Heading in to the season I expected April would be tough. But even I never imagined this.
The Phillies are so lost on offense you might be ready to start placing their pictures on milk cartons. Never was this more true than on this early-season west coast trip, which has seen the bats remain dull with Cliff Lee throwing ten shutout innings and Roy Halladay losing a game in San Diego, home to the worst team in Major League Baseball. April is starting to wind down and the Phillies find themselves in unfamiliar territory, the cellar of the National League East.
As the week begins the Phillies are five games back of the NL East leading Washington Nationals with a 7-9 record that has seen a pair of extra inning losses on the road and plenty of missed offensive opportunities. There is no other way to say it. This team is frustrating to watch right now.
The problem is the Phillies made moves to improve their bench with the additions of Ty Wigginton, Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome. Instead of being able to call those players off the bench late in the game when the team needs a run, the Phillies have been forced to play these guys more regularly with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the disabled list and Placido Polanco struggling offensiveli at the start of the season. Wigginton and Mix have come up small in the field and Thome, to put it kindly, has looked his age at the plate.
So how long are fans expected to wait before it becomes OK to panic about this team's chances of claiming a sixth straight NL East division crown? Given this organization's track record I'm not so sure it is time to press the panic button, but it is more than fair to show concern about where this team is heading.
The Phillies have traditionally been a slow starting team, so I'm not terribly upset about the team's record at this point knowing that they have always played better as the season progresses. But never has this team been without two of their top bats in the lineup, even if they are diminishing in production or value. The fact is, having Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup is much more desirable for this team than the current assortment of options.
So here is where I am with this team, as it is made up right now.
I'm prepared to stick through the dark times right now, but changes need to happen. I would consider a return to some form of normalcy for this team, and that means returning Jimmy Rollins to the lead-off spot in the lineup. I can hear you now. "But Jimmy's not a lead-off hitter!" I get it, and I agree, but Rollins has long been the leader of this team when they were winning games. Will trying to use any part of the past winning formula change things up for the better? Is it not worth a try?
The calls for Domonic Brown are starting to heat up with some. Plenty of fans have asked "It's not like Brown can do worse, right?" Right now Brown is hitting .264 with triple A Lehigh Valley with zero home runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts. Brown has been given just about every opportunity to grab a spot on the Phillies roster, and while injuries have helped keep him out of the mix, his production and room for improvement have had more fo a say in his fate. A decision to bring up a prospect sends a loud message to a team in this kind of situation, and if that is the right move to do then so be it. But after seeing Brown make a couple trips to the big leagues, are you prepared to suggest that he is capable of generating enough of a spark to ignite this team?
Hopefully we soon find out some more information on Howard and Utley, to get a better sense of where they stand and perhaps get a glimpse in to what kind of time-frame we are looking at. The Phillies were supposed to keep their heads above water until they return, and that still seems to be the case. But if these two players are going to be gone for an even longer period of time, the pressure wil be on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to do something. The Phillies still have the pitching to get through this sluggish start, but with more teams competing for playoffs spots this season the Phillies cannot afford to let too many games slip away from them with this offense.
So put yourself in the GM seat. What would you do? How concerned are you? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the team right now, and cast your vote in the Fan Tab widget on the right side of the page to share your confidence rating with the Phillies.