The Phillies may be a lot of things right now, but one thing they are not is uninteresting.
Bob Brookover published a piece early this morning that excellently illustrates where the Phillies are now in light of their recent statement and Howard Eskin's preceding report, as well as many of the questions that have come from this situation. I urge you to read it. As I read the piece, I realized I had many more questions. Questions that extend beyond this situation and into the philosophy of the organization, its larger corporate structure, and its public perception.
Take Ruben Amaro, for instance. Given this possible power struggle, how much has Amaro been directly responsible for? Many look at the Ryan Howard extension as an indictment of Amaro's fitness as GM. I'm starting to wonder if that was Amaro's doing at all, especially considering how Howard has been handled subsequently (i.e. continuing to start when it's obvious that he shouldn't be, even after his manager admitted as much to the press). Amaro might be a cocky, egotistical asshat sometimes, but he has a brain in his head. He can see Howard play and he can read his production numbers on a page. I'm starting to think some, if not all of that came from David Montgomery.
Montgomery's consolidation of power over the last 15+ years, and failure to identify either a successor or construct an adequate Baseball Operations network to operate in his absence, is why there are so many questions now. And most notably, why there's now a power vacuum. Regardless of whether Eskin is right about John Middleton's power grab, there have got to be questions about overall strategy within the organization, and whether Pat Gillick has the responsibility to continue with Montgomery's vision. Or if he doesn't want to, can he go his own way? Does Gillick even report to anyone? Is he the keeper of the keys now? And I have to wonder, if they expected Montgomery to return, why would they appoint someone like Gillick? Gillick is no bullshit interim fill-in. He's the architect of three World Champion teams, the record setting 2001 Mariners, and late '90s Orioles playoff teams. He's been successful everywhere he's been, and could instantly get a major league job almost anywhere he wants. You don't appoint someone like him to maintain the status quo, because why in God's name would Gillick want to do that, and why would anyone actually want him to do that? You appoint someone like him (if you're lucky enough to get him) to corral the horses and start moving them in another direction.
But that's the slightly less terrible way of reading this situation. Because now I have to mention the consensus theory, the one that Howard Eskin's sources confirmed to him. That Phillies ownership, led by minority owner John Middleton, is using Montgomery's terrible illness and subsequent leave of absence as an opportunity to force him out and become the majority owner of the team. Personally, I'd like to believe some of this is happening organically. Pat Gillick was the obvious choice for interim president, and now that he has the reins he's going to do what he thinks is best for the organization, regardless of whether his position is long or short term. There's no palace intrigue and no power play. Unfortunately, Eskin's theory makes a certain amount of sense, regardless of what a bad taste it leaves in my mouth.
There are a lot of ways to read this situation, and all of it is speculative. The questions I asked above and all my commentary are based on sourced reports from Howard Eskin. The Phillies themselves have released just two statements about this, and that's it. Amaro's actions in the Tomas sweepstakes and his subsequent comments about his hands being tied are providing additional pieces to the puzzle. But we still don't know what this is and what the puzzle will look like. Is this a power struggle? Is everything being misinterpreted? Is Howard Eskin actually right? And if he is, how many of us will have to readjust our very belief systems?
At this point, all we can do is watch what happens. And of course send our best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to David Montgomery. Cancer is horrible.