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Victorino Approaching Final Days in Phillies Uniform

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There are two ways of looking at your lineup when your team has lost 9 of its last 10 games to fall 14 games back of the division leader.  
 
One is to take an all-hands-on-deck approach and send your best weapons onto the field in a desperate attempt to stop the losing.

The other is to recognize that changes are in order and to try something different.Charlie Manuel photo: David Maialetti

Or, you could possibly do both, as Charlie Manuel  did on Sunday.

After posting his Sunday lineup with Shane Victorino batting seventh, Manuel changed his mind and substituted Jason Pridie in Victorino’s place.

Manuel’s move ended up putting a better weapon on the field, as Pridie’s homer and double drove in all three of the Phillies runs in their 4-3 loss to the Braves.  It also showed that the time for changes has arrived.

Following the game, Manuel explained Victorino’s benching by saying “"I saw him in the clubhouse, sitting beside his locker. I walked up and started talking to him. He was down, talking about his hitting, especially from the left side, things like that. He was down. He's got a lot on his mind, I guess."  

Whether or not you believe Manuel’s described order of events (Victorino dropped to 7th in the batting order, being uncharacteristically depressed, then becoming a late scratch from the lineup), the likelihood of Victorino wearing a Phillies uniform beyond the July 31st trade deadline is becoming as likely as a parade down Broad Street this October.

Victorino has found his way to the bench twice in the last month. Over his last 26 games, he has produced only one extra base hit while posting a batting average of .214.  Through 87 games, he is on pace for career lows in nearly offensive statistical category.
Shane Victorino photo: Getty Images
It’s hardly the output the Phillies expected from their veteran centerfielder during the team’s injury-filled first half and Victorino’s lead up to free agency.

So, with the All-Star break upon us, Victorino’s day off becomes five days off.  If he returns to the starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Rockies, it will surely mark the beginning of his final 15 games (at most) as a Phillie.  

The Phillies have the worst record in baseball since June 1st (9-24) and would likely need to go at least 55-20 over the season’s last 75 games to have a shot at a Wild Card berth.  To put that challenge into perspective, the best team in baseball at the All-Star Break is the New York Yankees, who have posted a .607 winning percentage so far this season.

In short, the Phillies run of playoff appearances is undoubtedly over.  

Much of Ruben Amaro Jr’s next three weeks will be determining which pieces of this aging and high-priced roster will be sold to the highest bidders.    

Victorino’s trade will save the Phillies nearly half of his $9.5 million salary for 2012.  He could also bring a mid-level prospect or two back to the Phillies, as a number of teams are reported to be interested in pursuing him at the deadline (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and the Yankees have been included in different reports).

Dealing Victorino will also signify that the Phillies recognize the need to revamp their roster in order to contend for years to come, something Ruben Amaro has conceded recently.  

That revamping may also include Cole Hamels, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco or any other player that nets a worthwhile offer, but Victorino seems to be one of the most likely moves.   

Today’s benching indicated that Shane Victorino was playing his way out of the Phillies lineup. The Phillies’ abysmal first half has almost guaranteed that he will soon be out of town as well.  


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:
Removing Gloves: Getty Images
Thumbnail: Michael Bryant
Manuel: David Maialetti