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Phillies 2010 Good Season, Bad Ending
Posted By Christopher Rowe On Oct 26 2010 @ 5:15 pm In Philadelphia Phillies | No Comments
The 2010 season has ended for the Phillies. It ended badly. It ended abruptly. We still are processing the details of how and why it ended and likely will continue to process these emotions throughout the offseason. Hope springs eternal and the familiar mantra of “there’s always next year” has already been declared – be it right or wrong. As with anything in Life, it is beneficial to take one last look upon a difficult lesson, making sure that we take with us the knowledge that will serve us in the future. This is how we learn, how we grow and how we fortify ourselves for future endeavors. Walking through the empty concourse of Citizens Bank Park, hearing the sounds of the machines working and the tractors tilling the field … was a somber reminder that baseball in Philadelphia has ended prematurely. Gone were the workers setting up shop; rather, they were taking down signs from the NLCS and tearing down the memories of a season filled with unfulfilled promise. They were packing up for the winter… for baseball’s hibernation. What happened to our historic run at a third straight World Series appearance? What happened to the Red Pinstripe Dynasty of the 21st Century? Wait, come back!!! It can’t be over!! We haven’t played the World Series!
Despite its sad ending, the 2010 Phillies story was quite a colorful, enjoyable and successful one. The story really began in December 2009, about a month after losing the World Series to the Yankees in 6 games. Roy Halladay was acquired, Cliff Lee was dealt to Seattle and so began a new year with hopes, dreams, and aspirations of stratospheric proportions. Questions would linger well into the new year as to why Lee was traded – no one had an answer and on went life.
Those questions would abound and rebound until well into July because the fan base simply couldn’t comprehend why Phillies brass didn’t want a rotation of Hamels-Halladay-Lee. Spring training came and passed – but not before hordes of Phillies faithful made their annual pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast for sun, sand, and baseball – and the hype surrounding this team was palpable. Would Halladay be the best Phillies ace since Steve Carlton? Would Ryan Howard launch 60 HR? Could Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth and Howard each drive in 100 runs? Was Placido Polanco’s return to Philly going to be the Missing Link? Could the bullpen hold up? Should we cut Jamie Moyer open and count the rings in order to find out how old he really is?
Two weeks into the season the hype was warranted. A 7-1 start, including 64 runs scored in those eight games to open up 2010. Little could go wrong… Right? WRONG!
The Phillies offensive onslaught slowed to a trickle and they slumped into a near-death state. Their low point was 48-46, 7 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead in July. It was a depth previously witnessed during the days of Marlon Anderson and Travis Lee; how could seven all-stars, a former Cy Young winner, an NLCS and World Series MVP, and this talented team, take such a plunge? Questions were followed without answers; it simply made no sense. Would they be buyers or sellers at the Trading Deadline? Would Werth or Ruiz or Ibanez go to the Yankees or the Red Sox? Surely it would be blasphemy to send any of them to Tampa Bay to become defectors like Pat Burrell? Would Domonic Brown be too high a price to pay for pitching help? 
The tides turned just as they hit the lowest of lows Roy Oswalt was settling in, Domonic Brown was in the Majors, Mike Sweeney joined the all-veteran bench and this team was grabbing hold of the NL East. A stunned, wounded and woozy Braves club never knew what hit them. That seven-game deficit became a seven-game advantage in under two months with those former division-leading Braves scrambling for a wildcard spot. Nothing was certain for the Phils, but times were good again. The playoff picture cleared up after sweeps of both Atlanta and San Diego and all were smitten with the notion that October baseball was again a reality.
They finished the season with the best record in baseball, winning the National League by a wide margin. A 49-19 run to the finish line had prognosticators and pundits in awe – and eerily silent. This was not your father’s Phillies team. Gone seemed days of old when Phillies were the underdog, happy just to make the postseason. This was a team that could not be stopped. A force to be reckoned with – as the favorite. Many were sure the best of the rest would be unable to handle the myriad of weapons this team threw at you. All the while, there was still a slight sense of disbelief – as if expecting to wake from a dream.
A playoff no-hitter from Roy Halladay makes that easier to dispatch memories of 2008 and 2009 lack of pitching depth. A 2-0 complete-game shutout from Cole Hamels overshadowed the Phillies offensive struggles. No one cared – this train would not be stopped until it had run over everything in its path; Braves, Giants, Reds, Yankees, it didn’t matter… Sweep the reeling Reds in three games, bring on the Giants! We’ll destroy them too and let’s plan the rotation for the World Series! Bring on the Yankees! Well, most of that didn’t happen.
San Francisco came to town proving that they matched up best of any playoff opponent. Fantastic starting pitching, a strong bullpen from both sides with depth and solid if unspectacular offense. The Giants, like the Phillies were a streaky offensive team who were extremely average on defense. Granted, had the Phillies offense or defense played up to their potential, we’d be plotting the demise of a Dallas team in the World Series. So, after 6 games and a lot of disappointing glimpses of hope, a called third strike ended the year prematurely. Giants fans rejoiced, something the Phillies faithful had become accustomed to in recent years. Giants celebrated at Citizens Bank Park after the Phillies had shown signs of life by brining the series home to Philadelphia.
Yesterday, in his State of the Phillies address (or so it seemed), General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was grilled about the concerns of his team moving forward. These concerns included team age, his payroll flexibility moving into free agency, and of course, whether or not Jayson Werth was moving on to quite literally GREENER pastures.
Roy Halladay was asked about the devastation of packing up to early, but he sounded like a consummate professional – which is what Halladay always presents. This is a man who understands that nothing is just given to you in this game. “To be playing your best baseball in a two, three week period at the end of the season, you know, it’s definitely hard to do,” said the Phillies ace. “I don’t think any of us had any illusions about that.” Needless to say, the team played some of its best baseball in September but not when it counted most.
Jayson Werth was the last to speak. He was monotone, dry, noncommittal – tossing out decent one-liners while ripping media members who talked too much or asked questions Werth didn’t like. Overall, it felt more as though this was his eulogy, not a presser to end the season. Werth finished by saying “I definitely had a good time playing here in Philadelphia.” Sounds like a man who is well coached by his Superagent and who understands very well what the offseason is about to bring.
GM Ruben Amaro has already stated that while he would like to sign everybody and “keep the band together” he knows that is unrealistic. What is realistic is that decisions have to be made about what is right for the team. Amaro will allow Jimmy Rollins to play out 2011 and determine whether or not Rollins is the long-term solution – a la Derek Jeter who has not lost a step at 36 – or if the youth movement needs to begin by shedding Rollins $8.5M salary and going a different direction.
Issues that have been bandied about by both the fans and Phillies management include some of the following:
1. Bullpen. Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, JC Romero and Danys Baez are all in contract limbo. It is entirely possible that none of them will return. Contreras will be 39 in 2011 and while he was extremely effective, he would cost far more than AAA closer and potential righty setup man, Scot Mathieson, who is 11 years younger. Romero is valuable because he is a lefty but you can pay someone else a lot less than $4.25M to be left-handed. Romero is a situational left at best as he rarely pitches a full inning – and has already been offered a buyout. Durbin and Baez could not be more diametrically opposed. Durbin was effective this season as the middle-innings guy while Baez was essentially the last man out of the foxhole. Neither of these aging marginal relievers are indispensable and both could be elsewhere. Lidge and Madson combined are worth in excess of $16M so it is likely the bullpen will get a serious facelift for 2011. Look for more names like Worley, Mathieson, Bastardo, Zagurski and the like. Even a free agent signing would be unlikely. Kyle Kendrick may return to the bullpen as a longman because starting pitching should be the focus in free agency.
2. Age. Raul Ibanez $12.2M is 38. Jamie Moyer $7.75M is going to be 48. Carlos Ruiz is 31, Utley, Howard and Rollins are all now over 31. Placido Polanco is 34, Shane Victorino will be 30 in 2011 and even the bench is old. Mike Sweeney is 37, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload are each 33, Greg Dobbs is 32, as is Wilson Valdez. Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick are the only starting pitchers under 30 – and that’s assuming that Joe Blanton has a job in 2011. The team’s average age is 32 – oldest in baseball. The Phillies already have $143 million committed to 18 players, which is more than they spent for the entire roster in 2010. A large chunk of that money is earmarked for Raul Ibanez, Joe Blanton and Brad Lidge – who aren’t leaving. Part of the problem is that the minor league system needs time to replenish itself after all of these deals for Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Werth, Mike Sweeney, Jamie Moyer, Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, Ben Francisco and J.C. Romero are all VERY unlikely to return. Success comes at a price and the top prospects in the upper echelon of the Phillies farm system have already seen time in the majors. This would be John Mayberry Jr, Domonic Brown and Mathieson. Past them it may be 2 years before solid prospects surface in Philadelphia.
3. Injuries. See Age. 17 different players spent serious time on the DL in 2010, meaning the intended Opening Day lineup played together fewer than 20 regular season games.
4. Starting pitching. Don’t let this one blow your mind too much. Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt are all aces and will continue to front the Phillies staff through 2011 but the 4 and 5 starter spots are wide open. Jamie Moyer may never pitch again and at age 48, maybe his best position is pitching coach for AAA Lehigh Valley – instead he will take his $7.75M asking price and his AARP card to free agency. Joe Blanton is making $8M per season through 2012 and that more than the predictions of the Mayan calendar could be a sign that the world is ending. Blanton is hands down the least effective, most overpaid pitcher this side of Barry Zito and A.J. Burnett. Blanton was 9-6 on the season with a 4.84 ERA in 29 starts, totaling 175 IP, allowing 206 hits, 104 runs, with 27 gopher balls. Kendrick bounced from the bullpen to the minors and back into the rotation due to injuries, trades and a general lack of options! Kendrick was 11-10, 4.73 in 31 starts, 199 hits and 103 runs in 181 IP, 26 HR, 49 BB, 84 K. As good as the Big Three starters are, the back end of the rotation absolutely stinks. This is where the front office needs to spend some money looking for help. This has to happen!
5. Werth. Jayson Werth will test the open market. Werth hit 27 home runs and had 85 RBIs with an average of .296 for the Phillies in 2010, and he added another two home runs and six RBIs in the playoffs. Philadelphia’s lineup is more effective with his right-handed bat behind Ryan Howard – but this team did just fail to beat the SF Giants in the NLCS.
“I’ve had the best time the last four years playing baseball with these guys, with these fans,” said Werth. “The team has taken the necessary steps to create a winning atmosphere, and hopefully they’ll continue to do that. Obviously, we know business is good in Philadelphia. They could probably sign whoever they want. Whether or not that’s me, we’ll have to wait and see.” Werth has not ruled out a return to the Phillies, but he is intent on seeing what other teams have to offer. Ruben Amaro Jr, the GM, has stated that he would like to keep the hitter on the team, but that he has yet to speak with Werth’s agent, Scott Boras, who is known for getting the maximum value for a player.
“I haven’t had any discussions with Scott yet,” Amaro said. “Over the next 48 hours or so, we’ll make contact.”
Amaro claims to have enough money to re-sign Werth, but depending on what Werth is asking for, he may in fact be too expensive. With Boras as his agent, Werth is going to command a significant pay raise from the $10m over two years of his last contact.
Considering the spending habits of teams like the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees, Werth could find himself in the American League East to start next season unless Amaro really does want to keep him and chooses to pay the price.
“I guess the follow-up question is, ‘Do we have enough money to do it, and would we like to bring him back?’ The answer to both questions is yes,” said Amaro “However, that’ll all kind of depend on what the ask is, and ultimately how that will affect us with other possible moves we would have to make to do that.”
In closing, everyone from the fans to the front office realize this was an opportunity missed. A year that began with such promise ended far too soon due to a complete team failure to defeat a better team. Phillies did not play up to their potential and while that happens, these opportunities are few and far between! The situation in Philadelphia is far more enviable than in many other baseball towns, but that doesn’t make this season sting any less. Anything less than a World Series was a bust – everyone understood that. Now that the season has come and gone in the blink of an eye, can we think anything differently? 
On a personal level, it was the end of my first season covering the team as part of the mainstream media, something many are unable to accomplish. I consider it a privilege to do what so many others want to do on a daily basis; I get to cover the team I grew up admiring. I’ll continue to do so, even in the offseason, so thanks for your readership and thanks to Pro Sports Blogging for affording me opportunity to do so.
That being said, Ya Gotta Believe. Go Phillies in 2011!!!!
Phanatic Fan Poll:
Tell the Phanatic… Which 2010 Phillies absolutely should go?
A. Jamie Moyer B. Greg Dobbs C. Brad Lidge D. Raul Ibanez E. All 5
Phanatic asks… Which 2010 Philles MUST stay?
A.Jayson Werth B.Ryan Howard C. Chase Utley D. Shane Victorino E. All
Phanatic’s Phinal Question?
What is the Top Priority for 2011 Phillies?
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