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?
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.