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So Long, Sal

It's a great day for the Phillies organization: catcher Sal Fasano was designated for assignment. What's so good about it? Just read this:

Sal Fasano quietly packed his belongings into an expanding array of cardboard boxes while his now former teammates took part in the team's annual photo day.

With each bat he slid into storage, with each T-shirt folded, with each supportive handshake he received from a teammate, the reality eventually overwhelmed him.

The veteran catcher was no longer welcome with the Phillies.
"We decided to stay with Lieberthal and Coste as our catchers," said Ruben Amaro Jr., the assistant general manager. "We felt like [Lieberthal and Coste] were doing a very good job in that role. Unfortunately for Sal, while he worked hard and was very professional for us, he got caught up in a numbers game. He did a pretty good job, but there are certain difficult decisions you have to make when these types of situations occur."

This didn't make it any easier for Fasano, who had quickly embraced the city and been embraced in turn by its fans. A group of about 20 or so formed Sal's Pals, and dressed up with fake mustaches and wigs.

Fasano had hoped that this, his 10th organization, would be his last.

No, I'm not taking sadistic pleasure in Fasano's pain. I actually think he did a semi-adequate job as a backup catcher forced by injuries into a starting role. His offensive production (34-140/.243, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .284 OBP, .386 SLG) was about as good as anyone could have expected; his defense and game-calling were lousy, and he didn't do much to help the development of the team's many young arms (or Jon Lieber, for that matter), but I don't know if Johnny Bench himself could have truly helped Gavin Floyd. Fasano did more or less what he was paid to do.

What I'm happy about--and what the maudlin prose of Ken Mandel in the excerpt I quoted illustrates--is that the decision to cut Fasano shows that baseball considerations, not PR, are now paramount for Pat Gillick's Phillies. Forgive my skepticism, but I just don't think there's any way that Ed Wade, Organization Man, would have made this move. Wade's professed love for "character guys," and his seeming deference to "fan-friendly" considerations, would have ensured that Fasano at least finished out the year. Whether that would have meant screwing Geoff Geary or Chris Coste, I don't know; maybe a trade would have resolved it (as I was  expecting, incorrectly, would happen).

But Sal would have stayed--and the Phillies would be no closer to any insight on their catching situation for 2007, which is really at issue here. Even if you deem the club's recent spasm of competitive play (six wins in their last nine games) the start of a possible run at the wild card, there's no real baseball reason to keep Fasano over Coste. And while Fasano was never part of the solution for next year, both Coste and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre backstop Carlos Ruiz could be options at least to back up a newcomer.

The team is better now and potentially better next year as a result of this move. I think that's worth upsetting a couple dozen "Pals" sorry to see their hero moving on. And I find it very gratifying that the Phillies evidently feel the same way.