No-Hit? No $hit – The Devolution of the Philadelphia Phillies (Part One)
It’s about 2 a.m. on a humid Wednesday morning. My sporadic insomnia has sent me to my comfort zone, YouTube, where I watch the usual—TED talks, WorldStar Vine compilations, and some of the weird stuff, like the effects of a cluster headache. But on this night, as my copy of Turn Blue by The Black Keys uploads to my iTunes, I watched scientist Bill Nye debate author Ken Ham on Evolution versus Creationism.
To keep things as organic and objective as possible, I won’t share my thoughts. But I think there is one theory we can all agree on— the theory of ‘Devolution.’
When it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers’ right hander Josh Beckett’s no-hitter in a 6-0 win Sunday at Citizens Bank Park completes the Phillies’ transformation from a Major League powerhouse, to a Major League laughing stock.
Devolution: The act of reverse evolution. This word has been coined by the band “Devo”. Devolution is a process which mankind is permanently engaged in, and is irreversible. There’s nothing one can do about it, so enjoy the ride. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
According to Urban Dictionary’s definition, society is devolving at a rate that we can no longer control. While there may be some truth in that—we are a world that went from loving Beethoven, to adoring Led Zeppelin, to current hysteria over Miley Cyrus—we can’t deny the steady downfall that Ruben Amaro Jr.’s reign has awarded the Phillies; one that transitioned the team from a World Series champion, to a team that sits alone at the bottom of the National League East standings.
But how did the team get to the point that it was no-hit for the first time since St. Louis Cardinals’ righty Bob Forsch silenced the Phillies’ bats in 1978?
The Signing of Has-Beens
At the age of 37, The Phillies signed free agent righty Pedro Martinez, who was coming off a $53 million contract from the division rival New York Mets—a team that Martinez won 32 games for over four seasons, including a 5-6 2008 season, in which the three-time Cy Young Award winner finished with a 5.61 ERA.
Though Martinez went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA for the Phillies in 2009—his only season with the team—his best days were behind him. Though, that didn’t stop the Phillies from relying on the 37-year-old in Game 6 of the World Series, against a team and city that recognizes itself as Martinez’s “daddy.”
In two games against the New York Yankees, Martinez went 0-2 and allowed seven earned runs over 10 innings. In Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, with the Phillies down 3-2 in the series and a chance to force the deciding Game 7 on the line, the midseason acquired Martinez was called to the mound.
With all hope resting on shoulders that have labored 2,923 2/3 innings in the MLB, Martinez would throw his last four innings, allow his final four earned runs, and exit having thrown his final five strikeouts. A short time following, with his team down 7-3, Martinez would watch Phillies’ center fielder Shane Victorino ground out to give the Yankees its 27th World Series crown.
The downward spiral started there, and continued to Chase Utley’s called strike-three, which gave Beckett membership to the No-Hitter Club on Sunday. The recipe for regress was just getting started, though, as the Phillies would sign more of yesterday’s stars to fill today’s key roles.
Following the World Series loss, the Phillies opted to sign 34-year-old Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18 million deal in an attempt to fix the team’s third base issues. While he batted .298 in 132 games in 2010, injuries would limit his playing time over the next two seasons, and his hitting ability suffered greatly. In the final year of his deal, Polanco played in only 90 games and batted .252 with 19 RBIs.
The Phillies’ preference to sign players who were past their prime didn’t stop with Polanco. The team inked journeyman Chad Qualls to a one-year deal after signs that the right-handed pitcher had rebounded from a miserable 2010 campaign. His misery returned when he put on red and white pinstripes. Qualls allowed 18 runs over 31 1/3 innings before being exiled to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline in 2012.
Then there’s 2013.
Following their first season without a playoff berth in six years, the Phillies added to the mecca of mediocrity with an encore of has-been signings that included pitcher Mike Adams,
right fielder Delmon Young, and a trade for former American League batting champion Michael Young.
Adams was coming off a season-ending injury, Delmon Young hadn’t steadily played the field in quite sometime, Michael Young was no longer Michael Young, and the Phillies finished 73-89, fourth in the NL East.
Looking back, it was obvious that Ruben Amaro Jr. needed to bring them in to successfully devolve the team to what it is now. With Amaro going all-in on the three, the organization betted on the trio to be the missing pieces needed to reclaim postseason glory. They were wrong. Believe me.
Adams has visited the team’s disabled list often, and has never really reclaimed the status that he once held in San Diego—where he posted multiple seasons with an ERA under 2.00. Delmon Young was a nightmare in the field, sporting a .960 fielding percentage, and hit a modest .261 with eight home runs before being traded to Tampa Bay. Michael Young was sent packing as well, being traded to the Dodgers after batting .276 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs for the Phillies.
The Phillies’ track record shows that money was spent on short-term solutions, with hopes that the acquired players would amount to what they once were, not what they are. As a result, the Phillies are quickly descending to the darkest depths of baseball embarrassment. While these string of signings aren’t the whole problem, they are a major ingredient in how a team goes from winning the World Series, to planning its October vacation in April.
There’s plenty more to the problem, so you should watch “smack cams” until part two comes out, because anything is more entertaining than watching this monumental plummet.
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Posted on May 28, 2014, in Contributors and Guest Articles, Features, Phillies, Posts and tagged delmon young, Devolution, Michael Young, Mike Adams, New York Yankees, Pedro Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies, Placido Polanco. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.