I would love to be wrong here and find myself dining on a thick piece of juicy, fresh-caught crow (sprinkled with a little Old Bay and tangy Heinz 57) come September. Would love it. I’d even Vine the occasion. But thinking the Phillies have a chance to do anything of worth this year is bat-shit crazy. Reasons:
1) They play in a terrible division. Only the NL West is worse. That means that, at 45-46, the find themselves a game and a half back of second place and seven and a half out of first. They aren’t a good team, they just happen to be the beneficiaries of the Nationals’ early-season injury struggles and the Mets’ and Marlins’ existence. The Braves are too good not to win the division, and the Nationals are better than they’ve played thus far.
Yeah, but– extra Wild Card spot!
2) Even after rattling off three straight and six of their last 10, the Phillies are still only tied for seventh in the National League, still five and a half games out of that second Wild Card spot. But even that’s misleading. Check out their run differential compared to the teams around them:
They have the fifth-worst in the National League. Sure, get into the playoffs and anything can happen. But the Phillies are clearly not very good. I’m sure there’s a SABR nerd out there who can demonstrate how having a substantial negative run differential will cause the Phillies to regress to a worse record, too.
3) It should get worse. Sure, they’re playing decent right now and their starting pitching doesn’t project to be a problem. But Roy Halladay is still a HUGE question mark. No one knows how he’ll fare once when and if he returns.
The bullpen is stinky, unreliable and, oh, injured– Mike Adams’ season is over. Mike Stutes and Jeremy Horst are both on the DL.
Ryan Howard, regardless of how you feel about him, was a major component in the lineup who had 43 RBIs on a team with only the 19th most runs scored in baseball. He’s out for two months.
4) This happens in baseball. Remember the last time the Phillies put together a little streak? Let me remind you with this graph of the Phillies’ season by games over or under .500 (updated through Tuesday):
Teams win a few, they lose a few. The Phils have consistently played sub-mediocre baseball all season long. The one time they cracked .500, they then went on a five-game losing streak. To have any shot at the playoffs, that chart would need to start looking like the wire-mountain that guy on the Swiss Farms milk carton climbs ($10,000 to anyone who got a visual on that reference).
5) Sell! Sell! Sell! I’m a big proponent of Go For It. If you have any chance to win, you do it. A championship is worth setting the team back five years (it really is). In 2009, 10 and 11, I was happy to see the Phillies mortgage the future to Go For It. But now that’s just unrealistic. And as much as it would hurt, this would be the perfect season to sell– Chase Utley, whose contract is up at the end of the year, has quite a bit of trade value. Ditto for Jonathan Papelbon, who is owed too much money through 2015. Michael Young, whose contract is also up at the end of the year, can land the Phils a few mid-level prospects. Ditto for Carlos Ruiz.
And then there’s Cliff Lee. I think trading him would be a mistake. He’s shown no signs of slowing down and still has two years left on his deal. But, he would land the Phillies significant prospects.
This is the year to restock, even if that means trading precious Chase Utley.
It’s obvious that the era is over. For about 15 months too long Amaro has tried to keep the window open with a wedge made from wood, old white guys and Delmon Young. It broke. The window slammed shut sometime in May. There’s no use in trying to open back up. At least not now. Just take one of Chase’s Marucci bats and shatter the thing, put the glass in a bag, haul it out to the curb and call Anderson and the Yankees.
Being buyers would not only be a useless task for this season, it would set the Phillies back another two years by causing them to miss out on available young players that they sorely need. But Amaro likely won’t be around long enough to see the fruits of a selling labor, and consequently, he may be inclined to do something foolish over the next three weeks. That scares me. And it should scare you too.