I just filed my column for tomorrow, which focuses on Freddy Galvis' seventh-inning at-bat as an example of the multitude of decisions that Charlie Manuel has to make while weighing offense and defense. I outline the rationale for letting Galvis hit with two men on and one out in a game the Phillies trailed 5-0. Manuel highlighted his desire to show confidence in the rookie he knows he is going to need to have in his line-up on a daily basis. But from a pure baseball standpoint, what was his better option?
Laynce Nix was on deck waiting to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Either Nix or Thome is going to hit in that spot. Also on the bench were Ty Wigginton, Pete Orr and Brian Schneider. He could have pinch-hit Wigginton against righty Anibal Sanchez, but that would have forced Nix or Thome to face the lefty that the Marlins were going to bring in from the bullpen. No more right-handed bats on the bench. He could have let Nix or Thome pinch-hit for Galvis, but again, the lefty would have come in. Wigginton can only bat for one of them. The other was going to have to face the lefty. Same problem if you bring in Orr or Schneider. Even if it wasn't the same problem, do either of them give you much of a better shot than Galvis? Both finished last season with a lower slugging percentage than Cliff Lee. Schneider has a longer track record. But he is also the back-up catcher.
And that doesn't even take into consideration defense, where Galvis is head and shoulders above any other option. They could have put Wigginton at third and moved Polanco to second, but Manuel has given no indication that he views that as a smart move.
And then you factor in the need for Galvis to get a hit at some point.
None of the Phillies' defensive lapses ended up costing them the game. The consensus amongst Manuel and the participants involved is that John Mayberry Jr. should have retreated to first base on Emilio Bonifacio's bunt in the sixth instead of charging and leaving the bag open. Galvis had no chance at beating Bonifacio to the bag. Still, Mayberry is a solid defender. Stuff like that is going to happen.
The bigger question is in left field, where the Marlins clearly did not respect Juan Pierre's arm. In the fourth, Hanley Ramirez stretched a single into a double. Pierre was forced to hit the cut-off man, and the relay arrived to the bag was not in time. There really is not a good answer. The Phillies think Pierre can get on base and do enough things with his legs that he can help the line-up. But the only option is to play him in left field, even though Mayberry is clearly the team's best defensive corner outfielder.
A defensive lapse has already cost the Phillies one game. Tomorrow night, when Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson are dueling in what seems destined to be a low-scoring game, the Phillies can't afford to allow the Marlins to have extra outs and take extra bases. The biggest impact of extra outs might be the extra pitches they force Halladay to throw, which will decrease the length he can pitch into the game, and as we saw on Sunday, the bullpen has yet to prove it can close out more than an inning.
One thing that was obvious today was the lack of energy in the stadium, which is a natural symptom of a lackluster offense. Most home openers, the stands are mostly filled when the Phillies make their entrance down a red carpet in the outfield. Today, they were mostly empty. By the time Galvis hit his double and gave the Phillies their only runs of the game, there were a ton of blue seats visible from the press box.
Driving into the stadium today, I heard a radio advertisement from the Phillies telling fans that tickets remain for all home games on the schedule. I'm sure nobody is too concerned about the shutout sellout streak, but it is worth mentioning.
All of this comes with the usual disclaimer that it is a long season and the Phillies are a veteran team and despite their injuries they still have legitimate weapons like Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. If the starting pitching continues as it has, you have to think that wins are inevitable.
Today was one of those days where you almost felt guilty driving to a baseball game and dissecting the performances of professional athletes. Every day in our city, people like Lt. Bob Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney report to work knowing that they could be asked to respond to a situation that endangers their lives for the benefit of our community. After one of the Phillies' NLDS games in San Francisco in 2010 I had a beer with Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan and listened to him talk about what it is like having a firefighter for a father, the constant uncertainty, the neurotic monitoring of breaking news headlines, the uncertain moments before you know your dad is OK.
The times that I think about my own life within this context are far too few. I'm sure the same is true for most of us. Maybe the most impactful condolence we can express is to live our lives with the same loving abandon that makes men like Robert and David run into the mouth of a five-alarm blaze.