Paul Hagen: Phillies can't expect trade-deadline boost this year

Raul Ibanez watches his fourth-inning, two-run homer, which highlighted Phils' four-run uprising.
Raul Ibanez watches his fourth-inning, two-run homer, which highlighted Phils' four-run uprising.
Posted: June 14, 2010

BOSTON - It's getting to that part of the movie where the cavalry charges in from the other side of the ridge to save the day. Or the hero rescues the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks just before the locomotive arrives. Or the governor grants clemency moments before the switch is flipped on the electric chair.

It's getting to be that part of the Phillies' season, too, come to think of it. As they have floundered about, it's easy to overlook that a midseason malaise has been the norm.

They were 39-37 on July 2, 2009 . . . and won the pennant.

They were 48-43 on July 8, 2008 . . . and went on to capture a world championship.

They were 47-48 as late as July 19, 2007 . . . and made the playoffs.

So maybe, just maybe, a 5-3 win at Fenway Park yesterday that allowed them to avert a Boston Massacre signals the sort of turnaround to which Phillies fans and the players themselves have become accustomed. Or maybe not. They're still just 32-29 and in third place of the National League East and haven't consistently resembled the sort of team capable of making a run for a month now.

One thing seems pretty clear, though. They are almost surely going to rise or fall with the talent that is presently in the organization.

That hasn't been the case recently. Three years ago, it was Kyle Lohse who showed up from Cincinnati. He made 11 starts, the Phillies went 9-2 in those games and nipped the Mets at the wire.

Two years ago, it was Joe Blanton. He made 13 starts after coming from Oakland. The Phillies were 9-4 in those games.

Last year, it was Cliff Lee via Cleveland. Everybody remembers what he did. And Pedro Martinez was thrown in for good measure.

Here's the thing, though. If anybody, from the paying customers to the best players on the team, is sitting back and thinking that lightning is going to strike again this year and that the team can coast until general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. produces another impact player from his sleeve, forget about it.

It ain't happening. Or, at least, the odds against it are steep enough so that sitting around and waiting for it would not be advisable for a club hoping to cash another playoff check.

Is the front office actively researching every possible avenue to improve the team? Of course. That's what it does. In the days leading up to the July 31 deadline, scouts will fan out to all points of the baseball compass to eyeball players who might be available. Amaro and his lieutenants will spend hours on the phone, analyzing possibilities, discussing options.

That they've been remarkably successful in accomplishing what they've set out to do has created an almost inevitable anticipation that they'll be able to do it again.

Except that, almost certainly, they won't. Not this time.

They won't, mostly, because the type of prospects they had that fetch impact players of the type they've gotten are now playing for Oakland and Cleveland and Toronto. The system was depleted in order to make moves that have helped make them postseason regulars. And that's all right.

But there comes a point when even the most well-stocked team runs out of bullets. Unless the Phillies are willing to trade prized outfielder Domonic Brown - and there's no reason to suspect they are - that's where they seem to be.

It also becomes more difficult because this is a franchise that has a payroll already pushing $140 million with a bunch of players signed beyond this season. And even if another team was willing to take players off the active major league roster, that's not really a way to get better.

In all probability, then, the players who have helped put the Phillies in the situation they're in are the same ones who are going to have to get them out of it. The only boost is likely to come from somebody on the disabled list: Jimmy Rollins, J.A. Happ, Ryan Madson. And while each would be a welcome addition, Rollins and Happ have been case studies in how unpredictable injuries can be and how unreliable guessing recovery times often is.

Manager Charlie Manuel, once again, expressed confidence that his offense will hit, while fully aware that they strung together five hits in a row to score four times in the fourth inning . . . and had just two other hits the rest of the game.

He's also more than cognizant that getting out of Boston, where they were outscored 22-4 in the first two games of the series, isn't an answer all by itself. Not with the defending world champions lurking at Yankee Stadium beginning tomorrow night followed by the first-place Minnesota Twins when they return home next weekend.

Contending teams tend to look to the front office for help as the trading deadline approaches. The Phillies are no exception. And since the brass has been so adept at providing assistance, it would be human nature to expect more of the same.

Instead of looking for outside help this time, though, they had better look around the clubhouse instead.

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|