Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Doc takes temperature of the Phillies clubbhouse

During the first two months of the season, a lot has been lacking with the Philadelphia Phillies. 

The most obvious items are the All-Star bats in the middle of the lineup, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Their absences have undoubtedly had a trickle-down effect on the offense and the team at large.

But it's also been an interesting clubhouse. A lot of the faces everyone has been used to seeing (Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez come to mind) have been replaced by new personalities (Jonathan Papelbon comes to mind). 

If you subtract both Howard and Utley, since they have been away from the team for the majority of the season's first seven weeks, the Phils have six players regularly in their clubhouse who were on the World Champion 2008 team. Six. 

That's not to say that turnover is a bad thing. But there are plenty of players who either haven't won or are still finding their way in a new environment.

Prior to Tuesday's game against the Nationals - a game that ended with the Phils dropping their season-high fourth straight in a 5-2 defeat - Charlie Manuel talked about this very subject. 

"I don’t know how you guys look at it, but I look at it like if I’ve been in an organization that’s lost for a long time, and then like, you know, you come into the atmosphere of a winner, I look at that as different," Manuel said. "There’s more pressure. But also, too, those guys, I’m not saying they can’t come into the fold and be on our team, but there’s a time where they feel comfortable."

This leads us to Roy Halladay, who had never been in the playoffs in 11-plus major league seasons before joining the Phillies. 

Halladay is in his third season in Philadelphia now, however, and he has a very good idea of how to go about winning baseball games. Just look at the back of his baseball card.

Stunningly, the Phils have lost six of the last seven times Halladay has taken the mound. 

No, Halladay hasn't been his normal, dominant self in some of those games: he has a 4.75 ERA in that span. Yes, the offense hasn't showed up in most of those games, too: they've scored a total of seven runs in five of those six losses.

But throughout it all, Halladay has not lost his composure. Probably more than anyone in the clubhouse, the 35-year-old Halladay, despite not having a World Series ring, gets it.

Following Tuesday's defeat, a game that he put the Phils in a 5-1 hole in the first four innings, Halladay was at his best not as a pitcher, but as a voice of a struggling team. It's the kind of voice that's been missing in the 2012 season.

Here are some of the highlights:

On the season's first two months, when the team has underachieved and found a home in last place: 

"Definitely frustrating, but you have to put it behind you. The first two months, they’ve been tough for all of us. You do everything you can to fix it, that’s it. I think it gets back to going out and trying to play a little bit more loose and focus on your job. I think, including myself, we’ve got a lot of guys who are going out and trying to carry the weight of the team. You can’t play that way. I think we’ve seen that. I think everyone is trying to pick up slack for what we might not be doing and guys we’re missing and all of that, and that only seems to compound the problem. A lot of us need to just go out, play the game and have fun playing the game. When you start pressing, start trying to do things you don’t need to do, it makes things worse."

On whether turning things around comes individually, or if players need to hold each other accountable:

"Charlie says it all the time, you do it because you want to, not because you have to. I think its hard when things aren’t going the way you want them to go, but, that’s how you play the game. Ultimately it is a game, and I think that’s important to remember. Its tough to do in places like this where fans expect a lot, media expects a lot, players expect a lot. But I think it’s important to keep that in mind and to try to play that way, regardless of your own expectations and everyone else’s. You have to get back to playing the game, and enjoying playing the game."

On whether he'd be comfortable addressing the team if needed:

"Yeah, I would. I think finding the right time to do that is tough. Guys are beating themselves up and you have a bad day and it's not necessarily the thing you want to hear or anybody else wants to hear. And it doesn't even have to be a team gathering. Just talking to guys and being teammates. We've got a good group. We've got a great chemistry. We've played good at times, and we haven't at times, and it's just a matter of going out and enjoying it. The more we press, it's not going to take care of itself. You prepare as well as you can and go out and let it all hang out."

On whether it's more difficult for the pitchers to succeed when they're regularly getting little run support:

"I don’t know if it’s necessarily the offense or a matter of just trying to win games, but yeah, there’s a lot more tension to the games and you’re doing everything you can, every pitch to help your team win. I don’t know if that’s just because we haven’t scored as many runs or because we haven’t necessarily played as well,but I think there is a certain weight that ultimately falls on our shoulders as pitchers to be able to overcome that. There’s been a lot of games that, and maybe it’s the way you’re pitching, too, at times, where you feel like I’ve got to be a little bit better, and a lot of times that doesn’t work in your favor."

On whether he's concerned about his own numbers, given his high standards:

"I’m definitely not happy with the results. I’ve always tried to prepare as well as I can to get myself ready and accept the results and that’s really all you can do. I feel like I’ve tried to continue to do that and will continue  to do that going forward. I’m not concerned. I feel like I know how to overcome it and I think we do as a team. I think when you start getting concerned it adds a whole elementthat you don’t need. I’m going to keep preparing and accept the results. That’s all I can do."

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