By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report
Now that the July 31 trade deadline has come and gone with the trades of Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants, the rest of the Phillies 2012 season will be about getting ready for the 2013 season and beyond.
For those of you still crying in your beer about the current 2012 season, I have to remind you that this franchise has had an outstanding five-year run of success. One World Series title, two National League pennants and five straight National League East titles is nothing to sniff at and is better than most teams during the same period.
But when you have that kind of run of success, you’re inevitably going to have injuries and players getting old. In the first half of the season, the Phillies found themselves in a deep hole from which there was no escape. With the farm system depleted from all the other big name trades, it was simply time for the Phillies to re-tool.
From what we’ve seen under the Ruben Amaro Jr. era as general manager, the Phllies have made moves to put a winning team on the field. Team owner David Montgomery recently said the team might have to go over the luxury tax to bring to bring in quality talent.
Speaking of talent, the trading away of Victorino and Pence will mean that the Phillies highly-touted prospect Domonic Brown will have the last two months to prove that he’s everything the organization says he supposed to be.
Last season, Brown struggled in right field and was inconsistent at the plate with a .245 batting average. He was optioned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley with the arrival of Pence from Houston and was also moved to left field.
But earlier this summer, Brown moved to centerfield and according to his coaches, he’s more comfortable in the middle of the outfield than at the corners. He started hitting better and before he came up to the Phillies on Tuesday, he was batting .286 with 28 RBI and five home runs. In his last 10 games, he was batting .314.
After his 56-game stint with the Phillies last year as a platoon player, there were some in the media who labeled him a bust because he struggled at the plate and looked liked he hadn’t play the outfield before with some of his gaffe’s in right field.
I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Brown to say he can’t make it. In Wednesday’s win over the Washington Nationals, Brown showed his prowess in leftfield when he gunned down pitcher Edwin Jackson at the plate.
If the 25-year-old Brown plays lights out in the field or at the plate in these last two months, he just might save Amaro and the Phillies a few million bucks in terms of finding an outfielder. I think playing everyday might help him relax and find his groove. I would be in veteran Juan Pierre’s face everyday to learn a few things about playing the outfield if I were him.
Nate Schierholtz, who came from the San Francisco Giants in the Pence trade, had a homerun and had an outstanding sliding catch in right field off a ball hit by the Nationals Bryce Harper. The 28-year-old Schierholtz is another guy who’s looking to prove himself after not getting enough time in San Francisco.
Sometimes, when talented players who struggle initially are given a new life, they perform well because they’re in a new location, playing a new position or new role. Lots of players have come into their own at the major league and perform well after struggling at first.
But if Brown and Schierholtz struggle, the free agent market has some pretty interesting players. Former Phillies outfielder and current Atlanta Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn will be a free agent next season along with Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton and San Francisco Giants centerfielder Melky Cabrera, and Victorino.
The Phillies got some much-needed middle relief help from 25-year-old right-hander Josh Lindblom, who had a 2-2 record with 3.02 earned run average in 48 games, with batters hitting just .241 against him this season.
Oddly enough, the bullpen coming into Wednesday’s game against the Nationals has been on a roll with a 1.33 ERA while holding batters to a .186 in their last 11 games.
The Phillies have a firm foundation with guys like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, but it’s still an uncertain future because everything depends upon if this or if that…Lots of ifs.