Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Are the Phillies a John McCain Type Situation?

The latest rage in Philadelphia is to pound the drums to make a move- as the surging Mets have pulled within range, and Florida never really left.

But I think the Phillies are right not to panic. The Mets and Phillies have followed different paths to their current .540 winning percentages. The Mets have played .500 ball forever- and coupled it with a recent week and a half of 1.000 ball. I’m not exactly ready to dismiss the Mets of last year for the Mets of the last two weeks. Yes, it was disappointing to drop the recent three-of-four to New York. It let them back in. But this month’s 6-0 stretch against the Braves dismissed that club. I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t rather have the Mets, rather than the Braves, a half game out.

The Phillies path to .540 seems to be more "sustainable". They were utterly destroyed versus the American League. But that is over. Against the National League they are a re-assuring 48-33. That is exactly half a season- and projects to an outstanding 96 wins. You know, that is really good. The Phillies are going to get to 89 wins. They’re in the mix.

But it is not a lay-up. The Mets have a distinct payroll advantage. Put it this way: they probably pay Santana more than the Phillies do their existing rotation of Hamels, Moyers, Kendrick, Happ and Eaton. So, any realistic plan for Phillies “success” at least partially rests on the Mets multiple $10M+ payroll players underachieving like they have the last year or so.

If the Mets go on a tear and win two-thirds of their remaining games, there is no single trade the Phillies can make to keep pace. At their fundamental core, the Phillies are 88-win good- but not great. That has been true for half-a-decade now- and again, one big shake-up move probably isn’t going to change that. Being honest, other than throwing $15M at a Santana like figure- what obvious moves to get better have they missed?

The only one I can think of is burning their one quality minor league starter option (J.A. Happ) to replace Myers rather than Eaton. For the next dozen or so starts- plus a potential Game Three- there is no doubt in my mind who has more upside in those 100 innings. And it isn’t Eaton.

Look, if the Mets can get to 93 wins- or Milwaukee or St. Louis can in the wild card- we’re probably out. I doubt that will happen though.

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