Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Baseball-Related Despair
The Philadelphia Phillies cause me a lot of misery and countless (well, uncounted) wasted hours every year, but I'm not sure I've ever gotten to the moment of bleak resignation that, yes, they're going to fall short again, as quickly as I have this spring. Barely five weeks into it, I'm waiting for the end. After the usual hope-inducing winter and spring, the team staggered out of the gate to their annual 1-6 start; they rallied to within two games of the .500 mark, then went out on a ten-game road trip that mercifully concludes tomorrow night and fell on their collective face again. Now five games under the break-even point and 6.5 behind both the Mets and Braves--two well-run organizations that aren't going to collapse--the season *feels* over, whether or not it actually is.

Readers of The Good Phight probably have picked up on my despair, but if a man can't fully wallow in the sadomachistic psychological mire of his obsession on his own blog, then where to do it? Here's what's wrong with the Phillies, as I commented on another Phils site Tuesday afternoon:

1) The fish rots from the head, and bad process leads to bad outcomes. The poison unquestionably starts with principal owner Bill Giles, who should be put in jail for what he's done to a great franchise (while making unfathomable money!) since making the purchase in 1981, and team president David Montgomery, who seems sufficiently dumb it's a wonder he can dress himself. Regardless of what you think of Charlie Manuel as a manager (myself, I think he's about average--his positives and negatives more or less cancel out, though right now the negatives are on display given how little margin for idiocy the bench and bullpen give him), he was hired because the team's best player at the time loved him. That's no way to do business. And GM Pat Gillick, though nominally an outsider, seems to be the epitome of the 1970s/early '80s mindset that has suffused the organization ever since.

2. The roster is unbearably top-heavy. I'm working on something for TGP to more fully tell this story, but it's hardly an original observation that this team has about 5-7 really valuable players (Utley, Rollins, Hamels, et al), a similar number who are fine for now (e.g. Geary, Moyer)... and another dozen guys who are stealing money. Incredibly, this has been the case for three years now: an island of excellence in a big lake of stinkola.

3. None of this is likely to change. Great players will emerge, bearing hope, and leave, trailing bitterness. (Sometimes we call this "The Rolen Cycle.") Near-great players will come in and suddenly stink. The front office will be characterized by indifference, proud and belligerent ignorance, and near-transparent contempt for the fans. We only get released when the schmucks sell, and they won't do that until Giles dies, based on his own statements.

Another commenter on that same site offered this bon mot on the Groundhog Season Phillies: "Its beyond heartbreaking. It's just plain tedious."


The Navigator said...

OK, but that was the Cardinals' model last year and now they have bright shiny rings and a flag that will fly forever. We have to keep in mind that no one could reasonably expect Howard to fall off a cliff like this. If Howard performs close to last year's level and one of Myers or Garcia has a strong April, we're probably over .500 and right there with the leaders.

David said...

Well, I think they're 3-0 since I posted this. But Howard is now on the DL, and you can't really get too far with just one decent, non-fried reliever.

Still, I can foresee an unlikely but plausible series of events by which they get back in the race. Assume they tread water or a little better while Howard's out; he comes back full strength and Burrell and Helms have representative seasons, making up for whatever dropoff comes from Rowand; Garcia and Eaton start pitching (or continue to pitch, based on the last 10 days or so) like decent mid-rotation starters rather than quad-A filler, making up for Moyer dropoff, while Hamels and Lieber stay near their current levels; Gordon and Madson come back and are effective setup men for Myers, and/or one of the kids (Rosario, Castro) emerges as a viable option; and the Braves regress to a .520 team rather than a .650 team.

Given all that, there's hope. It's a lot, though, no?