Out of Left Field: Pins and Needles

For a while, the players weren't too outspoken about the problems facing the Phillies. Now, whispers of discontent are filtering through and perhaps Rheal Cormier put it best when he talked about a team on "pins and needles" in the clubhouse.

After Tuesday night's rain-soaked 5-2 loss to the Marlins, the Phillies twelfth straight loss to the Fish in Miami, Rheal Cormier described the atmosphere in the Phillies clubhouse as "pins and needles." He went on to characterize the team demeanor during some games, saying, "There are a lot of times when you're walking off the field and you're down by one, you feel the game is over, and we still have one more inning to go. It's frustrating." I'll tell you what's frustrating. Not that Cormier was honest in his analysis of the Phillies' locker room, not even that the team has fallen into this collective depression. No, the frustrating thing is that the coaching staff is directly responsible for this attitude and they don't seem to have any clue as to what to do about it.

Even casual observers of the Phillies have seen the inconsistency all year, and it doesn't take a sabermetrician to discover that the Phillies have put together exactly one winning month all season. A quick perusal of the season-long results tells you that the Phillies have no winning streaks longer than four games. In their past 19 series, they have won exactly five. So what does this team need to break this cycle of lackluster play?

Do they need a starting pitcher? General Manager Ed Wade has been rumored to be in discussions with the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-hander Kris Benson. Thankfully, the Pirates are asking for more than what Wade is willing to give up to get a number three starter that is being courted like a number one. It could be argued that getting Vicente Padilla back healthy by the middle of August would be the same as making a trade much more satisfying than gaining the likes of Benson. Padilla is a much better pitcher, and getting him back in the rotation can only be considered a bonus.

Do they need a centerfielder? Up until this week, the Phillies were thought to be one of the front-runners to land Arizona's 39-year old Steve Finley. I will give no argument that Finley is a fine ballplayer, albeit at the end of his career. But, giving the Diamondbacks more than Marlon Byrd in return for a half-year rental would be akin to sending Larry Bowa and a throw-in by the name of Sandberg to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. Ricky Ledee and Jason Michaels have proven over time that they are not everyday players; but they have also proven over time to be very accomplished part-time players.

The 1993 Phils won with a platoon in both left field and right field, why are the 2004 Phils so averse to using a platoon in centerfield? It certainly can't be because the defense would suffer. Though Larry Bowa would never admit it, defensive "whiz" Doug Glanville has misplayed many more balls in centerfield this year than either Michaels or Ledee, including breaking up Eric Milton's no-hitter and shut out.

What if, and I know this is a crazy thought, but what if what the Phillies really need to get them off "pins and needles" is new leadership? What if what they really need to get them out of this funk that causes them to win one, lose one, is a coaching staff that recognizes the lack of motivation and does something other than grimace, gnaw on sunflower seeds, and make excuses for continued poor play.

"No excuses." Larry Bowa said after Tuesday night's loss after listing the excuses: Injuries and AAA pitchers (which he refuses to use properly, or at all.) Every team suffers injuries; we still have four of our starting pitchers, a closer that saved 38 games last year (when Wagner is unavailable,) and an MVP caliber first baseman who is having a better season than last. Bowa finished his comments by stating that he didn't even play in the game, but he was embarrassed. That's a nice try at buck passing Larry.

What this team really needs, more than pitching and a centerfielder, is leadership. When I scan the dugout, I find our current crop of assigned leaders sorely lacking. Now is the time.

DN Curry comes to you Out of Left Field every Thursday at PhillyBaseballNews.com. You can email him at dncurry@comcast.net.

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