You probably didn’t even notice, but the Phillies’ disappointing, disappearing season ended on Sunday with their 89th defeat of the year, a 12-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves which featured a Phillies lineup that included Kevin Frandsen at first base, Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis at third base, Roger Bernadino in right field and Erik Kratz behind the plate.
This is the most losses by a Phillies team since 2000, when a promising shortstop prospect named Jimmy Rollins got to play in 14 games as a September call-up during a 65-97 season.
Like 2000, all the losses in 2013 tended to blur together after a while because this team was not only bad, it was also boring. The Phillies drew around 570,000 fewer fans this season than they did in 2012 – about 7,000 fewer per game — which, at the least, shows that Phillies fans have discerning taste. And it has nothing to do with loyalty. People aren’t expected to frequent a bad restaurant or pay good money to see a bad movie, so why should they be expected to pay a bundle for tickets, parking and concessions to watch Dominic Brown misplay a ball in left field?
Anyhow, 2013 is in the books and now the Phillies brain trust will get together and try and figure out a way to clean up this mess. Their options are limited considering the size of their current payroll, plus one, other sad fact: Philadelphia used to be a place where the best players in the game wanted to be and were even willing to take less money to be here, but there’s little to attract a top free agent anymore. In fact, somebody like Cliff Lee has to be wondering how the heck he can get out of here.
We have no idea, of course, which players the Phillies will target in free agency, but we do know there’s nobody in the farm system ready to ride to their rescue. We’ll assume the Phils will upgrade their roster somehow and they’ll certainly address their pitching staff, both starters and relievers. But going just by their current roster, here’s a look at what their batting order could be on opening day, 2014.
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Cody Asche, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Domonic Brown, LF
6. Darrin Ruf, RF
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Jimmy Rollins, SS
9. Cliff Lee, P
So, are you ready to order those season tickets now?
Notice that we have Jimmy Rollins batting in the No. 8 spot after a long career in which he mostly batted lead-off and frequently third. Rollins was the No. 2 hitter at the end of this past season. But even though Rollins is still a superior defensive player, he has no business sitting in one of those important batting slots. He hit just .252 this year and needed a late surge to reach that mediocre number. Rollins’ lack of plate discipline used to be tolerated because of his power numbers and all-over dynamic play, but those days are long gone.
So, that will be an early test for new manager Ryne Sandberg, to make Rollins swallow his ego – and it’s a big one – and accept the demotion.
The most depressing part of the Phillies’ immediate future is the fact that no matter what kind of moves they make in the off-season, their success will still depend on that core of players who carried them to a World Series in 2008, which now seems like it happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. They have their fingers crossed that Ryan Howard can still hit 40 homers and Utley and Rollins will get back the spring they had in their step when they were younger.
That’s the key for the 2014 Phillies, not signing some other team’s superstar. First of all, as we already mentioned, no superstar in his right mind would want to come here. And even if one or two of them did, there’s no guarantee of success. Look at the Los Angeles Angels. They signed the two biggest free-agent names the last two years and what did they get out of it? Albert Pujols batted .258 this season before ending up on the disabled list and Josh Hamilton – the object of desire for many Phillies fans last off-season, present company included – hit just .250, and he hung around the .210 mark for most of the season before padding his stats late in the season when it no longer mattered.
So, there will be no quick fix for this team unless Howard, Utley and Rollins can turn back the clock, and as far as we know, Father Time is still undefeated.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.