Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Nary a Game Plan

Welcome home, Phils. There is nothing like wasting a fine pitching effort by your only reliable starter to undermine the momentum from series wins over the Padres and Dodgers on the West Coast and to start the home stand off on the wrong foot.

The players had best forget about their “No Excuses” pledge from spring training; the watch words now should be “Mediocrity or Bust” and the only remaining realistic objective to finish above .500. This team simply does not have the horses to win their division outright or secure the wild card position.

Everyone has assumed the biggest problem with the pitching staff has been injuries, but I demur. The biggest problem is that most of these guys simply don’t know how to pitch. Newly-acquired reliever Doug Jones is merely the most recent example of a pitcher's coming into a game with no apparent plan or forethought.

Jones entered the game in the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead and immediately gave up a home run to Felix Gonzalez. After getting one out he then surrendered a single to Aaron Miles. Next, he hit Todd Helton. Hit him. Up comes Vinnie Castilla, who just missed clobbering a home run off starter Eric Milton earlier and who up to this at-bat had 92 rbi’s on the season. Why, then, was Doug Jones throwing a curveball to him in the first place let alone hanging one? The scouting report on Castilla is fastballs in or out of the zone. Castilla hit a two-run double and the game was over, aided and abetted of course by the Phillies offense which stranded nine base runners.

Earlier in the year Randy Wolf would stay with his curveball and change and completely ignore the fastball. Any little leaguer can tell you the change sets up the fastball, but apparently Randy skipped that part. Brett Myers, who has pitched very well his last two outings, likewise seemed to have little or no plan when he took the mound throughout most of the season. He just seemed to be pissed off all the time. Now he appears to be mixing up his pitches well and establishing a good rhythm.

It’s not too late for these guys to learn how to pitch, but I don’t know if the right tutors are currently available to them. Maybe the way catcher Mike Lieberthal calls the games is part of the problem though I suspect most of the pitch selection comes from the dugout. That leaves us with Larry Bowa and/or Joe Kerrigan. Some times firing the team is not the answer even if management could do so; some times the brass are left with no other choice than to hold the coaching staff accountable.

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