Losing streak has Phillies out of contention
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Luis Garcia walks into the dugout after being pulled during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Sunday, July 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman sits in the dugout after being pulled during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Sunday, July 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
PHILADELPHIA – If there was any doubt which direction the Philadelphia Phillies were going at the trade deadline, a disastrous road trip had to make the organization’s decision easier.
The Phillies put themselves in the playoff mix with a surge before the All-Star break and opened the second half with a win to move a game over .500. But they’ve lost eight straight games since to the New York Mets, St. Louis and Detroit.
At 49-56, they were 11 games behind division-leading Atlanta and 9 ½ games out of a wild-card spot yesterday. They’ll begin a nine-game homestand today.
General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insisted before the losing streak that he planned to be a buyer before tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline. Now, selling seems more likely.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon, All-Star lefty Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz are among the players that should generate interest from contenders. Lee and Utley are likely staying, but others could be jettisoned.
“I don’t want anybody to leave from here,” Ruiz said after Sunday’s loss to the Tigers. “It’s not in our hands, it’s from our front office, so our job is, continue to play and see what happens.
“I hope we change everything and play good baseball, and leave that to Ruben and the front office.”
Papelbon, who has five blown saves in his last 12 chances, may have paved his way out the door by blasting the team in Detroit. He told MLB.com the Phillies need massive changes.
“It’s going to take, in my opinion, a lot,” Papelbon said. “And in my opinion, I think it’s going to have to be something very similar to what the Red Sox went through a couple years ago. From top to bottom.”
The Red Sox fired Manager Terry Francona after missing the postseason in 2011. General Manager Theo Epstein then left to join the Chicago Cubs. Papelbon wasn’t offered a contract and signed with the Phillies. Other veterans were sent packing over the next year, via trades, including Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.
Boston finished last in the AL East in 2012, but entered yesterday leading the division by a half-game over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“This is a job,” Papelbon said. “There are no feelings in this game. I left. Carl left. Beckett left. Adrian left. Now look at them.”
Papelbon is in the second year of a $50 million, four-year contract that was the largest ever for a reliever. He’s due to make $13 million in 2014 and 2015, and his deal includes a vesting option for $13 million in 2016 if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 combined in 2014-15.
“No, I would like to stay here,” Papelbon said when asked by MLB.com if he wanted to be traded. “But if I’m going to have to put up with this year after year, then no, I don’t want to be here. Why would you? Why would anybody?”
The Phillies won five straight division titles from 2007-11, captured a World Series championship in 2008 and an NL pennant in 2009. They had the best record in the majors in 2010 and set a franchise-record with 102 wins in 2011.
But the decline started last year when they overcame an awful start and finished 81-81. Amaro traded former All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino along with pitcher Joe Blanton before the 2012 trade deadline.
At the time, the Phillies were 13 games out of a wild-card spot. Then they started winning and climbed within three games of St. Louis for the second-wild card berth on Sept. 13 only to fall short.
This year’s struggles could lead to an overhaul. Manager Charlie Manuel is in the final year of his contract with assumed manager-in-waiting Ryne Sandberg already on staff.
Utley, Ruiz, Young and Roy Halladay are in the final years of their contracts and the team needs to get younger. Injuries, of course, have been a factor. Halladay only made seven starts before having shoulder surgery. All-Star Domonic Brown sustained a concussion during the road trip, slugger Ryan Howard had knee surgery, and leading hitter Ben Revere broke his foot.
“When we play that bad, I’m upset with that and it’s embarrassing to me,” Manuel said.