The Phillies are 36-45 and 11 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Who’s to blame? Is it head coach Charlie Manuel, who recently celebrated his 900th win as a MLB manager? Is it General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.? Is it both? It’s a tough and polarizing question.
Manuel has been the Phillies manager for seven years, leading the team to an impressive record of 682 wins and 532 losses. In the seasons before 2011, however, he’s had immense talent and hasn’t made many tough decisions to squeeze as much production out of his players as he could.
Now you fast forward to 2012, a year where there were concerns about the roster as a whole, and the season has been absolutely dreadful for Manuel and the Phillies. A lot of that is because Manuel has been trying too hard to scrape out wins here and there.
For example, Jimmy Rollins has been a huge disapointment the whole year and that’s because Manuel has not been playing him wisely. Rollins started the season off with a .225 average but after he had a three-day break for paternity leave, he quickly raised that number to .250. Manuel’s strategy is to get the Gold Glove-winner to play every night, which clearly hasn’t done anything positive for the veteran or the team.
Another huge issue I have with Manuel’s managing style has been his unwillingness to use closer Jonathan Papelbon in extra-inning, non-save situations. The Phils are 2-6 in extra-inning games after being one of the best in MLB from 2008 to 2011. Papelbon is 18 for 18 in save situations, which means he’s getting it done when it matters most. And, of course, there is is his ERA: If you take out his recent struggles—none of which cost the Phils a game—his ERA was 2.03 on June 17th. In short, he was the best closer in baseball.
Why not use him?
Now we come to GM Ruben Amaro Jr., a guy who has tried to fill the large shoes of Pat Gillick since the latter retired in 2008.
Although Amaro has made some pretty good deals in his career, his willingness to “go for it” and fill up the payroll has cost and will cost the Phillies.
Earlier this year Amaro re-signed Jimmy Rollins even though he has been getting old and struggled mightily in 2011. He also was unable to find a veteran middle reliever in free agency and instead signed mediocre bench players Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix, neither of whom provided much of a threat on offense for the price they were being paid.
And then of course there are the situations regarding the pitching staff. No one can argue that they weren’t thrilled with the signings of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but the money Amaro set aside in those two has put Cole Hamels‘ future in serious jeopardy. If he can’t unload enough money to re-sign Hamels, his tenure should be characterized as one of failure ultimately, because while he made some decent moves, very few have panned out in the end. Lee, who’s 0-5 on the year, should be one of the high-paid Phillies who is dealt at the deadline.
All said, I believe Manuel will probably be leaving after this year and Triple-A coach Ryne Sandberg will be called up to manage. Amaro will most likely stay where he is.
Even so, it seems both are at fault and the Phillies will likely undergo a rebuilding/re-tooling year in 2013 to try and recover from this year’s disaster.