NEW YORK - The Mets started a lefthander, Jonathon Niese, so Ryne Sandberg deployed his righthanded-hitting Phillies lineup Tuesday night at Citi Field. Erik Kratz, Michael Young, Darin Ruf, Kevin Frandsen, and John Mayberry Jr. batted in succession. It is possible that none of those players will be starters in 2014.
"Balance, for me, is important," said Sandberg, the interim manager. "That means righthanded bats."
Those bats were 2 for 15 in a 5-0 loss to New York. Frandsen, playing out of position at first base, committed an error that led to four unearned runs. Kyle Kendrick lost because he could not retire the opposing pitcher. Niese drew a key third-inning walk and cleared the bases with a double in the sixth. It was that sort of night in a dreadful season.
The Phillies are on pace to score 611 runs in 2013. That would mark the franchise's fewest in a non-strike-shortened season since 1988. The Phillies' on-base-plus-slugging percentage has dropped every season since 2009. They average 2.5 walks per game, their lowest rate since 1963.
Other than Ruf, who must still convince the Phillies of his value, there are no lethal righthanded bats. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. must acquire one, and given his track record, it is uncertain he'll be successful.
Consider this: Amaro acquired 15 players during the last two winters via trade or a guaranteed contract in free agency. Just three of them - Young, Jimmy Rollins, and Jonathan Papelbon - were on the active roster Tuesday.
Ben Revere, Mike Adams, John Lannan, and Jeremy Horst are all disabled with season-ending injuries. Chad Qualls, Laynce Nix, Chad Durbin, and Delmon Young were released. Jim Thome was traded. Ty Wigginton, Juan Pierre, and Brian Schneider were not re-signed.
When deposed manager Charlie Manuel said he questioned whether the Phillies had assembled enough talent to win in each of the last two seasons, it was a direct criticism of Amaro's winters. The Phillies have invested millions in an aging core and they have failed to supplement those players.
There is money to spend this winter. It begs for Amaro, whose job could depend on a successful offseason, to buy a hitter. The Phillies have not paid more than $2.6 million for a new position player (excluding the re-signing of Rollins and Chase Utley) since Placido Polanco signed a three-year, $18 million deal before the 2010 season.
They signed Ross Gload to a two-year, $2.6 million contract on Dec. 10, 2009, six days after Polanco, and that is the highest since.
"The outfield needs to be ironed out one way or the other," Sandberg said. "They've talked about center field all year. Ben Revere came on real strong for about five weeks. He probably hit close to .400 for a month or something. He really showed his speed and value. There are some guys in the mix here. I don't know."
Three of the better available outfield bats - Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Curtis Granderson - are lefthanded. One of the righties, Hunter Pence, was already acquired and discarded by the Phillies. Another, Nelson Cruz, was swept up in the Biogenesis scandal and is suspended. Corey Hart built a fine track record until a left knee injury sidelined him for all of 2013.
That leaves 36-year-old Carlos Beltran and Seattle's Mike Morse as logical free-agent fits. They come with injury risks.
Sandberg does not believe the whole "too lefthanded" notion is overstated.
"Our numbers all year against lefthanded pitching are not impressive," Sandberg said. "That's something that needs to be addressed."