Monday, July 31, 2006

Deja Vu Phillies-Style: Trade Abreu

abreu farewell
Bye-bye Bobby Baseball; Phils subtract by subtracting

It must have been quite a sight to behold...perhaps something right out of the old west! Brian Cashman decked out in a Stetson cowboy hat, with a hankerchief over his face and a .45 pointed squarely at Pat Gillick's head. Pat Gillick quivering in fear, unable to reach his gun and offering Cashman, oh, just one of the best all-round players in the game today to spare him his silly life. And for good measure a mediocre right-handed pitcher who decided to become effective a week before the July 31 trade deadline. Phillies fans are lucky Cashman didn't gallop out of Philly with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley as well.

Well, it isn't the old west. In fact, it's real-life, present-day and it wreaks like deja vu all over again, the way only the Philadelphia Phillies can bring it to you. The Phillies trade a marquee player, coveted by basically every team in the league and get NOTHING in return. And this marquee player happened to be signed through next season. So it wasn't exactly like the Schilling and Rolen situations--the most recents scenarios in which the Phillies played Santa Claus in July and gave another team a marquee player. This trade feels particularly like the Schilling trade. Don't you get the distinct feeling that in five years Abreu will have won two or three World Series while the Phillies will still be spewing platitudes about "rebuilding"?

The core problem is Phillies management--ownership, GM and (this & last year) Manager--not the players, as is commonly believed. By and large, Phillies players deliver. One problem is, particularly this season, they have only one legitimate starting pitcher. How can a professional General Manager, in good conscience, allow a major league starting rotation to have only one legit Major League starter? It's incomprehensible. How many times this year have the Phils scored 6, 7 or 8 runs in a game and lost? If you throw just one more quality arm into the Phillies rotation, they would be leading the Wild Card race.

The next glaring problem is a winning attitude. The Phillies don't have it and that fault falls mostly on Manuel. He's not a great baseball mind, he's not a great motivator...frankly, he's not good at anything. He's proven that consistently.

If the Phils are bent on blowing up this season, then they should get rid of the actual problems: Bell & Lidle--which they did--Lieber, Nunez, Rhodes, Fultz and they should trade Rowand. Not because he's a problem, but because he has some decent value and he's wildly over-rated due to one spectacular catch. And deal Delucci, who also has some decent trade value.

"Baseball" people are saying that trading Abreu will free up the Phillies of $15.5 million next season. But, what about the gaping whole in the Phils' offense, particulary considering that they have only one starting pitcher? Look at Abreu's stats! Seems to me like the guaranteed 100+ RBI, 100+ Runs, 100+ Walks, 30+ Steals are WORTH the $15.5 million. Not worth the money: Lieber's $7.5 mil, Rhodes' $3.7, Lidle's $3.3, Bell's $4.7, Franklin's $2.6, Fultz's $1.2. Total bill: $23 million. Seems obvious.

Sadly, we knew that earmarked $23 million was a waste of money at the beginning of the season. The glaring question is: why didn't Pat Gillick know that was a colossal waste?

Were they smart, the Phillies could learn a lesson from the team that just robbed them blind. As hateable as the Yankees are, living in New York, I see it year after year. There's an expectation of winning and the front office does whatever it takes to put the team in the best position to succeed. Hence the Abreu acquisition. There's no reason the Phils can't do the same. They're in the 4th largest market, so crying Milwaukee Brewers is not an option.

Bottom line: the Phillies continue to alienate their fans by trading away top of the line talent for nothing. One can only wonder how long till they no longer have any fans left to alienate.