A guest piece on what all of this number seven pick nonsense might mean.
[The ever wonderful Paul Boyé of Crashburn Alley got in touch with me today to let me know he had a piece he was unable to post on Crashburn, due to some glitches. He offered it to The Good Phight, and I'm running it unedited here. Enjoy!]
It can be funny to think of how drastically time can alter the landscape of our lives. Consider what you were doing yesterday, last week, last year. How different were you then? How different was everything around you?
I remember where I was for the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft, perched on my bed with laptop open and waiting for a draft tracker web page to refresh with the Phillies' selection in that year's First-Year Player Draft at 24. I had a separate tab opened to a sports forum where I spent countless hours of my time pre-Twitter, the place that started me down the path to learning to watch baseball the way I watch it today, ready to regurgitate everything I'd read about said drafted player and read other people do basically the same thing. Sports discourse among fans hasn't evolved much.
As the name "Anthony Hewitt" appeared on the page, I remember commenting to that forum my hope and wish for the Phillies to come up with the multi-million-dollar scratch signing bonus it would take to bring Hewitt into the fold.
I was hopeful (and maybe a bit naive) then. Do you remember how you were in 2008?
Six years ago, the Phillies were a five-month journey from winning the World Series. They were two-and-a-half years from winning 102 games. Time changes things, but just as what's popular falls out of fashion only to resurface later on down the line, hope will soon return to Philadelphia baseball.
Tonight could be the start of just such a rekindling. It would be years before June 5, 2014, is remembered as a turning point in the history of the Phillies, but in the midst of a two-and-a-half year trudge through mediocrity and on down toward irrelevance, something about tonight's seventh pick feels more important than ever. The Phillies haven't selected in the top 10 since they took Gavin Floyd fourth in 2001; their last top-15 pick was Chase Utley the year prior. Those two were part of a string of five first-round picks from 1998 (Pat Burrell) through 2002 (Cole Hamels) that came to redefine this franchise, and mostly for the better.
At the Major League level, the Phillies are playing out the string, sat upon the laurels of the success those earlier draft picks wrought while being weighed down by the recent systemic failure that's left the franchise and its fans henpecked. It will be years before the Phillies are to be taken seriously again, years before the club's fans remember what playoff baseball is like and what the pursuit of a World Series title can do to your heart and hair color. The next time the Phils make the playoffs, there may be no surviving members from its championship squad, or the 102-win juggernaut that brought with it the apex of Philadelphia baseball.
But all that is partially reliant upon, among many things, tonight's draft. At the very least, a top 10 pick is someone to lean on for Major League success, to help prolong the competitive edge that might, hopefully, arrive in the Show before the pick does. At best, it's the next Burrell or Hamels or even Brett Myers: a steady, productive, potentially cornerstone Major League presence for years and years.
As of this writing, Cole Hamels has produced more than 35 rWAR. Every subsequent first-pound pick the Phillies have made, whether for the club or for another by way of trade, has combined to produce -2.2 WAR. The best hopes for course correction out of the red lie in Jesse Biddle and J.P. Crawford, neither of whom is coming to play in Citizens Bank Park tomorrow.
To be sure, there's always the chance of finding a diamond in the rough, a late-round jewel like a 10th-round Marlon Byrd, a 20th-round Domonic Brown (we hope) or a 38th-round Jarred Cosart, but none will carry the weight of expectation like Number Seven. Whoever it is will immediately be thrust into the spotlight before a hungry fanbase, one that is still clamoring for success and enjoyable baseball beneath the growing discomfort, angst and even apathy that has slowly arisen from the ashes of the charred, would-be Phillie empire.
There is no quick fix for this team, no control+z, no Easy button to wipe the slate of bad contracts and slumping farm system clean. The ascent will be a slow process, likely much slower than the descent from the pinnacle of baseball to the cellar-dwelling that brings us to this point, but with any luck, it begins tonight. We need your help, Number Seven, and we're anxious for your arrival.