In the NL East, the Phillies Smell Like Roses

The Phillies’ front office had become a national laughingstock, starting in 2013 when the effects of former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s decisions were finally being realized. The trades to acquire starter Roy Oswalt and outfielder Hunter Pence cleared out the minor league system, Ryan Howard‘s $125 million contract extension returned almost no value, and free agents the Phillies signed relinquished first-round draft picks.

Amaro didn’t help the Phillies’ image by routinely sticking his foot in his mouth, revealing how little he understood analytics, trash-talking his own players, and being petulant in general.

All that has changed, we hope, with the Phillies’ refurbished front office. Under new president Andy MacPhail and new GM Matt Klentak, the Phillies appear committed to joining the rest of the league in valuing and utilizing analytics. The new bosses may also have learned from the previous administration’s mistakes, as it seems as if the Phillies have no desire to dish out lengthy, expensive contracts to free agents this off-season with still so much uncertainty around the team.

Considering how poorly other teams in the NL East have been and are currently being run, it wouldn’t take an extraordinary effort for the Phillies to come out smelling like roses.

Miami Marlins

  • The Marlins don’t like ace starter Jose Fernandez‘s attitude. According to Miami radio host Andy Slater, the team felt he “was a bad influence on a couple of young players and was conveying an anti-front office message.” Fernandez has asked to be traded on more than one occasion.
  • Owner Jeffrey Loria and former GM/manager Dan Jennings didn’t see eye-to-eye on Marcell Ozuna‘s playing time. Loria didn’t want to play him in order to limit his service time, which would allow the Marlins to have an additional year of control over him and pay him less money. Jennings wanted to play one of his best outfielders. Ozuna spent time at Triple-A this past season, somehow.
  • The Marlins are well-known for their fire sales — selling off their best players en masse. The team nearly doubled its payroll from 2011 to 2012, signing Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, among others. Reyes and Buehrle headlined a massive salary dump of a trade in November 2012. The Marlins’ payroll shrunk by more than half the next season.

Atlanta Braves

  • The Braves are currently crying poor in the middle of their rebuilding process. That a rebuild was necessary is very much up for debate as they won 96 games as recently as 2013 and had a very young core group of players (as opposed to the Phillies’ aged core group at the same time). The Braves have traded away star players including Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons, and Justin Upton. They’re reportedly shopping Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran as well.
  • Their new stadium will be located in Cobb County in Georgia. It’s an affluent, mostly-white suburb that’s difficult to get to without a car. In moving from a metropolitan area to the ‘burbs, the Braves are — rather transparently — excluding a large amount of lower-income fans and it’s not an accident. I will henceforth be calling the Braves’ new digs “White Flight Stadium”. The Cobb County stadium is also costing taxpayers a fortune, though it’s not unique to the Braves as publicly-financed stadiums have always been and always will be a scam.

Washington Nationals

  • The Nationals and Bud Black disagreed over an insignificant sum of money, which led to the eventual hiring of Dusty Baker. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweeted, “There’s a strain of thought that the Lerners [the owners of the Nats] don’t have a grasp on standard pay for managers.”
  • The Nats acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies and thrust him into the role Drew Storen had, until that point, been handling quite well. Storen was not happy about it. He struggled the rest of the season, then broke his thumb in mid-September. Now the Nats are looking to trade Storen.
  • Papelbon got into a serious altercation with star outfielder Bryce Harper in the dugout towards the end of the season. The Nationals let Harper take most of the heat for that, rather than nipping the situation in the bud and reprimanding or releasing/trading Papelbon.

New York Mets

  • The Wilpons [the Mets’ owners] have been notoriously stingy despite residing in baseball’s largest market. Before 2015, the Mets had three consecutive seasons with an Opening Day payroll below $95 million.

It would be nice to once again have some pride in the Phillies, to have them become the class of the NL East. A playoff berth is likely still at least two years away, so we’ll take the victories where we can get ’em for now.

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  1. bubba0101

    November 19, 2015 12:08 PM

    Hopefully under new management (Middleton, McPhail, Klentak) we have learned form past mistakes and are willing to smartly spend all of their new found wealth. We have the farm system in place to set a good core and make the Phillies relevant for years to come.

  2. Francisco (FC)

    November 19, 2015 12:31 PM

    Despite the Wilpons I doubt the Mets FO will sink into dysfunction as long as Sandy Alderson is at the helm. Terry Collins seems to be running a pretty good clubhouse as well. But we’ve vaulted over the Mets in the past, we can do so again. Who knows, maybe an actual genuine rivalry will develop a few years down the road with both teams being good and staying that way for a while.

    It has always seemed like whenever the Phillies were on top the Mets were going off a cliff and when the Mets soared the Phillies were plunging. Then there were the years when both teams kept stinking. I don’t think we’ve had an era where both teams have been equally great for an extended period (4-5 years at least).

    • Greg

      November 20, 2015 01:42 PM

      It is kind of weird that in general, the Mets and Phillies have rarely finished next to each other in the standings. Even from ’06’-’08, when both were good/great, they were kind of heading in different directions

  3. Bary Onyx

    November 19, 2015 01:33 PM

    Oh yes, those terrible Amaro trades for Pence and Oswalt. Oswalt was money down the stretch in ’10 and was unhittable when we needed it against SF in the playoffs. He shouldn’t have ever been in game 6. Pence was exactly what we needed, a right handed hitter with power. It’s not Amaro’s fault that ALL the bats fell silent against Chris Freaking Carpenter at freaking home (or that Cliff Lee gave up a 4 run lead in game two). Howard’s contract was likely part of the “keep the core guys together” philosophy of ownership at the time and I believe that if he hadn’t suffered what was more or less a career-as-we-know-it ending injury Howard would have been, for the last few years, overpaid but still valuable. As far as who Amaro traded away in those two trades, there’s not a single one of them who would have made this team any better over the last few years. The only one I’d want back is Domingo Santana. But if the rumor is true, that he was left accidentally unprotected from the trade, then yes Amaro is a moron and good riddance.

    • Steve

      November 19, 2015 01:57 PM

      Cosart would look very nice in the ’16 rotation and beyond. At this point id take Villar at 2b and probably even SS over our current placeholders. That being said, i understand why both trades were made, and i dont think Oswalt or Pence failed to live up to expectations. Just saying that those three guys (Santana included) would be better than our current players, and Gose is probably a 4th OF on this team. The timing of the Howard contract was awful, but im not sure that it was all Amaro’s idea.

    • Chris S.

      November 19, 2015 01:58 PM

      I want Jonathan Singleton back as well.

      • Carmine

        November 20, 2015 12:31 PM

        Why? I saw him play, and he looks like Ryan Howard — the post-2011 version. The pitchers will have him figured out in no time if they don’t already.

    • Romus

      November 19, 2015 02:13 PM

      Bary Onyx…….sounds like you are an Amaro apologist?
      The irony of all the Amaro critics’ claims and his ineptness as a GM….is the pure fact that his record as a GM, no matter how it is sliced up, is 30 games over .500 for seven years…..W582-L552. Of course for him, he fell pretty hard off the sliding board.

      • Steve

        November 19, 2015 06:39 PM

        Roms, i get your point, but if you break his record down to a per season average, it comes out at 83-79. Considering he inherited a championship team that was still trending up, that isnt great. He GMed both the winingest team in baseball and the losingest team in baseball during his tenure. I get that he went all in for another championship, and i dont blame anyone for that decision. I think he probably could’ve made moves to maintain the team in a state where they could stay competitive, and win more than 83 games/year for each of the 7 years, but that wasn’t the organizations goal. It was to win a championship, and he failed. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but results are results. If he had GMed another championship team, all of his missteps would be over looked, and he would likely still have a job here. The team couldn’t get it done, he had no contingency plan and it all erupted at the end of 2012. For what its worth, i actually think RAJ did his best work in ’14 and ’15.

      • Romus

        November 19, 2015 07:27 PM

        Steve…agree. If he had won that ’09 series vs the Yankees and then come back again , if Lee could have held a 4-0 lead vs the Cardinals, it changes a lot of opinions of his GM tenure. But…..
        In retrospect, Amaro coming in after a WS, comes in with higher expectations.
        Matt Klentak, on the other hand, has no where to go but up and is set up pretty decent….from new ownership philosophies and optimum drafting positions and a minor league system better then its been in 7/8 years or maybe even longer.

  4. ...

    November 19, 2015 09:41 PM

    Dusty Baker is the perfect manager for a team with a fragile superstar pitcher, lol.

  5. CJ

    November 20, 2015 01:09 PM

    How good are the young players Amaro gave up?

    How much better would the team be with them?

    Forgive me if this has been discussed before, but I haven’t seen it.

    • ...

      November 20, 2015 01:46 PM

      That’s the thing. For all the talk of Amaro “trading away the farm,” it doesn’t look like he ever parted with anyone of major value. The best one I can think of is Chase d’Arnaud who the Phils lost to Toronto when acquiring Halladay. There was never a good farm to deplete because they drafted so poorly and failed to bring back anything of value when trading away players like Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence.

      • CJ

        November 20, 2015 01:52 PM

        I like the sabermetrics approach to covering sports because it challenges conventional wisdom. That’s why I feel this conventional wisdom – Amaro traded away a bright future – needs to be verified.

      • Romus

        November 20, 2015 02:23 PM

        D’Arnaud may be the best, but Carrasco, and Cosart have served well as rotational assets with their respective teams.

      • ...

        November 20, 2015 02:34 PM

        Oops, excuse me. I meant Travis d’Arnaud. Wrong brother! Ain’t that always the story w/ Philly though? 😉

      • CJ

        November 20, 2015 03:06 PM

        The wrong brother? Well, we did have Dom DiMaggio.

      • rlh1004

        November 20, 2015 04:26 PM

        And Jeremy Giambi…

      • wineandrojas

        November 23, 2015 11:51 AM

        One brother the Phils had that was the good one..Dick Allen

      • derekcarstairs

        November 24, 2015 10:10 AM

        CJ – No, we had Vince DiMaggio.

    • Greg

      November 20, 2015 01:51 PM

      In a vacuum, emptying out the farm system is probably not a great strategy, but on the whole, which of the prospects Amaro (or Gillick) traded have really panned out and are even MLB regulars? Gio? D’arnaud when healthy? Carlos Carrasco? Remember when Michael Taylor and Dom were almost untouchable in trades? And Kyle Drabek? Jason Donald? Lou Marson? The phillies still lose 1ose 90 games this year with them.
      Point is, I make the trades for Oswalt and Pence again in a heartbeat. The phils got a bad break facing an inhuman Chris Carpenter in ’11, but that team won 102 games. Where Amaro really screwed up is not making the trades for these guys, but not getting enough value when he traded gues like Pence and Lee, or waiting too long to trade some of them.

      • ...

        November 20, 2015 02:05 PM

        Gio Gonzalez wasn’t even Amaro. That trade happened under Gillick. But yeah, add Carrasco to the list. Unfortunately, it took five seasons for him to figure things out. Who knows if he would ever have done so in Philadelphia.

    • ...

      November 20, 2015 01:58 PM

      Indeed. Evaluating the careers of every player Amaro traded away during his tenure would probably make for an interesting article.

  6. CJ

    November 20, 2015 01:16 PM

    ” I will henceforth be calling the Braves’ new digs “White Flight Stadium”…”

    Please don’t, Bill. Fight the urge.

    How many fans currently walk to MLB baseball games?

    • CJ

      November 20, 2015 01:17 PM

      Edited to add: It’s your blog and you can do what you want.

    • TommyDigital

      November 20, 2015 01:30 PM

      It’s the biggest social question in our country right now. Is it racial or about SES. Like always it’s a combination. They can’t really flee to an affluent minority community because they are scarce if they exist at all…which may say a lot about where we are racially. I don’t think the move is about race, I think it’s about SES. However, the stats are impossible to ignore.

      • Romus

        November 20, 2015 01:43 PM

        Senior Executive Service?

      • CJ

        November 20, 2015 01:49 PM

        Ever since player salaries skyrocketed, teams have sought higher revenues from its fan base. This has nothing to do with race of any race-related acronym. We can decry the “it’s a business” approach without dragging ugly racial politics into it.

        Personally, the biggest social question in our country should be the experiment with fatherless homes, which has harmed children and society more than anything else, including poverty (for which family makeup is the leading indicator.) And which has done more to damage outcomes for black Americans and drive disparities than anything else.

        But that narrative doesn’t have a safe villain.

    • I Watch PBS

      November 20, 2015 02:29 PM

      Local politics & civic finances are all kinds of trouble in the ATL area – I’m curious to see how this all shakes out. Investment bankers getting richer & tax payers left holding the bag in one way or another….

  7. TommyDigital

    November 20, 2015 01:27 PM

    I feel like 2 years is a good measuring stick. Last year was brutal, and we traded some guys we didn’t really want to let go of but had to. Seems as if we got a solid return and have a #1 pick. This upcoming year I think we’ll be a top 5 pick team again. However, towards the end of the year you might see guys like Crawford and whatnot. Hopefully we’ll see a #1 pick dominate whatever level he’s at. The year after we’ll be young but hopefully challenge, at least for a few months, for a wild card. It’ll be an incomplete team full of homegrown guys. The year after hopefully we sign a FA or two and head into the season with the promise of “we’re the team to beat”. Seems similar to the recent run, this time hopefully without the long-term mistakes.

  8. DMonty

    November 20, 2015 02:32 PM

    Good as place as any to remind phans what a special place Dave Montgomery & that ownership group made the Phillies ball club. Please stay classy John Middleton.

  9. Romus

    November 21, 2015 08:02 AM

    ‘I will henceforth be calling the Braves’ new digs “White Flight Stadium”.’
    Have to assume Chavez Ravine was the original in ’62.

    • Steve

      November 22, 2015 07:28 AM

      Can we get a write up on the rule 5 now that 40 man rosters have been chosen.

  10. 100Bucks

    November 22, 2015 08:29 AM

    I have a different spin of the Phils smelling like Roses; that is in comparison to other Philadelphia teams.
    The Phillies in the late-1990’s were the worst of the Philadelphia organizations. People were cheering E-A-G… at the games in late August. It was embarrassing. Now, the Phillies have a chance to show the other teams in town how a proper rebuild is accomplished. Draft well AND use free agency to field a legitimate team while you build a winner. The Phils clearly have a plan to be good again. Unlike the other pro teams that all seem to be struggling.

  11. TheMick

    November 23, 2015 10:50 AM

    The Phillies have enough young talent to form a core in the next couple years. The Phillies should have three of their “core four” on the field by 2017, with the 4th still TBD. The four will be Franco, Crawford, next year’s # 1 and TBD. This should make up the core four teams build around. There will be good complimentary players such as Nola, Herrera, Giles (if he’s not traded) Altherr (maybe*), Eickhoff (maybe*), Alfaro (hopefully), Knapp (hopefully), Thompson (hopefully), Quinn (hopefully) and Williams (hopefully). The 4th of the core four could come from that group or prospects or from a little lower in the system such as Kilome or Randolph. Hopefully some of the following players also become good complimentary pieces, sprinkled on the team over the next 1-5 years – Cordero, Eflin, Encarnicion, Hoskins, Lively, Kingery, Medina, Ortiz, Pinto and Tocci.

    If the Phils truly plan to build from the farm system and then add a key FA or two when they’re on the verge of contending they might just have a work-able plan that could bring the Phils success for years to come. There is a big caveat tho. Much of the future of the team rests on the shoulders of players who haven’ played above AA yet. We know not all the good prospects the Phils have will work out. That’s just the way it is. We have to hope that even with attrition there’s enough talent in the system to still produce several (or more) good major leaguers over the next 3-5 years.

    * – has shown ability is small sample sizes.

    • TheMick

      November 23, 2015 11:23 AM

      The above was written in haste and has terrible grammar and sentence construction. The thoughts are jumbled and not near as clear as they should be. Sorry for the scattershot post.

  12. Matthew

    November 24, 2015 04:49 AM

    I’m pretty sure Craig Calcaterra wrote the Braves piece of this article.

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