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Some thoughts on the Phillies’ first half

I’ve noted before that if I had to list my favorite teams in order, the Phillies would be number one. I react the same way with every team, but with 162 games in the regular season, you’d think maybe I’d give the Phillies a break if they lost two out of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But I don’t. It’s just not in my makeup.

But I do give the benefit of the doubt when it’s warranted.

The Phillies have had the toughest schedule out of all 30 Major League Baseball teams in the first half of this season, according to At 44-44, the only other team that finished the first half with a better record was the Toronto Blue Jays (45-42), who I incidentally enough picked to win the American League East. Toronto finished the first half with the fourth-ranked toughest strength of schedule. The Baltimore Orioles were second (28-61), the Arizona Diamondbacks were third (26-66), and the Washington Nationals were fifth (42-47).

That should tell you just how open this National League East division is. Now, if we head to Tankathon, we’d see the Phillies now have the easiest strength of schedule to close the season.

But then, we have to remind ourselves – year after year, these Phillies teams, no matter who is on the roster, often play down to their competition, too. In fact, they open the second half of their season with four straight against the Miami Marlins, who they are currently 4-5 against. In last year’s abbreviated season, the Phillies only won three of 10 games against the Marlins and finished below them in the division standings. In order for this team to have a shot in the second half, they’ve got to start winning those games.

We’d all agree the Achilles heel for the Phillies is their bullpen, and that’s been their Achilles heel pretty much all season. Now, not every season is going to have a perfect conversion rate like Brad Lidge had in 2008, but the Phillies have to find ways to win games to put themselves in great position to take advantage of their remaining schedule. And even though the lineup has been coming around recently, we know it’s going to go back to scoring one to two runs per game for a week or two. They always do. Most baseball teams do. It’s a long season, and now that this season is “back to normal” in terms of how many games are being played, the Phillies have to take advantage of games where they haven’t taken advantage of in the last decade.

It’s been 10 damn years since the Phillies were in the playoffs, and the last time they were in the playoffs was their best year, statistically, as a franchise ever. Since then, we’ve been treated to a lackluster product on the field and it stems from the top down.

And, of course, we had the latest dramatic sequence of the season just Saturday afternoon, where Alec Bohm was removed from the game at Fenway Park and immediately placed on the COVID-19 injured list after testing positive for COVID-19. Along with him, he brought Aaron Nola [who was Sunday’s projected starter in a game where the Phillies’ bullpen miraculously beat the Red Sox], Bailey Falter, and Connor Brogdon.

Wonder who those vocal leaders are…? It’s asinine a sports team is compiled of these athletes who refuse to do their research and help protect their teammates. Here’s the quotes from Gelb’s piece (recommended subscription) if you can’t see them above:

Many Phillies players have bristled at MLB’s protocols, but they are the same set of rules for every team. Team officials will not divulge how many players aren’t vaccinated. It is a meaningful number, to the point that months ago, the Phillies were certain they would never reach the 85 percent threshold. The clubhouse’s contentious relationship with the vaccine is driven by a handful of influential players who have voiced opposition to it. Some of them have already contracted COVID-19 and consider the antibodies as enough protection, although the CDC recommends people who’ve had the virus still be vaccinated. Other Phillies players have questioned whether injuries they’ve suffered were a result of vaccine side effects.

When Kintzler experienced neck pain, he attributed it to a Johnson & Johnson vaccine he received in the first week of the season. His body, he said, shut down and that forced him to compensate during an outing. Didi Gregorius has told teammates he thought the vaccine led to his psuedogout diagnosis. When asked last month if he had a theory about what caused his elbow issues, Gregorius said: “I have no clue. So, I’m not sure. Let’s go with that. Because if I start saying things, it’s going to turn into a whole thing.” Archie Bradley alluded to the vaccine when he injured his oblique in April.

It’s been a talking point inside the clubhouse, although the club’s medical staff has attempted to dispel those theories.

“I think everyone should recover for a week from that thing,” Kintzler said of the vaccine last month. “Archie strained his oblique after it. (Matt) Joyce had back problems. There has to be some science behind it.”

I honestly can’t believe Kintzler said that, because how many guys do we see randomly straining their oblique taking a practice swing? During a bullpen session? It happens often. For these guys to attribute their own ailings to a vaccine while a good percentage of the clubhouse is against it seems a little… too convenient. I’m lucky – I didn’t have any symptoms after my first vaccination shot, and had a mild fever and arm soreness after the second one that didn’t even last 12 hours. But I’m protected. And that’s the belief that everyone should have when it comes to a public health crisis issue.

It’s clear many don’t do research on their own, or take in research that is conveniently lined within their own belief system. It’s a sad state of affairs, and it could cost the Phillies a playoff run for the 10th straight season, despite hanging around in the standings with the toughest schedule in the first half.

So, as a diehard fan that wants to see a Red October more than anything, the makeup of the Phils’ clubhouse is downright shameful and embarrassing.

You can follow Nick Piccone on Twitter (@piccone_) and e-mail him at [email protected]. You can read his pro wrestling articles on PhillyVoice here.

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