Before the 2006 Major League Baseball season started the Philadelphia Phillies hired a new General Manager, Pat Gillick. I was not overly thrilled with the hire, but he seemed to be saying the right things. He mentioned that a primary objective was to get the team 5 more wins in 2006 than they had in 2005. This would get them into the playoffs. It seemed logical at the time, the Phils inspite of their ineptitude finished 2005 only one game out of the Wild Card spot. Though I was puzzled with the trade of Vincente Padilla, the aquisition of David Delucci and Abraham Nunez, and the way they ignored our need for another starting pitcher in the offseason I was willing to give it a chance. I didn't see how the offseason made us better, but it's baseball. Strange things happen.
Onto this past Sunday then. Pat Gillick was standing before a microphone singing a completely different tune about this team than he did 6 months back. After trading Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle and getting 4 players back (none of which are expected to get time in the major leagues this year, Gillick said, In all honesty I don't expect this team to compete until 2008. So write off this season and next. Don't worry, it's only been 13 years since we have seen postseason baseball played in Philly. We've been through this before. A few things stood out to me about this though.
First off, this was a total salary dump trade and a terrible one at that. Let's look at the Baseball Prospctus analysis...
The name prospect in the deal is Henry, the Yankees' 2005 first-rounder. He's very much the kind of prospect Gillick can get worked up about, an ath-a-lete's athlete: fast, strong-armed, rangy and still pretty far from growing up to be a baseball player.
As Kevin Goldstein put it, "you're really betting on his athleticism--if it works, he's sort of a bigger Jimmy Rollins, if it doesn't, he's nothing." If this deal depends on Henry's panning out, you should have an idea of how much the package received from the Yankees depends on your ability to wishcast all sorts of dreamy things.
Which basically means that this deal is about the money saved, and whatever the Phillies use it on in the future. Even then, by failing to get value for Abreu, Gillick has failed in his responsibility to help his club, and has perhaps betrayed a fundamental disinterest in the team he inherited from Ed Wade. It wouldn't be atypical of Gillick that he's more invested in the long-term goal of fixing one of the game's most fundamentally broken franchises, but you could consider my bringing it up after he's screwed up dealing Abreu for value as badly as he has as an overly charitable gesture. But even there, he didn't even acquire significant farm players, not the Philip Hughes or Erick Aybar types necessarily, but at least players who might shine amidst the rest of the dreck he inherited from Wade down on the farm. Instead, all Gillick got from a major move is a major-league-ready lefty, three guys who fit right in as far as populating a farm system longer on hype than talent, and financial freedom. Although we have to see what he'll do with the last of those three, this was what we might politely refer to as a setback.
So, that's encourging right?
But something else that I moaned to my father about was this. Part of the reason we didn't get value for Abreu is the same reason we didn't get value for Schilling or Rolen in years past. The media in Philly and fans throw these guys under the bus.
Now don't get me wrong. I am proud to be a Philadelphia fan. I think that I am part of the most passionate fanbase in America. But, every group has its share of idiots, and often the idiots shout loudest, and those who shout loudest are often heard over calmer, more reasonable voices. In my opinion this was certainly the case with Abreu.
On sports radio and in teh print press the common notions were that Bobby Abreu played terrible defense and did not hit well in the clutch. One of many excellent Philadelphia Phillies blogs The Good Phight did what they could to dispell that notion, showing that through last year Bobby Abreu was actually one of the Phillies better clutch hitters. And while he may not have been the top right fielder in the league as his Gold Glove from 2005 seemed to indicate, the fact that he won one shows he was far from the worst in the league.
This of course did not matter to many talking heads, writers, or fans who just wanted to prove they were smarter than the numbers and thought the best way to do so was to shout about Abreu. When a player becomes a fan favorite his value is higher. This happens across all of sports. When a player is relentlessly beat down in the press and in teh stadium, his value becomes somewhat tarnished. I find it interesting now that Abreu is gone, the same people who shouted how terrible he was for the team are the one's crying the loudest that we didn't get full value for him. It was the same with Schilling and Rolen before. It will be the same in the future. Such is the case with Philadelphia Phillies fans.
So about 2008, then....