Inside the Phillies: History says Phils still have a good shot

Phillies Ben revere scored what turned out to be the winning run off a Jimmy Rollins single in the 6th inning on Monday, July 8, 2013 at Citizens Bank Park. ( RON CORTES / Staff Photographer ).
Phillies Ben revere scored what turned out to be the winning run off a Jimmy Rollins single in the 6th inning on Monday, July 8, 2013 at Citizens Bank Park. ( RON CORTES / Staff Photographer ).
Posted: July 10, 2013

It sounded like another reason for the Phillies to be sellers about three weeks before the July 31 trade deadline.

A torn meniscus in Ryan Howard's left knee will require surgery, and the first baseman will miss six to eight weeks, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday before the start of the Phillies' important four-game series with the Washington Nationals. It will be nearing late August in six weeks and it will be early September in eight.

No Howard or Roy Halladay for the foreseeable future. No Mike Adams for the rest of the season. No significant momentum since the start of the season.

Sell, sell, sell, the situation screams.

The situation, however, ignores the recent past.

It ignores the fact that a lot of teams have faced situations similar to the one the Phillies find themselves in now and still managed to make a miraculous run deep into the postseason, sometimes even winning it all.

It ignores the fact that the Phillies finally may be gathering momentum. They won Monday for the fifth time in seven games, beating the Nationals, 3-2, behind an eight-inning gem by former Washington pitcher John Lannan and three hits from Ben Revere, who is hitting .404 since June 11 and .300 overall.

Remember the 2005 Houston Astros?

Charlie Manuel does.

"They came from way back," the Phillies manager said before the game.

The Astros were 15 games under .500 at one point in 2005, and after the games of July 8 they were seven games back in the wild-card race with four teams in front of them. Like the Phillies, they were an aging team with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell on their last legs.

Astros general manager Tim Purpura opted to do nothing of significance at the trade deadline. The Astros earned the wild-card berth and reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Stories like that one have been unfolding in big-league baseball ever since. The St. Louis Cardinals won just 83 games in 2006, but they still won the World Series. The Colorado Rockies were one game over .500 on Aug. 23, 2007, and five teams were ahead of them in the wild-card race. They played in the World Series that year.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd essentially stood pat at the trade deadline.

The Phillies, of course, trailed the New York Mets by seven games with 17 to play in 2007 and won their first division title since 1993. The most significant moves by general manager Pat Gillick at that trade deadline were acquiring Tadahito Iguchi for Michael Dubee and Kyle Lohse for Matt Maloney.

Neither move was earth-shattering, but both were vital to the Phillies' run.

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 even though they were 10 games behind in the wild-card standings on Aug. 27.

Two solid bullpen additions might be just the thing to keep the Phillies in a race they have been unable to play themselves out of through the first 90 games. Kevin Gregg has had a comeback season with the Chicago Cubs. John Axford is pitching well in Milwaukee.

Maybe dealing Michael Young to a team such as the New York Yankees for a big-league-ready bullpen arm and letting Cody Asche play third base for the rest of the season is the way to get better now and later.

The point is that selling is hardly the Phillies' only option as the trade deadline approaches.

Only the Yankees have been better than the Phillies after the midpoint of the season since Manuel took over as manager in 2005. But that's not the only reason Amaro sees hope even as his highest-paid position player gets set for surgery.

"I also have to take into account what has been happening," he said. "We're starting to swing the bats more consistently and getting a lot more production out of guys. Ben Revere and Delmon Young are starting to produce and do some things for us, and that is always a good sign. Everybody wants everybody to produce right away, but you have to have some level of patience, and we'll try to be prudent when we make decisions here at the end of July."

Based on the recent past and the potential for the immediate future, small additions look like a much better option than huge subtractions for these Phillies.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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