Despite a lengthy offensive slump that saw them fall seven games behind the Braves in the National League East, the Phillies had maintained an aura of calm about their struggles at the plate.
That changed late last night, however, as the team parted ways with hitting coach Milt Thompson in the aftermath of a four-game series against the Cardinals in which they scored just eight runs.
The move, announced in a two-paragraph press release after the Phillies landed from their dismal eight-game road trip through Chicago and St. Louis, comes less than 2 years after the team's potent lineup helped lead the organization to its first World Series championship in 28 years.
Neither general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. nor Thompson could be reached for comment. The team announced that former hitting coach Greg Gross, who has spent the last three season on the staff at Triple A Lehigh Valley, would replace Thompson.
Thompson, an outfielder on the 1993 Phillies team that advanced to the World Series and lost to the Blue Jays, was in his sixth season as the team's hitting coach.
The Phillies finished in the top three in the National League in runs in each of Thompson's first five seasons as hitting coach, including first in 2006, 2007 and 2009. But after a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals yesterday, in which they were held scoreless for the first 10 innings, they ranked sixth in the league with 437 runs.
More indicative of their struggles is the fact that they have scored fewer than four runs in 47 of their 95 games. They have been shut out eight times.
In June, manager Charlie Manuel defended Thompson, saying he wasn't the one who stepped into the batter's box.
"It's definitely not Milt Thompson's fault,'' Manuel said at the time. "He doesn't do the hitting.''
But the Phillies are clearly searching for answers for their current funk. The offense has spent significant stretches without regulars Jimmy Rollins (calf strain), Carlos Ruiz (concussion), Placido Polanco (elbow strain) and Chase Utley (sprained thumb).
Since Utley went down with a thumb injury on June 28, the Phillies have hit just .233 with a .295 on-base percentage while average four runs per game. In the 21 games that immediately preceded his injury, they hit .261 with a .326 on-base percentage and averaged 5.3 runs.
Nevertheless, the Phillies decided to part ways with Thompson.
Gross, another former Phillie, was the team's hitting coach from 2002-04 under then-manager Larry Bowa. He was reassigned to the team's player development system in 2005. As a player, he spent 10 years with the Phillies, playing in the 1980 and 1983 World Series.