by Sam Istvan
In 2011 the Philadelphia Phillies once again made the playoffs. This time it was different, though. The Phillies carried FOUR aces with them to the playoffs, plus another one that they had to stick in the bullpen. Their first opponent was the best hitting team in the National League along with one of the best pitcher’s in the NL, the St. Louis Cardinals. They wielded maybe the best 3, 4, 5 hitters in the league, in Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. The Phillies pitchers combined to give up just under four runs per game in the NLDS( National League Division Series), a respectable number, but the Phillies’ bats produced only four runs per game to match the pitching performance and they came up short, being shutout in the deciding game of the NLDS and being eliminated from the Postseason.
Some people blame Ruben Amaro Jr., Phillies’ General Manager, below-average performance on the offensive side in the playoffs and the fact that he spent the money he had on pitchers and not hitters; I believe that it is not his fault. I think that the Phillies have just failed to wake up their bats, as those old wooden things haven’t been out of hibernation in the playoffs since 2008.
The Phillies ended up ranking seventh in runs per game in the National League and thirteenth in the MLB, meaning they were in the middle of the pack and that they did hit some in the regular season and it wasn’t just the pitching that got them 102 wins. The Phillies were in the playoffs with a mediocre pitching staff in 2008, but exploded with their bats to win the World Series. Then, with an even better pitching staff with the addition of Cliff Lee in the playoffs the following year, the Phillies seemed to forget how to hit in the World Series against the Yankees terrible pitching staff and lost it in six games. Again, they found themselves in the Postseason in 2010 with a great pitcher in Roy Halladay, but again, forgot to wake up their bats after their nap at the end of the season and made it to the NLCS before watching Ryan Howard make another strikeout to end their season.
In 2011 it seemed to be déjà vu as Ryan Howard actually made contact for once, but hit into an out once again, to end the season. Howard, reflecting the unreliable, should-be benchwarmer that’s always been inside of him, hurt his Achilles heel and is out for the whole off-season and half of the 2012 season. Howard produced mediocre numbers this year despite being paid like he was supposed to hit like Albert Pujols, which he evidently didn’t. Now, Amaro Jr. is forced to find a new first-baseman for half of the next season. Some options have been moving Utley; their second baseman, to first-base or reaching outside of the organization to either trade for or sign a first-baseman.
No offense to Howard, but I think if they tried to teach a back-up outfielder to play first base, at least he’d hit better than Howard. Oh, wait, I do mean offense. As long as I’m offending him, I might as well add; what kind of player being paid $20 million a year, ends two seasons in a row with a chance to tie the game?! I guess what I’m trying to say is, what was Amaro Jr. thinking signing Howard for that kind of money?! Some Phillies fans are egging on Amaro Jr. to get rid of a pitcher and spend the money on some hitters, but he’s probably actually in debt because he spent all of his money and then some on Ryan Howard, their “star.”
This lineup used to be a lineup with MVP type players and maybe that’s why people can’t seem to figure out why they can’t hit at times, but the truth is, is that you don’t stay young forever. Unfortunately, Amaro Jr. seems to think that he can just keep waltzing into the playoffs with the same batting lineup every year. He seems to just sit and watch and think, “Heck, we’ll keep winning if they’re in their seventies! Wake up, and smell reality. I don’t think you want to find out the noise Philadelphia fans can make when they’re mad, Amaro (Hint: It’s about as much noise as they made when you won the World Series, but they’ll actually be yelling ”Boooooooooo” this time).