Monday, February 24, 2014

The Future?

Hell hath no fury like a Ruben scorned

Since Ruben Amaro began his tenure as the Phillies' GM his moves have always been to win now. His game plan(s) never really seemed to involve thinking beyond the current year. His moves were meant to better the team at that point without much regard for bettering the future. Never did he actually deliberately sabotage the Phillies' future, until last week.

In last year's amateur draft, the Phils selected Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler in the 5th round. Picking college kids who have not graduated is always a calculated risk because there's the chance that they will stay in college. It's commonplace to not be able to sign a kid so it should not come as a surprise when it happens. Wetzler decided to stay for one more chance at winning the College World Series after making it last year.

Of course, the NCAA being the giant hypocrisy that they are, will not allow players like Wetzler to use any legal representation (an agent) to negotiate a contract with a Major League ball club and still retain their amateur status. So if a kid is on the fence about returning to school or signing his contract it would be beneficial for the player to not use any representation. This is so wrong at face value it makes my head spin, but rules are rules and the NCAA loves them some dumb ones. 

Anyway, 20-22 year old kids generally lack knowledge when it comes to negotiating the terms of a baseball contract so it makes sense for them to get some outside help. Wetzler did this. He did break a rule. He used an agent to help layout terms with the Phillies so he could be as well informed as possible to make a decision. Considering he did not actually sign the contract it's really a no harm no foul situation. The Phillies get a replacement pick for not being able to sign Wetzler, and he technically didn't sign anything so he can go back to Oregon State without any repercussion. 

Unless of course the Phillies' GM decides to act like a scorned 17 year old that got dumped right before prom. Then you're in trouble if you're Wetzler. So Ruben went and decided it was a good idea to inform Oregon State and the NCAA that Wetzler had used representation during his negotiations with the Phillies. Uh-oh! A really dumb NCAA rule was broken! Let's punish a kid who is just trying to do the best he can for himself. The ruling came down last week that Wetzler will need to miss 20% of the season due to this rules violation.

I just don't get it. This was a nothing to gain and a ton to lose scenario Ruben has decided to play out. This move was spiteful, petty, and shortsighted. My mind is boggled. 

Put yourself in the shoes of any college kid getting drafted who isn't sure if he wants to make his way through the minors or stay in college another year. If you're that kid, do you want to go deal with the guy who just tattled to the NCAA about something I'm sure 1000s of kids have gotten away with over the years? To quote Kevin McCallister, "I don't think so."

I equate this to a boyfriend who just got dumped by his girlfriend so he decided to post every scandalous picture she ever sent him online. Every one found out about it to the point where every one knew this guy was an asshole for his actions. Do you think he's going to have an easier or more difficult time getting a girlfriend after that?

To make matters worse the Phillies have stayed virtually silent while this whole mess has been unfolding. Virtually silent other than being stubborn and arrogant while showing no remorse. Check out the tweets from Phillies' beat writer Matt Gelb regarding the Amaro's statements. 

When you come out of an ethics issue looking worse than the NCAA you are not doing your job properly. Thanks a lot Ruben. You're doing great work here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Closer

Looks like a good guy right?

A few days ago closer Jonathan Papelbon held court for an interview at the Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida. Some how most of the articles published in the Inquirer forced spin on to the garbage spewing out of this idiot's mouth. The articles had titles like "Papelbon vows to be a more positive influence" and "Papelbon says he'll be more upbeat this year".

Gimme a break.

Were the Phillies' writers not willing to throw this guy under the bus yet? Did they not listen to what he had to say? The transcripts are published right there in the paper. Here are a few quotes from possibly the biggest asshole in all of baseball:

"At times, when you lose 12 games in a row and you're in Detroit and you say you didn't come here for this, that gets spinned in a couple of directions. For me, I didn't come here to lose. I came here to win. I came here to win a world championship. I don't take losing very well."

"My role is an intensity-driven role, so on nights when the ballpark is full and it’s a close game, that’s what makes me tick and we’re in a race. That’s the big reason I’ve always decided to be a closer is when the dial is turned up and there is something on the line, I just seem to be at my best."

"When it’s a day game in New York and you’re 12 games behind that dial ain’t really turned up. That ain’t really how I go."

Are you shitting me?!? I guess that $14 million a year to play a game for a living isn't doing it for ya, huh Jon?

I mean come on. This guy, who has signed the richest reliever contract of all time, is saying point blank that he can't get going for the Phillies if they aren't playing well.  That's the definition of amateur and last I checked this guy is supposed to be a professional. How is the Philadelphia media not skewering him for comments nobody should ever make?

He can talk all he wants about being more positive and how his famous "I didn't come here for this" line from last year was taken the wrong way. The bottom line is Papelbon is benign on a good team and malignant on a team any less than that. How do you think that's going to go for the Phllies this year?

If he comes out firing and saves 20 straight or something along those lines to start the season I'll be there rooting for him. It just doesn't feel like he has it in him, and then him blowing saves turns into the Phillies losing games. And Jonathan Papelbon didn't come here for that.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Phillies

The Phillies signed this guy.

Just before noon today I sent a text to my buddies asking, "Is there a reason we aren't signing Burnett?"

My friends met this text with skepticism but within the next half hour the news broke that the Phillies had gone ahead and signed 37 year old AJ Burnett for 1 year and 16 million dollars. I can't say that I ever liked AJ Burnett, he always seemed like a prick to me but I'm going to liken this signing to the Cleveland Indians bringing in Jack Parkman.

"It's funny how a new uniform can change your opinion on a guy."

The thing is, the Phillies needed AJ Burnett. They needed him before the worst news of the season hit. Yes, the Phillies got borderline horrible news today, the first day of pitchers and catchers, that Cole Hamels would not be ready for the beginning of the season due to bicep tendinitis and general soreness in his throwing arm. Excuse me I'm going to go stick my head in an oven. More on that later.

Back to Burnett. Like I said, the Phils needed Burnett before the fan base got a gut punch before Valentine's Day. After Hamels and Lee the Phillies rotation looks like this: Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone, and or Ethan Martin. The Phils weren't exactly starting the season with the 4 headed monster they boasted at the start of 2011.

So in Burnett the Phillies get a proven commodity to eat hopefully 200 innings that were going to be staggeringly more questionable before his addition. This is Ruben Amaro's second pinning of hope to a guy over the age of 35 who helped the Pittsburgh Pirates get to their first postseason since Big Head himself was in town. Again, just like Marlon Byrd, Ruben will hope Burnett can duplicate the success he had last year.

Since the 2008 season Burnett hasn't pitched less than 186 innings or made fewer than 30 starts. He's 10th on the active innings pitched list. He's a strike out pitcher, leading the league in strikeouts per 9 innings last year at 9.8. The Phillies got better with the addition of AJ Burnett, you can't deny that.

So Ruben threw $16 million at him? Feels like a big number for a guy who's closer to 40 than 30, but it's not our money, and it's a 1 year deal. The window of opportunity for this team is an inch away from slamming shut on Ruben's fingers and he might as well start pulling the stops to give The Big Piece and company as much of a chance as he can.

Back to Hamels, I'm still doubled over. Cole gave an interview yesterday and sounded optimistic and that he was only "8 to 10 days behind his teammates (in preparedness)." Cole has not had a shaky injury history but it's just not news you want to hear. It doesn't sound like a finite injury. And the timing of announcing it was just terrible PR for the Phillies. Let's have a clue on better timing for affecting your fan base.

Stairs at the Wing Bowl
With all the news today regarding player development, the other headline for Phillies fans was the announcement of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer as the new color analysts. You knew Moyer just couldn't stay away.

I don't want to say that the Phillies, and I'm sure to some extent Comcast, whiffed on these two guys. As you can see Stairs will probably be capable of mixing it up a bit. Moyer is that guy that who was around forever, forever ago. He should be able to bring an exorbitant amount of experiences to the booth, let's see how that translates to his analysis.

Moyer made his first start against Steve Carlton
I still think that John Kruk or Mitch WIlliams would have been much better for the job. Those two guys have been on TV for years now and the transition could have been seamless with two exciting and interesting personalities in the booth. Not that Moyer and Stairs should be boring, but they will both be doing their first broadcasting of any kind. There's a chance it doesn't go all that smooth. And of course it's TMac not Harry. Sigh.

It's funny to think about how these two guys wound up here. Moyer is a somewhat obvious choice as a guy who had a nice twilight to the twilight of his career here. He's also a local kid who graduated from Souderton High School and starred at St. Joe's. But Stairs. Stairs is here for one hit. One massive home run.  If that link doesn't give you a good feeling, you're not a Phillies fan.