Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

It's about time those 80-mph heaters caught up to the old man.

Sad as it may seem, Jamie Moyer is now the latest Phillie to take a ride on the DL carousel, which is becoming so crowded that it's turning into a maniacal game of spinning musical chairs. Kyle Kendrick was the man left standing as he was demoted to Triple-A. I don't see Andrew Carpenter or J.A. Happ changing the team's present fortune. It looks like the Phils are going to limp their way to the Trade Deadline.

It's incredible we got Moyer's services for this long. He's reached double figures in wins every full season he's spent with the Phightins', even leading the squad with 16 in 2008. He hasn't played less than a full season since 2000 when he was already in his late 30s.

After Moyer was forced to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez last season, he proved his value this past spring and made it back to the rotation. He was as consistent as anyone could hope to be at his age, and hitters still admired his deceptive style on the mound. He was the third-best starter behind Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and I wouldn't be surprised if his elbow began bothering him well before tonight.

Make no bones about it, this team is lost right now. The impulsive decision to option Kendrick appears like a virtual swing and miss at a bad pitch. The NL East has reverted back to its mid-2000s form with the Braves comfortably sitting in first place and the Phillies wallowing in mediocrity with the rest of the division. They managed to pull themselves out to make late runs in '05 and '06, and I'm wondering if they have the same fight in them this time. I can't make any predictions at this point.

The Phillies aren't going anywhere with their present group, so the only card left to play is a major trade. They need a starting pitcher now more than ever, and the option of trading Jayson Werth before the deadline - judging from the growing noise of frustration from the fans and the media - is becoming more of a possibility each passing day. His - and Happ's - involvement in a possible swap for a right-handed hurler would protect more prospects, but Werth's value is falling sharply with each strikeout. As far as other teams are concerned, 2009 may as well have been a fluke for the right fielder.

Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren and Ben Sheets have all been thrown around as possible names for a trade. All of them are stretches due to Oswalt's full no-trade clause and Haren's and Sheets' inconsistency (not to mention they're both injury-prone). The Phillies are maxed out on payroll so if they're serious about a deal, they're going to give up more than what's comfortable for them, particularly when dealing with the Astros, Diamondbacks and A's, who are all out of contention.

There's no perfect solution to this problem, and Ruben Amaro, Jr., said a pitcher alone is not going to get the Phillies back to the World Series, and he's right. The offense has been stuck in a coma for the better part of the season. But Amaro is dealing with a spoiled fanbase that has grown too accustomed to winning and is still angry at him for letting Cliff Lee get away before the start of this season. Whatever lies ahead for the team after July 31, he will be the scapegoat for any major failures.

But it's not Amaro's fault. This group was talented enough at the start of the year to become the first National League team in nearly 70 years to appear in the Fall Classic three straight times. Injuries to several key pieces of the puzzle have negatively affected the team more than anyone is willing to admit.

The tone of this post makes it sound like I'm throwing in the towel, but I'm merely explaining the reality of the Phillies' predicament. It's still very possible to snap out of this funk and make a run, but I will not feign shocking disappointment if that doesn't happen. Philly's morale is broken and it can't be restored until the players rediscover the confidence that made them the team to beat.

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