Archive for the ‘2010 Offseason’ Category
Now that Jimmy Rollins is back with the Phillies, it is likely no one will remember just how long it took to sign the longtime Phillie back to his usual spot in the Phillies’ infield. But Rollins revealed just how much this city means to him and his career by revealing just how close he was to leaving the Phillies.
The Milwaukee Brewers were in a race for the Phillies’ longtime shortstop at one point. They would ultimately decide on free agent Alex Gonzalez instead, but before making that move, had offered Rollins a four-year contract, much closer to Rollins’ request of five years. Rollins admitted it was a hard offer to pass up.
“If it was purely about guaranteed money and guaranteed years, I’d be wearing blue and gold in Milwaukee,” Rollins said. “There is a lure about Philly. I’ve been part of the foundation here. The fans have seen me grow up since I was 21. Do you leave that for money or do you stay home? This is where I want to be.”
Rollins only got a three-year offer from the Phillies, but considered the offer, which includes a vesting option for a fourth year, to be “a four-year deal.”
“I’m very happy with this,” Rollins said. ”I have a chance to continue my legacy in Philadelphia and win at least two more championships before the deal expires.”
Many thought Rollins was asking too much in trying for a five-year deal. In the end, Rollins played it up more as strategy more than anything.
“It’s a negotiation,” Rollins said. “You can’t start off low and work up. You have to start off high. Would I have loved to have gotten five years? No doubt. But from the beginning, I felt if I could get a four-year deal it would be great. This isn’t a four-year deal, but it’s damn near in my eyes. The vesting option is very attainable.”
It looks like Jimmy Rollins took the Cliff Lee approach to contract negotiations. He could have made more in Milwaukee for sure, but in the end, couldn’t bear to leave the city he’s called home for 11 seasons. With that, it’s back to the top of the order for Rollins, who will remain a fixture of the Phillies’ infield for the next three seasons. And that’s just the way it should be.
Andy Pettitte is retiring. Yes, after 16 seasons, the winning pitcher of the clinching game for the Yankees’ 27th World Series title is hanging up his cleats. And it may all be due to…Cliff Lee?
Lee and Pettitte actually have some connection in the past two seasons. Pettitte, in addition to winning the deciding Game 6, won Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. The only other repeat winner in the ’09 World Series: Cliff Lee, winning Games 1 and 5. Lee and Pettitte each faced their respected teams once in 2010, in the ALCS. Lee faced Pettitte in Game 3, and won. And now, according to SI’s Jon Heyman, Pettitte’s retirement may be due to Lee signing with the Phillies. When the Yankees were dubbed favorites to sign Lee right out of the gate in the offseason, Pettitte made in known that he would return to the Yankees if Lee was joining them. When Lee signed with the Phillies, Pettitte’s decision was seemingly known. Of course, many forget that Pettitte even said this, and were still awaiting his decision. As the season drew closer, the Yankees appeared to be moving on without him. Now they know they will have to. As Heyman put it, that’s a double whammy for the Yankees.
So, now to Lee’s side. Aside from having the Yankees’ number since being traded mid-2009 to the Phillies – going 5-0 with a 1.97 ERA, including his three Postseason starts against them – Lee made himself a fan favorite in 2009, so much that when he was traded following the 2009 season, the outcry to bring him back left the Phillies no choice but to try. Lee was at the Philadelphia Auto Show as one of the special guests to meet with fans. One young fan asked if Lee chose to sign with the Phillies because the Yankees “suck?” “The Yankees do not suck,” Lee said. “The Yankees, as a matter of fact, have won more championships than anyone. They don’t suck. I came here because I like the National League, my family enjoyed it here, and I really think it’s a better team than the Yankees. I think the Yankees are always going to be a good team, but at this point in time I felt like the Phillies are a better team.”
Lee’s choice to play with the Phillies for lesser years and money is a popular one in Philly. No surprise there. But, with the way Lee was embraced from the start, and now his choice to return, he’s elevated to rock star status. ”I knew if I ever had an opportunity to come back and be part of this again, I would take advantage of it,” Lee said. “I felt like that team at that time [in 2009] was the best I had ever played on, and I feel like from then until now, the team got even better without me on it with the additions of Roy Halladay, [Roy] Oswalt, Placido Polanco. I’m hoping we can go back [to the World Series] two, three, four more times while I’m here.” And with saying that, the room of fans erupted into applause and cheers.
Lee has certainly created a special bond with the fans in Philadelphia, and by falling just short of defeating the Yankees in the World Series in 2009, not only getting back to the World Series, but beating the Yankees to win it all, would be special. Of course, for so many players on the Phillies, defeating the Yankees in the World Series isn’t the goal. The goal is to win the World Series, no matter who the opponent. Lee shares the same goal, and still has the same dream coming here. Winning is everything for these players, who not only expect to get that opportunity in Philly, but also because they feel it’s the best fit. And if it means beating the Yankees, whether on the field or with offseason moves, well then, that’s just icing on the cake.
Charlie Manuel may have the easiest job when it comes to sending the next arm out to the mound, and even when it comes to the pecking order of pitchers to enter the game. Figure it as seven innings from ace numbers whatever, then Madson, then Lidge. How hard could that be? Choosing a lineup on the other hand, is a whole different issue.
For several years, as the Phillies’ core developed into what it is today, and became as powerful as they are by leading the league in essentially every offensive category, predicting the Phillies’ lineup, when healthy, was not a tough task. Jimmy Rollins was the leadoff man. Shane Victorino was almost a perfect fit behind him. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell seemed to be the perfect guys as the big guns of the lineup. From there, things would be different on ome nights, but usually you’d throw in whoever was to play third base, right field, and Carlos Ruiz, or whoever was the backup backstop that season, would slide right in at number eight. After all the injuries last season, there may never be a set lineup again with Charlie Manuel, not when you can make a choice with who’s hot and who’s not, or who needs a break over someone else. So, how do you translate the Opening Day lineup, or any game after that for that matter?
Most days, I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears the lineup were pulled from a hat rather than actually written out with consideration for who was going where. Obviously, we don’t think Charlie Manuel is going to randomly make up lineup and then make a blind-folded selection for that evening’s ballgame, but chances are one night, Jimmy Rollins could be hitting leadoff, third the next, and sixth the following. The best thing to do is analyze each spot and determine who could go there on any given night. So here’s our take on the lineup spots.
- 1. Leadoff – Primarily, we should still see Jimmy Rollins in this spot. He’s clearly still the best leadoff option the Phillies have. Still, Shane Victorino could easily see somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 games out of the leadoff spot. And who knows, with Domomic Brown being one of those five-tool players, if he blossoms into what the Phillies are expecting, he could even give those two a run for their money at the leadoff spot.
- 2. The Second Spot – Placido Polanco follows as the perfect number two hitter. Not saying that Shane Victorino couldn’t see time here, or even Rollins for that matter, but this is generally going to be Polanco’s spot.
- 3. The Third Spot – Again, this spot will generally belong to Chase Utley, but there are plenty of people you could see out of this spot. Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins each hit third at some point last season, and even Polanco could see the third spot.
- 4. Cleanup – This is Ryan Howard’s spot unless he’s hurt or off. In that occasion, look for either Utley or Ibanez.
- 5. The Fifth Spot – Generally would believe Ibanez gets the most games here, but could go to [insert right-fielder's name here], Victorino, Rollins, or Utley.
- 6. The Sixth Spot – This is where I think Victorino belongs most. His production is usually a bit greater than whatever is to come out of right field and what Carlos Ruiz produces. Production belongs closer to the middle of the lineup than the top or bottom. Of course, Rollins, Polanco, and whoever is in right field could be here too.
- 7. The Seventh Spot – This seems to be a great spot for the right field platoon. Whether it’s the right-handed Ben Francisco or the young lefty Domonic Brown, the lineup will be broken down enough that the separation of lefties and righties won’t matter by this point.
- 8. The Eigth-Hole – Again, reserved for the catcher of the day, more times than not, Carlos Ruiz.
- 9. The Ninth Spot – Reserved for the aces. Charlie will never, ever, hit a pitcher anywhere else in the lineup.
That leaves a lot of options for Charlie Manuel to consider, and a lot of different lineups appearing for the Phillies in 2011. Whoever takes the field, the Phillies have a group that an still win on any given day, and that will make the Phillies tough to beat no matter what their lineup is.
The Phillies’ rotation may be one of the greatest ever assembled, but at the same time, it is one of the most costly. To get Cliff Lee in 2009, the Phillies traded four prospects. To get Roy Halladay, the Phillies sacrificed Lee’s serviced to obtain three prospects, who since have made little noise in the minors, and traded three more valuable prospects, among them pitching phenom Kyle Drabek. To get Roy Oswalt mid-season last year, the Phillies sacrificed J.A. Happ, and two more prospects. So, what does it all add up to? That’s nine possible future Phillies, and a Major-League ready arm, all being shipped off to other teams. With that kind of cost, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Phillies look to bolster the farm system at the hands of one of these pitchers. But, if the Phillies were looking to deal, who would be the odd man out of this unbelievable rotation?
We’re going to make two very likely predictions on this one. It won’t be Roy Halladay, and it won’t be Cliff Lee. Halladay was the pitcher the Phillies seemed to want from the start of their great pitching roundup. When they got him, they made sure he was locked down for several years. He’s not going anywhere else anytime soon. As for Lee, after already letting him go once, they made sure they had a long-term deal to bring him back for good. With that done, don’t expect Lee to be moved perhaps ever again in his career.
Now to the possibilities, stating with the likely number three starter. Roy Oswalt may be the best trading option for several reasons. When you look at Oswalt’s contract, which expires at the end of the year, pending an option, he would need to be dealt with almost immediately. Unlike Halladay and Lee, who are signed for years to come, Oswalt’s future is very much undecided. Now, there is always that chance that he too takes a pay cut to help his team win a World Series, but perhaps that kind of crowd in the rotation for more than two seasons could bring about some clogging with the young arms in the farm system now. Think names like Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley, who are ready to go now it seems, but held back by the rotation. Oswalt could bring in quite a bit of young talent, as he turned his season around for the better with his arrival in Philly.
Next, the 2008 World Series MVP. Cole Hamels is the youngest member of the group, and while his youth is something the Phillies need to hold onto, it is also one of the more marketable features about a pitcher. His arm, despite some injury woes in the minors, had held up fine, and two dominant years currently outweigh his one sub-par season in the Big Leagues. Not to mention that he has been mentored under three of the best pitchers of today’s game. Now, to quickly counter this whole thing, I think the idea of trading Hamels shouldn’t even be considered. Hamels looked like a completely different pitcher last season, after his 2009 struggles, and benefitted from adding two new pitchers to his repertoire. If anybody’s stock is on the rise in this rotation, it’s Hamels.
That leaves one name left, and as of right now, Joe Blanton holds the number five spot. Blanton has a hefty salary, which the Phillies have expressed interest in moving. They also have their reasons for holding onto Blanton. This kind of traces back to Oswalt, whose option for 2012 is mutual. Not only, then, must the Phillies want Oswalt for 2012, but Oswalt must agree to pitch for the Phillies in 2012. How is this an issue? Oswalt’s not sure as of yet whether he may be retiring at the end of the 2011 season. That said, Blanton would rise into the fourth spot should the team hold onto him in 2012.
Whether moving a pitcher happens, or the gang gets a full season together, with rotations that seem one in a million, the chances they stay together for a decent stretch is rare as well. It may only last a year, but with the right results, it could be one historical year for this rotation.
The Phillies are already giving several players a chance to revive their careers this Spring, with minor-league deals going to Robb Quinlan and Matt Anderson. Add another name into the fold. The Phillies inked right-handed reliever Jason Grilli to a minor-league deal.
Grilli has spent the majority of his career with the Detroit Tigers, but you may remember him from his time with the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and 2009. He last pitched for the Texas Rangers at the end of 2009. He was out for all of 2010 with injuries. In his 8 seasons, Grilli is 18-18 with a 4.74 ERA.
Every year, at the start of every season, everyone makes their picks for who’s the favorite to win the World Series. But, very rarely do you find a team like the 2011 Phillies, who will step up to the plate in 2011 swinging for the fences. The downfall of it all is the worst part. Fall short of the ultimate goal, and in the eyes of all if baseball, you were the team in that rare occasion that stepped in with unbelievable expectations, only to fail in the end.
It’s a pretty harsh statement, and one that is often never properly judged. The measure of success is not based solely on who is the last team standing, and who holds the hardware in the end. The Phillies had the best record in baseball last season, something that must show that a team experienced significant success over the course of a grueling 162 game season. But, the real reason we’re even discussing this is because of how after last season, the Phillies are taking a slightly different approach.
Nothing in baseball is guaranteed, not even if you’re carrying four elite pitchers in the best five-man rotation assembled in quite some time. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Phillies were in familiar territory. They were supposed to win it all because of a three-headed monster on the mound. The ironic part was that they had a three-headed monster on the mound twice. You know all about H2O, but you may not know the other trio we are talking about. They never had the chance to get a nickname because they were essentially just a figment of our imagination. Cole Hamels was the only constant this whole time. Cliff Lee was going to head the Phillies’ 2010 rotation. Enter Roy Halladay. The Phillies now have a chance to bring another top notch pitcher to town. And they did, for the price of another top pitcher. With that, Cliff Lee was gone, and the prospect of having this great rotation wasn’t the same. But, the Phillies certainly learned that there would be a good reason to take a chance on winning it all, even if it came at a cost.
The experts had pegged the Phillies’ as World Series favorites if they had a rotation with Lee, Halladay, and Hamels together. Instead, they played half the year with Halladay and Hamels, before adding Oswalt to the fold. Now, with Lee back, they are in the same spot. This is what I like to call the Phillies’ home run pitch, if you will. The Phillies, by holding four big names in one rotation, are certainly going for it all. But, as we have warned earlier, what if this great rotation only lasts for one season? What if the group dubbed R2C2 is no more by mid-season? We’ll address the possibilities at another time, but you have to look at how one or even two of these pitchers could only have a handful of opportunities to win a World Series, this may be the best chance the Phillies have. That’s why this is their home run pitch. Fall short, and not only does it feel like expectations were not met, but the team could even grow weaker by the time Spring Training 2012 rolls around. Of course, that’s a long way off, and there’s no way to predict the kind of moves the Phillies will make, but knowing how hard it could be to keep all four of these great pitchers for an extensive amount of time with the lack of long-term deals for two pieces to the Big Four, chances are the number of chances the Phillies get with this group will be slim.
Regardless, the Phillies do boast an unbelievable rotation, and should be able to make some incredible moments in 2011. There will come a day when R2C2, the Phillies’ Fab Four, disbands, but until that day comes, at least we get to sit back and enjoy the magic it will bring.
Think pitching, and he’s likely the first name that comes to mind…well, from today’s game anyway. But, Roy Halladay possesses the same qualities that go with any great pitching name of the past. Think Hall of Fame pitching, and who do you think of? Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and of course, the man whose name is on the award that goes to the best pitcher of every year, Cy Young. And with all of these great pitchers of the past enshrined in Cooperstown, is there any chance we see Roy Halladay joining them? Chances are, we do, but here are reasons he will and won’t be getting a plaque in Cooperstown.
Perhaps the only blemish to Doc’s career thus far is that he hasn’t won a World Series. Granted, he hasn’t had many chances to do so by just making the Postseason, making his lone trip there last season. And perhaps the most interesting part of Halladay’s Hall of Fame plaque will be the team displayed on his cap. Halladay was a Blue Jay for 11 years. Usually, that’s enough to make you a Blue Jay for life, and get you recognized as one in Cooperstown. But, what if Doc wins a World Series with the Phillies? What if he wins two or three with the Phillies before he retires? We’re not trying to predict the Phillies as World Champs for three of Halladay’s last five years here, but does a championship weigh into the selection the Hall makes in dubbing a player a Hall of Famer to a certain team? In some cases, particularly Doc’s, it could. But, still maybe the best place to start is with the numbers.
Put the individual records and achievements aside – forget about the Postseason no-hitter, the perfect game. Those don’t make a Hall of Famer, but a Hall of Famer can make them. Bottom line: no-hitters and perfect games find the pitcher, not the pitcher finding them. But, take a look at certain numbers as well.
Wins and losses aren’t the most defining stat there is, but it holds a lot of the weight that ballot voters put into a vote. ERA and strikeouts tend to provide the most about an individual’s numbers. So, with that, we look at Halladay’s totals through his 13 seasons in the Big Leagues. Halladay has won 169 games, holding a 169-86 record. His career ERA is 3.32. His career strikeouts total is at 1714. So, after 13 seasons, with 169 wins, 1714 strikeouts, and a 3.32 ERA, is Roy Halladay a Hall of Famer? The numbers would say no, but think about Halladay’s career path.
In his first five seasons in the Majors, Doc was only a full-time starter for one of them. After those five years, Halladay had only won 37 games, 403 strikeouts, and a 4.52 ERA. Halladay’s sixth season was in 2003. Halladay won 22 games that season, had an ERA of 3.25, and struck out 204, the first time he posted more than 200 strikeouts in a season. He won his first Cy Young Award that season. With 2004 and 2005 plagued by injury, Halladay didn’t even hit 100 wins until 2007, his ninth year in the Majors.
This is where Halladay’s Hall case becomes weak. In each of the last five seasons, Halladay has won at least 16 games, including last season’s 21. There’s no denying that had Doc gone without his first four years in a struggle to make it, then had injury woes as his career progressed, he would surely be within 100 wins of the illustrious 300-win club. However, if Halladay pitches seven more seasons in the Majors, and averages 20 wins a season, he would reach the 300 win milestone. Of course, trying to get 20 wins every season, give or take a few is very difficult, and with the unknowns like injuries and the downslope that comes with age, there are no guarantees that Doc hits 300. So, set the bar at something Doc could have by the end of his career, say 250 wins. Is that enough for Halladay? The answer: probably.
When you look at the criteria that go with being a Hall of Famer, there is so much more than just numbers. It’s about sportsmanship, work ethic, class, and contributions to the game off the field as well as on it. If that doesn’t summarize Doc, and his entire baseball career, I don’t know what does. He’s not one of those ego players, credits his teammates when they deserve their due, and is nurturing the young members of the team with the same knowledge that made him the elite pitcher he is. He’s humble in individual accomplishment, but recognizes his talent and ability in a means that he feels he owes baseball something in return. When it comes to everything away from the numbers, Doc easily deserves the nod to the Hall, because he is a Hall of Fame person.
The numbers essentially figure right out of the equation. If the game were all about numbers, than McGwire would be in the Hall by now, and Palmeiro would have a whole lot more than the 11% of votes he got in his first year on the ballot. If it was just about numbers, then Barry Bonds would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, as would Clemens, Sosa, A-Rod, and more. It’s the athletes, whose behavior off the field makes us question their morals as Hall of Famers that leads to this easy decision. Why shouldn’t a player be enshrined for being talented and an all-around good guy? It seems fair to make the case for a dying breed of players, as athletes are becoming more and more about themselves and their time in the spotlight.
Roy Halladay is one of those players who has enough of the individual accolades to make the Hall of Fame very early on in his balloting career, we’re talking somewhere between the third and fifth year. First-ballot Hall of Famers essentially need a reserved sign. For that, Doc won’t come close to making it in year one, or even year two. But, will he make it? There’s no question that the Hall of Fame man belongs in the Hall of Fame.
I was going to let this whole thing blow over, until I heard the audio from Howard Eskin’s show on 610 WIP today. Last night, on NBC’s local sports show, Eskin openly criticized Roy Halladay for not speaking with the media since the Postseason ended. Eskin’s comments were mainly his own venting towards Halladay’s ignorance of the media at a local autograph signing, which also featured Cliff Lee, Domonic Brown, and Charlie Manuel. Except for the fact that Halladay has issued statements and comments through other sources, not necessarily local, about the signing of Cliff Lee, and other issues with his offseason. Eskin claims that Halladay hasn’t spoken to any media, to connect him to the fans, since the end of the season.
Eskin’s criticism doesn’t anger me in the sense that we deserve to hear from players, especially players of Halladay’s level. Eskin called him one of the four best pitchers in baseball without question, and that maybe is just a wording to satisfy the sole fact that it’s arguable. For all intents and purposes, Halladay might as well be the best guy to take the mound in today’s game. The part that angers me is how he claims Halladay has to be forced to speak to the media about things like his Postseason no-hitter, how he won’t offer a comment to the media in between starts, and how he essentially makes himself invisible because he doesn’t want a camera in his face. First off, what do the fans care if Halladay has nothing to say in between starts? Aren’t we more concerned about who’s on the field, not off it? Perhaps the reason Eskin is begging for Halladay to step up to the microphone, and smile for the camera, is because of the sudden change that has evolved Philadelphia from an athlete’s nightmare, to the dream city for players. When the Phillies were a losing team, and the Flyers and Eagles being perennial playoff contenders who fell short, there were plenty of athletes who seemed more than willing to step up to interviews, and embraced the media. And the ironic part to the whole thing, is how there are still no media issues with the Flyers and Eagles. Notice that the Phillies are taking the heat on this. Could this be because they are the only team to actually win a championship in over thirty years? With winning being pretty much the only thing on the minds of the Phillies, they have taken a step to focusing more on the ultimate goal, not worrying about whether the media is able to connect them with fans. Not to say the other teams in the city aren’t focused on winning, but without a trophy to show for it, the media seems to give them a pass. The Phillies have assembled a great team, and with such comes great expectations, but those expectations shouldn’t include being forced to talk about the state of the team.
And by the way, nobody else is complaining about Halladay not talking either. In fact, when Cliff Lee signed, the first player to comment was Halladay. Granted, Halladay’s name was in the news for reasons having to do with himself, and how the Phillies were willing to adjust his contract in conjunction with Lee’s, but still, Halladay offered his thoughts. It was all we needed, and with that, we knew Halladay was excited about the great rotation.
So, it’s not about who’s talking. Maybe it’s about who’s not talking, because somehow, without saying very much, we seem to talk about Roy Halladay an awful lot. In case Eskin hasn’t noticed, he seems to be the only one with an issue with Halladay’s availability to the media, so in that case, this should just pass without much hoopla. And, if everyone wasn’t excited enough, there’s just three weeks until Spring Training, and Halladay was running at Citizens Bank Park this morning…in 20-degree weather…in shorts! If that’s not preparation, I don’t know what is.
Ruben Amaro Jr. has done a lot of great things since taking over as Phillies’ GM. After holding the mindset of signing the big offensive names, Amaro has turned this team into one that strives off pitching, by acquiring Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and then Cliff Lee again. And you probably thought the only way to acquire for big name pitchers was in a video game or fantasy league. But, Amaro’s work is a credit to the two people who helped shape him into a GM, one that has made plenty of good moves, and kept his team a contender.
Pat Gillick is going into the Hall of Fame in July, and for good reason. He’s taken three teams to the Promised Land as GM, including the 2008 Phillies. Gillick may actually be the GM that has done the least amount of work, regarding big names and signings, but he made some of the biggest little moves, the ones that take a team and put them over the top. Gillick started in November, 2005. Gillick’s first move, trading fan favorite Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Roward. Rowand was a key member of the 2007 Phillies that won the Phillies’ first division since 1993.
Perhaps Gillick is more responsible for who he let go instead of who he brought in. Midway through the 2006 season, he traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for four prospects. None of them made it with the Phillies. Gillick also acquired Jamie Moyer in a trade, and he left a lasting impression on the Phillies, to the point where if his lengthy career should end in the next year, he could be asked to take an internal position with the Phillies. Many of Gillick’s signings between 2006 and 2007 were actually flops. Here’s just a few: Adam Eaton, Freddy Garcia, Rod Barajas, and Wes Helms. In all that, he made another key signing, which didn’t seem like much at the time. He signed Jayson Werth to a one-year deal, and eventually, Werth lasted as a star player in Philly until the end of 2010. He signed Chase Utley to a seven-year extension, and when injuries got in the way in 2007, signed J.C. Romero and Kyle Lohse, two of the x-factors to the division-winning team.
Then, came the construction of a World Championship team. Among the signings between 2007 and 2008 for Gillick: Brad Lidge, Eric Bruntlett, and Pedro Feliz. Midseason, there were moves for Joe Blanton, Scott Eyre, and Matt Stairs. But, even Gillick can’t take full credit for that title. It was the man in before Gillick who put together the core of a team we can’t wait to see year after year.
Ed Wade was fired when the Phillies needed to move in a different direction. Wade could never seem to put the ace in the Phillies’ rotation, the closer in the Phillies’ bullpen, or the big bat in the Phillies’ lineup. While the Phillies’ closer job has been held by the same man for three of the four division titles in the past four years, Wade can take credit for the bat and one ace. Wade’s drafting set up this core, including the core that won a World Series in 2008. It started with Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins. It was bolstered with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels. And it was finished off with Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz. And, with the exception of Burrell, they are all still here.
Wade’s work in drafting is what is making Amaro have farm products worth trading for the big names, and pieces for the future when those big names are finished with their time in Philly. Gillick’s work of acquiring players who may not be the best known, but the best fit, is what is helping Amaro put a team that is considered a favorite to make the World Series and win it year in and year out.
The Phillies’ success in putting a team together shows how far they’ve come. They went from being lovable losers in 2000 and 2001, to a team with Wildcard potential in 2004, 2005, and 2006, to a perennial World Series’ contender from 2007 to the present. And perhaps the best part of that timeline is that the days of lovable losers is bested by the years of contention, and should be for some time. The Phillies have assembled their team perfectly, not by picking 25 guys that can do the job on Opening Day, but by making all the right changes, and keeping the players that have gelled together over the years here with lengthy contracts that give you the same team essentially every year.
But, it’s Amaro who needs to win the title more than any of the other GMs the Phillies’ have had recently. Wade was forgiven for every lackluster move and losing season with a World Championship in 2008. Gillick was the one at the helm then, no reason to even hate him. Amaro isn’t hated yet, in fact, for all the moves he’s made, he’s generally well-received here. But, if there’s nothing to show for it in the trophy case after these players’ contracts expire, then the attitude when judging Amaro’s success will be different. But, so far, there have been two playoff runs, a pennant, and plenty of big names not only signing in Philly, but flocking to sign here. Philadelphia has turned into a player’s dream city, when not too long ago, it was a nightmare for incoming athletes. Much of that credit, at least in the baseball world, goes to the three GMs that have put a winning team on the field for years now, and made the Phillies contenders.
The Phillies are a team that view age as nothing but a number. Need proof of that? Just ask the 47-year-old who threw two complete games last season before an injury derailed his chances to pitch in 2011. Even without having Jamie Moyer back with the team, the Phillies are becoming an older team. With every passing year, the core loses another year of their career, and as the Phillies look to usher in the younger talent, they seem to go in a different direction. Here are the players who will be at least 30 next season.
- Danys Baez (33)
- Joe Blanton (30)
- Jose Contreras (39)
- Roy Halladay (33)
- Cliff Lee (32)
- Brad Lidge (34)
- Ryan Madson (30)
- Roy Oswalt (33)
- J.C. Romero (34)
- Carlos Ruiz (32) (Today! Happy Birthday Chooch!)
- Brian Schneider (34)
- Ryan Howard (31)
- Placido Polanco (35)
- Jimmy Rollins (32)
- Chase Utley (32)
- Wilson Valdez (32)
- Ross Gload (34)
- Raul Ibanez (38)
- Shane Victorino (30)
Now, with many of them sitting at around 30-32, there is plenty of time left for success, and keeping things at the status quo with the roster. Many people consider the prime of a player’s career to be around the ages of 30-34, in which case, the Phillies have many players sitting right in their prime. Bottom line here is that this team is full of experience. Most of them have been there, either with this team or another. When it comes to the Postseason, and striving to win World Series, experience is one of the best things to have on your side. That clearly showed during the NLDS, when a Reds’ team filled with Postseason rookies fell to the playoff veterans on the Phillies. Look at that list, and think about the players who have been to at least two of the Phillies’ four Postseason runs since 2007. The core was there; Utley, Howard, Rollins, Victorino, Ruiz, Hamels, and so on. Cliff Lee, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, Jose Contreras, and Placido Polanco all had previous playoff experience, or gained more before returning. That’s the case for Polanco and Lee. Lidge, Oswalt, Contreras had all pitched in a World Series game before arriving in Philly. Lee made his Postseason debut here, but pitched in a second straight World Series, this time with the Rangers. After Polly’s first stint here, he made a World Series’ run with the Tigers. And aside from the members who went the distance with the Phillies in 2008, there are so many players coming and going that haven’t won a ring yet, that want it bad enough, that keep the drive going despite the experience. Roy Halladay came here for that chance. After falling short two seasons in a row, Cliff Lee is banking on the Phillies to give him the best chance. Roy Oswalt is hoping to get the ring he could get when the Astros were a perennial contender. Polanco’s only chance ended thanks to the 2006 Champion Cardinals. And then there’s players like Ibanez, Schneider, Gload, and Valdez, who haven’t even come close to a World Series before joining the Phillies. Ibanez played in the Fall Classic in 2009. Schneider, Gload, and Valdez are hoping they can help take the Phillies there, albeit as bench players.
The experience factor is what will keep the Phillies’ afloat. In a season like that of 2010, it took that same experience to keep the Phillies in a playoff race, and capture their fourth straight division title. In 2011, it could take them even farther.