04/20/09 7:45 PM ET
Phils rained out; Manuel has concerns
Club not yet in sync this year due to off-field distractions
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
They would not become complacent. They would continue to work hard and try to defend their World Series championship.
"The good thing about our team is that our guys are very hungry," Brad Lidge said in Clearwater, Fla. "We haven't lost the desire to be great. It's incredible to be remembered as a World Series winner, but if you can do that a couple times? Then you're forming a legacy, and that's what we want to try to do."
But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has his concerns just two weeks into the season. The Phillies, who had Monday night's game against the Padres postponed because of rain, haven't gotten on a roll, partially because of numerous off-the-field activities and tragedies. They have endured Opening Day ceremonies in Philadelphia, Colorado and Washington. They also have had one World Series championship ring ceremony, three days off and two rainouts.
And then they suffered the loss of legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas.
"We haven't gotten in sync yet," Manuel. "But also, we've got some real good players. We've got some very professional players. We've got some players that love the game just like they always did. But we've also got some guys who need to look back and think about how we got there and what we did to be a winning team. I think that sometimes you can do things to get away from the fact that the game is the first priority and winning the game is the first priority. The game counts more than anything.
"I've seen some differences in guys. I've seen some differences in the way guys go about their business. I've seen some differences in how they act. Cockiness sometimes is good, but it's kind of how you handle things, too. I've seen some changes. I've seen differences in a lot of people around here, too."
Manuel wouldn't say if he thought those changes have been for the worse, but he said, "Don't get into the frame of mind where you're too big for your britches. Self-inventory is what I call it."
Manuel added that he hasn't seen enough to feel the need to address the team or players individually, although he said he will if he feels the need.
"I might not have to say a word," Manuel said.
The Phillies are 5-6, and their 6.87 ERA is the highest in the National League.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, one of the leaders in the clubhouse, said he hasn't noticed a difference in the team's work ethic or attitude since the season started, and thinks if the Phils had won an extra game or two that Manuel wouldn't be so concerned.
"It's definitely there," Rollins said of the desire the team had last season. "We just haven't put the W's and the L's in the right order yet. We're still playing solid baseball at times. It probably doesn't look that way because it seems like we're behind a lot. That'll come around. "Charlie's in the back a lot. He comes in after the games. Sometimes managers just see things much differently than everyone else. They have a lot of pressure on them."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks the disjointed schedule has played a role in the team's record more than anything.
"We're not on track," Amaro said. "There are times when maybe the focus of playing baseball games tends to be ... pushed aside. But we're hopeful that the things that have happened are hopefully behind us and we can concentrate on playing baseball. But as far as watching guys going about their business, I haven't seen any changes. I know the goal is to continue to win baseball games."
The team's subpar pitching might have as big a role as anything with the team's record.
"You're always concerned about your pitching when it starts off so poorly," Amaro said. "They haven't pitched well, but they are going to pitch better. I think these guys have enough experience and have had enough success in their careers that we'll get back on track. And if we don't then we'll have to address it."
But Manuel has his concerns. He looked at the walls in his office Monday afternoon. There are countless pictures and reminders of 2008.
"These are memories, but the game goes on and for us to compete and for us to win again we've got to do the same things that we did last year," the skipper said. "And that's coming to the ballpark and being ready to play that day in that moment. As good as we were at the end of last year that should have told our players how good they are. We want to keep all those things. It's not like you can take the game lightly.
"What I'm trying to say is don't slack off. If you're a champion, you'll get back to those things I'm talking about. We proved we can do it. So why wouldn't we want to demand that from ourselves?"
Postponed: The makeup date for Monday's game has not been announced, although May 11 and July 23 are possibilities. Tickets for Monday's game will be honored for the rescheduled game when it is announced. Hatfield Phillies Franks Dollar Dog Night also will be rescheduled for a later date.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.