John Kruk wrote a column for ESPN’s Page 2 in which he mentioned the main challenge for the Phillies:
The Phillies? They don’t rip anyone’s heart out. They never go for the jugular. As a result, they aren’t feared by anyone. So when they take the field against the Marlins, the Brewers or the Rockies — everyone thinks they have a chance to win.
I agree with that. As a Phillies phan, I’ve seen this in action over the last few years. The talent has been there, but the desire to do whatever it takes to win is non-existent in the Phillies.
In the spring of 2003, Bowa proposed using Abreu as his leadoff hitter. I’ve never been a huge Bowa fan, but I always felt that idea was brilliant. Abreu does everything a leadoff should do at the plate. He’s agressive but willing to work a count and take a walk. He hits for average and steals bases when he gets on. His power is a bonus for Abreu. His homers are more accident than effort because he’s a hitter, not a slugger.
Bowa knows this and realized that Abreu could set a great tone for the lineup. Abreu vetoed it because it would hurt his production. I don’t believe he was worried about his numbers, as much as he felt that he could be the impact guy to drive in runs for the team. That’s a great thought, which has validity, but what if there are no runners on because the 1 and 2 guys aren’t up to the task? Rollins has become a better leadoff hitter, but he still swings for the fences too much and isn’t patient when necessary.
The best contrast to the current Phillies team is Lenny Dykstra. The Dude could work a count at the beginning of a game to let the rest of the lineup see the pitcher’s repetoire. He forced the game to conform to his intention. Think back to the ’93 NLCS. He dominated that series against the more talented Braves. His team wasn’t supposed to be there, but he wanted it. When the game was on the line, he “went for the jugular”. And with Dykstra, the Phillies knew they were never out of a game.
The current version of the Phillies don’t have that and, until they get it, they won’t win according to the expectations of their talent.