CD's Connect the Dots... Trouble In Paradise?

Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was famous for his malonthrops, double speak, and all around butchering of the English language. Yet one of his more famous lines, still quoted today, talks of an oft repeated event.... it is "deja vu, all over again."

It was August 10, 1980 and the Phils were in the final stages of one of their low points of the season, a four game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This four game sweep dropped the Phils 6 games behind the then leading Pirates. But this was not the story. The story involved the inflamed tirade by Manager Dallas Green at his troops in the locker room. The four-letter word laced speech could be heard by several members of the press outside the room, and was reported as such. What transpired next is history...a finishing kick of 36-18 catapulted the Phillies to their only World Series triumph. To this day, players scoff at Green's grousing as the reason for the turnaround but as they say in the kitchen..."the proof is in the pudding."

Fast forward to early August of 2001 and Green, now in his role as advisor to the GM, goes on a local radio show and rips then third sacker Scott Rolen for his lack of leadership qualities and his general reluctance to take on the role of star of the team. Rolen is understandably not happy with this very public rip at his character, then proceeds to go on a tremendous weekend hitting binge that allows the Phils to sweep the Dodgers. In fact, Rolen's hitting continued throughout the remainder of the 2001 season and only the tragic events that occurred on September 11 of that year masked the tremendous finishing kick that nearly helped the Phils to an Eastern Division crown that season. Though Rolen may have benefited professionally from the criticism, he never really recovered emotionally from that season and was traded the following July.

The saying "the third time is a charm," will be sorely tested by the events of Tuesday, July 8th, when Green again appeared on a local radio show as a guest to express his displeasure with the recent performances of our suddenly floundering Phillies. That it was merely a week ago that this team was the toast of the town seems strangely irrelevant, as they have slipped out of the wildcard lead with their recent slide. Though Green was evasive in pointing blame, he was unhappy with the seeming lack of fundamentals being displayed by our heroes and immediately sent veteran Phillie watchers scrambling to their history books to see if, indeed, history was being repeated...or as Yogi was fond of saying, "deja vu, all over again."

This much is known about Dallas Green. He is an admitted old school believer who has bridged the gap between Manager Gene Mauch to current Manager Larry Bowa. There are few men in the organization who have a firmer grasp of modern Phillie failures.... and successes than Green. He was a member of the 23 game losing streak in ‘61, pitched on the day the Phils fell out of 1st place in ‘64, helped with the minor league revival of the 70's, managed the only World Series victory in Phils history.... and, to top it all off, is the only pitcher in ML history to give up a grand slam home run to Pete Rose, who he would later manage. He has seen them all, from Richie Allen to Johnny Callison, from Mike Schmidt to Greg Luzinski, from Steve Carlton to Kevin Millwood...and he is NEVER without an opinion. "Ask and ye shall receive," when it comes to Green and his thoughts on the Phillies.

A personal note should be added here as a point of reference. I like Dallas Green, always have. His methods are dubious occasionally but the man knows baseball and I believe the Phils are a richer team for his services. I applauded the rehiring of Green in the late 90's and still feel he is an asset to the club. However, what transpired on the radio show on Tuesday will be a point of reference that may reverberate around this club for quite some time, not because of WHAT he said, but because of WHY he said it. Criticism is a funny thing, it can lead to a bonding of forces, as it undoubtedly did with the 1980 club, or it can lead to recriminations and divorce, as it did with Scott Rolen in 2002.

That Green had some valid points is beyond dispute, the Phils have displayed an alarming tendency to fail to put down a timely bunt, strike out with far too much frequency, and at times resemble a shopping maul meanderer with their station to station baseball. But the deeper question will much of what he said was typical Green shoot from the hip honesty or was there a deeper meaning involved? To this day, no one really knows why Green chose the time or the forum to speak out against Rolen. What is known is that management never publicly criticized Green for it. So, people will be open to conjecture about why this particularly timed event transpired. Was he just trying to light a fire under a team that seems to have been lulled a bit to complacency by their recent hot streak? Was he just answering a question as honestly as he could, with typical Green bravado? Or was there something deeper, meant as a wake up call for all involved, from batboy to manager, players to coaches.

With Dallas Green, the adage "what you see is what you get," is never far from the truth.. until today. For Tuesday, it was not what you see, but what you heard, and the message, although loud and clear, was very much subject to interpretation. The coming days, weeks and possibly months ahead for the Philadelphia Phillies are filled with excitement, uncertainty and possibilities. Still very much alive in the playoff race, this team is merely a hot streak away from the wild card birth, and the Anaheim Angels have already shown us what that means. Yet, strangely, they seem also very much at a crossroads, and the destination is not quite clear.

Perhaps Green was merely trying to make the road clearer by wiping the windshields a bit. What is known is this much...the old Chinese adage of "May You Live in Interesting Times," certainly applies to the Phillies as the All-Star break beckons....stay tuned!

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