Lately the only two reliable hitters on the Phillies have been Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Even Chase Utley has been in a bit of a funk over the last week or so, striking out 8 times in his last 33 at-bats. Everyone else appears to be uncomfortable at the plate and has the numbers to prove it.
Topping those who are struggling is Bobby Abreu. Most people want to blame his woes on the Home Run Derby, insisting he altered his stroke for that competition and can't rediscover it. But his problems go beyond that. Bobby looks as unsure of the strike zone as I have ever seen him. Not only is he striking out a lot, he isn’t drawing many walks. Abreu has always been among the league leaders in bases on balls including this season, but he has only two in his last ten games.
Pat Burrell has fallen into another one of his prolonged funks. To my eye he seems to be standing further off the plate than ever. If Pat is a guess hitter, and the presumption here is he is, then he is either outguessing himself frequently or hasn’t a clue what to look for. He is taking a lot of pitches lately, many of them for strikes.
As the season wears on Kenny Lofton appears to be wearing down as well. For the month of July Kenny hit .214. More often than not he is swinging late and popping up to the right side of the diamond. He cannot keep up with fast balls.
David Bell and Mike Lieberthal continue to struggle. Nothing new there. Bell is among the league leaders in grounding into double plays. After a brief period of production, Lieberthal’s average has continued its inexorable downward trajectory.
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Charlie Manuel may be considered something of a hitting guru, but the only thing he appears to know about big league pitching is that he couldn’t hit it.
Why would he remove Robinson Tejeda from last night’s game when the youngster had thrown four-hit ball over six innings while striking out six and allowing one earned run. Want more? He’d only thrown 79 pitches to that point, 62 of which were strikes. This is a kid with moxie as well as stamina. Why pull him for a pinch-hitter when the Phils were leading the game 3-1? I doubt Tejeda told the manager he was out of gas; he just doesn’t seem to know fear.
Manuel is so locked into using set-up men and relievers in a predictable pattern he can’t bring himself to stick with his starter even when things are going well.
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The Raphael Palmeiro case goes from bad to worse with each passing leak and revelation. Not only will the Orioles first baseman likely face charges of perjury from the United States Congress, he has all but lost what little sympathy may have been out there for him.
When the news first broke a few calm and compassionate observers publicly granted him some benefit of the doubt, assuming he would never be so arrogant and reckless to knowing use banned substances while forcefully claiming otherwise.
Few, if any, of those people are coming to his defense now. His chances of making the Hall of Fame have dimmed to practically nil in just forty-eight hours, at least where the current generation of voters are concerned. He may be voted in some day by a committee of veterans who played with and admired him, but his life will remain a sorrowful one no matter what the eventual outcome.
Palmeiro’s predicament will also likely have repercussions far beyond his own fall from grace. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds should all feel the heat from further scrutiny.
[Addendum: Add Joe Morgan to the growing list of reporters and TV analysts who are piling on now that it is safe to do so. Asked why he didn't speak out years earlier when he heard the ongoing rumors about steroid use, the newly outraged Morgan replied: "It wasn't my job to speak out because I would have been another reporter at that moment, speculating.... But in hindsight, the only thing I wish I would have done is approach the commissioner's office sooner, but I didn't know how they would react." Very courageous, Joe.]