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Phillies need to put pieces together as talent in National League East is catching up with them

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On the cusp of their fourth consecutive win against an American League team, the Phillies worst loss of the year occurred Saturday when their bullpen imploded. This is understandable once or twice a season, and the bullpen has been consistent for the most part. It's quite obvious however, that this Phillies team isIt has been very hard watching Danys Baez pitch this season. Photo: http://media.lehighvalleylive.com/sports_impact/photo/danys-baez-and-ryan-zimmerman-ab68eae37b696574.jpg failing to gel like the teams of the previous two seasons up to this point.

 No, they have not been healthy and this may change when several key players like Jimmy Rollins and J.A. Happ return to the fold. However, the team has battled through injuries before and it hasn't seemed to stop their momentum. Going into Sunday's game against the Twins, the Phillies are currently four and a half games in back of the scorching hot Atlanta Braves, and three and a half games in back of the New York Mets. The Florida Marlins are always tough, and the Washington Nationals are up and coming. The emergence of their rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg is just another sign that talent in the National League East is definitely catching up with the Phillies. Earlier in the year, I stated that I wasn't so sure about where this Phillies team was headed in 2010. I stressed that the bullpen was dreadful, I didn't like the starting pitching, but that the team would never fail to score runs........

Boy was I off there. It looks like the bats are finally starting to come around after a month long absence (considered by several historians as one of the team's biggest offensive droughts in the last 60 years). Don't get me wrong, I'm still not confident with Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, and Joe Blanton on a possible playoff roster (despite Moyer and Kendrick beating the Yankees and Blanton's best outing of the year on Friday night). I'll be the first one to knock the mental toughness (or lack thereof) of Cole Hamels. However, he has been pitching very well, and was robbed again of another win Saturday. I think Roy Halladay is great. However, I think that Cliff Lee is great, too. And I have to be honest, seeing Halladay get rocked by the Yankees couldn't help but make me think about Mr. Lee's two victories against them last fall.

Moreover, seeing Lee possibly getting traded  to another contender (possibly in the NL) and having him shut down our left handed hitting lineup will be excruciatingly heartbreaking. I don't care what the Phillies front office says about having to dump his salary,winning teams with winning traditions find a way to make it happen. The Phillies could have put themselves in the pantheon of the Yankees or Red Sox if they kept Lee. They chose not to. Maybe there are other factors involved that the public is unaware of. Something tells me the front office handcuffed Ruben Amaro here. Just a lingering feeling. And to make matters worse, the three prospects the Phillies got for Lee (Aumont, Gillies, and Ramirez), for lack of a better word: STINK.

Like I said, maybe Amaro was handcuffed on the Lee trade. However, he wasn't regarding Danys Baez, whose signing almost rivals Adam Eaton for one of the worst in the last two decades. You can always count on Baez to promptly allow two runners on base, get two outs, and then allow the game winning run to score (or some combination similar to that). Front offices who aspire for greatness don't settle for this mediocrity. Greg Dobbs is probably the nicest guy on the team. However, there is nothing nice about his .152 average going into Sunday's game. Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez have filled in admirably, but will not make ANYONE forget about Rollins. Although Ross Gload's heroics tied the game yesterday, his .224 average only makes him a better version of Dobbs.

Hopefully, Amaro will be aggressive and TRY to make moves to improve this Phillies squad. That IS what championship caliber teams and organizations do. Although there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency, the Phillies are known better than anybody for keeping the lid on possible transactions. Until another team dethrones the Phillies, they are the team to beat in the NL East and the National League. However, the tides could possibly turn very soon. It's not about going back to the World Series anymore, it's about trying to win your division.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com