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Phillies Collapse has been a Team Effort

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Even if you have never read the medically significant book On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, you have probably heard of the theory that it made famous.
 
Kubler-Ross hypothesized that there were Five Stages of Grief that people often go through when dealing with death or loss.
 
The 2012 Phillies season certainly appears to be dying before our eyes.  And as we have dealt with this loss, many of us have experienced the first two stages of Kubler’s model, which are denial and anger.  
Ruben Amaro Jr. photo: Philly.com
The denial lasted well into June. Last year’s Cardinals and 2010’s Giants had us convinced that some early season struggles could be long forgotten come October.  The return of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard would only make the Phillies’ great comeback even more dramatic.

Unfortunately, as July begins, the Phillies’ on-field performance has been so bad that even the most grief-stricken fan can no longer deny that  the 2012 season is all but a lost cause.

Now, the anger stage is upon us.  

And in addition to the “Why me?” questions and frayed emotions, the anger stage is often characterized by the need to assign blame.

Perhaps it will be cathartic, then, to figure out who is to blame for a season that is falling faster than seemingly every fly ball hit in Hunter Pence’s direction.  

Should we start with Ruben Amaro Jr.?  His blueprint for the 2012 season now seems so flawed that it may have sealed the team’s fate before spring training.  He highlighted the need for his largely 30-something year old lineup to suddenly find discipline at the plate.  Unfortunately, there was no system of accountability or back-up plan in place for when they inevitably didn’t.  Amaro also vowed to improve the quality and versatility of the team’s bench before signing a one-dimensional group of free swingers on the cheap.  Charlie Manuel photo: Sports Illustrated (AP)

There is certainly enough blame to include the coaching staff.  Charlie Manuel has lamented his team’s daily mental errors, lack of hustle and inability to execute baseball fundamentals.  And while injuries have often left him with a skeleton crew, they don’t excuse the constant goof-ups and listless play of the veterans at his disposal.  

It’s even possible that Manuel and Rich Dubee contributed to some of the injury problems that they are now confronted with. Their insistence on using only a small group of pitchers that they trust may have contributed to the breakdowns of Michael Stutes and Jose Conteras, and what appears to be the flameout of Antonio Bastardo.

Finally, there are the players.  And when a team with the second-highest payroll is posting the league’s seventh worst record, there are clearly some players who are not getting it done.

Cliff Lee’s lack of wins has been well-documented. However, it is the far-away look he has carried through most of his last few starts that should concern Phillies fans most.  Shane Victorino photo: Getty Images

Rather than picking up some much needed slack, Shane Victorino has made the Phillies’ decision very easy when it comes to finding a new centerfielder for 2013.  

The players are also responsible for the team’s drop from 2nd to 15th in errors, from 1st to 20th in ERA, and from 8th to 14th in hitting with runners in scoring position.  

Unfortunately, blame is merely a way of responding to grief.   It doesn’t change what has happened or what comes next.  But, for now, it will have to do.

So, I’m off to begin the bargaining and depression stages, as they are supposed to help me achieve acceptance.  

Sadly, that’s the stage that seems to already be occupied by our favorite team.


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Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Photos:
Ruben Amaro Jr.: Philly.com
Charlie Manuel: Sports Illustrated (AP)
Shane Victorino: Getty Images