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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.