Spiraling Phillies look hapless, helpless and in need of a good kick in the pants

Spiraling Phillies look hapless, helpless and in need of a good kick in the pants

The Phillies are taking it on the chin from all ends of the National League East. They lost two of three against the first-place Atlanta Braves. They were swept by the third-place Washington Nationals. And now they’re staring down the barrel of a sweep at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins.

One can only wonder what will happen when the New York Mets come to town on Monday.

Things are going badly for the Phillies. They fell to 1-7 against NL East opponents over the last nine days when they blew a late lead and suffered a 5-3 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

It was just a terrible day for the Phils. The bullpen couldn’t protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning. A 35-year-old guy who’d spent the last 10 years in the minors before being called up Friday had the big hit for the Marlins. Gabe Kapler went off on the umpires, kicked some dirt and picked up his first ejection as a manager.

Oh, yeah, and another Phillie — Cesar Hernandez — did not run hard in a close game in the eighth inning. That set up a double play that didn’t help chances of a late comeback. The afternoon ended, mercifully, with Hernandez popping up with the bases loaded an inning later.

Three weeks ago, the Phillies were 10 games over .500 and 3 ½ games up in the NL East. Now they are just two games over .500 and barreling toward third place in the division. They have lost a season-high six straight games, 8 of 9, 10 of 12 and 15 of 21.

Any way you do the math, it stinks. This team looks hapless, helpless and in need of a kick in the pants from the skipper, the general manager, the owner — maybe even all of the above.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you it doesn’t stink. Of course it does,” Rhys Hoskins said after Saturday’s debacle.

“We’re not playing good baseball — period,” Kapler said. “There’s not a single part of our game that is where it needs to be. It’s unacceptable. And we’re going to make it better.”

The Phillies were a first-place club early last August and suffered a historic collapse down the stretch. With new talent up and down the roster, things were supposed to be better in Kapler’s second season. This nosedive has put Kapler and some of his coaches in the crosshairs of those who want blood. At the moment, it does not appear as if changes will be made. There is still a lot of season left and the addition of a pitcher or two — which upper management is working on — could help turn things around, provided this offense wakes up. But the longer this skid goes on, the louder the calls for blood will become.

“Look, I think we’re as prepared as we can be,” Hoskins said. “I think at some point it falls on us. Obviously, the coaching staff is usually the first to get fingers pointed at, but again, we’re as prepared as we can be. I wish I had more. We haven’t gotten many timely hits, that stands out. When that happens game after game after game it just stings a little more.”

The Phillies are 7 for 44 with runners in scoring position over this six-game losing skid. They had just five hits in the first eight innings on Saturday.

“It's not where you want to be as a club,” Bryce Harper said of the team’s offense. Hitting coach John Mallee “does a great job of getting us prepared every single day. We just have to go out there and get it done. Have we done that? We haven't, especially with guys on base. Me personally, as well. We have to get better.”

Vince Velasquez gave the Phils five good innings Saturday. He’d been used out of the bullpen for most of the last month and that prevented him from going longer. Harper and Hoskins hit back-to-back homers in the third inning and there was a good vibe in the ballpark as the Phils built a 3-1 lead.

Kapler got ejected in the fourth after Scott Kingery was hit by a pitch but not awarded first base because the umpires said he swung. The lead got away with Adam Morgan and Edubray Ramos on the mound in the seventh. Journeyman catcher Wilkin Castillo, in the minors the last 10 seasons, had the big hit against Ramos.

Things stayed ugly in the eighth when Hernandez only got to first on what should have been a double down the left field line. Hernandez did not speak with reporters after the game but told Hoskins he did not see the ball off the bat and thought it would be foul. It was a big play in a close game because it put in place a force at second and Harper promptly hit into a double play.

It was the second time this week a player did not run hard. Jean Segura created a stir when he loafed on a hit in Washington on Wednesday.

Kapler seemed pretty ticked off about Hernandez’ not being on second base and said he would be speaking with the player about it. Will there be further repercussions? Stay tuned.

“Those things are definitely things that need to be addressed,” Kapler said. “They have to be addressed swiftly. They have to be addressed with authority and they will be.”

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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


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.

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