At the All-Star Break the Phillies are 47-40, four and a half games behind both Atlanta and New York Mets in National League East (fighting Mets for lead in Wildcard race). Are we as a fan base panicking? Maybe some are. Should we be? No. There are approximately 80 games remaining in which anything can happen. Anything such as a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds including 3 straight extra inning walkoffs, 21 consecutive scoreless innings pitched (with a 1-0 squeaker on Sunday to end the first half of the season), a pitcher’s duel where both hurlers went 9 shutout innings AND a 7-run comeback in the ninth to send one of those games into extra innings. Anything can happen!
All VERY exciting and reminiscent of the Comeback Kids of the past couple seasons (or even the Cardiac Kids of years past). Add to that the likes of Roy Halladay (arguably the best pitcher in baseball with a perfect game under his belt this season) and the outlook should be incredibly optimistic. No game is out of reach, no lead is safe from these bashing brothers-in-arms. Then again, these same Phillies had trouble scratching runs across this year going essentially oh-for-May and finding it very difficult to beat the dregs of Major League baseball – the Pittsburgh Pirates! We don’t yet know who this team really is. This was the envy of all baseball offenses in 2007, 2008 and 2009 …but in 2010…they are ranked 12th!
Most distressing of all is how tightly the Phillies organization seems to be backed into the proverbial corner regarding options. The payroll is teetering on the brink of the self-imposed limit ($140 million) and there are not a lot of trade possibilities to shore up the effects of injury or pitching inconsistencies. Good news is that they have locked down Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz AND Roy Halladay long term. The bad news is they are stuck with large contracts for Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton – which may prevent them from retaining the services of Jayson Werth. The team seems to foolishly be entertaining re-signing JC Romero and Jamie Moyer (who will turn 48) to another contract due largely to the fact that they have no one in the farm system pushing “The Cuatrogenerian” out of the rotation! Moyer was out of the rotation in September 2009 and was supposed to be “washed up” after 2008. Meanwhile, JA Happ and Kyle Kendrick have had no shortage of chances, but they haven’t done it and may never get there.
So let’s review… the bullpen is filled with at least 8 guys who are essentially the same pitcher (Baez, Durbin, Herndon, Bastardo, even Zagurski and Escalona) which includes days when Madsen and Romero are ineffective – and still can do nothing about Brad Lidge’s bad days. The starting rotation consists of Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and then some combination of Moyer, Kendrick & Happ to fill the other 2 spots. In summary, the major league roster is filled with large contracts and lack of options. Good thing because the minor leagues don’t offer much help. Understanding that the likes of Scot Mathieson, Dane Sardina, Cody Ransom and Wilson Valdez have proven to be valuable role players but these are marginal veterans and should not be considered prospects. Who are our prospects? Well Domonic Brown and Jaret Cosart appeared on the roster of the MLB Futures game but that is unquantifiable. According to Scouting Book.com this is how the Phillies’ “top prospects” rank according to the other MLB team’s top prospects:
#33 – Domonic Brown
#70 – Phillippe Aumont
#99 – Antonio Bastardo
#154 – Trevor May
#163 – Sebastian Valle
#194 – Tyson Gillies
#221 – Anthony Gose
#246 – John Mayberry Jr.
#257 – Joe Savery
#290 – Jarred Cosart
#362 – Domingo Santana
#417 – Edgar Garcia
#464 – Zachary Collier
What I take away from the whole process is that Ruben Amaro’s deals for Cliff Lee (Lee and OF Ben Francisco were brought to the Phillies for prospects Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson) and Roy Halladay (Halladay came from Toronto for a trio of former first-round picks: pitcher Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and catcher Travis D’Arnaud) have BANKRUPTED the farm system. Seven prospects in exchange for three players involved a lot of movement but the result could have been better! The Phils turned stud starting pitcher Cliff Lee around in the offseason, essentially dumping him on Seattle so as to avoidf contract negotiations. Shipping Lee to Seattle garnered “prospects” Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. Cliff Lee would have cost $9 million for 2010 season so Ruben Amaro decided to send him to Seattle “to restock the farm system” but this deal didn’t garner ANY of Seattle’s top-rated prospects! Amaro claimed that he never had any intention of retaining both Halladay and Lee and in fact dealt Lee within 24 hours of landing Halladay. So Halladay ($15.75 million, minus $6 million the Blue Jays sent the Phillies in the deal) was Amaro’s original target in 2009 and Lee was the consolation prize. Amaro mortgaged the future, got both of them but didn’t want them?
Ruben Amaro has been successful in his short stint as GM. Part of that success is attributable to his talented roster of players but largely to the tutelage under Pat Gillick en route to a World Series championship in 2008 and a World Series loss in 2009. Amaro made a huge mistake letting Lee go. Everyone in Philadelphia and across baseball realizes this. If only for one season, a rotation of Halladay, Lee and Hamels instills far more fear into the opposition than Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and whichever hot dog vendor isn’t busy that night!!!! Halladay and Lee ($18 M combined) in the rotation for the 2010 season would give them three “aces” (or !a, 1b and 1c if you prefer). Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that 1-2-3 in their rotation? Amaro claimed it was a decision that was part financial (he was given a budget and told it was a hard $140 million cap) and that he was restocking the farm system. Well if that was the case, why not dump Joe Blanton instead of pay him $8 M per year for 3 years? Why sign Baez and Contreras? There’s your money with some left over to re-sign Werth! Oh, you signed Howard for $25M and you overpaid Raul Ibanez $10 M for 3 seasons but you ran out of money??? In the end, Ruben Amaro failed the very fan base he purports protecting. Amaro failed on two fronts, first decimating the farm system to get Lee and Halladay, then trading Lee for three “schlubs” to re-stock the farm system.
The 2010 Phillies will reveal their true identity soon enough over the second half of the regular season. Whether they make the playoffs as a Wildcard, Division Champion or go back to the World Series, we will see that they are ultimately successful or a failure when the third or fourth starter takes the mound in postseason. Do you want Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton jumping out of that dugout to take the mound? How about in the offseason when we lose Jayson Werth and remain stuck with Raul Ibanez? The Phillies and Amaro have enjoyed an unprecedented run of success these past 4 years, drawing 4 million people through the gates, hoisting a World Series trophy and combining repeated division and league championships with an expectation to get back to the World Series. Ruben Amaro and the Phillies management can either extend this run and do what is best for the team or they can be greedy and keep all the profits for themselves. Winners win and do what is right for the ultimate goal. Greedy businessmen grab what they can and don’t care about the consequences.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org