The Clean Toothpick Theory

When I was a kid, my Mom would make great chocolate cakes. We would look in the oven and they sure looked like they were finished, but Mom would insist on sticking a toothpick in them to be sure they were done. If it came out clean, then they were done and we could start getting the milk ready. Well, the Phillies sure look like they're done, but maybe a jab with a toothpick wouldn't be a bad idea.

If you were to take a toothpick and stick it into the Phillies right now, it would come out clean. The Phillies are officially done - not to perfection - but they're done.

Injuries? An inept manager? Players that don't care? Bad team chemistry? Maybe, Citizens Bank Park was built on an ancient indian burial ground and is cursed. Who knows what it was that officially did in our Phillies, but they're done. If this were Monday Night Football of years past, "Dandy" Don Meredith would be singing "...turn out the lights, the party's over."

The Phillies are now 8 1/2 games behind Atlanta and are now in third place, 1/2 game behind the Florida Marlins. They're six games out in the wild card race with four teams ahead of them. If the games out don't get you, the number of teams they would have to climb over will. Did I mention that the Phillies are done?

So, what now? Well, if you haven't seen Citizens Bank Park yet, you still have that to look forward to if you have late season tickets. Jim Thome got homerun number 400 earlier in the season and there aren't really any other milestones to look forward to, unless you consider Placido Polanco's last game in a Phillies uniform a milestone. Harry Kalas and Chris Wheeler have made it this far without a live, on-air meltdown and odds are they'll make it through the final forty-some games, so even watching the games isn't a whole lot of fun.

Actually, the fact that this just isn't a fun team to watch is a major part of the problem. They don't do anything. Nobody slams a helmet in disgust when they strike out. Nobody pumps a fist when they make a big play. Even the clubhouse is quiet after it appeared that the players would give us some off the field antics to follow. That may be a big part of the reason why this team has failed. They're not fun. They're not exciting. There is no reason to believe that they feel the sting of failures or the exhilaration of making a big play or getting a big win. Call it emotion, call it fire, call it desire. Whatever it is, it's not there with this team.

Injuries have played a big part in the demise. Nobody can deny that. Injuries hit hard and they hit deep. A full sixty-percent of the starting rotation spent time on the DL. Three of the starting eight position players spent time on the DL and Jim Thome has avoided the DL, but has been hobbled most of the season with various injuries. What was supposed to be a deep starting rotation turned out to have the likes of Paul Abbott starting for an extended period of time. Plus, the bullpen saw a pitcher from Clearwater, Elizardo Ramirez, come in also for an extended period of time. Since he's gone back to the minors, Ramirez hasn't been the same pitcher that he was early in the season and was finally shipped to Cincinnati as part of the Cory Lidle trade.

Oh yeah. The trades. Felix Rodriguez and Todd Jones weren't exactly major pickups and after the deal was done, came news of a major feud between Rodriguez and Tim Worrell while they were members of the San Francisco Giants. While Worrell was hanging on for dear life to fill in for Billy Wagner, Ed Wade brings in an antagonist. And Doug Jones? Doug Jones? Somehow, he was putting up decent numbers with Cincinnati, but come on. With all of the quality players that we dealt, Doug Jones was one of the players we got in return. After all, "Dandy" Don could have been singing his poetic lines for Jones. And the latest move was Lidle. At least he figures to eat some innings, but odds are he goes into free agency at the end of the season and we lost three young prospects to rent a pitcher that couldn't have saved this club even if he were Cy Young himself. Yup, this toothpick is perfectly clean.

Then, we come to Larry Bowa. Should Bowa be fired? Yes. But wait a minute, the injuries, the team chemistry. This wasn't his fault. Don't judge Bowa on this season. Evaluate his body of work. Watch Scott Rolen lead the Cardinals into the playoffs and perhaps, beyond and remember how Bowa scratched and clawed at the skin of Rolen. Did you ever feel the scratchy texture of insulation? Imagine having that on your back everyday of your life and then you'll know how Rolen likely felt with Bowa. Then, there was the whole debacle of last season when basically every player on the team grew tired of Bowa and his personality. The Phillies asked Comcast to stop showing shots of Bowa in the dugout so as to help hide his demeanor. And this season, more aggravation. More disgruntled players. While Bowa is the only one on this club that does show emotion, it hasn't been productive.

The Phillies should strongly consider pulling the plug on Bowa now. Bring in someone who hasn't been around this club to manage the rest of the season. Someone who can give the Phillies new life and also an honest, outsiders opinion of what this team needs. Ideally, someone with no long-range plans on managing. Someone who can remain impartial, yet knows what he's talking about. Here's an interesting name. Mike Schmidt. He's an insider in that he's part of the organization, but he's been in Clearwater all season. Give him an up-close look at this club and get an honest evaluation from him when all is said and done. Plus, Schmidt has said publicly that managing isn't what he thought it would be and he's likely done after one season in Clearwater. He would probably welcome a return to being a part-time coach with the club and getting more time on the golf course after this season.

The offseason will be interesting. There are various issues to be determined. Who goes and who stays, both in the front office, the dugout and on the field? For now though, this team is done. They are there for all the world to see just playing out the string. Images of a clean toothpick.

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