I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
I like Buster Olney.
Really, I do. I enjoy his daily podcast, I enjoy his writing most of the time, and I enjoy him when he's on TV. The national writers are generally good, although some are uninformed, mainly because they don't spend all their time covering one team. They don't have a depth of knowledge of every organization, rather, they have more of a general knowledge of all the franchises.
As someone who writes specifically about the Phillies but also covers MLB as a whole for numberFire.com, I can relate.
But sometimes, the national guys just get it so, so wrong.
Once again, a national writer, this time Olney, linked the Phils to the dreaded "T" word in sports, "tanking." In his piece out Monday, Olney talked about tanking in baseball, and incorrectly lumped the Phils into the conversation.
The Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs both had great seasons in 2015, reaching the playoffs with young and exciting teams built through a tear down to build up approach. After cutting spending and losing a lot of games in successive years and finishing at the bottom of the standings, the Astros and Cubs had picked at or near the top of the draft and had access to players such as Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant.
The impolite phrase for this is much more common in the National Basketball Association: tanking.
Now it appears that the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers are in the midst of a similar approach, with the possibility that the Reds and other teams could follow. MLB might have a situation in years to come that 10 percent to perhaps a quarter of the teams are designing failure.
Forget about the fact that what the Astros and Cubs did WORKED. Since when did "rebuilding" suddenly become "tanking?"
Baseball teams have been doing this FOREVER. The Phils were really good for a long time, but as players aged, they ceased being good players. So, the Phillies decided they needed to jettison their older players and rebuild the roster with younger talent.
In fact, they were two years too late in doing this, as you no doubt read here on numerous occasions.
This has been happening in baseball since the beginning of time. It's called rebuilding. And, in fact, it's something that national writers, like Olney, criticized former general manager Ruben Amaro and the former Phils regime for taking too long to get started doing.
It was just last February that Olney said the Phillies had to trade Hamels as soon as possible in order to better plan for the future. It was in that same piece when Olney said...
The Phillies have repeatedly missed windows to make deals or better position themselves in recent years.
In July of 2014, Olney wrote a long piece entitled "Time for the Phillies to Turn the Page." The entire piece deals with how the Phils had to stop clutching to the stars of the past and get on with their future.
Whatever the thinking was behind the Phillies' decision to hold together their core group of expensive veterans -- while adding more older players to the mix -- it is playing out to be a debacle, on the field and in the eyes of the Phillies' faithful. What this really means is that there is clear opportunity for the Philadelphia front office, should it choose to take it: The Phillies have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the last 20 days before the trade deadline. They have hit rock bottom, and they have a chance to move forward from here.
He went on...
So Phillies GM Ruben Amaro should make deals. There are desperate teams all around baseball right now, and, although Philadelphia's outsized contracts probably will keep Amaro from making great trades, he can still make good trades, eating some dollars while adding prospects and carving out some space in his budget and building openings for a different roster that Phillies fans apparently want.
He should begin the turnover. Now.
In other words, the Phillies have finally followed Buster Olney's advice. They are moving on. They are stockpiling as many young players with promise as they can.
So for the national writers, including Olney, who say the Phils are "tanking," I quote The Princess Bride.
Was it the Ken Giles trade? Is that what did it? If so, take note.
The Phils turned a 25-year-old closer entering his prime into FIVE starting pitching prospects, two of which are potential mid-rotation-to-No. 2 starters. In their trade of Cole Hamels, they got their Nos. 2, 3, and 4 prospects in the deal, as well as a starter who showed great promise last year in Jerad Eickhoff.
They also got usable pieces in deals for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere and Jonathan Papelbon.
What am I missing here?
Not only that, the additions (and more importantly the subtractions) to the starting pitching mix will probably result in the Phillies winning MORE games in 2016 than they won in 2015. The removal of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Severino Gonzalez, David Buchanan, Sean O'Sullivan, Chad Billingsley, Kevin Correia and Phillippe Aumont will only help the Phils win games this season.
But the Phils aren't solely relying on unproven kids. They're also taking a chance on some veteran arms with the potential to perform well. Jeremy Hellickson is a former Rookie of the Year and is still on the good side of 30, and the addition of Charlie Morton for virtually nothing gives the team a veteran arm to soak up some innings. Brett Oberholtzer is better than any of the schlubs they had taking the ball any fifth day last year. Vincent Velasquez holds far more promise than Gonzalez, Buchanan or O'Sullivan.
The additions the Phillies have made to their stockpile of starting pitching probably makes them five-to-seven wins better in 2016, and if one or two guys really surprise, perhaps as many as seven-to-10 wins better.
Does it make them playoff contenders? No. Will they be a winning team in 2016? No. But I'd like to hear the national guys who think what the Phillies are doing is "tanking" say what they SHOULD have done this off-season to avoid being given that label.
Should they have held onto Giles? He is, after all, a closer, and we all know how valuable a closer is to an under-.500 team with no hope of making the playoffs.
Should they have tried to sign Jason Heyward to a big-money contract? Should they have pursued Zack Greinke, David Price or Johnny Cueto? Or even Mike Leake or Scott Kazmir?
Of course not. But even with all that, this is a team that wants to be better in 2016 than they were in 2015, and the changes they've made revamping the starting rotation is proof of that.
I get that people don't like what the Sixers are doing. That's fine. And I understand that you don't want a quarter of Major League teams not trying to win every year. That would be bad.
But don't lump the Phillies into that pot. They are not tanking. They want to be playoff contenders by 2017, and are in the process of doing what every writer and blogger had been screaming for them to do for two years.
Get younger. Rebuild. Plan for the future.
It's not tanking. It's rebuilding. Get it right.