Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just The Rants, Thanks

No theme today....just rants.

People can bitch and moan all they want about the lack of run support for Cole Hamels but two things should be noted regarding today's loss:

1. He was given a two-run lead and could not hold it; and,
2. The long ball was his downfall yet again.

Hamels, the announcers kept reminding us, came into this game with a plan, to throw his curve more and keep the free-swinging, fastball-feating young Marlins off balance. He stuck to his plan with great success, except for those two home run balls, so let's not start carping about run support. True, the Phils blew many opportunities for the umpteenth time beginning with the first inning, but if you give your ace a two run lead he's got to hold up his end of the deal. Yes, holding the opposition to four hits and two runs in eight innings is great pitching, but it wasn't enough because of two mistakes he made.

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Jayson Werth has some of the worst damn AB's on a team where there are several candidates for worst AB's. Heck, Pedro Feliz had a whole series of them this past weekend. Still, it's pathetic to watch Werth lunging for balls low and away or just plain low. Yeah, yeah, he can hit lefthanders fairly well but he's miserable against righties and just plain awful to watch at times. Very overrated player. All the trade talk about packaging Victorino with others for Holliday or a pitcher would leave the Phils with a truly horrible outfield. Absolutely awful. One final thing on Werth: his defense hasn't exactly been of Gold Glove caliber, even if the local standard for Gold Gloves in the outfield is Bobby Abreu

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Speaking of outfielders, I am sick and tired of watching Manuel pull Burrell for defensive purposes and losing his key at bats at the end of the game, which is precisely what happened today AGAIN! Does Charlie really want Bruntlett instead of Burrell at bat in a key spot? Apparently so. Memo to Charlie: Burrell made a damn nice catch early in the game. I'll take my chances with him in the field. So would the entire pitching staff if anyone conducted a secret ballot.

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Charlie Manuel is a nice guy. We can all agree upon that. The players like him; the coaches like him; management likes him. Even Bill Conlin likes him now. That said, he remains a terrible manager and anyone who thinks a manager doesn't make a difference in the won-loss column wasn't watching these two straight losses to the Marlins. Charlie's mania for having runners on third with less than two outs breaking on contact is killing the Phils and his other mania, for lifting Pat Burrell for defensive purposes, is putting the final nail in the coffin. How many times have Burrell's defensive replacements made a difference? How man AB's in key, late inning situations, has Burrell missed when reduced to cheer leading?

Monday Postscript: In today's Inquirer Burrell made it absolutely clear he doesn't like being removed either, especially in a tight game when it appears he will get another AB. Burrell, who as far as I can recall has never spoken up like this in his entire career, said he's discussed the matter with his manager and remains upset about the situation.

Monday Post Postscript: Charlie let loose with his own rant yesterday after the Phils lost but as long as he's asking guys to look in the mirror let's hope he is standing in line for a glance at himself, too. Right now I'd say Charlie is costing this team a pennant. I would not be surprised to see him replaced before too long.

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Chris Coste has looked cooked at the plate lately. Lost in the excitement over the mid-30's rookie finally living his dream is the fact that at 35 years of age he isn't really prepared to be an every-other-day player, especially a catcher. Yet that's what the Phils are asking of him with Carlos Ruiz flirting with the Mendoza line and some pitchers on the staff clearly less than enamored of Coste's defense and arm. Sadly, nearly everything thing Chris hits is to the opposite field, i.e., he's swinging late.

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What's wrong with Jimmy? Well, for one thing he's swinging at a lot of balls out of the strike zone. More than a few observers think he isn't patient enough to be a lead-off batter but it's his selectivity that's killing him lately. For the first time since he returned from his ankle injury the announcers were speculating something else was bothering him and Chris Wheeler mentioned his knee was swollen. That's the first time I've heard of it (though my finger is hardly on the pulse), but one thing has been certain lately: Jimmy's been running and stealing a lot of bases, something a guy with a bum knee refrains from doing. That said, one thing that has been noteworthy of late is that Jimmy is not running the bases well otherwise. He has failed to pick up balls hit to the outfield on more than one occasion and ended up not advancing an extra base on several others where the announcers speculated he could have and should have done so. It seems that what's ailing Jimmy is his whole feel for the game right now. He's just off kilter for some reason.

Monday Postscript: Jimmy was quoted as saying the team "doesn't get worried until late" when asked if he and his teammates felt any urgency at the moment. Trust us, Jimmy, it's late. The remarkable thing about Rollins is how far he's fallen off not only in terms of his MVP production of last year but in the hearts and minds of the fans who mostly have adored him. They think he isn't hustling enough this year. Comments like yesterday's only add fuel to their ire.

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