This article is in a Point/Counter-Point series. The opposing viewpoint can be found here.
The 2014 Philadelphia Phillies are going to be bad. BAD. I mean, really, really bad. Unquestionably, undeniably bad. You probably get the point.
There are several reasons for this.
First off, the Phillies are old. Even for baseball teams, where players like Jamie Moyer can play well into their 40s, the Phillies are positively decrepit. Five of their eight projected starters will be over 34 years old. With the nagging injury problems that Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins consistently face, they may as well be two or three years older than they already are. And it is only a matter of time before Carlos Ruiz’s knees start to fail him; his defensive prowess is due to decline, and though his offense is nothing to ignore, it wasn’t the same last year after his shameful PED-but-not-really-PED suspension.
The other three starters are much younger, but unproven. Though Domonic Brown had a breakout season last year, we still don’t know whether it was a sign of things to come or just a career year. Ben Revere has proven himself to be a very good starter, with a dearth of power but nice ability to hit for average and flashy defense (Remember this catch last year?). The last young starter is Cody Asche at third base; he’s solid, but nothing special.
Another reason that the Phillies will crash and burn this year is their GM, Ruben Amaro, Jr. (He needs a good, spiteful, vaguely derogatory, heckle-able nickname. “Ruin Tomorrow, Jr” maybe? I’ll work on it.) Ruben is blissfully unaware that the window to win with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins at the helm is over. Closed. Done. Everyone seems to know except Ruben, who continues to sign veteran free agents in an effort to win now, though anyone with the analytical prowess of a rock (or a reuben sandwich? I feel a nickname brewing…) knows that the Phillies have zero chance of winning jack right now. In the process, Amaro tends to send away farm system prospects. Not exactly a great policy for a MLB general manager.
The pitching staff isn’t exactly full of hope either (nice job, Ruben/Reuben). Cliff Lee, during his second stint in Philly, is still good but declining nevertheless. He’s not going to win the Cy Young, let’s leave it at that. Cole Hamels is injured. Also, Cole Hamels is Cole Hamels, so we don’t really know if he’ll show up to play this year, or have another 2009-esque “meh” season. AJ Burnett is coming off a good season, but he is too old to be dependable, even as a third starter. Roy Halladay went in a flash from unbeatable to having fans hope that maybe the offense could bail him out when he gives up 4 runs and throws 60 pitches in the first inning. Kyle Kendrick also had a decent year last season, but he’s not a fourth starter in a good pitching rotation. Not if you want to go deep into the playoffs. (And I don’t even know who the fifth starter is, so he can’t be all too great.)
It is going to be a long, long summer if the Phillies perform as they should (not very well). Maybe something changes, maybe someone has a renaissance year, or some unknown prospect breaks out and plays the part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig last year. But probably not. Let’s just get ready for the football season, and hope the Flyers hang on until late April. We’ll welcome the distraction from the abysmal Phillies.