Ron Costello

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It's not as bad as it looks; it only seems that way.

Here's the thing. When the 2018 season started the Phillies were a mix of unproven kids, and a few veterans — veterans at the end of their careers. 

Suddenly, playing enough good baseball to rise within the weakest division — surprising everyone —  they abruptly collapsed.

Defensive shifts are here to stay — at least for a while.
The sudden rise credit goes to the manager, Gabe Kapler. By using the modern tactics of baseball — which we'll get to shortly — he molded this group of goulash into a tasty stew. But at the end management — Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak — lost their vision and screwed up the stew.

Thus, the collapse belongs to management for losing track of the season's purpose and destroying the chemistry of the ballclub. They fell for the oldest mistake in the game: Veterans are a  quick fix. They blew up the team and ruined the stew.

But it's all not bad. Much of it is still good.

So with that said, the Phillies need the stones to do what's needed for 2019. Such as:

1. Get Rhys Hoskins out of left field and put him at first, permanently.

2. Do something with Odubel. Trade him, pay him off or use him off the bench. He's owed $23.5 million.

The Faithful have seen enough stupid mistakes from this character — mistakes a little leaguer at Williamsport wouldn't make — and deserve better.  His teammates deserve better. The entire history of the organization deserves better.

Keep Mr. Franco at third base.

3. Keep Maikel Franco at third — and please, don't embarrass yourselves by moving Carlos Santana there. Franco had a decent year and was stellar defensively.

4. Put J.P Crawford at short and leave him there, don't keep benching him or moving him around. 

5. Put Scott Kingery at second and leave him there, don't keep benching him or pinch-hitting for him early. Do Kingery a favor — you owe it to him for how you played him this season — and give him a chance to settle in.

Either trade Cesar Hernandez or use him off the bench. BUT — and this is a big but — if you do use Hernandez off the bench, I don't mean splitting time at short or second. Use him like the Phillies utilized Thomas Perez — pinch-hitting and spot starting. I think he'd be right in that role.

6. With Hoskins at first, what to do with Carlos Santana? He's still owed $35 million over the next two years. Trade him, use him off the bench as a switch-hitting, 33-year-old pinch hitter, or buy him out.

7. Catching. A tough one. Jorge Alfaro hasn't been successful behind the plate. Too many mistakes. Too many pass-balls. But he has speed, a strong arm and has shown signs of power. Would the outfield be a better place for him?

Is Jorge Alfaro still the Phillies number one?

Wilson Ramos could be a solid backup. But let's face it, he'll be 32 next August — 80 in catcher's years — and is as familiar to the DL as obesity is to Pat's and Gino's. 

There are some excellent catchers on the free agent market. And, is there still life with Andrew Knapp? Perhaps if he played consistently he'd do better. Now, where have we heard that before?

8. The rotation is still developing. Aaron Nola is the ace, no doubt. Jake Arrietta deserves another season as number two. It's too early to discount Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Jerald Eickoff; they need and deserve another full season. All four still have enormous potential. 

Could the Phillies use a free agent for the rotation, especially a left-hander? There are two very good lefties on the free agent market: Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Miller. 

For a team, so bent on analytics, it's head scratting to have an entire right-handed rotation.

9. The bullpen is a work in progress, too. It does not need a do-over. Its had it's ups and downs, granted, but questionable managerial moves caused some of the downs.

Hector Neris, Louis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Romos, Victor Arano, Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos, Seranthony Dominguez, plus the two veterans Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter — and the left-hander Aaron Loup — is a strong core to build around.

10. Finally, the to-do about the new modern techniques of baseball. My last post, the one about changes, drew over 12,000 viewers and many comments. Most of the commenters want manager Kapler fired. Most said the new techniques are ridiculous, stupid, and should be immediately eliminated — see previous post above.
Manager Kapler needs to make adjustments.

Change is one of the most challenging parts of life. For all of us, but especially with the Phillies Faithful: loyal fans that have played the game, watched it, and are the most knowledgable fans in baseball. 

And change is here. It isn't only with Mr. Kapler and the Phillies management. It's in baseball across the board. Analytics, defensive shifts, hitting against defensive shifts, player moves, bullpen usage, and other changes are here. Will they be here to stay? Only time will tell. 

Hopefully, Mr. Kapler — who seems like a good man — will look at the 2018  season and make adjustments. Maybe, he'll better understand the old and proven ways, like hit and run, sacrificing and giving one's self up moving runners, and letting players like Mr. Kingery "settle in" at one position.

Because this old rule never dies: They don't fire the team.

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