Are the 2012 Phillies starting to resemble the 2009 Mets?
- Updated: May 12, 2012
I know this is a crazy thought. And perhaps it is too early to make this assumption.
A couple of things the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies have that the 2009 New York Mets did not was starting pitching. Going back to 2009, the Mets had a staff led by Johan Santana and a younger Mike Pelfrey. Pitchers like John Maine and Oliver Perez had fizzled out. Obviously the current Phillies have the distinct advantage of having Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and at least for the rest of the season, Cole Hamels. Also, this is a team that won the National Leaguie East five years in a row, something the Mets only did once. Of course, the Mets followed that up with two winning seasons that fell just short of making the postseason.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro suggested in an article written for baseballreference.com that the Phillies could actually be sellers if they “keep playing like this.”
Sports Illustrated had picked the Mets to win the 2009 World Series due to the improvement of their bullpen. The Phillies were still heavily favorited to win the NL East again this season. Unfortunately for the Phillies, their injury problems started during the last out of the 2011 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, when first baseman Ryan Howard tore his ACL running out a ground ball. Second baseman Chase Utley has been out all season to this point and left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee has just returned after missing less more than two than weeks.
Going back to the 2009 Mets, they lost first basemen Carlos Delgado after 26 games, followed by shortstop Jose Reyes after 36 games and only had centerfielder Carlos Beltran for 81 games that season. Oliver Perez, fresh off the three-year, $36 million contract he just signed, made 14 starts. right-handed pitcher JJ Putz, expected to be the best eighth inning set-up man in baseball, pitched just 29 games and Santana missed all of September having bone chips removed from his elbow.
Here is the main similarity: What has all the talk been in Philadelphia? It’s all about holding things together until Howard and Utley return. One of the reasons Mets manager Jerry Manuel put himself out of favor with fans was when he said similar things when guys like Delgado, Reyes and Beltran were out. You have to stress the importance of winning, even when you are not at full strength. Are the Phillies simply holding out for Howard and Utley? I hope not. They need proven leaders, such as Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco, to pick up the slack, something that has not happened. They acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros to eventually take over as the best offensive player on this team. Good teams don’t tread water until the stars get back. They find ways to win.
I understand it’s early, but even with the starting pitching advantage, things have to change dramatically for them to make a run in this competitive division. The Miami Marlins are playing well and the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals have taken their solid starts to the top of the division. They have to win games now, not after their stars return. What happened to the 2009 Mets was other players got hurt, and that can certainly happen. The “hold up until our guys get back” way of thinking gets more complicated once other big time players get hurt.
After the Delgado injury, the Mets resembled nothing close to their opening day line-up the rest of the season. While the Phillies’ fans have seen a lot of Freddy Galvis and Laynce Nix, Mets fans saw a lot of Jeremy Reed, Alex Cora and Cory Sullivan in 2009. The opening day lineup that year was Reyes, shortstop; Murphy, left field; Beltran, center field; Delgado, first base; Wright third base; Church, right field; Schneider, catcher; Castillo, second base; Santana, pitcher . Gary Sheffield, who did not have a bad season for the Mets, was the first off the bench. Only Murphy (mostly at first base), Wright and Castillo played more than 140 games that season.
Very interesting comments by Amaro, stating the possibility of being sellers for the Phillies. The bullpen has been an embarassment to this point and if they excpect to be in contention, this has to change immediately. Is that the first sign of this being considered a “lost” season?
With teams on the rise like Washington and Miami, it would be the wrong season to accept that. Once the Mets dropped out of contention in 2009, they have failed to be taken seriously. It’s three years later. I’d be careful before preparing to concede this season, especially with the concern over the return of Cole Hamels. What if they never get back to the top? The Phillies will be even older next season, and the last thing they need to do is give the Nats and Marlins some life and a postseason appearance. Look at what the Phillies did when they took the torch from the Mets (LOL I know it was just one season).
Years down the road, we may be talking about how a run by Miami or Washington started when the Phillies waited for their injured stars to return.
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