Chances are, the Philadelphia Little League World Series’ entry, the Taney Dragons, will have a play or two in the championship round at Williamsport where there’s a pop fly in the infield and either the first or second baseman take it.
It will probably go a lot smoother than what happened when an infield fly dropped between Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard, a crucial play in a loss to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.
When two 10-year players get a play like that wrong, a play even Little Leaguers routinely get right, there’s an indication that there is a deeper problem on the Phillies than lack of fundamentals. It’s not that this team doesn’t care about winning. It’s that the team doesn’t care enough about winning.
If they did, then both Utley and Howard would have developed a hand signal or a silent gesture to one another that would eliminate the doubt of who would take the play. These two are 35-year-old guys who have been playing 12 years together, not 12-year-old kids who have been playing 35 weeks together.
When Ryne Sandberg was hired as manager of the Phillies a year and a day ago, he said he would stress fundamentals and he followed through with that promise as the team worked two hours a day on fundamentals during spring training in Clearwater, Fla. In season, though, the team goes through the motions, both in pre-game infield and during the game itself.
No single play was more of a microcosm of the season than that one bungled play on Saturday. It showed more than anything that the Phillies need to jettison their jaded veterans for younger kids who care. Maybe not 12-year-olds, but at least the younger ones sitting on the bench now.