It’s been a long, long way down for Phillies fans. Though the annual declines in performance have let us down slowly, gently into the abyss of terrible baseball, it’s still been difficult to watch the team over the last few years. Maybe your turning point was Cole’s subpar performance in the 2009 World Series, or Howard’s strikeout parade against the Giants in 2010, or Howard’s achilles injury in 2011 … or paying Howard and not Jayson Werth … or trading for Hunter Pence … or trading Pence. You get the idea. There have been plenty of times when the bottom fell out of what we thought was the bottom. So it’s only natural, and completely understandable, that the minor leaguers get more attention these days, especially when the big club runs out a lineup with Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis batting 2nd. I feel your pain.
In this era of terrible Phillies baseball, it’s easy to look back at some of the players that got away and wonder what might have been. We’ve seen this recently with reliever Jason Grilli and first baseman-slash-outfielder Brandon Moss. We’re now seeing it with Diamondbacks center fielder Ender Inciarte, most prominently in CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury’s latest column.
Even after the division rival Atlanta Braves traded away Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis, the Phillies were still projected to be the worst offensive team not just in the National League, but in baseball. Combined with the shoddy starting pitching after Cole Hamels, the Phillies were projected to put up a terrible run differential. They were -68 last season, finishing 16 games below .500, exactly in line with their expected record based on run differential.
The Phillies fell to 3-7 with Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals in the series opener in Washington, extending their losing streak to five games. They now sport a -18 run differential, which is also in line with their current record. No one is surprised. The Phillies are listed at the bottom of current MLB futures to win the NL Pennant, and almost all of the blame lies at the feet of the Phillies’ offense.
A rebuilding Phillies team desperate for young talent to shine has a 24-year-old third baseman batting .500/.571/.667 through his first 28 plate appearances of the year. The broadcast team has been heaping effusive praise on Cody Asche. Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt practically drooled while discussing Asche’s play last weekend. For over a year now articles have been written declaring that Asche is Chase Utley’s heir apparent as the future leader of the Phillies. It’s over-the-top hype and for the past week I’ve been standing out in the cold peering through a window at this Asche breakout party I just can’t bring myself to join now matter how much I’d love to buy in.
Former Phillie Ryan Madson hadn’t pitched since the end of the 2011 NLDS with the Phillies, but he made the Kansas City Royals’ 25-man roster out of spring training. Including his outing Monday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins, he’s thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. He struck out three of the five Twins batters he faced.
First baseman Ryan Howard went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Sunday’s 10-inning 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. He was replaced at first base by Darin Ruf after his fourth strikeout of the game, against lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno, in the seventh inning.
Howard now has only three hits (all doubles) in 20 plate appearances this season. To his credit, he had only struck out three times entering the game.
Howard had seven swinging strikes in his four at-bats: two in the first inning, one in the third, three in the fifth, and one in the seventh. Here are five of those seven:
I had the good fortune of attending Saturday night’s extra-inning win against the Washington Nationals. After eating a couple of sandwiches, I was treated to a pitcher’s duel between Cole Hamels and Doug Fister. Hamels, somehow, was able to last seven innings on 104 pitches despite throwing 27 pitches in the first inning and 20 in the third. It was a nice bounce-back effort after his mediocre Opening Day start against the Boston Red Sox in which he served up four home runs.
I had a few observations during the game which I wasn’t able to tweet but I’d still like to discuss here.
Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported over the weekend that Phillies prospect Jesmuel Valentin was arrested on April 5 in Pinellas County, Florida for a domestic battery incident. He was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and pleaded not guilty to the charge on Wednesday. Major League Baseball has suspended Valentin indefinitely.
Over the winter, we were inundated with national baseball writers clamoring for a Cole Hamels trade. MLB Network fantasized about Hamels going to the Red Sox. Peter Gammons painted GM Ruben Amaro as a despot. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports even called the Phillies’ off-season a “major fail” just before pitchers and catchers reported in February.
Rosenthal has continued the “Phillies must trade Hamels” meme with his latest column, suggesting the team needs to “get real” if they want to trade Hamels to the Red Sox. He starts out by asking the obvious question: “OK, can the Phillies stop asking the Red Sox about center fielder Mookie Betts and catcher Blake Swihart now?”