What do Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Pedro Martinez, Jamie Moyer and Roy Oswalt all have in common? Well aside from the fact that they have each worn Phillies pinstripes over the past 3 seasons, these are the net results of deals by the Phils front office to spur this amazing playoff run. 2007-2009 seasons have seen the Philies collect 3 NL East titles (2007 was the Phils first NL East flag since 1993), 2 NLCS pennants, one World Series championship (2008) and a position as the odds on favorite to represent the National League in the 2010 World Series. This would make the Phillies the first team to make 3 straight World Series appearance since the New York Yankees (1998-2001, 1976-1978, 1960-1962, 1955-1958, 1949-1953 won all 5 years), Oakland A’s (1972-1974) and the first National League team to accomplish the feat since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals (who also won in 1946 in addition to 1942 and 1944). Not since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine (1976-1977) has a National League franchise even been in position to repeat, let alone make 3 straight World Series appearances.
After much diatribe, more debate and even more prognosticating, the deal became final before the July 31 MLB Trading Deadline. Roy Oswalt and his $16M contract (plus $11M) are now property of the Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange, J.A. Happ begins a new career in Houston along with outfield prospect Anthony Gose and infield prospect Jonathan Villar. The Phillies also received $11 million from Houston to pay a portion of the roughly $23 million remaining on Oswalt’s contract for 2010 and 2011. There is a $16M club option for 2012, which will be up to the Phillies. Oswalt was rumored to be headed for St. Louis to join an already effective Cardinals staff, but it seems Houston GM Ed Wade felt uncomfortable sending Oswalt to a division rival. Not only did Phillies GM Ruben Amaro get a deadline deal done withiut sacrificing Jayson Werth, Domonic Brown or prized prospects but with help from closer Brad Lidge (former Houston teammate until 2007), who texted Amaro “You’re welcome” after the deal was done. Former Phils backup catcher Paul Bako was even involved in convincing Oswalt that the Phils clubhouse and organization were “top notch.” Talk about a group effort!!!
“In a baseball sense, this Oswalt deal really needed to happen,” said a source close to Amaro.”While we are not happy about losing Happ or any of the players we’ve traded, we must do what helps us win in 2010. The future will take care of itself. In that vein, Oswalt is now locked up through 2011 at a discounted rate and pending back issues, could be around through 2012. That would mean Philadelphia could retain the services of “H2O” (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt) at the top of their rotation through 2012. Amaro had been receiving criticism since sending 2009 Trading Deadline start Cliff Lee to Seattle for three minor league prospects in the offseason. The Lee deal was supposed to “restock the farm system” while also avoiding losing Lee to free agency after the 2010 season (Lee was seeking a more lucrative contract past 2010 than the $9M he was owed). Amaro never referred to the “Lee to Seattle” deal as “a mistake” but most fans and media in Philadelphia said it for him. At the time, Amaro chose to sign Joe Blanton to a $24M 3 year contract, while letting Lee go instead of paying him $9M for 2010. Now Oswalt joins a contender, leaping 30 games and one time zone in the standings, and becomes the latest in a growing line of Deadline Deal Dazzlers in recent Phillies history.
The past 13 months have been a pitching whirlwind for the Phillies. They signed former Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez on July 15, 2009. Fourteen days later, they shipped four prospects to the Cleveland Indians for another former Cy Young Award winner in Cliff Lee. Nearly five months later, the Phillies sent three prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roy Halladay, who is also a former Cy Young Award winner. And in what will be an eternally questionable move amongst Phillies fans and baseball lifers, Philadelphia traded Lee the same day to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects. Then along came Oswalt, who waived his no-trade clause after consulting with Phillies closer Brad Lidge and others about the team, the city and the fans.
“We think that we acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. The realization that the Philllies suddenly had three aces in their rotation — Halladay, Oswalt and left-hander Cole Hamels — had the clubhouse buzzing before Thursday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We’re in a period of time where we have a great chance to win,” Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer (acquired at the trading deadline in 2007) said. “I think this organization respects how hard it is to win. I think the players understand how hard it is to win. I think the coaching staff understands how hard it is to win. And we’re making a nice little push right now.”
It had been a whirlwind 48 hours for Roy Oswalt whom Philadelphia acquired from Houston Thursday, then struggled in his Phillies debut Friday in an 8-1 loss to Washington at Nationals Park. He allowed seven hits, five runs (four earned), two walks and hit two batters in six innings, as the Phillies snapped their eight-game winning streak to fall 3 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. One start does not a pitcher make and Oswalt has no shortage of credentials to prove he can do the job. Oswalt now has all of August and September to get himself used to meaningful late season baseball (his only experience was in 2005 with Houston) but it is in October that Oswalt’s true value will be tested. What other team can head into an LCS or World Series offering the likes of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt twice over 7 games (with Blanton & Kendrick also available)? According to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, these are the best trio.
“San Francisco offers Lincecum, Zito and Cain,” chirped a happy Manuel. “St. Louis gives you Wainwright and Carpenter but who’s after that? Then there’s the Yankees. They throw Sabathia, Burnett, Pettite and Hughes but those guys are either hurt or less effective – aside from C.C. [Sabathia]. So we’re right there with our Big Three. If it’s not the Yankees (representing the A.L. in the World Series) then you’re looking at Tampa Bay, Boston or probably the Angels. You got either Lester & Lackey (BOS) or Santana, Weaver, Piniero and Dan Haren (ANA) or Shields, Nieman, Price, Garza (TB). These teams have some good pitching but we got better as far as I’m concerned.”
The Phillies biggest concerns have been starting rotation (especially after Jamie Moyer went on the DL), bullpen (Lidge has struggled along with Romero, Madsen, Danys Baez and some combination of role players such as Jose Contreras, David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin and Scott Matheison) and injuries. The full complement of the Phils scheduled Opening Day lineup (which didn’t play together because Rollins was scratched on Opening Day) has played together fewer than 20 games. Mind you, we are 100 games into the season and significant playing time has been missed by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, J.A. Happ, Ryan Madsen and Jamie Moyer. Moyer is gone for the season while nearly everyone else has returned. Chase Utley is scheduled to return from his healed and rehabilitated broken hand sometime in September and Victorino is expected back within 10 days. Want more good news? It would appear that outfielders Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth have regained their hitting strokes just in time for the Phillies 8-game winning streak. That streak, has taken the Atlanta Braves NL East divisional lead from 9 games down to 2-1/2.
Losing the series opener (and Oswalt’s debut) in Washington stopped the winning streak and leaves the Phillies 2-1/2 games behind Atlanta in NL East (and 3 games back of San Francisco who leads the wildcard race). Jimmy Rollins returns to the starting lineup tonight as does phenom Domonic Brown (subbing for Shane Victorino as team sparkplug). Victorino is on the way back as is quiet Team MVP Chase Utley. With a rejuvinated Werth and Ibanez joining Ryan “the $25 Million Dollar Man” Howard (who leads the league in hitting, HR & RBI), it would appear that the offense is back! Give this offense (with the return of Utley and Rollins) plus the “H2O Pitching Trio” two months to catch Atlanta and take back the NL East and we continue to ALWAYS BET ON RED!!!
2007, 2008, 2009 flags fly in the outfield of Citizen’s Bank Park to mark the team’s recent success. This could be the lynchpin to extend this run through 2010, 2011 and possibly 2012. Never give up on the Phightin’ Phils!
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