Last night’s game had it all: the poor starting pitching; the blown leads; the sloppy fielding; the lack of clutch hitting; the unreliable relief pitching; the impatient batters.
And all of that came after the Phillies put their young phenom Cole Hamels on the 15-day Disabled List. Hamels had been scheduled to start the game. Now there are those inside and out of the organization wondering if he is ever going to pitch regularly for this team.
To say the Phillies had the Mets on the ropes last night after only five batters is to not know your local history. New York sent out Alay Soler to make his major league debut and the Cuban right hander walked the bases loaded before Pat Burrell delivered a run-producing single to left and Ryan Howard followed with a ball through the five hole at second base for two more runs. Five batters and the bases were still loaded with nobody out. So, up comes Shane Victorino, who promptly swings at Soler’s first offering before he strikes out looking. If that isn’t a paradigm for this season I don’t know what is. David Bell followed and flied out. Sal Fasano looked absolutely pitiful in striking out to end the inning. (Side note: Fasano caught the entire sixteen innings Tuesday night but was in the lineup last night because Jon Lieber was the Phillies’ starter. Talk about inflexible managing. It isn’t as though this combination is producing great results. It’s time for Manuel to tell Lieber who his catcher is going to be.)
Sitting in my easy chair watching the proceedings I told myself, “They had the bases loaded with nobody out and couldn’t score any more. Lieber has to go out there and shut the Mets down in their half of the inning.” Lieber promptly surrendered a home run to Carlos Beltran and that sinking feeling picked up momentum.
It isn’t too late to shake this team up. The problem with such a notion is that we are forever thinking this team needs to be shaken up.
A number of those commenting in this space and on other blogs have suggested two prime candidates: the manager and the right fielder. Both are good guys, which only makes the decision harder for Pat Gillick. However, one suspects the GM is not a sentimentalist and will pull the trigger when he feels the moment is right and the returns (for Abreu) sufficient. Manuel doesn’t pitch, hit or catch the ball, but he makes decisions that affect the outcome of the game and anyone who believes the manager’s role is more neutral than that is kidding himself.
An outfield of Burrell, Rowand and Victorino might not be as productive offensively, but it can be argued Abreu lost two games in a row with his poor fielding. Speaking of poor defense, after Ryan Howard’s latest adventures in the field Tuesday night, it’s time for Manuel to pull him from a game when the youngster blows an easy play again. If Howard feels shown up, too bad. If anyone on the bench is talking to him about his lack of focus, it isn’t working. Stronger measures are called for, and not just for him.