By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — It’s not even mid-May and the buzzards are already circling, sniffing for scraps of what isn’t exactly a roadside carcass. Not yet anyway.
The Phillies are faced with some trouble. There’s no questioning that. Just 32 games into 2013, the looming question glaring at Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro is when the sell-by date is for this team.
There are serious, deep fissures that need addressing—and fast. Entering this West Coast trip, the Phillies have been outscored 39-15 over their last six games, while going 2-4 against Cleveland and Miami, two teams that began this week with a combined 24-36 record.
Roy “Doc” Halladay appears shot. He’s been placed on the disabled list. In fact, the combined record of the Phillies “Big Three,” Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, is a combined 5-10, and 5-15 in games in which they started, with a 5.48 ERA.
After 32 games, an aged Phils’ lineup has produced 113 runs, tied for 13th in the National League, with the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. What’s worse is the Phillies’ inability to hit in the clutch. The Phillies were hitting .212 with runners in scoring position with two out—and have only produced 24 RBI in those situations (only the Arizona Diamondbacks have produced less runs with runners in scoring position and two outs—18).
Overall, the offense has sputtered to rate near the bottom of Major League Baseball, 27th overall in slugging (.327), 27th in on-base percentage (.296), and 25th in batting average (.237).
It was easy to slap “the injury excuse” on the 2012 season. But maybe there was something deeper, as the Phils’ faithful wait impatiently for the turnaround to come. Maybe this team, a core that’s provided the greatest run in franchise history, is mediocre at best. And won’t get any better.
A frightful thought: The Phillies have only been .500 twice this season, at 5-5 and 6-6. Since the Phils’ record-setting 102-win 2011 season, the most games the Phillies have been over .500 is 77-74, on September 21, 2012, after a Kyle Kendrick victory over Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.
Each time it seems the Phillies generate some momentum, like the two victories that began the four-game series against Miami, they hit a bump that sends them in a flailing freefall.
It’s a trend that’s downright scary, considering April was supposed to be an easy stretch, with 16 games against Kansas City, the New York Mets, Miami and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies were 8-8 in those games.
In 2011, the last time the Phils made the playoffs, they were 23-13 against the Mets and Marlins—anwhen Miami was a far more competitive team—and 30-10 in blowouts (games decided by five runs or more). This year, the Phils are 4-8 in blowouts.
This West Coast trip could be very telling for the Phillies. They began the trip Monday night against the defending world champion San Francisco Giants, one of the hottest teams in baseball, carrying a six-game winning streak. Then it’s Arizona, which has been somewhat of a surprise, but has lost five of its last six games.
In fact, May will tell what Amaro does and where this team goes. The Phils come back to play Cleveland and Cincinnati, and in the last week of the month play Washington for the first time this year, followed by a home-and-home, four-game split with the Boston Red Sox, who are playing the best baseball this season.
Will the wheels fall off completely, or can the Phils be infused with something that haven’t been able to find through the first month this year—some consistency, some semblance of 2011?
It’s not even mid-May and the buzzards are already circling, sniffing for scraps of what isn’t exactly a roadside carcass. Not yet anyway.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.