Sunday, June 01, 2014

Days of Future Passed Balls

"Caught with the help of Mikael Franco"
One of the great things about watching minor league baseball is that it sometimes gives you a glimpse of the future. You get to see rising stars perfect their craft up close and personal. Over the years, going to Durham Bulls and Carolina Mudcats games has offered looks at David Price, Will Myers, Desmond Jennings, Francisco Lindor, Yonder Alonso, BJ Upton and many more.

One of the terrible things about minor league baseball is that it sometimes gives you a glimpse of the future, and the future looks like the Sentinel-infested hellscape of the latest X-Men movie.

Last night was one of those nights. The Durham Bulls dismantled the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in thoroughly embarrassing fashion, 10-0. What was a scoreless game through 5 turned into a laugher very quickly. A booted double play ball and a tiring Iron Pigs starter (Barry Enright, who was a wizard through those first five) got the Bulls three, and then it was off to the races.

But it wasn't just that the Iron Pigs lost, or by how much. It was how. There were the multiple caught stealings. The errors. The two outfielders running into each other on a soft fly ball to left, allowing it to drop in safely. The visible frustration on the field, where you could see players deciding that they were going to have to do it all themselves and overextending and failing to produce as a result. Low outside stuff had top prospect Maikel Franco fishing so much he might as well have been on an episode of River Monsters. Apart from one loud single off the Blue Monster in left, nobody managed to do much against a parade of Bulls pitchers.

And if you looked in the program at the space devoted to the visiting team's lineup, you saw something disheartening. There's precisely three guys on that roster born in the 1990s. 3 guys, and one of them is on the DL, who are younger that 25 or so. The Phillies' future is already old.

So that's what tomorrow holds. Flawed talent, old prospects, bad fundamentals - any one of these three could be countered by excellence in the other two, but when you've got all 3 working against you, a lone uberprospect in the low minors (J.P. Crawford, a city turns its lonely eyes to you) isn't going to be enough. Right now the Phillies are a bad, fundamentally unsound, aging team, and the only reinforcements they have to call upon are, to be blunt, not so good, aging, and fundamentally unsound.

Maybe I'm over-extrapolating based on one game. Maybe the Steve Susdorfs and Leandro Castros of the world will put it together in a way they haven't so far. I'd like to see that.

But I got a glimpse of the future last night, and it wasn't pretty.

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