Rollins after loss: 'Don't waste your time, guys'
There really isn’t much anyone can say about the Phillies latest loss or the way the first half to the 2012 season has unfolded. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to hear from a team leader following the Phillies’ 4-3 loss to the Braves at the Bank on Sunday afternoon.
But Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were nowhere to be found near their lockers. Presumably, the pair of former All-Stars were getting treatment for the injuries that kept them out of the lineup for most of the season. And when Jimmy Rollins slowly dressed and sauntered out of the clubhouse after his latest 0 for 4, all he had for the press was a few pithy words.
“Don’t waste your time, guys,” the longest tenured Phillie said as he exited the room.
Perhaps that’s the working title for the 2012 Phillies highlight video?
Again, there isn’t anything that can be said about the state of the Phillies to make it any less harrowing. Sunday’s loss was the Phillies’ fourth in a row, 10th in their last 11 games and 25th defeat since June 1. It also sent them into the All-Star break with their worst record (37-50) since 1997 when they were 24-61 and with their largest deficit in the NL East (14 games) since 2002 when they trailed by 16 games.
Last year when the Phillies won a franchise record 102 games they didn’t lose their 50th game until Sept. 12. This year they got there before the All-Star game.
“It’s kind of wearing on me, but we just don’t play good enough to win,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “In most of our games we get to a point and something happens. We don’t execute and we make mistakes and we lose the game. We don’t play well enough to win. We don’t beat people.”
Afterwards in the quiet clubhouse where All-Stars Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Paplebon quietly gathered their gear for the trip to Kansas City, guys like Jason Pridie and Vance Worley were left to handle the media. Pridie was the team’s lone bright spot at the plate, going 2 for 3 with all three RBIs with two coming on a homer in the second inning. Pridie got the start after Shane Victorino was a late scratch.
“You just have to stay ready,” said Pridie, who has appeared in four games for the Phillies this season and 116 big league games going back to 2008. “I was in the cage when they came to tell me I was starting in center field, so I was just trying to stay ready.”
Batting just .245, Victorino got the day off when Manuel went over to chat with him before the game. Victorino was down and feeling badly with the way things had been going so the manager decided to give him his first day off of the season. It was more of a mental-health break than anything, Manuel said.
Still, Pridie’s pair of extra-base hits in the game are more than Victorino has had in a month. A day off seemed long overdue.
“He’s going through a tough time,” Manuel said about Victorino.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t like the Braves piled up the runs against Worley. Instead, after six innings and 104 pitches, Worley turned a tied game over to the bullpen in the seventh. From there, all it took was one swing and the Phillies renewed the tried-and-true theme of the 2012 season when reliever Raul Valdes gave up a two-out, two-strike home run to Phillie-killer Brian McCann. Because the Phillies offense shut it down after Pridie’s fourth-inning double, getting just one more hit the rest of the game, McCann’s blast was more than enough.
Afterwards, Manuel was asked to come up with new ways to describe the tired, old story. Another game, another brief rise from the offense followed by a weak spot in the bullpen … game over. Now Manuel was asked to ponder if it’s game over for the 2012 season. Trailing the Nationals by 15 games in the NL East and the Braves by 10 games for the second wild-card spot, the Phillies’ run of five straight trips to the playoffs is hanging by a thread. Even the chronically optimistic Manuel allowed that it was going to be difficult for the Phillies to catch up in the standings.
Difficult, Manuel said, but not impossible.
“I believe [we still have a chance],” Manuel said. “I’ll always believe because that’s the way you have to go about it. You have to try hard enough and put forth the effort. I’ve seen it done before, but it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult. We would probably have to play the best baseball that we ever played.”
Still, it’s been so long since the Phillies have been this bad that folks, spoiled from an unprecedented era of success from the Phillies, almost don’t know how to handle it. For a team to struggle in a little more than three months while facing injuries from key players like Howard, Utley, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jose Contreras, Freddy Galvis, Jim Thome, Mike Stutes, Justin DeFratus, Placido Polanco, Laynce Nix and Worley is understandable and probably expected.
But could a season like this cost the manager his job? After the game Manuel asked if he was concerned about his job.
“How concerned am I? I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself,” Manuel said. “I am a fighter. And not only that, I think I’m a winner.”
Manuel, the all-time leader in managerial wins and one of just three men to win a World Series as the manager of a Philadelphia-based major league baseball team, signed a three-year contract extension prior to the 2011 season. He’s never won fewer than 85 games with the Phillies and never finished lower than second place.
“I’ve been a winner ever since I’ve been in the game,” Manuel said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence. I’ll do my job as hard as possibly can ... and that’s all I can do. The rest is out of my control.”
The Phillies are off until Friday when they start the second half in Colorado with Lee and his one win on the mound. Worley says the team is looking forward to the break so it can regroup and clear its heads before the stretch run approaches.
Needless to say, the Phillies will find out quickly if it’s worth it. There will be an answer very soon if it will be worth the time for the Phillies.
“Don’t waste your time, guys …”E-mail John Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org.