So far, the spring has left me very frustrated. Not frustrated like most dogs are before you get them ‘fixed,’ but I suppose ‘agitated’ would be a better word. The Phillies have begun what looks to be a disappointing season, and one that is not going to be fun to either watch occasionally or just read the reports for. And to think a couple of weeks ago I was really considering going to a few games over the summer…
But to bring back the dog metaphor, it appears that, without Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and a performing Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies seem to be just a regular old mutt in the pack rather than the pedigree that won five NL East titles in a row. It really doesn’t look like there could be a quick fix, and that fans are just going to have to suck it up and wait until Howard and Utley get better and the offense can score a few runs.
Now, it was easy to foresee that without Ryan Howard and his 33 home runs last season that the Phillies would be missing something on offense. The offense fell apart in the playoffs against the St Louis Cardinals after Howard was injured (and the squirrel incident) because the offense is so dependent on Howard for getting a large percentage of the team’s homers.
This is even more vital when the team itself hit 153 home runs all of last season, meaning that Howard was responsible for just under a fifth of all home runs.
To compound the problem, when they knew that Howard was going to be injured through the beginning of the season, the Phillies decided to let Raul Ibanez go, their second most prolific home run hitter last season. While Ibanez was getting old and had to be given a new contract, it would still have been better to keep your second best hitter when you know that your big guy is going to be injured for a long period.
Unless you think that you can get someone to replace Howard in free agency, then you have to have a backup plan and I refuse to accept that Jim Thome, Ty Wiggington, John Mayberry Jr. or a combination of the three is going to produce even half of the output that Howard has over the past few years or even match that of Ibanez.
The offense is about as useful as ice skates on a beaver, and despite the great pitching staff available, this season will not end well without somebody who can drive in runs.
However, the season should surely have an upside since the Phillies will at some stage have to go play in the new Miami stadium. Since the Marlins just had a state of the art stadium built for them in Miami they have managed to fill it with all sorts of cool contraptions that a traditional stadium, like the Phillies have built, would have. Behind the fence there is a nightclub that continues long after the game is over, there is a swimming pool in the VIP section and a retractable roof designed to keep the stadium cool for the summer. This is a stadium that has everything and more, and that might be some fun to go see, but it will never be quite right since baseball is about the baseball and the fans, not the nightclubs and partying.
Marlins Park could be a sign of the future of baseball, turning more into baseball and American football with the added attractions, but baseball occurs much more often than either of the other two and the game would eventually win out over special attractions. But most importantly it is going to be enjoyable watching the Phillies getting their season back on track at the Marlins and getting a whitewash there.
James is a sophomore. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.