Baseball, not just politics, makes strange bedfellows.
Back in February, as pitchers and catchers were getting ready to report to Spring Training, the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury wrote a lengthy piece (which I cited in this space ) reporting that pitcher Brett Myers was pissed off about comments made by new GM Pat Gillick regarding the Phillies’ prospects for the coming season .
In the piece, Gillick is quoted as having said soon after his appointment that he didn’t feel the Phillies were a contending team. Now, just before camp was to open, pressed to explain why, he volunteered that among other deficiencies, they didn’t really possess a big powerful arm at the top of the rotation.
Myers didn’t like that assessment one bit. Salisbury’s lead to the story summed up the volatile Myers’ attitude this way: Spring training hasn't even officially begun yet and already pitcher Brett Myers is sporting a midseason sneer.
All of us had seen or heard about that sneer before. Over the years Myers has worn it for local fans, the press, umpires and teammates. Fans weren’t supportive enough; the press was too intrusive; umpires were always squeezing him; and, teammates were forever making bad plays behind him. RickSchuBlues, who comments frequently in this space, put it best: [Myers is] the kind of guy who makes his own problems and then wants to glare at the fielders and umpires. That's real class for you.
Throughout the season Gillick has never said in so many words he had given up on 2006. Only last week he responded to the question whether or not the Phils would be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline by emphatically stating they would be buyers…at least for now. But inaction, or stop-gap measures, speak louder than words, and most of Gillick’s moves since the late Winter trade of Jim Thome for Aaron Rowand should be seen as temporary measures that failed to improve the Phillies current prospects appreciably. He and the club remain hamstrung by big salaries and long-term commitments, some of which will finally be resolved next Fall.
Prior to the start of the season, baseball people agreed about one thing regarding the 2006 installment of the Phillies: they did not have the starting pitching to contend. Nothing has changed since those pre-season assessments; indeed, if anything, the club’s starting pitching is even worse than anticipated. More to the point, nothing Gillick has done since opening day has improved the situation, not on the field or, frankly, in the dugout. Gillick may still make a deal or two at the trading deadline, but he won’t be a buyer, and by season’s end he could make even bigger moves regarding the manager and his coaches.
The Phillies had settled into mediocrity by the end of their most recent home stand, during which they lost seven of nine games. Then came the incident early Friday morning in Boston when the 6’4”Myers, who weighs 235 lbs., allegedly punched his wife, who goes about 5’ and 100 lbs., and dragged her by the hair in public, in front of several witnesses, many of whom called 911 on their cell phones.
No one was surprised by the news and our revulsion only deepened when the Boston Globe reported that:
Courtney Knight, 26, who witnessed the alleged attack, said in an interview today that Myers was out of control.
"It was disgusting," Knight said. "He was dragging her by the hair and slapping her across the face. She was yelling, 'I'm not going to let you do this to me anymore.' "
Naturally, the immediate response by nearly everyone I read was to presume Myers’ innocence until proven guilty. That response, however, was pure reflex. Few if any doubted the story given the number of eye-witnesses and Myers’ history and many urged immediate punitive action.
For their part, the Phillies were faced with a dilemma. Myers was scheduled to pitch the next day in a nationally-televised game against former Phillie, Red Sox ace and Myers’ hero Curt Schilling.
More than a few observers felt the Phillies had no choice but to sit Myers for the game. Some called for getting rid of him altogether as soon as possible. I would have been satisfied if Myers never appeared again in a Phillies uniform.
But Pat Gillick had other ideas. "He's been our best pitcher, and I think it's in the best interests of the club that he does pitch.”
The GM had fooled me all along; he wanted to win at all costs. As disgusting as Myers’ behavior was, it was hardly his boss’s finest hour either.