Friday, October 01, 2004

Drinking from the Half-Empty Glass

The Daily News yesterday asked its three baseball guys, Bill Conlin, Marcus Hayes, and Paul Hagen, how to fix the Phillies. Their respective responses left me wondering not how the team should be fixed, but whether it even can be.

Conlin, examining the front office, flat-out advises fans to "get used to the odor of serial failure." He notes that Ed Wade, who's failed thus far to get the job done, will not have the largesse of additional revenue streams to count on, as he did the last two off-seasons; the list of potential replacements for Larry Bowa is "underwhelming"; big boppers Jim Thome and Pat Burrell failed to deliver the huge seasons expected of them; and the farm system has been critically stripped of usable parts in failed attempts to land patches for the holes that appeared in 2003 and 2004. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

Hagen looks at the pitching staff and counsels Wade to consider retaining Kevin Millwood if the price is right, let Eric Milton walk, try to deal the erratic Vicente Padilla, hold on to Brett Myers, wait for Randy Wolf to bounce back from his injury-marred 2004, give Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson shots to start, bring back Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, Rheal Cormier, and Felix Rodriguez; and wave bye-bye to Todd Jones and Roberto Hernandez. On the Cory Lidle question, Hagen puts his arms up in the air and says he doesn't know what to do. Left unsaid is that these recommendations do nothing to address the glaring lack of a No. 1 starter which so plagued the Phils this year.

Hayes, taking up the lineup, offers this gem: "You hope."

With seven of eight position players locked into roles that make them either cornerstones or untradable (Mike Lieberthal), you have what you have, with Chase Utley an immediate insert for Placido Polanco at second and Mystery Player X in centerfield: Maybe Jason Michaels, but more likely a low-cost veteran free agent whose offensive input will be coincidental.

"We're not prepared to dismantle the lineup and make wholesale changes," general manager Ed Wade said. "We need the players we have to perform at the level we've seen them perform at in the past."

If this sounds familiar, it's because Wade has said these very words countless times over the last two seasons. I'll bet he simply clicked "Play" on his tape recorder when Hayes asked the question so that he didn't have to actually say the words yet again. Maybe these last two years haven't reflected underachievement; the sample size of games is sufficiently large now to wonder whether what we've seen out of the Phillies is not a failure to play to potential, but as good as it gets.

As Hagen observes today, the Phillies absolutely must convey an impression of urgency to the repair task. There are way too many recent examples of teams that moved into beautiful new parks, stumbled immediately, and now play in front of acres of empty seats. Should the perception become that David Montgomery & Co. are content to sit back and count their money instead of roll up their sleeves and fix the mess, Hagen writes,

nobody will blame fans if they approach any moves made this time around, no matter how glittering and promising they appear on the surface, with a certain amount of skepticism.

The Phillies have to find a way to spiff up their image, to convince people that they really do care more about winning than counting their money after yet another sellout.

And, frankly, they haven't done a very good job of that this year.

Consider the first week of August. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie showed up at training camp one day to deliver his annual state of the team address. He said he was "obsessed" with winning the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, the Phillies had just lost six out of seven to begin a 2-week road trip that looked at the time as though it could define their season. And what did club president Dave Montgomery think? "If we don't make the postseason, our fans will be disappointed and we'll be disappointed," he told the Inquirer in San Diego.

Disappointed? At that time, the fans were distraught, dismayed, disgusted and disconsolate. To suggest they were disappointed was a huge understatement.

The clock starts ticking at about 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon.


2 Comments:

At October 1, 2004 at 5:59 PM, Blogger Wyatt Earp said...

I've got a better idea: ship them all to Montreal.

 
At October 2, 2004 at 2:04 PM, Blogger gr said...

if they call the washington dc team the filibusters, would they become the 'fillies' and therefore adopt the black cloud that hangs over our franchise?

in anycase, i hope that's not the name, as i could hear a restyled version of ray parker jr.'s only hit becoming incredibly annoying at games. who you gonna call? ugh.

 

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