When you were a young child in school, you probably had a favorite teacher. Someone who cared about you, who inspired you to reach beyond your pedestrian abilities and exceed even your most immodest intellectual goals.
Or maybe it was just a soft grader you were most fond of, i.e. someone who would take a paper you knew deserved a B- and give it a B+ just because she liked you.
In the moment, that indulgence feels good. But deep down, you know that that sort of coddling is far more likely to encourage backsliding than it is to inspire a better effort next time around.
That is why the following grades are going to trend toward ruler-wielding and belittling. Through 27 games, this Phillies team is more "juvenile delinquent" than "summa cum laude."
This team needs to shape up fast.
Domonic Brown: Here we have a career .236 hitter who is hitting all of .241 at the end of April. He is loafing on defense—never mind David Murphy's excuse-making, as yours truly was in the building for that debacle and Brown embarrassed himself with that display.
Brown has no stolen bases. If his name was "Jack Smith," he would already be at AAA Lehigh Valley. Here is hoping Delmon Young's defense is not as bad as advertised. D.
Ryan Howard: The Big Piece's start has been altogether adequate. Howard is on pace for about 20 home runs, 90 runs batted in and a .280 average. Is that worth $25 million? Of course not. But if he can play 155 games or so and produce at that clip, you would have to take it. B.
Ben Revere: Uh oh. Maybe the Minnesota Twins knew something the Phillies didn't. A .200 average with one extra-base hit in 23 games is just not good enough. Revere hit ninth in the Phillies' first interleague game against the Cleveland Indians. That was only because Charlie Manuel was not allowed to hit him tenth. F.
Chase Utley: Hard to ask for much more from No. 26 thus far. Utley leads the team in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and OPS. The five errors are a bit disconcerting, but few will notice the stray fielding miscues as long as Utley hits like this. A-.
Jimmy Rollins: For a guy who has played every day, Rollins' opening month was quiet enough to drive a fan to distraction. May and June will go a long way toward deciding whether Rollins is still an elite shortstop or just another guy. C+.
Erik Kratz: Tasked with holding down the fort until Carlos Ruiz returned from suspension, Kratz instead made a horrible turkey bacon commercial, had trouble handling the pitching staff and hit .191. If only Tommy Joseph or Sebastian Valle was showing anything in the minor leagues. D-.
Michael Young: If not for Utley's fine play, Michael Young would be the only Phillies regular worth a damn. Which reminds me of one of the infamous backhanded compliment Dean Wormer laid on Robert Hoover in "Animal House": "Mr. Hoover, president of Delta house? 1.6; four C's and an F. A fine example you set!" A+.
Kevin Frandsen: Michael Young has been so good that Frandsen's opportunities have been severely limited. If the Phillies are telling the truth, that is just fine with them. Still, Frandsen has been ready when called upon, with a number of key pinch hits including a possible season-saver against the Kansas City Royals. B+.
Freddy Galvis: You know how everyone loves the backup quarterback in football? That is how Phillies fans feel about Galvis. "Give him a chance! He can really play!" Well, Galvis is out of the gate blazing hot as always, hitting .222 in limited action. Wake me up when he does something notable. C.
Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr.: These two are graded together because (channeling Gary Matthews here) for me, they are basically the same player. Mayberry started off hot, then predictably cooled to his present .242 average. Nix is pinch-hitting like a world-beater...but that is all he does. If either or both of them were waived tomorrow, it would be okay. These guys are everywhere in Major League Baseball. C.
Cole Hamels: Your new consensus staff ace followed up his beguiling spring with a series of horror show starts. He got his first win this past week, but even in that game he walked six batters. Hamels needs to get his head out of and north of his posterior, like, right now. D.
Cliff Lee: Like the man himself, Lee has been almost entirely unnoticed thus far this season. His numbers (2-1, 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) are all better than average, but he's certainly no Matt Harvey. On this staff, though, he is the ace so far. B+.
Kyle Kendrick: Then again, maybe calling Lee the staff ace thus far is a touch unfair to KK. Kendrick will always be overlooked because he does not really strike anyone out. He relies on soft contact—when the contact is hard, he gets crushed. But a 2-1 record with a 2.41 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP is no joke, son. A-.
John Lannan: Two quality starts, one shelling and a disabled list stint. Sounds like a future valedictorian! Incomplete.
Roy Halladay: After so much hand-wringing through the spring, Halladay's April has conclusively shown him to be exactly what he is at this point in his career. He has three quality starts out of six trips to the hill. He is 2-3. His ERA is presently almost seven.
As with Domonic Brown, if Halladay's jersey said "Smith" on the back, he would be in the minor leagues. But the jersey says "Roy Halladay," so he will get the ball until he proves he cannot compete in at least every other start. C-.
Jonathan Papelbon: For a 12-15 team, an eight-figure salaried closer is like a Maybach in the driveway of a double-wide. But Papelbon has been that Maybach, at least. A.
Mike Adams: On this team that cannot run away and hide in many games, Adams leads in appearances. He is called on so frequently because he either needs to hold a slim lead or keep the team in it late. Adams arrived with a big reputation, but he has only been decent.
He is better than what the Phillies had in setup roles last season. Talk about damning with faint praise. B.
Antonio Bastardo: Is he back to being an elite bullpen option? Is he just a left-handed one-out guy? It is too soon to tell. Bastardo has been quite effective thus far, though, allowing just one earned run in 10 appearances. That will do. A-.
Phillippe Aumont: For relief pitchers, won/lost records are often poor measures of their effectiveness. In Aumont's case, though, he is 1-3 on merit. Buy in to the decent ERA (3.52) if you like. For me (channeling Sarge again...sorry) it's all about the WHIP over two and the 1/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Here is another guy who is not a competent major league player up at this level because the Phillies have no other answers. D+.
Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin, Raul Valdes: None of these guys can pitch at this level, either. If at least one of them does not find something fast, this team is not going to finish above .500. F.
Jonathan Pettibone: Yes, the two starts have been sort of promising. But the major leagues are full of fifth starters who top out at five innings. Pettibone has been little more than that thus far. Incomplete.
Humberto Quintero and Ezeqiel Carrera: Neither had a single memorable moment. Incomplete.