There has been much hand-wringing over the Phillies recently, here, in the dugout, on the message boards, and in the local media. Deservedly so as the team has played awful ball for the last month-plus, leaving the Phils all-but-out of the post-season race.
Along with this fall from grace have come several articles calling for the re-tooling of the Phils. Almost all of the articles in the local media to tackle this subject talk about the need for the team to get more aggressive and more emotional, like Aaron Rowand.
It's articles like these that make me wonder whether local sportswriters could spell "cat" if spotted the C and the T.
As Paul Hagen (one of the few local guys who seems to "get it" every now and then) detailed earlier this year, the Phils for decades have been run by a management team that has prized exciting players over dull ones. The Rex Hudlers of the world are favored; the Eddie Murrays of the world are avoided.
This mentality lives on in the recent slew of overhall-the-team articles in the local press. We are told by Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer, for example, that the team needs to get "younger, cheaper and more aggressive. Gillick needs pitching and he needs more players with the mental makeup of Aaron Rowand." Or, as Don McKee, also at the Inky, puts it, "Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand have what it takes to bring a new spirit to a better team. [Others] provide a veteran nucleus around which to rebuild the clubhouse atmosphere. Then bring in a young, aggressive manager who can take advantage of new, aggressive players."
Do these writers have no memory? Where has this philosophy of player personality and team aggression and emotion gotten us? One playoff trip in the past 22 years.
Against that backdrop, you'd think it would be obvious that emotion and aggression are not the ingredients that the team should be seeking when rebuilding this season and off-season. Sure, they're fun to watch when they are byproducts of other sought-after attributes, but let's remember that Tomas Perez had emotion and played with aggression. Was there really anything else he brought to the game?
For years, we've had players shoved down our throats who "play the game the right way," "do the little things," "provide veteran leadership," and "know how to win." In the name of these tired baseball cliches, we've seen David Bell, Abraham Nunez, Terry Adams, Tim Worrell, Sal Fasano, Arthur Rhodes, etc. signed or traded for. What's that gotten us? Nothing.
What this team needs is talent and production, but apparently those are four-letter words to the local media. Players' personalities should be irrelevant; their number of playoff appearances with other teams equally so. Whether they have talent and whether they can produce on the field are all that should matter to this team.
The current poster boy for this "aggression" and "emotion" sentiment is Aaron Rowand. In the back of everyone's mind, of course, is The Catch (TM). But, other than win that one game against the Mets, what has The Catch done for the Phils? They're 20-29 since The Catch, and Rowand, who missed 14 games, has hit to the lofty clip of .223/.275/.347 with 2 home runs, 29 strikeouts, and 4 walks. With his possibly-injury-induced .622 OPS since The Catch, this team needs fewer Aarown Rowands, not more.