I’ve spent some time following the Phillies this preseason it’s fair to say that they’re in line for a fairytale season. That fairytale unfortunately is Humpty Dumpty. The Phillies are a fragile, bumbling, egg seemingly bound to splatter across the city and truly stink up the joint if you’re a pessimist. If you’re not so perpetually hateful of joy, then they’re a wildcard contender firmly swaying on the fence. Either way, no one is comfortable.
At this point, everyone knows the story. A young team raised through the farm system came together and built a truly great era of Phillies baseball that arguably underachieved with one championship. Now that team is old, overpaid, and not nearly as likely to contend in October.
How unlikely are they to contend? ESPN figures the Phillies to be the second worst team in the entire league placing them ahead of only the Sixers-esque Houston Astros with a projected win total of 66 games. If you’d like to go with Vegas odds, the Phillies are projected in the ballpark of 77 wins for the year. In other words, it’s a good time to check out mytopsportsbooks.com.
However, the point of all this is not to discuss the problems of this year. In fact, I’m not interested in next year all that much either. I don’t care if Humpty Dumpty can stay together, I want a different fantasy–and it won’t be soon before long.
Why? The core issue of the Phillies problem isn’t actually age. It’s sentiment. the Phillies are an organization that has supported their beloved veterans to a fault. They’re the anti-Banner Eagles causing a frustrating, yet admirable quandry.
Therefore, the only way to quash the love-fest is to have it die. In 2016, the World Series era will have died a horrible death. Jimmy Rollins will be gone, as will Cliff Lee (likely opt out), Jonathan Papelbon (expiring contract), and Chase Utley (retirement). The Phillies will be left with nothing but Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard (then 38, 33, and 37 respectively) to symbolize a bygone era. Fortunately the Phillies will likely spend the rest
By removing those contracts, the Phillies will have freed up what is $64 million dollars in payroll this season. They’re currently spending $180 million total in 2014. Add in the value that management won’t spend on last ditch effort signings like AJ Burnett ($15 million) and Marlon Byrd ($8 million), they’ll have a ton of money to rebuild with a more stable foundation (and maybe a new GM?).
Also, by virtue of a low likelihood of success, the odds of the organization again hitching their cart to current players is unlikely. They won’t hold the same high-profile cache which leads to over-valuing your own players.
Am I fantasizing here? Yes. But since I can’t push Humpty Dumpty off the wall myself, I’ll dream of a clean slate.
So if you have not already heard, the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have signed right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett, 37, to a one-year $16 million deal today. The deal comes on the day that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
The move becomes the biggest of the off-season for the Phillies if you still want to consider it the off-season. If not, the biggest move is probably the announcement that Chris Wheeler and Sarge will be replaced by Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs.
The second article of a three-part series on the Phillies by Nick, stats by Hank. Check out Part 1 here.
Now seems like a peculiar time to look back on the Ryan Howard contract.
Howard is in the midst of some kind of resurgence. He has hit .313 this month with 12 extra-base hits and has even walked 12 times in 23 games, all adding up to an outstanding .965 OPS.
Everyone seemed ready to declare Howard’s days as a productive player long gone. However, he might actually have something left.
That’s why I think this is the perfect time to reflect on Rubén Amaro’s biggest failure.
With three years and $75 million left on his deal (including a $10 million buyout for a fourth year), we find ourselves pleasantly surprised that Howard is contributing anything even though he will be paid like an elite player for three more seasons.
Howard signed his massive five-year, $125 million extension in April 2010. He still had almost two full seasons before he was due to hit free agency.
A drop of production should have been expected. Howard was already 30, and aside from a strong 2009, his OPS had fallen every season after his monster MVP campaign in 2006.
But following 2009, Howard’s OPS continued to fall. First it dropped from .931 to .859 in 2010, then to .835 in 2011, the last year of his prior contract.
Simply put, Howard was paid for what he did, not what he was going to do, a cardinal sin for a general manager.
Just look at the nifty chart Hank made. (Click image to enlarge)
Howard may be hitting well now, but make no mistake, he was paid to hit the long ball. Howard’s home run production had been declining for years, well before he signed this contract. Even at the time he signed it, it was easy to see this extension was a major mistake.
Today is a important day for the Phillies for both long and short-term.
For those of you with the visual strength of a 90 year-old cyclops, the Phillies are playing the 22-36 Brewers today for the chance to be over .500 for the first time all year. Right-hander Tyler Cloyd will take the mound against Wily Peralta and hope to keep the good vibes of this season-high four game winning streak alive.
At this point in the year, it may seem like only a minor achievement in your quest for all of the gamer points in Call of Duty. For the team however, this will continue the trend of excising some nagging demons. Just in these last few games we’ve seen improved production at the plate from Ryan Howard, a spectacular performance from John Mayberry Jr., and a much needed win for Cole Hamels in a tight game.
All of this, paired with an easy June schedule, means that the team needs to capitalize right now if they want to be considered even a remote contender going forward. None of this “I hit the button and he didn’t shoot!” stuff.
The last few months have been pretty interesting for the Phills. For months they were considered an afterthought in the wildcard race. They were too banged up and lacking (to say the least) in the bullpen to play the high level of baseball that this city has come to expect over the last few years. Ryan Howard was still recovering from a torn achilles tendon, Chase Utley added another chapter to his ongoing saga of knee troubles, and Carloz Ruiz, arguably the Phillies best player this season, was dealing with plantar fasciitis and had not played for about a month and a half.
When the trade deadline approached it seemed as though even the Phillies had given up on the year. Fan favorite Shane Victorino was traded to the LA Dodgers for prospects and Hunter Pence, the major trade deadline acquisition from last year, was sent to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Nate Schierholtz and prospects. The Phillies were officially packing it in.
Then things changed.