Phillies

Phillies

This might be the first walk-off win in Phillies history that made the fanbase dislike the hero more the next day. 

Sean Rodriguez, harshly criticized for a lack of production at the plate — albeit in irregular playing time — chose last night as the time to air his grievances. 

Some of what he said was understandable. The Phillies are six games over .500 amid myriad injuries and are somehow one game out of the second wild-card spot, yet many in this town have viewed the team through a negative lens for months. There tends to be silence or apathy after normal wins and vitriol after any loss. But you can’t exactly blame the fans for that. They’ve waited nearly eight years for a playoff run and thought this team was the one to break that drought. If that’s “entitled,” good luck convincing many fans they’re wrong for feeling it.

The response to Rhys Hoskins lately has shown how antsy this city is for its baseball team to win consistently. The Phillies have not yet gone on a run and the season is more than 80 percent complete. Hoskins’ second-half slump has affected the team’s ability to make a run, and on Monday night he was booed more loudly than ever before. 

Hoskins handled it well, though. He deflected when asked about it and focused more on the team win. 

Rodriguez’ comments did not sit well with the Phillies fanbase. The key word he used was “entitled,” though his message was a bit more nuanced than that. He was trying to make clear how difficult the role of a pinch-hitter is. And that guys struggle, and boos and harsh words don’t help. 

 

Look, any time a fanbase, and particularly this fanbase, feels like it is being told how to act, it does not go over well. 

Rodriguez did have a useful point about pinch-hitting, though most every baseball fan knows it is a difficult role. Rodriguez scoffed when a reporter asked Monday night whether the walk-off felt even better given his recent struggles. Rodriguez looked at the reporter like he had two heads, didn’t acknowledge the struggles and spoke about almost always facing a tough pitcher because the bulk of his pinch-hit appearances take place late in close games. 

Not really true, though — it’s not as if Rodriguez has been facing Aroldis Chapman the last five weeks. 

The two biggest reasons Rodriguez is here are to play all over the diamond and to hit lefties. Lately, he hasn’t hit lefties. (Monday’s walk-off was Rodriguez’ first home run against a righty since July 22, 2018.)

In his last 15 at-bats against lefties, he is 1 for 15 with 10 strikeouts. And while that list does include tough lefties Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, there are more mediocre or worse arms on the list than aces or relief studs. 

Here is that list: Francisco Liriano, Jarlin Garcia, Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, Joey Lucchesi twice, Jose Quintana, Connor Menez, Will Smith, Bumgarner twice, Aaron Bummer, T.J. McFarland and Ross Detwiler twice. 

Bumgarner, Smith, Quintana and maybe Lucchesi aside, not exactly a murderer’s row. That sample size of 15 ABs is small, but what matters right now is not the predictive nature of it but rather that those at-bats happened, and they have not helped a team in a playoff push win. Phillies fans have not been wrong to question lately what Rodriguez provides offensively that someone like Maikel Franco or Phil Gosselin cannot. 

Many this morning have gone the route of saying Rodriguez and players in general need a thicker skin. So, too, does the fanbase, because it’s pretty lame to not accept any return fire from the player(s) it buries the most. 

But last night was still such a strange time for Rodriguez to make that the story. It was a moment he could have built genuine goodwill and portrayed himself as accountable and understanding of the criticism while hopeful the fans could alter their approach a bit. He did not effectively convey that message, in large part because he conveyed it in a one-sided way, absolving himself of blame. 

It will be interesting to hear how Rodriguez is received tonight and the rest of the season. Monday night produced an exciting Phillies win, and here we are less than 12 hours later discussing a totally different topic. 

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