The 2019 season did not play out as hoped for Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies
The 2019 season opened with great expectations and much fanfare for the Philadelphia Phillies. After suffering through seven consecutive non-winning campaigns, this one was finally going to be different.
General manager Matt Klentak swung a few key trades, including a pair especially aimed at improving the everyday lineup by landing a pair of all-stars in shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The season began with an exhilarating sweep of the defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves in front of raucous crowds at Citizens Bank Park. More than 41,000 showed up for each of those opening series victories.
After the Phillies took all three games by a combined 23-11 score, they appeared to be off and running towards greatness. Following a 7-2 start the club began to level off, finishing April with a 16-13 mark. But that still left them in first place with a one game lead.
In May, the Phillies picked up the pace a bit. They would go 17-11 in the month, and began the month of June still on top of the division while holding a three-game lead.
However, storm clouds had begun to roll in to South Philly. A bullpen that would become decimated by injuries was already weakened by the loss of Robertson. The veteran free agent signing, one of the top relief pitcher in baseball over the previous decade, would appear in just seven games, none after April 14.
Coming off a road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee in which the Phillies went 4-3 against a pair of tough opponents, center fielder Odubel Herrera was arrested for domestic assault on his 20-year-old girlfriend at an Atlantic City casino hotel. Herrera would end up suspended for the season by Major League Baseball.
Less than a week later in the finale of a series in San Diego in which the Phillies were swept by the host Padres, McCutchen suffered a torn left ACL and would also be done for the year. Within a matter of days, the Phillies had lost two-thirds of their starting outfield for the season.
That sweep in San Diego began a June swoon in which the club went just 11-16. Included was a seven-game losing streak during the middle of the month that would be the Phillies longest losing streak of the year. It was part of a stretch of 11 losses in 13 games that dropped them from first place with a two game lead to second place and 6.5 games behind the surging Braves.
The Phillies stabilized a bit in July, going 12-11 over the course of the month. But they were establishing a roller coaster pattern of wins and losses, never able to put together a five-game winning streak all year long.
On the fourth of July, the Washington Nationals pushed past the Phillies in the division standings. By the end of the month they were a half-game behind the Nats in what was becoming a multi-team battle for one of the two National League Wildcard playoff berths.
August was just more of the up and down ride on the 2019 roller coaster. The team went 13-14 during the month, only losing as many as three in a row on one occasion, but unable to win more than four in a row themselves.
The high-point of not only the month but the entire season may have come on August 15. It was certainly the most memorable game and moment.
The Phillies trailed the Cubs by 5-0 into the bottom of the 8th that night at Citizens Bank Park. They got on the scoreboard with a run, but still trailed by 5-1 as the game went to the bottom of the 9th inning.
The club pushed two runs across to make it a 5-3 game, and Harper stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to play the hero. Did he ever, delivering a walk-off grand slam home run for a 7-5 victory to pull the Phillies within a game of the Cubs in the Wildcard race.
However, they were unable to build any momentum from the uplifting victory. After dropping three of four to end August, the playoff berth that appeared a given during the season’s first couple of months was in serious jeopardy. In fact, the New York Mets had taken their turn in getting hot, pulling within a half-game of the Phillies in the standings as the month ended.
Still, the Phillies entered September with a legitimate chance. They still could have gotten hot – finally – and fought into the postseason. The club began September just three games behind the Chicago Cubs for the final Wildcard spot.
The Cubs would collapse to an 11-16 finish over that final month. Unfortunately, the Phillies would go just 12-16. Following a September 18 victory over Atlanta, the club was still six games over the .500 mark and now within two games of the final playoff berth.
Instead of surging, they slumped. The Phillies dropped eight of their next nine games to fall below the .500 mark for the first time all season and drop completely out of the playoff race. Winning two of their final three, the club would up with an eighth straight non-winning season, finishing exactly at 81-81.
The culprits? The major injuries to the bullpen and outfield were certainly significant contributors. Both the offensive attack and starting pitching were inconsistent all year long. Klentak’s inability to add an ace-level starting pitcher by the trade deadline was also a factor.
With the disappointing finish, the job security of Klentak, club president Andy MacPhail, and manager Gabe Kapler came into question. Many fans called for the heads of one or all of them on the internet and local sports talk radio.
Earlier this week, I gave my opinion as to what I believe Middleton should do in the Kapler and Klentak situations. I had already commented on MacPhail earlier in the summer. You can read each of those pieces at the links following this piece.
This should have been not only a winning season, but a playoff season. Now, whatever management team is in place will need to fill the holes and attempt to position the Phillies for a winning 2020 season.
The following are my grades for every player who appeared with the club during this 2019 campaign. I factored in not only statistical performance, but also the expectations for the player when the season began.
GRADE: I (incomplete)
Nick Williams, Logan Morrison, Jose Pirela, Deivy Grullon, Mitch Walding, Dylan Cozens, Rob Brantly, Enyel De Los Santos, David Robertson, Drew Anderson, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Fernando Salas, Yacksel Rios
MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES STORIES:
- What the Phillies should do with Matt Klentak for 2020
- What the Phillies should do with Gabe Kapler for 2020
- Phillies fans are ready for top-down change
- Nationals don’t miss Bryce Harper, and vice-versa
- How long can Andy MacPhail survive as Phillies president?