The strength of the team hasn’t been enough to prop up a club with so many leaks. Cole Hamels has proven that he deserves a blank check. Cliff Lee deserves more than one win, but he lost a number of games by throwing one bad pitch. That’s the way it goes when there is no margin for error.
Antonio Bastardo has lost his command in critical spots and blown a number of games in the eighth. But he’s not the only one to cost the Phillies a game in the critical frame. Injuries to Michael Stutes and David Herndon, the ill-advised signing of Chad Qualls and a multi-year deal for Jose Contreras, is the reason Charlie Manuel keeps scratching his head.
Chooch has been an offensive revelation. Carlos Ruiz has always been a defensive stalwart. He has been the team’s MVP. He is a solid bet to be only the fourth ever catcher to lead the Phillies in batting. Ruiz, who is hitting .348 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs, has been the man but he can’t do it alone.
First base: F
The Phillies had to have an inkling that Ryan Howard wouldn’t be ready for the first month or two. They gambled that he would come back early and lost since Howard stepped to the plate for the first time last Friday. The quartet of Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry Jr., Jim Thome and Laynce Nix has been an unmitigated disaster. This is the season for all of those Phillies fans, who have said that Howard is an over-rated, overpaid bum.
Second base: C
After Chase Utley missed nearly the first two months the Phillies could have prepared for the worst. They were fortunate to have Freddy Galvis play great defense for two months. Galvis also displayed some offensive potential until he injured his back. Mike Fontenot is so bad defensively that he almost makes Ty Wigginton look good. Utley is back but how much does he have left?
The long-term deal to aging Jimmy Rollins doesn’t look so good after watching Galvis play brilliantly at short in spring training. Galvis is on par with Rollins at short and his offensive contribution can only go up. Don’t think we can say the same for Rollins. The Phils need a young player that can play everyday on the cheap and that is Galvis.
Third base: C
If the Phillies were pro-active during the off-season, they would have found a way to find a third baseman with pop and made Placido Polanco a super-sub. The aging, oft-injured Polanco hasn’t missed substantial time, but he’s clearly not the player he once was.
Left field: C-
John Mayberry Jr. has looked like a fifth outfielder for most of his career, and he’s played like a fifth outfielder plugged into the starting lineup. Juan Pierre has done a nice job. You can’t strike him out. But count on Pierre being dealt by July 31. How good would Josh Willingham (60 RBIs) look in red pinstripes right now?
Center field: C
Shane Victorino hasn’t had the walk year he envisioned. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has been ineffective as a left-handed hitter and has made a number of head-scratching plays in the field and on the bases. He’s batting .245 with eight home runs. Now comes talk the Phils aren’t interested in re-signing him. He’ll most likely be traded.
Right field: C+
With no Howard or Utley, it was up to Hunter Pence to be the straw that stirs the drink. He now knows how difficult that is when hurlers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls and pitched around him. Pence has decent numbers at the plate, but he would have had a better year if he had the big boppers in the lineup. Also, he has made a number of bad plays in the field.
Charlie Manuel has made some questionable decisions, but this mess isn’t all his fault. Tony LaRussa couldn’t win with this team. Manuel has been dealt a terrible hand and he’s doing the best he can with it. Yesterday, the skipper re-iterated that he’s not giving up on the 2012 season. “I’ll always believe we have a chance,” he said.
General manager: D
Ruben Amaro didn’t sign Ryan Madson (out for year) and added Jonathan Papelbon. But Pap, who should be considered a luxury for this team, is crazy expensive. That’s the best you can say for Amaro. He passed on adding a potent bat or two (Willingham, Michael Cuddyer). It’s going to be a fascinating month for Amaro, who has to make big decisions about his club’s present and future.