Any self-respecting Philadelphia Phillies fan will tell you that the 2020 season has been quite a letdown up to this point. While we have been used to that in the past, I think the sting of having such a star-studded lineup and seeing how the team is actually performing, this year hurts more than it has before. For good reason, too.
Despite the hurdles the Phillies faced early in the season, they managed to split a pair of tough series against the Yankees and the Braves. Those are two of the more talented teams in Major League Baseball.
That optimism was diminished after being swept by the Orioles, quickly returned again when the Phillies swept the Mets, dissipated some with a series split against the Red Sox, and now has plummeted after yesterday’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays.
If those roller coaster results themselves aren’t enough to give you anxiety, consider the fact that in each of those losses the Phillies were leading the game – 8/11 led BAL by three, 8/12 led BAL by two, 8/13 led BAL by two, 8/19 led BOS by two. Yesterday in game one led TOR by one, and game 2 led TOR by SEVEN. These games were blown by collapses from a sub-par bullpen every time.
Back in February as the first attempt at spring training was set to begin, Phillies GM Matt Klentak spoke these words per Scott Lauber at The Inquirer: “I absolutely think we have enough starting pitching and bullpen pitching to compete.” Clearly he was attempting to convince himself, and not the fans or the media.
For awhile, I believed he may be right. If David Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, and Ranger Suarez could get in there to support guys like Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, and Adam Morgan. But they’re not, and here we are.
With an offense finally giving Aaron Nola run support, the starting rotation is throwing out of their minds. But the Phillies are still blowing seven (or, unfortunately, more) run leads late in the game because the bullpen is a scrap heap of nonsense.
There are all sorts of crazy statistics out there, most of which are putting this current Phillies bullpen in dead last (or near it) in all of baseball. Not just in this season, but of all-time in the history of Major League Baseball. I saw one where someone said the current bullpen could go 21 straight scoreless innings, and still have the worst ERA in the league.
In a perfect world, if Robertson, Suarez, and Dominguez were healthy, yeah maybe the bullpen would be competitive. But Klentak knew at the end of last year that Seranthony was yellow-lighted at best, and Robertson’s return before September, if at all, was a big question mark.
The GM job isn’t an easy one. I couldn’t imagine trying to put a roster together, working with millions of dollars in salary, and keeping a team operational. Then factoring in injuries and those salaries, and safety nets for both the players and the team.
Klentak did make some good moves last year in trying to keep an injury-riddled team afloat, bringing in Brad Miller (who I still think is the 2019 most underrated Phillies player), Jay Bruce (who Seattle is still paying), Corey Dickerson, and of course Phil Gosselin, who has been phenomenal this year.
You can’t have a real conversation on Klentak without also talking about J.T. Realmuto. A shining star for the team. Definitely a feather in Klentak’s cap. But even if he does get a long-term deal signed for Realmuto, it shouldn’t save his job at this point.
For the record, I think the hand of cards being played by the Phillies with Realmuto and his representatives are a bluff. I think the team and Realmuto have a mutual agreement to play the media and other teams. I think the “test the free agency market” talk is just that, talk. The catcher goes out and gets a few offers, presents them to the Phillies and they meet or exceed the offer.
The Phillies are losing $48 million in pitching contracts in Jake Arrieta and Robertson at the end of the season, so it makes sense to delay this. Tell Realmuto to go out there and play his heart out, get his value as high as he can, and get some offers to come in. This will guarantee he doesn’t leave any money on the table, and the Phillies will know they’re getting a fair price for him if both sides know what other teams are willing to put up. But it’s also a dangerous game. Realmuto conceivably might end up liking one of those other offers and locations.
There’s no question that the bullpen is 100% to blame for the failures of 2020 so far. If Matt Klentak thought this group was going to produce, and it seems clear that he did, then it’s time to begin searching for his replacement.