Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's injury in last year's playoffs helped unravel his team's 2012 season. Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Phillies Officially Dead Meat

These are the saddest of all possible words: dumping salary. That is a far more onerous phrase in modern baseball than the famous Tinker to Evers to Chance poem written by Franklin P. Adams about being doomed on a ground ball-turned-double play and the Philadelphia Phillies are living their own particular nightmare built around the payroll maneuver this summer.

The bad news culminated on Tuesday at the trading deadline when the Phillies officially waved the white flag of surrender to their fans and the baseball world by shipping out Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to other teams accompanied by deep sighs and the recognition that the 2012 season is not going to end in the World Series, but more likely in last place in the National League East.

Four months ago I was one of the pre-season optimists who felt the Phillies had the best team in baseball. That was when we all believed that Ryan Howard would return to the lineup a bit sooner than July 6 and that the rest of the gang could protect the fort until he resumed his slugging ways. Wrong.

When Howard made the last out of the Phillies’ playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals last fall, no one recognized at the time that the play on which he injured his Achilles tendon simultaneously was going to wreck two Philadelphia seasons. Howard’s was the biggest bat in the lineup, but the Phillies were a solid, all-around team with formidable starting pitching. The Phillies went out and signed Jim Thome as a stop-gap slugger/first baseman until Howard’s return.

So far, so good, it seemed. But that turned out to be the first mistake. Thome could no longer play the field and his recalcitrant back had his availability going up and down like an elevator. His best position was designated hitter, but the National League doesn’t provide for one, so the Phils couldn’t get maximum use out of him. When things went haywire, Thome was the first to go, to the American League Orioles.

But that was a symptom rather than a cause. The entire system collapsed. Chase Utley got hurt and missed most of the season until recently (25 games played, .236 average to date). Ace pitcher Roy Halladay got hurt and at the moment is a four-game winner for 2012. Ouch. Ace No. 2 Cliff Lee is 2-6. Yikes. Pence was the team’s best hitter with 17 homers and 59 RBIs and he now plays for the San Francisco Giants. Victorino had nine homers and 40 RBIs and he now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Based on those last two departures, Philadelphia needs a new outfield. Actually, what the Phillies need is about 90 days off. It’s called the off-season. Some players need to adjourn to a Wellness Center for peace, quiet, and resting achy muscles. The Phils need to start all over again and forget 2012 ever happened.




Tags: Baltimore Orioles Chance Chase Utley Cliff Lee Designated Hitter Evers Franklin P. Adams Hunter Pence Jim Thome Los Angeles Dodgers National League East NL West Philadelphia Phillies Roy Halladay Ryan Howard San Francisco Giants Shane Victorino St Louis Cardinals Tinker World Series

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