To the surprise of, well, pretty much everyone, the Philadelphia Phillies started the year 22-15 and 26-21. They’ve since lot seven of nine but are still a semi-respectable 28-30 and within striking distance (6.5 games) of the division-leading Washington Nationals (34-23).
There’s still a long way to go this season, but after going 63-99 (.389) last year, Philadelphia hovering around .500 is a minor miracle.
“I don’t think any of us thought the Phillies were going to be this close to the top of the National League East,” MLB Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Even though we’ve had a bad spell, I don’t think even now, one or two games under .500 but still in touch with the leaders in the National League East, I don’t think anybody thought that was going to happen. We did it on our pitching – strictly on our pitching and our bullpen. The starting pitchers were leading the league in strikeouts, the bullpen (was) leading the league in earned run average. We weren’t, and still aren’t, a very good offensive team. We had a couple of outbursts against Milwaukee recently, but that was highly unusual for our team.”
Indeed, Aaron Nola (5-4, 2.65 ERA), Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.67 ERA) and Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.80 ERA) have been solid for the Phillies, but their offense ranks second-last in the National League in runs per game (3.2).
“(The) offense (is) very, very inconsistent, scoring two, three runs a game,” Schmidt said. “(We’ve) been shut out several times. We really don’t have anyone on the team other than Odubel Herrera, our leadoff hitter, that’s hitting (.320 with a .428 OBP). Other than that, we’re young and inexperienced. I hope what were seeing over the last 10 games isn’t the true reality of the club. We’ll see how it goes. They spoiled us a little bit (with the start they had), but we have to look at reality.”
Schmidt also weighed in on the Bat Flip Era baseball seems to be entering. Not surprisingly, the three-time MVP – considered by many the greatest third baseman in baseball history – isn’t a fan of showmanship.
“I’m old,” Schmidt said. “I’m 66. I grew up idolizing people like Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, and going back further, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Aaron. These guys all played the game with tremendous class, tremendous respect for the opponent all the time, never showing up the opposition, doing their best to just play their game. That’s the way our heroes carried themselves back then. As we’ve gone into this era now of ESPN and social media, things have changed. If the players cross the line, they kind of get back to the way we policed ourselves back in the day, but that line is a little further away now than it used to be. Pitchers are very demonstrative on the mound when they get hitters out, with no respect or very little respect for those hitters, and hitters sometimes cross the line now. But that line, as I said, is very much further away than it used to be when I played.”
Schmidt thought Jose Bautista was out of line with his bat-flip homer that defined the 2015 ALDS. Bautista paid for it with a plunking and a punch to the jaw in May.
“I do think Bautista crossed the line in the postseason last year tremendously with that bat flip,” Schmidt said. “The players do watch their home runs a little bit more than they used to. There’s a lot more demonstration and showmanship on the field than there used to be when we played. We actually didn’t want to show anybody up. We actually (felt like), ‘Well, I’m sorry I hit that home run.’ We’d sprint around the bases and get in the dugout. You didn’t want to make it any harder than it already was. In (football), they try to kill you every play so it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to get any worse. If they hate you in our sport, it gets harder.”