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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

About Last Night

It’s rare that one baseball game brings so many passionate responses, but last night’s 16-inning Phillies game rivals an Eagles for the amount of chatter it’s elicited.

Obviously, third base umpire Scott Barry dominates the conversation. The fill-in umpire proved he shouldn’t be anywhere near a baseball diamond ever again in his life. His childish mocking of Ryan Howard’s disgusted look after the umpire called a strike on a check swing was inexcusable. As Howard spoke to the home plate umpire about it, seeming to gesture that he was mad at himself, Barry was seen on television looking in with a facial expression that said he was begging for an excuse to get into it with the player. He completed what he clearly saw as his moment in the spotlight by throwing Howard out of the game when he called a third strike on another check swing and Howard tossed his bat.

Howard went after the umpire, and, quite frankly, I don’t get the mixed reaction I’ve been hearing today. Yes, Howard put the team in a bad spot as Roy Oswalt was forced to take the field because the Phillies were out of position players. But this umpire was completely out of line, and he is an example of umpires and other sports officials thinking they are a part of the game. The fact that this minor league umpire will be back on the field tonight is symptomatic of a bigger problem baseball has with their umpires.

That said, the Phillies just lost two games to the Houston Astros, and lost what should have been two opportunities to tighten the division race with the Atlanta Braves, who lost the last two nights.

This team just scored its first run with Cole Hamels on the mound in about 25 innings. They’ve also given Roy Halladay a ridiculously low amount of run support all season.

The recent numbers – meaning the last week or so – don’t seem atrocious. But it’s pretty clear that this team has not hit this season. A quick look at Jimmy Rollins shows he’s 11 for 38 in the last week 8 games. It’s not terrible, but it seems like he’s flailing at the first pitch way too often. Chase Utley is 7 for 28 since returning from injury. Howard was hitting .302 on July 27; he’s now at .284 and had dropped to .292 before his injury.

Umpires have played a major role in the last two losses, and having Rollins, Utley, and Howard out for long stretches are legitimate excuses. But when all of that goes away, this team just isn’t hitting.

The Phillies are built for the playoffs with an incredible pitching staff. But it’s not going to matter if they keep losing to teams like the Astros.

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