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The Phillies played some embarrassing baseball tonight

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The Phillies have been embarrassing for the last two months. It’s no secret, as the club entered Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals at 22-47, a full three games worse than the next-worst team (Padres, 27-46). There’s not a whole lot they’ve done right this year. The Phillies have the third-worst offense in baseball, the fifth-worst pitching staff, and they have the fifth-worst stolen base success rate. The bullpen had blown 12 saves, tied for the fifth-most in baseball.

Somehow, the Phillies managed to raise the bar for embarrassment on Wednesday night. The game was fine through eight innings, as the Phillies were holding onto a 5-4 lead. Hector Neris took the mound to start the ninth, looking to lock down the save. After getting Yadier Molina to fly out, Neris served up a game-tying solo home run to Tommy Pham, blowing the save. That moved the Phillies into a tie with four other teams for the major league lead in blown saves.

The Phillies, to their credit, rallied in the bottom of the ninth as Howie Kendrick singled with one out. Odubel Herrera reached after hitting into a 5-4 force out at second. Freddy Galvis then hit a weak line drive down the third base line that bounced off of the facing of the stands, back into shallow left field. Herrera is fast, but not score-from-first-on-a-grounder-to-left-fast. Herrera wheeled around third base as third base coach Juan Samuel threw up the stop sign. Herrera ignored it and was thrown out by a good 15 feet by Pham from left field.

It gets worse. Edubray Ramos started the 10th inning of a 5-5 game. He immediately allowed a double to Jose Martinez, putting the go-ahead run at second base. During Matt Carpenter‘s at-bat, Ramos balked, moving Martinez to third. After striking Carpenter out, Dexter Fowler was intentionally walked. Aledmys Diaz pinch-hit for Brett Cecil. During Diaz’s at-bat, Ramos attempted to pick Fowler off at first base, but airmailed the throw to Tommy Joseph. Martinez scored the go-ahead run easily and Fowler advanced to second base. Adam Morgan relieved Ramos and got Diaz to fly out. Morgan then intentionally walked Jedd Gyorko to bring up Yadier Molina, who singled to right field, giving the Cardinals a crucial insurance run. Pham struck out looking to mercifully end the inning.

The Phillies again rallied in the bottom of the 10th, scoring a run to close the gap to 7-6, but would eventually lose when closer Seung-Hwan Oh struck out Aaron Altherr swinging. Last night, Ramos and Casey Fien combined to allow seven runs in the 11th inning to lose to the Cardinals 8-1. That inning included back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, a Maikel Franco error, and home runs from Molina and Pham.

I’ve been a Phillies fan since before I could even talk. I lived through the absolutely dreadful teams the Phillies put together between the mid-1990’s and the mid-2000’s. The rosters were chock full of relatively untalented players who lacked fundamentals in one way or another. Having watched this year’s iteration of the Phillies, now 22-48 and losers of 39 of their last 50 games, I feel confident in saying that the 2017 Phils are the worst team, fundamentally and otherwise, of my lifetime. Wednesday’s game was, to date, the apex of their season-long bout of incompetence.

Fans have become increasingly frustrated, and understandably so. A team committed to a rebuild has yet to show any positive signs. Franco and Herrera (until recently) have punched well below their weight. No. 1 prospect J.P. Crawford has a .562 OPS at Triple-A. Young pitchers like Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Hector Neris have had inconsistent seasons at best. As the 2011-14 Astros showed us, however, sometimes you have to play really bad baseball before you play really good baseball, so there is precedent for teams as bad or worse than the Phillies eventually recovering. It’s just really hard to watch right now.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”