Thursday, September 25, 2003

Wait Till Next Year

The Phillies trail Florida, 8-2, in the 6th as I write this, and should they go on to lose, they'll be eliminated from playoff contention. Thus would effectively conclude a season of significant underachievement. All due credit to the Marlins, who lost one of their good young starters before the season began, fired their manager early on, and saw their best hitter go down as the stretch run got underway, yet still hung on as a team whose whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Unlike the home nine, whose performance never matched their potential.

I'll need a little time to decompress from the disappointment and reflect on where the Phils go from here. The columnists, though, have already unsheathed their knives. Both Sam Donnellon and Phil Sheridan, filing last night from Miami, note that two Marlins who have killed the Phillies in this series, Jeff Conine and Ugueth Urbina, were obtained for the kind of prospects with which the Phils were reluctant to part. While Ed Wade was content to play his hand, the Fish asked for four new cards. And guess who's going to the playoffs?

Donnellon, in this morning's Daily News, blasts Wade for allowing the Marlins to steal the wild-card race. While Wade focused on big things -- the acquisition of Jim Thome, for example -- he fumbled on the little things, according to Donnellon, allowing Tyler Houston to walk, not even making a play for Urbina or Brian Giles, and failing to recognize that Randy Wolf, not Kevin Millwood, is the Phils' real ace. He writes:

"We know it's definitely out of our hands," Larry Bowa said. "We've got to get help from people."

You wish they had figured this out in July, when Jose Mesa first started going on the blink, when the Marlins were trading some of their future for Urbina. The Marlins were three games over .500 then. They have a chance to be 20 games over .500 before their energized regular season ends, before taking their shot in the postseason. You can't help thinking it could have been your team.

In the Inquirer, Sheridan makes a similar charge:

General manager Ed Wade has some serious thinking to do. His mantra all summer was that this team was a playoff-caliber team.

He said it in spring training and he went even further when the July 31 trade deadline was looming.

"I think we have a championship-caliber team," Wade said then.

So either Wade was wrong or this team underachieved. Maybe both.

Additionally, each takes a poke at Bowa. Donnellon gripes that the manager's "body language garners as much attention as the Harry Potteresque bat of your $85 million slugger." Sheridan goes further, pointing out that baseball "should be fun," though "the way Larry Bowa manages the Phillies, it is anything but. . . . Bowa went to the whip in Montreal and, after a nice 9-1 surge, this horse faded badly. As of last night, it has a Monday reservation at the glue factory."

Time to buy stock in Elmer's. Should be a fun off-season.


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