Philadelphia Phillies Need to Let the Fire Sale Begin, Starting with Cliff Lee

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Philadelphia Phillies Need to Let the Fire Sale Begin, Starting with Cliff Lee
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

From 1994 through 2001, nobody really wanted to play in Philadelphia.

The organization was a mess.

The clubhouse was not very enlightening.

The team couldn't win ballgames.

Sure, the likes of Scott Rolen were there. But every Philadelphia Phillies fan knows how that turned out.

As Jayson Stark noted in his book Worth the Wait, the detrimental nature of the inner workings of the Phillies during that span created an apathetic atmosphere toward baseball. Losing was accepted and nobody took credit for the blame.

Not the free-swinging Bobby Abreu. Not Larry Bowa. Not the young Jimmy Rollins.

It wouldn't be until several years later when the culture would change and the road to a World Series victory parade would be paved. 

Fast forward to 2013. The Phillies are no longer a World Series threat, let alone contenders in their own division. The sky hasn't quite fallen, but multiple blunders are driving the perception that the Charlie Manuel era is coming to an end. Fans are still seeking out hope that a break here or there will propel the Phillies back into legitimacy. 

But the sad reality is that no breaks are coming for the Phillies. The climb will only get steeper and the hurdles will only get taller. 

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel is on the hot seat so long as the Phillies continue to take in more wins than losses.

Following Wednesday night's blowout loss to the Cleveland Indians, Phillies hurler Cliff Lee said the team needs "to have a little more pride." At 12-16, the Phillies are five-and-a-half games out of first place in the National League East division.

I am not sure if pride will win the Phillies more games or not.

Seven of the 12 Phillies wins came against the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. Of the 16 losses, the Phillies fell to the Atlanta Braves (twice), Kansas City Royals (twice), Cincinnati Reds (three-game sweep), St. Louis Cardinals (twice), Pittsburgh Pirates (three times) and Cleveland Indians (two-game sweep). The other two losses came against the Mets and Marlins.

Put simply, the Phillies can't beat good baseball teams. The Mets and Marlins have a combined winning percentage of .432. The other six clubs the Phillies faced and lost 14 games to boast a combined winning percentage of .565. 

It is just May, though. No one can seriously consider selling the team off at such an early juncture in the season, right?

Wrong.

With a minor league system that has consistently failed to get prospects ranked in the top-50 lists of Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus over the course of the last two seasons, something needs to change. 

The Phillies must begin with lefty Lee. Aside from the admiration Phillies fans have for Lee, his $25 million per annum contract through 2015 (with a club option or buyout for '16) is no longer commensurate with the club's current situation. Of current players on the roster, Lee will fetch the largest return.

Everyone can see which way the wind is blowing in Philadelphia, whether they admit it or not. The month of May is the perfect time to start working out prospective deals for the left-handed pitcher. By June, he should no longer be in a Phillies uniform.

The Phillies are a better team with Lee, but they are not a good enough team with him, either.

The run the Phillies had since 2007 was fascinating, but the club needs a makeover. It's unfortunate that Lee never got to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy on Broad Street. But at the end of the day, it's time for reality to set in. A new direction must be undertaken in order for Phillies fans to feel the way they did in 2008.

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