Gillick Isn’t Slumbering This Time

After about a one-week hiatus following a move to a new apartment, I am back in front of my computer monitor, much to the dismay of the rest of the Internets (to those of you sending me mail bombs, please note the change in address).

The Phillies have been the noisiest team thus far in the offseason, unless you count all of the meaningless banter in the media about Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees, and everyone else in between. If you’re a Phillies fan, you have to be happy with the way Gillick has attacked the pressing needs facing the 2008 team.

Despite the in-season rumors of the Phillies attempting to acquire Brad Lidge in a trade with the Houston Astros, it was still surprising to read about the move in the newspaper (yes, I was reduced to that archaic form of media sans Internet, sans cable, sans telephone).

The Phillies sent outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary, and Minor League third baseman Mike Costanzo to the ‘stros for Lidge and utility infielder Eric Bruntlett.

It’s a good trade for both sides, even though Lidge, a free agent after the ’08 season, may only be a one-year rental for the Phillies, who are, in reality, poised for an “’08 or bust” campaign.

Let’s first parse through who the Phillies gave up.

Geoff Geary

Geary is an enigma if there ever was one. He’s been an above-average reliever for each of the past three seasons, with last year’s 105 ERA+ being a severe drop-off from his 158 ERA+ in ’06. He gives up a fair share of base runners (1.399 career WHIP) and his career BABIP is .311, which is only slightly higher than the league average, showing that his propensity for allowing base runners isn’t fluky. In addition, his K/9 of 5.82 shows that he doesn’t have particularly overpowering stuff and he’ll only get more and more hittable as hitters become more familiar with him and as his stuff wanes.

Geary’s departure doesn’t increase the importance of anyone in particular in the Phillies bullpen, just anyone who would potentially be used in middle-relief (for instance, Ryan Madson).

Michael Bourn

Bourn has always been a prized prospect of the Phillies, but it was only because the Phillies’ farm system is so barren. Bourn has the ceiling similar to that of Juan Pierre or Wily Taveras — a singles hitter that can steal some bases and put his above-average speed to use in the outfield.

While with the Phillies for the entire season in the pinch-runner/defensive replacement role, Bourn did show that he is capable of handling an everyday workload if needed. He got on base at about the league-average (Bourn’s .348 to the league’s .349) and was 18-for-19 in the stolen base department.

Fortunately for the Phillies, they already have a guy akin to Bourn, only with a much stronger arm and a bit more power, in Shane Victorino.

Bourn’s loss makes the back-ups in the outfield — Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs — a bit more valuable.

Mike Costanzo

According to Phuture Phillies, Baseball America ranked Costanzo among the top-20 prospects in the Eastern League.

Last season in AA Reading, Costanzo made huge bounds from the previous season, in which he put up an OBP of .364 and a SLG of .411, to put up an OBP of .368 and a SLG of .490. He hit 27 HR and drove in 86 runs to go along with that.

While his offense looks appealing, his defense does not. He committed 25 errors in ’06 and 34 last season in only 133 and 135 games, respectively. That is an aggregate average of about one error every 4.5 games.

In 2008, the Phillies will use a platoon of Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, and Eric Bruntlett at third base, so Costanzo’s move doesn’t increase anyone’s immediate value, though the Phillies will have to find a reliable third baseman after the season.

Now let’s take a look at who the Phillies acquired.

Brad Lidge

Phillies fans pessimistic about the trade will cite Lidge’s ’06 effort as an indication that he isn’t everything he’s cracked up to be, but if his ’07 season means anything, then it was just an aberration. His K/9 rate has always hovered above 10 (with a career average of 12.6) and he keeps runners off the bases (1.197 career WHIP).

The interesting part about the Lidge acquisition, though, isn’t Lidge himself — it’s how the move will affect Brett Myers, who is now a part of the Phillies’ starting rotation, just shortly removed from a season in which he was the Phillies’ lights-out second-half closer (2.87 ERA and 21 saves in 53.1 IP). Myers made it clear throughout the season that he liked being a part of the bullpen as someone the team could count on game after game, instead of just once every five days. If Myers doesn’t perform well back in the rotation, proponents of the team chemistry concept will point to Lidge as a reason.

Should Myers be amicable and return to his above-average ways as a starter, this move has gold stars written all over it.

Eric Bruntlett

To Phillies fans, he’s “that other guy” acquired along with Lidge. Yeah, he’s essentially listless offensively (career .323 OBP and .364 SLG) but he has above-average speed (20-for-26 in stolen bases in his career) as well as above-average defense (.847 RZR in 348 defensive innings last season as a shortstop, which would rank slightly behind fifth place if he had enough innings to qualify).

Expect Bruntlett to be used in as a pinch-runner or as a spot-starter at third base in the odd event that Greg Dobbs starts in the outfield and Wes Helms is sitting on the bench.

In the immediate future, the Phillies are clear winners, but don’t be fooled: Geary and Bourn can be cogs in a now youthful Astros roster, with Craig Biggio retired. The Astros could use an outfield of Carlos Lee (31) in left, Bourn (25) in center, and Hunter Pence (24) in right.

Shortly after the Lidge deal, the Phillies re-signed left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a three-year, $12 million deal.

J.C. Romero

Plucked off the waiver wire by Gillick in June from the world champion Boston Red Sox, Romero quickly become one of only three reliable arms in the bullpen, along with Myers and Tom Gordon, both of whom were injured during the season.

Romero walked his share of hitters (25 in 36.1 IP), but otherwise kept hitters at bay (1.101 WHIP). He averaged just a shade under a 1/1 K/IP ratio, but the most important aspect — his left-handedness aside — is his ability to throw the ground ball, an absolute must in a hitter-friendly stadium such as Citizens Bank Park. In ’07, 60% of his outs were of the ground ball variety, only slightly above his 54.3% career average.

With those deals fleshed out, let’s look at what the Phillies’ 25-man roster should look like, as it stands, come Opening Day.

C – Carlos Ruiz
1B – Ryan Howard
2B – Chase Utley
3B – Wes Helms
SS – Jimmy Rollins
LF – Pat Burrell
CF – ? / Shane Victorino
RF – Jayson Werth

C – Chris Coste
IF – Eric Bruntlett
IF/OF – Greg Dobbs
OF – Chris Roberson
OF – T.J. Bohn

That ? in center field could be Aaron Rowand, it could be another outfielder acquired via free agency or trade, or it could be Victorino, simply taking Rowand’s place.

The Phillies’ outfield reserves currently include Chris Roberson and T.J. Bohn, both of whom are rather unappetizing, so here’s hoping they sign someone like Geoff Jenkins to a one-year deal and use him in a platoon with Jayson Werth in right field (Jenkins, .883 career OPS vs. RHP; Werth .864 career OPS vs. LHP).

SP – Cole Hamels
SP – Brett Myers
SP – Jamie Moyer
SP – Adam Eaton
SP – Kyle Kendrick

The last two spots are tentative. I don’t know this for a fact, but I imagine the Phillies are very open to using blase Adam Eaton in a long-relief role. The Phillies are also hoping to allow Kendrick to develop a bit more in the Minor Leagues, perhaps to develop a put-away pitch that he lacked in his impressive rookie season in ’07.

Rumors have the Phillies most interested in Randy Wolf and Bartolo Colon, but both would be risky propositions given their injury histories. Further down the list are Livan Hernandez and Kyle Lohse. Hernandez is a fly ball-prone pitcher, and Lohse’s agent is Scott Boras, whom the Phillies absolutely detest (see: Drew, J.D.).

Carlos Silva, with his ground ball tendencies (47.5% in ’07; 48.7% career), should actually be the #1 target for the Phillies in terms of cost/effectiveness.

RP –
RP –
RP –
RP – J.C. Romero
RP – Ryan Madson
SU – Tom Gordon
CP – Brad Lidge

The three open relief pitching slots could go to just about anyone who shows up in Spring Training. “Anyone” could include Fabio Castro, Clay Condrey, Julio Mateo, Scott Mathieson, Francisco Rosario, and Mike Zagurski.

One of Castro and Zagurski will make it by the sheer fact of their left-handedness, giving the Phillies increased flexibility with two lefties in the ‘pen.

Mathieson is coming off of “Tommy John” surgery, and Mateo still has some personal problems that prevented him from joining the team last season when he was picked up from Seattle for a handshake.

Logically, that leaves Condrey and Rosario to the last two spots, assuming the Phillies are done acquiring relief pitchers. In all likelihood, they are not done shopping, so they could still target someone like David Riske or LaTroy Hawkins to set up for Lidge, and moving injury-prone Tom Gordon to a role in which he is not expected to pitch 70 games throughout the season.

As for the other fun-packed part of the off-season: awards…

How did Jimmy Rollins get the Gold Glove at shortstop over Troy Tulowitski? If there’s one thing both baseball statistical traditionalists and Sabermetricians can agree on, it’s that Tulowitzki was the better defensive shortstop. Rollins is a hell of a defender, but even as a Phillies fan, even I cannot give him the nod on this one.

Compare the statistics.

Rollins: .808 RZR, 65 OOZ

Tulowitzki: .861 RZR, 87 OOZ

Good to see that Aaron Rowand got a Gold Glove, but again, I take exception with it this year. He was sixth among qualified NL center-fielders in RZR (.861) and second in OOZ (69). His 69 OOZ aren’t too much more than the three behind him (5th-place has 63), so if you look at the five ahead of him in RZR…

A. Jones: .921 RZR, 80 OOZ

Beltran: .915, 64 OOZ

Pierre: .902, 63 OOZ

Cameron: .894, 53 OOZ

C. Young: .875, 66 OOZ

…you can find three slightly more deserving candidates. I’m not saying it’s a travesty that Rowand won, but if we’re being specific, he was just a shade under the cut.

Charlie Manuel, who placed second in Manager of the Year voting, should have won over Bob Melvin. His Diamondbacks were fluky, out-performing their Pythagorean W-L by an historically large 11 games. My reasoning for Manuel was laid out here:

Like Torre, Charlie Manuel has had a ton of injuries, a bad pitching staff, and media scrutiny to deal with all season long.

In this article, I listed the 15 Phillies to be put on the disabled list at the time. Since then, Cole Hamels missed time with a strained left elbow, and Antonio Alfonseca was described by Manuel as “out of gas.”

Manuel has had to make do with a horrible bullpen that GM Pat Gillick failed to improve during the off-season. In fact, the bullpen was so lousy that Manuel moved then-starter Brett Myers to the set-up role for Tom Gordon (Myers became the closer when Gordon was injured).

Myers’ statistics as a closer: 45.2 IP, 1.226 WHIP, 2.96 ERA, 56 K, 16 BB, 17 saves in 20 opportunities.

In addition, despite the injuries to 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2007 MVP candidate Chase Utley, speedster Shane Victorino, and a horrid first-half for Pat Burrell, the Phillies have, by far, the National League’s best offense. First in runs, triples, walks, hit batsmen, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Second in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, and stolen bases.

When the Phillies lost to the Mets on April 17, Charlie Manuel blew up at “journalist” Howard Eskin during the post-game press conference, the team dropped to a 3-9 record, quickly 5.5 games behind the Mets for fourth place in the NL East. Now, the Phillies are 12-games above .500 — an 18-game swing — and are battling for playoff berths in either the NL East or in the Wild Card, as they are 2.5 GB the Mets and Padres, respectively.

Tulowitzki should have won NL Rookie of the Year over Braun, and while there weren’t any mind-blowing AL candidates for the award, I still think Jeremy Guthrie should have taken it over Dustin Pedroia.

Good to see the voters got something right through in awarding the AL Cy Young to C.C. Sabathia.

We’re still waiting on the NL Cy Young award (Jake Peavy, obviously) and both MVP awards. John Brattain makes an interesting case for Jimmy Rollins as the NL recipient. I don’t agree, but as a Phillies fan, I won’t complain if Rollins wins it. If he does, it will be the first time a team has had two different players win back-to-back MVP awards since Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds in 2000 and ’01.

What’s Out There?

If anyone is in a helpful mood, please link me to anything interesting that was written in the past week in which I’ve been gone. It’s quite overwhelming to have to catch up on so many blogs, so point me in the right direction! I’ll probably be putting up a “links” blog soon, so E-mail me (CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com) if you’d like me to link to you.

Looking into the Future

The Phillies put up their tentative 2008 schedule on their website for all to see. Let’s slice through it in a few ways.

Strength of Schedule

March/April — .499 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 10 series.

May — .484 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

June —  .498 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

July — .506 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

August — .487 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

September — .480 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

OVERALL —  .492 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 52 series.

Before any off-season wheeling and dealing, and based solely on the teams’ 2007 performances, the Phillies appear to have an easy schedule ahead of them in 2008.

Interleague

Even though it’s not really special anymore, it is still worth noting which A.L. teams the Phillies will face.

May 16-18: Toronto Blue Jays (83-79, 3rd in AL East in ’07)

June 16-18: Boston Red Sox (96-66, 1st in AL East in ’07)

June 20-22: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (94-68, 1st in AL West in ’07)

June 24-26: at Oakland Athletics (76-86, 3rd in AL West in ’07)

June 27-29: at Texas Rangers (75-87, 4th in AL West in ’07)

Those five series yield an average record of about 85-77 (.525).

The Phillies are home against the “good” teams, which bodes well both from a perceived home field advantage standpoint, and from a ticket sales standpoint.

Divisional Rivalries

The number of times the Phillies face division rivals by month…

March/April — 9 games out of 28 (32%)

May — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

June — 7 games out of 27 (26%)

July — 18 games out of 25 (72%)

August — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

September — 21 games out of 26 (81%)

I think it’s safe to assume that July and September are the most important months of 2008 for the Phillies.

Reservations

Finally, a look at the Phillies home/away match-ups…

March/April — 14 games home out of 28 (50%)

May — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

June — 11 games out of 26 (42%)

July — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

August — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

September — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

Every month, the Phillies have more home games than road games besides June, so that also bodes well.

The worst trips for Eastern teams like the Phillies, obviously, are westward. The Phillies head West four times:

  • April 21-22: Colorado for 2 games
  • May 5-11: Arizona and San Francisco for 7 games (4 ARI; 3 SF)
  • June 24-29: Oakland and Texas for 6 games (3 apiece)
  • August 11-17: Los Angeles and San Diego (4 LAD; 3 SD)

As mentioned, the Phillies’ 2008 schedule is tentative — it is subject to change.

In Other News

Bad news if you’re a Philadelphian: You’re ugly. Per Dayn Perry’s $8 Beers (per With Leather (per Yahoo! News)):

Philadelphia is home to the least attractive people in the United States, a survey of visitors and residents showed on Friday.

The city of more than 1.5 million people was also found to be among the least stylish, least active, least friendly and least worldly, according to the “America’s Favourite Cities” survey by Travel & Leisure magazine and CNN Headline News.

I was just getting some confidence in my self-image back, and then I hop onto the Internet and read this. That’s it! No more Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks! No more Italian ice or pretzels! No more hoagies!

I think I’m going to start a group and go on a field trip to Los Angeles to get some plastic surgery, too.

Oh, nevermind, I just read more of the article and now I realize that while I’m not attractive, I’m also not unattractive:

[…] [Travel & Leisure senior editor Amy] Farley pointed out the results don’t mean people in Philadelphia are ugly or the city is a bad place to visit.

“We were asking people to vote on attractiveness, not unattractiveness. Travel & Leisure editors believe there are a lot of attractive people in Philadelphia,” she said.

Phew. I almost made a rash decision.

Blog Hoppin’

Check out these quality blogs:

  • Vancouver has a fool-proof plan to earn the right to host the 2010 Olympics. [100% Injury Rate]
  • Taco Bell is intensely patriotic with this new marketing ploy. [Babes Love Baseball]
  • The Eagles are so bad, Philadelphians are already counting down to Spring training. Only 115 days left! [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]
  • Dusty Baker: The new Jack Handey? [Between the Lines]
  • Settle down, folks! We know it’s Willie Green season! [Broad Street Bastards]
  • The guy responsible for the Indians’ seventh-inning baserunning blunder is the leading candidate for the job as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • How Scott Boras became the most hated man in baseball. [I’m Writing Sports]
  • It’s fun to blog when your favorite teams are winning. [Josh Q. Public]
  • Keyshawn Johnson’s interview with Chad Johnson is ironic. [Signal to Noise]
  • Jonathan Papelbon knows how to celebrate. [Six Pack Sports Report]
  • Jesus will be forced to pick sides in the World Series. [Ump Bump]

Retribution

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, during the taping of last night’s episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, was dealt the unfortunate hand of having to deal with numerous raucous audience members spouting 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Bill Maher

Maher, known for his controversial take on current events, said that his view of the 9/11 attacks are “the only time I defend [President] Bush.”

As the Associated Press reports,

[9/11 conspiracy theorists] often linger outside his studio to share 9/11 conspiracy theories with [Maher] and try to get into the show.

On how he dealt with the situation:

Maher was talking science during one of his weekly panel discussions when a protester in his audience stood up, held up a smuggled-in sign reading “9/11 is a cover up fraud” and shouted comments to the same effect.

The host tried to shout down the audience member, who only became more agitated.

“Do we have some (expletive) security in this building,” Maher yelled, “or do I have to come down there and kick his (expletive)?”

When security reached the man’s aisle and the man resisted leaving, Maher ran into the seats and helped them push him out the door, shouting “Out! Out! Out!”

Several other protesters, sprinkled throughout the audience, then stood up and shouted.

While Maher could have not let the issue get to him, the way he handled the situation had to have been retribution for all of the athletes who have been heckled or have had objects thrown at them by fans, and for all of the celebrities who have been stalked — almost all of them not retaliating (you know who you are… Milton Bradley).

The video is up on YouTube, but it’ll probably be taken down, so catch it while you still can.

That’s Poker!

I just finished up a poker tournament on PokerStars lasting nearly 4 hours (starting at 10 PM EST). It was a measly 25-cent buy-in that saw 3,565 players sign up, and I played well and got lucky enough to place in the top 45, earning $1.59. Seems measly, but it’ll pay for 6 more of these tournaments.

I was completely card dead towards the end, not that that was much different than the rest of the tournament. My total statistics…

During current Hold’em session you were dealt 214 hands and saw flop:
– 13 out of 25 times while in big blind (52%)
– 5 out of 25 times while in small blind (20%)
– 14 out of 164 times in other positions (8%)
– a total of 32 out of 214 (14%)
Pots won at showdown – 7 of 10 (70%)
Pots won without showdown – 12

You can definitely say that I played tight, and there were a few spots where I would have cashed in big time had I been more aggressive, but I erred on the side of caution and it seems to have paid off. The killer was when I got pocket kings late in the tournament and got a walk (everyone else folded before I had a chance to make a play, as I was the big blind).

I got A-10 in first position with just over $20,000 in chips with $2,500/$5,000 blinds, so I decided to push all my chips in and hope for the best. Pocket red eights and K-10 of clubs both called me. I flopped an ace, but K-10 flopped his flush draw and made it on the river, knocking me out.

I was definitely card-dead, but I did get pocket aces early in the tournament and nearly tripled up.

From that pocket kings hand (when I got a walk) on, here were my hands (s = spades; h = hearts; c = clubs; d = diamonds):

Kh 7c (1,500 small blind, folded to a +3,000 raise)
Jc 3d
4s 2h
3c 3s (folded pre-flop)
Kd 9c
Ks 6s
7h 6h
8h 6d (4,000 big blind, folded to +8,000 raise)
10s 2d (2,000 small blind, folded and the big blind got a walk)
5s 3c
8h 2d
Qs 3s
Js 9h
Kh 3h
10c 5d
Qs 4s (4,000 big blind, folded to +19,000 raise)
Qd 7h (2,000 small blind, called the other 2,000 and folded to a +36,000 raise)
Ks 2d
Jc 4s
Ah 7d (could’ve made my move here and it would’ve worked out with a board that read: [5c 7c 5d Jd 7h], but I didn’t since someone raised an extra 4,000)
Qc Jc (also could have made a move here, but I opted to limp in and hit nothing on the flop, so it was a good thing I didn’t)
Ad 3c
5d 5s (I pushed all-in and no one called)
10s 3d (5,000 big blind, folded to a +10,000 raise)
10s 4s (2,500 small blind, folded to a +15,000 raise)
Jh 7d
Kc 8s
9h 7h
Kh 2s
Jc 9s
Ad 10h (my execution)

Throughout the late stages of the game, it felt I was getting raised in my blinds a lot, so I decided to check that out. From the above, we see that 6 of my 7 blinds featured a raise, with the other one being a fold to the big blind with 10s 2d.

But before that (going from most recent backwards)…

Ac 10h (1,500 small blind, folded to a +6,000 and +2,600 (short-stacker) raises)
Qs 10c (3,000 big blind, got to go all the way to the river with straight checks and folded to a $3,000 river bet)
10s 2c (1,000 small blind, folded to +4,000 raise)
Ks 5d (2,000 big blind, got to go to the turn and folded to a $6,000 turn bet)
10h 3c (800 small blind, folded to +2,700 raise)
Jc 3h (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
Ad 9d (800 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $1,600 flop bet)
5s 2s (1,600 big blind, everyone else folded and I got a walk)
9d 7h (600 small blind, folded to +2,400 raise)
10d 3c (1,200 big blind, folded to +9,700 raise)
Jd 2c (500 small blind, folded to +1,000 raise)
8c 5h (1,000 big blind, checked to the flop, flopped top pair of eights, bet $3,000, called a +211 raise, and won against Ad 3c with a board that read: [3d 7s 8h 5s] [5c])
4c 4s (500 small blind, folded to +5,700 raise)
Kd 7s (1,000 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $3,400 post-flop bet)
Js 2d (400 small blind, folded to +6,100 raise)
Kd 5d (800 big blind, folded to +8,900 raise)
Js 7d (400 small blind, folded to give the big blind a walk)
10s 3h (800 big blind, folded to +800 and +1600 raises)
As 8h (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
7d 2d (600 big blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
As 6c (300 small blind, got to see the flop and folded to a $600 post-flop bet)
Kd Qs (600 big blind, got to see the river and won a $3,400 pot on a board that read: [Tc Jd Kc 8d 2c])
8s 3h (200 small blind, folded pre-flop)
Kc 8c (400 big blind, got to see the flop, checked the flop, raised by $900 a $300 bet on the turn, raised $4,150 all in and won a $13,475 pot with a board that read: [2c Jc Ts 4c] [Tc])

That’s a good portion of the meaningful blinds. The results:

  • Folded 10 of 24 blinds to pre-flop raises (42%)
  • Saw the flop in 10 of 24 hands (42%)
  • Saw the turn in 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Saw the river in 4 of 24 hands (17%)
  • Won 5 of 24 hands (21%)
  • Was given a walk in 2 of 24 hands (8%)
  • The big blind (other than myself) got a walk in 1 of 24 hands (4%)

Of the hands I listed above, only my pocket 4’s and KQ (2 hands — 8%) would have been considered good hands, with A10, A9, A8, A6, and possibly Q10 (5 hands — 21%) being considered marginal hands.

So, I was, I think more unlucky than usual in my blinds, both with the hands I was given and with the pre-flop raising.

Nonetheless, I’m happy with my finish. It’s almost 2:30 AM now and I have to get up at 7:30 AM.

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy…

I E-Mailed this to the good folks at Fire Joe Morgan, since they are experts at dissecting articles, but this article by Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports was eating away at my insides, so I had to rebut it.

I’ll approach this like FJM does: the author’s words in boldface, my words under it in regular font.

Then the simplistic work of “Moneyball” was published, taking a shallow view of the complex approach Billy Beane had taken to having success on a moderate budget in Oakland[…]

Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, was about finding value in an area in which the current market deems worth less (note: not worthless) than other aspects. At the time the Oakland Athletics were reeling off NL West pennants, on-base percentage (OBP) was rather undervalued, so they picked up guys like Jason Giambi (OBP of .476 and .477 in 2000 and ’01, respectively; career .411 OBP), Scott Hatteberg (.374 OBP in ’02; career .363 OBP), and Erubiel Durazo (.374 and .396 OBP in ’03 and ’04, respectively; career .381 OBP).

[…]suddenly front offices were being filled with guys wearing pocket protectors.

I must have missed the memo where it said that anyone who values statistics over random, unverified assumptions (like grit and determination winning championships) is a pocket protector-wearing nerd. I also must have missed the memo where all anti-statistics journalists impersonate elementary school bullies, taking the lunch money from us nerds, too busy punching away at our calculators to actually watch the games.

Pocket protectors were last prominent in the 1970’s and ’80’s, so I cordially invite Tracy to join us here in the 21st century, where math and science have greatly advanced the human species.

I’m surprised Tracy didn’t throw in a slide rule reference. C’mon, Trace!

Now, maybe, the game is going to get back to its roots.

Ah, yes: the roots of baseball. Rough players (meaning their skills aren’t honed) with second jobs playing a game that kept the African-American players in a separate league. The game where the analytical approach hadn’t been heard of, where managers allowed their pitchers to ruin their arms by pitching 350 innings in a season, making one start every three days in a 154-game season. That was a much better game since there weren’t any nerds doing any thinking for us.

Now, maybe, some owners will realize that for all the efforts to find new and improved versions, round is the best shape for a tire, and a home-grown product is the best method for success in baseball.

What is the difference, really, between a home-grown product and a non-home-grown product? A player isn’t better for the Rockies because he’s been in the Rockies’ system for his entire Minor League career.

Some teams are better at scouting, drafting, player development, and such. The Pittsburgh Pirates are notoriously horrible at scouting, drafting, and developing pitchers. But their talent was home-grown, that’s why John Van Benschoten has been a rousing success in the Pirates’ rotation and hasn’t encountered any injury problems. Zach Duke has been progressively better with each passing season. Did I mention Cy Young candidate Paul Maholm?

What Tracy is guilty of is not heeding the “correlation is not causation” axiom. The Rockies made the World Series with a lot of home-grown talent; therefore, all teams should be promoting their Minor Leaguers instead of trading and signing free agents, right? The Yankees grew multi-MVP winner Alex Rodriguez. The Tigers grew MVP-candidate Magglio Ordonez. The Giants grew the best player in baseball history, Barry Bonds. See how wise Tracy is?

This is a team that tried quick fixes and high-priced free agents and failed, miserably.

What I infer from this is that signing free agents is a bad thing because it didn’t work out for the Rockies. What doesn’t work for one team most definitely won’t work for the other 29 teams. And the Rockies’ failure with free agents doesn’t have anything to do with their upper management, scouts, or injuries, does it? Nah, of course not. Free agents earn more money than young Minor Leaguers, so all free agents have to put up better numbers. Exhibit A: Alex Rodriguez, abysmal failure.

It’s a team that got caught up in overanalyzing statistical analysis and failed, miserably.

Notice in the article how Tracy illustrates how the Rockies used statistical analysis and then showed why it didn’t work out. No wait, that never happened.

Finally, general manager Dan O’Dowd, took a step back. He reshaped his front office, bringing in some old-school baseball minds to go with the new analytic types.

Yes, those smart old-school guys that measure everything in terms of a pitcher’s win-loss record and a hitter’s batting average. Those guys actually watch the games! Their analysis cannot be wrong, since it is based on human perception, which, as we all know, is perfect. Isn’t that why eyewitness testimony alone is enough evidence to convict a criminal?

Hey, anyone want to bunt that runner over to second base with no one out? That’s such a winning play. I know because an old-school guy told me so. Run expectancy charts? Feh!

Fifteen of the 25 players on their postseason roster are home-grown, tops among the postseason teams.

This is an excellent cherry-pick. I can do the same thing coming from the opposite direction. 19 of the 25 players on the post-season roster of the Boston Red Sox are not home-grown. Everyone: don’t home-grow your talent!

And they [won 21 of 22 games; the Wild Card; the NLDS; the NLCS] as a team.

As opposed to those un-home-grown Red Sox, who won the AL East as individuals. When the Red Sox were jumping up and down on the mound after clinching the East, you could hear Jason Varitek screaming, “Yay me!” and see Jonathan Papelbon holding a giant foam hand with “I’m #1!” written on it.

While Arizona manager Bob Melvin sits back and watches like he’s in spring training, making sure people get their work in[…]

While Melvin’s D-Backs are indeed a fluke (check out their run differential), this snipe at Melvin is unwarranted. I’m sure Tracy knows this, but the D-Backs won their division with a 90-72 record, best in the National League. I’m pretty sure Melvin doesn’t approach any game like a spring training game, let alone one in the post-season. And, if anything, Melvin is a genius with his bullpen management.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle sees a chance to take command against an obviously less-than-full-speed Micah Owings. So with two out and two on, he sends up Smith to hit for rookie Franklin Morales, even though Morales had thrown only 64 pitches and allowed only one run.

Smith fights off a pitch up and in, sends it the opposite way, just inside the left field line for a two-run double.

What Tracy fails to mention is that this hit was one of those “lucky” hits that hitters sometimes get. Smith is left-handed, the pitcher Micah Owings is right-handed, so what do you expect most left-handed hitters do when they get a pitch right over the middle of the plate, like Smith did? Pull? Of course not. We always expect a weak blooper down the left-field line! (You can watch the hit here, titled “Smith’s two-run double”)

Gosh, that Smith is so clutch. That hit he got to set up Kaz Matsui’s grand slam in Philadelphia in the NLDS? A screamer right down the third base line (click here to see it under Oct. 4 titled “Smith’s infield single”).

There you go, folks. Another fine example of great journalism by a sportswriter. Stick to rodeos, Trace.

MLB in Cahoots with Criminals

If it wasn’t already blatantly obvious by their sickeningly frequent advertising, State Farm is, of course, a top sponsor of Major League Baseball. As such, State Farm plastered its name and logo all over AT&T Park at this year’s All-Star festivities in San Francisco. On MLB’s website, you couldn’t watch a 15-second highlight this season without having to sit through that tired commercial where a man reminisces about Hank Aaron, his father, and his childhood. Touching, because State Farm cares.

Just kidding. If they really cared, would they be screwing the victims of Hurricane Katrina out of policy payments? As Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee report from ABCNews.com:

State Farm Insurance supervisors systematically demanded that Hurricane Katrina damage reports be buried or replaced or changed so that the company would not have to pay policyholders’ claims in Mississippi, two State Farm insiders tell ABC News.

[…]

[Kerri and Cori Rigsby] say they saw supervisors go to great lengths to pressure outside engineers to prepare reports concluding that damage was caused by water, not covered under State Farm policies, rather than by wind.

They say reports that concluded that damage was caused by wind, for which State Farm would have to pay, were hidden in a special file and new reports were ordered.

Don Barrett of the Scruggs Katrina Group goes over an extensive list of State Farm’s misdeeds.

Remember State Farm’s legendary jingle, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”? Now it’s ironic.

In this highly-corrupt era of capitalism we find ourselves in here in the United States, it would be remarkable to see Major League Baseball, a huge business, do the right thing by severing its ties with State Farm. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Instead, what both companies can do is have all of the proceeds from the All-Star festivities, for the duration of the contract, be given to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast. For years, we saw Century 21 give away houses at the Home Run Derby to people who, presumably, did not need a new house. State Farm could do them one better by giving houses to people who really need houses.

That, I think, is a reasonable proposition.

Crashburn Alley Itinerary and Anniversary

Since the Phillies’ season is officially over, and since I focus mainly on the Phillies, things will slow down slightly in terms of content posted here. I haven’t posted since October 1 (mostly since my thoughts on the Phillies’ collapse are pretty much the same as most of the other Phillies bloggers out there) but I do plan to put up a few thorough pieces right after the World Series on the Phillies’ work to be done in the off-season.

That will come in installments following the conclusion of the World Series, when the wheeling and dealing officially begins. I’ll try to stick to the schedule of putting up one new post per day highlighting each position and what the Phillies can do to improve.

Other than that, expect a slightly higher amount of non-sports-related topics until about March, when spring training exhibition games begin.In the meantime, I might create some “segments” like a video of the day.

On another note… today is the two-month anniversary of Crashburn Alley! I had been writing on the Internet, to my own website hosted by Tripod and to the FOX Sports blogs, for years prior to my purchasing of this domain, but I never really “blogged” (interacted with other writers, networked, etc. besides on FOX Sports) and I have to say that it was a huge mistake not to jump in sooner. I have been fortunate enough to associate with a bunch of great bloggers (you can find them in my blogroll to the right) who have been exceptionally helpful to me.

I have even been so fortunate as to have my work featured on FOXSports.com’s main MLB page and on FOX Funhouse. Admittedly, my writing shouldn’t lay side-by-side with the work of writers like Dayn Perry, but I’m not complaining.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been gracious enough to put up with me, a blogging newbie, and I look forward to keeping this thing going for a long time. Hopefully, that “long time” includes witnessing a Phillies World Series championship at least once (I can dream).

Phillies Surmount 500-to-1 Odds Against — UPDATED

You read right. 500-to-1. They were that much an underdog on September 12, seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East (Baseball Prospectus goes over some of the biggest collapses here, and mentions this year’s playoff hunt).

Today, on October 1, the Mets are officially out of the playoffs (the second-worst collapse in baseball history, after the 1964 Phillies and the worst since divisional play began in 1969), while the Phillies are officially in for the first time since 1993.

I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine the vicious rash of injuries the team has endured. I have also mentioned the insane luck against them when they lost to the Braves on September 5. And I have mentioned how many games the bullpen has blown.

And hell, even I was disheartened at one point. But I’m a fan of the Phillies — can you blame me?

The 500-to-1 odds really undershoots what the Phillies did, though.

  • They lost to cancer the one man most emblematic of the Phillies franchise — John Vukovich — on March 8 and wore “VUK” on their sleeves all season.
  • Jayson Werth thought his baseball career might have been over before he signed with the Phillies.
  • Before the season started, Jimmy Rollins declared that the Phillies were “the team to beat” and they started off 4-11.
  • Manager Charlie Manuel berated “journalist” Howard Eskin and was on the “hot seat” until about mid-season.
  • The coaching staff acted rashly and moved their then-ace Brett Myers to the bullpen to pitch the 8th inning (when Tom Gordon went down with an injury, Myers moved to closer).
  • Ryan Howard, the reigning NL MVP, had a horrible April (.390 SLG) and then missed two weeks from May 10 to 24.
  • Pat Burrell had a mind-bogglingly awful first-half of the season (.408 SLG).
  • They started the season with six starting pitchers (Garcia, Lieber, Hamels, Eaton, Myers, Moyer). By season’s end, only one of them would not spend a day on the disabled list — the 44-year-old, who ended up pitching Sunday’s game, the biggest Phillies game in 14 years. In addition, the Phillies set a club record for most pitchers used in a season (28).
  • More than a month after moving Myers to the bullpen, he got injured closing out a game in Florida and missed the next two months. By season’s end, nine Phillies have recorded saves (Myers, Alfonseca Gordon, Condrey, Madson, Mesa, Rosario, Durbin, Ennis).
  • Wes Helms showed himself to be a free agent bust, and saw his playing time significantly reduced in the last two months in favor of the offense of Greg Dobbs and defense of Abraham Nunez.
  • The franchise reached 10,000 losses on July 15.

And despite ALL of that…

  • The Phillies won the most games in a season (89) since 1993 (97).
  • Jimmy Rollins, en route to a possible and likely NL MVP award, recorded the fourth 20 2B/20 3B/20 HR/20 SB season in baseball history, joining Curtis Granderson (also achieved this year), Willie Mays, and Frank Schulte. In addition, he played in all 162 games, and set records in at-bats and plate appearances, surpassing Willie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, respectively.
  • Pat Burrell followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with at least 30 HR for the third time in his eight-year career.
  • Ryan Howard followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with 47 HR and led the National League with 136 RBI.
  • The Phillies overcame the one-month loss of then-MVP candidate Chase Utley to a hand injury when Pat Gillick made a quick acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi, who instantly took to the red pinstripes.
  • The Phillies overcame the three-week loss (and light use following his return) of Shane Victorino, and the six-week loss of Michael Bourn (both lost in the same game in Chicago) with the help of Jayson Werth (.950 second-half OPS), who at one point hit safely in nine straight at-bats, breaking Pete Rose’s mark of 8 at-bats.
  • The starting rotation changed from Hamels, Moyer, Lieber, Garcia, and Eaton at the start of the season to Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Lohse, and Eaton by season’s end. Kendrick is a solid candidate for some third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
  • J.C. Romero put up an insane 369 ERA+. A 100 ERA+ is considered league-average.
  • The Phillies led the league in humanitarian efforts.
  • In their campaign against the Mets, the Phillies beat them in eight consecutive games, including sweeps of a four-game series in Philadelphia and a three-game series in New York.
  • 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, born in Sellersville, PA, pitched the biggest game for his hometown team since 1993. He went 5 and one-third innings, giving up only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out six.

There were far too many great storylines for this year’s Philadelphia Phillies, and far too much going against them. Yet they persevered. It couldn’t have happened to a more likable group of guys or a more deserving group of fans.

Advantage: Phillies

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies play a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner at Coors Field tonight. The Padres will send Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy (176 ERA+) to the mound to face Rockies starter Josh Fogg (99 ERA+).

This is beneficial for the Phillies for a few reasons.

  • Both teams will be at the disadvantage of having played an extra game, adding to the risk of injury, and adding to the already high level of fatigue in most of the players.
  • If the Padres win, they will have burned their “ace in the hole” in Peavy until at least Game 3 of the NLDS. It’s even more beneficial when you consider that the Padres’ starting rotation hasn’t been great. Chris Young, for example, has a 5.96 ERA since returning from his injury. Meanwhile, the Phillies will have their ace, Cole Hamels, pitching Game 1 and likely Game 4.
  • While not a long flight, the Padres are at another disadvantage for having to go on the road. The Phillies get to rest until Wednesday.

Give ’em Credit

The Phillies’ 2007 run at the post-season will forever be linked to the biggest divisional collapse in baseball history by the New York Mets. Due to this fact, the Phillies will likely not be given much credit for winning themselves so much as winning by default because of the Mets’ inadequacies.

The Phillies played .623 baseball in August and September, and, as mentioned, beat the Mets in eight consecutive games. Not only was this due to the Phillies’ league-best offense, but the settling down of the pitching staff. They had their occasional bad games, but nothing like the first half when it was commonplace. Since September 13, the Phillies have given up 68 total runs in those 17 games, an average of exactly 4 runs per game, more than a full run better than their seasonal average of 5.07 runs per game.

While the Mets definitely were in a position to cinch the deal in the NL East, let’s give credit where credit is due — to the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Yahoo! has some great pictures from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

The Phillies website has some great video footage.

When Words Are Enough

The blogosphere’s reaction to the Phillies and the Mets, looking towards the post-season:

When Words Are Too Much

From SI.com:

[…]Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang “High Hopes” over the public address system.

You have to have seen and heard it to appreciate it. Kalas won’t be on American Idol any time soon, but it was a moment where every one of his off-key notes sounded infinitely harmonic.

Please advise me if a video of this is posted on the Internets!

CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE: Thanks to an E-Mailer, here is the Harry Kalas video!

Smoltz and CBP to Seek Counseling Together

As I’ve chronicled here and here, the Braves are far and away the best… at whining. They tend to do it a lot when two stars align: the Braves are playing in Philadelphia, and John Smoltz starts one of those games.

They did indeed align, and as expected, Smoltz whined after the game about the Phillies’ home ballpark.

Last night, the Phillies beat the Braves 6-4 and moved into a tie for first place with the ever-so-slightly collapsing New York Mets, simultaneously eliminating the Braves from playoff contention.

The Phillies needed to make no outs in putting up a four-spot in the first inning off of Johnny Boy.

NL MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins swung at Smoltz’s first pitch of the game and singled up the middle.

Speedster Shane Victorino, making his first start in a week, followed with a bunt down the third base line. Smoltz, rushing, threw errantly to first baseman Mark Teixeira and the ball rolled around in foul territory in right field. Rollins came around to score, and Shane Victorino landed at third base.

Chase Utley then hit a routine grounder to Teixeira, but he booted it, allowing Victorino (who was not going on contact) to score, and Utley to reach first base safely. And, as all the highlights have shown, Ryan Howard torched a Smoltz “didn’t really slide” slider for a line drive two-run home run down the right field line.

Smoltz, ironically, did not whine about this homerun (perhaps because the pitch was a mistake), but just in case he does whine about it, let’s get the facts out of the way. Howard’s home run would have gone out of Turner Field, too.

Admittedly, my method for proving this is rather rough (hey, Hit Tracker hasn’t put it up yet), but if MLB Gameday is in any way accurate, then it should at least drive the point home.

Howard CBP HR

In the above screenshot, we see where Howard’s home run landed in last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. I will lay this on a screenshot of Turner Field.

Turner Field

I superimposed Turner Field on Citizens Bank Park, aligning them at home plate, and, indeed, Howard’s HR would have gone out in Atlanta, too:

Burrell TF HR

Smoltz didn’t whine about Howard’s hit, though. He whined about Burrell’s third-inning two-run (eventually game-winning) home run. From the Braves website:

Burrell’s ball isn’t a home run. But that’s just what this park can do for you. You get the ball in the air and you can get lucky. Obviously, they feast off it.

I’ll use the same rough experiment.

Burrell at Citizens Bank Park…

Burrell CBP HR

Burrell if he hit it at Turner Field…

Burrell TF HR

[Start Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

Still a homer, John. Your claims are unfounded.

It couldn’t have been that you left a slider up in the zone (you can watch the home run here, under Thursday, September 27). And it couldn’t have been that Burrell put a good swing on the ball.

Six runs (five earned) in four innings. It’s got to be the ballpark.

You, Teixeira, and Kelly Johnson played superb defense throughout the game, right?

And if the ballpark is such a beacon for home runs, then your bullpen most definitely would not benefit from it right? It’s not like your bullpen pitched 5 scoreless innings of relief last night, allowing only two hits and two walks.

[End Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

As the Braves find themselves watching the playoffs from home for the second year in a row, after 14 consecutive seasons of watching them first-hand, they might need to learn how to cope.

Phillies fans are always available to tell you how to deal with it.

The Most Exciting Three Days of the Season

Here are the match-ups for the Mets and Phillies as they begin the final regular season series with the Marlins and Nationals, respectively:

Friday, September 28

WAS (Redding, 123 ERA+) @ PHI (Hamels, 129 ERA+)

FLA (Kim, 79 ERA+) @ NYM (Perez, 128 ERA+)

Saturday, September 29

WAS (Chico, 92 ERA+) @ PHI (Eaton, 72 ERA+)

FLA (Seddon, 62 ERA+) @ NYM (Maine, 105 ERA+)

Sunday, September 30

WAS (Bergmann, 101 ERA+) @ PHI (Moyer, 89 ERA+)

FLA (Willis, 82 ERA+) @ NYM (Glavine, 103 ERA+)

The pitching match-ups certainly favor the Mets, but you never know.

In the Event of a Tie

Per the Phillies website, here’s how the tie-breakers will go down, if they occur:

  • If there’s a five-way tie — yes, it’s possible — with the Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, New York and Philadelphia kick off the party with a one-game playoff on Monday at Citizens Bank Park to determine the NL East winner.
  • Meanwhile, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres then grapple for the NL West. Colorado, by virtue of the best head-to-head record among those three, could choose whether to play two games at home or one game on the road.
  • Once the divisions are settled, the remaining trio must determine the NL Wild Card, starting another three-team playoff on Wednesday and Thursday. Colorado, if involved, would again have the best head-to-head record, and choose between two home games or one road game.
  • If it’s an NL West club, the Wild Card winner would start the playoffs in either New York or Philadelphia. If it’s an NL East team, the NL West winner hosts.

Gillick Done After 2008

Phillies GM Pat Gillick has impeccable timing. With a week left in the regular season, and with his team in a position to earn a playoff berth, he dropped the bombshell that he won’t be returning to the Phillies after the 2008 season, when his contract expires.

Pat Gillick

Even though he succeeded Ed Wade as GM of the Phillies, Gillick hasn’t enjoyed any popularity while in Philadelphia, and it’s justified. The blunders that have occurred under Gillick’s watch have done more to set the Phillies back than to set them ahead.

He let Brett Myers make his next start following his domestic abuse episode in Boston. He traded Bobby Abreu for rags. He gave Adam Eaton $24.51 million over three years and a mutual 2010 option worth $9 million. He signed Rod Barajas when he already had a catching duo of Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste. He failed to upgrade the bullpen — an obvious problem as early as the beginning of last offseason — and Charlie Manuel has had to work with relievers found off the scrap heap (Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, among others) and rookies (Mike Zagurski, Francisco Rosario, among others).

Gillick’s offseason moves have been awful, but his mid-season moves have been a Band-Aid of sorts (Jamie Moyer, Rick White, Tadahito Iguchi, Kyle Lohse), so he hasn’t been all bad, technically speaking.

After dealing Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, and David Bell in July of 2006, Gillick expressed no confidence in his team:

It will be a stretch to say we’ll be there in ’07. We’ll have to plug in some young pitchers and anytime you do that you’ll have some inconsistency. It’s going to take another year.

It makes no sense for Gillick to tell us all that 2008 will be his last season as a general manager. It makes even less sense to say that while his team is fighting for a playoff spot. With a week left, why not keep your mouth shut until the Phillies are eliminated from playoff contention, or from the playoffs (should they make it)?

Manager Charlie Manuel and shortstop Jimmy Rollins have already taken veiled shots at Gillick for his failure to give the team an adequate bullpen. Phillies fans don’t like him.

Just quit now. Based on Gillick’s quotes, it’s obvious being a GM of a Major League Baseball team isn’t his top priority, and if it has been that way for Gillick since he joined the Phillies, it’s evident. Don’t keep the team in limbo and give a reason for everyone to second-guess.

In hoping for Gillick’s ouster, we have to think about a successor. Speaking realistically, that successor will likely come from within the Phillies organization — namely Ruben Amaro, Jr. (who was candidate #2 for the Houston Astros GM job given to Wade) and Mike Arbuckle, both assistant GM’s.

Amaro presents a glass half-full or glass half-empty scenario. Is he a bad candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and is doomed to repeat them? Or is he a good candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and will not repeat them?

In an interview with Rob Neyer, Arbuckle gave one reason why he might be a good candidate:

Neyer: Do you have much use for the sabermetric approach that seems to be inching its way into baseball these days? Have the Phillies ever employed, or considered employing, somebody as essentially a statistical analyst?

Arbuckle: No, we haven’t. I do think there’s some value in that approach, but mostly at the professional level. At the amateur level, the competition level varies so much that you can outsmart yourself.

At the professional level, it adds something to the equation, but if you start saying that element is going to outweigh the experience of the scouts — most of the time, multiple scouts have seen the player you’re talking about — then you can get in trouble. I do think it’s a good supplementary tool, if you’re going to make a deal, that may clarify some gray areas.

While Arbuckle hasn’t hopped on the Sabermetric bandwagon as much as I personally wish he would have, he is at least open-minded to the “new school” method of player evaluation.

In an ideal world, however, the next Phillies GM will come from outside the organization, one who is not clouded by the notion that veterans are inherently better than their younger counterparts, or that you can slug your way into the playoffs without a solid pitching foundation, or that offseason acquisition mistakes can be patched up with July and August waiver pick-ups.

The most important aspect of the next Phillies GM is that he is not a yes-man for the Phillies front office, whose main concern is with the profit margins, rather than a .590 winning percentage over .540. The next Phillies GM cannot trade away valuable cogs because they are open about their displeasure with the management, as was the case with Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, both of whom were traded for next to nothing.

Rolen turned down a 7-year, $90 million contract from the Phillies because he didn’t like the direction in which the franchise was heading.

Ed Wade referred to Schilling as “a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.”

When we’re dealing with a city that hasn’t tasted a championship since 1983, dealing with key players that way is unacceptable.

So, here’s hoping that A) Gillick is fired/resigns after this season; and, B) The Phillies organization replaces him with someone quite capable of delivering.

While I’m daydreaming… is Mark Cuban interested in buying the Phillies?

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, I read the following via ESPN:

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick says he may or may not leave the team when his contract runs out next season.

[…]

“I think the reporter kind of got a little over zealous,” [Gillick — ESPN attributed this quote to Manuel, but I think they made a typo] said on XM Radio’s “Baseball this Morning” program. “We were talking about Charlie Manuel’s contract because it’s running out at the end of the season, and he asked about my contract, and I told him it ends at the end of next year and I’ll probably retire or do something else … it wasn’t any big deal. They’re trying to make a big deal more than it is. It’s basically my contract is running out and I don’t know right now. There is a possibility it could go past next year…”