The general consensus among Phillies fans recently has been simple; the Phillies are a clueless franchise stuck in 2008. Just about everyone in Philadelphia with an opinion right now points to Ruben Amaro Jr & says he’s a clueless General Manager hell bent on keeping the Phillies in a nostalgic fog. The truth though, is that the Phillies are not unlike just about every large market franchise in baseball right now. They are caught in a conundrum of expectations and have an ability to win because of their financial flexibility.
Have the Phillies made some poor decisions? Absolutely. Trading Cliff Lee to Seattle for basically nothing in return hurt them drastically. Signing Ryan Howard to a preemptive extension when they could have let it play out set them back flexibility wise in recent years. Filling a clear void in RF after Jayson Werth & Hunter Pence were gone with a platoon led by Delmon Young was wishful thinking at best. The Phillies have made decisions that are definitely worth outrage and frustration. These events should not lead to a misunderstanding of the baseball landscape though, the Phillies are a large market team with high expectations; and that’s the way it should be.
It’s easy for small market GM’s like Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, and Jed Hoyer to build a team. Small market teams will have a year here and there to contend, but expectations and pressure on them are low. If they develop a solid prospect, chances are once he’s arbitration eligible or due for a big pay raise he’ll be moved for more prospects. That’s the small market merry go round of operation. Their systems are always stocked, but they rarely contend to win it all, but just to have a chance. Billy Beane even admitted as much yesterday in trading for Jim Johnson saying it was a rare opportunity, “To go for it.” These teams can pick and choose when to go for it when the situation is right; the Phillies cannot.
Many Phillies fans recently have a shared a similar opinion; they want the Phillies to blow it up. They want all the aging veterans gone, and want the Phillies to rebuild and gain some depth in their minor league system to start over. Be careful what you wish for.
Simply put, this is not the NBA or NFL. A rebuild in baseball is not tanking for a year or two to get ‘that guy’ and get back to glory. It’s a 3+ year process that is more of a lottery ticket than anything. If you think the fan base of Philadelphia is patient enough for that, go back to the late 90’s Vet Days and remember how that went. Why rebuild when you can afford to develop and build at the same time? The Phillies do have young players with promise, and have more on the way in the future.
Yes, the mix of an aging roster, injuries, and two years of postseason-less baseball in Philadelphia has made us angry and frustrated. That should not turn to irrational thought though. With a two team wildcard system, some tweaks, and a healthy Ryan Howard, the Phillies can absolutely contend and go for it next year. Find a way into the playoffs & I’ll take my chances with Cole Hamels & Cliff Lee heading the rotation against anybody.
The Phillies have young talent. Dominic Brown, Ben Revere, Cody Asche, Maikel Franco, Jake Diekman, Miguel Afredo Gonzalez are all impact as soon as this year Major League Starters. Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, and Darin Ruf also have promise as at worst solid bench players this season for the Phillies.
The point? The Phillies have more talent on their roster than our frustration with recent results allows us to realize. Is this team perfect? Far from it. They have holes, and clearly if they don’t address them they will be a .500 team next season at best. It is early in the offseason though, and patience in the process should be there. There is a lot of burning left to be done on the hot stove.
The Winter Meetings are still a week away, and this will most likely be the Phillies best chance to upgrade their roster. It is likely that the Phillies shopping list of a set up type bullpen arm, right handed power bat in the outfield, and back end of the rotation starter are found in the next month or so. Until then, don’t trust the Phillies or Ruben Amaro Jr based on his track record and you’ll find good reason. You should though trust the process, and don’t let your frustration cloud the fact at hand that this team still has time to fill its’ holes. Judging this team right now is premature and emotional; let it play out. Not because you trust management or because you should give them the benefit of the doubt, but because this team is not as far off a playoff season as your emotional frustration may lead you to believe.