Is Ruben Amaro Jr. done assembling his 25 man roster for the 2014 season? I thought they’d pursue a late inning reliever such as Edward Mujica, who recently signed with the Red Sox for two years, $9,500,000. There are still some experienced late inning relievers on the market such as Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and The Beard, Brian Wilson, but I’m getting a sense the major moves have all been made. Wait, what major moves? Resigning 35 year old Carlos Ruiz to a ridiculous three year deal for $26,000,000 and the almost as ridiculous signing of 36 year old Marlon Byrd, coming of a career year to a two year deal for $16,000,000. Is that it? I know they signed a couple of sub $1,000,000 players but is the winter meetings merely a formality for the Phils GM? Is it cocktails and bullshitting next week for one of the games worst GM’s? I’m beginning to think so.
If Amaro is done the 2014 Phils will go to war with the following cast of characters…um, I mean players.
C- Ruiz RH, 1B – Howard LH, 2B – Utley LH, SS – Jimmy Rollins SH, 3B – Asche LH (or if the moon falls out of the sky and Franco dominates Spring Training is it possible they’ll start the clock on his service time in what looks to be a meaningless season), LF – Brown LH, CF – Revere LH and RF – Byrd RH. The lineup has five players who will start the season at age 34 or older and the average age is 31.4 years old. Other than Revere there’s no speed, and unless Howard regains some semblance of his former self the only player capable of hitting more than 20 HR’s is Domonic Brown. Amaro is betting these older, injury-prone players can all stay healthy and produce at a high level this year. I couldn’t disagree more on both counts.
The resigning of Chooch to the 2nd highest contract a catcher received in free agency this year, then talk about him playing close to the career year he had in 2012 is another bad joke on us, the fans. Giving Ruiz three years was a horrible decision. He may be decent this year, and I emphasize the word DECENT, but Chooch has averaged playing just 113.2 games a year the last five years. He’s spent time on the DL in each of the last five seasons. Over the course of the past five years his slash line is .288/.371/.434 which is pretty good, but those were Ruiz’s prime years. In those prime years he still only averaged 34.2 XBH’s and 48.2 RBI’s per year. Realistically we can only expect him to decline at his age and with his injury history. The third year of his contract he may just be the highest paid backup catcher in the history of the game.
The Big Piece – what can we expect from him? Amaro keeps telling us he’s healthy and if he stays healthy can be a 35/115 player again. To begin with he’s a big guy playing on two bad wheels. He’s never learned the strike zone but got away with it when he was younger because he could hit a pitch out of the strike zone into the seats. If healthy all year I think it’s possible he can be a 35/115 player. I don’t have a crystal ball, but history tells me he won’t be healthy all year. His refusal to take hitting advice from Special Hitting Instructor Mike Schmidt in past Spring Trainings, and his lack of time in the video room as described by new manager Ryne Sandberg tells me we have a player who is set in his ways due to the tremendous success he experienced earlier in his career. He’s not that player anymore and his unwillingness to attempt being a smarter hitter tells me his production out of the cleanup spot will be less than stellar before he inevitably goes down again.
Chase Utley epitomizes everything you want from a baseball player. He works hard on his craft, always hustles, looks for any edge he can get, has a high baseball IQ and is a great example for the young players (the few there are) to learn from. The reality is that Utley has two chronic bad knees. This is a condition that cannot be healed with time or surgery. Utley did manage his knee condition very well last year, but either knee can flare up at any time and sideline the second baseman for an indefinite amount of time. Also age is catching up with Utley, as it doesn’t discriminate or play favorites. His slash line last year of .284/.348/.475 was in the top four of NL second baseman, but it’s not what it was in those prime years of 2005-2009. In that five year period Utley’s line was .301/.388/.535. Utley missed 31 games last year and has averaged just 108 games played the last four years. He’s no longer great, but very good when on the field. Problem is he’s on the field just 2/3 of the season since 2010.
One time team leader, MVP and catalyst of the Phillies Jimmy Rollins is also regressing with age. For the most part he’s managed to stay healthy and on the field, but he’s the anti-Utley when it comes to leading by example. Like his long time team mates Howard and Utley his numbers have suffered since entering his 30’s. The last five years Rollins has put up a slash line of just .253/.317/.397. The five years before 2009 those numbers read .286/.342/.468. Other than 2010, when Rollins played in only 88 games, he experienced his lowest runs runs scored (65) and 2nd lowest XBH’s (44). Including the 2010 season Rollins had career lows in HR’s (6), triples (2), OBP (.318) and SLG (.348). Father time has caught up with the trio of All-Star infielders the Phillies glory teams were built around.
The youngster in the infield is third baseman Cody Asche. Asche was a 4th round pick in the 2011 draft and moved swiftly and surely through the minor league system. He was called up at the end of July last year and got the bulk of the playing time at the hot corner the final two months. The jury is still out on Asche, but he could be a solid player at this level. Every where he’s been Asche has started off slowly and put up better numbers as time went on. Last year Asche’s line was .235/.302/.389 in the show. Asche showed good composure after struggling both at the plate and in the field his first few games. He has a line drive swing with gap power. He also looks to have 15-20 HR capability. Asche better play well because it’s expected that super star in waiting Maikel Franco will be hot on his heels this year and there’s no other place to play Asche.
In left field the Phils got a breakout season from Domonic Brown. Brown led the team in HR’s with 27, RBI’s (83) and SLG (.494). He still struggles with his defense in left by misjudging fly balls and making ill-advised attempts to dive for balls he has no realistic chance of catching. The Phils are willing to live with his defensive liabilities for what he brings to the plate. Brown’s detractors would have you believe he had one good month where he hit 12 HR’s and only 15 HR’s the other five months combined. I’ve watched enough baseball to know power hitters generally hit homers in bunches so I’m less worried about that, especially considering he finished the season with a better than respectable .494 SLG. The concern with Brown is one that runs through the older players on this team – can he stay on the field. Brown finally got his chance to play ever day this year. He missed 22 games this year to injury and has been hurt each of the last five seasons – whether playing major league or minor league ball. There’s a school of thought that says the Phils should trade Brown while his value is high, but I don’t see it. He’s still not arbitration eligible this year and per Phillie policy, despite his breakout season, he’ll only see a small raise.
In center field the Phils will bring back Ben Revere. After a rough April where Revere batted exactly .200 the speedy Revere caught fire. In 65 games from May 1st through July 13th Revere hit .347. Revere has a good eye at the plate but doesn’t draw walks because no one is afraid to groove him a fastball if they get behind in the count. I get it. Why walk the guy when at most he’s going to hit a single? In the 65 games where Revere racked up 78 hits only 11 of them went for extra bases. None of them cleared the fence. Defensively he’s still prone to take bad routes on a lot of balls hit to center, but with his speed he makes up for many of those misplays, but not always. What’s particularly galling about Revere’s CF play is the weakest arm in baseball. Teams will send their slowest runner from third on a ball hit to shallow center and the number of runners who tagged from 1st base and got to 2nd on balls hit to mid center field is unacceptable. For a player with great speed and a steady glove his dWAR was still negative last year. Revere can’t be the long term answer with his deficiencies in such an important position defensively, but he’ll be patrolling CF this year.
The big pickup for the Phils in free agency this year was Marlon Byrd. Byrd is penciled in to be the every day RF, but the 36 year old is coming off a career year where he hit 24 HR’s. They’re called career years for a reason. Usually a player never comes close to repeating that performance again. The reason I don’t include Byrd as a potential 20 HR threat is that he’s averaged 8.8 HR’s in his 12 MLB seasons and only eclipsed 20 HR’s twice. To expect him to do it in back to back seasons after coming of the best year in his career seems to be less than a 50% proposition to me. Byrd will be an upgrade over the nine different players the Phillies tried in RF last year, but he won’t be a force for the team. Batting out of the 5th spot he’s expected to protect Howard so the Big Piece see’s more fastballs. I don’t think Byrd strikes that much fear in the hearts of pitchers for them to give in to Howard. Byrd will have to earn that respect again, because a one-year performance doesn’t say RBI machine, despite the 88 he posted last year.
The payroll cost for the five veterans with guaranteed contracts is $67,500,000. Assuming Revere gets $2,000,000 in his first year of arbitration and Brown gets $1,000,000 in his final year of pre-arbitration (I don’t think the Phils will go that high but I like to work with round numbers) and Asche gets renewed for close to league minimum (around $500,000), the final cost of the starting lineup is $71,000,000
SYNOPSYS: So there’s your starting eight. What do you think? Last year they were 13th in runs scored. Will this lineup do better? We know there will be injuries, the question is how many and the severity of them. Anyway, until someone goes down this is who our Phillies will go to war with. Defensively I see three plus players – Rollins, Ruiz and Utley. I don’t consider any of the three as plus-plus. I see Asche and Byrd as average defensively at their respective positions, and Howard, Revere and Brown respectively all well below average.
Other than Revere I see very little speed. With a healthy and effective Ryan Howard I see a a lineup with average power. If Howard goes down or is no longer a 30 home run hitter they’re well below average in the power department. We knew there would be a lot of IF’S heading into the season with a roster this old, and there are. Unlike Amaro, I don’t see all these players coming close to their prime years or staying on the field most of the season. My opinion – they’ll struggle to score runs for the 4th straight year.
1B, 2B, 3B – Frandsen, 2B, SS, 3B – Galvis, LF, RF, CF, 1B – Mayberry, C- Nieves and 1B, COF Ruf
Kevin Frandsen just signed a team friendly contract for $900,000 this week. Ruben Amaro puffed out his chest and told every one how he was able to get the 31 year old Frandsen for less money than a 2nd year arbitration eligible player would normally receive. Why was Amaro able to do that? Because the reality is that Frandsen isn’t a very good offensive or defensive player. He’s very happy making $900,000 to play baseball, that’s why. It’s good that he plays three IF positions and as a veteran can get in a mindset where he can come off the bench a couple times a week to pinch hit. Other than the two solid months he gave the Phils offensively in 2012, Frandsen has a very mediocre career as a backup. His career slash line is .259/.316/.359
Freddy Galvis is the best defensive player on the 2014 Phillies. He’s probably a better defensive SS than Rollins at this point in his career, plus he also plays 3B, 2B and in a pinch can play LF. Galvis was considered the heir apparent to Rollins at SS before the Phils drafted J.P. Crawford. After just one season Crawford ranks as the team’s 3rd best prospect by Baseball America, but we could see Galvis getting some time starting at SS between Rollins departure and the time Crawford is ready. Last year Galvis had as many HR’s as Rollins in 395 less AB’s. Galvis offense still needs to improve if he wants to be an every day player. After two partial seasons with the big club the 23 year old Galvis has a slash line of .230/.269/.375.
John Mayberry Jr. was tendered an offer before the deadline this week. As a first year arbitration eligible player Mayberry is expected to make around $1,700,000. The Phils reason for tendering the soon to be 30 year old Mayberry was his ability to play all three OF positions and 1B. When questioned about the tender Amaro was also impressed with Mayberry’s ability to hit 40 HR’s the last three years in a part time role. Mayberry has been given several opportunities to win a full time OF job with the Phillies, but his inability to hit RH pitching has always crushed his hopes. He used to spank LH pitching, but those numbers have seriously declined the last two years. His slash line against LHP in 2011 was an excellent .308/.359/.595. Those numbers dropped in 2012 then in 2013 dropped again to .240/.296/.460. Although Mayberry plays all three OF positions it’s hard to say he does so with proficiency. His dWAR according to baseball-reference.com was -2.1 in 2013.
Here’s the signing that kills me, the Phillies new backup catcher Wil Nieves. Was it really necessary to bring in another 36 year old player who’s done so little in his 10 year career? His career slash line is .240/.283/.314 and he’s average defensively. Last year for Toronto he did hit .297 but only had one HR and 22 RBI’s in 206 PA. The Phillies will be his 7th team in 11 seasons. Why hasn’t he been able to hold on to a back up catchers job? Could it be the eight career HR’s in over 1,100 PA? Could it be he’s just not that good when you look at the whole package? I’ll vote for the latter.
The final bench job looks like it will go to 27 year old Darin Ruf. I’m still trying to figure out why Amaro would talk Ruf down publicly by saying he’s not an every day player. Amaro’s assessment could be on the money, but as a power hitting right hand hitter he may have lessened his value to an AL team that was looking for a 1B/DH type of player. Ruf is not an every day corner outfielder, on that I’ll agree. He may very well be an every day 1B/DH for some AL teams. In his first opportunity at playing regularly last year Ruf put up a slash line of .247/.348/.458. Not bad for his first time getting extended playing time. His HR per 20.9 PA is also appealing.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about teams interested in Mark Trumbo because of the rarity of RH power these days. Trumbo’s slash line last year was .234/.294/.453 – all below Ruf’s numbers. Trumbo is also arbitration eligible so he’ll cost more with less years of team control. Trumbo’s 34 HR’s is his selling point, but that comes out to a HR per 19.9 PA, about the same as Ruf’s. If Amaro didn’t want to keep Ruf, and it appears he’s never been in Amaro’s good graces, perhaps he could be moved for help elsewhere. Right now Ruf could be a valuable backup if Howard goes down or is completely ineffective against LH pitching again this year. He can also play the corner OF positions when needed.
The payroll for the five bench players figures to be around $4,400,000. Mayberry will be the only player to earn over $1,000,000 as Frandsen and Nieves have already signed for $900,000 and $800,000 respectively. Galvis and Ruf figure to be paid the major league minimum or a perhaps couple dollars more.
SYNOPSYS: This was an excellent chance to get a couple young players some much needed experience. The Phils average bench player is 29.4 years old. I would have kept the switch hitting, fleet footed Cesar Hernandez over Frandsen. The 23 year old Hernandez hit .289 in 121 AB’s for the Phillies and has been a perennial .300 hitter throughout his minor league career. Granted, it would help Hernandez’s cause if he could learn another IF position or two, but whose fault is it that he hasn’t?
I would have also promoted Cameron Rupp to be the team’s backup catcher and let him learn from one of the smarter catchers in baseball rather than bring in another tired, old, retread like Nieves. Rupp is probably on par defensively with Nieves and perhaps a little better, but he also adds some right handed pop off the bench. Last year Rupp had 14 HR’s between AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley. Other than Asche, who is the third baseman by default, as the Phils haven’t had a good 3B since Polanco in 2010, when will Amaro give a youngster an opportunity. Granted the farm system isn’t brimming with top prospects (hello again Mr. Amaro), but the few they have that may have a future seem to be over looked year after year.
Hamels – LH, Lee – LH, Gonzalez – RH, Kendrick – RH and Pettibone – RH
The top two spots occupied by Hamels and Lee are two of the 10 best starting pitchers in all of baseball. With both pitchers healthy last year the team went 73-89. Granted, Hamels had a bad first half but had a dominant second half. To illustrate what a waste of $47,500,000 these two pitchers will earn this year between them, let’s look at August and September of last season. Hamels and Lee were both cooking with gas and put up brilliant individual numbers. Lee had a 2.54 ERA and a WHIP of 1.013. Hamels had a 2.73 ERA and a WHIP of 1.000. It doesn’t get much better than that unless your name is Clayton Kershaw. So what did the Phils have to show for these dynamic performances? The team went 12-10 in their combined 22 starts. Each pitcher averaged over seven innings per start. Combined they averaged over a strike out per inning and had a ridiculous 7.81 SO/BB ratio. Seriously, what more could they have done? With five starting pitchers throwing as good as Lee and Hamels did in the last two months ALL SEASON the Phils would have finished with 88 wins and missed the playoffs. Take a moment and let that sink in.
Now we move on to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez who everyone hopes has the stuff to be a number three pitcher in the major leagues. At age 27 he should just be hitting his prime, but let’s not forget that Gonzalez hasn’t pitched competitive baseball in over two years. He has a wide assortment of pitches and the scouts who have watched him graded him out to be anywhere between a number two and number three pitcher. If that turns out to be the case he was a steal and a great move by Ruben Amaro. But something doesn’t feel right. The rumblings about Gonzalez have turned more negative than when the bidding for his services took place. First it was announced by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that the Phils had been selected by Gonzalez with their 6 year, $48,000,000 deal that with incentives could have turned into a seven year, $60,000,000 deal. Then came the physical and the long silence that followed.
It was reported that Gonzalez had bone chips removed from his elbow in Cuba and his elbow was fine. If that was the case why did his agent agree to a restructured deal for 3 years and $12,000,000? Does this pass the smell test? What am I missing? If everything is good why did Gonzalez agent walk away from thirty-six million guaranteed dollars? If they thought the Phils were just trying to bargain him down why not make himself available on the open market again? We’ll have to wait and see, but as the first local outlet to run with this story we’re still perplexed by the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing involving Gonzalez contract.
The fourth starter looks to be the not so popular Kyle Kendrick. In this case I have to break with the majority of the fans in the Delaware Valley. Starting pitching is priced ridiculously high these days. I think there’s many teams who would love to have Kendrick along with the projected $7,000.000 he’ll earn in his final year of arbitration. He’s a sinkerball pitcher in a park where fly balls jump out of the park. Until September of the past season he was never on the DL in his entire baseball career, including the minor leagues.
I have to admit I was disappointed when he pulled out of his final starts complaining of a sore shoulder. The MRI’s came back and showed nothing more than mild inflammation. I remember thinking to myself “What starting pitcher who’s thrown all year doesn’t have mild inflammation in September?” Now that’s water under the damn and I can only guess it was Kendrick making an excuse for his poor second half. Still, $7,000,000 for a pitcher who takes the ball every 5th day and pitched six innings or more in 70% of his outings is not a bad deal. All things considered there’s a lot of worse contracts for starting pitchers in major league baseball.
The fifth starter looks to be Jonathan Pettibone. Pettibone did a respectable job in that role before he went down at the end of July last year. He was 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA before inflammation to his rotator cuff ended his season. It was reported there was no structural damage and the 23 year old is expected to be ready when pitchers and catchers report in February. One thing the Phils would like to see out of Pettibone is to pitch a little deeper into games. To his credit the rookie only went less than five full once in his 18 starts. Eight of his 18 starts he went six or more innings and only once did he give the team seven full. Let’s remember we’re talking about a 5th starter here. Most teams don’t even have a reliable 5th starter and it’s done by committee as they search for someone to grab the bull by the horns and make the job his.
The payroll for the five starting pitchers is expected to be $59,000,000 assuming $7,000,000 for Kendrick. Barring an unexpected move this looks to be the Phillies starting five. Amaro said he would look to upgrade the starting pitching but I don’t believe that’s going to happen now. He may sign a reclamation project for some depth or some older, washed up pitchers for the same reason, but I don’t see any real upgrades on the way.
SYNOPSYS: With Hamels and Lee the Phillies have two of the top ten starters in all of major league baseball taking the ball in 40% of the team’s games. Gonzalez is a huge question mark that won’t begin to get answered until Spring Training games start. During his audition scouts said he slotted in anywhere from a two to a three. At $4,000,000 a year he’s a steal if he’s an average three. Kendrick is a serviceable four in my opinion. Fifth starters…your lucky if you have one.
I’d have liked the Phils to have signed a number three so everyone from Gonzalez on down could have been pushed back a spot and Pettibone could have started as the long man and first to jump into the rotation if someone went down. While still possible it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The lack of depth is a major concern. Tyler Cloyd is no longer in the organization and Adam Morgan is coming back from shoulder issues that shut him down around mid-season last year. Who do the Phils plug in when a starter goes down next year? Right now the answer is no one. We may see a Jon Lannan type deal before the winter meetings are over, but for all intents and purposes I think the Phils have their 2014 squad.
Papelbon – Closer, Bastardo – Set Up, Diekman – 7th Inning, Martin 7th Inning, Rosenberg, Lincoln & Garcia
Anyone who watched the Phils regularly last year knows how bad this bullpen performed. What’s amazing is it looks like there’s very little help on the way. It appears as if Amaro is going to use the same line he did last year. He said he expected some of the young pitchers who got valuable time when forced into action to step up. At least last year Amaro made an attempt to seal off the 8th inning by signing veteran Mike Adams.
Amaro had the right idea but the wrong man. Adams had just come off the worst season of his career and then had surgery to remove a rib due to the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). I’m hearing the Phils front office say things like they expect Adams back by late April or early May next year. I’d be surprised if he pitched before the All-Star game, if at all. The man is coming off three shoulder tears , two in his right labrum and one in his rotator cuff. If he does pitch I have zero expectations from him.
Here’s how I see the Phils bullpen taking shape as of right now. Righty Jonathan Papelbon will be the closer. Lefty Antonio Bastardo will be the set up man. Jake Diekman and Ethan Martin will combine to make what could be a very effective left/right flame throwing duo in the seventh. Both throw in the high 90’s and one of them may be the team’s post Papelbon closer. These four appear to be locks to break camp with the team barring injury.
The remaining three spots are up for grabs and my list could and probably will change with the Spring Training performances. As of now I see right hander B.J Rosenberg, who had an ERA of 2.45 on September 14 last year. In two of his last six outings, both against the Marlins, Rosenberg gave up a total of five ER in one inning of work. He ended the season with an ERA of 4.58.
Next up I’ll choose righty Brad Lincoln. Amaro’s going to need something to toot his own horn about and Lincoln is one of his few acquisitions this winter. Coming back to the Keystone state may just be what the doctor ordered for Lincoln. He was pitching very good for Pittsburgh as recently as 2012 before his trade to the Blue Jays. He never found his rhythm north of the border and was acquired for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen.
The last spot has to go to a long man capable of pitching multiple innings or even a spot start when necessary. The candidates include Jeremy Horst, Luis Garcia, Phillippe Aumont, Justin DeFratus, Michael Stutes. Ideally I’d like to see Aumont win the job because he has tremendous stuff. I just don’t know if he can keep his head on straight enough to capitalize on his God given talents. I think a change of scenery might be best for Aumont, but perhaps with a new pitching coach and a new manager he can finally pull it all together. I’d have to say with the requirements of the job, Luis Garcia is best suited to fill this spot. Seven of his 24 outings last year he went two or more innings, going 3.1 innings in the 18 inning marathon against the Dbacks on August 24th.
With Paps making $13,000,000 and Adams making $7,000,000 there’s already a lot of money sunk into the bullpen. Bastardo will make around $2,000,000 in his 2nd year of arbitration. To round things off let’s call it $2,000,000 for the other four spots – all being manned by pre-arbitration eligible players.
These 25 players will cost the Phils $152,900,000. Assuming Amaro wanted to leave a $5,000,000 cushion in the unlikely event the team is contending and he needs some payroll flexibility to make an in-season trade, that would still leave the Phils with approximately $20,000,000 to spend this year. So why do I think Amaro is done spending? After four years of leading the league in attendance the Phils dropped to 4th place in the National League. They lost 6,831 fans per game last year compared to the 2012 season. That translates into a total loss of 553,311 less fans.
On September 30th of this year we published an article on the FCI (Fan Cost Index). The average fan spends $76.53 per game when you factor in the ticket, parking, food, beverage and merchandise purchases. When you extrapolate the numbers the Phillies grossed $42,873,943 less in 2013 than 2012. That doesn’t include TV advertising (if that revenue was down – I would guess it probably was) and merchandise sales at local sporting good outlets, and for that matter around the USA and the world. When you factor in everything I would say it’s a safe bet the Phillies took in at least $50,000,000 less than in 2012.
We’ll put on our business hat for a quick minute here and assume the Phillies profit margin is approximately 40%. Yes, that’s a high number, but I have a couple of authentic jerseys (for legal reasons I won’t reveal the manufacturers names) that cost $249 each. I wonder how much they cost to make? If the Phillies are working on a 40% profit margin they actually netted well below $20,000,000 less last year than they did in 2012. At a 30% profit margin it’s still well over $15,000,000 less. These are dollars the Phillies ownership group realizes after expenses – hence the term Net Profits. We all know this ownership group isn’t in it for love of the game. it’s all about the Benjamins. The original investors bought the team for $30 million off Ruly Carpenter in 1983. In 2012 Forbes magazine valued the team at $849 million. That’s quite a return and doesn’t count how many millions they’ve pulled out over the years.
In an article published by Philadelphia Magazine in May 2008 titled “Philadelphia Phillies Owners: The Phantom Five” there are a few excerpts I’m going to pull out to illustrate my point – that is the Phillies are cutting payroll right now due to reduced revenues.
- Since the Phillies moved into Citizens Bank Park, their payroll is finally competitive, but in baseball, the only major sport without a salary cap, that only looks good in comparison to decades of woeful under-spending. When you buy a team in Philadelphia, there’s a pact that comes with the perks — especially when you’re handed more than a quarter-billion in city and state assistance to build your new home, complete with an owners’ box high above the third-base line, where losses are much easier to handle. Montgomery, his good friends in the front office and the Phantom Five are playing with some serious house money. It belongs to the tax-paying, seat-buying, jersey-wearing fans. Accountability to them is long overdue.
- The owners’ silence seemed to indicate what these baseball hobbyists really valued — when attendance declined, they simply spent less, literally setting the team payroll to match ticket sales. The business, it seemed, literally ran itself.
- If you stop buying tickets, they’ll simply lower the payroll. If the Phillies fall into the MLB cellar, the league’s revenue-sharing plan will keep them afloat. If a newspaper columnist or sports-radio provocateur leads a campaign against them, Gentleman Dave will take the heat, smiling all along, while the owners he protects stay silent, hoping everyone will focus on something besides wins and losses and a 1,600 percent increase in the value* of the team since they bought it. That’s the way the business of baseball is done in this town.
- All that familiarity — and the lack of pressure from the people who actually own the team — seems to breed contentment. The front-office turnover rate is amazingly low, despite tales of incompetent employees who appear to get pass after pass. “It’s a very collegial, friendly culture, and sometimes you need a bit of the other kind of medicine,” says a source close to the team. “It’s not a place where a general manager has a bad four-year run and you know he’s going to get fired.” ——–> continued next paragraph
- That’s a nod to Ed Wade, who may be Exhibit A when it comes to the organization’s lack of accountability. Wade started his career as an intern in the team’s public relations department, and eventually rose to assist the general manager. The fact that the team had just one winning season while Wade was in that post didn’t stop Montgomery from naming him GM in 1998. Over the next eight years, Wade compiled a record of zero playoff appearances and an overall winning percentage under .500. His tenure was so abysmal that fans started an online campaign, FireEdWade.com. And Sports Illustrated didn’t just call him a lousy GM — it named its “award” for worst executive in the National League after him. Still, Wade was a “Monty Guy,” and all six people above Montgomery in the Phillies hierarchy — the Phantom Five and Giles — were content to let him keep his job, year after year. A source close to the team says the reluctance to fire Wade — to hold him responsible for the team’s poor performance — is symbolic of what’s wrong with the franchise. “When you don’t win, you make changes, and you make hard calls,” the source says. “When you analyze their changes, they’re pretty soft. If you say ‘Fire those four fucking guys!,’ they say, ‘No, no, no.’ Who is held accountable?” In an organization where friendship is prized more than performance, the answer is … no one.
As you can see from these excerpts there’s no pressure to win. Everyone seems to think Amaro is on the hot seat right now. Him and Montgomery are loyal to one another, and as long as Amaro keeps singing the party line he isn’t going anywhere. I would imagine Amaro’s making a pretty nice dollar in his job as Phils GM. I don’t see him doing anything to ruin that gig.
* as of the writing of this article in May 2008.