Red pinstripes instantly appear on some people’s faces if one suggests that the Philadelphia Phillies might finish below .500 this year. These personality types take the game of baseball and themselves far too seriously. Meanwhile, back in reality, the rest of us are okay with looking at the facts and mixing in our opinions.
The 2013 Phillies have a dysfunctional starting lineup, a generally good (though not great) defense, a bullpen that’s still missing a few arms, a nice bench and a good starting staff.
Charlie Manuel is working once again with a roster that simply isn’t deep enough to be considered a sure-fire playoff contender.
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. seems incapable of understanding that the strategies he’s employed have failed and remain insufficient. In that regard, Amaro has become as stubborn as one of his predecessors, Ed Wade.
Before the shouting starts, let’s spell out what that means: Wade clearly knew how to assemble a farm system staff. Many worthwhile prospects were drafted, signed and acquired during his tenure. Some of those promising young men were used as valuable trade chips, while others became impact players in Philadelphia and elsewhere around the major leagues.
Wade would have made a fine farm director himself. But, he was a mediocre general manager at best.
Amaro wears a championship ring because a great man once sat in his seat as the Phillies’ top front office boss.
Pat Gillick, who was Amaro’s other mentor, earned his Hall of Fame induction because he understood the vital importance of good timing and because he masterfully used his contact list. In most, but not all instances, he knew when to trade a player, when to acquire a player and when to ‘Stand Pat’. He surrounded himself with an exceptional staff and incorporated any received advice into his game plan.
Gillick has noted in the past that Amaro likes big-ticket players. As he knew and we now know, that’s not how a postseason team is assembled, or maintained.
The Phillies will finish below .500 this season unless numerous other teams in the National League play bad baseball. This feeling hasn’t emerged because Manuel’s (make that Amaro’s) team dropped a series to the Pittsburgh Pirates this week. It represents a logical conclusion.
Anyone who’s currently thinking, “It’s only April” has missed the point. This might be the first sub-.500 Phillies’ finish since 2002. While the organization was on the upswing at that point in history, this team has been and is in decline.
It’s also reasonable to be fearful about the long-term future.
Amaro can put Ryne Sandberg in charge. But, if ‘RAJ’ continues to play the same hunches behind the scenes ‘Ryno’ won’t be any better off than ‘Uncle Charlie’ is.