By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia (CBS)—The Phillies are crumbling right before our eyes. They’ve actually been falling to pieces since they won the 2008 World Series, finishing their last three subsequent seasons progressively worse.
Now they’re sitting in last place and counting on injury-prone veterans to somehow find a fountain of youth and become the players they once were.
It’s a hard sell and going to have to be a fast injection, since the Phillies have been in last place more than any team in the National League East this season (38 days in last place entering the Phils’ Tuesday night game in Minnesota; in contrast, Miami spent 16 days in last as the second-highest total, and the supposedly woeful New York Mets, the pre-season basement favorite, haven’t spent a day in last in the NL East as of June 11, 2012).
The Phils have been over .500 for only 12 days this season—are 5-11 in one-run games, losing seven walk-off games with lineups that feature players like Michael Martinez, Hector Luna, Ty Wigginton and Mike Fontenot.
One reason why the Phillies could be approaching the dire switch is their penchant to sticking with much of the nucleus that helped them win in the past years, ignoring that they are now past their primes.
Phils’ general manager Ruben Amaro has been loyal to the core group of veterans of this team to a fault. He should have borrowed a page from the many years former Eagles’ president Joe Banner used. In fact, the Phillies should hire Banner.
Banner may not be as versed in baseball as he obviously was in football, but he seemed to have an uncanny ability when to jettison a player Logan’s Run style, when they reached 30. The Eagles, in turn, kept on winning. They were able to transition from an older team to remaining competitive.
About the only mistakes Banner made was releasing All-Pro kicker David Akers and the beloved Brian Dawkins. Otherwise, Banner knew when to pull the plug on a player. It doesn’t seem as if Amaro does.
In re-signing the aged Jimmy Rollins, clearly on the downside of a great Phillies career, Amaro may have stunted the growth of Freddy Galvis, who we know now can clearly play shortstop at the major league level.
Staying with Chase Utley, despite the fact that he’s played a total of 218 games the last three years and has missed a combined total of 168 games (including the first 62 games this season), could be a move that’s terribly wrong.
Banner may have been perceived as cold and callous when it came to player negotiations and letting popular players go. But it was a necessary nasty part of the job that had to be done.
Amaro, like Banner, is highly intelligent. He seems to be the kind of upper management guy who genuinely cares about the players who made this the most successful era in Phillies history.
But there comes a time when cold and callous, like Banner, should be part of Amaro’s lexicon. When letting go and looking forward, instead of being loyal, means more. When it’s time to realize 2008 is four years ago and there is no way to rewind.
Maybe the Phillies should hire Joe Banner.