As portended by Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg prior to last night's win against the Cardinals, Domonic Brown, having completed a DL stint and rehab assignment as he recovered from an Achilles injury, will not join the team.
Domonic Brown's rehab assignment is over. He was reinstated and optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) April 28, 2015
While this news isn't shocking following last night's comments, it remains upsetting as it marks yet another instance of the Phillies mishandling their former top-prospect. Remember when Domonic Brown was such an important part of the Phillies' future that he wasn't even worth giving up for Roy Freaking Halladay? We've come a long way since then. From needlessly trading for Hunter Pence and displacing Brown just as he was getting acclimated to playing every day, to not giving him opportunities to face left handed pitching early in his major league career, to shuffling him back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Those stop-and-go rush hour drives along the Northeast Extension serve as a fitting metaphor for the Phillies' handling of his development. And here we are, after two mere seasons of consistent MLB playing time, the Phillies have once again set up a traffic jam for the 27 year-old former top prospect.
To figure out what's wrong with this, all you need to do is look at the Phillies' starting outfield. Ben Revere; Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera; The Corpse of Grady Sizemore platooned with Jeff Francoeur, who tried to revive his career by pitching in AAA last year. Hey Jeff, stop smiling; the glare off your pearly whites is preventing me from finding room for our recent crown jewel.
Even if you want to argue that Brown is worse than all four of those players, this is still stupid. We know all we need to know about Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur and can confidently shout from the top of the mountains that they are not major league outfielders on teams that are trying to win. Do Amaro and Co. think that will change as they enter their mid-30s? Please tell me they don't. I'm not saying that Domonic Brown will definitely end up being better than Frenchy or Sizemore, but merely that he, unlike the other two, actually has a chance of being worthy of a roster spot on a playoff team in 2016 and beyond.
The 2015 Phillies are not in the business of maximizing 2015 wins. Rather, their focus is on wins 2016 and beyond. Ask GM Ruben Amaro and Actual-GM Pat Gillick if you don't believe me. To send Brown down to AAA when Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore, and a damn Rule 5 pick get to be regulars is myopic at best and intentionally sabotages the future at worst.
I don't know if Domonic Brown can be the player he suggested he could be in May and June 2013 or if he is the floundering defensive and offensive liability he has been for the rest of his career. Maybe he ends up somewhere in the middle. Maybe not. What's important is not where we think he'll end up but that we don't know. With Sizemore and Francoeur, who the Phillies are sticking with over Dom, we know. With Brown we don't, and the best way to find out is to keep giving him chances in the majors until either you do know or a clearly superior option comes along. The Phillies have handled Brown so poorly that we may never know what kind of major league career he might have had and that's sad for a rebuilding team.
One thing we do know is that Domonic Brown is definitely not a player-GM. Maybe he should be.