A Surreal Night At the Linc

A Surreal Night At the Linc

The biggest storyline to me from last night's 38-20 drubbing wasn't DeSean Jackson's multitude of selfish displays, Tom Brady carving up the Eagles' defense like a cooked bird, a RAW-style confrontation between members of the coaching staff, or even the loud "Fire Andy" chants that broke out (watch video) as the last drips of hope for this season circled the drain. John Smallwood caught it:

[The fans] actually delivered a message to Lurie more powerful than any "Andy Must Go!" chant.

Eagles fans got out of their high-priced seats and left.

In the 17 years that I've been in Philadelphia, I've seen Eagles fans leave a game early when the cause seemed to be lost, but I don't ever recall them starting a mass exodus with more than 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

The sea of humanity that flooded the exits much earlier than usual actually began before the Eagles' horrendous 4th and 1 call from the Patriots' two-yard line. Quite a few had already seen enough after New England's previous possession, a 69-yard touchdown drive that ended with a nine-yard pitch and catch to Wes Welker, not to mention a lengthy, unnecessary review. Some left their seats one play before the score during an injury timeout.

In fact, a steady trickle had begun by halftime. A handful never returned to their seats at all to watch the second act.

For years, select fans have pitched this idea of boycotting Eagles games and merchandise. It's largely been met with disinterest, even among those who agree with the message being sent to the organization:

Fire Andy.

But on Sunday, Eagles fans had themselves an old-fashioned walkout. The streams heading up or down the steps were noticeable throughout most of the third quarter and into the fourth, until there were about eight minutes remaining. Then it stopped.

By that time, huge spans of seats were empty.

And the streams moving up and down the steps weren't heading inside to purchase food or beer, nor running to the bathrooms to vomit following such a sickening display. They were going to their cars to get far, far away from the mess this football team has become. Spending an hour stuck inside a congested parking lot was a more worthwhile use of their evening than watching Garbage Time starring Vince Young and Brian Hoyer.

As I filed out myself, I noticed a merchandise tent with exactly one customer and about 10 employees. Any other night, they would have been busy at work, perhaps with a throng of people pushing their way up front to hand their hard-earned money over to the Philadelphia Eagles football club.

Yesterday, the clerks stared straight ahead, the looks on their faces glossed over -- all but one anyway. A young man behind the counter leaned over and let out a short, uncomfortable laugh, seemingly unsure of his own reaction. This was a highly unusual shift... but it probably won't be for the rest of this season, and maybe beyond.

The mob has spoken. From the chants, to the mass exodus from the stadium, to the entrepreneurs in the lots and on the Internet hawking "Fire Andy" T-shirts, to the callers on talk radio and the commenters in our forums, one thing is clear: bringing back Andy Reid is simply bad business.

Jeffrey Lurie finally had a taste of that on Sunday, and I don't think he liked it.

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Mackanin benches Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders as Howie Kendrick ramps up rehab

Having seen his team's offense produce just six hits and one run in the previous two games, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders on Tuesday night.

The benchings could last more than one game.

"I'm not going to tip my hand because I don't know what my hand is yet," Mackanin said. "I feel like I have to do something to get some offense in the lineup and there comes a point in time where I’m trying different things.

“At this level you’ve got to produce. You want to play, you’ve got to hit and they have to understand that. Nobody is here on scholarship."

Franco and Saunders opened the season hitting fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Phillies' batting order.

Entering play Tuesday, Franco was hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage.

Saunders was hitting .227 with a .273 on-base percentage and a .383 slugging percentage.

Franco was leading the team with 28 RBIs and tied for second with six homers, but his inconsistency and inability to harness his free-swinging approach was wearing on Mackanin. Franco swung wildly at breaking balls on Monday night and struck out twice. The 24-year-old third baseman has worked hard on developing a more disciplined approach with hitting coach Matt Stairs, but has been unable to consistently incorporate those adjustments into his game.

Mackanin said he was surprised by Franco's consistent struggles. He hoped the benching would take some pressure off the player.

"Befuddled is a good word," Mackanin said. "As much as he works in the cage and on the field in batting practice and does it right, when he gets in the game his head is still flying and his bat is coming out of the zone.

"You’ve heard me say this many times: Hitting is like riding a bike. I can’t teach you to keep your head in there. I can tell you to do it, but you have to do it on your own and he’s got to figure it out. Guys have to figure it out. They have to figure out how to get the job done. Whether it’s cut down on your swing, choke up, use a different bat, use a different stance, do something different. If you make outs the same way over and over, it’s not going to change."

Andres Blanco started at third base in place of Franco and Ty Kelly was in the lineup in left field with Aaron Altherr moving into Saunders' spot in right.

Quite notable was that on the same day that Franco and Saunders went to the bench, Howie Kendrick ramped up his rehab from an abdominal strain. He took batting practice outdoors for the first time since the April 15 injury. He could be ready for a minor-league rehab assignment later this week and be ready to play in the majors next week. Kendrick can play both corner outfield spots and both corner infield spots, so he could push Franco and Saunders for work if he hits and they continue to struggle.

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.