If a team ever needed a break from a sport, the Philadelphia Phillies are right up there in first position. This disastrous half season of woeful injuries and substandard play have many fans wanting to rebuild and drop the All-Stars that helped build the pennant-winning machine. After the heartbreak of last October, coupled with the poor performances at home, I understand the sentiment. But we can’t. We just can’t give up that easily.
We cannot let the All-Star break be the end of Charlie Manuel and Cole Hamels’ tenures with the Phillies. The Phillies in the past few years have prided themselves on having one of the strongest starting rotations. Regardless of how this year plays out, all the pitchers will still be pitching for the next three years. Cole will be pitching for the next 10 years. It is imperative that the only move the Phillies make is to sign Cole Hamels and restore the faith that the organization is dedicated to winning championships through pitching.
The boos for Charlie Manuel down at the stadium are classless. The manager has had little to work with in the bullpen and it might be a slight miracle that this team actually won 37 games. According to the USA Today's list of team salaries, the Phillies have sat around $65 million due to injuries to Halladay, Lee, Utley and Howard.
Looking at the list, that would put them right next to the St. Louis Cardinals at about 10th on the list. The relief pitching has hurt the Phillies bad in April and June, and in May, the bats went silent. The luck and pluck of the past years has seem to run dry, but changing Manuel would say they are giving up on this nucleus of a winner. A winner he brought to this town.
The Phillies have some time before they have to rebuild. The players are in their early 30s and Halladay is their oldest pitcher. All the talk about the Phillies' age and being past their prime is ridiculous. The oldest player is Placido Polanco at 36. He may have to be replaced, but if the rest of the team comes back healthy, the Phillies still have a chance to win another World Series in the next three years.
The Phillies are playing with a lack of confidence. They are a winning team and for the past few years they've carried that winning strut along with the belief that they could win. Losing the last nine of 11 games shows how confidence can slip so quickly. If the front office decided to sell an essential piece, like Victorino or Hamels, then the whole team will fold like a house of cards. Play out the season and give the team a chance.
I am not ready to give up the dream of walking down Broad Street with the Phillies in the next three years. I waited 28 years for 2008 and I am not ready to rebuild. This team is solid in every position except for left field. They have the freedom to experiment. If everyone stays healthy, this team is good enough to get back into the wild-card race and end up 10 games above .500.
All we need is a little faith in the team that made this city a winner again. Cole must stay. Manuel must stay. Victorino, Lee and Holiday must stay. The team needs to begin again in Colorado on Friday. They will need to play great ball together to get to next year. If not, the house will fall and we will have no hope for a parade soon.
You can follow James Dugan on facebook and on Twitter @jamesduganlb. Purchase his new book through Amazon What Baseball Teaches: A Poetic Odyssey into 2008 Season of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies