Whenever the city of Gotham needed help, they would fire up the bat signal – a giant spotlight in the sky with a bat logo – in hopes that Batman would respond and come save the day.
Well, the city of Philadelphia is now sending their own talisman of hope into the night sky, crossing its fingers that Phillies managing partner/owner John Middleton might respond.
Because the time is nigh.
Middleton is the only person who can save this Phillies season – and by save it, I don’t mean get things fixed to make a run at the playoffs.
No. The Phillies are broken. They are so fundamentally flawed from top to bottom that there is nothing at this point that will separate them from the rest of the National League pack despite them being so close to an actual playoff spot.
No. Forget that.
Instead, Middleton is the only person who can save this season by holding his organization publicly accountable for the mess they have wrought.
Because this is no longer about Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto slightly under-performing.
This is no longer about an inadequate pitching staff, or overcoming a slew of injuries, or a too inconsistent offense, or shoddy defense or the worst bench in baseball or failed situational baseball, or a lack of hustle, or anything on the field.
No. This is much worse. This is an organizational failure. A complete swing and miss in philosophy, structure, approach and accountability.
And that’s what Middleton has to save at this point. The face of the team.
That’s because Gabe Kapler, who is often left to be the person who has to explain the team’s failures publicly, has not been able to do so adequately.
Matt Klentak has emerged from his GM’s office a couple times and he too has not provided appropriate answers.
President Andy McPhail finally held court last week and gave the most arrogant and asinine responses to questions as if he didn’t want to be bothered with the very real perception of his team and we should all look the other way and remember he built championship teams some twenty-plus years ago.
And then came the embarrassment against the Dodgers on Monday – a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with this organization. Unreliable offense, terrible pitching, an occasional lack of desire (read: hustle), an inability to play fundamentally. A lack of awareness (yes players, there were three outs in the fourth inning), and there were no good answers afterwards.
So, now Middleton needs to emerge and say “no bueno.”
He was the face of the team in the offseason as they were going all in with his stupid money to try and compete for a World Series.
Now, instead, they are hovering around .500 and falling fast. They in the midst of a second epic collapse in as many seasons with a wildly different cast of characters.
That suggests the problem isn’t necessarily with the players. Sure, they could be better and can’t be absolved from their inadequacies this season, but the problem is now far bigger than that.
The Phillies’ plan, whatever it is/was, isn’t working. The manager has a hard time stemming the tide of losing and laziness in his clubhouse.
The general manager has a major blind spot when it comes to pitching – especially left-handed pitching – and has done a poor job in constructing a roster further down the 40-man list and is also overseeing the development – or lack thereof – of a farm system that just a couple years ago was regarded as one of the best in baseball and now is, at best, middle of the pack.
And the President… well, he won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins that one time.
This city demands answers, Hell, they deserve them after buying in to this team this season. If no one else wants to provide them, then Middleton must.
The best thing would be for Middleton to come out with hell fire and brimstone and declare what has happened to the Phillies this year as completely unacceptable. He needs to put both the management of these team and its players on notice that this kind of result will not be tolerated for much longer.
That would be ideal.
However, a more measured response would be OK too, because just his commenting on the state of the organization could be enough to let us know that he sees what’s going on and that he will address it.
By not saying anything at all though, he would be equally complicit in the baseball disaster that is playing out in front of all, and that would be a damn shame.
Because we trusted Middleton. We believed in him. We loved spending his stupid money. We want to know he wants to win even more than we do and will do whatever it takes to do that.
Now is a time for him to show it. Now is the time for him to answer the bat signal.
And if not, the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler are going to continue to run amok in the Philadelphia baseball world.
Holy Hell, Batman.