By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—With the Phillies 15 games below .500 and their awful performance after the All-Star break, you should now have all the evidence you need to understand that team’s run of success in recent years has to come to an end.
The Phillies fired Charlie Manuel Friday after compiling four wins in 23 games after the All-Star Break and replaced him with Ryne Sandberg, who is in a 42-game tryout as the Phils interim manager.
But Manuel’s dismissal wasn’t necessarily about his abilities as a manager. It was emblematic of an aging team that is in decline and is about as good as they’re going to get this season, which explains the Phillies current 53-68 record.
From 2007 to 2011, the Phillies won five straight division titles, a World Series title and two National League pennants. Like it does with every good team, age and injuries over the last two seasons have finally caught up with them.
At the end of the day, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is going to have to do an overhaul of a team that needs to move forward rather than hanging on to players who are nothing more than aging shells of their former selves.
If you’re going to bring in a new manager, I think you’re also going to have to bring in new, younger players who are going to buy into the new manager’s philosophy and at some point you have to start growing your younger talent.
That means you have to say good-bye to popular fan-favorites. I thought it was a mistake for Amaro to sign second baseman baseman Chase Utley to a two-year contract extension. Don’t get it twisted, Utley has been a warrior of a player for the Phillies and a key contributor during the team’s playoff run.
But with his degenerative knees and his age, Utley’s days as a regular second baseman are numbered. I personally think they should have traded him for some prospects or some younger player.
As much as I admire and respect shortstop Jimmy Rollins, I think it’s time for him to move forward as well. After this season, he will have one year left on his contract. After next year or maybe even before that, it’s thank you for your service and the good things that you’ve done for the team.
While he is still one of the best defensive shortstops in the National League and maybe in baseball, at the plate he hasn’t hit above .280 since winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2007.
Rollins hasn’t been the most disciplined hitter, which is surprising for a veteran ball player of his stature. He doesn’t work the count and often swings at bad pitches.
A couple weeks ago, the team placed the 34-year-old Rollins on waivers since he has a no-trade clause in his contract, but there were no takers. Unless he has a huge resurgence next year, I don’t see the team signing him to an extension. Eventually, they’re going to have to look to their farm system to find a replacement.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are going to have see if 36-year-old Roy Halladay, whose contract is up at the end of this year, has anything left following his shoulder surgery. He is currently on a rehab assignment with Phillies minor league affiliate in Clearwater, Fla.
In his first start, Halladay allowed three runs and struck out four. The velocity on his fastball was somewhere between 85 and 87-miles per hour. That’s not good enough for him to come back to the major league level.
The bottom-line now is that the Phillies are officially in rebuilding mode and for them to get better they will inevitably have to say adios to guys who helped build and shape the Phillies last run of success.
Just as Rollins, Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels became the foundation of 2007 to 2011, especially after the team unloaded guys like Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu, a new crop of kids will come in and hopefully achieve what those guys did.