When the Philadelphia Phillies went to back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009, the team had a clear and defined identity. They were known as a scrappy, hard playing franchise that never went down without a fight. They were feared throughout MLB for their prowess at the plate thanks to Charlie Manuel and were known for playing solid, fundamental baseball.
Now, that is no longer the case.
Sometime between then and now, the Phillies lost that special something that made them the team to beat in the NL East. They have become sloppy, complacent and worst of all they seem to have an air of entitlement about them. It’s almost like they think the deserve to be in the playoffs regardless of how they play and that should be enough to get them there.
One of the big reasons for this change has to be laid at the feet of Ruben Amaro Jr. Almost from the day he took over as GM of the Phillies, he has put all of his focus (and money) behind pitching. The epitome of this was in 2011 when he assembled what many considered the greatest starting rotation ever seen in baseball. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (with a little help from Joe Blanton) were supposed to lead the Phillies to the promised land of the postseason with ease.
Instead it got them as far as Game 5 of the National League Division Series, which is when they were eliminated from the playoffs. And a huge part of why that happened despite the All-Star caliber starting rotation was because the bats had gone stone cold. The Phillies couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag, which was unthinkable just a few years earlier.
Amaro Jr. had taken all of the focus away from hitting — what got the Phillies to two World Series — and put everything on pitching, which isn’t what this team was about. Yes, pitching is important and a key piece of any baseball team, but unless you can score, which the Phillies used to be able to do with ease, you’re not going to win many games.
The end result is that now the Phillies have lost their way. The pitching has only gone downhill since that magical rotation of 2011 and hitting is more of a problem than ever. Ryan Howard just isn’t the same at the plate anymore, and the Phillies are close to leading the league in stranding runners on base. To make matters worse, they have been shutout 11 times in 2014, good for second-most in baseball and things are not getting better.
When the Phillies begin their rebuild, they need to get back to hitting the ball with the same skill and power they used to. They need to have good pitching but not make it the exclusive focus of the team. They need to get that swagger back to their step that made opposing clubs think twice before taking the field against them.
They need to remember what it means to be the Phillies again.