July 23, 2010
It is quite obvious the Philadelphia Phillies are in a slump. A team riddled by injuries and inconsistency without an ignition towards change.
Despite getting an extra innings 2-0 win in St. Louis yesterday, where Cole Hamels shined, the team still showed the overwhelming stress that comes from being back-to-back National League Champions.
The Phillies have been plagued by non-existent bats that have turned consistent players like Jayson Werth searching for a way to right the ship.
The legendary preseason beard Werth was rocking during his early hot streaks has been reduced to a whimsical and mildly scary goatee in an attempt to fix his batter's box issues.
We've seen things like Chase Utley using voodoo on his bat to ease his hitting struggles. Yet the hitting gods couldn't keep him from a thumb injury that will have him sidelined till Labor Day.
When things like this happen to a team with so many expectations from the public, front offices usually try to ignite their lineups with a trade or the firing of a manager or bench coach.
The Phillies did just that last night firing hitting coach Milt Thompson. Thompson, a former Phillie and member of the 1993 NL Champions, was with the team for six seasons and was a main contributor to the team's 2008 World Series run.
When things go bad for a team, fans and owners are quick to forget previous successes.
Thompson was with the Phillies for six years, five of which the team was in the top three in the National League for runs scored and even lead the league in 2006, 2007, and, 2009.
He was publicly praised for the team's success in 2008.
However, when a team falls behind for the first time in years, he's the first to be sent packing. I am not suggesting any one person is responsible, but you have to consider the situation.
The rumors of a firing surfaced just weeks ago heading into the All-Star break. Manager Charlie Manuel vehemently supported Thomspon stating:
"It's definitely not Milt Thompson's fault,''..."He doesn't do the hitting.''...
and Charlie is right.
Many people in the Philadelphia media saw this move coming as most of the team's struggles are coming from the batter's box.
We all knew a firing was going to take place and getting rid of Thomspon is the easiest solution.
The real question is: are the Phillies using Milt Thompson as a scapegoat for other front office transgressions?
Right now the Phillies are sitting seven games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, which is good for second place. Not exactly where you'd like to sit heading into August, especially with the strength of the NL Wild Card Race.
The Phillies have spent major parts of this season without the services of players like Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, and Jimmy Rollins and have had to substitute these key players with medicore bench players like Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez, and most recently Ross Gload.
Usually players like these are added to rosters to pick up slop time during blowouts yet Wilson Valdez has played in 62 games and had 188 at-bats—a career-high for him.
Any team that loses that much run production from a group of long-time starters will slump.
Couple that with the fact that this is the strongest the NL East has been in almost a decade, no one should be surprised they are slumping.
You won't gain ground in a competitive division with lousy bench players.
The 2010 Phillies are built for winning when all of their starters are healthy. If you look at the team's depth chart, it's filled with extremely inexperienced young talent or role players looking for a pay check.
That's not just the hitting coaches fault; a team that has a solid bench to fill holes wouldn't suffer like this.
The trade deadline is 10 days away.
The rumors seem to be that the Phillies are targeting pitching to fill their holes.
Unfortunately, the truth is you can have all the pitching in the world, but without consistency from your bats and a roster full of healthy players, a major trade has no use.
With Thompson as the sacrificial lamb being sent to pass, the pressure is now on Manuel and General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
What those two do in the upcoming weeks will have a lasting effect on their job security...