Philadelphia Phillies: Does recent spiral indicate a clubhouse problem?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies once sat comfortably in first place, but a recent stretch of poor play threatens to push the club completely out of the race.

Believe it or not, there was a time during the season when the Philadelphia Phillies sat comfortably in first place, playing the best baseball this city has seen in almost seven years. It’s now September, and those days feel like a distant memory.

The Phillies have somehow found a way to go from being the city’s most exciting sports team over the summer to falling shockingly back to earth and mediocrity over the course of one month. No, August was not kind to the Phillies. They haven’t won a series since August 5th and have gone 10-18 in that span.

So what has happened to the Phils? This was a team that split two mini-series against the Boston Red Sox. A team that for most of the season has had one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. A team that always seemed to be able to rally after a crushing loss the night before.

More from Philadelphia Phillies

Now? They are a team that just lost a must-win series to the Miami Marlins. Yes, things are rotten in the state of Pennsylvania right now.

If you ask those close to the team, the belief is that this Phillies team may have been playing a bit over their heads, and more closely resemble the team that is most indicative of their true talent level. That’s certainly a plausible explanation when you break it down. After all, there are still so many questions about this Phillies team.

The fact is that you can’t look at this roster and pick more than one or two players who appear to be locked in for the future outside of Rhys Hoskins and Maikel Franco. You can probably lump in Scott Kingery because of the huge contract he was given by Matt Klentak, but he’s far from a proven talent at this point. And Hoskins is currently in the midst of another brutal slump. it certainly seems like when he’s off, so is the whole club.

As for everyone else? It boils down to this: you have to ask yourself as a fan, who else on this team impresses you? Cesar Hernandez? It feels like he hasn’t hit in two months. How about Odubel Herrera? Probably the most inconsistent player in the clubhouse, and it would not be surprising at all if he’s no longer in Philadelphia this time next year.

When these guys have been good, they’ve been pretty good. But when it’s counted the most, they’ve been anything but good, and that’s what’s concerning the most. The Phillies have to figure out who in this clubhouse is going to be the group that’s going to get it done for this team over the next decade because that’s anything from a sure thing right now.

End rant.

Now, let’s bring it back to the clubhouse because that’s really the focal point here. One thing that can’t be overlooked during the Phillies’ skid over this last month is the decisions made by Manager Gabe Kapler.

Phillies watch Nola’s 11 strikeouts go to complete waste. light. Related Story

Kapler’s love for analytics is well documented, and so is the fact that he’s used well over 100 different lineup combinations so far this season. That is astounding, and you have to start to wonder whether this is taking its toll behind closed doors.

Not only that, but the Phillies have a completely different roster now than they did at the start of the season, adding veterans Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista, Aaron Loup, and Wilson Ramos during the trade period. That’s five new players added during the dog days of summer when the Phillies were right in the middle of the race for the division lead.

While it’s impossible to know how these additions were received in the clubhouse, it’s probably fair to speculate that the natural reaction to these additions would include some level of concern about playing time amongst certain players.

This concern is only exacerbated by the fact that the manager simply either will not or cannot keep a consistent lineup together, either because right now he can’t put one together that he feels confident in, or because he’s so infatuated with the analytics that he’s failing to see the toll it’s taking on his team.

Just ask yourself: Wouldn’t you want to know if you were playing the next day? Wouldn’t you want to know if you might be called on to come out of the bullpen to get your team out of a jam if need be? How would you feel being told that you are only going to play when the numbers say it’s appropriate?

Again, this is speculative, but anyone who follows this team closely or knows baseball can see what’s happening with this Phillies team. They are imploding at the worst possible time and the team’s manager simply can’t see it. Lineups need to gel. Guys need to hit in the same spots consistently. it’s perfectly understandable to move guys up and down here and there in order to break slumps but to trot out a different lineup every day goes against baseball logic, no matter what the numbers say.

And if the players are miffed about these lineup decisions and taking that negative energy out onto the field and bringing it to the clubhouse each day, that would no doubt create the perfect cocktail of toxicity. It makes too much sense to be completely disregarded.

At this rate, it would be borderline miraculous if the Phillies somehow pulled out of this nosedive. One thing is for sure: the reliance on analytics may work to a certain degree, but it hasn’t helped this team at all when things have been at their worst. Kapler has done a marvelous job in his inaugural season as manager, but his undying love for numbers could also end up being his undoing. Not this year, and probably not the next year. But eventually, if he’s not careful.

Next. 3 reasons Ryan Howard will always be a fan favorite. dark

Perhaps there are bigger problems such as personnel, but it’s hard not to be concerned about the culture inside the clubhouse right now, and the manager is at the very epicenter of it all.