Citizens Bank Park is a more attractive destination than ever before this summer. It is a shorter walk from the parking lot, gone is the worry of being sandwiched between two large, sweaty, drunk guys, and the beer lines are short. Who needs interest and intensity when you can have shorter beer trips and more leg room?
Of course, we aren't talking US Airways here, and empty seats are not considered positive for baseball organizations. Since last season, the Phils lead all of baseball with a decline of 6,800 fans per game, according to baseball-reference.com. They dropped from the 8th in attendance to 14th.
When Ruben Amaro let Jayson Werth walk after the 2010 season, he was not too concerned about replacing his power bat in the lineup. He had Domonic Brown. Ranked as the 15th best prospect by Baseball America prior to 2010, Brown hit .327 that season with 20 home runs and 68 RBI at triple-A before a July call up with the Phillies.
The Phillies and, frankly, nearly the entire baseball world was sold on Domonic Brown. So much so that Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com all ranked Domonic Brown as the fourth best prospect in 2011. In three reputable draft rankings, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper ranked one and two, followed by the number 3 rated, then Domonic Brown.
Bill Giles gathered a silent group of investors and bought the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 for $30 million. Thirty-three years later, the Phillies team value is $975 million according to Forbes.com. The Phillies have been a lucrative business investment which, despite the current lag in attendance and in the standings, is likely to continue paying dividends.
But is it possible the Phillies owners are ready to sell?
We just closed the voting on the poll question, Which Phillie is most likely to be traded? Here are the results:
In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.
Here are the latest Phillies rumors from July 13-19:
With a potential fire sale looming, no player on the Phillies roster is safe. But one name that rarely surfaces in trade rumors is the player the Phillies would most like to see vanish.
The Big Piece. Ryan Howard.
The prevailing wisdom is that Howard's gargantuan contract (he is still owed over $68 million) and severely declining production makes him virtually untradeable.
But there is a case for a Ryan Howard trade.
Of course, any such trade involves the Phillies eating an obscene amount of cash. Before we approach any potential suitors, let's determine Howard's actual worth.
The Phillies have won five straight against postseason contenders and despite a 42-51 record they are unbelievably just 8 games back in the NL East and 9.5 games behind the best team in the National League (Brewers). Unless Ruben Amaro is completely delusional, the Phillies recent success changes nothing and they should still be sellers by July 31.
As much interest as the trading deadline will create, fans also must be prepared for the remaining product after all the carnage. So let's take a look at what the Phillies roster might resemble after the trades.
Let's begin with the most likely players to go, which I will assume is Marlon Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick, AJ Burnett, and Antonio Bastardo. But before we get to that, let's examine the few notable names missing from the list.
After watching his team lose 13 of 16 games after getting swept by the Pirates, Ruben Amaro decided to offer his thoughts on his struggling club prior to the start of the first game in Milwaukee.
"I didn't anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they're better. But they haven't shown it. So at some point we're going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us."
Amaro put the onus directly on an underachieving group rather than accepting the blame for assembling the team.
After calling out his team for underperforming, Ruben Amaro went on a slight media tour which included an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic.
The human body protects itself in strange ways. We sweat to lower our body temperature. Blisters lead to calluses which protect our feet and hands. Damaged muscle fibers strengthen muscles. It is also human nature to create mental defense mechanisms for areas of weakness, which is what I will attempt to do here with the Phillies lethargic and hapless offense.
The Phillies have scored 2.5 runs per game in their last 12 games prior to tonight and 2 runs per game during their six game losing streak. The Phillies have the fourth lowest runs per game average (3.8) in the National League and have been shutout 11 times this season.
Given these harsh times, we must not forget that the Phillies have been decimated with injuries to several enormously impactful players. Names with impressive resumes like Wil Nieves, Reid Brignac, Darin Ruf, and Freddy Galvis (as well as Carlos Ruiz if you must). They even suffered through the short term absence of Tony Gwynn, Jr., and a paternity leave for Domonic Brown.
For those of you who did not catch the sarcasm, injuries are not the reason for the Phils' putrid bat swinging of late. To be perfectly honest, outside of Cliff Lee, the Phillies are very fortunate the injury list is not much, much, longer. All of the Phillies core players, outside of Chooch, each age 34 or older, have avoided the disabled list.
Phillies June Storyline
It was a month of ups and downs for the Phillies in June with a five-game winning streak along with losing streaks of four and six. They followed up a 1-8 stretch with wins in 9 of 11 games, but finished with four straight losses. By the end of the month, the team made Ruben Amaro's decision a little easier as to whether to be buyers or sellers.
Phillies June Win/Loss Totals
Finished month: 36-46
Well, we finally (and mercifully) reached the midway point of the 2014 Phillies season. Yesterday's two losses in the twin bill against the Braves gives them a record of 36-45, last in the NL East, nine games below .500, and on a pace for 90 losses.
They rank 12th in the National League with a 3.86 team ERA, 11th in runs per game (3.86), 12th in team batting (.240), 12th in on-base percentage (.304), 13th in slugging percentage (.366), and 13th OPS (.670). As a result, the Phillies are the fifth worst team in the NL.
The beauty of the the midway point is that it is easy to extrapolate individual results for the entire season. Beginning with the offense, here are the prorated numbers over 162 games. The leaders in each category are highlighted in red.
If there is one thing above all else that made Charlie Manuel the winningest manager in Phillies history, it was that he knew how to manage people. He knew which players needed to be coddled, which needed a swift kick in the $#@, and which needed the manager to just stay away. Whatever the methods, they worked quite well for Charlie Manuel.
Ryne Sandberg does not seem to have that touch quite yet.
Part of it is learning how, when, and why to send a message. That message failed with Domonic Brown, who Sandberg gave the day off on Tuesday for “a little mental break.”
The Phillies lost the opener to the Braves Friday night, but Phils' broadcaster Tom McCarthy caught Freddie Freeman's three run blast. Better yet, with a little encouragement from his friends, Tom threw the ball back. Here's the awesome video.
Cool as could be, T-Mac called the play, put on his glove, and then made the catch with no fear. As Harry Kalas would have said, "Tom McCarthy, you are the man!"
The Phillies scored 4.8 runs per game during their 9-2 winning stretch, the starters had a 2.35 ERA, and the bullpen had a 1.95 ERA. One stat that should not be overlooked is that the Phillies committed just two errors in those 11 games.
In this game, poor defense in the eighth inning contributed to a 4-1 loss and the end of the Phillies' five-game winning streak.
The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Hamels allowed a walk to begin the inning and Matt Holliday followed with an RBI double. It was a questionable decision to allow Hamels to start the inning with 107 pitches entering the frame.
We just closed the voting on the poll question, How much are you watching Phillies compared to last year? Here are the results:
Sounds about right. Comcast certainly did not help things by firing Wheels and Sarge and replacing them with Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs. Moyer has actually has improved, but the broadcasts with Matt Stairs, who follows the mantra of don't speak unless spoken to, are difficult to watch. Thanks as always Comcast!
Of course, if the Phillies continue winning as they have, these percentages will shift dramatically.
10 days ago the Phillies were not in a happy place. Losers of eight of their last nine games against jugger-nots (like the word play?) like the Mets and Reds, the Phillies were in dead last in the division and 11 games below .500. They were tied for the worst record in the NL and second worst in baseball. We had finally arrived at the official end of the greatest era in Phillies history.
Or so we thought.
Since then, the Phillies have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and on paper are legitimately in the hunt in the NL East at just 4 games out of first. How did they do it? They hit well, pitched well, and fielded well. Funny how when those things come together, teams tend to win ball games.
Let's jump inside the numbers over the last ten games, shall we?
It is baseball in St. Louis for the red hot Philadelphia Phillies (did I really just write that?) as they take on the Cardinals. This has always been a series to circle on the calendar in many Philadelphia households ever since the Cardinals came from 6.5 games behind with 12 to play to steal the NL Pennant from the Phils in 1964. For those of us not old enough to endure the greatest collapse in Major League history, the 2011 NLDS should offer enough motivation.
Ignoring epic meltdowns and postseason defeats, the Phillies face the Cardinals at an interesting time. The Phillies come in as winners in seven of their last nine games and attempt to win their fourth straight for the first time this season. Then again, the Cards are even hotter with eight wins in their last ten and a 5-1 record in their current homestand.
The Phillies have their work cut out for them against a Cardinals team with the third best record in the league at 39-33. The Phils actually rank ahead of the Cardinals offensively with 280 runs scored (9th in NL) compared to 270 for the Cards (11th). But the Cardinals' 3.18 team ERA ranks 2nd in the NL, while the Phillies' 3.94 ERA is 13th.
Earlier this season I wrote that fans should get hyped up for the Phillies/Braves series in April when the Phillies were 6-6. If you pay attention more to the standings than win/loss records, you can probably follow the same advice after a win in the first game of a three game set against the NL East leading Braves. A three game sweep of the Braves would put the Phillies 3.5 games behind Atlanta. They would be 6 games under .500, but shockingly right in the mix in the NL East.
Of course, teams with a significantly sub .500 records who only manage to go 4-2 against the two worst teams in the league don’t often create good stories down the stretch.
Speaking of the stretch, yesterday began an extremely difficult one for the Phils with 32 of their next 35 games against winning teams. The one non-winning team: the Pirates who are 34-35.
Philler Up! Father's Day edition: Bunning is perfect, Biddle is not, money does not buy wins, and other Phillies notes