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Monday, October 25, 2010

Ugly Weekend

In one of the ugliest sports weekends in the city for some time, Philadelphia saw the Eagles drop what was surprisingly a winnable game at halftime and the Phillies season come to an early end.

I’m not very focused on the Eagles loss at this point. I think Tennessee is pretty underrated, and I really didn’t expect the Eagles to win. Turning a halftime lead into a loss that was basically a romp is disconcerting, but they have so many problems that I’m struggling to care about this season. Andy Reid has destroyed it by taking away the notion that this year is about developing Kevin Kolb, and unless the Eagles are going to sign Michael Vick to a long-term deal (which I’m not endorsing) it really doesn’t matter what they do with Vick at quarterback. They’re certainly not winning anything this season.

The Phillies are the bigger issue right now. Everybody is holding Ryan Howard responsible for the loss on Saturday, which ended their season in a shocking series loss to the San Francisco Giants, because he struck out looking with two men on to end the game.

Bottom line, that doesn’t work. In fact, if you look at the numbers, Howard is the last guy who should be getting ripped. No one hit in the post-season. In fact, if you look at the core of the team, it was pathetic. These are the post-season stats for the core players in the post-season:

Jimmy Rollins .206, 0 HRs
Chase Utley .212, 1 HRs
Ryan Howard .303, 0 HRs
Raul Ibanez .226, 0 HRs
Jayson Werth .200 2 HRs
Carlos Ruiz .192 1 HRs

A quick look at the game box scores shows 6 errors by the Phillies as a team, 3 in each series. Utley isn’t even listed as having an error in the NLCS, and I know he booted at least one grounder. So that number, which is ridiculously high for 9 games, is clearly the result of home scoring and/or obscure baseball rules such as not assuming a double play.

The Phillies also left 45 men on base in the NLCS. The two Howard stranded to end the series might be the most memorable, but there were plenty that were just as costly.

In a session with the media today, Jayson Werth talked about how “unexpected” it was to be cleaning out his locker for the season. (In Werth’s case, it could be forever.) As others are saying, those expectations seemed to be part of the problem this season.

I don’t want to repeat myself from Thursday’s post, but the Phillies played this season as though they just expected things to happen. Once again on Saturday night Shane Victorino proved he is brain dead on the bases as he was doubled-up on a line drive because he took off running instead of making sure it cleared the infield. The Phillies didn’t steal a single base in a 3-2 game. Rollins didn’t even score from first on a double by Howard in the 5th inning of a 2-2 game at the time that they absolutely had to win.

The mentality is, as enunciated incessantly by Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler, not to take the bat out of the hands of home run hitters. Well, when the home runs aren’t coming, standing on base expecting them to come sends you home unexpectedly early every time.

It sounds crazy to suggest major changes need to be made to a team that went to the last two World Series and three straight NLCS. But when Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, are the first three starters on a team that’s watching the Fall Classic from home, something needs to change.

And, oh by the way, they’ll be watching former Phillies, he-should-still-be-here starter Cliff Lee.

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