After posting earlier today, I had planned to avoid commenting on the Phillies campaign to improve the team in the run up to the July 31st trade deadline until after everything settled out at 4:01 on Saturday. But the loss the Phillies took Tuesday night has sent newspaper columnists and internet bloggists into a tizzy. And rightfully so. Shallow Center does a good job of summarizing the issues at hand, one of which I have been thinking about over the last week or so: Ed Wade's job is not easy. Several obstacles exist:
- Parity: One thing that seems to be left out of the discussion is how the amount of parity in baseball this year is dramatically reducing the number of teams that are "sellers". By my count only ten to twelve teams are undeniably out of contention for a playoff spot. A lot of those teams appear to have themselves headed in the right direction for the next several years (Devil Rays, Orioles, Milwaukee, Detroit) and you don't have a firesale when you are beginning an upswing. Another one of the teams, the Expos, are about to be sold and moved, factors that also preclude a firesale.
- The Future: When you have so few teams that are clearly looking to wipe the slate clean and start all over again, the price for their useful tradeable players goes up. Some are arguing that if the time truly is now, the Phillies should pony up one of their "untouchables" (Cole, Gavin, Chase, and Ryan, which by the way, either sounds like the board of a country club or a boy-band, I can't decide). In my opinion, unless you can get someone like Carlos Beltran, the untouchables should be untouchable. Don't forget, Major League Baseball is the ultimate keeper league. Do we really want to trade our best prospects for aging rent-a-players like Randy Johnson (age 41) and Steve Finley (age 39)? Other than 1980 and 1993, the Phillies have been wandering around in aimlessly in a baseball wasteland. Wouldn't it be nice to have a stretch of five or six or even seven years of competitive teams to look forward to?
- Bowa: You didn't think I could make a post without taking a shot or two at Larry Bowa did you? In the case of closing trades, I honestly think Bowa is an obstacle. Many of today's players have no-trade clauses in their contracts. Let's say you are unhappy in your current employment and let's say that you ask around about some of the job openings in the area, would you agree to go and work for a guy like Bowa? "Gee thanks," you would say, "but I just decided my current work environment isn't too bad after all." You can argue that Bowa is not all that bad a manager, but I am quite certain that he has a less than glowing reputation with players around Major League Baseball.
- Holes everywhere: "Damn! We're in a tight spot!" Ulysses Everett McGill repeatedly exclaims in O Brother, Where Art Thou? That is what I am reminded of every time I think of Ed Wade and Mike Arbuckle hunkered down in the Phillies Situation Room in Clearwater every time they get another piece of bad news. And there has been a lot lately. Wade's mind must be spinning, "Let's see...the no hitter that never was made it apparent we need a true centerfielder....oh wait, Wagner went down, we need a reliever...oh wait Millwood laid another egg, we need a starter...what? now Madson went down?! we need a reliever again... Damn! We're in a tight spot!"
During tonight's game, which was broadcast on ESPN, Jeff Brantley (a former Phillie) was quite tough on the Phillies players and coaches. At one point, Brantley uttered in disbelief, "I look at this team and I don't understand how they can be loosing!" Ed Wade probably looks at the $93 million he laid out on the 2004 Phillies and thinks the same thing. But he also probably thinks that laying out all that cash was a lot easier than what he needs to accomplish over the next few days.