Quick, quick post this morning, and later on I’ll have another prospect retrospective on Carlos Silva.
On the Phils yesterday: There’s almost no shot to win if you spot Pedro Martinez five runs, but that’s what Jon Lieber surrendered in his fourth-straight loss, which also tied his shortest outing of the season. The offense actually had their chances but couldn’t capitalize, and Bobby Abreu once again failed to come through in a clutch situation.
If blame for the Phils’ fallout can be spread to the players, their approach, passion, the manager, the general manager, etc., then Lieber represents an intangible—that the organization might actually be cursed.
Phans carped that Jon Lieber wasn’t a No. 1, and that’s certainly true now, but based on his performance last season, there’s no reason he couldn’t be this team’s ace and was perfect for Citizen’s Bank Park. Ed Wade will get blamed for Lieber, but shouldn’t. The right-hander’s sharp decline is downright baffling.
He’s also the biggest reason why the Phils are slumping in my opinion. Every five games, you need a rock in the rotation to match the other team’s ace or overmatch a weaker pitcher. Starting pitching is the reason why the team is dropping like stones, and it starts with the heaviest rock, and that’s Lieber. Along with Vicente Padilla, and Robinson Tejeda who’s still far from proven, Lieber represents another uncertain situation every time he steps on the mound. It’s cliche, but I’m a firm believer in the importance of having an ace.
The Phils have no shot at the playoffs if this trend continues.
It’s one of many concerns, but obviously Abreu, Pat Burrell and especially Jim Thome are not producing much in the heart of the order. And I think the team’s impotence against the NL East reinforces the team's lack of guts.
Biggest series of the year
It begins tonight, when red-hot John Smoltz, who was my pick to win the Cy Young, faces ice-cold Vicente Padilla as the Braves come to town. Smoltz is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA and three complete games in his past four starts. So it’s back-to-back tough pitchers for the Phils, along with a home crowd that could turn hostile if Padilla stumbles early.
Like I said last Friday, watch out for those Bravos. They lost two in a row against the Marlins in Florida, but a sweep or series win in Philadelphia could be the start of their annual sprint to September.
On John Marzano
The thing that separates Comcast SportsNet's John Marzano from the rest of the flock is his ability to see grays. Lately, he’s been on the same crusade as Beerleaguer, urging player accountability, instead of blaming the manager or GM. His opinion of Bobby Abreu is the same as mine, and while some dorky pundit yesterday on Daily News Live insisted that Cholly share blame for Jim Thome’s bases-loaded AB Wednesday night, Marzano, a former player, reminded the nerd that Thome is a veteran and shouldn’t make those mistakes.
In my opinion, the emergence of Marzano’s informed, alternative voice is one of the better Phillies-related stories of the season. There’s nothing sensational about it. I compare his approach to that of Tom Jackson covering football on ESPN, along with Ray Didinger of WIP and NFL Films.