Another September Collapse Could Spur Changes for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A third straight September collapse left the Philadelphia Phillies out of the postseason for the ninth straight season.
Major changes could be coming.
President Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak are clearly on the hot seat after failing to produce a winning record in any of their five seasons together.
Manager Joe Girardi isn’t going anywhere after one season, but Phillies managing partner John Middleton is expected to take a hard look at a front office that hasn’t built a winner despite a payroll above $200 million.
The Phillies went 1-7 in their final eight games to finish 28-32 in the pandemic-shortened season. Just one more win would’ve given them a wild-card berth.
They went 8-20 in September 2018 and 12-16 in September 2019, prompting the club to fire Gabe Kapler as manager after two seasons.
“I think we could have just as easily won 38 games, 35 games, I really do,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we were that far from being a 35- to a 38-win total, and we would have felt a lot different with the same guys in the room.”
Philadelphia’s biggest problem was a bullpen that posted a 7.06 ERA, worst in the majors. Klentak acquired four veteran relievers before the trade deadline — Brandon Workman, David Phelps, David Hale and Heath Hembree combined for a 3.82 ERA with five saves in seven chances in 2020 for other teams. In Philadelphia, they were a disaster. They combined for an 8.56 ERA, blew four of nine save opportunities and surrendered 18 homers in 41 innings.
“We had opportunities to win games, and we simply didn’t get it done,” slugger Bryce Harper said. “I feel like that’s been all year long. We’ve had opportunities to win many games, and it just didn’t happen. As we go into the offseason, we’re going to need to understand what we need to do as an organization and as a team to hopefully get better in those situations and get better in any part of this team.”
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the fact Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler didn’t pitch like aces with the season on the line. Nola was 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA in his last three starts. Wheeler was 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA in his last three. The Phillies were 0-6 in Nola and Wheeler’s last six starts.
“My Septembers haven’t been that great, this year’s obviously wasn’t that great,” Nola said. “I felt like I could have done more. I’s just frustrating.”
Two-time All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Didi Gregorius will be free agents after the World Series. Realmuto lost an arbitration case before the season and the Phillies never engaged in serious contract talks with a player widely considered the best at his position. Realmuto hit .266 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games, missing more than a week with a hip flexor.
“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year — plain and simple,” Harper said. “Anybody that’s the best at their position — hitting and fielding — needs to be signed and that is J.T. Realmuto. I don’t think that should even be a question. There’s going to be two teams or three teams in the NL East who are going to go after that guy and if that happens, I mean, that’s going to be tough to swallow for us.”
Gregorius batted .284 with 10 homers and team-high 40 RBIs. He was the team’s most consistent hitter and is a perfect fit in the lineup.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta is also due to be a free agent. He didn’t live up to his $75 million, three-year contract and finished the season injured.
ON THE RISE
Corner infielder Alec Bohm is a strong candidate for NL Rookie of the Year and should be a fixture in the top or middle part of the lineup for years. Bohm hit .338 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games.
Right-hander Spencer Howard was 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA in six starts but he’s shown potential to be a key part of the starting rotation.
Lefty JoJo Romero had a 7.59 ERA in 12 relief appearances but also had several impressive outings.
Righty Connor Brogdon had a 3.97 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.