Monday's most recent debacle marked the #Phillies' seventh blown save in their last six games. In fact, the Fightin's have now incurred 21 blown saves on the year, and we haven't yet reached the all-star break. To put things into perspective on just how inept this statistic is, the franchise season record for the metric is 25. Consequently, the 2021 version of the pen is on pace to best last season's historically inept version for one of the worst all-time in major league baseball history.
As the blistering heat of summer fast approaches, the Phillies train has completely jumped off the tracks. The bullpen is just a microcosm of a much bigger elephant in the room. So what is it that really ails the Phillies, you might ask? Well, I am here to tell you that the problem is not really what you think.
Yes, the team has been totally pathetic and inconsistent at the dish. True, the defense makes the bad news bears look like gold glove winners daily. Yes, Joe Girardi has indeed been God-awful, even to the point that fans are clamoring for Gabe Kapler's return. It doesn't take a genius to observe that the team is filled with underachievers. And we have even had former players like Cole Irvin and Nick Pivetta criticize the team's character as they paint their mona Lisa of a losing culture.
And to add insult to this team's ineptitude, Spencer Howard, the "Golden Child" apple of the team's eye prospect, has been sent back to the minors. Just another douse of salt to an already gaping wound. Yes, among all the dysfunction and depravity at the major league level, none of that rivals the morbidity of the Phillies farm system: A jayvee squad playing amongst a varsity league. So yes, all of these factors point to an overall abomination for this city's baseball team.
However, as the saying goes, it all starts at the top. Yes, that's right, Phillie's major malfunction happens to be the man pulling strings. John Middleton is the one true culprit here. Bad bullpen's are just a symptom. Terrible defense is just a feature. Poor management is just an indication. A failed farm system is the manifestation. While most angry fans point to all of these other excuses, the fact remains that the overwhelming reason for this team's ineptitude lies in John Middleton's bed.
It was John Middleton that hired ivy league computer nerd Matt Klentak. It was also John that brought in over the hill; what have you done lately, MacFailure. Middleton is responsible for allowing these two jackasses to totally ruin any semblance of a development league that we did have. And yes, he waited three years too long to pull the trigger while it was already too late before it had even started.
And then there is the unwillingness to pay into the luxury tax. In 2019, Middleton went star hunting when he signed Bryce Harper to a 330 million dollar contract. At that moment, the owner proclaimed that they were not rebuilding and ready to contend. Either he was blowing smoke or just too naive to realize just how many light-years away from this team actually was from vying for the playoffs.
Let's be real; the point is not to say that Middleton has not done anything good because that would be a lie. Yes, the team made a huge commitment to Bryce Harper. They also dolled out massive money to bring in guys like Zach Wheeler, DiDi Gregorious, among others. The team also brought in highly-touted manager Joe Girardi with hopes that he could get them over the hump. However, once again, here we are, mired in yet another year of mediocrity.
The question that I cannot ignore then does John Middleton truly want to win? Or is he just another fraud owner that's only in the business of selling tickets and turning a profit? The fact of the matter remains that this team still has major holes up and down the roster through all of the hoopla and big moves. The problem is that when you have a team that is so inept at the minor league level, you have to spend money. So why is John Middleton cheap all of a sudden? In my opinion, he makes his bed in lies and deception.
In other words, he talks a big game, but he fails to back it up.
As a die-hard fan, it's hard for me to sympathize with a professional sports ownership group when it comes to spending money. Especially when that owner is a BILLIONAIRE like John. And frankly, it disturbs me when that same guy said that the team was ready to spend stupid money only a short time ago. Then again, in hindsight, one could say that the team did spend some stupid cash when you look at some of the bust contracts they initiated. Players like Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Archie Bradley...now that's a STUPID bag!
While appearing as a guest on WIP Sports Radio in 2017, Middleton made an almost legendary quote: "We're going to get that trophy back somehow, or I'm going to die trying." That was as close to a declaration or promise to do whatever it takes to get this team another championship as there comes. What a way to set the bar high and with that only fuel the expectations of die-hards. Well, that promise now, only a few years later, seems to have been a misnomer. Because if Johnny boy were truly ready to do "Whatever it takes," then he would surely invade the tax!
John refuses to back those promises up with action. By refusing to go over the luxury, he is not only signifying that the team is not good enough to contend, but he is also going against the basic principles that he has preached so feverishly.
Well, my patience has worn thin, my confidence meter screams negative 70, and my anger levels have reached 911!! I am afraid that John Middleton is not the stand-up guy that he portrayed himself as. I am concerned that he has ulterior motives to not transcending the tax, motives that only have aspirations of making this team good, but not great. And my heart is telling me that he has turned back into a pumpkin and that this franchise is destined for many more years of failure.
Is John merely a wolf in sheep's clothing? Well, I hope that my fears are just my imagination. I'm praying that my opinion is only exaggerated and just an overreaction. However, my gut tells me that I'm absolutely right. And if this team is not going to spend money, then the only other option is to blow it up. No one wants to hear that, but it's certainly not out of the realms of possibility. As the 2021 season approaches another cliff, the man that remains the biggest problem also happens to be the only person that can somehow fix it! For the sake of Phillies fans everywhere, get your head out of your ass and DO SOMETHING, JOHN!