Charlie Manuel has been chatty this year. It started almost immediately when a couple of weeks into the season he complained about the Phillies’ lack of long balls. Of course, at that point, the offense was scoring plenty of runs, but Charlie didn’t like the manner in which they were being scored. Home runs count double you see, once on the scoreboard and once more in your heart. I think Charlie has finally realized that this team isn’t going to have many 5-homer games, or 50-run weeks, but that hasn’t kept him from obliging the local media with plenty to write about. His favorite topics have been touched on the last couple of days. He wants a right-handed hitter, and if you want to complain about the hitters–go talk to the guys swinging the bat.
There was an article in today’s paper that was a great representation of just how comfortable Charlie has become in his role as Phillies manager. He’s not going anywhere. He knows it. When talking through the issues the Phillies have on offense, Charlie completely passed the buck. He exonerated himself and his coaching staff. You want to know why guys are getting themselves out on breaking balls when they are ahead in the count? Go ask the player. You want to know why they don’t take the occasional walk? Go ask the player. It’s perfectly logical and accurate, of course. I don’t think even the most delusional Phillies fan thinks that Manuel and Co. are preaching, “swing at bad pitches ahead in the count,” but it’s still something you’d rarely hear a manager say. Usually, you’d get, “we’re working on it,” or, “we’re going to get better.” This time, Charlie basically said he’s tired of hearing about it, and if you don’t like it, you can kindly kiss multi-million dollar contract.
It’s a smaller part of Charlie’s other refrain and that is that he’s not happy with this lineup as it is currently constructed. The Phillies have been better since Chase Utley got back, but there still seems to be a glaring hole at one of the corner outfield spots, if not both of them. If I read one more Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer article I may go cross-eyed, but it looks like Charlie wants to continue to beat that drum himself. He was specific about it on Tuesday, saying point-blank that he wanted a right-handed hitter (Benny San Fran’s feelings be damned). The right-handed bat issue is a long-term problem for the Phillies.
Right now, they’re fine. They are in first place, playing pretty well, and the National League is still not much of a powerhouse. It looks like no team will average 5 runs a game, and if you want to look at it another way, the Phillies have yielded a grand total of 7 runs in 4 games against the Cardinals this season, and they have the NL’s 2nd best offense. They took 3 of 4 from Cincinnati and the league’s highest scoring offense. And, despite scoring 87 fewer runs than Boston they have just a 13 run difference in run differential.
Charlie is looking way down the road, though. He’s probably assuming this team is going to make the post-season. As it is now, they could certainly take their chances. They could pitch their way to the World Series. It almost happened last year. If Roy Halladay can get Cody Ross out, you’ve got a different series. The only real roadblocks in terms of an intimidating offense that you’d have to match run for run are in the American League, and even then, as we saw last year sometimes the pitching still wins out. The question is how comfortable do you want to be? I know most fans want to be much more comfortable, and it looks like Charlie feels the same way.
It’s understandable. I think two of the most disappointing Phillies this year have been Ben Francisco and Dom Brown. That may seem like a harsh assessment of Brown, but he’s had a couple of highlight reel games that overshadow a lot of mediocrity. It’s also probably not his fault. He should still be in AAA. Francisco hasn’t been right since the 2nd week of the season. Right around Charlie’s call for more homers, actually. A guy that swung for the fences anyway, seems to be perpetually locked in a quest to hit the ball 500 feet. He looks like he’s pressing, he looks like he never got comfortable in his everyday role, and the worst part is, he may be ruined as the valuable platoon guy he was last season. Francisco needs to relax and Brown maybe needs to acknowledge an adjustment to tighten up some of the cavernous gaps in his swing might be necessary after all.
The Phillies are twenty games over .500 with these problem children and AAA resident John Mayberry getting a lot of time in the outfield. Do they want to keep that going through the rest of the season and the playoffs? Or do they want to bring in a right-handed hitter? Is Josh Willingham really that much of an upgrade that it would warrant trading off some prospects? We know how Charlie feels on the matter, and we’ll see if all that power he’s accumulated over the past four years is enough to give Ruben a little nudge.
Just of note, an interesting game tonight for the Phils. Another chance to look at the mystery that is Roy Oswalt and more significantly a chance to sweep St. Louis and cap a 4-2 trip. Oswalt might be the most difficult athlete to read I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it looks like he’s ready to go home to Mississippi, sometimes he looks great, sometimes you wonder if he’s lost the drive or just really hates the media that much. Who knows? Be nice to get a win, especially since St. Louis has apparently not heard of getaway day, and they have an 8 o’clock start and a flight before hosting Oakland tomorrow.
So, OJ was going to confess to Oprah for a minute there. That was fun. Here’s something unrelated, have you seen the recent spike in popularity of militant intramural/adult league manager emails? Someone bitches out their entire team in a group email and then it ends up on Deadspin? I’m thinking of trying to put together a phony one of those and see if they’ll post it on Deadspin. Thoughts? Which sport? What should I be bitching about? I need a little project to work on. My mind is wandering a bit. Last night during Jeopardy I was thinking why people don’t give phony answers when they’re way behind? Like a guy is 20,000 ahead of you, why not buzz in on the last question and be like, “Who is your Mom?” Would they edit that out?