Andy MacPhail

These 2 horrible losses vs. Braves should be final pieces of evidence Phillies' front office needed

These 2 horrible losses vs. Braves should be final pieces of evidence Phillies' front office needed

Had the Phillies swept the Braves this weekend, they would have been 2½ games back in the NL East before August began.

They didn't sweep. They didn't win the series. They barely even competed in the first two games.

The Phils were demolished, 15-7, on Saturday night, 24 hours after losing 9-2. The Braves have outscored the Phillies by an average of 10-3 in their last six meetings.

You have to wonder if this was the last piece of evidence GM Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail needed to see that the 2019 Phillies aren't good enough to buy big (or even buy "medium") at the trade deadline, which is just four days away.

If the Phillies' front office is being honest with itself — and this is a group that prides itself on its objectivity — then they've realized this team cannot fill all of its holes at one trade deadline. 

The Phillies have one reliable starting pitcher, Aaron Nola. 

Zach Eflin, who had a 2.83 ERA as recently as June 19, allowed 10 more runs Saturday as his ERA rose again to 4.63. Jake Arrieta has been pitching hurt and cannot be relied on to effectively go through a batting order three times. Neither has been the No. 2 starter the Phillies needed to slot behind Nola. 

To fill out their rotation with pitchers who would actually make a difference, the Phillies would have to part with young players who could in a few years be better than those they are traded for now. And even that alone would not make this team a true contender. They would still need multiple bullpen pieces, another bat in the starting lineup and a couple bats for the bench.

It's just not realistic for the Phillies to win the division or to beat the Braves or Dodgers in October. So then what would be the point of making any significant trades?

Phillies fans are sick of waiting for next year. They've been waiting for next year every year since 2012. But actually contending in 2019 no longer appears to be in the cards. It doesn't mean this team will turn the final two months into an audition — no, they'll continue to try to win every game, try to play loose and play with house money in a "whatever happens, happens" kind of way. 

But thinking ahead makes as much sense right now as thinking about today. The Phillies' window to contend was not this season alone. They have enough good players to convince themselves that a legitimate run can be made in 2020. They will need more from Bryce Harper. And Rhys Hoskins. And J.T. Realmuto. And Jean Segura. And Arrieta. And Nick Pivetta. And Eflin. 

They will also need Andrew McCutchen to return healthy and play as well as he did the first two months. They will need David Robertson to actually make a contribution. 

Equal to all of that, they will need the front office to finally identify some under-the-radar, inexpensive, ascending players. This front office has not proven it can find a Lance Lynn, a Mike Minor, a Wade Miley. Any GM can go spend hundreds of millions of the owner's dollars. Not every GM can make those secondary moves that deepen the roster. That is how good teams are built.

The Phillies entered the season with too top-heavy a roster. That was evident early. They did not make the necessary depth signings or trades because they had to wait so long to sign Harper and acquire Realmuto. Because of that, roster spots 21 through 30 went overlooked. It's not as if the front office totally ignored those spots, they just overvalued the young players filling them. They talked themselves into all these young starting pitchers and veteran relievers and it has worked out poorly.

Is that a real contender? Or an 83-85 win team? This year’s wild-card race has kept more teams alive than usual. At 54-50, are the Phillies really in a worse position than the 56-50 Brewers?

The Phils trail the Nationals by a game. Their only remaining series with Washington is a five-gamer in Washington the final week of the season.

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Will reported extension protect Matt Klentak if Phillies underachieve?

Will reported extension protect Matt Klentak if Phillies underachieve?

Phillies GM Matt Klentak this past spring signed a contract extension through 2022, according to The Athletic

It followed an offseason in which Klentak acquired J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins, Jean Segura from the Mariners and Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson in free agency. At Harper's introductory press conference, Phillies managing partner John Middleton went through the historic nature of Klentak's offseason. 

"I mean, seriously, Branch Rickey never had this kind of offseason. Pat Gillick never had this kind of offseason," Middleton said. "I'm not telling you [Klentak] had the greatest single offseason in the history of baseball, but you know what? If you make that statement, people might quibble with it but they can't really argue with it too hard. Because nobody's ever done what this kid did."

Middleton was referring to Klentak's adding three position players who were All-Stars the prior season.

The Phillies, at 49-46, have underachieved. Fans have called for the heads of Klentak, manager Gabe Kapler and team president Andy MacPhail. MacPhail's deal reportedly runs through 2021. 

If the Phillies disappoint in the second half, miss the playoffs and/or have a slow start next season, these contract extensions do not grant any of them immunity. They will be judged by the team's performance because they are responsible for it. A three-year extension won't save any of them if it comes to that point. We see managers, coaches and GMs let go all the time with years remaining on their deals.

The assumption here is that all three men will finish out the 2019 season and maintain their jobs into 2020. The Phillies, even if they miss the playoffs, could say that their key players underperformed, they dealt with as many crucial injuries as any team in baseball and that they want to give this core another shot.

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Phillies' 40-year drought of homegrown pitchers is appalling

Phillies' 40-year drought of homegrown pitchers is appalling

Andy MacPhail’s mantra during his four seasons as Phillies president has been “grow the arms, buy the bats.” You can’t argue the team has made the effort to purchase and trade for position players, to varying degrees of success. General manager Matt Klentak added big names at four starting spots over the winter, spending big money (and prospects) in the process.

The “growing the arms” part of MacPhail’s statement has proven problematic. The farm system doesn’t exactly have a plethora of major league-ready pitchers waiting in the wings. Surely, if they had, with the season the big-league club has had on the mound, we would have seen them by now.

Upon further review, this is an organizational problem that goes back, seemingly from the franchise’s inception 136 years ago. Looking at the 2008 World Series-winning roster, the team had four homegrown pitchers on the staff: starters Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick, and Ryan Madson out of the bullpen.

The 1993 pennant-winning Phillies had exactly zero homegrown pitchers that made significant contributions. None.

With the help of, we examined the last 40 years of Phillies baseball — which featured two World Series wins, five pennants and nine playoff appearances. The results are staggering.

Top 10 Phillies homegrown pitchers over the past 40 seasons by career WAR:

1. Cole Hamels - 42.4
2. Aaron Nola - 19.2
3. Kevin Gross - 13.5 
4. Randy Wolf - 11.9
5. Brett Myers - 9.8
6. Ryan Madson - 8.9
7. Don Carman - 8.0
8. Kyle Kendrick - 5.9
9. Hector Neris - 5.5
10. Ricky Bottalico - 5.2

When you consider that this factors in 40 years of drafts, 40 years of scouting, both stateside and internationally, it’s even more appalling. In the MLB amateur draft alone, I estimate the franchise has drafted more than 1,000 pitchers over that span. Think about that. Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have. 

Looking at this list, from 40 years of scouting, it’s a wonder the franchise has had the success it experienced during that time.

This is an indictment of the entire organization, its talent evaluation process and its developmental programs. This talent drought has gone on too long. It’s long past time for the Phillies to evaluate the way they evaluate.

Start growing some doggone arms.

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