Gone are the days when the Phillies led the division. Gone too are the days when they held the top wild-card spot and with their most recent slide, the days of holding the second wild-card spot are also gone. The team plays a listless style of baseball night after night, not seeming to see any urgency in putting together a win streak that would right the ship. After all, their longest win streak of the season has been four games.
After Wednesday night’s loss, the Phillies found themselves tied for the second wild-card spot with Milwaukee. Manager Gabe Kapler talked about the future and his prediction for the team to turn things around “play the type of baseball that we’re capable of playing,” His prediction is that at any moment now, the Phillies offense is going to wake up and the team will suddenly be “unbeatable.”
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper was asked his thoughts on the Phillies situation and provided an answer that seems to fit perfectly with how the Phillies are playing right now. Being asked about the team’s play and how the wild-card slot was becoming far less of a sure thing, Harper took the answer in stride.
“I’ll take it,” Harper told reporters. “If the season ends today, then we’re in the playoffs. Just got to keep going, keep working each day we come in here.”
With the expectations of this season – both for Harper personally and the revamped Phillies as a team – being satisfied with a one-finger grip on the last wild-card spot is not a situation that is worth taking. Just one night later, Harper’s observation that the Phillies would be in the playoffs if the season ended in early August turned to dirt as they lost that slim grip on the second wild-card spot and would now be out of the playoffs.
The comments from Kapler and Harper may point to the biggest flaw in the Phillies, which could prove fatal for their 2019 playoff hopes. There is no urgency, no real passion or fire and certainly, no real leadership. Great managers don’t just sit back and wait for things to change; they do something. It could be locking the clubhouse doors and going off on the team, maybe busting up a chair or two or putting a dent in the wall, but they do something. Maybe wholesale lineup changes or sitting a guy who doesn’t run out a groundball or makes a weak effort defensively. Something.
And great players aren’t willing to “take” a tenuous grip on the final playoff spot as the team continues to put in one lazy performance after another. They challenge players. They speak publicly about how the team has to work harder, not stick with the status quo. Then, he goes out on the field and shows exactly what has to be done to turn things around. He doesn’t thumb his nose at batting practice, he doesn’t skip shagging fly balls and using the time to talk to the other players about how the team can be better. Even if it’s just for appearances, great players lead by example.
Leadership isn’t just through words, it’s the combination of words and action that makes for effective leadership. The two loudest voices on the Phillies aren’t providing either of those things and the on the field product is suffering for it.