Certainly manager Charlie Manuel took some of his pent up frustration after the Astros swept out the Phillies on Monday afternoon. After spending more than half of his life in pro ball, Manuel knows when a team needs to be aired out.
Essentially, Charlie told the troops it’s time to put up or shut up.
“You can go around and talk to them. You can talk to them in batting practice. But what is today? September 9th? Damn, if we ain’t got it by now, we ain’t never gonna get it. We were in good position coming in, and we’re still in good position. We’ve got to play. We’ve got to win some games. It’s been kind of leading up to this. It’s got to bottom out sometime. We’ve got some wins. We beat the Giants two games, and we got real good pitching, tremendous starting pitching, when we scored three runs and got two wins. Over in Pittsburgh, we didn’t hit at all. Actually, we played real bad there. Homers are great when one or two guys are on base. When you hit three solos and the other team scores three, four, five runs, and you lose, it’s not so great.
“I don’t know. I hear some of them talk. I hear some of them say, ‘We play better when we have to or when there’s more pressure.’ I find that hard to believe when I see us play like we did today. I find that hard to believe. I played 20 years. I like my chances ofbeing relaxes when we have a nice lead. That don’t register for me.
“Bleep the last couple years. That don’t mean bleep. We’re playing today. Last year is dead and gone. Having to win? No, I don’t get that. I think when you have a lead, you’re sitting better than you are when you absolutely have to win a game that day. I think having a lead’s got to be better than that. I’ll take the lead. That’s what I’m trying to say. Last year, what happened in the past, that’s gone. We played tremendous baseball last year the last five, six weeks. Best baseball we’ve ever played. I’m not going to give our lead up and say, ‘We’ll start here.’ No, I’m not going to do that because I don’t know if we can come through or not. I like our chances better where we’re at, but at the same time, we have to win some games. That’s what I’m trying to say.”
The thing about Charlie’s tirade is they generally work. Moreover, he hit on a message that he has been dropping all season long, which is the 2008 season is over. The World Series is history. It’s September and the Phillies are in a weak division and if they don’t snap to it quickly, this season can be over as quickly as the ’07 playoff run.
That’s the tough part. If the season were to end today, the Phillies would be matched up against the Dodgers in the NLDS. That’s a hornets’ nest right there considering the Dodgers have had the best record in the league all season long. Plus, there’s a score to settle and you know what they say about paybacks.
Think the Dodgers are still smarting from last season? Think the Dodgers don’t want another piece of the Phillies with home field advantage?
So yeah, Nationals Park is a pretty good place for the Phillies to be right about now. That’s especially the case considering the Phils are 10-2 against the Nats, who are inching closer to a second straight 100-loss season. At 47-90 the Nats not only have the worst record in baseball with losses in seven of their last eight mixed in, but also they have been a veritable laughingstock of pro sports.
If only it could be chalked up to one of those years for the Nats. But simply having some bad luck doesn’t begin to describe it.
First, the season began with general manager Jim Bowden resigned amidst a federal investigation that the longtime GM allegedly had been skimming of signing bonuses earmarked for Latin American prospects.
The Nats also fired manager Manny Acta because he couldn’t figure out how not to lose games with John Lannan and his 17-25 record as the staff ace. Just last week they fired the director of player development, Bobby Williams, because he had ties with Bowden. On top of that, the club’s second-year ballpark is underwhelming with the view of the DC skyline blocked out by construction and parking garages, which has resulted in the fifth-worst attendance in the Majors.
Only Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Florida have drawn fewer fans than the Nats.
Luckily, the Phillies still have six more games against Washington this season. Those are six games Manuel likely won’t be happy with unless they end with wins. After all, the Nationals are last in every notable pitching statistic.
That could make it more fun for the fans from Philly who make the trek down I-95 to sterile Nationals Park. Better yet, for those fans who get shut out when hoping to get some tickets at CBP, the drive might be worth it.
After all, the Phillies have Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee lined up for the first two games and Joe Blanton set for Thursday’s series finale. Plenty of good seats still available.
Yes, the Phillies better sweep this one.