The fans at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia cheer when Phillies second baseman Chase Utley comes up to bat — even though he’s only batting around .100. The whole stadium boos when Ryan Howard strikes out — which seems to be happening more and more often this year. (As of May 11, he has only hit six home runs.) The Phillies’ front office is publicly admitting that they are looking to trade Cole Hamels, and fan favorite and former team stalwart, Carlos Ruiz, is only starting as catcher about half of the time.
The 2015 Phillies are not even close to the same team that won five straight division titles (2007-2011). Or the National League pennant in 2008 and 2009. Or the World Series in 2008. This is a team that’s in the slow process of rebuilding.
The Phillies lineup has older guys that are past their prime. But they also have younger players who have been productive so far this season. Cody Asche, Odubel Herrera, Darin Ruf, and Freddy Galvis have been bright spots in an otherwise rough season. (The team is currently at 11-21 in the weak NL East.)
Philadelphia’s general manager Rubén Amaro has faced a lot of criticism for the team’s lack of success. He took over after the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008. Instead of signing younger players, Amaro has tended to go for veterans. The result has been a steady decline in team success. The Phillies have finished each season since 2008 with a worse record than the one before.
A recent Philly.com survey showed that over 90 percent of Philadelphians want Amaro to go, with only about 6 percent want him to stay.
For his part, Amaro looks on the bright side of the team’s slide.
“Right now [the team is] surprising me a little and playing really good [sic], but it’s a long season,” Amaro told Sports Illustrated Kids. “We’ve got some younger guys, some different guys getting opportunities to play, so we’ll see how it goes.”
And despite the polling, not everyone blames Amaro for the Phillies’ problems.
“He’s trying his best and I think he’s doing a pretty good job,” one Phillies fan said. “I think he’s doing very well with what he’s been given, in this time period.”
Fans and the front office alike are acknowledging that this season is a rebuilding year for the team. Some fans are hoping for a playoff run, but many others are just looking for a high draft pick.
“If we get above last place, that’s a win for us,” another fan added.
Photo: Billy Hurst/AP