Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jimmy crack corn, and we need him back!

And now a report from hippie-dippie weatherman Al Sleet.

Tonight's forecast: Dark.

Ah, the words from the late-great George Carlin were wondrously prophetic of the Philadelphia Phillies' present state. These are indeed dark times for the Phitins', and they would all welcome even some widely scattered light in their sky.

Sure, the Phillies are over their scoreless spell, but we expected a little more moisture than this. The offense has been atrocious, while the pitching has been a mix of brilliant and so-so. The latter has been the case all season, but the hurlers didn't have to worry that much with the big boys clocking the ball all over the place in April and early May.

To give an idea of just how bad things are going, the Phillies are 2-9 in their current slide. Before the down spiral they had the best record in the National League, but in each of these past 11 games the Phils haven't managed more than three runs, while getting outscored 50-14. The last time Phlly went 11 consecutive games scoring three or fewer runs was their first 11 to open the 1997 season. That year, the Phils finished tied for the worst record in the NL.

It's very hard to imagine that such a potent lineup would be capable of falling to those depths.

Here's an even creepier fact: this freefall began the first day Jimmy Rollins returned to the DL for the second time this season.

I realize the original story of the song I referenced in the title of this posting is about a slave mourning the death of his master. Certainly that doesn't reflect the present day, but it's interesting how J-Roll's absence has seemed to control the Phillies on their present course.

That argument at first glance appears pretty weak, as the team went along fine when Rollins was out for nearly a month earlier this year. However, when J-Roll came back the first time, the Phillies only had their veteran leader and former MVP for FIVE DAYS before he went down again. I'm not a major league player, but such a quick switch from misfortune to fortune and back to misfortune must have been quite frustrating. The roller coaster ride may have affected the players more than they realized, and Placido Polanco recently going down couldn't have helped.

Rollins is recognized as one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, and Polanco is one of the best contact hitters. When they're both out, it can have a negative impact on the offense. The way the Phillies are playing right now, they're probably begging for the return of No. 1 and No. 2 in the lineup.

At the same time, we have to remember that these are veteran major league hitters who have all experienced the loss of key guys before. They should be coping with it much better than they are. The Phillies played just fine when Rollins made his first trip to the DL in 2008, and the team made it to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years while dealing with major injuries during all of 2007.

Given how tightly packed the standings are in the NL East, the Phillies could quickly find themselves in last place if they stay on their current course. Jayson Werth recently tried to put a rosy spin on the situation when he said, "We've played about as bad as we can here the past few weeks, and we're still in pretty good shape. I think sometimes all the negative talk needs to be looked at with the big picture in mind."

I'm sorry, Jayson, but you guys are presently smearing paint all over that big picture like distracted children in art class. You've gotten teacher Charlie so fed up that he's actually using big words like "big-headed" and "cockiness." There aren't any rainbows or sunshine, and the daily lineup is devoid of any gold stars.

It's time to fix this mess and fix it fast. The Phillies need to find themselves just to survive Interleague Play. Crossover games have never been kind to the team, aside from the big exception of the 2008 World Series. The players should try and summon the mentality of that triumph because they're definitely not playing like champions right now.

And just in case that's not enough, Jimmy, please hurry back.

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