Paging Chuck Meehan ; the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Don McKee says “back up the truck”, and that’s not because he’s trying to park in front of you at CBP.
The underachieving Phillies have gotten a surprisingly free ride this summer, while the fans are heaping scorn on manager Charlie Manuel and savaging general manager Ed Wade.
Very few fans (or members of management) have been willing to hold the players’ feet to the fire.
Luckily, plain-spoken Virginian Billy Wagner did it for them Thursday night. And the lefty was as subtle as a 100 m.p.h. fastball at a batter’s chin.
“You’ve got to know how to win before you can start thinking about playoffs,” Wagner told The Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury. “There are a lot of reasons to have faith. This ain’t over. But anybody who says we have a clear shot to the playoffs right now is fooling themselves. We’ve got to win.”
Wagner even joined the growing chorus that says further trades or additions won’t help a club that seems determinedly blasÃ©.
“Adding pieces isn’t going to make us any better,” Wagner said. “If you don’t learn to win and show some fight, it doesn’t matter.”
No reasonable person can fault the management for spending oodles of money to bring players who were nearly universally applauded at their acquisition. (Lest we forget, this team was a near-unanimous choice to win the NL East before last season.)
Unfortunately, the recipients of a $95 million payroll that again is the National League’s second-highest said “Thank you very much,” and retreated to their state-of-the-art clubhouse, replete with a professional chef to prepare them gourmet meals.
Perhaps overloaded with rare steak and talapia, or weighed down by their wallets, these players have dawdled in mediocrity for more than three years.
That’s long enough to come to the conclusion that it just ain’t happenin’ with this group.
If the management keeps a roster full of underachievers, nonachievers and players who repeatedly fail in the clutch, then the management is squarely to blame.
Maybe the first domino fell on Friday. Another in a string of nagging injuries sent slump-ridden former slugger Jim Thome to the disabled list. If minor-league sensation Ryan Howard can just stand there and be a presence, the team is better.
Even should Thome return, batting him cleanup is a waste of time. A .207 average should bat sixth or seventh.
But Thome is just the unintentional poster boy for a mediocre team. Pat Burrell is having the softest 60-RBI first half in memory. Bobby Abreu’s early-June hot streak made him the MVP of early June.
Jon Lieber’s disintegration from a 5-1 start with a 2.57 ERA to an 8-8 record with a 5.18 ERA overall is all too reminiscent of Kevin Millwood, who started 6-0 in his first month here, and declined into Joe Cowley.
We could go on and on, but you already know the sad story.
The only Phillies who have earned the unequivocal right to stay here are Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Ryan Madson and Brett Myers are on the bubble. Tomas Perez can stay to hit the new guys with shaving-cream pies.