Tag Archives: Cole Hamels

Rebuilding the Colossal Wreck That is the Phillies

8 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New Phillies Team President Andy MacPhail has the monumental task of making the Phils a contender again.

New Phillies Team President Andy MacPhail has the monumental task of making the Phils a contender again.

PHILADELPHIA—During the Phillies run to five straight playoff appearances, crowds packed Citizens Bank Park and wondered what newcomers might be in red and white pinstripes at the July 31st trade deadline.

All was right in South Philly as Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley led a potent offense and a young Cole Hamels was part of a group of aces that shut down hitters right and left and included Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

Fast forward to the present and the 2015 All-Star Break.

Today, the Phillies once mighty empire is in ruins. They have the worst record in baseball, finding a seat at Citizens Bank Park isn’t hard and the fans that do come see the team don’t have a lot to cheer about. In fact, as football season draws closer and the losses continue to mount, expect to hear E-A-G-L-E-S chants.

The star players from the team won the World Series in 2008 are shadows of their former selves thanks to a combination of age and injuries. Howard is batting just .218 with 14 homers and 41 runs batted in, boy wonder Utley is batting just .179 with just four homeruns and 25 RBIs, and catcher Carlos Ruiz is hitting .225 with one homer and 15 RBIs.

Heck, on Monday night, former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the former MVP that proclaimed the Phightins “The Team To Beat”, added insult to injury by helping his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, win the game by driving in two go-ahead runs.
Before that at-bat, Rollins was batting a paltry .208.
The Dodgers, contenders in the NL West, are probably in search of additional pieces to help them make a run at the post season.
Maybe they need to bring their shopping list to Philadelphia.

It’s time for the Phillies to start moving folks. Howard has only one year left on a large contract that probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Meanwhile, Hamels is 5-6 with a 3.02 ERA that includes several outings where run support was hard to come by.

And contenders like the Dodgers and the New York Yankees could use a closer like Jonathan Papelbon to get them over the postseason hump.
You see, the Phillies need prospects. They need good, young players to bolster a thin farm system. And you can’t get those prospects when you have a bunch of guys that are not only a part of the past, but have become a pretty ineffective part of the present.

The long-term rebuilding process of turning the Phillies back into a contender will come under the watch of new team president Andy MacPhail, a man who comes from a long line of Hall of Fame front office guys. MacPhail was the general of the Minnesota Twins during their 1987 and 1991 World Series championship teams season and most recently reviving a moribund Baltimore Orioles team.

The challenge for MacPhail will be to find a general manager that really knows talent because I get the feeling that Ruben Amaro Jr.’s contract will not renewed.

You’ll also need a good manager to turn a bunch of young players into a contender. With all due respect to Ryne Sandberg, who resigned as Phillies’ manager last month, a laid-back, milquetoast approach won’t get the job done.

From what I understand, Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a Philadelphia-area native, is in the final year of his contract. He has a World Series ring and the Angels have finished no worse than third during his 15-year tenure as a manager. If I’m MacPhail or the new GM, I am on the phone with Scioscia at the end of the season.

When he assumes command, MacPhail needs to definitively show Phillies fans some that there’s going to be light at the end of what has been become a dark and gloomy tunnel.

Or the only memories that the Phillies will have are those of an empty stadium.

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Phillies Start 2015 Season on the Wrong Foot in Shutout Loss to Boston

7 Apr
Cole Hamels gave up four solo runs in the Phillies 8-0 shutout loss in Monday's 2015 Season-Opener.

Cole Hamels gave up four solo runs in the Phillies 8-0 shutout loss in Monday’s 2015 Season-Opener. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The 2015 season opener for the Phillies was simply a continuation of the seasons since they last won a division title in 2011—a slow start by the starting pitcher and little run support from the offense.

Cole Hamels allowed five hits, four of them solo homeruns—Dustin Pedroia had two of them while centerfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who also hit a game-clinching grand-slam home run in the top of the ninth inning off Phillies relief pitcher Jake Diekman.

On a sunny, picture postcard day in front of a sellout crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park, the Boston Red Sox came with a 8-0 shutout of the Phillies.   Well, so much for optimism and hope on opening day. What this game did was reinforce for fans why there will be little to cheer about this season.

“It definitely didn’t go the way we all envisioned,” Hamels told reporters after the game. “I know I’m one of the big culprits of that. You put a team down 1-0 in the first inning, it’s not really setting a good tone or positive message to be able to get the momentum to your side, so that’s a lot of my fault.”

Hamels had five strikeouts and allowed three walks in five innings on the mound. Giving up those homeruns put the Phillies in an early hole and considering how the Phillies offense struggles to score, it might as well be a 40-run deficit.

“Cole didn’t get away with any high fast balls,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “His command was not sharp at all and that resulted in the home runs. …No explanation for Cole, he was throwing 94 and he had his fast ball. He seemed to have long counts, they fouled off a lot of balls, they extended at-bats, he threw a lot of pitches and really didn’t into a rhythm of getting ahead of the hitters.”

It took the Phillies offense four innings to get their first hit of the game—a double by Ryan Howard. In the seventh inning, the Phillies actually got two more hits from catcher Carlos Ruiz and right fielder Grady Sizemore.

Ruiz eventually reached third, but was stranded there when shortstop Freddy Galvis struck out to end the inning. That was as close to scoring as the Phillies would get.

Sandberg said his team has to come up with ways to manufacture runs and get timely hits moving forward. For the Phillies, putting hits together and scoring runs will be far easier said than done.

“We’re just going to have to grind out at bats and make the most out of base runners,” Sandberg said. “The games that we played well and won in spring training we would do that and do some other things to advance the runners. We need to hit more and take more walks.”

Meanwhile, Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Bucholz bedazzled Phillies to the tune of nine strikeouts and allowing just three hits—two singles and a double—in seven innings on the mound for Boston.

While Philadelphia sports fans have their usual cynical, pessimistic view of the Phillies lack of hitting prowess, Phillies leftfielder Ben Revere shrugged it off and reminded folks that there are a whole bunch of games left in the season.

“It’s only one game, so it’s 161 to go. We have an off-day and we’ll be back on Wednesday,” Revere said. “It’s a long season. We have to think about Wednesday. We’ll starting getting the groove back, especially with me and (Odubel) Herrerra creating havoc on the bases.”

 

Spring Training 2015: Phils Begin the Painful Process of Rebuilding

20 Feb
Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn't get enough run support in 2014 and now wants out of Philadelphia.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn’t get enough run support in 2014 and now wants out of Philadelphia. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hoping to be at full strength after struggling last years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hoping to be at full strength after struggling last year.
Photo by Webster Riddick.

 Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—With pitchers and catchers reporting to the Phillies spring training headquarters in Clearwater, Florida this week, fans would like to believe that there would be some hope onthe horizon.

But, the Phillies are a team facing more uncertainty now than they did at the end of last season’s 73-89 finish.
Don’t get too attached to the Phillies current 40-man roster because it’ll probably change by the July 31st trade deadline or when the season ends. Heck, it may not be the same when the Phillies open the season against the Boston Red Sox on April 6 at Citizens Bank Park.

During the offseason, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. tried to move veterans like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard.

But the offers weren’t there. So guys, along with second baseman Chase Utley and his un-waved no-trade clause, remain on the roster.
While most of those guys will be gone eventually, Hamels is already looking at moving companies. The team’s ace pitcher told USA Today: “I want to go to a place where I can win again. I know it’s not going to happen here.”

On the other hand, that’s not to say Amaro didn’t make any moves this off season. He managed to jettison the team’s all-time hits leader, shortstop Jimmy Rollins (Los Angeles Dodgers), rightfielder Marlon Byrd (Cincinnati) and starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (Colorado Rockies).

The most notable addition of the Phillies offseason was former Los Angeles Dodgers Chad Billingsley, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years because of elbow surgery. He missed all of last season and a good chunk of the 2013.

That one was a bit of a head scratcher. I guess that Amaro is hoping Billingsley will be healthy enough to be a functioning part of the rotation or better yet be good enough to be a tradable commodity. From 2006 to 2013, Billingsley has an 81-61 record with a 3.65 earned run average.

Health is also concern for lefthander Cliff Lee, who is scheduled to make $25 million this season. Lee ended the 2014 season on the disabled list with an injured left elbow, something that scared off potential trading partners. Amaro is hoping Lee can give teams the illusion that he’s still good enough to get some young prospects for him.

Speaking of possible pieces to trade, a big question is will Ryan Howard be healthy enough to be the slugger that struck fear in the hearts of pitchers from 2006 to 2011. If Howard has a hot start in the spring and summer, Amaro might find some willing trade partners, especially in the American League where he could help a team as a designated hitter.

But the team that does it is going to have to swallow the last two years—and $60 million—of Howard’s contract.

Rebuilding is obviously the Phillies ultimate goal. Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg want to know if guys like Freddy Galvis, Ben Revere, David Buchanan, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf are ready and good enough to eventually become perennially contenders in the National League East.

The next few seasons will probably tell Phillies fans whether or not the light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel is attached to an oncoming train.

Phillies Need to Face the Reality of Rebuilding

1 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn't get enough run support in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn’t get enough run support in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—During the early part of the 2014 season, the Phillies left you with the impression that they could just have timely hitting, good defense and good pitching on a consistent basis, they were close to being a contender in the National League East.

It was something General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. believed and it was something manager Ryne Sandberg talked about even after nights when the Phillies offense came up short or the starting pitching put them in a deep hole from which they could not recover.

That was not only wishful thinking on part of Amaro and Sandberg, it was downright delusional.

Instead, the Phillies did what bad teams usually do, play well in one aspect of their game and suck in some other part. That was the most consistent aspect of the Phillies in 2014 and it resulted in the team’s last place finish (73-89) in the NL East.

To be honest, this season was doomed from the start, going back to the off-season when the most significant free agents signings were aging, over 30-something veterans like pitcher A.J. Burnett and outfielder Marlon Byrd.

While the latter actually had a decent season, the former pitched like the 37-year-old man he was during the season.

Burnett won just two games after the All-Star break and finished the season 8-18 with a 4.59 earned run average. The team also didn’t have left-handed starter Cliff Lee, who finished his season on the disabled list, for most of the season.

Right-handed starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (now a free agent) was hot and cold, often struggling to get out of the first inning.

The only bright spots for the Phillies in 2014 were Cole Hamels, who got little help from his offense, and the young bullpen. Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but finished 9-9 and often lacked run support. He also had a no-hitter he shared with two other pitchers.

The Phils offense was a constant problem all year outside of Byrd, who led the team in home runs and lead-off hitter Ben Revere, who batted .307 and tied for the National League lead in hits.

Unfortunately, Amaro’s resurgence of the “Wheez Kids” was a monumental failure and it’s painfully obvious that change has to come, especially on offense.

That means that it’s time for the Phillies to come to the realization that Amaro has been avoiding for a long time—it’s time to say a fond farewell to the now 30-something guys who won the 2008 World Series whose best days are collectively behind them.

Ryan Howard struggles hurt the Phillies offense in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ryan Howard struggles hurt the Phillies offense in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Of course, the hardest player for the Phillies to move will be first baseman Ryan Howard, who will be 35 in 2015, because the team still owes him $60 million. No one around baseball wants to take on that salary.

Howard is coming off a season where he batted just .223 with 23 homeruns and 95 runs batted in with a league-leading 190 strikeouts. It was the first time since 2011 that Howard has played more than 150 games in a season.

After struggling through a myriad of leg injuries over the last couple of years, it was an accomplishment for Howard to finish the season. While those injuries are fully healed, I don’t think Howard was ever 100 percent back to himself from a baseball perspective.

That said, I think a change of scenery to an American League team where he can be a designated hitter might do him some good and even bring about resurgence in his career.

Meanwhile, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley have no-trade clauses in their contract. Rollins, the Phillies all-time leader in hits, told reporters back in June that he would be open to a trade if the team goes into complete rebuilding mode.

Guess what? That time is here.

Utley, who struggled in the second half of the season, should consider waiving his no-trade clause as well because it’s going to be a long time before this team is a contender again. I don’t know if Utley will like playing for a young, rebuilding team.

Out of the Phillies younger players that have come out of their system in the last year or so, third baseman Cody Asche was the only one who solidified a starting spot next year in the Phils starting lineup. There’s also talk that prospect Maikel Franco could be on the roster next year.

The Phillies will likely part ways with Domonic Brown, who had an awful season and regressed as a hitter. He batted .235 with just 10 home runs, 63 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .285. In 2013, Brown had a .272 average with 27 homers, 83 RBI, and a .324 on-base percentage.

The Phillies will have a solid bullpen next year with a solid corps of young arms led by hard-throwing righthander Ken Giles, who will be the team’s next closer if they can’t find a suitor for Jonathan Papelbon, who served a seven-game suspension near the end of the season for an obscene gesture. He saved 39 of 43 games in 2014.

Giles, whose fast ball was clocked at 100 miles per hour, had a 1.18 earned run average in 44 games and had a 3-1 record with one save.

Amaro himself is on the clock in 2015—the final year of his contract. He has to figure out a way to get this ship going in the right direction for next year and beyond.

If he doesn’t, Amaro will be given his walking papers the same way former assistant general manager for amateur scouting Marti Worlever got his near the end of the 2014 season.

Utley’s Walk-Off Homer Backs Up Stellar Effort by Phillies Bullpen

27 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Phillies fans is watching the offense struggle to score runs, especially when their pitchers—both starters and relievers– are doing all they can to keep the team in the game.

It took the Phils offense 14 innings to finally put the game away on Chase Utley’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Phillies a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 34, 168 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But it was the effort of the bullpen—Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands and winning pitcher Justin De Fratus—that kept the Phillies in the game.

“I think the bullpen is on a roll as a group,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “They’ve found their niche in the game. We’ve got situational guys and they’re feeding off each other. Competition within themselves and they’re just all doing the job.”

Like a hot hockey goalie, the Phillies bullpen stood on its collective head against the Marlins for seven innings and allowed no runs on three hits. They have not allowed an earned run in 24 of their last 25 innings. (They have 0.72 earned-run- average in nine games since June 17). Since June 3, the Phillies relievers have an ERA of 1.10.

“It’s a good thing to see and it just shows the hard work they’ve put in,” said Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

Meanwhile, it was Utley’s first walk-off homer for the Phillies since 2006 when he did it against the Houston Astros. The Phillies second baseman had been struggling and was 1-for-10 for the homestand coming into Thursday night’s game. Utley was 3-for-7 with three runs batted in against the Marlins.

Utley was in an 0-2 hole after taking an off-balance swing at a pitch. He made up for it on the next pitch by knocking the ball into the seats in right field.

“Especially after that swing in the dirt and so it was good to see him regroup and get a pitch he can really handle,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He’s a grinder. Three RBI in the game, scrapped out a hit and the big shot at the end.”

With the exception of three solo homeruns to Giancarlo Stanton, Jarrod Satalamacchia and Marcell Ozuna, Hamels threw well enough to keep the Phillies in the game. He gave up six hits-three of which were not the long ball. He struck out seven with no walks in seven innings on the mound.

“It’s a situation when you get behind in the count, especially to all three of those hitters, they’re very good. They have power and when you make a mistake, they’re going to hit it a long way,” Hamels said. “When you don’t get ahead of hitters in general you put yourself in a bad situation.”

Hamels left the game in the top of the seventh down 3-2, but somehow his teammates got him off the hook for the loss when Domonic Brown scored from third when Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker mishandled a routine ground ball hit by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who hustled down the line.

“Jimmy put the ball in play and hustling down to first base makes a difference there,” Sandberg said. “It was an open door and then we depended upon our bullpen and we used about all of it.”

The Marlins jumped on the scoreboard in their half of third when Satalamacchia belted a solo home run to the left field seats. Stanton homered in the fourth and Oduna hit one out in the seventh to give Miami a short-lived lead.

The Phillies scored their first two runs on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz that scored Utley. The Phils tied the game in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Utley that scored centerfielder Ben Revere.

 

Brignac’s Walk-Off Homer Picks Up Brilliant Effort By Hamels

12 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Phillies Reid Brignac's walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth backed up a brilliant performance by Cole Hamels.

Phillies Reid Brignac’s walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth backed up a brilliant pitching performance by Cole Hamels.

PHILADELPHIA–For eight innings, it was looking like another brilliant outing for Cole Hamels was going by the wayside because of another anemic performance by the Phillies offense, which only had more than two runners on base in just one inning prior to the bottom of the ninth.

Hamels had another gem of a night on the mound for the Phillies. In eight innings, he allowed no runs on five hits with a season-high 11 strikeouts and just one walk while throwing 115 pitches. He also moved past Jim Bunning in sole possession of third place on the Phillies all-time strikeout list.

Thanks to Reid Brignac’s walk-off three-run homer to right field in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies came away with a 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres on a cool Wednesday night in front of 25,398 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

“(Hamels) was really sharp with his command, real good fast balls, changeups,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.“He’s looking real good and he’s had some good starts for us. ”

While Brignac’s heroics at the plate was definitely important, it was the Phillies pitching that kept the Padres off the scoreboard for the entire game. Closer Jonathan Papelbon got the win in relief, but it was Hamels’ efforts that laid the foundation for this win.

Cole Hamels had a season-high 11 strikeouts in the win over San Diego.

Cole Hamels had a season-high 11 strikeouts in the win over San Diego.

“Cole pitched outstanding tonight and really kept us in the game all night and kept their hitters off balance,” said Brignac, whose last walk-off homer came while he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. “He was the true winner in this game.”

On a night when the Phillies three, four, and five hitters—Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd went a combined 1-for-10—it was the guys near the bottom of the order that got things going in the bottom of the ninth. First, left fielder Domonic Brown got a one-out walk off reliever Nick Vincent, who then hit Carlos Ruiz to put him on first.

With runners on first and second, Brignac then crushed a 2-0 cut fastball into the right field seats to put the game into the win column for a Phillies team that needs to put together a string of wins if they have any hope of getting back into playoff contention.

“It’s all about the team winning,” Hamels said. “No matter who gets the “W” next to their name as long as it’s next to the team, it’s everybody’s. We’re trying to claw tooth and nail to get back to where our potential is and where we feel we need to be to competitive. The opportunities are here we need to take it.”

In the fourth inning, things got a little tough for Hamels when the Padres loaded the bases with two outs. But Hamels shut down the Padres threat by striking out center fielder Cameron Maybin. He said that getting out of that threat was a matter of making good pitches.

“Getting into the game, it’s go time, you just go out and execute,” Hamels said. “I feel like I’ve been able to execute a lot more from start to finish and not giving in, especially when I do get behind. I’m just to trying to execute pitches and not trying to overdo it and force outs. I was able to make good pitches and get good results.”

The Phillies offense for the seven innings couldn’t get anything going off San Diego starter Tyson Ross, who allowed zero runs on four Phillies hits.

Up and Down Phillies Fall to Rockies Despite Revere’s First Career Homerun

28 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Ben Revere gets his first career home run in loss to Colorado.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Ben Revere gets his first career home run in loss to Colorado. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Any optimism from the Phillies rout of the Colorado Rockies on Monday night was soon gone and forgotten after Tuesday night’s lackluster performance.

Reverting back to the team that fails to get timely hits and has a bullpen with a bad habit for turning small deficits into even larger ones, the Phillies found themselves on the bad end of a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Rockies in front of 23, 159 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

The Rockies broke a 1-1 in the top of the seventh on a three-run home run by catcher Willin Rosario off Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels, who had been pitching well coming into that inning. He started the inning by getting the dangerous hitting Troy Tulowitzki to ground out to third.

Hamels then gave up walks to Corey Dickerson and Michael Cuddyer. After getting first baseman Justin Morneau to fly out to center, Rosario swung at Hamels first pitch and knocked it into the seats in right field.

“It was just a poorly executed pitch,” Hamels said. “(Rosario) is an aggressive hitter. I know he’s swinging and I have to be able to make that pitch.”

While Rosario’s home run was the decisive blow of the game, it probably shouldn’t have come down to that because the Phillies offense failed to come through when it mattered most.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Phillies had the bases loaded and nobody out, but failed to score a single run. The Phils inability to come through in what could have been a big inning was a huge momentum killer.

“We wanted to come away with at least one run there and possibly more,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “With (Ben Revere) and he happened to get a pitch inside there and he hit it to the defense. It’s just something about getting the job done in that situation. We’ve talked about that approach the pressure is on the pitcher. We’re to get one run in first before you get two or three.”

The Phillies got their only runs of the game on a pair of solo home runs. The first came in the fourth inning from first baseman Darin Ruf. The second came from a player least likely to knock the ball out of the park—centerfielder Ben Revere who homered to right in the bottom of the seventh inning.

It was Revere’s first career home run and it took 1,466 at-bats in the major leagues to get his first round tripper. The homer by the diminutive centerfield was the lone bright spot of an otherwise terrible performance by the Phillies.

“It was definitely good getting that monkey off your back, I guess,” Revere said. “My game is mainly hit line drives and hit a ball on the ground. I get into a lot of trouble when I hit the ball in the air. At least that time, it went over the fence. I was hoping we would have won the game.”

Revere’s home run cut the deficit to 4-2 coming into the eighth inning. Unfortunately, the Phillies bullpen gave up two more runs. Phils reliever Jeff Manship gave up a triple to Rockies pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge and an RBI double to centerfielder Drew Stubbs, who later scored on an RBI ground out by Brandon Barnes.

“(Manship) is our guy in the eighth right there,” Sandberg said. “The guy has got to step up.”