Five things I don't love about the Phillies

Five things I don't love about the Phillies

February 14, 2013, 11:30 am
Share This Post

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies are a team fraught with “ifs.” If they avoid injuries and if the bullpen pitches well and if they get contributions from their corner outfielders and if the middle of their lineup resembles a version closer to 2008 than 2012, then the Fightins might have a fightin’ chance to reach the postseason.
 
There are certainly encouraging components about the Phillies this year. But on a commercialized day of forced faux affection, we offer some things about the club that are less lovable:
 
Their age: Many of the Phillies are old – or at least old as the definition applies to professional athletes. The first baseman is 33. The second baseman is 34. The shortstop is 34. The third baseman is 36. The catcher (who will be on a banned-substance induced timeout once the season begins) is 34. The outfield is young by comparison, but the entire infield is fairly close to qualifying for a discount at the movie theater.
 
Among the pitchers, one of the three aces is 34 and another is 35. The setup man is 34 and the closer is 32.
 
There are a lot of key players, perhaps too many, with ages that begin with a three instead of a two. Maybe that makes them experienced, but it also means their most important pieces are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. How many of them will fight off the inevitable decline?
 
Their health: This concern and the first concern are intertwined. Roy Halladay had shoulder issues that shut him down toward the end of last year. Chase Utley has two bad knees that might or might not hold up for a whole season. (He should start a support group with Andrew Bynum. Maybe call it the “Knights that Say Knee.”) Ryan Howard looked like a hollowed out version of his former self after returning from an Achilles injury last year. And there were reports about Cole Hamels having a problem with his shoulder during the offseason, though he denied it. All of that is worrisome.
 
Their manager: I like Charlie Manuel. A lot. He’s easy to talk to, he’s funny, and he’s far brighter than his slow-witted critics contend. The problem isn’t with Manuel. The problem is with Manuel’s contract. The 69-year-old is in the final year of his deal. Smart people, like this guy, have asked whether Manuel will be gone after the season. The players, at some point, have no doubt wondered the same thing.
 
This is a veteran group, so perhaps they can handle the lame-duck manager thing with aplomb. But what happens if the Phils lurch and sputter to start the season? What happens if they aren’t playing well? Will they listen to the manager, or will they wonder about his demise and eye a future that doesn’t include him? It is a potentially unstable situation for Manuel. That’s unfortunate. He deserves better.
 
Their leadoff hitter: At least in the beginning, it will be Jimmy Rollins. Jimmy Rollins likes to hit leadoff and if Jimmy Rollins doesn’t hit leadoff Jimmy Rollins has been known to make things uncomfortable for everyone not named Jimmy Rollins. It is what Jimmy Rollins does.
 
What Jimmy Rollins does not do, not nearly enough, is work the count and get on base. That is not his thing. Last year, Jimmy Rollins had a .316 on-base percentage. His career OBP is .328. That’s awfully low for someone hitting so high in the order.
 
If things deteriorate and Jimmy Rollins is deposed in what you could expect to be a messy leadoff hitter coup, expect new centerfielder Ben Revere to lead the revolution. The problem is that Revere isn’t much better at getting on base. In three Major League seasons (only two of which were full years, in fairness), Revere has a .319 OBP.
 
Their right fielder: Delmon Young has this clause in his contract and this bit of nastiness in his past. You are forgiven for not running out to buy his jersey.