September 14, 2012

Shot with his own gun.

When I left for Malaysia on the afternoon of June 27, the Philadelphia Phillies were 36-40.

When I got back to America late on July 8, they were 37-50. And they lost the next one, too.

That, and not the eighth-inning meltdown in last night's loss to the Houston Astros, is why this team won't make the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong. It was fun to believe again, if just for a little while. Overachievers like Erik Kratz (.848 OPS) and Kevin Frandsen (.787 OPS), career minor-leaguers who've been standing on their heads for months, are always easy to cheer for.

But when reality bites, it's usually hard. The Phillies have a 2.7% chance of making the playoffs. The best it's been in recent days is 5%.

That's pretty slim. To sneak into the dance, everything needed to go their way. Nothing could go wrong.

Well, something already did: they lost a very winnable game. Don't blame Phillippe Aumont; he's pitched in five of the last six games (and twice on Sunday). Don't blame Charlie Manuel's bullpen tactics (pick an unproven rookie, any unproven rookie) or the poor at-bats with runners in scoring position (2 for 9).

Blame the fact that they tanked in the summer. Because the reason they are backed up against this wall, the reason they have no margin for error, is because they played abhorrent baseball for two long, sad weeks.

A team that's barely holding onto a near-even record can't afford to lose 11 of 12 games. That's digging your own grave, a deep one you'll probably never escape from.

And they won't. They'll keep it interesting. They may even sneak to within a game or two.

But while I was gallivanting around Southeast Asia, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies were putting a bullet in their own heads. It just took a little longer than expected for them to bleed out.

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