As much of a lifelong Philadelphian as John Vukovich is, his mental blocks may be the downfall of this ball club. There have been many instances throughout this season in which Vuke will send runners in an aggressive manor, attempting to notch a run when it is clear that the situation would better be suited for them to remain on base. For instance, why send a catcher around third base when Vladimir Guererro is in shallow right field and can easily gun down the slow runner? Why instruct Jimmy Rollins to try and score from third on a shallow pop-up to Jeff Conine in left field when the Phightins could have had runners on the corners with one out? The fundamentals are lacking on this team, and in Vuke's defense, mistakes are being made in many facets of the game, not just on the base paths.
Wednesday night's game seemed to be a microcosm of this season, and one of the more costly errors of the night was when Pat Burrell misjudged a fly ball and dove for the catch, allowing the ball to roll to the fence, plating two Marlins. Had Burrell let the ball drop in front of him, he would have been in perfect position to make some sort of play and most likely have prevented the runners from scoring, thus keeping the Phillies in the game, at least for the short term. When mistakes like that are made it is puzzling how this team is even in the race.
It appears that it will be an uphill climb for the Phils to win the wild card spot and if they do indeed hope to extend the life of Veterans Stadium, the team needs to limit mistakes made down the stretch. Showing more discipline at the plate, being patient on the base paths and increasing concentration in the field will be key for Philadelphia down the stretch.
By simply following the basics of the game, this club can convincingly overtake Florida and make the playoffs. However, if the team falters down the stretch and continues to make the errors they have all season, the season will end on September 28th and changes will need to be made this off-season. For the sake of the psyche of Philadelphia sports fans, lets hope the Phillies can overcome their weaknesses and clinch a wild card berth to give Veterans Stadium the send-off it deserves.