- Win at home on something approaching a consistent basis; and,
- Beat teams comprised largely of major league players.
If that assessment seems unduly harsh, so be it. Let the Phillies earn more respect.
A number of aspects of the Phillies overall performance to date remain troubling:
They continue to field poorly. Very poorly. Prior to the start of the season this was one area where the Phils were expected to improve not decline. Aaron Rowand was an upgrade in centerfield. Ryan Howard was an upgrade at first base. Sal Fasano was not considered a downgrade, at least defensively. The other starters remained the same, except for Chase Utley, who continues to make himself into a very good second baseman. Heck, Utley continues to make himself into a great ball player period.
Rowand has played more or less as advertised defensively though he seems to play a little too shallow at times and has trouble going straight back on the ball. Nevertheless, he is a very good centerfielder. His arm, considered a weakness, has been dependable. Howard has made far too many miscues and the majority of them seem to stem from a lack of concentration not ability. A scatter plot of his breakdowns in the field would cover the lot: throwing, receiving, scooping, catching. He has to improve his defense. Fasano is all over the lot, too. If the Phils believed his fire would replace Todd Pratt’s they forgot one thing: Pratt backed up his fire with the ability to call a good game and play decent defense. Fasano is not an upgrade in any of those departments. The one area where he might be helping is in giving Mike Lieberthal more time to recuperate between starts. But any good catcher could do that…including Chris Coste.
Another troubling area is the bullpen, or specifically Charlie Manuel’s overuse of some of its key members. Tom Gordon has appeared in three straight games and, frankly, his personal history suggests that kind of use can come back to haunt the Phillies. Of course, this is what happens when your team hangs on against a AAA club and always seems to be one batter away from surrendering the lead. Still, Manuel is going to have to use someone else as an alternative in the closer role every now and then or Gordon will be burned out by mid summer.