Everything has an end, which is different from everything ending promptly or as it should. Sometimes endings are delayed, pushed further into the future at the expense of logic or in the service of desperation and denial.
The All-Star break is over. The Phillies are back. The Phillies should be dismantled.
There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Six of those clubs have fewer wins than the Phillies. But the worst of the lot, the Texas Rangers, have just four fewer victories than the Phils. The Phils are 42-53. At present, they have a 0.1 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the calculations on ESPN’s standings page. That’s the exact same chance ascribed to some really awful teams like the Astros, Diamondbacks, Rockies and, yes, Rangers.
The Phillies are 19th in home runs, 26th in runs, 28th in average and on-base percentage, and 29th in slugging percentage. They do not do anything particularly well at the plate. They have a minus-47 run differential, which is the sixth-most lopsided mark in baseball.
The Phils are not average. They are not even mediocre. They are, for the purposes of comparison, about the same as the other dreadful teams that occupy the bottom of the league, the teams with players and managers and general managers that must crane their necks upward just to see the only-slightly less terrible clubs well ahead of them. There are various reasons why they've failed. You know all this. You are painfully aware. And yet you might be forced to endure. The Phillies tweak. The Phillies tinker. The Phillies do not rebuild. Apparently, you would not accept starting over -- which might be news to you.
Just a few weeks ago, David Montgomery said the Phillies were unlikely to change their operating philosophy and admitted they worry about attendance. Montgomery is a very nice man, but he basically said the Phils wouldn’t go in for a wholesale rebuild because the fans wouldn’t accept it and wouldn’t go to games. That ignores the fact that attendance at Citizens Bank Park has dipped considerably this year from last year.
Ruben Amaro said something similar on WIP not long after Montgomery’s remarks. The general gist was that the market wouldn’t endorse a rebuild -- which, again, skipped over the inconvenient but unassailable truth: The market has quite clearly rejected the current approach. (The marketing team, however, is aware of the attendance backslide.)
Amaro recently backtracked a little, saying in yet another WIP interview that he would keep his options open -- while also noting that he wants guys like Chase Utley to stick around if possible. The notion there was that the Phillies can somehow fix this thing and get good again in time for Utley to enjoy the renaissance. Utley is 35. The renaissance better be soon. Like, tomorrow.
Time is part of the problem. A big part. As big a part as production, of which there is precious little. The current Phillies are running out of time and have been for a while. Jonathan Papelbon and Roberto Hernandez are 33. Ryan Howard is 34. Carlos Ruiz, Cliff Lee, Mike Adams and Jimmy Rollins are all 35. Marlon Byrd is 36. A.J. Burnett is 37. Even Cole Hamels is 30 now. The Phanatic is the only Phillie who does not age. He is a medical marvel.
As Lee recently put it, something has to change. The issue is with the methodology -- the what and the how of the change, despite change being necessary. Papelbon said he’s open to a trade. For maybe the first time ever, Papelbon said something that makes sense. Apparently, the Dodgers are interested in him. Oh what a happy day that would be, watching Papelbon head off to the airport and fly away for good. (ESPN's Mark Saxon later backtracked on his report of L.A.'s interest in Papelbon.)
Some of the other veterans are less inclined to get going while the going is (not very) good. Utley, in particular, sounds like he doesn’t want to leave. And even if he did want to go, moving him would require his consent because he has no-trade rights. Same with Rollins. Howard is wholly unmovable because of the inversely proportional relationship between his contract numbers and his numbers at the plate.
Lee and Hamels are the Phillies’ most attractive trade pieces. They’ve already unloaded Lee once before. They could do it again. Unloading the latter is something else. It would be an overt admission that everything has fully crumbled because their most-recent blueprint has serious design flaws. Of course, not admitting the issues with their plans won’t fool anyone into thinking the structure is sound and durable. Even if they wanted to start over, it wouldn’t be easy for the Phillies. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try -- try being the operative word. They don’t seem inclined to begin anew.
The All-Star break is over. The Phillies are back. The Phillies should be dismantled. That probably won't happen. The Phillies are more likely to do what they always do -- march forward, slower and slower, until time finally and fully arrests all momentum. And only then will it end. Only then, against the will of the men in charge, will something new grow where everything old has been allowed to decay.