Victory or Death

Writer’s note: This post is kind of backwards. If you want the point, skip to the last break and start there. If you want to know how I got to that point, read the whole thing.

This has been a rough offseason for Phillies fans. We’ve been put through another year of crushing playoff disappointment, for starters. And considering the astronomical expectations going into the playoffs, the smug, cheeky punchability of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the most crushing final visual of any season I can remember (Ryan Howard on the ground, in the fetal position a few feet up the first base line), I’d say that the playoff disappointment of 2011 was more crushing than any in recent memory.

Where spring brings hope for most baseball teams, spring brings to Philadelphia a new (and excellent) closer, whose lunatic contract may cost the Phillies Cole Hamels or a free-agent bat (David Wright?) in the offseason. And speaking of lunatic contracts, Ryan Howard starts his fielding ground balls from a stool.

Whatever, though, Howard (when healthy) and Papelbon are both pretty good, even if they’re both being paid way too much.

But 12 months have offered no comfort of any kind on two of the most important storylines for the Phillies this season: Chase Utley‘s rapidly degenerating joints and the never-ending purgatory that is Domonic Brown‘s ascent from the top prospect in the minor leagues to…well, whatever he is now.

I truly believe this is the last year of the Phillies’ “window,” such as it is, unless there is a major institutional change on the horizon. By this time next year, the Braves, Marlins, and (perhaps) Nationals will have reeled in the Phillies, and the overwhelming advantage in the division that we’ve taken for granted for the past four years will be gone. This makes me sad, because, to paraphrase Orson Scott Card, I don’t like competitive imbalance in baseball, unless it means my team wins all the time.

But it also makes me unspeakably angry, because the current front office management in Philadelphia has built, barring the Bobby Cox Braves, one of the most consistently excellent National League teams in recent memory. They did so by building a core of homegrown talent in the early-to-mid 2000s (Utley, Howard, Madson, Hamels, Rollins, Burrell, Myers) with which it’s difficult not to contend, then aggressively pursuing top-level parts to complement the homegrown core (Halladay, Lee, Blanton, Oswalt, Lidge, Pence) and hitting the jackpot with a couple of scrap heap pickups (Moyer, Werth, Victorino).

But yeah, you all know that. But we’re teetering on the edge of collapse. The Phillies are a gerontocracy, one more Laynce Nix or Ty Wigginton in the lineup from ruin on a Roman scale. How a team could build an empire on the basis of shrewd scouting and bold pursuit of the best talent in the game, then abandon that strategy when it would pay off most confounds me. I feel betrayed. Incensed. There’s a constant low boil of anger at Ruben Amaro in the pit of my stomach. And we haven’t even played a meaningful game this season.

***

I spent seven weeks on a study abroad program in May, June, and July 2008, and as a side effect of not having Comcast in Brussels, Belgium, I didn’t watch a minute of baseball while I was there. I immersed myself in soccer, watching (this is not an exaggeration) 23 of the 31 matches of Euro 2008 with Dutch commentary from my apartment and various pubs, bars, and restaurants across Western Europe.

So when I came back home, baseball was weird to me. I knew the Phillies were pretty decent in 2008, and that they’d bet relatively big on Brad Lidge‘s return to full physical and mental health. But having missed most of the season, I sat down to watch the 2008 All-Star Game knowing relatively little about what had transpired when I was in Europe.

I kept up my tradition that summer of keeping score at home while watching on TV, perhaps the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done. Scoring the All-Star Game presents an interesting set of challenges–while it’s unusual for a regular-season game to see more than five or six substitutions (unless it’s being managed by Tony La Russa), both All-Star teams carry about 30 players and try to use all of them. Your score sheet fills up really quickly, particularly if the game goes 15 innings. But we’ll get to that later.

On the night of the game, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was the subject of quite a bit of buzz after he’d had the defining moment of his career in the Home Run Derby. But that changed after Utley singled in the top of the sixth, moving Hanley Ramirez to third. A sacrifice fly by Lance Berkman plated Ramirez, giving the National League a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. Utley, after being stranded on second, was lifted for then-Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla.

Uggla was playing in his second All-Star game, and fulfilling his father’s lifelong dream by playing in Yankee Stadium. In the bottom of the sixth, he fielded a pop fly cleanly and wasn’t heard from again until he struck out against Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth. In the meantime, J.D. Drew had tied the game with a home run off Edinson Volquez. The first batter after Uggla, Adrian Gonzalez, watched Miguel Tejada steal second and advance to third on a throwing error. Gonzalez then put the National League back on top with a sacrifice fly. Billy Wagner gave the run back in the bottom of the inning.

If you remember the game, you know where this is going.

In the top of the 10th, Russell Martin and Tejada knocked back-to-back singles off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to bring Uggla to the plate with one out and the go-ahead run on third. Uggla grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Colorado’s Aaron Cook, a ground ball pitcher by reputation, started the 10th for the National League. Michael Young grounded Cook’s first pitch to Uggla. Uggla booted it, putting Young on third. Carlos Quentin grounded Cook’s second pitch to Uggla. He got crossed up on that, too.

As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote, “In a span of three pitches, he had a GIDP and two errors to his credit.” In those three pitches, the American League’s win expectancy had shot up from 32 percent to 94 percent. And Uggla looked like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world than manning second base at Yankee Stadium.

Of course, the next ball put in play went to Uggla, too. Cook intentionally walked Carlos Guillen, then Grady Sizemore, like Young and Quentin, grounded to Uggla. This time, he made the pickup and got the out at home. After two more groundouts, Cook had danced through Uggla’s mess.

The next inning was no easier. The first five batters Cook faced in the bottom of the 11th reached, but two of them were put out on the bases. Again, no score.

In the 12th, with his dad and a national television audience watching, Uggla came to the plate with the bases loaded, one out, and the look on his face of a man in dire need of the restroom. Uggla struck out on three pitches. Then committed another error–an All-Star Game record third–in the bottom of the 13th. Then struck out again to lead off the 15th. The National League, winless since 1996 in the All-Star Game, remained so when Lidge finally capitulated in the bottom of that inning.

Uggla, that night: 0-for-4, 3 strikeouts, one GIDP, three errors, and a WPA of -0.637, more than enough, in a vacuum, to lose the game by himself.

***

The reason I’m recounting this lengthy, sad, and not-particularly relevant story to you now is because it was a fascinating experience. I had the opportunity to watch a man unravel before my very eyes, on live television, in front of millions. I don’t particularly like Dan Uggla as a player. He’s slow, he’s terrible in the field, he strikes out a lot, and his home run totals tend to inflate his value even if he doesn’t do anything else particularly well.

But Fox kept cutting to his face, and I’ll never forget the look. He looked like he was about to cry, or at least he would have looked that way if not for the stoic expression of shock. It would not have surprised me if, at any point during the extra innings of that game, Uggla had started weeping, run away, walked over to Adrian Gonzalez and asked for a hug, swapped uniforms with Utley and run for Canada, or broken his bat over his knee.

It’s unlikely that the 2008 All-Star Game had some sort of scarring emotional effect on Uggla. He’s certainly been just fine since then, and besides, he’s a professional. Professional baseball players don’t go to pieces because they play poorly in an exhibition game. Not good ones, at any rate. But in the moment, watching Dan Uggla was compelling human drama. I can’t say watching him sleepwalk through about as bad a game as one could imagine was fun, but it was compelling. I empathized with him. I felt sorry for him. I wanted to hug him, pat him on the back, and tell him it would be okay.

***

Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen meaningful baseball. I’ve had too much time to think and not enough to enjoy. There’s nothing to get excited about with this Phillies team, from where I’m sitting. Sure, they’re going to be very good, and the pitching is going to be great, but there’s no reason to expect them to be better than (or even as good as) they were last year. And it’s not because the team couldn’t have been constructed better. I’m not optimistic. And you shouldn’t be either.

I’ll be honest, I’ve watched maybe two hours of spring training baseball, of which maybe 20 minutes involved the Phillies. If there’s news, if a player looks good or bad, or gets hurt, I’ll hear about it on Twitter or on Baseball Today. I’ve spent far more time this spring watching college baseball than spring training, because it’s more fun to get hyped about Joey Pankake and Michael Roth than it is to worry about Chase Utley and Antonio Bastardo.

I put far too much energy and emotional investment into watching and writing about baseball for this to be an acceptable state of affairs. I’m tired of being unable to think about the Phillies without being overcome with rage. It’s exhausting. I want to feel other things, like joy or empathy or excitement. Baseball used to make me feel that way. But now the Phillies are in decline, and I get the feeling there isn’t going to be anything quick, easy, painless, or unexpected about it.

I’d just as soon get it over with.

 

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41 comments

  1. Brad

    March 27, 2012 04:05 PM

    This is, I think, my first comment here, but I have to say I agree in broad terms. Maybe not to the same extent, but it’s been a tough off-season to be a fan.

  2. KH

    March 27, 2012 04:31 PM

    Holy Cow lay off the anti-depressents. This Phillies team, warts and all, is certainly good enough to win a Championship and thats all you can ask for imo. Who knows what could happen in the future anyway. Even with the ludicrous contract they have given out this is still a money making giants. If they can keep Halladay, Lee, and Hamels together they will keep making the play-offs as long as those three guys are good.

  3. Sad

    March 27, 2012 04:39 PM

    Don’t bother watching any games then. Stick to your soccer. mLs will carry you.

  4. Phylan

    March 27, 2012 04:41 PM

    You need more of a team than 3 elite starting pitchers to keep making the playoffs, though.

    And we can keep saying “they’re making a ton of money! this one contract won’t hurt,” but you can’t spend like a $220 million team if your payroll is going to be $190 million. Worse still, a lot of the deals they do make are indicative of some odd notions about player valuation, which hasn’t mattered until now, when there is a hole in the infield and they have to find someone in a limited market to fill it.

  5. Nik

    March 27, 2012 05:36 PM

    Yeah, Phillies fans are officially spoiled.

  6. Harry

    March 27, 2012 08:17 PM

    CB,

    It wasn’t supposed to be researched, thus the label “Talking about Feelings”

    If you don’t visit this website often, that’s fine, just don’t complain about the writing when you do.

  7. Bill Baer

    March 27, 2012 11:41 PM

    I rarely have to do this, but I just deleted a few of the comments here. You can disagree with the author without being insulting.

    The reason Crashburn Alley has the best commenting culture on the web is because we treat each other with respect. That was, due to mostly one person, missing from the comments here.

  8. Shaun

    March 28, 2012 01:41 AM

    I just hope the Phils realize that the window is closing, and they stop trying to attract high prized trade bait for the next few years. Draft smart, develop internally, and give us another strong core group that will be ready to step up in a few years when Rollins, Howard, Utley are on the way out. That way when their fall from grace officially begins (which it may have already), it wont take them 10+ years to get back to contender status like it did this last time.

  9. Jeff T

    March 28, 2012 07:15 AM

    First, as a Faulkner fan, I loved this post. Second, the more I look at other rosters and think about what Chase said Sunday AND his demeanor, I think we’re gonna be ok. This team cam and probably will win 90+ games and make the playoffs. After that, randomness takes the wheel and we just have to hope for the best.

  10. Dave D.

    March 28, 2012 08:12 AM

    Perhaps you’ve become a little too invested in this magical championchip stuff. Sure its tempting to give in and see the regular season as nothing more then a prelude to it, but to be honest the regular season is the majority of the thing called baseball. A 92-95 win team will be a pleasure to watch after a hard days work.

  11. Brian

    March 28, 2012 09:29 AM

    I don’t have the same doom and gloom outlook. I do think that this team plays the game without the fire of years earlier (I know that is something that cannot be quantified, but still).

    My concern is that Ruben’s signings of Halladay and Lee has overshadowed his other missteps, will allow him to lead the team astray.

    That said, this era of Phillies baseball is still much better than what I grew up watching in the 80’s and 90’s. The ownership seems to want a team that can compete, rather than fielding a bunch of cheap scrubs. I’ll take that any day.

  12. Jar

    March 28, 2012 09:32 AM

    “And it’s not because the team couldn’t have been constructed better.”

    What does this sentence mean? I think your are trying to say that the team could of been constructed better but it reads as the opposite.

  13. Moose

    March 28, 2012 09:56 AM

    No, Jar, that sentence reads correctly.

  14. Joe

    March 28, 2012 10:02 AM

    Remember the Cardinals this time last year? They lost Wainwright for the season, Pujols was in a “slump” and was distracted by contract stuff, they took a runner on Lance Berkman and had a closer that couldn’t get anyone out. Looking at our situation, we aren’t that far off of what they were dealing with. A lot of things had to work out right for them last year as it did for us in ’08. Seeing how it all works out is what makes it so compelling and why we watch. Enjoy the drama that is baseball!

  15. Dan K.

    March 28, 2012 10:48 AM

    @Joe,

    I don’t see the parallel. In fact, the Cardinals are pretty close to our polar opposite. They were (are) a team with an abundance of offense and shallow pitching that lost its biggest piece. We’re shallow on offense and lost our biggest piece(s) there, but we’re crazy deep with pitching (including relievers).

    About the only thing I see in common is that both teams are dealing with injuries/decline to key players. But that’s almost a universal factor for all baseball teams.

    In a different note, the Phillies missing the playoffs continues to be the “trendy” pick. I wonder how many people actually believe what they write…

  16. The Perils of Thinking

    March 28, 2012 11:35 AM

    I feel like this too, occasionally, but there’s a very thin line between stressing over how well the team in which you invest so much time in will do and indulging in a sense of entitlement.

    “Not only do we deserve an historically excellent Phillies team with a better-than-average chance to compete for a championship every year, we deserve it to be managed exactly according to our expectations on the way to a near-certain championship year in and year out.”

    I, for one, don’t want to be a Yankees or Red Sox fan, so I’ll just enjoy the pleasures of watching/arguing about/yelling at the TV toward a good baseball team instead of a terrible one.

  17. Colin H

    March 28, 2012 12:11 PM

    Michael, ease up man. It is not that bad, and the season hasn’t started yet. At least wait till May to give up.

    There are many fans of other teams that would love to have their team be as good as the Phils. We have been great for five + years. Won a world Championship and coming off a 102 win season. Yes other teams are getting better. I think we expect them to. Yes the players that made us great are getting older. Yes we have injuries. It happens to all teams eventually.

    Who cares if they spend too much money on some players. Think of it as a huge bonus for what they did in the past. Stay positive, read your starting staff stats from last year, smile, call a friend who roots for the Cubs, White Sox, Pirates or any of several other teams and be happy that you aren’t them.

  18. Jordan

    March 28, 2012 12:28 PM

    Because the Phillies have been so good in the past couple of years, I haven’t really paid much attention to spring training. It didn’t really matter and everyone predicted the Phils would be in the World Series. I started following spring training this year when I realized that the Phillies weren’t the talk of the league any more. I don’t know who our permanent outfield will be let alone the outfield before Howard, Utley, and Polanco are ready. But maybe this is good. Because the Phillies were so good and their lineup was so set during the past couple of years, teams had a lot of time to prep game plans and play to our weaknesses. During the regular seasons we didn’t really need to worry about pinch hitters, pinch runners, sac flies, or bunting to win games. But in the playoffs, that is where games are won. Maybe some of our imperfections this season will get us a little more playoff ready. It seems like during the past couple of post seasons, the teams we play would do anything to score a run. But we wouldn’t. We were stubborn and would only stick with what worked in the offseason. I think the Phillies will be a little more desperate this season. And that will carry over to the playoffs.

    To sum up, my hopes are that all of the unpredictability could work out really well for us. We have been pretty predictable during the past couple of years and we haven’t won another world series. So lets all relax and dare I say, have some Phaith…

  19. Keith

    March 28, 2012 12:31 PM

    I think most people are missing the point of this article.

    He’s not complaining or crying like a spoiled little brat. I believe he’s trying to make people understand how crappy of a job RAJ has been doing. The contracts to Papelbon, Howard and Ibanez were/are horrible contracts. Giving up countless prospects to get top notch players (which has left us in the position to have to play Nix and Galvis everyday). The mishandling of Dom Brown. RAJ has put this team on a crash course after this season.

    We have 65 million dollars guaranteed to Lee, Halladay & Howard in 2013. Over those two years, we will have Hamels, Victorino, Utley, Polanco and Pence going into free agency. For a team that has ~$175 million in payroll room for a given season, to have 37% of your payroll taken up by those 3 guys is exhorbitant, especially when you will have 5 holes to fill, a black hole as a contract @ 1B, no promising prospects to take over those spots. And not to mention, no wiggle room to take on another massive contract, like a David Wright to play 3B.

    When all is said and done, we have some great star power, but those stars are rapidly declining and taking up a massive chunk of cap room. This team could have been constructed much better, with a little bit more wisdom, instead of the gung ho attitude by RAJ to get the biggest and best name out on the market.

  20. Darren

    March 28, 2012 01:09 PM

    But here’s what I don’t get: the article itself refers to the Phillies being built on the “bold pursuit” of the game’s best players. That INCLUDES Halladay, Lee, Pence, etc. and the prospects/money it took to get them. That’s where I’m confused.

    If the Phillies are in their decline phase, and I don’t think one can really argue against it, the #1 reason is because Utley is hurt and/or a shell of what he should be. The Howard contract was a big mistake, and no one is going to argue that. But if Utley wasn’t injured, it would be something the Phillies would sweat through this year and next.

    And as much as the author would like to blame Ruben Amaro Jr. for his perception on the Phillies, his view on life, or the bad breakfast he had this morning, there’s nothing that could change that. Amaro couldn’t change it, Andrew Friedman couldn’t change that, and Branch Rickey couldn’t change that. And signing Laynce Nix isn’t going to hasten that.

    If the author’s point WASN’T that he’d rather root for a bad team being GMed by a guy makes cost-effective moves, regardless of wins, he didn’t get his point across at all. Instead, he came across as whiney and spoiled, while making no real points.

  21. The Perils of Thinking

    March 28, 2012 01:10 PM

    Keith: “…instead of the gung ho attitude by RAJ to get the biggest and best name out on the market.”

    Which we loved when that name was Halladay or Pence or Lee or Oswalt, and which only a small handful of others teams have the luxury of attempting. I don’t love every move RAJ has made, but I don’t love every move any GM has made, especially those on big-market teams whose fans demand big names for their attendance-record dollars.

    Also, trading and paying for Wright is such a bad idea it’s ridiculous, and would be a perfect example of exactly the kind of big-name-at-any-cost managing you decry earlier in your own post.

  22. Mike B.

    March 28, 2012 01:22 PM

    I am enjoying the extra legroom that has opened up lately on the Phils bandwagon. Nice to be able to stretch out, but I know that it will get crowded again once September rolls around.

  23. Keith

    March 28, 2012 01:45 PM

    @ Darren,

    Utley is not the #1 reason for the Phillies future decline. There are 4 spots that I would rate above Utley. 3B and LF (for lack of production); 1B and Closer (for exhorbitantly bad contracts, which prefent wise spending). Also, the front office for lack of planning ahead for when your stars do get old.

    @ Perils,

    Yes, paying for Wright is absolutely a bad idea (he was the only productive bat I could think of off the top of my head that is going to be a free agent). While the names may have been loved, it’s not just the trades that make some of us dislike RAJ (as he has gotten the upper hand in most of his trades), but that still doesn’t mean he depleted our farm system. It’s one thing to make trades, it’s another to go overboard. He’s given up a number of prospects, some of them not necessary. We didn’t need Oswalt in 2010. But again, it’s not so much the trades. It’s the horrible contracts. The Ibanez contract, the Howard contract, the Papelbon contract, the Lee contract (who, while is loved by everybody, wasn’t completely necessary) the lack of one to Hamels – all of which takes away from plugging holes with servicable fill-ins. I understand that we may love Halladay, Pence and the others, but we have mortgaged our future for just a few more regular season wins.

  24. Keith

    March 28, 2012 01:54 PM

    Mike B.,

    We haven’t jumped off the Bandwagon. We’re just concerned about the path the current front office is taking the bandwagon.

  25. Pat

    March 28, 2012 02:06 PM

    The article would be more coherent if you removed the middle section about the ’08 AS game. I’m not sure what that has to do with the Phils window of opportunity.

    Regarding that window, I really don’t see it shutting anytime soon. We have a massive TV deal coming our way in a few years, which will allow some flexibility despite the awful contracts. The pipeline from the minors isn’t completely dry either. Worley, Brown, Galvis, Bastardo, a quartet of promising starters at Reading, and an entire bullpen’s worth of arms in AA/AAA isn’t a bad base of talent for team that’s willing to spend close to $200M/ year.

  26. Keith

    March 28, 2012 02:41 PM

    Pat,

    The problem was never the pitching. The problem is hitting. Galvis is not an average Major league hitter (probably won’t be, but he does have a fantastic glove, and might become an average hitter). Brown will probably no longer be able to play here, as the front office has messed with him too much (a belief also held by Keith Law).

    As for spending $200M/yr, that’s something I don’t believe the Phillies are willing to do. They’ve already said they do not want to go over the luxury tax, especially since the most recent CBA really penalizes teams that do. So while the tv contract will help out with allowing them to consistently spend $175M/yr, it’s also negated by the horrible contracts we have. We have a boat load of pitching both in the majors & minors, but no offense to support it.

  27. jauer

    March 28, 2012 03:02 PM

    “If the Phillies are in their decline phase, and I don’t think one can really argue against it, the #1 reason is because Utley is hurt and/or a shell of what he should be. The Howard contract was a big mistake, and no one is going to argue that. But if Utley wasn’t injured, it would be something the Phillies would sweat through this year and next.”

    If the Howard contract didnt exist, Utley’s injur(ies) would be something they’d be able to sweat through this year and next.

  28. Pat

    March 28, 2012 03:29 PM

    Keith – For years the pitching was the problem though. In 2008 our 2nd best starter was Jamie Moyer. We had an explosive offense and some highly regarded position prospects. We used our farm system and financial resources to acquire Halladay/Lee/Oswalt and all of a sudden we had a fantastic pitching staff. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to do that again in reverse.

    I actually don’t think Galvis is ready offensively this year, but while he hasn’t hit much in the minors, he has been very young at every level. There’s reason to think he could be an average bat at SS by 2014. Brown’s handling has been a debacle but the bat is legit and I see him forcing his way back up by mid-season. I think it’s fair to give it until the end of the year before writing him off with the Phils.

    The Rangers new TV deal is good for $80 mil a year. The Angels deal is for $150M/yr. The Phils had the highest ratings in baseball last year, but made about $25M in TV revenue. They’re in line for roughly $100M jump in TV revenue. I agree that they’re not going to go nuts this year or next, but we’re talking about the long term health of the team and they’re gonna be flush with cash for years to come.

  29. Mike B.

    March 28, 2012 08:49 PM

    I guess I would be more concerned with the direction of the team if their win totals hadn’t increased every year for the past six seasons. And Pat brings up a good point; there are worse situations to be in besides “too much pitching.”

  30. Harry

    March 29, 2012 11:03 AM

    @ Mike B.

    Too much pitching isn’t our problem. Not enough hitting is. And while we have promising pitching prospects, only one is on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. Trevor May at 69. That won’t fetch you a young controllable bat without completely crushing what little is left in the minor league cupboard.

  31. Phillie697

    March 29, 2012 12:22 PM

    Thanks, MB, for putting my feelings into words. Now I’m totally depressed, and my already not-so-subtle anger toward RAJ is now worse.

  32. Lefty

    March 29, 2012 02:06 PM

    So I woke up this morning, read where Cespedes hit a Home run (and it counts) thought about the Phillies opener only a week or so away, looked at the flowers in bloom, the birds singing, the bees buzzing and thought Wow- Hope really does spring eternal this time of year. Even people in Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland have hope for their baseball teams (justified or not). What an exciting and wonderful time of year!

    And then good ole’ MB shows up. Well timed good Dr.

    Now I’m as frustrated and demoralized as you! Your words may be true, but you’re just the life of the party, you know that?

  33. Mike B.

    March 29, 2012 02:32 PM

    @Harry: Meh. Wake me up when things are not fine in reality, rather than just in projection-ville.

    Things were so much better in 1998, when I didn’t have the crushing anxiety that the Phils might only be competitive in the division rather than running away with it. I’m going to keep on enjoying this while it lasts, rather than getting twisted up about when it might end. To listen to some folks, it’s as if we’d all be better off if they had never won in the first place.

  34. pedro3131

    March 29, 2012 02:50 PM

    @Mike B.

    Very salient point. I’ll take the offseason acquisition of Cliff Lee over the offseason acquisition of Terry Adams (remember that year? hey Phillies fans, were going to finally knock of the Braves this year by our key acquisition of a journeyman 5th starter!) any day of the week regardless of long term financial implications. However, it is still prudent to be forward thinking, especially given we don’t have any actual baseball to talk about yet.

  35. Phillie697

    March 29, 2012 04:49 PM

    @Mike B.

    Some of had actual hopes that things will NEVER be that way again, hence the disappointment. To keep comparing today to the dark ages of the late 90s is to settle for second-best.

  36. Mike B.

    March 29, 2012 05:11 PM

    @pedro: “Forward thinking” is one thing; “in a pit of despair before the season has even started” is another. ;)

    @Phillie: I guess that’s part of my frustration. People are acting like things are already back to that way, or that it’s inevitable. I just think it’s a little early to be talking about how all is lost. Things were that way not because of bad baseball decisions, but because of an organizational way of thinking that is gone now.

    Buck up, Phils fans! If you spend all season watching the sky to see if it’s falling, you’re going to miss the season itself.

  37. TMC

    March 29, 2012 08:52 PM

    “There’s nothing to get excited about with this Phillies team, ”

    …well, except that they’re almost certainly going to win 90+ games again, have a great chance to win the division again, will very likely go to the playoffs again (and, as the cliche reminds us every year, the playoffs are a crapshoot) and they still feature several of the greatest players in Phillies history.

    I mean, I get the gist of the post– Amaro has managed the team irresponsibly and, barring the surprising emergence of a few youngish players, they’re almost certainly on a decline that will result in some crappy years. But nothing to get excited about? How about the fact that the Phillies, despite their injuries and bad contracts, are coming off a season in which they set a franchise record for wins and by all reasonable projections they figure to be among the 6-8 favorites to win the World Series?

  38. Cutter

    March 30, 2012 11:10 AM

    The offseason has been tough for me as a Phillies fan, only because of the endless negativity I’ve heard about the team.

    They’re too old! Everyone is hurt! They spend too much money! Waaaa!

    The team is coming off of its greatest regular season ever. At any point last season was anyone worried that the team might miss the postseason? No, we got to sit back and watch another one of the aces dominate every night.

    Maybe some of RAJ’s move deserve criticism (and name me a GM who doesn’t have some bad moves on his resume) but pretty much everything he’s done has been in order to win the World Series that particular season.

    Isn’t that the point of baseball? To win the World Series? Maybe trades for Halladay, Oswalt, and Pence have left the farm system a little barren. But they were done in an effort to go “all in.”

    If anything, RAJ was acknowledging the limited window that the team has, and trying to strike while that window was open. Did that possibly contribute to the premature closing of the window? Perhaps, but if the team had won a second title (and the past three clubs certainly were talented enough to do so) then it would have seemed worth it.

    Shouldn’t we be enjoying this era of Phillies baseball? Shouldn’t we enjoy that the team is a legit World Series contender?

    Would we all like it better if things went back to the pre-2007 days when we hoped that things might break right and the team would simply qualify for the postseason.

    Will this run of division titles end? Yes, of course it will. But looking forward to that, rather than enjoying it while it lasts is bizarrely morbid.

    And hey, this gives me a great segue to advertise my blog which was designed to put the greatness of the current Phillies era in perspective:

    ghostsofphilliespast.blogspot.com

  39. Phillie697

    March 30, 2012 12:00 PM

    @Cutter,

    I submit that a team that has done so well as to be able to afford a $178M payroll every year should not have a “limited window.” Like I’ve said here numerous times, I want to avoid trying to think like we’re somebody’s step child.

  40. Cutter

    March 30, 2012 02:58 PM

    The payroll in this case is secondary.

    Generally, the way to avoid a limited window is to have older players replaced by equally talented prospects.

    And the reason they don’t have those prospects coming in is because they traded many of them away.

    So which of the deals wouldn’t you have done at the time?

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