As the general cries of the Phillies' managerial incompetence have grown louder and louder this off-season from the unwashed masses of the Phillies' fanbase, there has been a definite shift in the opposite direction among the more analytic Phillies fans.
I noticed this trend at the beginning of the off-season. It has continued to grow throughout an off-season of Phillies veterans being traded for prospects and low-risk, high-reward veterans being signed to one-year contracts. But with my fellow founding TGP blogger and fellow card-carrying member of the "I Hate Ruben Amaro Jr." club dajafi writing a positive piece about the Phillies here last week, I knew things had gotten out of hand.
It's time to reel this nonsense back in - the Phillies' management team still sucks; Ruben Amaro Jr. still needs to be fired; and the organization still needs to figure out a way into the 21st century of baseball thinking.
Look, I'm normally a proud member of the group of contrarians who are leading this charge. In fact, it's pretty much the reason several of us started this blog almost 10 years ago. Back then, most Phillies fans, the press, and the team had no clue what a gem they had on their hand with Bobby Abreu, and we started this blog to fight The Good Phight in screaming from the rooftops about how amazing he was. The blog's name comes directly from this way of looking at the world.
But sometimes, fighting The Good Phight is not the same as taking a position against the masses. Sometimes, the masses are right.
Now, don't get me wrong - I am not at all accusing those who are looking at the Phillies with what I believe are unwarranted rose-colored glasses as doing so because they just want to go against the grain. Not at all. I just think they are admirably, though wrongly, trying to find good in a very bad situation.
I won't rehash what I wrote in October about the Phillies at that point (which is still all true now), but will update it with what has happened since then. After all, shouldn't I be impressed with what Amaro and Gillick have done this off-season? They traded veterans Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd for three prospects that are now among the team's top 10 or 15 according to most sources. They signed four veterans to very reasonable one-year contracts that could, if any of them are performing in July, easily be flipped for prospects. And, almost as importantly, they have signed no risky long-term contracts that could cripple them in years to come.
That's pretty good, isn't it?
No, it's not. What it is is not disastrous. That's not to be confused with being good. It'd be like praising a lawyer for not stealing her client's funds this time around. Or giving a doctor accolades for operating on the correct limb for the first time. Or giving the teacher of the year award to an educator who finally realized he shouldn't sleep with his students.
You get the point. What Amaro and whoever is pulling his strings this off-season have done is exactly what any minimally-competent baseball executive would have done with the Phillies roster. Trade some veterans for a few prospects who may or may not be contributors down the line? Sure. Round out the roster will veteran filler and possibly capture lightning in a bottle with one of them? Yup. Not trade other assets for bad prospects? Check. These are no-brainers.
And in that sense, to the extent my previous position has been that Ruben Amaro Jr. is incompetent, I guess there's been an improvement. This off-season and last the Phillies have not done anything monstrously terrible.
What they haven't done, though, is anything remotely creative or inventive. There has been nothing in any way franchise-altering. They haven't brought in any talent that will materially change this team's future. They haven't re-evaluated their approach to the game and determined that something needs to be different.
This is not an argument for spending more now or for trading Hamels, Howard, Papelbon, and Utley for whatever pittance is being offered. Those would be mistakes. What this is an argument for a management team that has a vision for the future and works well with other GMs to figure out how to get the team there. After all, even with the addition of the Eflin, Lively, and Windle this off-season and Nola in the summer, the Phillies still have a paucity of top-flight prospects, particularly among position players, and the organization's overall prospect rankings continue to be pitiful.
The Phillies of 2015 and 2016 are cooked. Maybe 2017 too. Recent draft failures have guaranteed that. The problem is that the only way that the Phillies of 2018 to 2020 are good is if management makes the correct decisions right now.
While this management team seems to be no longer making the dreadful decisions of years past, it is also absolutely not making or positioned to make the creative decisions going forward that will change the course of the franchise.
We need to recognize that an off-season of middling prospect and aging veteran collection does nothing to change that fact.