Coming to work after a holiday weekend always stinks. The transition from a lush beach or backyard BBQ scene to the rush hour traffic and cubicle grind can be miserable. But at least you had that weekend. Think about Ryne Sandberg for a minute.
He spent his weekend getting swept out of Pittsburgh by the Pirates only to have to wake up first thing Monday morning and go on the 94 WIP Morning Show to try to explain it all. That sounds miserable (check out just how bad things have gotten for the Phillies over the last two weeks).
But Sandberg was gracious throughout, if not just sounding kind of bummed, even when radio host Al Morganti opened with the "at least the weather was good in Pittsburgh..." line.
Al did have a point.
But nothing should really shock Phillies fans or their manager these days, right? The thing that Sandberg says surprised him the most was how quickly things turned south.
"I’m surprised because it all happened so quickly in a 10-day, two-week period where it looked like we were right on the verge of knocking on the door, being three games out — three and a half games out less than two weeks ago," Sandberg said. "I think the way that it’s gone the last — especially the last week, but count 10 days, I am surprised at that. That’s why I still think there’s — we just have to fight through it and get back and see what we can do. But yeah, it’s been a tough two weeks."
As of Monday morning the Phillies sit at 37-51, last in the NL East, 12 games back, and are in a neck-and-neck race with the Astros, Cubs, Rockies and D-Backs for honor of worst record in the league.
Morganti says that it looks like players have simply checked out at this point -- are observers off base on that?
Sandberg dances around the question in his answer, but never really says 'no,' which I personally find a bit telling.
"To be in the dugout, you hear the chatter, you hear the guys pulling for each other, that's where it starts," Sandberg said. "When the offense is down and we're struggling to score runs like we have, then we don't have guys running the bases, coming in and high-fiving scoring runs. That's where it looks like there's not a lot of life. But as far as guys getting their work in and coming to the ball park and talking about getting a win that day and all those types of things, then you just have to do it between the white lines and get the job done."
So if players aren't checked out, maybe some of them are pressing too much. What's been the deal with Chase Utley lately? He's made very rare mistakes for him, including on the base paths and has even botched multiple routine flyballs.
"You know what, I don't know. He put together about 60 games where he was terrific to the first part of June. It's really hard to say whether he's trying to do to much or carry the load or do something bigger than what he just needs to do. We have a lot of guys whether they're pressing or whatever, it's all about each one of them doing something of quality to help us win a game. I think he's one of those guys that takes it personal and is maybe trying to do too much."
I don't think fans can really hold all of this against Sandberg. A manager can only do so much. Maybe it's time for the old "Change For Change's Sake" move. Ruben Amaro Jr. will never "blow it up" as he likes to say, but it is certainly time to retool and change some of the faces in that clubhouse.
What they have obviously isn't working.