Kevin’s questions came in after the first game started with the Fightins up 2-0. By the time I hit publish, it was 3-0.
WFY: It’s been 10 years (!) since the Phillies had a winning season. How? They play in the largest single-team market in MLB. Every other team in the division has made the postseason in that span, even the Marlins!
KMc: Look, you don’t have to remind me of the failures of the Phillies for the past decade. At the end of their wild run atop of the NL East, the team had to go through some rebuilding in search of new players to be the face of the franchise. And when they had already traded away so many key pieces of the farm system to get players like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and Roy Oswald, the farm was barren.The Phillies didn’t have Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto to call up through the system.
WFY: The Phillies started off well, struggled, then swept Milwaukee. Now, not looking to great against Atlanta which is familiar. Both the Phillies and the Nats swept somebody earlier last week before having a bad series over the weekend. What I’m trying to get at is what is making the Phillies go or not go?
KMc: I honestly can’t figure out what makes the Phillies go and what doesn’t. They haven’t exactly been scorching at the plate, and the bullpen woes have resurfaced once again. The bullpen looked much more formidable early on but has taken some bad turns lately.
WFY: How is pitching this year?
KMc: Overall, the pitching hasn’t been horrible! Aaron Nola has had couple of tough outings but still is someone I’m reasonably confident in every time he goes out. Zack Wheeler has been terrific as a No. 2, and Zach Eflin (that’s right, find me another starting rotation with a Zack and a Zach) has been outstanding. After that, it’s tough to watch. The bullpen has been improved, but there have been some tough outings of late in relief.
WFY: Looking back through our previous Q&As, we’ve been talking about if Rhys Hoskins was the real deal since 2018. I joked back then that he might be the Kevin Maas of the Phillies, but I just compare their stats and well, Hopkins isn’t that bad. Does he have much of a future?
KMc: This is an important year for Rhys Hoskins. He is up for arbitration next season, and with Scott Boras as his agent, you know the Phillies are going to be in for some serious hardball. If Hoskins wants to get paid, he has to have a monster season So far, he’s been pretty decent and it looks like he’s going to have a better season than last year. I still think the Phillies can do better at first base, but I’m not necessarily opposed to Hoskins manning first base in the years to come.
WFY: Seventy-five games into the Joe Girardi experience, how are things going? He’s like 74 for 75 on lineup cards, right?
KMc: I was a big fan of the Phillies hiring Joe Girardi, and its difficult for me to say with a straight face he’s been everything I hoped he would be. The fundamentals and base running hasn’t improved under his watch, and the Phillies just completely fell apart once again last September. I still have faith in the manager change (yes, I see Gabe Kapler in the NL West standings), but he certainly has room for improvement. That lineup slip was simply inexcusable.
WFY: Looks like your right fielder is having a pretty good season. Did he ever see the Liberty Bell? How big a year is this for him as far as fans are concerned. There isn’t a lot to show from the first 200+ games in the standings.
KMc: That right fielder has been doing his part this season. I don’t know if he has seen the Liberty Bell yet, but I do know he’s lit up the Liberty Bell in Citizens Bank Park a few times. With how much he is being paid, every year is a big year for him in this town. Nobody seems to be getting on Harp— er, I mean the right fielder just yet because he does play the way Philly fans appreciate. Remember this is a 13-year investment so there is plenty of time to deliver on those seven World Series titles, and not for DC as he infamously goofed in his introductory press conference.
WFY: Since you have made it back to the ballpark already, what was the experience like? Were you already fully vaccinated before going?
KMc: It’s true, I have returned to Citizens Bank Park… twice! I did have both shots in my system before I made the return, and the vaccine had fully run its course by the time I went to my second game. The experience was not bad. Seats were carefully separated to enforce social distancing, and the cashless concessions were smooth. Not everything in the ballpark was open, partly due to the reduced number of fans. But that will be changing in June, as the Phillies will be going back to full capacity in June. I’m not sure when I’ll get back for my next game, but I’ll report back if applicable.
WFY: Who is the best #21 in Phillies history?
KMc: The right answer may be Bake McBride. It sure isn’t Wilson Valdez or Jon Lieber. Dickie Thon was a nice guy though.
WFY: Since I haven’t been in the Philly area or South Jersey in almost 2 years, I don’t have a sense for the general fandom. Circa mid-2000s, I saw lots of Schmidt era Phillies gear. That seemed to change with contention. What about now? Are they still #2 in the heart of Philly sports fans?
KMc: There is a certain passion for that retro Phillies “P,” and I’m all in on it as well. It’s still around in bunches these days, and you’ll see it wherever the Phillies may be playing. But the signing of that right fielder and the addition of JT Realmuto have given fans some reasons to adopt some more of the modern look to their wardrobe.
But this is still an Eagles town first. It doesn’t matter how bad they were last year, somebody is still calling into WIP to rip the team on a daily basis, and the Eagles move the needle like nobody els in town. However, we could be about to embark on a similar experience to 2001 when the Sixers made their run to the NBA Finals and every other car had a Sixers window flag. It could be a nice escape, but after the Sixers parade down Broad Street, training camp will be opening up for the Birds.
On a side note, a Phillies postseason run easily has the power to take the lead even form the Eagles. But the Phillies have done everything possible to forfeit the September sports focus to the Eagles the last few years.
WFY: Why does the newest Philly skyscraper looks like a vape? Is a William Penn Statue on top of the drip tip?
KMc: I always joked the Comcast Technology Center was the USB-C to the Comcast Center’s USB-A, but now I won’t be able to look at it ever again without thinking of this comparison. Either way, it’s just another shadow to keep Billy Penn cool in the summer.
WFY: How do you see this series playing out? What about the season series and the NL East standings generally?
KMc: I’m cheating because the Phillies are up 2-0 as I’m filling this out (that right fielder has score both runs, by the way), but I’m sure it will be play out in pain and agony. As for the season series, I see another split going into the final month of the season. And the the Phillies will do what they do best and crumble. I still think the Braves are the team to chase, and I have no confidence the Mets will manage to stay in serious playoff contention deep into the year. But this division could be the NFC East of baseball, so who knows.