Friday, September 29, 2006

Deja Vu All Over Again

I want to make that start [this coming] Saturday.  I want to ruin the Phillies' season. – Scott Olsen, starting pitcher, Florida Marlins

Get in line, Scottie, the Washington Nationals beat you to the punch.

The Marlins’ rookie left-hander, who surrendered three home runs in his last appearance against the Phillies and then hit a batter to cap off his memorable day, has opened his big mouth on the eve of the final series of the regular season.  It appears he isn’t the only one with some sort of grudge against the Phillies:

"I don't like them.  I don't want to see them get in…. At this point, that's our only motivation - to not let the Phillies get in." --  Taylor Tankersley, relief pitcher, Florida Marlins.

Someone ought to tell these kids there is more to life than grudges.

Someone else ought to tell the Phillies there is no more life after Sunday if  they don’t turn things around beginning tonight and the Dodgers cooperate by losing at least two out of three in their final series.

The only good thing that can be said about last night’s loss to the Nationals is hardly anyone saw it, including the Phillies hitters.  The start of the game was delayed 4.5 hours by rain and didn’t end until past 2AM.  The Phils dropped two of three in Washington and barely won the middle game.  Not exactly a killer instinct.

So, it’s déjà vu all over again: that elusive post-season appearance hangs in the balance of a weekend series against the Marlins.  The Phils have been there before.  Will the results be different this time?


RickSchuBlues said...

Last night's bottoming out was a clear inevitability. I held out hope because I *wanted* to hope and believe, but I knew better all along and I knew this team didn't have the fortitude to prevail. I seem to be alone in my perspective that the most essential problem with this team, the one primary reason why it cannot get itself over the hump, is a lack of belief in itself. Despite its flaws, this team has the talent to make something of itself, and the one big edge they lack is just that - an edge. The desire is there, but the mental approach necessary to play their best when it means the most, is as absent as ever. I honestly don't know what it would take for that to change. I thought that the team had perhaps cleared this hurdle by getting so close at the end of last season, that it would elevate their game to a higher level in 2006. But we never saw that elevation, not at any point in the season.

The Phillies hired Charlie manuel to get them over that hump, thinking a looser manager would result in a looser team able to maximize its abilities without the contraints of an uptight figurehead. After two seasons of more of the same, this clearly has been a miscalculation and a failure on the part of the organization. I believe the Phils will retain Manuel, but I don't believe they should. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: You have raised the $64,000 question and I, for one, don't know the answer. I believe they have heart, but I don't think they have sufficient talent in the bullpen particularly, but in other areas as well. There really isn't anyone to bat behind Howard. If Conine were really the answer he wouldn't be with his third team in three or four years.

And I agree Charlie is not the right manager to this club. If he makes them feel so loose, why are they so tight at the end? My biggest fear is that the pendalum will swing back the other way now. Francona to Bowa to Manuel to who? Lou Piniella? I sure hope not. He will only succeed in driving guys like Utley and Howard away from this club.

They have a lot of holes for a playoff club: third, corner outfield X2, relief corps including reliable setup guy and closer, starting pitching.

That said, I've had a ball this season. More fun than I can ever remember. And lots of reasons to cheer again next year, beginning with Jimmy, Chase, Cole, Ryan, Shane, and Chris.

RickSchuBlues said...

The team provides its share of fun, and I shouldn't be quick to take for granted that they even do contend all the way to the end, when I could just as easily be a Brewers or a Pirates fan and have to live with an altogether more bitter kind of disappointment.

This does seem to come as very slight consolation, however, when the playoffs begin and your team, which you'd thought all along had a real shot, isn't there. Again.

As far as finding the right manager for this team, Tom, I'm afraid that in the end it all comes back to that much-cited point of reference, the man whom Ed Wade sealed his fate by choosing over, Jim Leyland. If *anyone* could have brought the proper balance to this team, it would have been him. You talk about a golden opportunity, tragically brushed aside by this organization.

When people have continued to mention Leyland since then, I've been dismissive and told them to "get over it" and move on. But the fact is the Phils haven't had reason to get over it. And they haven't moved on. They're still as hopelessly stuck as the day two years ago when Bowa cleaned out his office.

I recently finished reading "The Toughest Job in Baseball" by Peter Pascarelli, which was a book put out about thirteen years ago, when Leyland was managing the Pirates. Although it touches on the various duties taken on by major league managers, it specifically highlights Leyland's methodology and success with the Pirates. Even moreso than seeing what has happened in Detroit this year, reading this book has convinced me beyond all possible doubt that the Phillies made an unbelievable error in choosing Manuel over Leyland.

dane said...

I don't think Manuel is to blame for not getting over the hump. He held this team together during the thin stretches in June and July. He has also helped Utley and Howard to reach their potential. The blame lays on the poor starting pitcher during the early part of the season, no production from the third basemen, and little production from the left fielder.

Great point on Lou Piniella. There has been a lot of talk in the blogs about people wanting Piniella in Philly, but I agree I'm afraid he would drive away the younger talent.

The season was exciting and kept us at the edge of our seats until the end. The Phils have made so much progress this year and its has been great to watch. The best season in years.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: If I am not mistaken, Peter Pascarelli was the Phillies beat writer with the Inquirer many years ago.

As for the Leyland fiasco, it is hard to know why they failed to choose him but I would bet part of the reason was a conservative ownership that was afraid he'd walk away again suddenly as he did once before. Of course, that would have required that they did not believe him when he expressed the desire to return to the game. That was their second miscalculation.

There are good men out there who can manage this team effectively. The Phillies have to do their homework and I am afraid a single off-season won't be sufficient for them to find their man, unless, of course, they have been looking all along. That would be uncharacteristic of this team but not necessarily of Gillick. God help us if he leans toward the devil he knows, Piniella.

RickSchuBlues said...

Leyland had his own ideas about the Phillies, which would have required that Wade strip himself of the rotisserie-team mentality with which he had reined in this team. It's no mystery whatsoever why they passed on him.

Very few managers have the ability to make a real difference with a team, and that usually precludes even those with the best tactical minds. It all comes down to getting the most out of the people you work with. Manuel does not do this. An earmark of Leyland's teams has been a relaxed, professional, winning mindset. The players may respect Manuel but ultimately he has no effect. A real leader of people doesn't seek to either bend them to his will, or let them just sit back and let them "be themselves". He is a presence, but not an overbearing one. Leyland has a way about him that players respond optimally well to.

Manuel does not appear to be a presence of any standing in the dugout or the clubhouse. He neither adds nor detracts from anything this team has to offer. The Phillies could stand to seek out something more than his neutrality.

Corey & Carson said...

Manuel has to share part of the blame. It's not totally his fault, but his bullpen management and failure to make lineup changes has hurt the Phillies this season. I'm actually not on the Pinella to Philly bandwagon, but I feel that a change needs to be made.

Dane- I agree that Manuel may have helped Utley, Howard, and possibly others "find their potential", and that's why I maintain he'd be a great hitting instructor, just not the dude in charge calling all the shots.

*Tom- I couldn't find your email address, so please shoot me an email.