Besides offense, defense, pitching and coaching, the Phillies are missing a good story for fans to embrace.
It’s a sad, sad thing to check the Red Barons Web site and read that Chris Coste, the wannabe 33-year-old rookie, is hitting .160 after nearly making the club as a non-roster invitee. I keep scanning the minor league transactions, waiting for Coste to go on the DL with a broken heart.
The Chris Coste story is one of several good dramas that dried up on Opening Day. Days later, Jimmy Rollins’ hitting streak came to an end. Ryan Howard, who clubbed a Phillies record for home runs in spring (11), has been held to five buzz-killing dongs. Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson, the most promising pitchers of spring, have been major disappointments. The closest person to being profiled in a human-interest story is Sal Fasano, the first player to acquire his own fan group entirely based on facial hair.
Quite frankly, even the negative storylines have grown stale. Charlie Manuel’s bad tactical managing is old hat, and isn’t nearly as juicy as the Chase Utley/Placido Polanco platoon of a year ago. Even the goats – David Bell and Mike Lieberthal – aren’t playing horribly enough to get fans 100 percent worked up.
The schedule hasn’t helped them, either. Since the opening homestand, they’ve been on the road at Atlanta, Colorado, Pittsburgh and now Florida. They’ve hosted Washington, Florida and Colorado. Nothing breeds excitement like watching Jamey Carroll seven times in one month.
Most people expect the on-the-field stories – offense, defense, pitching – to pick up rather than stay constant, but the Phillies are now faced with another concern: staying above the fold in light of the recent NFL draft. The Flyers may be close to dropping off the map, but the Eagles are more important than they’ve been since December.
Winning would certainly help, but good stories wouldn’t hurt, either. Here are a few possibilities.
Phillies call up Cole Hamels: Hamels’ first Triple-A start is the most significant performance this season: 14 strikeouts, 3 hits, 0 runs is heavy at any level. Hamels is known to be tough. Gavin Floyd, by comparison ... more like a wet noodle.
Phillies fire Charlie Manuel: Goes without saying. Axed managers are good press. It’s also significant because it would represent Pat Gillick’s first big "theoretically" uninhibited move.
Phillies release Alex Gonzalez, purchase the contract of Chris Coste: This very, very minor move might be smart baseball more than good print. The cinderella of spring is a catcher who can play first and third. The Phillies have been pulling their starting catcher early to pinch hit, and Coste would offer more insurance. Alex Gonzalez has been a flat dud without any real purpose to the Phils. Danny Sandoval provides all the insurance they need for Jimmy Rollins and is probably a better hitter than Gonzalez, who is 1-for-18 in a Phillies uniform.