Phillies

Phillies face same deficit as 2007, but this couldn't feel more different

Phillies face same deficit as 2007, but this couldn't feel more different

With 17 games to go, the Phillies are 7½ games out in the NL East.

Sound familiar?

In 2007, the Phils were seven games back in the NL East with 17 to play, the year they famously ran down the Mets and won the division the final day of the season.

But that's where the similarities end. This year has looked and felt different in just about every way.

The 2007 Phils had a dynamic offense that exemplified the current team's offensive philosophy of seeing a ton of pitches. They just didn't mention it every other day. Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, even Ryan Howard at that point — all guys who would work deep counts and could end them in a powerful way.

Yet for Charlie Manuel, it was Hittin' Season ... not Takin' Pitches Season.

That '07 team was also great defensively. Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, Utley in his prime at second base. The range and strong throwing arms from Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino and Werth, the steadiness behind the plate of Carlos Ruiz.

They also ran the bases extremely well. Utley (87.5 percent) and Werth (85.2) rank second and fifth, all-time, in stolen base success rate. Rollins and Victorino possessed game-changing speed atop the lineup. That team went 138 for 157 stealing bases — 88 percent.

The '07 team would have loved to have had Aaron Nola. Jake Arrieta would have fit in that rotation as well. Is there anyone else on this 2018 team who'd even sniff playing time? Keep in mind that Burrell in 2007 was an even more productive offensive player than Rhys Hoskins has been this season.

More of an '06 feel

The last two months of 2018 have felt more like 2006 than 2007 for the Phillies. In '06, a young Phillies team on the precipice of contention acquired a bunch of vets after the trade deadline: Jeff Conine, Randall Simon, Jose Hernandez. Jamie Moyer, of course.

Just like this team with Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista. (Wilson Ramos is a better player than all of the above so he doesn't count.)

That ‘06 team, though, did a lot of winning down the stretch and you knew the future was bright because it was a group of multidimensional, athletic players who also had the hit tool.

Still so many questions

As crazy as this sounds, the 2018 Phillies will enter the offseason with as many questions as the 2017 Phillies did.

This offense has averaged 4.23 runs per game. Last season, when the Phillies lost 96 games? They averaged 4.26 runs per game.

Despite adding Carlos Santana, having a full season of Hoskins and replacing Freddy Galvis with a young shortstop they felt great about, the Phils' offense did not improve.

The Phillies have no proof that they can contend with Cesar Hernandez at second base, Odubel Herrera in center, and Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. You'd think an upgrade of about a dozen wins would result in more answers, but Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail still have a ton of work to do.

More on the Phillies

Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

usa_dusty_wathan_phillies.jpg
USA Today Images

Phillies coach Dusty Wathan to interview for Rangers manager

The Texas Rangers will interview Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan for their manager opening later this week, according to a baseball source.

Wathan, 45, was a finalist for the Phillies' job that went to Gabe Kapler a year ago.

Wathan is a former catcher who played professionally for 14 seasons and appeared in the majors with Kansas City in 2002. He managed 10 seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system and was Eastern League manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016 before moving up to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017 and joining the big-league staff under Kapler in 2018. He managed many of the players that have recently arrived in the majors with the Phillies.

The Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister in late September. According to reports, they have already interviewed several candidates including former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Cubs bench Brandon Hyde, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rangers assistant GM Jayce Tingler. The Rangers are also expected to interview Don Wakamatsu, who finished 2018 as interim skipper, and Sandy Alomar Jr., a member of the Indians' coaching staff. 

We profiled Wathan here last year.

More on the Phillies

10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

ap_charlie_manuel_brad_lidge_phillies.jpg
AP Images

10 Years Ago Today: Charlie Manuel felt professional euphoria, personal grief

Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at team’s run through the NLCS and World Series.

As the final out settled into Carlos Ruiz's mitt and the Phillies clinched the NLCS with a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 5, I looked down at the dugout from the press box. Players streamed out to congratulate each other on the field. Manager Charlie Manuel stayed behind and accepted handshakes and hugs from his staff.

October 2008 was the high point of Manuel’s career, but it came amidst personal grief. Five days before the Phillies won the NLCS in Dodger Stadium, Manuel’s mother, June, died at the age of 87 back in the family’s hometown of Buena Vista, Virginia.

Manuel spoke to his mother daily before her passing and she wanted him to stay with his team. He celebrated the Phillies’ punching their ticket to the World Series and the next day flew to Virginia for his mother’s funeral.

Phillies players adored Manuel because he never complicated things, never got in the way and always had their back. There was a sense of “Let’s win this for Chuck,” throughout that postseason and it shined brightly in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

Mr. Bright Lights himself, James Calvin Rollins, fought back from an 0-2 count and led off the contest with a full-count home run against Chad Billingsley. Later in the game, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell had big hits.

Cole Hamels continued his coming out party with seven innings of one-run ball, giving him a total of 22 innings of three-run ball to that point of the postseason. He was named NLCS series MVP.

Hamels labored through a 26-pitch seventh inning in Game 5 and his warning light was flashing when Manuel went to the mound to speak with his pitcher with two outs, two men on base and dangerous Jeff Kent coming up in a four-run game. One swing could have made it a much different ballgame. Manuel looked into Hamels' eyes and the 24-year-old lefty convinced the skipper he was OK. With the count 2-2, Hamels reached back for everything he had on his 104th pitch of the night. Kent took a called third strike in what turned out to be the final at-bat of his great career.

The spectacular bullpen duo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished it off and at age 64, Charlie Manuel was headed to the World Series as manager of Philadelphia Phillies.

After the game, Manuel said he knew his mom was watching from above and he recalled his last conversation with her.

“Charles Jr.,” she told him, “you’re going to win these games and go to the World Series.”

Moms are always right.

Previously in this series