This is going to make me sound naive, but I dream of a well-reasoned, thoughtful internet. The internet of baseball is an interesting internet, one as likely to produce a moment of comedic genius as it is to foster an echo chamber of half-cocked hysteria. It’s a wonderful place.
So it’s with the greatest severity that I say that while I love 90 percent of what Phillies fans have been saying, there are a couple themes to the Twitter conversation, as well as comments on this and other blogs, that convey a laudable passion for the game and the team, but also a startling level of delusion and/or ignorance. And yes, I realize there are probably things I say that y’all find irritating, but that’s a different conversation. This isn’t about irritating–this is about wrong. One man’s irritating is another man’s hilarious, as has been proved conclusively by the continued popularity of Diablo Cody as a screenwriter.
But irritating is not misguided, and I’m here to educate. In that spirit, I’ve developed a machine that allows me to appear in real life whenever someone trips one of these Phillies-related keywords. This is a monkfish. With my machine, I will travel the city, appearing out of nowhere like Batman, wielding a monkfish as my sword of justice. Why a monkfish? Well, according to Official Crashburn Alley Fish Correspondent @erhudy, the monkfish has a large surface area area to better create the satisfying slapping sound we’re after.
So here are a few things that you can say that will guarantee that I materialize out of the ether, tap you on the shoulder, and hit you as hard as I can across the face with my monkfish. If it should come to pass that you meet the concussive force of my smelly, rubbery, disgusting bludgeon, don’t be mad. I do this out of love.
“So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance…”
I’ve been fond of posting daily updates on the Phillies’ record relative to both .500 and the playoff race, as well as the earliest date they could have a .500 record, and their playoff odds. Today, July 30, if you’re curious, the Phillies are 12 games under .500, 16 1/2 games out of first place, and 12 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. The earliest they can return to .500 is August 12, and their playoff odds stand at 0.1 percent.
Whenever I post this, I’m greeted by the famous line from Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…” While I imagine this is usually said in jest, I’d like to note that it doesn’t take a whole lot of creativity anymore to make reference to the “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’.” of Farrelly Brothers quotes.
It’s more the spirit of not having given up that, I hope, has been beaten out of us as fans by now. It’s over. It’s been over for about six weeks, and, looking back on it, it was frankly never even that close. I’m not telling you there’s a chance. If anything, I’m quoting those odds to tell you that there isn’t a chance. Even a week ago, when the Phillies were in the process of sweeping the Brewers, they’d have needed a comeback on par with the 1951 Giants to make the playoffs. You know, the Giants who walked off against the Dodgers on Bobby Thompson’s home run and needed to close out the season 50-12 to even get to that three-game playoff. And needed to cheat to get there.
After getting kicked in the privates by the Braves, however, I think the Phillies are far enough out of it that no one will be saying “Yeah, but the Cardinals last year…” ignoring the fact that the Cardinals were tied for first place in the division in the last week of July last season.
But I think we’re done with this whole hope thing, which is good. I hope we don’t need to have this talk again, because if we do, I’m bringing my fish next time.
Apparently we’re doing the “Trade Cliff Lee” thing again. Because apparently people, including Ruben Amaro, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, think that’s a good idea. Because trading a No. 1 starter who’s signed to a below-market deal at the nadir of his trade value is a no-brainer. Particularly when that value has been depressed by factors outside his control.
But the fans are on board because the prevailing opinion, based on absolutely nothing, is that 1) the Phillies will trade Lee 2) too the Texas Rangers 3) for third base prospect Mike Olt and 4) that it will be worth it. I think Olt is a nice player, and if the Phillies had traded the last two months of Cole Hamels‘ contract to Texas for him, it would have been a coup.
Olt is purported to be one of the top third base prospects in the game, a low-risk guy who plays good defense at third and hits for power. People hear these things and immediately rack their brains for other good defensive third basemen with power to associate him with. A list of good defensive third basemen with power: Mike Schmidt, Scott Rolen, Brooks Robinson, Adrian Beltre…Olt is not those men.
Mike Olt has never played a major league game. Few, if any, of the people advocating that Lee be traded for him, have seen him play in any venue apart from this year’s Futures Game, and of those, I doubt more than a handful have the scouting acumen necessary to draw any meaningful conclusions. Few, if any, of us had even heard of Olt six months ago, and now he’s the Pause that Refreshes, the King in the North, the Hero of Canton, the man who can rescue this team from years of shortsightedness and mismanagement.
Olt strikes out a lot. Last week, on Baseball Today, Keith Law speculated that Olt, promoted to the majors tomorrow, would hit about .240/.330 with 20-25 home runs in his first full season. He should improve some from there, but that’s an assumption, to say nothing of the original baseline being based on speculation in the first place. Expert speculation, but speculation nonetheless. The probability is that Olt will be a good major league third baseman. But I have no idea where the idea came from that he’d become a star.
This is the time of year when everyone falls in love with prospects. In the past week, I’ve heard Phillies fans crying out for not only Olt, but Starling Marte of Pittsburgh and Gary Brown of San Francisco, as if those guys are sure things, as if this fan base hasn’t lived through Tyler Green, Mike Grace, Gavin Floyd, Wayne Gomes, Travis Lee, Domonic Brown, Joe Savery and Anthony Hewitt. We of all people should know better.
A prospect is a lottery ticket. Some have better odds and higher payouts, but all have the distinct possibility, even the likelihood, of failure. Remember the last can’t-miss corner infielder the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee? I think the Phillies should collect as many as they can, but not at the expense of valuable long-term commodities like Lee. And what prospects they do collect are uncertain. So let’s stop pretending we know more than we actually do.
And one last note on Olt. It appears that part of his popularity involves the potential to raise our hands and should “Mike Olt!” whenever he does something good, in the style of Arrested Development‘s Steve Holt. I’ll admit that this is very cool, and very funny, and even that I’ve done so on our podcast before. But if he makes his Phillies debut August 1, and that gag hasn’t gotten old by Labor Day, I’ll hit myself in the face with my monkfish.
This was cute during the “Four Aces” heyday, when someone started referring to the Phillies’ minor league starters the Baby Aces. Adorable, but inaccurate. The Phillies haven’t really had a prospect with true No. 1 starter potential since Cole Hamels. Jarred Cosart and Kyle Drabek were close, but concerns about Cosart’s delivery have turned him into more of a closer prospect than a starter prospect, and Drabek has had trouble staying healthy and finding the plate when he is.
And both have been traded anyway, so it doesn’t matter. But Jesse Biddle and Trevor May, if everything works out well, are probably more mid-rotation guys than aces, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in the know characterize Brody Colvin or Tyler Cloyd as anything more than a fifth starter. This one isn’t of paramount importance, but given how much disappointment we’re going to experience over the coming months anyway, let’s not make it worse by artificially raising expectations.
I guess the point of all this is: let’s not freak out about prospects for no good reason. It only ends in heartbreak.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see the fishmonger.