According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has stated that there is no No. 1 priority for next year. With no talk of improving the outfield and an obviously shallow free-agent pool at third base next year, Phillies fans may not be so enthusiastic about jumping into the 2013 season next year.
Phillies fans have been mired in disappointment this season after the last five. A team that had all the makings of a dynasty was only able to secure one World Series championship in that time.
This year, the reasons were quite obvious: poor situational hitting, an inept bullpen in the first half of the season, injuries to marquee players, a weak defense and an ineffective manager who could no longer ride the train once the wheels were no longer going "round and round."
Charlie Manuel and his hitting coach, Greg Gross, have done nothing to improve the hitting issues. Perhaps the team has aged to a point where it's not about situational hitting, but bat speed.
The team's top players—Rollins, Utley, Howard and Victorino before he was traded—struggled to keep their averages above .250. The bullpen was atrocious, as Chad Qualls, Antonio Bastardo and a combination of young arms proved unable to hand the ball over to closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the demise of smooth-fielding third baseman Placido Polanco and the trade of Shane Victorino weakened the offense, and the defense significantly.
When this concoction of unsavory ingredients was added to the stew, the odoriferous mixture fouled the air and the manager struggled to "stir the pot."
It certainly is unfair to place the entire blame on Charlie Manuel; after all, it was Amaro who helped stock the provisions on the pantry shelf. But both men had a hand in fostering the disappointment.
When Amaro said there was no No. 1 priority, I am sure he meant there were several problems all of equal weight.
The outfield, in my opinion, should be their No. 1 priority because Brown and Mayberry are nothing better than bench players. Ruf has to prove he can hit major league pitching and play left field. It is obvious now that Victorino and Hunter Pence are sorely missed despite all their fan detractors.
The Phillies' front office cannot be serious that the outfield is not a top priority. A trade for a strong defensive center fielder who can hit for average is an absolute must. Signing Josh Hamilton is a pipe dream, but if you want to restore the team to a higher standing, that would certainly work. Since that is probably not going to happen, though, signing Michael Bourn is a possible solution.
Unfortunately, the corner outfield positions would still be in flux.
Amaro could trade for Padres third baseman Chase Headley, but that might require trading one of their young pitching prospects. And minor league youngsters Cody Asche and Maikel Franco are turning some heads at third, but both are still at least a season away.
The Phillies absolutely must improve the overall defense, but how that can be done without a trade or a free-agent signing is anyone's guess. Utley and Howard hopefully will see a return to good health next year, but can they improve those mediocre averages, or is Father Time creeping up on them early?
The Phillies brass has remained steadfast in their defense of Charlie Manuel. With that commitment, maybe principle Phillies owner David Montgomery should promote a "prozac night" at Citizens Bank Park.
Or should a managerial change be made now rather than later?
When the time comes and Manuel does hand over the spoon to Ryne Sandberg, let's hope the ingredients are such that he can mix up a fragrant bouquet and not be tormented by an odoriferous blend of bad ingredients.
In addition, let's hope that the keys to the train Ruben Amaro hands over to Hall of Famer Sandberg fits the ignition. Phillies fans deserve to shout "Whoo, Whoo!" when the wheels start turning.
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