The Phillies struggles are real…. Real scary…. Real hard to watch.
On Friday night and I am watching the struggling Phillies face the last-place Marlins. Watching and hoping for a glimmer of the spark that this team early in the season. This Phillies team struggles are real.
As a broadcaster, you try to keep a level head and not overreact. As a fan of a few decades that is not a simple task. You understand your team is injury riddled. Your starting pitchers have underperformed most of the season, the bullpen is missing key pieces, and the offense is almost nonexistent. You understand losing to a red-hot team like the Braves but also see positive moments in the first two games of that series.
What you DON’T understand is being swept by the Nats. Putting up only six runs in three games. Jake Arrieta, who I personally have been very vocal about his attitude and lack of performance, kept Washington to two runs. The bats were colder than the rain falling that entire series. The rain was like even someone upstairs didn’t want to put Philly fans through a 4-game sweep. All you can say to yourself was, “We have the Marlins at home.”
What you REALLY DON’T understand is losing the first game to the basement dwelling Marlins, especially on Chase Utley’s retirement night. Nola giving up the long ball, AGAIN. This “unstoppable” offense once again taking the night off against an average starting pitcher at best.
The lack of hustle and handling of this team is in question. After last Thursday’s game, former Phillie and current Phillies broadcaster, John Kruk, made his feeling be heard. He notes during his time here in 1993 getting swept by St. Louis, that some of the writers covering the team wrote them off. They were noting his squad being “probably done and how do they rebound from this?” As we all know that wasn’t the case. Kruk also noted that his team wasn’t scoring a bunch of runs for a stretch, but his ’93 team “didn’t quit playing, didn’t quit competing, didn’t quit playing hard.” Kruk had mentioned that it is hard to watch and stomach this current team’s quality of play and the fans having to watch this happen. He also noted “that this is not what this city is about. This city is about bust your ass every single time on the field and you can rest when the games over. The people (the fans) pay their hard-earned money and watch guys not hustle.”
On the Edge of Philly Sports Live show Thursday night, I had the opportunity to ask Kruk’s former teammate, Mickey Morandini, about the lack of hustle and how the manager is handling the situation. We discussed specifically the Jean Segura situation. Morandini notes Segura’s offensive struggles and compares them to his time when he was slumping. Morandini noted “You got to hustle and if I was the manager, I would take him (Segura) out immediately. I think in today’s game you got to embarrass them a little bit. Talking to them and saying don’t do it again doesn’t work. You have to do something that is going to get under his skin a little bit and you have to a bit of prick today as a manager.” Mickey told different stories of him and other major league ballplayers during his time of not hustling and the fear of the manager’s repercussions. [You can catch the entire interview in the video below]
So, the question is “What will it take for the Phillies to turn this around?” I don’t believe it is any single player, but a large portion of them. Is it a depression slowly making its way through the locker room? Is it a change in philosophy from the management and skipper? Is it the players holding each other accountable? I believe it is all the above.
This team cannot afford to coast on fumes into the All-Star break. There is too much divisional baseball to play between now and then. They are in hole that will keep getting deeper if a change does not occur.
I believe it starts with Gabe and above. There must be accountability from a management standpoint. A healthy fear and respect for Gabe Kapler and the repercussions for dogging it. Stop defending a hitting coach when the team is clearly underperforming. A fire needs to be lit. I also believe Harper needs to earn that 25 plus million this year and take a leadership role. The core of this group should be disappointed that not one member of this star-studded Phillies lineup got an All-Star bid. Only time will tell. So, fans buckle up because the ride will be bumpy, but don’t count out the boys in white and red pinstripes just yet.
Written by Al “Big AL” Zaffiri
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