How Far We’ve Come

Roy Halladay is a Phillie. One of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball is a Phillie. Not only that, he wanted to come specifically to Philadelphia. Halladay’s words, per David Murphy:

This is where I wanted to be. [...] This is a dream come true. [...] I’ve heard great things about the people and great things about the organization.

It wasn’t that long ago when Phillies fans were feeling pessimistic after missing out on the Braden Looper sweepstakes. When former GM Ed Wade stockpiled aging relief pitchers like canned goods and duct tape during nuclear winter. When ownership had to begrudgingly commit to a much larger payroll ($58M in 2002; $71M in ’03; $93M in ’04) to sign Jim Thome and trade for Kevin Millwood (and Eric Milton!). When Scott Rolen called St. Louis “heaven”, simply happy to be out of Philly. When Wade once called Curt Schilling a “horse’s ass“.

Philadelphia used to be where baseball went to die, like Washington presently. Now, Philly is baseball Mecca. National networks like ESPN and FOX air Phillies games nearly as frequently as Red Sox and Yankees games. Roy Halladay wants to pitch here. Cliff Lee seemed genuinely upset he would no longer be pitching here. Even John Smoltz, a raging homophobe who has trash-talked Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park in the past, would not be opposed to donning red pinstripes.

It’s so good right now that some of us were legitimately upset that the Phils would not have two Cy Young winners in the starting rotation instead of one.

To echo the sentiments of Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, “how far we’ve come.”

Meanwhile, two hours north on Interstate-95, you have the bumbling, fumbling New York Mets. In 2007 and ’08, they gift-wrapped the NL East division crown for the Phillies with incredibly depressing late-September climaxes. Daniel Murphy led last year’s 72-90 team with 12 home runs. To put that in perspective, if he were on the Phillies, Murphy would have been tied in sixth place with Pedro Feliz in home runs. Ryan Howard himself out-homered the Mets’ top-four home run hitters combined.

Last year was so depressing that it spawned a Sporcle quiz, “Can you name the 2009 injured Mets players?” Pundits are using the Mets’ futility to complain about seating charts and prices. SNY’s Howard Megdal wants the Mets to simply do nothing, in response to the suggestions by others that the Mets consider trading Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana (that’s right, the Mets could trade a Cy Young winner without actually getting one in return!). With the Mets heavily pursuing Jason Bay, Dajafi of The Good Phight suggests that Bay should “call the other 29 teams first and unleash a barrage of ‘C’monnnnn… pleeeease?’ before saying yes to Omar [Minaya] through your tears.”

The Mets went from one game away from the World Series in 2006 to laughingstocks of baseball in just a few short, depressing years. They are as pathetic and unlovable, if not more, as the late-1990’s and early-2000’s Phillies teams. While the Phillies are at the top of the food chain, the Mets have quickly sunk near the bottom. The current iteration of the Phillies is led by a GM with an apparent Midas touch (see: Burrell, Pat; Ibanez, Raul); the Mets by a GM with little job security and a reputation for racial favoritism.

It’s a great time to be a Phillies fan right now. The starting rotation may not be Halladay-Lee-Hamels but at least it’s not Daal-Person-Chen as it was in 2001. It’s important to regain that perspective from time to time. That doesn’t mean we should always accept the status quo, but simply to see the forest for the trees.

Was I too hard on the Mets, do you think? Hey, at least they’re not the Flyers.

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10 comments

  1. pfish

    December 21, 2009 09:31 PM

    Are you trying to insinuate Doug Glanville wasn’t loveable???

  2. hk

    December 22, 2009 07:06 AM

    We should wait to see how the free agent contracts that Ruben’s signed work out through their conclusion before we declare that he has the Midas Touch. His inability to hold the line on the # of years he gave to Moyer has already impacted the team and the extra year to Ibanez and possibly Polanco could have negative implications down the road. Without Moyer on the books, they might have been able to keep Lee and surely would have more flexibility this offseason. Having Ibanez on the books for 2011 makes it unlikely that they’ll be able to keep Werth and Victorino. I am also a little disturbed that Ruben said that Ed Wade stole Brandon Lyon from the Phillies, implying that Ruben was close to signing off on the worst free agent contract of the offseason.

  3. scot

    December 22, 2009 07:17 AM

    Take Ruben’s “Ed stole him…” comment with a grain of salt. I took that as somewhat sarcastic and don’t think that RAJ was ever gonna go 3 years at that price tag for Lyon.

    I love this article, mainly the stuff about how different Philly is viewed now than in the Rolen and Schilling days. But I think it may be underestimating the Mets a bit. While the NY media is panicking, that’s their role. They won’t exactly go into CHONE projections for players for 2010.

    I expect a bounceback from the Mets this season and really think they’ll be our biggest challenge in division. And that will make it that much more fun when they finish behind the Phils. Again.

  4. Dee

    December 22, 2009 09:18 AM

    I found your article very entertaining! 2010 the Phils have their work cut out for them because all teams in the NL, especially NL East, will be hungry & gunning for the Phils! Now if the Phillies’ success could be transferred to the long suffering sports teams in the 215 area code, maybe Philadelphia can be known for something that never been called: A City Of Champions!

  5. Aaron H

    December 22, 2009 12:11 PM

    I was also blown away last year by Halladay’s insistence that he’d waive his no-trade clause for the Phils. Even with the memory of 2008 still fresh, it’s still amazing to me that we’ve moved up this far into the upper echelons of baseball royalty.

    But at the same time, does it make me a true Phillies fan if my first thought after reading this post was “Crap, I think Bill just jinxed us for the next 10 years”?

  6. Dan

    December 22, 2009 03:53 PM

    The current Mets are an ilustration of why it is important to have a sturdy farm system, even at the expense of one year of domination. Sometimes you have to realize that you are not the New York Yankees and you cannot buy every player on your team.

    You simply have to have cheap players who you pay peanuts for, even if they are not superstars they allow you to pay for a superstar, since they are providing value for minimum $$$.

    Those who say that the players we traded Lee for will never have as good a year as Lee will in 2010 are missing the point. The point is that in 2011, these players will likely be contributing. Even if they are only back of the bullpen relievers and bench players, that will still save the club millions of $$$ in 2011, 2012, and 2013, which will allow the Halladay contract, will allow keeping Werth, allow signing Palanco, allow trading for a closer, allow signing a quality 1B should Howard leave.

    That is why the most impressive move RAJ has made in my book is the Lee trade. He knew, as any honest Phillies fan knows, that with Lee or without him, the Phils are huge favorites to win the NL East this year. Once you make the playoffs, it’s hit or miss to make the WS, or win it. Just ask the Red Sox. With Halladay, we have a great chance to win the NL and make the WS again, and a decent chance to win it.

    Anyway, the point is that RAJ made the move, which was a baseball move, despite the fact that he knew the reaction would be mixed boardering on angry. To me, that’s the kind of think skin you need to have. I think the move was a good one, and approve. I’ve been mostly impressed with RAJ (the Moyer contract my main objection) and I think that in 10 years we’ll be saying how lucky we have been to have had such a GM. Kudos, RAJ!

  7. Aaron H

    December 22, 2009 04:19 PM

    Dan, I agree with you that it probably makes sense to trade Lee at this point, and I think down the line we’ll give Ruben credit for ignoring the eventual fan blowback and balancing immediate and future needs. My issue, however, is with the results of the trade itself. We traded two of our top three prospects for Halladay; according to most projections, the package we got for Lee included AT BEST the M’s third-best prospect. It seemed like Ruben jumped the gun and traded Lee to the first team with some reasonable package. With Lee’s friendly contract and tremendous pitching ability, I think that Ruben could’ve done a better job of seeing what the market could’ve offered for a pitcher of Lee’s contract and caliber (my guess is, a lot more than what the M’s sent)

  8. hk

    December 22, 2009 08:14 PM

    scot, I hope you’re right about Ruben and Lyon although Buster Olney is saying (actually tweeting) that the Phils offered Fernando Rodney $12M over 2 years.

  9. scot

    December 22, 2009 10:16 PM

    Yeah, I’m not too pleased about this Rodney offer. I saw the angels are in too. C’mon Arte Moreno! Dig deep in those pockets and out bid us.

  10. Dan

    December 23, 2009 09:17 AM

    I disagree, Aaron. I think he had the Halladay trade, at least in principle, in hand, and he was shopping Lee around. When he found his highest bidder, he pulled the trigger. I suppose it was common knowledge that the Phils woulnd’t keep both Halladay and Lee, and if they got Halladay first, they would have lost a lot of leverage in trading Lee.

    I do not know why Lee hasn’t generated much interest. But I do know this: TWICE LEE WAS TRADED IN THE LAST MONTH FOR A LESS THAN STELLAR PACKAGE!!!!!! Does this suggest anything to you? Maybe the GM at Cleveland is an idiot. Maybe RAJ is also a dope. Maybe all other GMs are dopes for not offering more for Lee than what both teams ended up with. But for trade value, perception is reality, and I am convinced from the evidence that we weren’t gonna get much more for Lee than we got. I am also convinced that RAJ thinks he got his money’s worth.

    Now, what’s more likely, that all of baseball’s management is wrong, or that we are?

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