I have been quiet lately, I know.
I have had things to write about, but every once in a while I just don't feel like expressing myself online. But, after a few weeks of silence, I have a few things to talk about, and if you are REALLY BORED at work, you can read along this week, I will try to update on a few topics. Today is my beloved Phillies, and how I feel after this season.
Phillies: Boy, what can I say about this. Lots of things, but mostly this sums up how I feel: "The Phillies hit .215 with a .309 on-base percentage in their nine postseason games. If that's not a recipe for elimination, then a .186 average with three extra-base hits and no home runs when runners were in scoring position certainly is."
That's nothing new for them all season long. Injuries didn't help the situation, but we signed someone like Polanco because we didn't have a small ball hitter and everyone was always swinging for the fences. These are the top FIVE things i'd do if I were Ruben Amaro, GM of the Phillies.
1. Sign Werth. If you asked me a few months ago about him, I kind of felt that he was too expensive, at the end of his career (he's 32) and not worth 5 years and $100 million. Now, i'm changing my tune. Sure, I dread the idea of signing him and having 3 good years with the possibility of 2 bad years like we had with the splashy six-year $85 million offer to Thome in 2002. Remember, Thome was 32 and at the peak of his career, too. Thome only lasted 3 years before we traded him, along with $22 MILLION DOLLARS to the White Sox. Even after that trade, we still had him on the payroll until 2006.
But here's my counter argument to why we need to sign him. We need three years. If you look at the core of our team, we have a "window" of about 2-3 more years with what we have to stay at the top of the elite teams in MLB. Money can't buy World Series (hello, Yankees fans), but it puts you in a greater position to get there. I think having Werth is priority #1.
Oh, and for the "WE CAN'T AFFORD WERTH" shrillish response I have heard all season long (and sometimes I have said this myself...) - What I would tell the Phillies is that 2011 would be a tight year on payroll. No doubt. But the expectation would be that you lose Ibanez in 2012, and save on the payroll then. It gives us enough time to properly groom Domonic Brown to be his replacement. The "real cost" is eating $11.5 million in 2011 on Ibanez. How many Citizens Bank Park sellouts does it take to make that money back? If the Phillies sign Werth, I guarantee you that next season the Phillies fans respond like they have in the last three years - by going to a lot of games and buying a lot of merchandise.
2. Sign a good utility man/pinch hitter. This is easier said than done, but one of our biggest issues this season was getting a key hit. We needed Dobbs from 2008. A guy who, when the key single was needed, could deliver. I think Gload & Francisco were robbed in the NLCS. They had two good chances to deliver a key hit. Gload's line drive to the 1st baseman that resulted in a double play was one of those situations were "destiny" just seemed to be in favor of the SF Giants. Francisco had a nice hit that would have been a home run in Citizens Bank Park, but was 5 feet short from a home run in San Fran. Someone mentioned Juan Uribe. You know. The guy who hit the winning home run in Game 6 of the NLCS or the Game 4 sac fly in the NLCS. That's a clutch hitter, folks. How many times did we strand a guy on 3rd with 1 out all season long and couldn't get the sacrifice fly?
3. Bunt. Bunt. Bunt. How many times in the regular season or post season did you watch the Phillies ruin a good start because a pitcher couldn't bunt. How many times did you watch other teams bunt on us up the 3rd baseline & get on 1st with a speedy player. How many times did you see runners at 1st and 2nd and the other team bunts to get them to 2nd and 3rd?
Oh, I know. That's not PHILLIES baseball. We are built for power. Well, seems that isn't working anymore, and the reason why it isn't working is because teams have figured the Phillies hitters out. They give Howard a steady diet of off speed pitches and play a shift on him. They know that 85% of the time that Chase Utley doesn't swing at the first pitch, even if it is a meatball down the middle. They know that Werth loves the slider, and will chase it when he gets lazy (down on one knee and swinging that goofy strech-swing, anyone?). They know that Rollins has been popping up all season long.
If I was Charlie next time they put the shift on Howard, i'd have him bunt. Lay a bunt to third. Oh, I know "Howard is a power hitter, we can't do THAT."
What. The. Fuck. Guys whatever conceptions we have for our team is out the window. Whatever worked in 2008 isn't working now. What works is keeping the other team guessing and i'm not saying that Howard needs to bunt every time he approaches the plate, but he should keep the other team honest. Imagine if he bunts, gets to 1st and now you have Werth standing there with no outs? Gonna throw Werth those sliders now and risk one bouncing off the plate and advancing Howard? Maybe instead of Werth seeing three junk pitches, when no one is on base, it forces the pitcher to throw a fastball.
Bottom line is that we aren't a small-ball team because we stopped THINKING like a small ball team. Next spring training I would have the entire team in for bunting practice. I would have situations designed around bunts, especially with Victorino and Rollins. I would have all the pitchers in there, practicing bunting. Don't like it? Too damn bad. That's what you get paid to do. Get on base. Advance the runners. Score runs. Swinging for the fences doesn't cut it anymore in a league where the pitchers dominate. A good manager adapts with the time, and that's what the Phillies need to start thinking about.
4. Early Game Relief Bullpen. After Chan-Ho left us in 2009 we never really had that "go to" guy when things got sour in the 5th inning. We cobbled together our best situation with Contreras or Dobbs and crossed our fingers, but we really only had Madson for the 8th, Lidge in the 9th and a whole big mess if our starters couldn't pitch 6 solid innings. Look at, again, San Fran as an example of a team that had a great bullpen. Normally, if I saw the starting pitcher leave in the 2nd or 3rd inning, i'd watch the Phillies destroy the other team. When I saw Sanchez leaving Game 6, I was thinking the Phillies would open up the game, and sail to a nice lead without a problem. Even after they shut us down I kept thinking "Well, we will get to them one of these times..."
It never happened.
Why? Because San Francisco had the best bullpen ERA in the entire league. I don't think the Phillies are THAT far off, especially with Madson and Lidge as our 8th and 9th inning guys. Not sure who fits the bill here, but that's the job of the scouts to look at our minor league system or free agents and tinker a bit.
5. Learn from the mistakes of other Philly teams. If you look at the other teams in Philadelphia that have nearly been great, but fell short, you can see where the Phillies are headed if they are not careful: "The Land Of Mediocrity".
I don't claim to be an expert, but looking over the 2010 salary you can see some major issues on our team, see my payroll spreadsheet here: philliespayroll.xlsx
a. Jamie Moyer at $8 million for 2010. Did he do anything this season for $8 million besides ride pine? He's gone this year and that's $8 million the Phillies have to play with when signing Werth.
b. Joe Blanton at $7 million for 2010. Yep, he has TWO MORE YEARS as our #4 pitcher when he signed that $24 million extension in January 2010. I'm not against this, but considering that Joe is our #4 pitcher and he's making $1 million more than Cole Hamels AND Cole is signed only through 2011 is a big issue, too.
c. Even without the various bench players, bullpen pitchers & Werth our payroll is already at $146M. I made this spreadsheet using this website: Cot's Baseball Contracts.
d. Lots of contracts up in 2011. Ibanez, Rollins, Hamels, Madson, Lidge (1.5M buy out). As much as we are focused on "SIGN WERTH", that's something Amaro has to be weighing now. Who's going to replace THEM. Where's our payroll at if we restructure/extend contracts now?
Lots of things to consider. But I would love to play GM for a day. So far, you have to hand it to the Phillies, fans give them a hard time, but there's a lot of contracts on the payroll that were really good calls. Look a Polanco vs Ibanez. Or the fact that Ruiz we have for 2.75M next year. Or that Valdez cost the Phillies $400,000 in 2010 and was basically a steal. Valdez deserved triple that for basically saving our season.
But...you are only as good as your last year. Next year has all new drama with all new issues to sort out. What was a great player in 2010 is the goat in 2011.