Should the Phillies tank the rest of the season?

The Phanatic is a house divided! Advise the Phanatic, for the love of God! - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Good Phight writers debate the merits of playing it out or tanking it hard for the rest of the season. At the end, your comments will decide which way we push on the grass roots campaign.

#Embracethetank (courtesy of Lindros)

#phuckthetank (courtesy of Phrozen)

With the season all but a lost cause, and the Phillies literally sitting smack dab in the middle of chasing the Braves in the Win Column (14 games back) or the Astros in the Loss Column (14 games ahead), there's a growing debate among the fan base as to whether its better to win and root for wins, or to secretly, or out in the open, root for the Phillies to lose, thus ensuring that they end up with a top 10 protected draft Pick.

Right now today, the Phillies are tied with three other teams for what would be the eleventh pick, just one loss behind the tenth pick. What this means is, if the season ended today, the Phillies would forfeit their first draft pick should they decide (as they likely will) to pursue a free agent tied to draft pick compensation through a qualifying offer this offseason. A few more losses, and it won't matter who they sign; they'll still pick high.

So, to root or not to root? It's a tough call. But the folks at The Good Phight bring you their opinions here. And we encourage you all, in the comments section to firmly place yourself on one side of the hashtag

#embracethetank

#phuckthetank

The winning hashtag will be vigorously promoted on twitter starting sometime next week.

Which will it be?

Dajafi:

I was fairly optimistic about the 2013 Phillies--not just in March, when hope and faith are almost obligatory, but in early July, when the team seemed to be finding itself while playing its best ball of the season against a tough run of opponents. And then... well... you know: eight straight losses, many of the blow-out variety, and a rash of injuries targeted like smart weapons at the players they could least afford to lose: Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, Cliff Lee. As the trade deadline came and went with a total absence of deals, the only consolation left was that the skid probably saved the Phillies from a truly ill-advised "buy" move.

As August begins, this free-falling team is about to drop behind the Mets--the Mets!?!--in the NL East standings. There's dissension in the clubhouse, as the greatest manager in franchise history recognizes he'll be otherwise employed next season and gives vent to long-held thoughts, and blind quotes in the press suggesting that his fellow GMs view Ruben Amaro in much the same way that disgruntled Phillies fans do. Chickens are coming home to roost, but probably not fast enough for an ownership group that's well mannered to a fault to fire their one-time bat boy turned GM this winter.

It's possible that if the Phillies falter to the point that 2014 ticket sales look to be way off, they might put wallet ahead of heart and kick Amaro to the curb; if not, a bottom-10 finish in MLB would mean that their first-round pick in what looks to be a strong 2014 amateur draft is protected, whatever ill-advised free agent signing Amaro might make this winter in a last-ditch effort to turn things back around. As lifelong fans, we're hard-wired to root for the Fightin' Phils; games like last night's Papelblown loss to the Giants churn the stomach acids as an autonomic process. But it's crystal clear that the best thing for the franchise long-term would be a hard landing in 2013. #embracethetank

Cormican:

This trade deadline sucked because there were no players or prospects of note available. There is a trend toward teams locking up their young stars with long term contracts long before those players become eligible for Free Agency. It's unlikely we'll ever see young stars like Trout, Harper, Longoria, Posey, etc. available at the deadline in their primes. Similarly, teams were unwilling to deal not only top prospects, but essentially any prospects. Michael Young apparently would have netted the Yankees' equivalent of Brody Colvin. Teams are recognizing there is a new paradigm and that the new market inefficiency is, in fact, prospects. They're cheap, under team control for, in most cases, their entire prime, and that allows teams to spend more on Free Agents who did not receive Qualifying Offers and the absolute top tier Free Agents who become available.

This is the basis where I now say to you, Phillies fans, if you love this team and want to see them have the brightest future possible, begin cheering for Jimmy Rollins pop-ups. Hurrah when Michael Young punts a ball into Centerfield. Cheer when Cholly leaves Diekman in for the 8th inning to face 3 Right Handed hitters. Applaud when Papelbon blows a save (that's cathartic and beneficial). For, if this team loses just a little more frequently, that can result in a protected pick in the 2014 Draft. That means the team can sign a Free Agent who received a QO (the class is thin, but may still include Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Gavin Floyd and Tim Lincecum) and still draft a potentially franchise-changing prospect. The 2014 Draft is an Above-Average Draft, by all apearances, with some very elite talent at the top and awesome pitching depth.

Besides, there's no shame in losing now. Howard's out, Revere's out, Halladay's out, Lee is hurt. There are rookies on the mound, the hot corner, Left Field, and First Base. This team should be losing. Embrace it. Let the losing pour over you like a cleansing rain. Do you know what comes after rain? Rainbows. What comes after this rain might be a cost-controlled young Starting Pitcher who becomes our next Ace. Look to the other end of the rainbow and there's a Parade with the first Float holding the Staff Ace we drafted in 2014, the young, beloved Shortstop we picked up in 2013 and the Centerfielder who once had an Inside-the-park Home Run on an infield grounder (okay, too far). What I'm saying is that the future can be brighter if the present is darker.

Of course, we could keep winning and enjoy the present. Feel pride and excitement for a current core of players we love. That's enjoyable. It's a big ice cream cone with sprinkles on a warm summer afternoon. It's great for a few minutes. You want to savor it and enjoy it forever, but it's hot and ice cream melts, so before you know it, you're chasing drips of ice cream off the edges and trying to hurry to get to the point where the melting sweetness stays in the cone, but it's fruitless, it will just come out the bottom. So you race to finish before it's all melted and before you know it, it's all gone and you're stuck sitting there with nothing but memories. The Phillies win in the second half and that draft pick goes away when Ruben signs his Free Agent to help in the outfield. Suddenly, our best pick is the middle of the Second Round and all we have to show for 2013 is a ho-hum record and a diminishing Jacoby Ellsbury. Yeah, enjoy that.

You may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps. You fight through that shit. This fan base is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers. Motherfuckers who think their team will age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar...it does. If you mean it gets better with age...it don't. #embracethetank

Phrozen:

I can't root for the Phils to tank just for the sake of a draft pick. I CAN'T! Honestly, finishing 75-92 but snagging a higher protected pick would be far worse to their already damaged fan image and future financial strength than finishing strong to end at 82-80 and losing out on a higher pick.

I mean, if they go on a losing binge NOW?

In three relatively inconsequential games this week they've still drawn 100,000 people. If they utterly fall apart, kiss that goodbye. Kiss goodbye all the revenue that comes with it, not to mention its impact on the potential TV deal. Shit, what if you tank and get a top prospect, but it costs you 30MM per year in TV revenue?

Plus fuck it. I wan them to WIN! WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN!! If that's worse in the long run, fine. But I'm a fan of this team and I can't want them to fail.

And "fuck pride?" No, I say, "fuck losing."

Can't do it. #phuckthetank Phuck it HARD.

JoeCatz:

Man this is tough for me. I've watched this team suck for most of my time on this planet, so unlike some of the younger fan base, the Phillies losing is nothing new for me. In fact, adapting to it comes pretty natural. Furthermore, the optimist in me still clings to a faint belief that, with a soft schedule and six games of sweep against the Braves in the next few weeks, all of a sudden they're knocking on the door again. (And on a more personal note, the idea of advocating loss as acceptable in any way goes against every philosophical and moral fiber of my very existence.)

All that said, the realist in me also knows that this is an organization that will not stop themselves from giving up a draft pick in the offseason if it means making the team better, with the money coming off the books. I'm acutely aware of the truth of the market environment that says the biggest problem with the Phillies as they stand is the combination of a declining free agent market, a need for renewed focus in development of homegrown talent, and the looming specter of a dwindling trade market due to teams protecting their young talent more than ever before. Basically, there aren't the quick fix solutions out there that everyone seems to be pining for, regardless of which camp (go young or go home and trade them all, vs. Spend to win and future be damned) you belong to.

Simply put, the lack of franchise-altering organizational depth coupled with the strength of the upcoming draft, as well as the changes to the spending rules in the draft makes keeping that pick next year about ten times more important than it was this year, in my opinion.

So for me, it all boils down to this. As long as you continue to ROOT for this team, as long as you stick around, good or bad, and really ROOT for something, hoping for losses instead of wins in a season already most likely lost based on the premise of saving the organization from itself in hopes of future betterment is fine. What I won't stand for are the bandwagon bashers, the I-told-you-so-ers, and the folks who'll flock away and return when they win again, cheering from the rafters that they always believed. They, my friends, are the worst kind of fans there are. So as long as you still root? Then I say ROOT HARD. ROOT PROUD, ROOT LOUD. #embracethetank

Liz Roscher

I'll keep this short and sweet -- I cannot root for my team to lose. I just can't. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and losing isn't fun. I hate losing. I watch a lot of Phillies games, and I write a lot of recaps about those games. I don't want to watch them lose, and I don't want to write about them losing. Is it selfish? Yes. But I don't recall a clause against selfishness in the fan contract I signed. Plus, to me, tanking is fundamentally in opposition to the point of this whole baseball thing. The point is to win games. Tanking is doing badly intentionally. It's unfair. The Phillies suck, and I want them to get the benefits of that in the future, but no more than they are truly entitled to. Plus, the Phillies may not have to try hard to tank this year. That's important to keep in mind. They suck out loud and will probably not need any assistance to continue sucking in the future.

I love the Phillies, and whatever their roster looks like, whoever is leading them, I will always want them to win.

(Ed note: another vote for #phuckthetank)

Trev223

In an effort to remain original, I'm not reading my colleagues' posts until after I do mine. Consider it a kind of blindfold test of how original my thinking is (or, more than likely, is not).

So, two caveats on tanking before I give my verdict. First, I'm not quite sure there is such a thing as tanking in baseball. At least not to the degree you can do it in basketball. In basketball, poor rotation decisions, lackadaisical court speed, and tweaking one's effort in general can all help you lose games; the Michael Levins of the world could probably correct me on this, but I've always thought about it like a factory slowdown. You just put a wrench in things until you get your wished for change. In baseball, this seems problematic - you could DL Lee and Cole and Kendrick and just roll with the Iron Pigs rotation, and I guess you'd lose a good bunch of those games, but you'd wreak havoc on your 40 man roster eventually, and the tank would be totally transparent. The league would file a grievance. You could try to not be competitive, but honestly, who has ever seen a player purposefully boot a ball or strike out - baseball's very individual aspects limit the kind of assemblage tanking we see in basketball. And the game is random; you can't choose to hit or not hit a single. Sometimes you see a good pitch; sometimes you hit it where they ain't. Hard to fix an arbitrary system. That said, I think the lineup as it stands - with its Delmons and its Nixes and its MiniMarts - is as close as it comes to an active tank position as you can get.

Second, I think one can only tank within reason. And for the fanbase, this reasonable limit is the point at which one starts thinking of the club as a financial entity. I realize this is controversial with the TV deal coming up, but I thought of it today listening to an old BPro podcast from this week. One of the hosts was saying that the Pirates should not feel bad about not buying this year because "they were almost certain to reach the postseason" and that every post season win got them "more and more marginal" gains with their fanbase. The logic here was that, by making the postseason, the Pirates would achieve their seasonal goal of turning the franchise around; they didn't need to sell hard for the World Series to reap more gains in popularity. There are a lot of reasons why it may have been advisable for the Pirates not to sell - the playoffs are a crapshoot; they believe in their team; they didn't see what they wanted on the market - but "because the idiots in the stands will be equally happy with a playoff berth" is a bullshit reason. Even if it's advisable, it's not something fans - intelligent or otherwise - should embrace. Our analytical minds can help us grasp why a particular windfall of money is important, or why there might be ulterior motives for wanting the team to do well on the field. But in figuring out whether the team should tank, the profitability of the Phillies LLC is frankly not on the top of my list. Nor, I'd argue, should it be on yours, outside of being able to afford better players.

So, with that all said, I do embrace the "tank," such as it is. I think the Phillies need a protected pick next year because I am sure they will sign someone who is tied to draft pick compensation to fill one of the many team holes (though, I will say that non-QO eligible Matt Garza is basically calling to Rube at this point). I also think that a good draft pick in this upcoming draft will be huge, given the quality of the 2014 draft. I do not expect the Phillies to fall to the first pick, nor, honestly, do I want them to be that bad. But I think they need to be bad enough to save themselves from their own lack of impulse control. Management - both Ruben and the ownership group - need to see that this is, as constructed, a bad team, and they need to try not to save it with bandaids. This does not mean, necessarily, rooting for losses; it does mean feeling a sense of calm certainty about the future when they do lose. Teams in professional sports that aren't football do not get better by being mediocre; they get better by being bad. And this, my friends, is a bad team. No need to root for it to be worse than it is - it is as bad, I believe, as it needs to be to get the job done. Within reason, then, I implore you: #embracethetank.

WetLuzinski

PHOTOJOURNALIST (Dennis Hopper): "This is the way the fucking world ends. Look at this fucking shit we're in man. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. And with a whimper, I'm fucking splitting, Jack."

I can't help but be poetically script-flippant here: The tank will embrace the Phillies. I want them to win always, no matter how improbable the odds, and no matter what it will cost later in draft picks, not because I don't value draft picks, but because I am consumed with loathing for many of our opponents. No, not really. I am mostly consumed with an appreciation for really good, crisp, ass-hammerigly good baseball.

So mine is a fatalistic take borne of about 40 years of conscious Phillies fandom. The Phillies don't have much choice because this is the way this season was structured, and now it's come a cropper -- and to be honest, a little worse than I thought it would this spring. What's this? Zach Miner tonight? Oh playa, puh-leez!

To be sure, tanking is not something that the individual athletes want to do. Now that they're in this pickle, they'll try their darndest, I'm sure. We all would do the same, for sure. And we would be terrible, and in grave, grave danger. But this is beside the point. I hope none of these A-AAAA players we'll see in Phillies uniforms from now until September 29 gets hurt real real bad.

The FA sprees of 2009-2012 are really coming a cropper now. And while we've gone into much detail that many of the highest profile deals were really pretty good, my hobby horse has always been the opportunity costs of the fringe deals in roster spots 21-40 that separates the good from everyone else. So this isn't about Halladay so much as it is about the extra years for Contreras and Adams and Nix and Wigginton. Those deals are endless churns of band-aid approaches to your team that should be better served by your farm system. And somewhere among those places of Not Having It, Not Using It, or Not Wanting It, the Phillies lived dangerously.

So the new high ground is in your farm system. How mind-blowingly profound. When wasn't it? When the Phillies have surfaced,Awakenings-like, for those 5-6 year stretches of relevancy since 1960, when did we not say, "they had a good farm system then." It's hard work, and it's expensive, and requires patience and more than a little luck and good, tough leadership. From my casual-to-close monitoring of the goings-on at all levels, I'd have to say that 2013, barring a transformatively awesome August, was a tremendous disappointment for the system.

The winter is upon us.

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