Phillies manager Charlie Manuel provided the best sound bite of the 2012 season yesterday afternoon when he said no one is afraid of the Phillies.
He isn’t kidding. Not only do the Phillies not play with swagger anymore, but they expect to lose. That has been the theme of the season so far.
After watching them play lousy for most of this season, it wasn’t surprising they took an 8-3 loss to the Dodgers after blowing a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning yesterday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. They were swept, too.
Yesterday’s events showed the Phillies are paying for all the good fortune they had since 2007 when they were winning often. They are not getting the breaks they used to have. How else can one explain not getting the big hits anymore? How come they are not getting anyone out? Why are the Phillies blowing leads?
Right now, the Phillies are snake bit. Manuel is expressing frustration rather than optimism as he normally does. He knows his team is not good anymore, and he knows the six-game losing streak is a sign of things to come.
Here are the problems with the Phillies:
The starters have done all they could to give the Phillies a chance to win, but they are not getting any run support. In a rare occasion that a Phillies starter has a lead, he blows it as Cole Hamels did yesterday afternoon in blowing a 3-1 lead.
The hitters can’t come up with a big inning, and they can’t rally late in the game. The Phillies went out meekly in the final innings of yesterday’s game rather than take good at-bats against the Dodgers.
The relievers can’t get a crucial out as Raul Valdes failed to do in protecting a 4-3 lead against the Dodgers Wednesday night.
Their base running has been shoddy at times.
It’s been one thing or another for the Phillies. Nothing is clicking right now. It’s been like this for two months. It makes one wonder how the team is not 10 games below .500 already.
There’s no question the Phillies took a hit when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley started the season on the disabled list. With that said, their pitchers shouldn’t be blowing leads when they have enough run support to work with.
It’s fair to ask if this is going to be the Phillies’ year. There is still plenty of time to get everything straightened out. Problem is it is not as simple as it looks. This is a team that is not young as it used to be. The mojo doesn’t seem to be there.
Even if Howard and Utley return to the lineup, there is no guarantee. For one thing, both of them have to show they can play at the level they have been playing. Second of all, both of them playing at a high level may not cure the issues the team is having. There are other issues on the team that may be hard to fix.
When the Phillies were a great team, they relied on the complementary players to get key hits besides their stars. That is not the case now.
Most of their hitters are not good enough anymore where they can be productive as complementary players. Jimmy Rollins can hit, but he is a guy that can be an automatic out. Ty Wigginton is streaky as a hitter. Jim Thome has nothing anymore. Juan Pierre is a guy that hits singles only. John Mayberry does not hit for power.
It can’t be just two stars doing all the dirty work. Unfortunately, that has to do this year when they come back. That is not a recipe for success.
The bullpen is a work in progress. Joe Savery, Raul Valdes, Jake Diekman and Michael Schwimer are going to have their good days and bad days as part of their job training.
The starters are the only good thing going at this point, but they showed they can be vulnerable.
In recent years, there were no deficiencies with the Phillies. That explained why they were able to steamroll their opponents in the regular season. This year has been a different story.
It’s time to wonder whether the Phillies are a playoff team this year. There is no turning it on in the second half. This is not about the team not trying hard. This is about how good they really are whether Howard and Utley are there or not.
When Manuel is expressing doubt about his team, this should be a sign that this Phillies team is not good enough.