When the Phillies said goodbye to three coaches last week, the underlying message was the team seeks to improve fundamentals. Will it make a difference?
The post-season forever serves as a reminder of how good teams win. After watching a summer of Phillies baseball, there is a tendency to accept what we see as standard, when in fact, there should be more. Sure, they're playing hard, but are they doing all they can?
The Phillies were a flawed team in 2006, not just in their pitching, but defensively and fundamentally. The Phillies plan to address this by replacing three coaches, including bench coach Gary Varsho.
Over the season, there was no more deplorable single aspect of Phillies baseball than bunting, and I think it serves as an excellent sampling of their failure. If they managed to lay one down, it was a miracle, and when they did, chances are it was too hard, too soft or popped in the air for an easy out.
Readers wondered how such a basic play could be lost on an entire team. I wondered, too. My theory is those tools are lost somewhere in the farm system, and for some reason, never revisited in the majors. In other words, there's an organizational breakdown from beginning to end.
Here's something else. After a season of close study, no pitchers looked as overmatched at the plate as the Phillies. For half the season, the broadcasters reminded us how much Jon Lieber and Brett Myers enjoyed hitting. Great guys. Fantastic. Lieber dropped his bat on five hits; Myers collected a grand total of two.
Here's even more. Remember the days when Terry Mulholland would pick off runners at will? Maybe I was away from the set, but I never saw any of the three whole pick-off plays the Phillies managed to uncork. At least one was by catcher Carlos Ruiz, because I remember reading your comments about it.
If you have doubts that core fundamental changes – reinforced through practice, instruction and drills – can happen without a change in field manager and clubhouse culture, you’re not alone, nor do I believe that foundation can be set without a sweeping change in developmental philosophy.
If Monday's dismissals of Dancy, Bombard and Varsho were designed as the solution, it's a cop out. Acknowledging this deep-rooted problem isn't enough. They're only scratching the surface.