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July 14, 2015

From Day 1 and from top to bottom, Phillies have done absolutely nothing right

The 2015 Philadelphia Phillies, under the direction of general manager Ruben Amaro and a splintered ownership group, might be the most dysfunctional sports franchise to ever perform in Philadelphia.

And that is saying a whole lot … as in a whole lot of misery.

Although it is difficult to reach back in sports history and develop any sort of context of that time, you would be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario as horrific as the one presented by the Phillies this summer. Sure enough, there have been worse teams and more than our share of misguided management, but neither after the success of the present-generation Phillies.

The Phillies are historically bad. Like the rest of baseball, they are stuck in neutral for the All-Star break. But unlike with most other teams, neutral is a forward gear for this group.

Take a look at this All-Star break snapshot: The Phillies are the worst team in baseball, and their one ASG representative is an abrasive closer named Jonathan Papelbon who used the All-Star platform to ask out of this mess.

And who could blame him?

The embarrassing situation was set up before the team even left for spring training when Amaro and team president Pat Gillick announced that the Phillies were going to be horrible. It is one thing to be honest, but it is quite another to set up a season in which failure is not only expected but excused.

The job of the general manager is to steer the ship and to alert ownership of looming problems. If most of the fanbase could see the incoming disaster, why couldn’t the general manager make that case?

Even worse, Amaro et al. turned spring training into a fantasy site for trade geeks. From Day 1 in Clearwater, the only stories around the Phillies were: How could they possibly trade Ryan Howard? What could they get in return for Cole Hamels? Which team would take a run at Papelbon? What other veterans could they move?

So here they sit at the break with the trade deadline looming at the end of the month. A national magazine has listed the legends on the right side of the Phils infield as THE worst at their positions in all of baseball.

And the questions at midseason are the same as the ones they faced in the spring.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Phillies needed some sort of transformation from the end of their magnificent run of playoff appearances and a World Series victory into the future. But there was no need for the present carnage.

The bad decisions have piled up at the feet of Amaro to the point that a new voice has been heard in the person of owner John Middleton, who has tried to wrestle some control, but remains unable to gain a majority voice.

There are those who want to blame the mess made by Amaro on an ownership group led by Dave Montgomery that was too sympathetic to the older crew of players that brought glory to Citizens Bank Park. The argument goes that Amaro was given orders to keep the aging veterans around -- thus the problem now of Carlos Ruiz, Howard and the submarined career of Chase Utley.

That is baloney.

The job of the general manager is to steer the ship and to alert ownership of looming problems. If most of the fanbase could see the incoming disaster, why couldn’t the general manager make that case?

And there is the other side of the equation: Even if you look past the past-their-prime Utley, Howard and Ruiz, there remains the case against Domonic Brown – along with the entire Phillies outfield – and with the recently retired manager Ryne Sandberg.

Frankly, not enough was made of Sandberg stepping down.

The view from this side of the page is that Sandberg was a horrible manager. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, he could not get his players to buy into his hollow message about hustle. He appeared to be the classic case of a great player who figured all players would be self-motivated to play at an elite level.

Instead, he was made to look like a fool; he was unaware of injuries; embarrassed by a lack of communication between the dugout and the bullpen, and basically called onto the carpet by Utley on the mound for letting an outfielder throw so many pitches in an emergency pitching stint.

But at least give Sandberg credit for this: He quit.

Imagine that -- a Hall of Fame player who spent years trying to get back to the Major Leagues as a manager JUST WALKED AWAY.

The fact of the matter is that he should never have been hired. And, after that mistake, he should have been fired.

Just like Brown should be let go; just like Ruiz should have been traded long ago; just like Phillippe Aumont should never have had so many kicks at the can; just like Ben Revere should not be in center field; just like Utley should have lost is job at second base long before some curious ankle injury.

Just like ... Just like ... Just like.

Apparently at this point with the Phillies you either have to resign, retire or trade yourself. That is what Papelbon was trying to do at the All-Star game.

There is now some suggestion that Amaro really got tough when he suggested that Utley would likely not get his job back at second base when he is eventually healthy enough to play.


The fact Utley was still at second base regularly was already a disgrace -- and if you think that was totally the manager’s call you should look for a part in an elementary school play as the south end of a northbound horse.

If they are as smart as they say they are, the people who run the local business schools at Temple, Penn West Chester, Drexel, Temple, St. Joe’s and all the rest would take this 2015 Phillies situation and develop a course on how not to do business.

At least then some good would come of the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies.