For some strange reason(s), the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies have a really tough time out in Pittsburgh, home of the perennial doormat Pirates. They lost 3 out of 4 games in the series that ended on July 4, 2010... and, if you check the records, the Pirates have regulary beat up on the Phillies for several years - even good years when the Phillies were winning the NL East.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the 2010 Phillies are NOT leading the NL East this year, they are limping along at barely a .500 clip. Biggest payroll in Philadelphia history and the worst productivity per money spent EVER! So why did I think they should sweep the lowly Pirates and become competitive again? Silly me! This year's Phillie team is a team of mysteries.
Yes I know they have had more than their share of injuries this year. But even so, Ryan Howard, Jason Werth, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez have ALL been disapponting at the plate. The Phillies don't have consistency AT ALL. When someone slumps, it seems that all the hitters follow suit. It seems like relative unknowns like Dane Sardinha and Wilson Valdez are the guys hitting Home Runs and driving people in recently. Ryan Howard, Jason Werth, aren't hitting Home Runs and driving people in.
When General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. signed Ryan Howard to a long-term contract, I sincerely hoped that Howard would relax and become a more disciplined hitter. I hoped he would learn to swing at good pitches and lay off the low and outside bad pitches, especially from left-handers. Well so far this year, I think Ryan Howard has swung and missed at even more bad pitches than he did last year! His Homer and RBI totals are way down, and his defense - especially his throwing - is worse than last year. Maybe the big contract is causing him to tense up or something .... So far, he is NOT earning his big salary. He's a nice man and I like him but I call it like I see it. He is an UNDERPERFORMER so far in 2010.
Jason Werth's performance is even more disappointing to me. He has become very predictable at taking the first pitch (usually it's right down the middle) for a strike, and then swinging wildly at bad pitches. He has been the biggest rally-killer this year with all his strikeouts and double plays. No, I wouldn't offer him a big deal to stay in Philly; gosh, even old Pat Burrell in San Francisco is hitting better than Werth right now, and Burrell could have been signed for virtually nothing...
General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. mystified me last fall when he shipped Cliff Lee to Seattle for three minor leaguers. That was a big mistake. Lee and Halladay in the rotation would have helped the Phillies be more competitive this year even with their anemic offense. He signed people like Dannys Baez and Juan Castro and I don't think either of them has contributed much. Castro has good defensive skills but carries a weak stick. Baez seems to always walk the first hitter he faces and gives at at least 1 run every time he comes into a game. Those roster spots and free agent dollars could have been utilized differently. Jose Contreras has pitched well at times, and terribly at others; again, VERY INCONSISTENT....
The starting pitching - aside from injuries - hasn't been all that bad. Roy Halladay is a strong competitor and old Jamie Moyer can still amaze us fans. Too bad we don't have Cliff Lee to send out there every fifth day, huh? Oh well, let's hope J. A. Happ can come back strong from his injuries and contribute in the 2nd half.
The season is not yet lost for the Phillies. It's not too late to turn things around - but some changes need to be made. The General Manager and the Manager both need to take some steps and certain players had better "STEP UP" soon, else the season might well be lost.