Philadelphia Phillies Philes Vol 1.21: A return to hittin’ season

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

In a week with the lowest and highest points of the Phillies season, I’ll explore it all, plus the return of Chuck, in today’s Philadelphia Phillies Philes.

Leading off

The story of the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies is one of inconsistency. Despite matching a season-high win streak of four games, the team came out flat last night in a 5-3 loss to the lowly Padres, dropping to a full game behind the Cubs for the second NL Wild Card spot. Phillies hitters were inefficient at the plate with runners in scoring position, an all-too-common occurrence throughout the year.

The ballpark also lacked energy, which was a byproduct of unenthusiastic play. In a week full of excitement, it’s imperative that the Phillies beat the teams residing at – or near – the bottom of the standings.

Their response today will be telling. Do they come out attacking in pursuit of the series win, or do they go through the motions like it’s any old day? Jason Vargas takes the hill against the Padres’ Joey Lucchesi. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM.

The Walking Wounded

More from Philadelphia Phillies

After pitching just 6 and 2/3 innings on the year, reliever David Robertson will be sidelined through the remainder of this year and likely all of next after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Signed during the offseason for two years, the Phillies will have essentially paid him $3.5-million per appearance. Ouch.

Joining Robertson on the sidelines is fellow pitcher, Jake Arrieta, who will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a bone spur in his elbow that’s been nagging him for over a month. Zach Eflin returned to the rotation last night in place of Arrieta, lasting just 3 and 2/3, looking out-of-sorts yet again.

If the Phillies are to make a run, their offense is going to have to really step it up. J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper are swinging hot bats, and the team needs Rhys Hoskins to get it going, too. Hopefully, some time with new hitting coach Charlie Manuel can restore Hoskins’ confidence.

If anyone can do it, Chuck can!

(While on the subject of walking wounded, Roman Quinn is once again on the IL with a groin strain suffered Friday night trying to beat out a grounder at first. If only he can stay healthy…)

Walking off in EPIC fashion

Only one word is needed to sum up the highlight of the year: WOW.

(Or maybe three: John Kruk‘s, “Oh my gosh” was pretty spot-on!)

Pure class

During Cole Hamels‘ return to the Citizens Bank Park mound on Wednesday night, the former Phillies ace donned the “DPM” patch on his right sleeve – the same as the Phillies are wearing in honor of former team president David Montgomery who passed away in May.

According to Hamels:

"“David kind of introduced me to the power of a platform besides baseball and what it meant to play baseball in the city of Philadelphia and really kind of embrace being somebody living in the community and just kind of understanding that the game of baseball is amazing but there’s a lot more to life.“"

Hamels did so without the permission of Major League Baseball and could face a fine as a result. Either way, he’ll accept any punishment as he was more concerned about honoring a man who helped him grow into a better person on and off the field.

There’s a reason Hamels is beloved in Philly, and this gesture further exemplifies that belief.

Colorful Commentary

This past Sunday during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, color commentary analyst Alex Rodriguez said it perfectly when describing the Phillies’ poor efforts in a 9-6 loss against the Giants.

With the game tied 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth and two outs and a runner on second base, Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler elected for Nick Pivetta to pitch to the red-hot Kevin Pillar instead of walking him to face the struggling Brandon Crawford.

Pillar would crush a triple into the gap in right-center, driving in what ended up being the game-winning run.

Rodriguez said:

"“You have a base open… there’s no need for the hot Pillar to get a pitch this good in this situation. Walk him, pitch to Crawford. That’s a mistake by Gabe Kapler. Careless managing, even more careless pitching for the Phillies.”"

The game – and that moment, in particular – was likely the lowest point of this turbulent season for the Phillies, but the team has since responded nicely. Along with firing their hitting coach and bringing back Charlie Manuel, new energy sparked the Phillies to an impressive sweep of the contending Cubs, perhaps salvaging the season.

Love or hate Alex Rodriguez, but his assessment was spot-on, and maybe that – combined with the firing of John Mallee – will serve as the igniter bringing this team back to life. So far, it has.

On your mark…get set…go!

Jared Hughes, claimed this week off waivers from the Reds, is already my new favorite Phillie. Aside from introducing himself to Philly with a rather sincere and encouraging message to the fan base via Twitter, he also does this.

It may not seem like much, but at 6-foot-7 and 240-pounds, he can move. The first out recorded last night also highlighted his athleticism.

Through nine seasons, he posts a 2.83 ERA with a high ground ball rate, an attribute that bodes well for pitching at Citizens Bank Park. His contract includes a team option for next year.

Most Valuable Phillie Power Rankings – Top 15 (through 8/17/2019):

  1. J.T. Realmuto (C) – Previous Rank: 2 (↑ 1)
  2. Aaron Nola (SP) – Previous Rank: 1 (↓ 1)
  3. Bryce Harper (OF) – Previous Rank: 3 (↔)
  4. Rhys Hoskins (1B) – Previous Rank: 4 (↔)
  5. Scott Kingery (OF/INF) – Previous Rank: 5 (↔)
  6. Hector Neris (RP) – Previous Rank: 6 (↔)
  7. Cesar Hernandez (2B) – Previous Rank: 7 (↔)
  8. Jean Segura (SS) – Previous Rank: 8 (↔)
  9. Jake Arrieta (SP) – Previous Rank: 9 (↔)
  10. Vince Velasquez (SP) – Previous Rank: 13 (↑ 3)
  11. Jose Alvarez (RP) – Previous Rank: 15 (↑ 4)
  12. Juan Nicasio (RP) – Previous Rank: N/A (↑)
  13. Ranger Suarez (RP) – Previous Rank: N/A (↑)
  14. Nick Pivetta (SP) – Previous Rank: 10 (↓ 4)
  15. Drew Smyly (SP) – Previous Rank: N/A (↑)

“Ring the Bell” Award Winner of the Week

Bryce Harper’s epic walk-off moonshot was the most exciting moment in Phillies history since the magical moments throughout the 2007-11 run. And as monstrous of a blast as his grand slam was, the real thrill came from watching him gleefully scurry around the bases to get to home plate as quickly as he could to celebrate with his teammates.

Following the on-field celebration, Bryce Harper stepped aside for his post-game interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Gregg Murphy:

The genuine enthusiasm displayed is incredible, and while the game-winner was awesome, the realness in his reaction is what earns him this week’s “Ring the Bell” honors.

The Citizens Bank Park bell is probably still rocking, Bryce Harper, but go ahead and ring it again – you earned it!

Phillie Pholly of the Week

This week’s distinction goes to Phillies owner John Middleton for meddling in team affairs by essentially ousting former hitting coach John Mallee in favor of newly-minted Charlie Manuel.

And before you go screaming and hollering, hear me out.

I love Charlie Manuel and am thrilled that he’s back in Philly. However, history has shown that anytime an owner forces a hand in roster construction and immediate team affairs, it’s often to the detriment of the club.

Look at Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones in football’s NFC East. The Redskins and Cowboys are consistently chasing the Eagles as owner Jeff Lurie allows Howie Roseman and the player personnel department to successfully do its job through the ups and downs.

Sixers owner Josh Harris was instrumental in the team’s acquisition of Jimmy Butler, and that ultimately didn’t play to the strengths of Ben Simmons and the team’s makeup as the Sixers exited in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year. Is there any wonder that the team appears poised for a big season with its returning players and Butler’s replacement, Josh Richardson, now on board? GM Elton Brand facilitated these moves. (Kawhi leaving the conference certainly helps, too.)

Even the Flyers with Ed Snider’s extreme competitiveness became irrational at times regarding certain moves. (Think Ilya Bryzgalov.) While perennial contenders, the team failed to capture another Cup following their wins in 1974 and 1975.

Decisions regarding player and coach maneuvering is always best left for the sports-minded evaluators an organization entrusts. An owner’s desire to win is a good thing. The problem lies when that competitiveness becomes clouded by lack of patience, which Phillies owner John Middleton has openly admitted to having:

"“I’m impatient. I want to do this now. I don’t want to do it incrementally over two offseasons or three offseasons. I know we’re inevitably going to have to do some things in July, but I want to push right now and do as much as we can.“"

Building a winning team requires patience. As mentioned many times, it requires an emphasis on player development and building from within, the path to which is nonlinear. Middleton’s move to bring in Manuel – while fun from a fan’s perspective and not overly outrageous – speaks to his lack of patience, which is very concerning for the bigger picture.

Middleton needs to pick a philosophy and stick to its approach. Otherwise, the team will remain stuck in an unsettled state of mediocrity.

Just like its owner.

Phillies Phlashback

On August 23, 2009, the Phillies would take on the New York Mets from Citi Field on this Sunday afternoon. The game would mark recently-signed Pedro Martinez‘s return to Flushing as he squared off against his former team.

Martinez was adequate in the start, going six innings while surrendering four runs en route to his second win as a Phillie. Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz each hit three-run homers in the first inning, sending Mets starter Oliver Perez to the showers after only two-thirds of an inning pitched.

The real excitement came in the bottom of the ninth as Brade Lidge tried to close out the game. With two runners on, nobody out, and the Mets rallying down by two, Jeff Francoeur hit a liner up the middle that was snagged by Phillies’ second baseman Eric Bruntlett. He proceeded to step on second and tag out the base runner to complete the unassisted triple play. (Watch video here.)

It was the 15th unassisted triple play in MLB history and the first to ever end a game in the National League. No one has completed an unassisted triple play since.

On Deck

Next. Philadelphia Phillies Retro Scorecard Game Recap: August 17, 1998. dark

The Phillies travel to historic Fenway Park for a two-game set with the Boston Red Sox before flying down south to take on the Marlins for a weekend series at the beach.