COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 season died a slow death over the last six months, and all that's left to do is determine the cause of death.
Luckily for you, Dr. Bob is here.
First, let's examine just how ugly this lost season got for the Phillies. It was the team's first losing season since 2002 and its fewest wins since 2000. The Phillies' 73-89 record placed them fourth in the NL East, behind the rebuilding New York Mets. The team's average of only 3.77 runs per game was a lowly 13th out of 15 in the NL. The team ERA of 4.32 was the second-worst in the NL. And the team WHIP of 1.436 was also second-worst in the NL. The losing cost World Series championship manager Charlie Manuel his job. Heck, even the attendance was down to an average of 37,190 per game in 2013 after the team had a major league-high 44,021 per game in 2012.
So what went wrong? How about everything.
The Phillies suffered injuries to key players. The young players they hoped would progress, didn't impress. Their free-agent signings produced almost nothing. The effort wasn't always there. And Father Time was not kind to the veterans on the roster.
The injuries weren't exactly a shock. Ryan Howard hasn't been right since he blew out his Achilles while making the last out of the NLDS in 2011. He's a big man and he's getting older. He eventually had season-ending knee surgery in July. Mike Adams was damaged goods when the Phillies signed him, and he ended up having shoulder surgery. Roy Halladay has thrown a lot of pitches in his first-ballot Hall of Fame career and his arm just may be out of bullets; 2013 was Doc's second lost season in a row. Ben Revere started out slowly then once he got hot, he broke his ankle in July and was lost for the season. Reliever Antonio Bastardo was suspended 50 games for PED use. And Carlos Ruiz missed the first 25 games of the season serving his own PED suspension.
The free agents that were signed before the season produced almost nothing. Michael Young played decent and that made him the standout among the free agents. Delmon Young was an unmitigated disaster before he was released. Chad Durbin had nothing left in his arm. John Lannan battled a knee injury that ultimately required surgery and added almost nothing to the pitching staff. And I already mentioned Adams.
Jimmy Rollins had the worst statistical year of his career. Kyle Kendrick had an epic nose-dive in the second half. Cole Hamels pitched like an ace in the second half, but not so much in the first half. Domonic Brown progressed, but it is worth wondering if he will ever fulfill the lofty potential that was predicted for him. The young pitchers in the bullpen that looked promising at the end of last season regressed in 2013. Jonathan Papelbon has lost a couple mph off his fastball and is now much more hittable. And although Chase Utley remained healthy most of the season, he is no longer the best second baseman in baseball.
When it became obvious that the season was lost, youngsters like Darin Ruf, Cody Asche, Justin DeFratus and Jake Diekman all got a chance to play regularly. All did fairly well, but more is needed from them going forward if this team hopes to get back to its winning ways. We also found out that Freddy Galvis is nothing more than a light-hitting utility player. Same probably goes for Cesar Hernandez.
Most of those problems can be laid squarely at the feet of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Amaro took over a team coming off of a championship in 2008 and went backwards.
Here is how the Phillies have done since Amaro took over as GM:
- 2009: Lost in World Series
- 2010: Lost in NLCS
- 2011: Lost in NLDS
- 2012: Missed playoffs with .500 record
- 2013: Missed playoffs with a losing record
What's next, challenging the Houston Astros for the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft?
Amaro is squarely in the crosshairs now. After firing Manuel, he has nobody left to blame for an underachieving team with a payroll more than $160 million. The problem for Amaro is that there is no quick fix for a roster filled with high-priced veterans. He can't rebuild and if guys like Howard, Rollins, Utley and Papelbon don't at least come close to their former selves, the team could be even worse next season.
Oh, sure, a rotation headed by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee is impressive, but Amaro needs to figure out whether Halladay is done and Kendrick is worth re-signing. The bullpen needs to be almost completely rebuilt, but that all may hinge Papelbon. Will he continue to deteriorate? Will Brown continue to improve and become the star player he was predicted to be? Can Howard and Utley stay healthy? Will the team re-sign Carlos Ruiz since there are no viable alternatives in the minors? Can Lee remain a dominant pitcher in his mid-30s?
That's a lot of question marks for a team on the brink of oblivion like the Phillies, but that's an article for another day. This was just an excuse to pick over the dead carcass of a bad Philadelphia Phillies team.
The Philadelphia Phillies ' 2013 season is dead and buried and this autopsy didn't produce any surprises. Now it's time for Amaro to try to pump some life back into this one proud franchise. I'm just not sure he's up to the task.
Bob Whalon is a life-long Philadelphia sports follower who follows the home teams religiously, but isn't above pointing out what they're doing wrong. The highlight of his sports fandom was the Phillies' 2008 World Championship, and he isn't quite ready to let go of the greatest era of Phillies baseball just yet.
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