|Killer jumpsuit Rube|
“Ruben Amaro flew the plane straight into the mountain,” John Gallagher.
That pretty much sums up the last 3 years of Phillies baseball and another season lacking hope is staring us Phillies fans straight in the eye.
The 2015 Phillies will play meaningful games in just over a month and the atmosphere promises to be one of the most awkward and dysfunctional settings possible. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the different headlines coming out of Clearwater. Today marks the first day of a full squad practice but let’s take a look at what has been happening since the Phils finished the 2014 season last in the NL East.
We’ll start with the Ryan Howard in the room. Ruben put his hand on the table during the offseason; the only problem was he wasn’t holding any face cards. Somehow he thought it beneficial to announce to the media that the Phillies would be better off not having Howard on the roster. He took that one from the “No Shit!” department, but where was the gain in saying that? Maybe he thought he needed even less leverage with teams looking to acquire the highest paid position player in the MLB who happens to be aged, oft-injured, and no longer capable of slugging over .400. Maybe he wanted to have painfully awkward conversations with Ryan when no trade offers came in and Ryan remained on the team. Maybe he wanted to have to answer difficult questions from the media regarding Howard. It seems like he must have wanted to have to do these things considering what he said.
With the money Howard is owed, $60 million guaranteed for the next two seasons (25 this year and next then a $10 million buyout for 2017), it was already going to be next to impossible to trade him considering his lack of production. Ruben had to know this considering everybody who half-heartedly follows the Phillies knows this. So I repeat, what did he have to gain by saying publicly that the Phillies would be better off without Ryan Howard? The answer to that question is an even more dysfunctional clubhouse. There’s no reason you can’t say Ryan Howard is our first baseman to the media and then quietly shop him to every team willing to listen. At least it shows a more united front and doesn’t put Howard in the position to come into spring training absolutely dreading having to speak to the media.
Regardless of how he plays it will be interesting to watch Ryan Howard compete this year. How will he carry himself? How many games will he play? How many homers will he hit? How many times will he strikeout on a breaking ball down and away? I’m intrigued just getting to watch him still play every day, it’s like a science experiment.
Ruben is like the anti-Sam Hinkie. Did they both really go to Stanford? Sam at least seems to have a plan, whether you like it or not. Ruben is just lost at sea without a life jacket.
Next we have the only player on the Phillies that other teams find desirable. Once again, Ruben let it be known that Cole Hamels was on the trading block. Once again, I don’t see the need for the public display of lacking affection. It’s obvious that the Phillies are not operating from a position of power in the trade market, and Ruben continually places them in a place with less bargaining power by opening his mouth about what he’s trying to do. The writing is on the wall Rube, so there’s no need to read it aloud.
So last week USA Today broke a story with quotes from Hamels saying that he wants to compete but that the Phillies aren’t going to do that, essentially saying he wants out. That really gives the fans a warm and fuzzy feeling about the team’s best player. You understand where Hamels is coming from, but when you’re still owed $96 million from the only team that’s ever employed you it’s hard to take.
The goal will be for Hamels to pitch his ass off for the first few months of the season so that the Phillies can land the biggest return possible for him. It’s a shitty goal to root for, but that’s the reality.
Meanwhile, the ticking time bomb that is Jonathan Papelbon on a losing team has remained fairly quiet during this off season. The Papelbon situation is a catch 22. I’m of the opinion that Jon is actually smart enough to realize that if he shoots his mouth off or gets labeled as a clubhouse cancer (even more than usual) then he becomes untradeable. And there’s no way that Jonathan Papelbon wants to finish this season with the Phillies. I think he stays in line and pitches like he’s in a contract year to give himself the best shot at getting off this team. If he speaks his mind, it is awfully unlikely that any team will want to take on that headache and that contract (highest paid reliever in the history of the MLB – thanks Rube).
Cliff Lee’s return to the mound is probably the biggest enigma surrounding this ball club. If Lee can return to form it’s possible that the Phillies are not quite as wretched as everyone thinks they are going to be (At 275/1 to win the World Series the Phillies are the biggest long shot by more than double any other team). They certainly won’t hit the baseball, like at all. But if Lee and Hamels are in peak form they shouldn’t have to be the worst team in baseball. Cliff seems to be in good spirits as he answered questions last week with the help of a Magic 8 Ball.
The reality is that the Phillies will in all likelihood start Dom Brown, Ben Revere, and Jeff Francoeur in the outfield. They’ll replace Jimmy Rollins with Freddie Galvis. Utley and Howard will be a year further out of their primes, same for Chooch. And hopefully Maikel Franco can play his way to the starting 3rd baseman leaving Cody Asche as the main utility man. That doesn’t exactly sound like runs.
So let’s raise a glass to the 2015 Phillies, you’re going to need to regularly to get through this season.