It is hard to call what we have witnessed from the Phillies over the past month anything less than a collapse. The team performed poorly in a crucial stretch against NL East opponents and have limped out of the All-Star break. Perhaps more crushing than yesterday’s 16-2 thumping was Saturday’s game against Washington. After losing game 1, the club looked to Aaron Nola to be the stopper. He had been pitching great lately and if any starter was going to turn things around, it would be the ace in Nola.
Nola held up his end of the bargain by allowing just one run through six innings, but that wasn’t enough. The Phillies would ultimately lose that game after falling victim to a shaky bullpen yet again. After leading for the entire game, Adam Morgan got into trouble, allowed a run in the eighth that made the score 3-2 and ultimately caused Hector Neris to come in for a four out save. In what is becoming an all too familiar sequence of events for the Phillies, Neris allowed a home-run to Juan Soto in the ninth and the Phillies eventually lost.
Though the team managed to salvage a game thanks to a walk-off homer courtesy of Maikel Franco, they immediately blew whatever momentum they had with last night’s embarrassing loss to the Dodgers. That disaster featured another familiar scene for the Phillies: lack of hustle. Franco failed to run out a ground ball in which he was safe, something we’ve seen from Jean Segura multiple times as well as Cesar Hernandez.
Lack of hustle may be one of those “old school” type criticisms, but when it happens on this scale, there’s a problem. The Phillies – for a second straight year and a revamped lineup – are absolutely lifeless when the heat is turned up. They collapsed this year right as they entered a crucial NL East stretch and folded last August/September. When guys aren’t running balls out in crucial stretches, do they even care? It sure doesn’t seem that way.
No matter what criticisms one may have for the front office, it cannot be denied that Gabe Kapler is losing this team and fan-base. Players aren’t responding despite his emphasis on hustle and Kapler himself can’t even find a way to get thrown out when he knows he should be. Where’s the fight? Because as I’ve said before, I don’t mind Kapler sticking to his overall philosophy, but adjustments need to be made. Kapler seems to have waited too long to make those adjustments and now seems to be second guessing himself. It’s not a good look, not a good look at all.
Don’t Get The Idea That It’s All On Kapler, Because There Is Blame To Go Around
Thought this was just going to be a rant about Kapler? Think again, because Matt Klentak is far from blameless here. While Klentak has shown an expert ability to work the margins (getting Jay Bruce for peanuts), his big moves haven’t panned out so far.
Pitching signings in particular have proven quite disastrous for Klentak as Arrieta, Robertson, Neshek and Tommy Hunter have all either been ineffective or injured too frequently. The team has also been criticized for lack of pitching depth in general, which is a fair point. Many thought the Phillies would be in play for arms this past off-season but that never came to pass. The Phillies held tight on pitching, and the end results have been a train wreck.
Fans have also begun to question team President Andy MacPhail. MacPhail of course stated that the team was comfortable with their pitching situation back in November, a comment that is now drawing questions of who is really running the show between MacPhail and Klentak.
The heat on Macphail ramped up the other day when he again addressed the media. While speaking to reporters, MacPhail seemed to throw cold water on this season and didn’t sound overly optimistic. Though he did say that “if the season ended today, we’re in the post-season”, he later went on to say that the team isn’t “one move away” from a World Series. While nobody disputes that, the comments are drawing ire of the fan base for sounding as though the organization isn’t concerned with the way the team is performing.
MacPhail also didn’t seem to be too interested in chasing a Wild Card spot, which is a tough sell to fans who haven’t seen post-season baseball since 2011.
These comments coupled with a lack of hustle on the field paint a dim picture, a picture of an organization that is coming unglued. If players are jogging to first in pivotal moments and the club president says “meh” about contending, who wouldn’t be concerned?
The Problems Run Deeper Than 2019
While this may certainly be the low point for the Phillies, it isn’t all bad. If the pitching staff as a whole had just minimal upgrades, things could look a-lot different. Were expectations accelerated a bit too much for this season? Perhaps, but the fall and subsequent pivot from the front office doesn’t resonate well. Nor does the fact that this is the second straight season where the Phillies have seemingly fallen off a cliff. There may be plenty of baseball left, but the outlook certainly isn’t promising.
In addition to problems with the current squad, the Phillies do not have much in the way of a farm system. Premier Phillies prospects can typically be found in A ball, years away from the majors. When pitchers get to AA/AAA, they typically hit a wall. This is playing out in the case of Adonis Medina, who has shown flashes of promise this season but ultimately has seen his stock drop.
How about the first round picks from the years in which the Phillies were hot garbage? Bohm is a blue chip MLB prospect but aside from him, the results are somewhat disappointing. #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak has still yet to develop any power and has lost plenty of hype. Adam Haseley has plenty of potential but in terms of moving the needle, he doesn’t really do it. As for Cornelius Randolph, the former high school prospect looks as though he may never reach the big leagues.
The picture doesn’t get any better when looking at overall rankings. The team is typically ranked in the middle of most MLB farm systems, albeit the group lost some star power thanks to the graduation of Scott Kingery and trade of Sixto Sanchez. Still though, the Phillies have a severe lack of readily available MLB talent , which a newly contending team should have.
Is it unreasonable to ask why a team that is supposedly in their first year of contention has a lackluster farm system? The Phillies don’t have much to trade from and certainly can’t afford to patch any of their holes at the expense of their top prospects. Also, how come pitchers like Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez get no looks while Vince Velasquez is trotted out time and time again? This makes zero sense and it’s hard to truly grade Phillies pitching development if we never get to see pitchers actually…… pitch…… in meaningful games.
The bottom-line is that player development is still a big issue for the Phillies, and it doesn’t bode well for the future. Things could always turn around and prospects could develop later than expected, but the team’s current struggles and farm system track record provide plenty to worry about.
Hopefully we look back at this article and laugh at how much I overreacted, but it’s hard not to call the 2019 Phillies anything other than a dumpster fire. The team banked too hard on aging veterans and a lack of MLB ready talent in AAA has cost them dearly. If this season continues to spiral downward, not one of Klentak, MacPhail or Kapler could be here come next April.