Who You Callin’ Enigma?

The back cover of this morning’s New York Post makes it clear that the Yankees will have to do some serious re-thinking about their lineup.  They won 97 ballgames, and it was their pitching that was supposed to be suspect, but in the end it was the bats that came up short, earning the heart of their lineup the indignity of Moe-Larry-Curly comparisons.  But are the Phillies any better off?  Having won 102 games this year, five more than the Yankees, the Phils were supposedly well positioned for a run deep into the post-season.  They had the pitching, and we all know that good pitching beats good hitting.  Except when it doesn’t. On the one hand you could say this Phillies team is an enigma, being the winning-ist team in the club’s history, and bowing out early in the playoffs to a team that got into the post-season on the mercy of the Phils sweeping the Braves to end the season.

On the other hand there is no enigma, because in this five game series St. Louis was simply the better team.  Score another victory for Billy Beane’s Moneyball theme.  The Cards are a group of ballplayers patient enough to get on base, a contrast to both the Phils and the Yankees collection of happy hackers.  It was agonizing watching the Phils swing at pitches out of the zone, and watching pitches sneak over the heart of the plate that were begging for a swing.  If the heart of the Yankees lineup was The Three Stooges in this playoff, the heart of the the Phillies lineup was …. well, I don’t know who they were.

So this is how our season ended, with our wilting star down on the ground.  Sorry to see him hurt, but in a way it’s easier to take than the confused look in Howard’s eyes when he strikes out to end the game.  For a change, the post-game interview centered on his physical health instead of where his head was.  Check online, and you’ll notice something interesting.  None of the post-game video interviews, not from Halladay or Utley or Madson or Pence or Cholly – not one mentioned what they could have, which is “we just hope Ryan’s okay”.  It isn’t for lack of caring about him, I’m sure.  It’s because we’ve come to expect nothing of Ryan in the post-season.  He’s become the NL’s post-season’s A-Rod.

This Phillies team represents a heap of work for Amaro Jr. over the winter.  It’s a lineup that’s a shell of its former self.  They all seemed to get old and broken at the same time.  Rollins is likely gone, looking for a big pay day the Phils would be foolish to give him.  Being saddled with the Howard contract, when we could have potentially gotten Pujols as a free agent, stings enough.  Utley, Polanco, and Howard now officially have their best years firmly behind them.

Senor Octubre played more like a Senior Citizen, though Chooch is sure to be around for awhile since our starters, the core of the team, love him.  Speaking of Senior Citizens, Rauuuul played very old at the plate in the post-season.  Sad to see him go, as he’s such a class act, but even sadder to think that Dominic Brown won’t necessarily be an upgrade over the Ancient Mariner either offensively or defensively.

With it all, I’m still looking forward to spending time on Clearwater Beach this coming March, visiting Bright House to see what the Phillies will do to fix the holes in their lineup.  If Brown steps up to the plate, Mayberry Jr. will no doubt see more time at first base as insurance against Howard’s continued fragility.  If there’s one thing the Iggles have already reminded us this season, though, it is that re-making a team with high-priced talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a quality performance.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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6 Responses to Who You Callin’ Enigma?

  1. Daniel Wohlgelernter says:

    yet another brilliant post, Len. I fundamentally agree with your analysis; however, let’s understand that we didn’t get “blown out” by the overachieving Cards– we lost 1-0 in the deciding game of the best of 5 series. Had Ibanez’ long fly ball to the warning track in the 4th inning travelled an additional foot, we wouldn’t be wallowing in this septic tank of misery and self-loathing. Ditto for Utley’s banger to deep center field in the 9th. Truth be told, if our hero Cliff Lee didn’t blow the 4 run lead in game 2, we would have swept the Cardinals. No doubt this team needs retooling, but we don’t need to destruct or destroy. Yes, Oswalt, Rollins, Madson,Ibanez Polanco, and Lidge will be allowed/encouraged to move on, but Worley,Kendrick, DeFratus,Savery,Dom Brown,Mayberry,Freddy Galvis and smart acquisitions via trade yet to be named, will fill the void. I’m not giving up on this team or on Charlie Manuel…. yet.

  2. Len Press says:

    Thanks, Dan. And no, we didn’t get “blown out”. As I wrote, we bowed out. in other words, after the first game’s aberration of offense, our bats bowed out meekly. Small comfort about the drives by Utley and Ibanez that could’ve been. The history of fly balls is littered with playoff near miss shots. Playoff winners find a way to square the ball up well enough that it either finds a hole or climbs a wall. I’m surprised you see Dom Brown as filling a void. I see him as Von Hayes Lite. Mayberry Jr.? Nice potential, but not by any means a proven product. At best thus far he’s a platoon hitter. His stats against RHPs are mediocre at best: .250 avg. and .785 OPS. Those are Ibanez numbers. So after Mayberry Jr. finishes filling in for Howard at 1B to start the season, we’ll likely see a Brown/Mayberry platoon in left. Let’s hope the acquisitions you have in mind to fill the void are not only smart,. but durable. Our pitching staff can’t go into the playoffs with the type of bats we’ve brought the past two years and expect to go deep into the post-season hunt.

    As to the other reasons for your optimism, Worley is the best candidate for legit rising stardom. Kendrick is a sine wave – he could just as easily hit a trough next year as a peak. DeFratus, Savery and Galvis are solid green bananas. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pulling for them. But I won’t give my heart to the team next year as much as I did this year. They’ll have to earn it this time around.

    • Daniel Wohlgelernter says:

      Once again, Len, you have bested me with eloquence and erudition. Forgive me for indulging my need to deny the soul-crushing reality that our dreams of a Phillies dynasty were based on a myth and a prayer.

      Yet, we must acknowledge that , nothwithstanding the enormity of our current pain, this season of 102 wins, 19 Halladay W’s, and 6 Lee shutouts provided us with much pleasure and pride.

      • Len Press says:

        Oh, I’ll give you that – to be sure. It was great to see Lee go neck and neck with Doc for the Cy Young, and at one point having Cole mentioned in the same breath. Doc is a horse, and one of the unfair things about about the Phils disappearing bats is that it screws any chance he had of besting Kershaw for the Cy Young by depriving him of a chance to shine further into the post-season. Lee already blew his chance with the poor outing he had. So yes – much pleasure and pride this year in following the record-setting win total during the season. But I reserve the right to be pissed off that Nick Punto is going further into the post-season than Chase Utley.

      • Daniel Wohlgelernter says:

        One more grievance: the best of 5 format for the first round is inherently unfair to the top seeded team. We need a system like that of the NFL where the top seeded teams get a bye for the first round of the post-season. It’s absurd that the Phillies worked their tails off to get 102 wins, only to lose to the Johnny-come-lately Cardinals who had only 90 wins. I maintain that we would have beaten the Cardinals, Brewers, or Diamondbacks in a best of 7 series. So there !!!

  3. Len Press says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more! The first round bye is a superb idea. Get Bud on the phone right now and start working on it. My guess is that the baseball players, perhaps the most superstitious lot of all pro athletes, might resist because they’re conditioned all season long to go through the mental grind of no more than a day off to keep their mojo going. Rather than the chronic injuries in MLB, NFL injuries take more of a toll and the bye week can be huge in a) not having another week to get hurt in post-season and b) an extra week to heal from what ails you. Plus, they’re mentally conditioned for a week off, having had a bye week during the course of the season. But if the players are up for the change, it sure would be a welcome reward for us fans to see a superior performance during the season, as the Phils had this year, result in a post-season advantage.

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