Phillies

It's getting more and more difficult to envision this sloppy Phillies team making the postseason

It's getting more and more difficult to envision this sloppy Phillies team making the postseason

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Nights like this are why it’s difficult to believe these Phillies can live to play October baseball.

They are a bad defensive team. And they don’t hit enough to play over their defensive shortcomings.

The inability to make a couple of routine plays cost the Phils dearly in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night (see first take). The crowd on the first night of an important homestand was just 21,261. The Phils have lost seven of their last nine ballgames and 13 of their last 20. They lost a half-game in the standings and trail first-place Atlanta by 3½ games in the NL East with 31 to play.

The Phillies’ goal, as general manager Matt Klentak alluded to before the game, is to stay close the rest of the way and take their chances in seven head-to-head matchups with the Braves over the final 11 games of the season.

But if the Phillies don’t clean up a lot of things and start winning consistently real soon, those seven games with Atlanta over the final 11 days of the season aren’t going to mean much.

“I actually think we’re in a perfectly good spot right now,” Klentak said before the game. “We are three games out of the division. We are two games out of the wild card and we are a team that has lost 90-plus games three years in a row and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011. There are 32 games left to play, seven of which are against the Braves. We are in a good spot. We get hot and play well in September, we can do some damage and play some October baseball. That is the goal for these players, for this coaching staff and for this organization.”

The Phillies entered Monday night’s game ranked 27th in the majors with a .238 batting average. They ranked 29th in the majors in hits (1,045) and were able to add just six to that total. Phillie killer Stephen Strasburg (11-2 career against the Phils) pitched six innings of five-hit, two-run ball for the win.

The Phillies are averaging just 3.75 runs over the last 20 games.

But offense wasn’t the killer Monday night. Defense was. It was a 2-2 game in the top of the fourth inning when starting pitcher Zach Eflin and leftfielder Rhys Hoskins both made defensive miscues that led to runs. The Nats took a 4-2 lead on the mistakes and never looked back.

“The story of the game tonight is very simple and straightforward,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We gave a club with a very good, deep lineup additional outs. We can't afford to do that. We did it with a pretty good start from Strasburg on the other side. Against a team like this, you have to get the outs when you have a chance to get the outs.”

Defense has been a season-long issue for the Phils. They entered the game with 99 errors, second most in the majors, and they ranked last in the majors with minus-101 defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs data.

Defensive shifts also hurt the Phils in this one. Eflin gave up a run on three straight two-out singles in the first inning. But the first hit went right through the area of second base that was vacated by the shift. In other words, without the shift it would have been an out. In the fourth, Eflin gave up another shift-aided hit, a leadoff single to Juan Soto. Soto eventually scored on Eflin’s throwing error to the plate.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to field my position and being able to throw to bases whenever I want,” Eflin said. “That one really hit home for me. I'm not happy about it. I'm actually pretty damn disappointed in myself.”

Seven of the eight hits that Eflin allowed were singles. One of them was a misplay by Hoskins in left and several others were ground balls that found holes and two were shift-aided.

“It's frustrating at times but at the end of the day I typically look and see where everybody is playing before each batter,” Eflin said. “You can say the same thing on the reverse side — what if they would hit it into the shift every time tonight? So you give and take. It goes both ways. The past two outings they've found the hole just about every single time, so at times it can frustrate you but the only thing you can do is keep your head up and focus on the next guy. It's just baseball.”

Trailing 5-2 in the sixth inning, the Phils appeared to be putting something together when Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera both singled with no outs. Cabrera’s single went to right field and Ramos tried to go first to third on the play. But Ramos was thrown out after letting up to protect his sore hamstrings. Ramos, in the lineup because the Phillies are desperate for a bat, heard a few boos for what was perceived as lack of hustle.

Kapler defended Ramos.

“He's playing through a lot,” Kapler said. “I spoke to him after the game. I just shared with him that, 'Just stop at second. Go base to base.' In hindsight, he probably would have done that. Maybe in his mind he thought he was going to make it to third base easily. That wasn't the case. But I think he deserves to be recognized for being especially tough and posting for us tonight.”

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
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