- A gut check separates the Phillies from the Brewers:
The tone of the series was set on Thursday when Ben Sheets allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings and the Phillies won the game 6-3. It was as if the Brewers, knowing that they didn't have C.C. Sabathia pitching in any of the four games and already having lost with their secondary ace pitching, simply accepted the fact that they were overmatched and went through the motions knowing they were not only going to lose the series, but that the foundation of 2008 was crumbling beneath their feet. This is the fault of the manager Ned Yost and, by proxy, the front office for keeping Yost after last season and during this season.
For all of his strategic mishaps, overuse of his relievers and ill-timed ejections, Charlie Manuel's players have never quit on him; if the Phillies take a punch, they always hit back. The Brewers on the other hand have a glass jaw; they're fine when Sabathia and Sheets are making hitters look like little leaguers; when their potent offense is piling up huge run totals or they're rolling along like a sure lock for the playoffs, but when they face any adversity, they collapse; this, like the public in-fighting and lack of hustle when things look bleak, stops directly at the manager's front desk.
The onus for this could be placed on the clubhouse leaders for the Brewers. They do have some players who are respected and well-liked by their peers like Mike Cameron, Sabathia and Jason Kendall, but if star players like Prince Fielder (who sulks and throws tantrums when things aren't going his way) are jogging out ground balls instead of trying to prevent double plays, what are the rest of the players supposed to think? What can Cameron, Sabathia or Kendall do with Fielder other than to try and get him to take an active role as a leader and set an example by running hard to first base? There's only so much a player can do to get his teammates to behave appropriately; Derek Jeter is respected throughout the league and revered in his clubhouse, but the lack of hustle by both Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera has proven that there's only so much even Hall of Fame players can do. This is the responsibility of the manager.
Charlie Manuel has publicly benched his MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins because of such transgressions and the rest of the team supported him without fail. What would happen if Yost said that he was benching Fielder for two games because of his attitude and lackadaisical behavior? Would they stand behind him, or would the dissension permeate the clubhouse and make the obviously poisonous teamwide attitude even worse than it is?
My guess is that Yost is being openly mocked by certain players as he tightens his already stifling grip on his team and they know that despite the fact that they're still in position to make the playoffs that they won't. They know that things are coming apart at the seams in the clubhouse and on the field and their window is closing rapidly because they're going to lose both Sheets and Sabathia to free agency. What makes things worse is that the front office is quite probably ruing the fact that they kept Yost when they could've fired him at anytime dating back to last season, but didn't. They have to live with the decision knowing that they're unlikely to have this opportunity----a weak National League, two dominating starting pitchers and a run scoring lineup----again for quite awhile, if ever. The pieces were in place for a run at a World Series, but that's disappearing into the abyss of Yost's rage and inability to control his team. The elapsed time between Brewers playoff appearances is repeatedly mentioned in the press at 25 years; it's about to be 26 and the front office needs only to look into the mirror to understand why.
- The Barry Zito article by Pat Jordan in the NY Times sports magazine Play: