Over at Pickin’ Splinters, my article on the return of Daniel Brito to Frontier Field over a year after his medical emergency.
In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, I watch the Phillies play their first Spring Training game of the year because I’m a glutton for punishment.
1:07- Severino Gonzalez is pitching for the Phillies. He had a 7.92 ERA last year. Even going with the fact that it was only in 30 innings, that is what is known as “not good”.
1:08- The first pitch in the Philadelphia Phillies march to the World Series is a ball inside and BWAHAAHAHA I actually implied they might make the World Series, my bad.
1:11- Gonzalez walks Dalton Pompey. ONWARD TO VICTORY, CITIZENS OF THE THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE!
1:12- Ryan Howard shows that defense and throws Pompey out at second. Because, y’know, Spring Training. Who cares.
Feel like I say this every year but Ryan Howard looks svelte this spring
— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) March 1, 2016
1:15- Chris Colabello is up. Meanwhile, at Twins’ camp, this is happening.
1:16- Chris Colabello hits a infield single that dies in just the right place. Phillies announcers already considering that Gonzalez won’t go his two assigned innings. Phillies Phever: Catch It!
1:18- As the Phillies announcers mention that this could be their opening day outfield, MLB Network’s volume inexplicably increases, as if screaming in terror. Although, to be fair, it does look like a good OF defensively.
1:19- Severino Gonzalez hits a guy. Bases loaded. Darwin Barney is up. So that’s where he ended up.
1:21- Darwin Barney has a 2-RBI double. I’m really regretting doing this with the Phillies.
1:23- The inning is over and I’m making myself lunch.
1:24- Oh dear god, it’s back and I haven’t had an opportunity to eat lunch.
1:29- Marcus Stroman 1-2-3s the Phillies and strikes out one. There was a discussion on how to pronounce the “Franco” in Maikel Franco. Help.
1:33- The required run-down of coaching changes. It happens every spring.
1:36- Gonzalez sends the Blue Jays down 1-2-3. What does this mean? Who the hell knows!
1:38- They just showed the Phanatic welcoming Phillies fans at the airport. I wish the Phanatic welcomed me at airports.
1:45- I get back from lunch just in time to see Carlos Ruiz hit a game-tying 2-run single. Clearly, the Phillies are in good shape this year if I’m eating lunch most of the time.
1:47- Bob McClure, Phillies pitching coach, likens Spring Training to a auto race. Weird. Gregory Infante pitching now for Philly.
1:55- Two-run double again from Darwin Barney. Darwin Barney MVP. Mark it down.
Darwin Barney #WeAreAllWitnesses
— Jays Journal (@JaysJournal) March 1, 2016
1:58- For those of you scoring at home… don’t.
2:02- Another Spring Training tradition is hawking the future promotions. Like a hat that gives you Phanatic hair. I want one.
2:06- Full disclosure: I’m ending this live-blog at 2:30 because I have other stuff to do.
2:08- HAHA, Freddy Galvis’ car got hit by a BP homer by Maikel Franco.
2:12- Another Spring Training position- gratuitous shots of beaches.
2:16- “The Darwin Barney Show”. Words actually just said.
2:17- Andy McPhail is on TV now, and has a hat that looks more suited to touring Jurassic Park.
2:18- J.P. Arencibia, who apparently is a Phillie now, goes deep to make it 4-3. Our first dinger of Spring Training on TV.
2:30- Well, it’s 2:30 and nothing interesting is happening. So I’m out. Later, everyone.
In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. This is the first post of the series.
Let’s start this off with the most depressing of all Major League Baseball teams: The Philadelphia Phillies. After all, there is nothing more depressing than seeing something that was once great, only to have fallen into horrible disrepair and general despair.
And, man, that totally fits the Phillies. It was less than seven years ago that the Phillies won the World Series, less than six years since they lost to the Yankees in the World Series, and less than four years since the grand rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Cardinals, with Ryan Howard injuring himself on the final play of the series.
It’s been all downhill from there. And now, they are, without question, the most hopeless of all teams in Major League Baseball. Some teams like the Twins may well end up being worse than the Phillies in the standings, but they have better prospects for the future and better people at the helm. The Phillies, meanwhile, have… Ruben Amaro Jr.
Ruben Amaro has become something of a bogey-man in baseball internet circles. It is a scary place to be in, where Dusty Baker stalks young pitchers by night attempting to ruin their arms and Joe West purposely gets calls wrong just to piss us all off.
The internet’s characterization of Amaro can perhaps best be described as seeing him as Nero, fiddling while Rome burns. And, to a certain extent, there is some truth to that. The results of the Phillies have to a certain extent gotten worse with every passing season since he took over after the 2008 season, and the playoff appearances early in Amaro’s tenure can more be drawn up to the after-effects of Pat Gillick‘s work. He was the one who gave Ryan Howard a 5-year extension that was recently named the 7th-worst in baseball, and they remain one of the few- perhaps the only– team to not hold statistical analysis in a high regard (perhaps that is why he is known to overvalue the players he does have). Last year, I attended a Moneyball screening with a post-show discussion on statistics by FanGraphs editor/writer Dave Cameron. He said that the Phillies have one statistical analyst, and that Major League Baseball more-or-less may have forced them to take it.
I think he was only half-joking.
And so, as a result of all of this, the Phillies enter this spring training as one of the few teams that can truly be said to not have any chance. Jimmy Rollins is now gone to Los Angeles, and Amaro is still probably trying (perhaps in vain, given how much he wants for them) to get rid of Hamels and Howard. Oh, and did I mention that Amaro has literally said that the team would be better off without Howard? Because he totally did.
No wonder some are saying this might be one of the most awkward spring trainings in the team’s history.
Now, to be fair, it isn’t all bad for Philadelphia. They do still have some prospects left, including young SS J.P. Crawford, who is MLB.com’s 21st best prospect, #37 prospect Aaron Nola, a RHP who made it as high as AA last season, and #55 prospect Maikel Franco, a power-hitting corner-infielder who made his debut in the bigs as a September call-up.
They won’t nearly be enough to turn around the Phillies anytime soon however (Keith Law recently named the Phillies the 25th best farm system in baseball), and so, the team that only a few years ago was a perpetual contender for the World Series crown is currently in a holding pattern of horribleness, filled with has-beens, never-will-bes, and players who may just be a year or two away from falling into one of those categories. It somewhat reminds me of the Orioles of the mid-to-late 1990s, who went from two straight ALCS in 1996 and 1997 to a team not unlike the Phillies of today.
The Orioles didn’t return to the playoffs until 2012. It’s not that out of the realm of possibility that the Phillies could be facing a similar wait.
Charlie Manuel has had an interesting baseball life. After a sub-par career in the big leagues, he headed to Japan, where he was dubbed the “Red Devil” by fans for his tenacious play (at one point returning to play against doctor’s order after having his jaw smashed into six pieces by a beanball) and becoming the first American to win the MVP of Japan’s Pacific League. He also, legend says, once joined forces with fellow American exiles Clyde Wright and Roger Repoz in fighting the East German National Hockey Team in a Tokyo nightclub.
After retiring, Manuel’s second life began, as a scout and then as a manager. And what a career it ended up being: he made the playoffs once with the Indians before being let go after a contract dispute, and then later began the tenure that this post is about: the Phillies job. In this final year, where the Phillies have flailed and flopped and ultimately cost Manuel his job, some may have forgotten just how good the Manuel Phillies have been. Before this year, they had finished at or above .500 every single year. They won five straight NL East titles, and won one World Series and may well have won another if it weren’t for Alex Rodriguez‘s alleged artificial help (yeah, I said it). While, as SBNation’s Steven Goldman said, Manuel was hardly the second coming of John McGraw, the success must have had at least something to do with him. And, while the fall of the Phillies (the Phillies’ Phailure?) also has something to do with him, it’s not his fault. No, the end of the Phillies run can be traced primarily to Ruben Amaro, the General Manager of Philadelphia.
Amaro gave a gargantuan extension to Ryan Howard in 2010, an extension that has come back to bite the Phillies as Howard’s injuries have increased and his power numbers have gone down. Nobody is willing to trade for him, and as a result, Howard and his 125 million dollar salary will be with the Phillies until 2016. The rest of the team, while not suffering the wear-and-tear of age and injury to the extent as Howard has, still isn’t getting any younger. And bad drafts and once-acclaimed trades have left the cupboard bare for the Phillies as far as the minor leagues are concerned. And, what’s more, Amaro has refused to deal some of the best trading chips he had: he could have traded Cliff Lee for several good prospects this summer, for example, but didn’t.
Charlie Manuel may one day find another job… but the Phillies could be in the wilderness for several years in the future. Good luck, Ryne Sandberg.
— MLB (@MLB) December 6, 2012
Reaction: The Twins had two good center-fielders. Now they have none. However, they also had very little pitching. For the two CFs they have traded, they have acquired three pitchers: Vance Worley, Alex Meyer and Trevor May. Worley, who did admittedly miss the end of last season with some injury problems, instantly becomes the top starter for the Twins. He’s gone 18-13 with a 3.50 ERA during parts of three MLB seasons, has good upside and won’t be hitting free agency until after the 2017 season.
Meyer (who they got for Span) and May are more of gambles- every pitching prospect is, to the extent that somebody once said that “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect”. However, May is by all accounts a good power-pitching guy who can strike people out and could become a front-line starter if he gets his mechanics under control, and Meyer also is a well-regarded prospect.
While it is likely sad for Twins fans to see Revere go, it probably won’t hurt the team in the long-term. Aaron Hicks, one of the top prospects for the Twins, hit .286 for AA New Britain last season and is a CF. He probably will be up with Minnesota by the end of the 2013 season, and could be the CF for years to come. And although Revere was great fun to watch in the field and on the basepaths, he was more of a slap-hitter at the plate and his arm was… lacking.
So while it is probably sad for Twins fans to see him go, the return in this case- as well as the Twins’ minor league depth in the outfield- make this trade look like a winner for Minnesota, and a good step on the path back to competing in the AL Central.
Still, one last time:
Jim Thome is, according to MLB Network, going to the Baltimore Orioles. It makes sense: the Phillies have been floundering with their bats on the DL and every starting pitcher not named Cole Hamels either hurt or having a sub-par season (if they continue to rest in the basement, look for Hamels to get shopped around too). The Orioles, having fallen behind New York but still fighting everybody else in the AL East, could always use another bat.
Or maybe they are just continuing the long Orioles tradition of having a member of the 500 Home Run Club play for them at one point or another during their career. Check the jump for what I mean.