Phillies follow Jonathan Papelbon’s team meeting with another loss

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NEW YORK — About two hours before the Phillies took the field and were beaten by the New York Mets on Wednesday night, Jonathan Papelbon quietly asked a couple of reporters to leave the clubhouse because he wanted to say something to his teammates.

The players’ only meeting lasted just a few minutes. When it was over, Papelbon was vague about his reason for getting his teammates together.

“It was a team meeting about baseball, about playing the game,” he said, straight-faced. “It wasn’t a big deal.”

Papelbon then joked that the meeting was about setting up a Kangaroo Court, though that didn’t seem to hold water because meetings like that aren’t usually thrown together in the moments before a team goes out to stretch.

To know Papelbon is to know he does not like to lose and he especially does not like to be pushed around. Ric Flair would not approve. It’s very possible that Papelbon addressed his dislike for such in the meeting. After all, the Phillies were pushed around by the Mets on Tuesday night. It said it right there in a headline in the New York Daily News: Harvey’s Ut-check: Plunking Sends Message Mets No Longer Pushovers. The accompanying story praised the Mets for their recent dominance of the Phillies and swaggering pitcher Matt Harvey for making a statement by sticking a fastball between the 2 and 6 on iconic Phillie Chase Utley’s back.

If Papelbon’s team meeting was meant to rally the troops before the finale of the three-game series, well, it didn’t work.

The Phillies lost, 6-1, to their tormenters from Queens (see Instant Replay). The Mets swept the three-game series. They have beaten the Phillies in 15 of the last 19 meetings, dating to last season.

That’s some serious pushing around.

“Personally, I see it,” said Cody Asche, responding to a question about the Mets’ recent dominance of the Phillies. “I see the discrepancy in the win-loss record.

“Do I have an explanation? No. Do I wish it was different? Yeah. If we are going to make moves, we have to take care of the teams in our division, so we definitely have to play better against the Mets.”

The Phillies did a lot of things poorly in this series. Their defense was sloppy at times. They couldn’t bunt. Manager Ryne Sandberg made some questionable moves. The starting pitching was tagged for 19 hits and 10 runs over 10 2/3 innings in the final two games.

Most haunting was the atrocious work of the hitters with men in scoring position. The Phils went 3 for 27 with runners in scoring position in the series. They are 11 for 69 (.159) in those situations for the season.

Sandberg always talks about the importance of having base runners. The Phillies had plenty of them on Wednesday night. In fact, they had runners in scoring position in seven of nine innings, yet scored just one run and left 11 men on base because they were an unsightly 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s the first thing you ask for, base runners and opportunities,” Sandberg said. “We had 11 men left on base. We couldn’t come up with a drive to put up a crooked number. We had the opportunities and could not do it, just the one run in the first.”

That run came after a triple by Odubel Herrera, who batted leadoff and had three extra-base hits. Asche also had three hits and is now 12 for 24 on the season. This is a “developmental” season to use general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s word, so the performance of young players Herrera and Asche was promising.

But guys like Papelbon are itchy to win. The Phillies have lost four in a row and The Horse has been relegated to being a bullpen spectator.

Jerome Williams started for the Phillies and allowed 10 hits, including two homers, in five innings. Meanwhile, Jon Niese, bobbed and weaved his way through 6 1/3 innings. He allowed nine hits, but just one run.

The Mets have serious talent in their rotation. Before Niese, the Phillies were beaten by Harvey and Jacob deGrom in the series. Both those guys have Cy Young potential.

Now it’s on to Washington and four more top pitchers — Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg.

“That’s a challenge for us, so obviously we have to do things better on the offensive side of things,” Sandberg said.

“Don’t press, keep grinding and have good at-bats,” Asche said. “The law of averages has to take over sometime. The hits are going to come.”

They came Wednesday night, but the runs didn’t follow and the Phillies, much to Jonathan Papelbon’s chagrin, were tormented by the Mets once again.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.