Four measly games over .500 and losers of four-of-five since the break, the Phillies haven't resembled a World Series contender for two months, yet it's mostly the same squad that won the Pennant the last two seasons. Decisions, decisions. (Getty)
Time to walk in Ruben Amaro's shoes. For argument's sake, your squad is seven games out on July 31 and four back in the Wild Card. You have history and Chase Utley on your side for the stretch run. But you know deep down that your team hasn't demonstrated playoff-caliber baseball for two months and the Braves have shown no signs of falling out of contention.
Last night didn't provide much clarity on what the second-year GM should do. The Phillies built an early lead and finished with 13 hits, but in the fifth, Kyle Kendrick released all the air from the balloon by surrendering three homers and an RBI double in a 8-4 loss to the Cardinals. Kendrick has been hit or miss lately, but afterward, Charlie Manuel caught some well-deserved flack for keeping Kendrick in the game to get his brains beaten in. A call to the 'pen appeared to be made only after the second homer.
In a few days, Amaro will decide whether to buy, sell or stand pat, and a strong case can be made for all three. The Phillies have openly dabbled in the pitching market and last night's outing reiterated why. However, take a look at their prospect inventory and they may only hold enough chips to outbid another club for a "good" starter without sacrificing a marquee player like Domonic Brown. Hypothetically, even if they could afford a pitcher like Ted Lilly or even Dan Haren, would that improve their odds to a much greater degree than standing pat and having J.A. Happ back healthy, Utley in September and players reverting to career norms? On the other hand, there is a growing sense that their two-month dry spell is the new reality and the time is right to restock by trading Jayson Werth, and also, possibly, pending free agents like J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin.
And that is why they pay Rube the big bucks.Readers: "Phils offense had 17 baserunners last night, everyone getting a hit besides Valdez (0-2 w RISP). The 3-4-5 hitters went 6-12 with 2 BB. The Phils only scored 4 runs and lost anyway. Why? A combination of missed opportunities and, mostly, Kendrick. The other thing that stands out in my mind is that the Cards walked Kendrick twice, and it didn't seem to lead to much damage with the 7, 1-2 batters going 2-14 with 0 BB. Against RHP Ruiz needs to be higher in the order. Feels like the Phils have been wasting his quality AB for half a season. The team hitting since Utley went down now stands at .233/.296/.398." - Sophist