Monday, August 01, 2005

We Love You Phillies!

Relax. First, anytime you feel frustrated as a Phillies fan- remember you are one day closer to the richly deserved termination of Ed Wade. Second, there is nothing the GM can do about the sun coming up and setting each and every 24 hours. Other good things are a day closer too: Leiberthal’s and Bell’s contracts rolling off, the “disappearance” of Padilla, Billy Wagner’s “surprise” re-signing with the Phils. I mean- where else is he going to get $21 million over 2 years? Maybe Boston, but that is even a worse, more filthy east-coast city in an inferior pitcher’s park. It is weird, but when you are an eight-digit closer, you have few options. Are you sure, say, even the Cubs could afford him?

This was a frustrating road trip for the Phils. They did not play all that badly- taking three out of seven on a swing that featured Houston and Colorado. Most times, you’d take that trip- and I wrote last week three would be acceptable.

But the one caveat I did throw in there was that 3-4 was okay- if the Braves only picked up a game. Instead the Braves went crazy- feasting on the Nats and Pirates.

Boy, the Nats have really undone some of the good feelings they generated. There is more than a little quit in that club right now. I don’t know if Robinson’s pressure, “I’m such a genius and good soldier that it must be the players’ fault”- style is such a plus now. Another problem the Nationals face is that “pitching & defense” concept, that was so effective for them, particularly in their ballpark, is such a tenuous model. If the pitching does falter, even for a pair of rotation turns, you’re abruptly stuck with a situation where your defense cannot help you. They can’t keep balls in the ballpark or out of the gaps- much. And unlike, say, Robby Gordon, the Nats simply don’t hit. That is how a once good team can go 3-13 or so real quick-like.

The Braves’ lead is now seven- and although the Phillies have lots of head-to-head games left- I imagine the Braves will continue to briskly check out. Seriously, complete this sentence: running "#1 starter" Leiber out there every five days is a plus when trying to make up seven games because….

That leaves the Phillies chasing Houston- another less than inspiring prospect. But they are only 2.5 games back- so they gotta try.

I think we all understand now Larry. But I actually think the Phillies more or less pursued the right strategy at the deadline. Only 2.5 games back, with two months to play, they couldn’t package Wagner or Lidle and effectively surrender. Plus, even if they had gotten a starting pitcher- who would you have removed from the rotation? Tejada is the easiest answer. But honestly, who has been the Phillies best SP lately? Tejada is the easiest answer. What starting pitcher was available that was going to win, guaranteed, say two-three more games than Lidle over twelve starts?

Wade couldn’t realistically justify moving multiple young players either- even if you could put a Zito-style pitcher on this team, it ain’t a given it’ll make the play-offs. Plus, I just don’t trust Ed Wade in this spot. Some guys have a knack for this sort of thing- and the Phillies’ GM candidly just doesn’t.

One thing the deadline taught yesterday was that teams are loathe to give up even unestablished talent. Young, ergo cheap, players are so much more important in roster formation now than even a decade ago- particularly on the “bottom-half of revenue” teams. Those teams will never afford the Thomes and Wagners- so they simply cannot even entertain moving young players who are near MLB ready. It would be impossible for, say, Minnesota or Oakland to move prospects for rented players- as the effective 25 year old player is their only chance for success. And if the Phils want to continue this strategy of having half their payroll in four-five guys- then realistically they need to keep other guys who can play in the big leagues on their first contracts.

"I'm renting Charlie- are you renting? I sure hope you're renting."