Angelo Cataldi: Phillies need to end Domonic Brown experiment

Domonic Brown has struggled at the plate for most of the 2014 season. Credit: Getty Images Domonic Brown has struggled at the plate for most of the 2014 season. Credit: Getty Images

Domonic Brown has a perfect swing, but cannot hit. He has a formidable arm, with no direction on his throws. He has the energy of youth, but no motivation. He is a smart man, and a dumb ballplayer.

On a Phillies team filled with underachievers, Brown stands alone as the biggest disappointment of 2014. He is still starting in left field because of one five-week hot streak – exactly a year ago – when he realized his potential. Before and after that, he has been one of the least productive outfielders in baseball.

Based on the last 12 months of his big league career, the only remarkable thing about Brown is that he is still on the Phillies roster. Between May 2 and June 8 last season, he slammed 16 homers in 35 games, a power output comparable to Ryan Howard’s 58-home run season of 2006. In 45 contests so far this year – spanning 168 at-bats – he has three homers and is hitting .202.

What has happened to the most talented player developed by the Phillies in the past half-dozen years? There are two basic theories: Either the pitchers adjusted to him, or just doesn’t care enough. In interviews, he appears committed, thoughtful, articulate. But then he contradicts that image with some really stupid decisions.

For example, last week – with Miami leading 1-0 in the 7th inning – he bounced a ball back to the mound and jogged down to first base. When pitcher Henderson Alvarez proceeded to throw wildly, it was too late for Brown to redeem himself. Now, he’s not the first player to disrespect the game, but when you’re batting average is near the Mendoza line, it makes no sense not to at least show some effort.

Whether he realizes it or not, Brown is approaching a crossroad in his puzzling career. At 26, he will be eligible for arbitration after this season, a milestone that will inflate his $500,000 salary well beyond his productivity. Will the Phillies still want him when he costs $3 or $4 million a year? Will anyone?

Already, there are reports that the Phillies are developing some contingency plans for life without Brown. Fox Sports reported last week that the Phils are thinking about converting another underachiever, Cody Asche, to left field to make room for top prospect Maikel Franco at third base. Asche , who is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, doesn’t figure to be much of a defensive outfielder, but then, neither is Brown.

A smarter move – which the Phillies should be making right now– is to name Darin Ruf the full-time left fielder. Ruf is still young at 27, and would provide an important right-handed power bat in the limp Phillies lineup.

The bottom line is, it’s time for the Phillies to give up on Domonic Brown. Five weeks do not make a career. Sometimes, talent is just not enough.

Idle thoughts

  • Well, that didn’t take long. New Flyers GM Ron Hextall lavished praise on the organization last week for remaining competitive over the past four decades. Let the record show that it took less than two weeks for Hextall to preach the loser philosophy of chairman Ed Snider. Just don’t expect a Stanley Cup any time soon.
  • Prickly pitcher Jonathan Papelbon confronted snarky broadcaster Howard Eskin last weekend over reports that the closer might have partied too hard recently in New York. OK, I give up. Who are we supposed to root for in that battle?
  • Mets fan Jon Stewart launched into a vicious – and tongue-in-cheek – attack against the Philly Phanatic on The Daily Show last week. What made his tirade especially funny is that Mr. Met may be the dumbest, least entertaining mascot in sports – as Stewart eventually acknowledged. Score another win for the Phanatic.
  • The Eagles are trying to get people away from their TVs and into Lincoln Financial Field with a bizarre strategy. The $90-million renovation project under way right now includes – ready for this? – 1,189 brand-new high-definition televisions throughout the stadium. Why stay home and watch TV when you can pay for the privilege?
  • Former Eagle Ricky Watters has filed suit against NFL Films because it keeps showing footage of him during his playing career, and he would like to be paid for it. Anybody want to guess what the judge is going to say when he sees this idiotic case? You got it. For who? For what?

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