After picking up another loss Monday night, this time to the lowly Miami Marlins, Cole Hamels stormed out of the clubhouse without speaking to reporters. Generally, that's a no-no and isn't something that should be applauded. On this team though, it does deserve some recognition.
The message that Hamels was sending was that - to put it simply - he's pissed. He has pitched well this season and while he has had a hiccup or two along the way, he's one of the hardest working players on the roster and wants nothing more than for his team to win like they did in the "old days" when they won five straight division titles and a World Championship.
After last Saturday's 10-0 drubbing at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, Jimmy Rollins also refused to speak to the press, but for different reasons. His response wasn't to be upset at an embarrassing loss, it was much more of the ho-hum variety. "It's just a game. Nothing to talk about," said Rollins after the loss.
Rollins' approach epitomizes the attitude of this team. Not every player, but far too many of them. "It's just a game." Actually, it's just another loss and there are far too many of those piling up and players should be pissed at what's happening. They should feel much more like Hamels feels and a lot less like Rollins feels. They should be embarrassed that they allowed the Marlins to score five runs against them. They should be embarrassed that they could muster just one run against the Marlins. They should be mad as hell that there are too many errors and misplays that are leading to extra opportunities for their opponents. They should be losing sleep that their uninspired brand of baseball is going to get their manager - a guy who will fight for his players to the bitter end - is going to get fired if they don't turn things around.
The team shows the same sort of devil-may-care attitude that they did when Pat Gillick took over the team. Gillick sent an almost immediate message by trading Bobby Abreu for whatever he could get and the team started to turn around. They call it the addition by subtraction theory. Ruben Amaro Jr should be looking to make the same kind of impact with this team to let everybody know that he's more of the Cole Hamels mold than the Jimmy Rollins mold. In fact, Rollins would be a good place to start. As a ten-and-five player (ten years in the majors and the last five with the same team) trading Rollins might not be easy, but it's likely that he would accept a deal that would send him to Oakland, a team that is looking for middle-infield help. It also happens to be Rollins' hometown team, which would make going there much more palatable to the former all-star.
While Manuel is taking most of the heat, Amaro should be feeling heat as well. He took over a team that was World Champions and he's allowed it to flounder. Instead of mixing in younger players to keep the team fresh, he's kept the same group together, afraid to make a move that he could be blamed for. He has preached how this team needs to be more patient at the plate, but instead of going out and adding players who know how to work a pitcher and add to his pitch count, he's kept the same group of players who almost seem to be in a hurry to get their at-bat over with.
Manuel does deserve some blame, because as manager, he needs to send messages too. His message should be that lackadaisical play isn't going to be tolerated. The benchings should begin. If a player isn't getting the job done, sit him down. Rollins is still jogging down to first on ground balls and pop-ups even after Manuel had told his shortstop and the Phillies fan base that wouldn't be tolerated. Other players follow suit. While Manuel is the epitome of a player's manager, he needs to worry less and less about being popular with his players and more about saving his job and his team's season.
The bottom line is that if someone doesn't start to figure out that the Phillies - from top to bottom - are too accepting of mediocrity, it's going to be too late to salvage anything from a season that started with optimism.