Marcus Hayes: Beware: Phillies' season can be hazardous to your health

Posted: July 10, 2012

THIS PHILLIES season is a like a bad picnic. Most of the stuff in the basket you don't like. The rest is spoiled. You eat it, and you get sick.

The stuff you don't like revolves around injuries. Not the lingering ones, around which you have to plan. Just the new ones, for which you cannot plan.

Ace righthander Roy Halladay missing at least 10 starts with a back strain is crippling. Young reliever Michael Stutes pitching six times hurts, too.

The rest wrenches your guts.

The E. coli of 2012 centers on the absence of foresight concerning the crippled infield.

Somehow, the Phillies managed to enter the season not knowing they would be missing $15 million second baseman Chase Utley and $20 million first baseman Ryan Howard for the first 3 months.

For some reason they believed 36-year-old third baseman Placido Polanco, who, in an injury-addled 2011 endured the worst season of his career, would be dependable in 2012.

Either they need better doctors or they need better luck.

Probably the former.

Utley, Howard and Polanco don't pitch, but they make the bullpen better. When they're healthy, they produce runs, which means easier innings later in games. So, when Utley and Howard returned, all would be well, right?

Utley homered in his 2012 debut June 27, one of his three hits, which helped the Phillies to seven runs.

In that same game, Phillies relievers walked the leadoff batter to start three separate innings. The Pirates scored three runs in each of those innings. The third time, Chad Qualls transformed a one-run molehill in the eighth into a four-run mountain.

Similarly, Howard doubled and singled in his return Friday.

Antonio Bastardo gave up five runs in the eighth inning of a scoreless tie.

Everyone makes mistakes, and Qualls was Ruben Amaro Jr.'s big miss; salmonella in spikes.

Amaro signed Qualls as insurance against the injury to Jose Contreras, the second-half struggles of Stutes and the late-season woes of Bastardo.

Contreras never really recovered. Stutes was injured in spring training and underwent surgery in June. Bastardo is as flammable as a western meadow in midsummer drought.

Qualls just made you queasy.

In his last 30 games he blew five saves, had a 5.47 earned-run average and opposing hitters hit a robust .324 against him.

By comparison, Kyle Kendrick, the pitcher everyone loves to hate, is 51 points better.

Amaro gifted Qualls to the Yankees.

Plenty of potato salad remains.

Neither Shane Victorino nor Jimmy Rollins has played poorly enough to be benched … nor has either played to his capability. This pair shares five All-Star appearances and six Gold Gloves.

Each has enough speed and power to spark an offense alone.

Rollins is hitting .256; Victorino, .245.

Rollins was at .224 as late as May 28. Victorino was on a 2-for-20 run entering Sunday.

Before Sunday's game Victorino sat at his locker, surly and silent. He refused to speak with reporters. He remained dressed in his street clothes as late as noon. He was in the lineup, batting seventh and playing centerfield.

Asked about his temperamental former All Star, Manuel replied at 12:25, "He's having a bad day, I guess."

Manuel said Victorino had not been traded.

About 10 minutes later, after a talk at his locker with Manuel, Victorino was scratched from the lineup.

The hope was, with Rollins and Victorino setting the table, Hunter Pence would eat big and healthy.

The hope was, Pence would be hitting more than a sickly .226 with runners in scoring position. Pence is having a fine season … but, again, the Phillies needed Pence to exceed his previous levels, not just meet them.

Having Cliff Lee simply meet his previous levels would have blunted the botulism.

Much is made of Lee's hard-luck losses, where the offense or the bullpen abandoned him.

Make no mistake: Lee is 1-5 in 14 starts mainly because Lee has a 3.98 ERA. Lee gave up 21 runs in his first nine starts … and gave up 20 more in his next four starts, all of which come in the Phillies' disastrous June.

Lee makes $21.5 million, the money an ace makes.

An ace wins a couple when the team needs him most.

Ergo …

The worst loss of the year came Thursday at Citi Field. It wasn't sickening; just disheartening.

The prize of the offseason, closer Jonathan Papelbon, not only blew a save against the Mets, he did so messily. He hit a batter. He walked a batter.

Inexcusable.

It was the worst loss, and it hurt most, because it interrupted a norm.

Papelbon has been excellent.

Imperfect, but excellent.

In a basket full of putrid.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/MarcusHayes.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|