The Phillies are sell-outs.
And not in the sense of selling out every home game (which they normally do, but probably won't this season). Sell-outs in the sense that they had a great plan for short-term and long-term success and they traded it in for the Yankees-esque model of paying top dollar for other teams' best players.
Don't get me wrong: Roy Halladay is the most solid anchor in any rotation and Cliff Lee is among my favorite Phillies. And even Hunter Pence is growing on me to the point that I have one of his tee shirt jerseys. I just long for a team like the 2008 Phillies - not because they were World Fuckin' Champions, but because they were the most entertaining baseball team to watch and the consistently put up more runs than anyone else. A quick look at that roster:
- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins (all in prime form), and Pedro Feliz across the infield
- Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth in the outfield
- Carlos Ruiz
- Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick starting
- Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge in relief
It should be noted that this was the season that Cole Hamels became World Series MVP Cole Hamels (he didn't even start on Opening Day).
One of the reasons I loved this team: Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Hamels, Happ, and Madson were all home-grown talent. If they weren't drafted by Philly, they rose to prominence as members of the Phils. It was a great team all around.
And then Ruben Amaro happened. A quick Wikipedia background check tells us that he was born in Philly, was batboy for the Phillies, played in the MLB from 1991-98 with the Angels, Phillies, Indians, Blue Jays, and Phillies again. As soon as he retired, he joined the Phils front office. Ten years later (following the World Series win) he was named General Manager.
At this point I should clarify that I don't dislike Ruben as a person or as a GM. He appears to be a great person and nothing leads me to believe he's anything less than that. He's a fucking phenomenal GM - look at the guys he's brought to Philly. I just don't like the concept of paying hundreds of millions of dollars for guys from other teams. If given the choice between Jayson Werth's contract (7 years, $126 million) and Hunter Pence's (1 year, $10.4 million), I'd probably opt for Pence's just because Werth's is absurd. But I would overpay Werth (not as much as Washington did, but still) because he was a fan favorite and a solid all-around player. And I know that Pence is becoming a fan favorite and stuff - fuck it, that was a poor example.
Here's a better one: Cole Hamels' deal is up after this season. Now that Chase's glory days seem to be behind us, Cole moves into the spot of my favorite Phil. He's going to be the most sought-after free agent of the offseason and between his talent and his likability (and his looks and his smokebomb of a wife) he's going to garner something in the neighborhood of 5-6 years at $20 million a year.
I have been thinking deeply about it, and I really think I may just jump ship as a Phillies fan altogether if they don't offer him enough money to sign him. Knowing Cole (and looking at what happened with Cliff Lee) they could actually get him for less money than anyone else. If they try to pull a Mets and just let him walk, I'm out. I don't care if they could get Tim Lincecum for the same money. I want Cole. He grew up a Phil and there is a generation of Phillies fans that grew up with him. We saw him go from a bright-eyed, anxious young pitcher to fierce, World-Series-MVP-caliber competitor. And if that isn't worthy of $20-25 million a year to the Phillies, then they have forgotten what it is that makes the 2008 team so likable and I don't want to call myself a fan.
So I guess to summarize I'll say that having Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Pence, Ibanez (just kidding, fuck him), Lidge leading the team is good for the win column and I'm happy that Roy and Cliff have adapted to life as Phillies, but I'll take the '08 team of home-grown studs every day of the week. And if everything Cole has done for Philly isn't worth a nice raise on his current $15 million a year deal, then I will be questioning my faith in the Phils.
PS - And now that I think about it, I give Ryan Howard a lot of shit for striking out all the time and being hurt. You know, Ryan Howard stuff. And as I was writing this blog, I discovered that Ryan Howard did a lot for the Phillies too. And I would be contradicting myself if I said something like "Ryan Howard Sucks" or "I Wish Ryan Howard Had Torn His Achilles Before He Got Hurt So We Didn't Have To Pay Him Any Money" (which I actually say a lot). So I'm vowing now to never speak ill of Ryan Howard again.
...until the next time he strikes out. But it's going to be a quick thing like calling him a Dickhead. Nothing serious.