Phillies Mailbag: Rodriguez, Kapler, and the “Mercy Rule”
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
Why is Sean Rodriguez still on this team?
Well, I think that your question answered itself last night. No, I'm not even talking about the home run. I'm talking about the ability of Sean Rodriguez to jump into center field in a pinch.
But before I get to the Sean Rodriguez haters, there are a few things that happened that the Phillies need someone like Rodriguez on the team.
First reason: large bullpen. The Phillies have eight relievers on their team, a number which was once unheard of. When Terry Francona was manager the Phillies moved up to a seven-man bullpen and I thought THAT was a bit much. But the Phillies do not have starters that can go deep into games. That means more bullpen innings are needed, and more roster spots occupied by relievers.
That means your bench players have to be versatile.
Scott Kingery filled the "super-utility" role at first. But of course he was pressed into starting duty for a number of reasons. Beyond that, the team needed versatile players on the bench. That is why Brad Miller is around from the left side - he can play infield and outfield.
The second reason is, if not Rodriguez, then who?
The other options the Phillies have at Triple-A are Phil Gosselin and Andrew Romine. We already saw Gosselin. Romine has had enough major league experience. They are going to give you similar results.
Maikel Franco cannot jump into center field when you are down a Scott Kingery to injury. Rodriguez can. Rodriguez did bat better against lefties at the time of Franco's demotion (it was .293) before his recent slump (now .245). But he has had some success in the major leagues. Rodriguez was successful last night.
But - and I have said this with Andrew Knapp too - why get so worked up about a back-up player? The really good players are starting somewhere.
Why does Gabe Kapler still have a job?
For those who think that Phillies manager should be fired, I have a question for you first: Are you saying that the Phillies, as currently constructed, should be first-place team and a slam dunk to make the playoffs? Many of the people who think Kapler should be fired also hold other opinions. Let's go through some of those.
When the offense fails, is it Kapler's fault? When Charlie Manuel took the hitting coach position and the team started scoring more. Manuel is getting credit for their offensive performances, but yet people were going after Kapler when the team scored just two runs on Sunday against the Miami Marlins.
Which is it - does he get credit for the hitting (good or bad) or none at all?
Is it Kapler's fault that the starting rotation continues to feature Vince Velasquez, who in his career averages less than five innings a start? That Velasquez cannot hold a seven run lead? That is roster construction.
So is putting many millions of dollars into three aged veterans in Pat Neshek, David Robertson, and Tommy Hunter. Is it Kapler's fault those three left the bullpen in shambles? That also Seranthony Dominguez and Adam Morgan are hurt?
And the bench - when Knapp or Rodriguez are sent up to pinch-hit, the only two right-handed bats he has on the bench, is that his fault?
I am not a fan at all at the continued leading off from Rhys Hoskins when he continues and continues to slump. That I can give him some criticism for because it is his job to make the lineup. But it is not Kapler's job to construct the roster, and even though we knew the Phillies needed starting pitching help, those who make those decisions failed him.
So Kapler does not deserve to be fired in my mind. If he failed with a roster that was too good to fail, that's another matter. But he did not create such holes; he is stuck dealing with them.
What is your opinion of the "mercy rule" proposed by Aaron Boone? This would prevent the Phillies and other teams from using position players in blowouts.
This is a very interesting question. In an era of pitchers being coddled and not pitching many innings, I can see why someone would want such a thing. But for the sake of season-long competition, I would be opposed.
Say the Phillies did not score 11 runs on Friday against the Marlins and the game was 19-2. The Phillies probably would have done more than get one out pitched by Sean Rodriguez. I think the effects of giving up 19 runs has an effect on the next day's competition, and teams should not be rewarded for losing.
Should the Phillies be down 10 and the game called in the fourth inning, they would be rewarded by perhaps having their full bullpen available for the next day. We all know that pitchers do not pitch on back-to-back-to-back days very often. A poor start from one pitcher would mean that the bullpen has to pitch, period.
Further, I think you risk burning out a starter. If the starter gives up seven or eight runs and puts the team into a hole, they are more likely to ride that starter out. If the starter stuck around and gave up a few more runs and it reached 10, then the team would be sacrificing that player's dignity and arm to protect others.
I think teams should be stuck dealing with the messes they create. If they cannot staff their rotation with players who can pitch better, they should have to deal with the mess. Even if it means pitching a position player at the end.
A team like the Phillies or Brewers or others that have had their down moments can easily have their good moments. They remain in contention. Make them work every inning for it.