With Phillies’ Golden Era Over, It’s Time to Sell Assets and Rebuild

July 2nd, 2014 by Jim Chesko | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.

We had it darn good for several years, Phillies fans: a packed ballpark almost every night, a trio of best-in-franchise-history position players in the lineup each game, postseason excitement every fall – even a World Series title, the first one in a generation. Those days are now fading nearly as fast as a Ken Giles heater.

Yes, from 2007 thru 2011, attending a Phillies game was a real treat – Ryan Howard knocking home runs to every section of the outfield stands, Jimmy Rollins backing up 83274804CC097_World_Series_his “We’re the team to beat” proclamation, Chase Utley proving that he is indeed “the man,” Cole Hamels blossoming into one of the game’s top southpaws, and closer Brad Lidge capping a perfect 2008 season with that never-to-be-forgotten, down-on-his-knees exultation on the pitcher’s mound, arms and eyes skyward, in reaction to the Phils’ first World Series win in 28 years.

Five straight postseason appearances. Back-to-back trips to the Fall Classic. A franchise-record 102 wins in 2011. Yep, 2011 – a mere three years ago.

Of course, in 2011, Utley’s knees were still pretty healthy, the “big piece” at first base was still one of the most feared sluggers in the game, Roy Halladay took the mound every fifth day and could be counted on to go seven or eight innings, no problem. And the Phils’ defense was among the best in the sport during most of those glory years.

What a difference a few years makes. Halladay and Lidge are now retired, Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez are long gone, and all of the other core players from 2011 still with the team – Howard, Utley, Rollins and catcher Carlos Ruiz – are three years older and showing it. Skipper Charlie Manuel was fired nearly a year ago, a scapegoat for a fading, underperforming squad – replaced by Ryne Sandberg, whose 2014 club may well finish with an even worse record than last year’s sad 73-89 campaign.

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The team’s defense, once such a strong suit, is now often dreadful. The usually reliable Utley made errors on routine plays in back-to-back games last week. Howard, never a Gold Glove candidate but at least respectable in his prime, made two bad errors in one inning on Saturday. And the outfield? Well, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere somehow make 36-year-old Marlon Byrd look like a defensive All-Star. Both Brown and Revere still seem to have lots of trouble judging balls off the crack of the bat, charging in instead of drifting back or taking curious routes to fly balls. And your grandfather’s throwing arm may be better than Revere’s.

The Phils are a disappointing 18-27 at home, where they’ve – incredibly – been shut out eight times. Brown looks nothing like the guy who had a memorable six-week stretch that made him a 2013 All-Star. And the team is well on the way to setting a franchise record for striking out.

The Phillies convinced a few faithful fans to consider jumping back on the bandwagon last month with a surprising five-game winning streak, including a sweep of the Braves in Atlanta. However they then proceeded to lose nine of their next 11 games, most of them in the increasingly unfriendly home confines of Citizens Bank Park; the Braves got revenge with a four-game sweep at CBP, convincing most of us to drop any thoughts of this group making one final postseason run. And that leads to the big question: Now what? The obvious answer: Sell, Ruben, sell!

Let’s be realistic about it. This Phillies team is either too old or too inconsistent or – sorry – just not good enough any longer to compete, even in a weak National League East. The situation down on the farm – at the AA and AAA level, anyway – is depressing: Maikel Franco is struggling, Tommy Joseph can’t stay healthy and Jesse Biddle is having a year to forget; he’s currently out of action on a “mental break.” So it makes perfect sense for General Manager Ruben Amaro to just admit that the Phils’ “golden age” is over, and to begin to break it down and rebuild.

The Phillies desperately need to start acquiring prospects to improve their depleted farm system. The resurgent Jonathan Papelbon? See ya. Soon-to-be-healthy again Cliff Lee? Goodbye. Again. Marlon Byrd? A pretty decent season in his return, but – pack your bags one more time. And, tough as it may be for the Phillies faithful to say goodbye to Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins (if they’ll waive their no-trade rights as 10-and-5 players), if it would get the franchise some legitimate prospects, it’s time!

Yes, a decision to “sell” would mean another hit to the waning attendance at Citizens Bank Park, but – as tough as it may be to watch – it’s the right thing to do for the long run. If further advice is needed, please contact the Philadelphia 76ers front office and ask for Mr. Sam Hinkie.

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