Wednesday, April 12, 2006

All-Departed Team

For those of you who haven’t read Paul Hagen’s two-part series in the Daily News that looks at the Phillies’ post-season drought, here are links to both pieces:

Hagen takes a hard look at the organization from top to bottom and quotes numerous sources (few of whom would speak on the record) who fault management for indecision, poor decisions or failures to act altogether.  It is worth reading.

I was reminded of Hagen’s pieces when I read a paragraph in today’s Inquirer by Todd Zolecki subtitled Bad Karma?

Zolecki writes:

The Phillies are 1-6 and need to win tonight to avoid their worst start since 1987. Plus, several former Phillies from last season's team are playing well with their new teams. Here is a sample (stats through Monday's games):
JIM THOME, White Sox:.318 (7 for 22),
4 home runs, 7 RBIs, 8 walks, .516 on-base percentage, .909 slugging percentage.
JASON MICHAELS, Indians: .346 (9 for 26),
1 double, 1 RBI, .393 on-base percentage,
.385 slugging percentage.
VICENTE PADILLA, Rangers: 2-0, 3.00 ERA,
12 innings pitched, 11 hits, 4 earned runs,
5 walks, 8 strikeouts.
BILLY WAGNER, Mets: 1-0, 3.00 ERA, one save, one blown save.
PLACIDO POLANCO, Tigers: .296 (8 for 27), 1 RBI.

Absent from this list, but not forgotten especially following the season opening series, is Scott Rolen.  Also absent but best forgotten is Curt Schilling, who is 2-0 thus far.

Rolen’s line through last night looks like this:

SCOTT ROLEN, Cardinals:  .370 (10 for 27), 2 HR, 9 RBI

What, if anything, do these players have in common other than their former address?  Most but not all of them were viewed as problems to be rid of.  Polanco and Thome were standing in the way of the next generation, as management saw them.  So Polanco was dealt for a three month rental of Ugueth Urbina while Thome may have brought more in return in Aaron Rowand and two pitching prospects.  Polanco made it clear he didn’t like his part-time role in Philadelphia.  Thome never had a chance to make waves when he went on the DL at the mid-point of last season and Ryan Howard took over for him, but the problem would have surfaced in 2006.

It can hardly be argued that dealing Polanco for Urbina improved the Phillies.  School is out on the Thome deal but this much is known:  we still owe him a ton of money.

Wagner never wanted to stay in Philadelphia, having said he wanted to go where he could win but in fact he wanted much more money than the Phils were offering him.  Since his departure Phillies fans have naturally focused on Wagner’s negative comments about them and the atmosphere in Philadelphia, but they forget Wagner complained rather bitterly of how he was handled in his first year here, too. He felt he was overused by Larry Bowa, abused by Joe Kerrigan (who wasn’t?) and even mishandled by the training staff following a few injuries.  Fans also forget he was making noises about leaving as early as the spring of 2005.  It was always about the money for Billy boy.

Michaels was dealt to the Indians this off-season for a variety of reasons, but one that kept surfacing was his relationship to Pat Burrell and his after hours habits.  The Philliles vehemently deny those suggestions, but they continue to surface.  Regardless of his extra-curricular activities, was Michaels a better fourth outfielder to have then, say, David Dellucci or Shane Victorino?  Yes.

And then there is El Enigma.  I predicted he might win 15 games for the Rangers.  Predicted or hoped, I cannot recall which.  The Phillies never knew what to do with Padilla.  They didn’t like his off-season regimen and habits and, frankly, they weren’t too positive about his regular season ones either.  His departure seemed inevitable after his first year in Philadelphia.  It would be easy to dismiss his falling out of favor as a case of wrong guy in the wrong organization or, conversely, as someone in need of a change of scenery.  But the problem with that conclusion is that the organization always acknowledged he had a great arm and explosive stuff.   And let’s not forget this assessment was coming from a team that chronically lacks starting pitching.  It is amazing to consider that an entire organization could not come up with some one or plan to make Padilla more comfortable here.  Instead, they traded him to the Rangers and have already released the guy they got in return.

Are the Phillies unique in their failure to make players happy in Philadelphia?  The Hagen articles hardly paint a positive picture of the organization.  Can every team’s fans play “what if” regarding departed players?  Many surely can.  What is most troubling about the Phillies is the large number of players who have been shipped out only to become fixtures elsewhere and the few players in return about whom the same can be said.


J. Weitzel said...

"Regardless of his extra-curricular activities, was Michaels a better fourth outfielder to have then, say, David Dellucci or Shane Victorino? Yes."

You can't say for sure at this point, but the trade did yield Arthur Rhodes, who is going to play an important role on this team.

George S said...

Well, you can do a simple experiment: look at all the leaders in the league, and look at the all-star team, and look at the roster of the WS champions and see how many of them are with their original team. If they aren't then they came from other teams that did the same things the Phillies did: let players go that ended up as valuable players elsewhere. You can always make up lists like that. Every trade is a risk.

As for the former Phillies listed, both Schilling and Rolen wanted out. The Phillies did not want to lose them, but had no choice but to trade them for whatever they could get.

As you mentioned, Wagner was all about the $$ right from the start. I think the Phillies knew that, but couldn't afford to deal him last season in the thick of a pennant race.

The Thome situation was debated for a long time, and the general consensus was to keep Howard and move Thome. This was one of the classic situations where you might be better off short-term keeping Thome, but long term Howard is your man. Had the Phillies dealt Howard instead, they would be receiving the same criticism a year or two from now, when hindsight will once again make the right move seem obvious.

Although not traded directly, I think Delucci is better than Michaels overall. You also have to consider that players like Michaels (and Thome) have more value in the AL. Michaels will get more ABs in the AL and have better stats. He will look better than how he might look if he stayed here.

The Polanco trade was a double mistake, plain and simple. First, he should have been the starting 3B, but somehow 'lost out' to David Bell??? Incredible. Secondly, the Urbina rental was more a trade made to keep him from other teams, always the wrong reason to make a trade in my view.

Then there's Padilla, and I think they got rid of him more out of frustration than anything else. I can't fault the organization for trading him when 'potential' remained 'potential' year after year. They absolutely should have gotten more for him, however.

What I can fault the Phillies for is the terrible handling of Padilla (and pitchers in general). Kerrigan gets a lot of the blame usually, but I would really like to see someone give Dallas Green a one-way ticket out of town also. I just get the feeling that he labels players early on, accurately or not, and they carry that label around with them as long as they remain in the Phillies organization. That effects reputation, pace of advancement through the minors, playing time and decisions about keeping or letting go of players. I do not think other members of management have had the cajones to tell Green he's flatout wrong most of the time, or they somehow feel he is more astute than they are and follow his advice. Hopefully Gillick will judge players for himself no matter what Green thinks of them.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I think the term "shit happens" applies here.

I mean, the Red Sox are no stranger to losing big time players. They traded Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 and won the World Series. At the time, no one could have seen that coming. And that is an organization that in recent years before that lost Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn. Granted both Vaughn and Nomar were never the same after they left, but at the time it was significant. And, they lost both Clemens and Vaughn to free agency and got nothing. I lived in Boston at the time, and that was discussed to no end.

Trading Schilling and Rolen came back to haunt us, but at least there were players in the deals.

The Phillies are far from unique. But it seems that what works out in the end for one organization does not work out for another.

Tom Goodman said...

Great comments all and very persuasive. I think the key to my post was to read it in the context of the Hagen articles. If one reads those articles it is clear a lot of mistakes have been made and many of the same people are still in place to make them, Gillick being the major exception.

George: As I have said many times in the past, the debt (1980)to Dallas Green has been paid in full for many years now and his poisonous presence is no longer required.