Friday, July 27, 2007

Game Set Match

Even the most eternal optimist would be deflated now.

The loss of Chase Utley should put to rest any notions of a spot in the post-season. Forget analysis, fundamental or technical. Teams that bumble along around .500 cannot lose their heart and soul and expect to make up ground even when their other star is heating up.

It's a shame for the Phillies and Utley in that order, the same one in which the Phils' second baseman himself would put it. Utley was having an MVP season at bat and in the field. His spot in the order will be filled but he won't be replaced. That's not possible. Depending on the outcome of further tests, he will be back this season or not. Reports in the newspapers cite players who suffered similar injuries and the history of their returns. The picture is mixed. There's no consolation for the rest of us who love watching him play. Indeed, there's no consolation for his teammates and rivals who also admire the way he plays the game.

Speaking of the game....

The Phillies alleged brain trust had no damn business continuing to send Mike Zagurski out to the mound or signing a washed up Jose Mesa, but they did both. They owed it to the rest of the team to stop using this kid, who is over-matched against big league hitters, and they should have shown more respect for the players than to sign a veteran whose career was clearly over. Warm bodies are preferred to decaying ones, but in Mesa's case apparently the Phillies management hasn't gotten that message.

Because they cannot resist other peoples' castoffs or kids with live arms but no experience, the Phillies lost to the Nationals 7-6 after leading them in the rubber match of a three-game set. Their sixth straight win was in sight -- and so was the scoreboard showing the Mets had already lost to the Pirates -- but that didn't stop Charlie Manuel from bringing in Mesa, who naturally stunk, or Zagurski, who should have been packing his bags in anticipation of Brett Myers activation. (By the way, in this morning's Inquirer it was hinted Clay Condrey has his bags packed. Only yesterday I wrote such a move would be unjust and unwarranted. )

It's all academic now.


Anonymous said...

There are maybe 3 pitchers in the Phils bullpen who should be in the major leagues at the moment. It is a disgrace to constantly send out the likes of Mesa, Alfonseca, Gordon, Zagurski,etc. ERA's for relievers are deceiving. Mesa has a 3.32 ERA but in his 18 innings 14 runs have scored. With or without Utley it would be a longshot trying to get in the playoffs with a bullpen that cannot hold a lead. It is deflating to the guys who have worked so hard through the first 6 or 7 innings.

Tom Goodman said...

Amen, especially on deceiving ERA's.

David said...

Manuel is in love with Zagurski, pure and simple. Perhaps it's because Zagurski looks as if he could easily be Charlie's offspring.

Prediction: the Phillies will continue to flail along the fringes of the division/wild-card races through August, then make a valiant run with Utley back in September.

And then lose 4 of the season's final 7 games to the Nationals to fall just short.

So while I don't think losing Utley will bury the Phillies - I sense that they'll band together and survive - I just know that all roads lead to eventual disappointment.

David said...

Just to clarify: the Phils actually play Washington in 7 of the season's final 11 games. For any other team in the league, that could be seen as a huge advantage. But the Phils just came withing a misplayed fly ball of losing 2 of 3 at home to them.

Tom Goodman said...

Good point about the so-called triple, which was an error but since two guys were responsible and the scorer cannot give an error to two guys on the same ball (as opposed to same play) J-Roll got his triple.

Frankly, I cannot imagine the Phillies staying in the hunt. Utley's loss is a crushing blow and reports that a pin was inserted make a quick return seem less likely. Even were he to return in 3-4 weeks, he isn't going to be able to grip a bat or ball well.

The Phillies don't have enough fire power to overcome his loss and, of course, they never had the pitching to compensate in any event.

I am not looking at the glass and seeing it half empty; I see the remains of an ice cube on the bottom.