The 2014 Phillies: It's the Talent That Matters

This man is in charge of talent for the 2014 Phillies. *shudder* - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Hustle, grit, determination, practice, and every other cliche in the book about trying your hardest only get you so far. In the end, what matters is talent and production.

Sometimes the Onion just nails it.  Their story about walking on the moon is one example.  (Seriously, follow that link.  It's one of the funniest things ever written.)  Their issue two weeks after September 11 (after taking a week off) is another.

On a much grander scale, but completely relevant to this site generally and to the Phillies right now, the Onion nailed it with today's article about the Giants.  The headline is "Giants Nervous They Might Actually All Be On Same Page." The story is one of their paragraph-long stories, so I'll quote it in full:

Following their first practice since their disastrous 38-0 loss to the Panthers, several Giants players reportedly expressed concern Monday that they are actually all on the same page. "Unfortunately, I think we’re communicating well, have great team-chemistry, and generally have gelled to form one cohesive unit," said defensive end Justin Tuck, fearing that at this point the product on the field is the result of the team working in complete unison to the best of their abilities. "I hate to say it, but there’s no confusion, zero distractions, and every player is committed to the same goal. It seems like everybody knows exactly what their individual roles are and how all the pieces are supposed to fit together. It’s scary, but we may very well be the full sum of our parts." Tuck added that he is extremely worried that every single one of his teammates responded to his demand last week that they step up their game.

This short satire is so important to understanding so much of what many of us here at TGP, as well as many saber-oriented folks beyond, believe.  Baseball nonsense cliches about hustle, grit, and determination are used all the time to explain why a player is good or why a player performs.  On the flipside, the lack of those qualities are tossed around repeatedly to criticize players.  The cast of characters is familiar.  Bobby Abreu and Jimmy Rollins are missing those qualities.  Juan Pierre and every David Kennedy-clone have them.

Most of us here scoff at this nonsense.  Hustle, grit, and determination only get you so far.  What matters most is talent and production.  Without talent and production, hustle and grit are Rex Hudler.  Fun to watch, maybe even fun to listen to, but not all that helpful in winning baseball games.  On the other hand, talent and production without hustle and grit get you Bobby Abreu.  Maybe tough to watch at times, but incredibly useful in winning baseball games.

This is absolutely relevant to the Phillies today.  The Phils new manager has been talking about increasing practice time by 15 minutes per day and focusing on fundamentals in spring training and during the year.  He has tried to focus personalities that he believes have been slacking off.  That all plays well for the press and the fans, but that's really all it is.

Because what matters is talent.  Baseball 101 with Ryne Sandberg everyday is going to do nothing if the talent isn't there.  And talent on the field has nothing to do with Ryne Sandberg and everything to do with Ruben Amaro Jr.  Given that, at this point, we have no reason to believe Amaro is not going to be directing the franchise next year, we are left with him controlling the team's talent.  The track record he has in that regard does not instill confidence.

In other words, even if everything Sandberg does sinks in, what if the talent isn't there?  Or, in the words of the fake Justin Tuck, what if the Phillies "may very well be the full sum of our parts"?

If that's so, then all this attention to Sandberg's contract and the coaches he may retain or let go is completely irrelevant.  The only thing that really matters is who is in charge of the talent put on the field.

And it sure looks like the same man responsible in that regard for the disaster of 2013 is going to be in charge of 2014.

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