Through 15 games of the season, the Phillies have limped to a 6-9 record and stand 5 games back of the Mets in the NL East. And without surprise, the Phillies phaithful are up in arms, spitting fire at any and every person associated with the team. Seems there is plenty of blame to go around, with some of the more popular targerts being:
Charlie Manuel - his ineptitude at managing a baseball team, which has been on display since he was hired over 2 years ago, is frustrating to no end. Double -switches, pinch hitters, starting lineups, pitching changes - he struggles in every area. His strong point, being a "players manager" that will maximize player potential in a way the red-ass tactics of Larry Bowa could not, is a myth. Players that stuggled under Bowa continue to stuggle, regardless.
David Bell - a sure-handed, average-hitting, "character guy" has become an offensive and defensive liability, yet continues to play almost every day, despite the signing of two players (Abe Nunez and Alex Gonzalez) that are 3B capable.
Mike Lieberthal - a promising career for a "hit first, catch second" catcher was derailed by a knee injury, and the club is left with a weak hitting catcher who obviously cannot handle a pitching staff. He has one year left on his contract, and we are seeing the last of him, albeit 4 to 5 times a week.
Pat Burrell - he will never live down his awful years of 2003-04. He is back to being a .270-30-100 guy, but for many fans, it is not good enough. He takes the blame in many instances for the Phillies lack of consistency and poor performance with runners of base.
Bobby Abreu - a fake gold glove cannot fool fans of team. His apparent lack of hustle and inability to make moderately difficult plays in the OF has not endered him to fans. That plus hot/cold streaks, last seasons second half collapse, and "unclutch" hitting has him taking much blame.
Pitching - it has been horrible, starters and bullpen both. They HAVE lived up to preseason expectations.
Bill Dancy - continues to get runners thrown out at home with reckless abandone. Where is Vuckavich, anyways?
Mike Arbuckle - lack of minor leagues prospects, both pitching and hitting, is troubling.
Pat Gillick - has done NOTHING to make this club better yet. No one is asking for miracles, but a improvement would be nice.
The ire of fans is being directed in so many directions, because there are so many things wrong and because there is not one single thing or person you can blame for the Phillies terrible season. It is obvious that club wide improvements need to be made, from the bottom to the top. That being said, I'm really not that upset. Why? Because as I pointed out in the "Pitching" assessment above, I feel that this team is for most parts living up to expectations. The pitching staff was not strong going into last offseason and the addition of Franklin, Rhodes, Gordon, and subtraction of Padilla, Tejeda, Wagner did not make them better. So why should anyone expect anything but a subpar performance. As far as the offense goes, is Rowand better than a Lofton/Michaels platoon? Are Dellucci, Nunez, Fasano, and Gonzalez importanct to this team at all?
Moreover, I said before the season started to my fellow blogger Carson that it was my opinion that the Phillies had no intention to win this year, but rather there goal was to wait until next year, when Lieberthal, Bell, and Wolf will be gone along with their combined salary of $21.2 million. Then, it seems there objective is too spend little on a catcher (interest in Ronny Paulino, etc) and use the $20 million to improve the pitching staff and 3B in next year's free agent market, which should be much stronger than last year. Some names of possible interest include Mulder, Zito, Schmidt, Escobar, Lilly and Melvin Mora.
That being said, I am disappointed by the play of Phillies and agree with most fans on most issues surrounded their failure. They may come back, win 90 and take the wild card, but I doubt it. That doesn't mean I'm giving up, though. I'm merely objectively viewing there chances, which just are not promising this year.