Anyone who knows anything about baseball can look at the Phillies' farm system and come to a simple conclusion: help is not on the way. The canon fodder the Phils just received in the Jim Thome trade won't change that assessment.
What needs to change is a scouting and development mentality that seeks "toolsy", "athletic" prospects. The Phils' have salivated over those types of players lately and none has developed into a big leaguer. Domonic Brown may yet ascend to an every day role with the Phils, but watching his routes to fly balls -- heck, watching his route to a position he can play comfortably at all -- should disqualify him from the "toolsy" part.
Rumors, always wild at this time of year, have the Phils trading or selling everyone but the clubhouse laundry service at his point. Word from a few players willing to talk about it is that the clubhouse remains determined to regroup and fight on. No one is issuing cyanide capsules at the moment, but the notion that there isn't doubt if not demoralization in the clubhouse seems ludicrous. The Phils began the year unable to hit. Soon, they were unable to pitch. All along they couldn't find relief. When they started to hit (a relative improvement at best), the pitching couldn't hold a lead for an inning. They went through a stretch where they couldn't field either and that seemed to be the final straw until they started blowing leads left and right.
The most mysterious player this season has been Cliff Lee. He started off like the Lee of old, was injured and disabled, came back and visibly displayed displeasure with the defense behind him, and then started a succession of games in which he imploded at some point. He doesn't have a single win this season, which means he's making something like $20-25 million dollars a year with nothing to show for it.
Hunter Pence, an earnest lad if ever there were one, has become the butcher of right field. When a rightfielder makes you long for Bobby Abreu you know you are in serious trouble. Pence doesn't seem to be able to come in, go back, go right or go left.
Shane Victorino picked a lousy year to go into a prolonged funk. He cannot hit from the left side worth a plug nickle and his overall average has dropped precipitously. Everyone seems to think he will be gone by next year. They're right.
Meanwhile, John Mayberry has had 30 AB's in the last ten games and five hits and a lone walk to show for it. Maybe I'm just too optimistic about this guy. Surely he's had some opportunities to shine, but only occasionally has done so. Still, I think he's always playing with one eye looking over his shoulder at the starting lineup for the next game and wondering whether he'll be in it. It cannot be reassuring to a player who is no longer a kid but is still relatively inexperienced. (This is his fourth year in the big leagues and he has 532 AB's.) Give him a starting job, Charlie, and let's find out by the end of the year whether or we should give up on him. I still think he'd reward the Phils with guaranteed regular playing time.
What have they got to lose?