I just got home from tonight's game versus the Mets. I would normally refer to them as the "Stinkin'" Mets, however I'm pretty sure this evening's stench emanated from the home dugout. I'm going to put it bluntly: This Phillies team is not good. There are holes up and down the lineup and the bullpen is positively atrocious. Again, my apologies for going all pessimistic, but neither Ryan Howard and Chase Utley nor Ryan Howard and Chase Utley circa 2007-2009 could fix what's wrong here. It saddens me to report that I left a game early for the first time since moving back to PA four years ago. That's how bad it's gotten.
One of the most glaring deficiencies I can see is that this isn't exactly a likable team. Freddie Galvis is a guy we can root for, but to put too much energy into him is going to put undue pressure on a kid who's playing extremely well, out-of-position. He swings a historically light stick, thought tonight he provided some fun and fireworks. But he's not the guy to get the job done day in and day out. To elevate him to hero status too soon could destroy his confidence when he inevitably levels off. Guys like Ty Wiggington and Juan Pierre are serviceable; Laynce Nix had a nice pinch-hit RBI double tonight. But these guys aren't the face of a team. They're role players. Jimmy, who would be the face of the team, mentally checks out at the oddest times. Victorino is solid, but he's not a superstar. The team is loaded with role players.
The pitching staff is likable. That is, until Cole Hamels runs his mouth. We all knew he plunked Bryce Harper. Many of us agree with it. But the kid retaliated by stealing friggin' home. It was over. But Cole opened up and now the whole league lost a little bit of respect for the Golden Child. And his team, at the same time. Nice work, MVP. Make sure you get your whole face covered (he "bronzes" before games) next time you take the mound; you might have to take some questions afterward.
Guys like Doc and Lee are workhorses. Fat Joe keeps throwing like he has in 2012, he'll just be Phat (or the relevant, 2012 edition of that word. Word?) Vance Worley is doing his part, for the most part. The rotation is one aspect around which the team and the fan can rally.
Then you get to the bullpen. I was joking with the folks sitting in front of me tonight about "Now all they have to do is get nine outs and we're good." The man of the couple turned and said, "That's the problem." There's no disguising it. All any team has to do is endure six or seven innings without allowing the Phils to take too sizable a lead and then tee off on the bullpen. Kyle Kerndrick coming on to pitch another inning after giving up three runs and the lead in the seventh was insulting. Hence, the fans let the boos fly.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Phillies fan; I watched Tugger K Willie Wilson in 1980 as a six-year-old; I endured decades of losing; I celebrated another Series win in '08 by talking on the phone with the purest baseball fan I have ever met, my grandfather, who was 83 at the time and equally as elated as I was, if not more so. I love Phillies baseball. To hear the fans at CBP boo as Kendrick blew the lead, I hurt. Not for that bum Kendrick. Not for Charlie. I hurt for the little kid that was seeing his first Phillies game tonight. I hurt for the little boy in me that will always root, root, root...
*I have to make this point quickly: Hunter Pence does not deserve to be booed. He dropped a routine fly ball because he was trying to get the ball out of his glove and make a throw. Bad play. Certainly not something you expect from a major leaguer, especially a beloved Phillie. It was an error. That's all. He didn't give up the lead all by himself. And he's not been a Phillie so long that we've seen him screw up repeatedly. He has seven homers this year so far. He's not a power hitter, yet in this lineup, that is what is expected and he is delivering. Those boos were unfounded, the result borne out of a fanbase that listens to too much talk radio. OK, I'm done with that...
Back to Kendrick. It can't feel good to walk off the home field, where four years ago you won a World Series, while getting booed. He may as well have been getting stoned. And not in a good way. Man. Kyle Kendrick got beat up on and on his way off the field tonight. It wouldn't surprise me to hear his wife gave him a black eye tonight after the game. Dude took a beating. But he should be able to take it and get back up. He's a pro.
They all are. It would be nice to see them shake this funk and get their heads out of their asses. But this is 2012. These are not your 2008 Phillies. This bunch will have to claw and scratch if they are to compete. We shall see...
I'm looking forward to our guys righting the ship. I'm looking forward to going down to the park again and watching baseball. I'm looking forward to sitting through a full, nine-inning game again.