You might have noticed that there’s a lot more vitriol for John Mayberry, Jr. than one might think based on his performance, expense and significance for the Phillies during their recent nauseating plunge from baseball’s elite ranks to Protected Pick Land. By no means has Mayberry been a star, but if you were to list all the reasons the Phillies have shed 29 wins over the last two seasons, it’s unlikely you’d get to JMJ until maybe the middle to end of page. 3. So why the ill will?
My theory is that John Mayberry, Jr. embodies the curdling of our hopes under Amaro. Just hear me out on this.
About three weeks after inheriting a newly minted World Series winner in late 2008, Amaro made his first trade in landing Mayberry for Greg Golson. The swap of disappointing former first-rounders has been a decisive win for the Phillies: even after his cruddy 2013, Mayberry’s been worth 1.2 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference, while Golson’s in negative territory.
Mayberry shone his brightest in 2011. Remember 2011? Of course you do. The sun rose radiant every single day, each drop of milk carried the slightest touch of sweetness on your tongue, and the Phillies curb-stomped the entirety of the National League en route to 102 wins. Mayberry slugged .513 that year, blasting 15 home runs in under 300 plate appearances. He came to camp the next year with an inside track on a starting job, and proceeded to collapse as a run producer, hitting one fewer home run despite coming up nearly 200 additional times.
In fact, Mayberry came to the plate more than any Phillie not named Jimmy Rollins in 2012. 299 of his appearances came with righties on the mound, against whom he posted a .229/.291/.335 line. They kept sending Mayberry out there because there really weren’t better options: this was the year of Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton and Jason Pridie and Hector Luna and Michael Martinez… always Mini-Mart.
2013 was more of the same, with JMJ’s numbers further declining, albeit slightly, across the board… but the options around him somehow worsening even more. Nix still was around, and then there was Steve Susdorf and Caspar Wells and Roger Bernadina. Given the options, particularly following the injury to Ben Revere, you would have played Mayberry too. Even so, Mayberry—Amaro’s first acquisition, and arguably his best non-high-profile move—provided an almost-nightly reminder of just what a spectacular job Amaro did in making a team with a $170 million payroll manifest on the field like the Marlins' older, flabbier uncles.
He’s very likely done in Philadelphia. Our old pal MattS estimates he’d pull down $1.7 million in arbitration, and you can’t pay that for a 30 year old who hasn’t looked like a big leaguer. The hell of it is that a better team could get more value than that from Mayberry, simply by using him properly: play him strictly against lefty pitchers, and you’re likely to get a semblance of his .274/.321/.526 career line over 200 or so plate appearances.
So when Mayberry frustrates you again next year in another uniform, as he hits something gapward off Antonio Bastardo or Jake Diekman or a $2 million lefty arm to be named later and released in July, remember where the ire rightly belongs. Based upon his 2013 Exit Interview, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mayberry himself knows it too...
This season was an unmitigated disaster. How did you contribute to that disaster?
I have culpability on both the physical and metaphysical levels. In terms of the non-tangible—the level on which the Phillies as an organization so often choose to operate—I was the uniformed individual who triggered the worst depth of despair in the eyes of the interested public. But if you seek a more quantifiable answer, I was worth negative one point one Wins Above Replacement.
Oh for the fucking love of Dallas Green. Are you another one of those pencil-dick numbers nerdos? Figures, with your sissy talk about metaphysical this and quantifiable that. Just where in the ass did you go to college?
(The silence of gradual recognition)
Anyway. If I had traded you mid-season, would the team have done better or worse?
I suspect it would not have made very much difference either way.
All of my options are open for next year. Should I trade you, release you, or keep you?
To be honest, the GM most likely to trade for me is the one who already did—which is you. I’m tall and athletic looking. My dad was a ballplayer. Plus there’s our Cardinal connection. Perhaps the solution lies in a Rob Ducey scenario, if you can determine how to execute such a move. Is there anyone on your current staff who has experience in making a trade like that?
Some people have questioned whether I should keep my job. Tell them to go fuck themselves by explaining why I should keep it forever.
During my time with the Phillies, I’ve had 780 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers.
I don’t get it. What’s your point?
My point is that you’ve misused me enough already that there’s no way I should have to answer that question.
Overall, explain to me how your time with the Philadelphia Phillies has been the highlight of your life.
It has been an eventful period. There was the day I made my major league debut, hit a three-run homer at Yankee Stadium, and had my dad—who is a somewhat famous person—misidentified on Fox. There was my attempt to mate with a mermaid. And then there was this year: a blur of ill-advised outfield dives, base-running mega-fails, and endless right turns back to the dugout.
How was that a highlight?
Every failure today serves to foreground a triumph tomorrow. My guess is that next year I hook on with a smart organization, face a lot of left-handers, only play in an outfield corner, and make you look like a total blithering idiot for having released me.