Starting yesterday, CSN Philly has been releasing installments of an interview Jimmy Rollins gave to Jim Salisbury shortly after his trade to the Dodgers. If the segments that have been released so far are any indication, this will be a revealing series of videos. Rarely do athletes speak candidly about their teammates or organizations, but Rollins, having recently been traded from the Phillies, seems comfortable speaking openly about all things Phillies. You should check out these videos if you haven't already.
In the first installment, Salisbury asks Rollins about John Middleton, cigar tycoon and Phillies current minority owner, who, if reports are correct, is intent on seizing majority ownership and a larger influence on the baseball operations of the team. After labeling him a "man with a vision," Rollins notes that Middleton aspires to be a sort of Steinbrenner South. Rollins speculates that big changes would come if Middleton assumes majority ownership. Indications are that Rollins expects those changes would be beneficial.
Based on what we've covered in these pages, it should come as no surprise that Middleton is making a push to become an active member of the Phillies decision-making group. As the longest tenured player on the team prior to his trade, Rollins' endorsement of Middleton certainly is encouraging as he likely knows as much about the goings-on of the organization as anyone. So that's certainly good. The changes we have already seen since David Montgomery stepped away from the Phillies have been positive--more power to Gillick/Amaro, vocal commitment to rebuilding, evidence of a commitment to rebuilding. Hopefully Middleton would continue that development.
The phrase "Steinbrenner South," however, is cause for concern. Prior to his suspension in 1990, George Steinbrenner was known for his propensity to interfere in the baseball operations of the team, notably resulting in rapid manager turnover and a habit of trading prospects for aging major-league talent. This Steinbrenner was not particularly well-liked. While he was suspended from 1990-1993, the Yankees established a strong farm system that developed Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte. After that, Steinbrenner became a better owner--providing money but letting people who knew about baseball make baseball decisions. Sure, Steinbrenner was still annoying and prominent enough to inspire a Seinfeld character in his likeness, but this late-Steinbrenner oversaw one of the greatest runs of team success in baseball history.
If Middleton wants as much control of baseball operations as Rollins suggests, count me against his ownership. Recent Philadelphia sports history has been a testament to the evils of a meddling owner. From Harold Katz and the early 90s Sixers to Ed Snyder and the Flyers to, possibly, David Montgomery and the recent Phillies teams, we've witnessed what can happen when people who know not of what they speak take control of roster-related decisions. Hint: it leads to losing. If Middleton is going to meddle (John Meddleton would be a good nickname in that scenario), I fear for the future.
If John Middleton is going to be late-Steinbrenner and let Ruben Amaro and future GMs do their damn jobs while providing enough money to assemble a competitive team, then, by all means, bring on John Middleton as Phillies majority owner. "Yes" to Middleton, "no" to Meddleton.
Either way, Jonathan Papelbon will like the cigars: