A wise man once said:
"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done"
Contained within those lyrics sang by the legendary country musician Kenny Rogers is the question that is buried firmly in the mind of Phillies fans today. We are currently in the midst of what most people seem to think will be the third straight year of supporting a non-playoff team. This follows what was arguably the most sustained successful era in Phillies baseball history. What trouble fans- and management even more- is that most of the pieces here right now are the same guys who were front and center during that Golden Era.
David Montgomery has seemingly made his opinion heard. Scouts also are hearing rumblings from within the organization that Chase Utley will not be on the block. Even Amaro seems bent on not trading the previous cornerstones. Although to be fair he has started hedging a little on that. So the question becomes then: should we move on from the past or hope this band of players can put it together one more time.
The temperature of fans had seemed to firmly move into the "Sell them all" camp when the Phillies dropped to 11 games under .500. However, then the magic returned a little and the Phillies swept Atlanta shortening the distance between them. The Phillies have even picked up a few games here and there this week while the Nationals, Marlins, and Braves have played hot potato with the National League East lead.That has led to speculation that the Phillies may not be sellers at the deadline and they may go for the playoffs again. I put all those thoughts together in a blender and sat down with them for a while. I have seen and heard all the debates and arguments on here and the eternal optimist in me wants to say "Storm the mainland," while the rational side of me is worried we are delaying the inevitable.
So it is with great pain that I have come to this conclusion:
Please Phillies- stop winning. The sell off must happen.
Trust me when I tell you I did not come to this decision easily, and I hate it. But the part of me that roots for the Phillies does not want them to go into a black hole spiral that they don't get out of until 2020 when everyone is up and ready. As much as I love watching Phillies playoff baseball I think in this instance it would be the worst thing for the franchise because it would tell the front office that what they are doing is working and that they need to even...gulp.....re-sign Amaro.
Now I am not one that usually falls into that "trade em all for some guys" camp so believe me I came upon this point of view honestly and legitimately. The way I see it is this: we have missed the playoffs for 2 years now, and possibly a third one coming. This team will probably miss more in the years to come but the mission here should be mitigating the downturn rather than exacerbating it. Amaro has done a great job the past two winters in not giving up draft picks to sign high priced band-aid free agents. That led to us drafting J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola- both guys who should be contributors in the future. With the talent of the past two drafts the farm system seems to be on the upswing and the few scouting rankings that are out there seem to agree with that. There is still a ton of work to be done there.
To help with that- the Phillies have assets that they can trade. Rollins and Utley are both veterans presences under reasonable contracts going forward. They can help a contending team.
Papelbon- the scourge for many- has been having a good year again and could help a team.
Byrd and Burnett are veteran guys who could step in to help support a team.
Even a healthy Cliff Lee would bring back a pretty decent return.
If Mike Adams comes back healthy he could be flipped too.
In some of those trades the Phillies organization may need to pick up some cash, but that shouldn't prohibit a move. The goal here should be to change the dynamic of the team and begin preparing for the next run of glory. It would end up being similar to the 2006 trade of Abreu which was short sighted in one respect but in another it helped change the clubhouse dynamic as guys like Rollins, Utley, and Howard became the leaders and wiped away what the fans of the team felt was the apathetic nature of guys like Abreu. (Perhaps that was an unfair feeling toward him to be fair). I don't know that Cody Asche and Cesar Hernandez would step into those roles left open but they might and the young guys coming up would have veterans to turn to.
Now the real bug-a-boo to change is the seemingly legitimate argument "I don't trust Amaro to find talent in trades." In some ways that is completely valid. However, looking at the course of Amaro's trading acumen and it paints a more complicated picture. He has pretty clearly lost some trades (Pence from Houston, Lee to Seattle) and pretty clearly won some (Lee from Cleveland, Halladay from Toronto, Oswalt from Houston). I am not a huge defender or fan of Amaro's but I think the perception of him is quite a bit harsher than the reality of him. Even still with reservations I would not use him being in place as a reason to not make moves at the deadline.
It is never an easy choice this time of year as we roll closer to the ASB. But for the sake of the franchise and its future- I think we need to invite the future to the party sooner rather than later. Amaro has to fold them here- the time is now. And the management needs to let Amaro do his job with minimal to no interference. There will still be plenty of money to count when the dealing is done come August 1st.
And just for some music: