On the Phillies. . . and Leadership
On 97.5 FM, one of the sports talk radio stations in Philadelphia (a commentary on society is that there is more than one of them), former Phillie Darren Daulton talks about problems in the Phillies' clubhouse. He doesn't specify, of course, which means either he suspects that there are or he knows something but isn't telling. It's hard to know how connected Daulton is. He talks in this laid back style and has a nickname for everyone, which means either he has a familiarity with all or just does it because, well, he's Dutch, and deep into middle age, he's still trying to be cool (going so far as to being a radio pitchman for an air-conditioning company and saying that he relies upon them, despite the fact that he also does an ad for the condo building he lives in, which, presumably, means he doesn't need his own personal HVAC contractor).
Today, on the same station, Leslie Gudel of Comcast SportsNet was interviewed, and she offered that it's not so much that there are problems, it's just that there isn't any leadership. That's probably closer to the case, and, if so, it's sad.
In the mid-2000's, the senior player on the squad was Bobby Abreu, who was a pretty good outfielder despite current musings that he was awful. The younger players -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins -- and others deferred to Abreu because of his seniority. That led to GM Pat Gillick's trading Abreu to the Yankees for four suspects into order to enable the Phillies to become Rollins', Utley's and Howard's team. Seemed simple, but with Jamie Moyer providing leadership for a young pitching staff, it was time for the young stars to take over.
And it worked. It led to a world championship.
The team was full of energy and gamers and, interesting, no big contracts. Then Jayson Werth cashed in and hit the jackpot with the Nationals, and, according to Gudel, he lived, breathed and slept baseball. Ditto former OF Shane Victorino, an energetic player with whom the others seemed to want to keep pace. Traded to L.A., cashes in with a seemingly over-the-top contract with the Red Sox. Gudel offered that both are missed.
That may be, but Werth left a few years ago, Victorino was a good player, but even so, Utley, Howard and Rollins remain. Cole Hamels is more senior, and Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are deans of MLB's starting pitcher ranks, and Jonathan Papelbon is a premier closer. And then there's Carlos Ruiz, whose suspension for taking Adderall didn't help matters. So, is it really the case that there is no leadership? Is Utley fried? Is Howard not showing leadership because he's playing hurt? Has Rollins decided that someone else should step up? What about Lee? What about Hamels? What about Halladay?
Or, is it simply a case of, "well, I have my big contract, I have my awesome condo in Center City and a second home somewhere, so as long as I do my job, I'm fine. Leadership? That's for someone else?"
Because that's what it looks like. It's only been five years, guys. A few of who have never won a series, so perhaps you'll step it up. For those who have, don't you want to get back there?
Meanwhile, two young commentators were chastising the fans for booing and not being positive.
To a degree, the fans' attitudes reflect the leadership that they see on the field.
The absence of leadership is bad enough.
But the absence of leadership from those who led before or who get paid enough to lead is even more troubling.
Better leadership won't, in and of itself, get the Phillies to the playoffs.
But the absence of it could make the difference between contending for them or not.