When the Phillies replaced Charlie Manuel with Ryne Sandberg as manager last seaeson, no one expected a completely new modus operandi. Both are cut from the old-school cloth. But there was the hope that a changing of the guard would signal a willingness to adapt and modernize. To the Phillies’ credit, there has been some of that with the implementation of an analytics department and GM Ruben Amaro acknowledged a potential willingness to platoon Ryan Howard. Through the first two games of the 2014 season, however, Sandberg has shown the same flawed bullpen management that plagued Manuel during his tenure with the Phillies, particularly in the last few years.
Let’s face it, Ryne Sandberg as a manager is still a mystery. After 9 seasons of the thoroughly predictable managerial stylings of Mr. Charles Fuqua Manuel, it may be slight uncomfortable for Phillies fans to not know what to expect from their manager. With his first opportunity to surprise us with a lineup in 2014, Sandberg didn’t disappoint.
Not that you needed yesterday’s 14-run outburst against the Rangers to identify that. The premise of the title does requires some suspension of disbelief. No, this is not an April Fool’s Day article. Now that the legal stuff is out of the way…
The Phillies scored 610 runs last season, the fewest they’ve scored in a live ball era, non-strike-shortened season since scoring 597 in 1988. They scored double-digit runs in a game only five times and exceeded yesterday’s 14 only once. And as our own Corinne Landrey pointed out on Twitter, those 14 runs represented a whopping 2.3 percent of their total runs scored in 2013.
The reasons for the lack of offense, of course, are obvious: they were ravaged by injuries to key players (Ryan Howard and Ben Revere most noticeably) and were ill-equipped to replace them, and they also somehow forgot about properly addressing right field.
After an off-season that lasted for what seemed like an eternity, baseball returned to us this afternoon as the Phillies battled the Rangers in Texas. Cliff Lee opposed Tanner Scheppers, filling in for the injured Yu Darvish. The two teams combined for 24 runs, 31 hits, and 10 walks. With 14 of those runs, the Phillies set a franchise record in the live ball era for runs scored on Opening Day. While it was nice to see the Phillies’ offense come alive after ending the spring with three consecutive shut-outs, there weren’t many moments of comfort during the game.
ESPN asked me to participate in their expert panel to attempt to predict the upcoming season, not unlike the ones you saw earlier involving the Crashburn Staff.
The link above (or this) will take you to the panel’s picks for the standings and playoffs.
This link will take you to the panel’s picks for award-winners.
I tried to stay consistent with my picks for ESPN and here, but I didn’t have one while filling out the other, so let me know if you notice any discrepancies.
With the regular season just hours away from starting, it’s time for the Crashburn Alley staff to reveal their 2014 season predictions. We will pick over/unders, division standings, and end-of-season awards. Feel free to let us know where you think we’ll be dead wrong and where you think we got it right using the comments below.
The Phillies 25-man roster has been finalized:
The Phillies have acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.
MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki just tweeted this:
Three new signs in hallway from Phillies clubhouse to dugout: Respect the Game, Be the Ultimate Teammate, and Play the Game the Right Way.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) March 28, 2014
Beats optimizing roster construction through the development of a healthy Minor League system, the prudent use of team resources, and taking advantage of the latest and greatest advances in technology and data collection. Because, really, what good is a 95-win team with a new World Series trophy if each player can’t look himself in the mirror and say, “I respected the game, was the ultimate teammate, and played the game the right way”?
Gregg Easterbrook once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing, because if I have to sift through a billion TMQ columns to find the exact wording, I will end my life, so help me God): “Writing a book is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.”
I’m writing a book, set to come out in November, ranking the 20 greatest athletes in Philadelphia sports history, and for the next month or so, I’ll be concentrating on finishing that, to the peril of any sort of writing I do for fun, including Crashburn. After 99 weeks of uninterrupted service, I toyed with the idea of just lining up five or six guest columns to fill the space, but what comes back in May will be more purposeful than what you’re reading now, which has largely been the product of inertia. So for the last time, at least for a while, I’ll take your questions.
@Hegelbon: “if the Phillies had to be run like a social political system, which would you choose? I’d pick oligarchy.”
That’s kind of how they’re run right now, isn’t it? One person, or group of people, has all the power and delegates it to a bureaucracy that includes the baseball ops people, the PR people, event planners…it’s not a terrible way to run an organization, and a big reason I’m such a fan of career civil service in actual government: we elect the politicians, who (in theory) reflect our goals as an electorate and translate those goals (national security, economic prosperity, and so on) into achievable policy objectives, then turn to the army of wonks they employ to actually carry out those objectives. Because politicians don’t know dick about how things actually work–wonks do, because they do this for a living.