You know things are bad, really bad, when Pat Burrell is talking in mid April. The normally taciturn outfielder spoke of "putting ourselves in a tough situation, just like we have the last couple of years" as the Phils dropped another game to the Mets to fall to 2 - 7, half a game in front of AAA, er I meant, division rival Washington.
The Phils blew another lead and wasted consecutive home runs by Jimmy Rollins in last night's loss. I don't care what people say about how tight this team is, J-Roll, who was on the hot seat more than any other player on this team for reasons that bear no repeating, handled himself just fine, thank you. Pressing? Not Jimmy.
So, what's going wrong? Here are a few lowlights:
1. Wes Helms arrived in town with a reputation as a lousy fielder and he's turned out to be even worse than anticipated.
2. Beginning in the Spring, word out of Florida was that Ryan Howard looked uncomfortable at the plate. Well, he does look uncomfortable to this eye. In fact, he isn't crouching/bending at the knees and waist as much as last year. He appears to be a little more upright, which has thrown him off balance and screwed up his swing. It would be reassuring to say this has happened only as his average and contact with the ball have dropped, but he has stood more upright since day one of this season.
3. The starting pitching has been erratic to say the least. Brett Myers continues his Jekyll and Hyde impersonation, a world-beater one day and a batting practice pitcher the next. If he continues this pattern, tonight's outing should be a good one. Or not. Adam Eaton certainly redeemed himself the other night but it's going to take a lot more consistency before I become a believer. A whole lot more. Freddy Garcia has been missing in action. Jamie Moyer looked like a 43-year old pitcher last night. Only Cole Hamels has pitched well. Bottom line: the starters have hardly been in a position to pick up their no-hit, lousy defense mates.
4. Shane Victorino is struggling. So is Aaron Rowand. So is Michael Bourn in limited appearances. Only Burrell has been hitting and I don't think that is going to last. Overall, the outfield stinks! It could be the worst in the division except for Washington. Maybe.
5. The catching situation appears to be a bit confused, too. Carlos Ruiz deserves to start but Rod Barajas is going to be in there because Gillick and Manuel didn't bring him in as a backup. He looks like a slightly less lumbering Sal Fasano to me.
6. PR. Leave it to the Phillies to completely botch the handling of Chris Coste, who did everything asked of him last year. And I thought Manuel didn't demote veterans due to injury??? At a minimum Coste deserved to stick with the parent club and come off the bench. Who else currently riding said bench produced as much as he did last year? Frankly, it's too bad he can't get his release and sign elsewhere. He certainly deserves better than he's gotten.
7. Finally, Ruben Amaro, who continues to not impress, is quoted as saying that the Phillies had better start winning or they are going to be selling suntan lotion come the post-season. He's right to an extent, of course, but he forgot to look in the mirror when he spoke of "the Phillies" who had better get their act together. What, exactly, has he contributed?