Talking Phillies with Chris Branch

We were sad to see David Hale leave his Phillies beat at The News Journal as he moved on to cover college football for ESPN (@DavidHaleESPN). No one referenced The Simpsons quite like he did. However, we are also happy to welcome in a new guy into the fold, and that is Chris Branch (@ChrisBranchTNJ). Chris introduced himself on July 3 here if you’d like to learn a bit about him. I caught up with him via email over the All-Star break to get his views on a few issues pertinent to the Phillies.

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1. You’re jumping right into a disastrously bad season for the Phillies. Have any of your perceptions of the team as an outsider changed now that you’ve been in the clubhouse?

They haven’t changed much. Before I got here, I knew the Phillies were having a bad season, but I didn’t know how bad. I will say my first few days I was impressed with how upbeat they tried to stay as the losses kept piling up, but any optimism vanished as they left for the All-Star break.

2. What is the general atmosphere in the clubhouse? We learned that Jonathan Papelbon had a mild tantrum after blowing Thursday night’s [July 5] save in Queens. Is this a regular occurrence?

Like I said, it was kind of upbeat before they really started sucking. There seemed to be a main troupe of guys laughing and joking before games (Victorino, Papelbon, Lee), but smiles were nowhere to be found after last Sunday’s loss. I haven’t seen any tantrums of any kind yet, but seeing Victorino that depressed before Sunday’s game was just as weird.

3. How are the younger players treated in the clubhouse, particularly the relievers who have been a big reason behind the Phillies’ troubles?

Honestly, the relievers kind of stay mum when the media’s in the clubhouse. I’ve seen Papelbon razz them a bit, but they’re normally all business when we’re around.

4. After Brian McCann‘s grand slam in the eighth inning on Friday [July 5], fans immediately filed out of the stadium in seething anger. What is your perception of the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park as it relates to the fans?

Frustration. It’s pretty palpable that people are sick of the losing, especially in that fashion. To have Kyle Kendrick, who’s struggled most of the season, pitch seven shutout innings only to have Antonio Bastardo give up the McCann boomstick like that has to be brutal for fans to watch. You could feel any electricity built up over the course of the game evaporate the second the ball hit the brick wall in center field.

5. What do you expect the Phillies to do with Cole Hamels, who may become a free agent after the season?

I have a feeling they’re going to re-sign him before the deadline. But, if the team keeps losing, you have to think Ruben will listen to some trade calls at the deadline rather than get caught up in a Pujols-esque situation. There’s no way the front office lets the status quo remain for the rest of the season, though.

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Thanks to Chris for taking the time to share his perspective as an insider. Make sure you follow him on Twitter (@ChrisBranchTNJ) and check out his work on Philled In for The News Journal.

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3 comments

  1. Ken

    July 16, 2012 04:20 PM

    I feel like you did a terrific job there, Bill. I wouldn’t for a second try to talk you down from your stats oriented approach to things, but as one who believes the mental things, like attitude, and confidence are not to be overlooked, I appreciate it getting a little focus in your questioning Chris. I realize it’s a gray area that’s subjective, but I still give it some attention. Not impossible that this has taken place here at Crashburn before, I just noticed it this particular time, and felt like acknowledging it. Carry on.

  2. LTG

    July 16, 2012 10:53 PM

    Since there isn’t a lot to say about the current Phillies that hasn’t been said, how about a non-current Phillie? Scott Rolen, HOF or no?

  3. Cutter McCool

    July 17, 2012 10:43 PM

    No.

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