit for a relief pitcher, allowing inherited runners to score when not giving up runs all on his own. To protect Bowa’s sanity and help him avoid summoning Hernandez from the pen again this year I’m considering giving the skipper my phone number. Billy Wagner, the alleged savior, has been good but hardly dominating when available, which hasn’t been often enough.
In short, this is not a rotation or relief corps that strikes fear in the hearts of opposing hitters. Nor is it one that is likely to stand out in a short series such as the first round of the playoffs. Nearly every hoagie shop patron in the Philadelphia area and many Phillies players willing to be quoted are imploring GM Ed Wade to do something before the July 31 trading deadline; but it doesn’t appear likely the acquisition of anyone short of Randy Johnson will help all that much unless, of course, Steve Carlton is reading this blog and can make it to South Florida before tonight’s game.