Thursday, July 8, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies: Four Desperate Measures for Desperate Times- Part 1

Apr. 12, 2010 - Philadelphia, United States - epa02114295 Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is greeted by teammate Placido Polanco after Utley homered in the fifth inning, also scoring Polanco, during the home opening baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA 12 April 2010. The Phillies won 7-4.

Part 1 of 5

In just a matter of days, things have gone from bad to worse for the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Injuries and losses continue to mount, all the while the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets have increased their lead in the NL East.  And, division aside, the Phillies currently sit fifth in the Wild Card standings.

After a brief revival from the offense, it has seemingly gone back in the tank. Heck, pitchers must be starting to feel like they need to hurl a perfect game to win— although that almost didn't work for Roy Halladay. 

When the team does manage to get a lead, the pitchers seem to squander it away. Although it would be  premature to conclude, the back-end of the bullpen scenario is starting to evoke memories of 2009— which, if you were vacationing out the country last year, is not a good thing.  

The prevailing sentiment amongst the Phillies organization is that there is no need to panic, but these are quickly becoming desperate times for them. 

Over the past few days, the team learned that they would be without baseball's best second baseman for a minimum of eight weeks. And, that only speaks to time off the field rather than a return to Chase Utley's normal standard of play— which may not happen at all this season. 

They also learned that their regular third baseman (and best option to replace Utley) will be out for at least another four weeks. It adds insult to injury that Placido Polanco is the one player who has hit consistently for them all year and currently sits second in the National League batting leaders. 

Additionally, the news on the rehabilitation of its other injured players hasn't been particularly encouraging, either. 

Abling the Disabled

Ryan Madson and J.A. Happ are considered two key components of the 2010 pitching staff, but the team has largely been without their services. Both are working themselves back into shape for a return, but neither has been particularly impressive. 

The two hurlers have struggled to hit 90 on the radar gun, which tends to suggest they might not be physically ready or healthy. Also, it is difficult to envision either of them having much success in getting major league hitters out with an El Duque fastball.

Regular catcher Carlos Ruiz remains on the DL with a concussion and this week's medical update on his progress was less than encouraging. Meanwhile, back-up catcher Brian Schneider went down with thumb injury described as similar to, but not as serious as, Utley's.

With emergency receiver Paul Hoover having been swept away by the Florida Marlins a few weeks ago, the Phillies were forced to resort to calling up Dane Sardina to handle the regular duties. Although he has provided more pop than the big name players left in the team's lineup, his presence surely highlights how the current team is a shadow of what was supposed to be.  

And, speaking of the big names left on the field being asked to pick up the slack— where have they gone? 

The Able Bodies

Raul Ibanez's slump has now just about reached a year. 

Ryan Howard is keeping his average near .300, but that is not why the team signed him to a $125 million extension. Everyone knows he is getting the big bucks for the big flies- and an overdue  power display would go a long way towards carrying the club with key offensive players out. 

Jayson Werth jumped out to a great start and appeared to be poised for a monster year. His output has taken a nose dive— and it seems that it has taken his confidence along for the ride. 

Not surprisingly, Jimmy Rollins continues to struggle to find his stroke after a long layoff. 

After being a model of consistency for the past three years, Shane Victorino has scrambled to get above .250 all season. To be fair, though, his defense, baserunning and power production have been superb. 

All-in-all, the trend lines are not good and the forecast does not look promising. 

If the Phillies organization wants to salvage any hope from its great pre-season promise, it seems time for desperate measures. Star-laden teams don't come around that often, so throwing in the rally towels for 2010 is not an option.  

Here are four measures the Phillies need to take before this season gets away altogether. 

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