World War I lasted just over 1.5 years. World War II lasted just over 3.5 years. The Civil War was 4 years long.
Our Good Phight? It has now been going on for almost 10.5 years. With the official announcement that Matt Klentak has become the Phillies' new GM, I have to now wonder - is the Good Phight over? And have we won?
Ten years ago this past summer, a group of us came together because we were getting more and more frustrated with the Phillies and their lack of modern baseball smarts. We were a group of internet friends living in our moms' basements who were stoking each other's anger on bulletin boards and in fantasy leagues. We had been schooled on Bill James, Rob Neyer, and Billy Beane's best-selling book Moneyball and couldn't be silent any longer.
In particular, we were furious at the way the Phillies, the phans, and the media had been treating Bobby Abreu. He was the epitome of everything that was good about modern baseball. We loved Bobby Abreu. But, the rest of Philadelphia didn't share our opinion, and neither did the front office, who traded him a year later for two opened packs of 1987 Dunross filler cards . . . chewed-up original gum included.
It was our mission to defend all that was good about our hero and, in the process, to bring some modern baseball understanding to a franchise that had notoriously and routinely lagged behind all others when it came to forward-thinking baseball (John Kennedy anyone?). In a sport that seemed to be experimenting with technology, analytics, and economics, the Phillies were still holding up Rex Hudler as the essence of all that is good in baseball.
We were incredibly lucky to be doing this while the team brought up some of the best players in franchise history, leading to the most sustained period of success the team has ever seen. It was glorious watching and documenting the birth and/or maturation of the careers of Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz. We were shocked and thrilled to be writing while players at the peak of their game joined the Phils, like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
But all the while, there was the nagging worry that what the team was experiencing from 2007 through 2011 was due to an unprecedented combination of luck and skill in drafting combined with the power to spend money that was unprecedented in the franchise's history (thanks CBP!). This nagging worry seemed to come true over the past years, as the team plummeted to be the worst on-field franchise in the sport.
What we worried about seemed obvious, even during the period of success. We worried about whether it would be replicable with a figurehead that publicly mused about their confusion between plate appearances and at bats and with an ownership group that seemed more interested in nostalgia for the grit and heart of teams past than with investigating how to keep up with almost every other team that has thought about the future of baseball. We cried in disbelief when the team, in 2014, nodded toward modern analytics by hiring one person, and only one person, to sit behind a TRS-80 and feed dot matrix printouts to management for them to use as place mats during the post-game buffet.
In other words, yes the team had been successful in our time spent chronicling its ups and downs, but it had done nothing to show that it understood its success or that our efforts had paid off.
Until yesterday. Yesterday, we won. Yesterday, the fruits of our labor have come into existence. Yesterday, the Phillies indicated they were going to become the modern baseball franchise we dreamed of when dajafi welcomed everyone to this site on June 27, 2005.
Now, to be 100% clear, I have no delusions of grandeur here. I am not saying that TGP deserves credit for the Klentak hire. At best, we were one of many many pressures on the Phillies to finally do something about the fact that the game had seemingly passed the franchise by. At worst, we were shouting into the wind, only heard by the other baseball nerds who love the team and needed an outlet for their own phighting instincts. Either way, we've been more than happy to do this for over a decade.
And yesterday, we were even happier, because we won. We now have a general manager who talks about analytics, not just as a one-man show, but as a department. We have an outspoken owner who understands that the team has been behind the curve for over a decade and wants to bring every tool possible into the fold to figure out how to become better. We can finally say that we have smart, creative, bold people leading this team with the promise of melding the old and the new into something special.
Of course, we don't know if what these people do will work, whether they'll be good at their jobs, whether they'll follow through on their promises. And because of that, our phight will continue, but as of yesterday, it seems that it's going to be a different phight than what we've been doing for the past decade.
I can't speak for all my fellow TGPers, but I for one am incredibly excited about this new battle.