Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why The Phillies Are Dead Meat

Yes, I know they won today. They won yesterday, too. It doesn't matter. For all the many virtues of this particular Phillies team - and they are many - it's doomed. Dead in the water. It'll get close, the way the Phillies always seem to get close, and then it'll just miss. Doubt me? Look at the stumbles against Atlanta and Florida after the much-ballyhooed sweep of the Mets a couple of weeks back. They're a fun team. They're an entertaining team. But they're not a playoff team, not in the state they're in.

And when the season is over and they've missed the postseason again by a game or two, all of the discussion will no doubt be about injuries. About the injuries to all the starting pitching, and to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Shane Victorino and any member of the bullpen who had the vaguest semblance of a pulse. But that won't be the reason they fail to grab the brass ring. They'll fail because playoff teams don't let the Pirates come back on them from four runs down, two days in a row. They'll fail because they had their foot on the Braves' necks in the first couple of games of the season, and they let them up for devastating losses. They'll fail because they rolled into Kansas City during interleague play and absolutely failed to take care of business against one of the worst teams in baseball. Those are the games that playoff teams absolutely have to win, those are the holes that playoff teams don't dig for themselves.

Much has been made of this team's resilience, and about how they've come from behind to win 45 times this year. That's a remarkable statistic, and it says much about how good the core of hitters on this team (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Rowand, and Ruiz) is. However, there's a reason that this team h as come from behind 45 times, and that's because their kerosene-on-a-BBQ pitching staff has put them down in each and every one of those 45 games. At its best, their bullpen has too many ancient retreads - Alfonseca? Mesa? How many more Marlins-Indians World Series veterans do we need - and not enough strikethrowers and fireballers. The pitching staff was damaged goods from the word go, and even with Kyle Kendrick doing his best Marty Bystrom impression, there's just not enough there to contend with. Against the weaker lineups in the league, it might work for a while, but can you see a Moyer-Kendrick-Eaton-Durbin rotation going up against the big bats of the Yankees or Angels in the World Series? It's not a pretty thought. Realistically, all the Phillies can do to win these days is outslug people, and it's a tribute to the quality of their sluggers that they've been doing it more often than not. They won't do it enough, though. It's been a fun year, an interesting year, and an enjoyable year.

It's just not going to be The Year.
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