Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The train wreck heads to DC

By Steven Lienert
The Phanatic Magazine

Freddy Garcia's four-and-two-thirds innings. Ryan Howard's one home run. Chase Utley's .245 batting average. The entire bullpen.

After just 12 games, the 3-9 'Team-to Beat' Phillies are the worst team in the National League. In all of baseball, only the 3-11 Royals are worse. That's some good company.

Of course, there's just one person to blame: Howard Eskin.

It's his fault that the bullpen is so bad, Brett Myers, who was the Phillies' Opening Day starter, is its newest member. Which, by the way, is supposed to be permanent, meaning the Phils no longer have that "sixth starter" to bargain.

Myers tried his best to play the role of the good soldier, but his mouth got in the way of his good intentions. After saying he'd do whatever would help the team win, he took at shot at management by saying he'd move to the 'pen as long as it was for the rest of the season.

He said he didn't want what happened to Ryan Madson last season happen to him this season. In 2006, Madson was yo-yoed between the bullpen and the starting rotation and, at least in Myers mind, it has hurt him.

Madson's 6.23 ERA would back up that estimation.

It's clearly Eskin's fault that the Phillies were duped in a trade for a starting pitcher once again.

Does anyone else find it an eerie coincidence that Freddy Garcia is wearing Kevin Millwood's old number?

And only if Eskin hadn't convinced Chase Utley to get married. Like Mickey said to Rocky: "Women weaken legs."

And did anyone else see Eskin working with Howard in the batting cage during spring training? That's the reason Howard's pulling his head off the ball. It's his fault Howard posed for the covers of numerous publications, including one on Philadelphia Magazine under the headline, "Ryan Howard won't let us down."

Well, he's not exactly pulling the fan base up right now, is he? Darn it to heck, Eskin!

In all seriousness, Charlie Manuel's explosion last night is clear evidence that he has lost control of the locker room, which was almost reason enough for fans to run Andy Reid out of town during football season.

Yet Uncle Charlie keeps prodding along. Meanwhile, Jim Leyland, who was deemed by Phillies' management to be "not as good a fit" as Manuel, has the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers leading the Central Division with a healthy 9-5 record.

Including tonight, the Phillies have 13 games left this month. They have to go 8-5 over that stretch just to make it to the same 11-14 mark the team has had the previous two Aprils.

At this point, that 8-5 record seems highly unlikely, which would mean a significant step backwards for the team under Manuel's stewardship.

In almost any other city, that would be enough to get a manager canned.

Or enough to get him to focus more on his team than what some sports radio host has to say about his manhood.

Lienert's column appears almost every Wednesday. Contact him at slienert@phanaticmag.com.
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