Wagner: "We ain't got a chance"

In a couple of weeks, the Phillies will be giving away Billy Wagner action figures. They probably should have made it a bobble-mouth figure, based on Wagner's frequent and harsh comments that he tends to throw to the media when he sees things going badly. That's not to say that Wagner's wrong; In his latest tirade, he was seemingly right on the mark with most of his comments.

Some teams respond well to things like team meetings and being ripped by one of their own. Then, there's the Phillies. You have to wonder if they respond to anything.

Last weekend, Charlie Manuel called a team meeting that produced no recognizable results. Manuel told his team that with two weeks remaining before the All-Star break it was important that they not allow the intensity they displayed from mid-May to mid-June get away. The Phillies won 20 of 26 games in that stretch.

"I just wanted to remind our guys that there are 14 games before the All-Star break," Manuel said before the game. "And we need to play better fundamentally. I think the season is long, and you go through periods where you get down. I want to make sure that we don't get there."

The Phillies responded by showing some moxie Sunday afternoon against the Red Sox. Unfortunately for the Phils, it didn't lead to a different result against the defending world champions. It also didn't leave any lasting results.

Wagner took his turn in a Philadelphia Inquirer interview on Thursday. 

"Good teams find ways to get it done. The Braves. The Marlins. You don't see them complaining. The Braves were all beat up with injuries and now they're at the top of the division. It's time to quit bickering. We bicker about calls on the field. We bicker about the field. It's time to take it upon ourselves and play. Concern ourselves with just winning."

Again, there was no response. The Phillies lost an afternoon game to the Mets Thursday and were blown out of Citizens Bank Park Friday night by Atlanta.

Wagner has been known for speaking his mind. It's one of the reasons why the Astros were inclined to send him packing. They had reportedly grown tired of his complaints and critiques - whether they were right or not. Throughout his career, Wagner has been known for speaking his mind and there is no indication that he's about to stop now. The truth is though that most of his remarks were right on the mark with what many fans have perceived as being the problem with the Phillies. The fact that Wagner, who is having a pretty good season, included himself in the remarks also shows that he sees a problem and is working on correcting it in a responsible way.

"Myers, Lieber, Wagner, every guy in here needs to step up and make a big impact," explained Wagner. "There are a lot of reasons to have faith. This ain't over. But anybody who says we have a clear shot to the playoffs right now is fooling themselves."

Saying that he thought the Phillies lacked the know how to win, Wagner stopped far short of saying that the club needed an infusion of new players to help turn things around. "Adding pieces isn't going to make us any better," Wagner said. "If you don't learn to win and show some fight, it doesn't matter."

Wagner himself could be one of the targets of trade proposals coming from other teams. With the Phillies sinking in the standings, it's more likely that they would jettison higher priced talent than young, up and coming talent like Ryan Howard. Wagner is expensive and he can also be a free agent at the end of the season. After being burned by free agents who accepted arbitration the past two off-seasons, the Phillies may be much more willing to deal Wagner now in order to get compensation for him rather than rely on getting a draft pick for him through free agency compensation. In the past, Wagner has said that he's enjoying his time in Philadelphia, but that there were no guarantees that he would be here past this season. He said that the biggest obstacle may be that the Phillies would deal him elsewhere if the club were out of contention.

If the Phillies do fall short of not just making the post-season, but advancing at least to the National League Championship Series, then the front office has to look at a major overhaul. Actually, that could begin with front office staffers like Ed Wade, who is definitely on the hot seat. Whether or not Wade exits, this is a club that has underachieved for years under varying styles of manager and even in different home stadiums. The only things left to change are the front office and the players and changing the front office may be a good idea, but it's not likely to change the attitudes and approaches of the current members of the roster. After all, this is a team that is affected by very little.


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