I will leave you all to provide your own superlatives to describe the Philadelphia Phillies’ season up to this week’s All Star Break, but in general, it can be agreed one of the more civil ones could be ‘disappointing’. Fresh from a 100+ win season in 2011, the offseason proved to be one pocked with the scars of unfortunate turns of events. Injuries to key players, a half hearted stab at free agent signings, and a fumbling of the possible re-signing of the closer Ryan Madson, and concomitant (possible) botching of his medical status are but a few things that foreshadowed the ominous start to their 2012 season.
Being a tax paying citizen of the Delaware Valley (however, having fandom allegiances further afield), I have been
tortured subjected to force fed privy to the hum of Philly fan pleasantries regarding their team through the sport talk radio airwaves doing its vibrato upon my eardrums all season. What started out as steadfast bravado regarding the continuance of the Phillies dominance of National League baseball, with many comments of the home nine maintaining it’s yearly flirtation with 100 wins, and an obvious division championship, it has now 180’ed into the depths of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression that would make Elisabeth Kübler-Ross blush with sympathetic revelry. We’ve yet to see the fifth stage, acceptance, but we all come to terms with traumatic situations in our own time.
With a start of the season having certain on-air personalities crying conspiracy theory over the second wildcard being an under the table deal to get the potential-filled Washington Nationals into the playoffs, and the Phils a sure lock for a pole-to-pole run of first place of the NL East, things have since gone topsy-turvy. Now, it is this same 2 slot that most/all of the Phillie Nation cling on to with dear life, certain that this is their only hope of redemption for a 2012 first half that has not gone Philly’s way in any way, shape, or form.
Already touching upon a good portion of what has been at the root of Philadelphia’s sub-.500 woes, let’s see if we can put on our coroner’s white coats, and dig our scalpels a little deeper into the Phillies corpse, and get to the true cause of a 2012 season dead on arrival thus far.
Post mortem, I see a couple of afflictions that have caused Philly to not have the wherewithal to bounce back from some devastating injuries to Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, as well as weather the storms brought on by other injuries, such as Roy Halladay’s, and Vance Worley’s. Let’s get out that microscope, and the formalin out to prep some slides, and get down to pathologic business.
YOUTH UP THE MIDDLE
The Phillies have none, really; between Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino, the middle looks old, and are aging before your eyes. Victorino’s temper tantrum notwithstanding, this lineup gets by on maturity, guile, and wisdom. Freddy Galvis does have some defensive potential, but an anemic bat does him no favours in stemming the tide arising from the gravity shifts of the moons that are JRoll and Chase’s ongoing middle infield regressions.
YOUTH, HERE OR FURTHER AFIELD
There does not seem to be any sort of young depth or promise over the horizon, coming from Lehigh Valley. As we have seen, John Mayberry, Jr. is not the answer, regardless of the question being posed, and Domonic Brown might as well be on the side of a milk carton. Granted, he hasn’t had the year expected of him in AAA, but a more concerning issue with Brown is his lack of a position, defensively. I present you the Lehigh Valley roster; if you see someone that is MLB ready, and someone who can make an impact immediately, please point them out. The biggest MLB ready prospect in AAA right now is the skipper, Ryne Sandberg; if the Phillies continue to tumble post All Star break, he just might be the first callup made.
Compounding this issue is the Hunter Pence trade. While securing a respectable All-Star caliber player, albeit with some flaws, the Phils gave up a lot of potential and youth, without getting much of the same in return. Having Pence packaged with a close to ready for primetime minor leaguer, perhaps an up the middle guy, could have helped stem some of the bleeding that has arisen from Ruben Amaro’s…
LACK OF A PLAN B
In many respects, Philly is relying upon a lot of Second Team players to right the ship. Kyle Kendrick, Mayberry, Galvis, Juan Pierre, and Ty Wiggington, while all capable, aren’t the components that the organization were expecting to garner as much playing time as they have, or to be the primary offense generators/opponent run suppressors. Yes, injuries have decimated the lineup, but most of these injuries are longstanding, and common knowledge with the medical staff. Granted, the Worley, and in particular, Halladay setbacks have hurt, but considering Doc’s age, injury history, and inning workload the last few years, it seems foolish to go into the season without some sort of contingency plan in place to defray some of the workload, beyond leaning heavily upon Joe Blanton, and Kyle Kendrick to eat innings, or have former MLB veteran Scott Elarton stashed away in AAA. While injuries or lackluster output can’t always be expected or predicted, the feeling that many fans have is one of frustration not from getting hurt, but the management coming across as ill prepared to counter these setbacks with solid, timely contingency plans.
LACKLUSTER FREE AGENCY SEASON
Giving Jonathan Papelbon the contract they did is borderline insane – closers rarely have much effect on a team’s long term success in the Win-Loss column, as compared to a starting pitcher, or position player – but to do so, and not only have it be the only big free agent pool splash in spite of the core of their offense on the shelf for then undetermined lengths of time smacked of indifference, or incompetence. While the signing of Joel Piniero was in hindsight more hindering than helpful in terms of a bolstering of the starting rotation, and the almost season long injury bug that Laynce Nix has endured has also kept the lineup pop-less, overall, the free agent harvest has not proven to be the bumper crop that ol’ Farmer Ruben had hoped for. Considering the names that were available, and still signable for financially prudent contracts, the offseason free agency heist has already proven to be lacking. The possible combinations of bullpen help, and offensive pop that could’ve been had for the $40+ million given to Papelbon makes every blown save, and lost opportunity for a win due to poor offense outside of Pence and Carlos Ruiz even more difficult to palate.
So while my assistant sutures up the Y-incision we have made in order to get to the bottom of a possibly premature death of the Phightin’s, and loops the toe tag around the big toe, it must be mentioned that we found one thing missing from our autopsy of the 2012 Phillies season, something that could have prevented this tragic undoing, and could have revived the promise that was seen coming into the season.