Pat Gillick may be selling now and in the off-season, but make no mistake about it, he will be a buyer soon enough as he restocks the shelves. One way or another, through trades, free agent departures and acquisitions, or simple attrition, wholesale changes will be in order for this unmistakably below average team. When he compiles his shopping list the Phillies’ GM would do well to include some players with character and leadership qualities.
As currently constituted, this team is loaded with players who would rather lurk in the shadows than take a teammate aside and tell him the facts of baseball life. (See RickShuBlues’ comment in the post below for an illustration.) One exception appears to be Chase Utley, who I suspect will assume a primary leadership role one day if he hasn’t already, not only on the field where he clearly leads by example, but in the dugout and clubhouse. Utley doesn't strike me as the kind of player who remains passive when he sees mistakes or lack of hustle in others. One need not be a screamer to get a point across; a leader knows when to speak up. Utley, in his first full year as a starter, cannot do it alone, however. He is going to need some help along the way.
The veteran presence on this club has never stepped up. Lieberthal, Abreu, Burrell, Rollins and Bell have all avoided the responsibility. Early this forgettable season some suggested, improbably, that Sal Fasano could be a leader of sorts, but he wasn't. He is more or less a rah-rah sort of guy whose animated gestures made for good photo-ops but who didn't have enough baseball skills to command respect. I suppose you can have a leader who isn't a star, but it makes his job harder if his teammates don’t admire him for his accomplishments as well as his attitude. I cannot remember the last time the Phillies had a player of that caliber since Darren Daulton, who for a few seasons was a respectable performer and dominant clubhouse presence, departed for Florida. That was a long time ago as we well know.
Leadership qualities are pooh-poohed by many as overrated, but in their absence you get unending seasons of mediocrity. If nothing else, the law of averages would suggest the Phillies try a different course.
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Baseball’s current version of dying and going to heaven is to be traded from the Kansas City Royals to any other club but especially to the White Sox. Mike MacDougal, come on up!!
On the other hand, the reverse must surely be to be traded from any club to Kansas City. Disgruntled LA Dodgers pitcher Odalis Perez, who complained about being demoted to the bullpen but projects as a starter in KC, come on down!!
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David Dellucci is a candid guy. He is willing to serve his time in Philadelphia, but when his sentence is up he isn’t coming back. Even if the Phillies were to guarantee him playing time, Dellucci will opt to sign elsewhere. Who can blame him? He has felt misused since his arrival. Indeed, Dellucci still cannot figure out why the Phillies acquired him. Neither can I. Cory Lidle insists he would like to finish the season with this club, but in the same breath he makes it clear he would be happy to go elsewhere if the Phillies fold their tents for 2006. Lidle, reported to be the object of desire by several teams whose tents are still standing, is signed through the end of this season and is unlikely to return. He is my candidate for player most likely to be traded.
Jon Lieber is also the subject of much speculation. In this day and age an out-of-shape 36-year old pitcher who just came off the disabled list and sports a 3-7 record with a 5.55 ERA is in demand. That says a lot about the overall quality of major league pitching, but in Lieber’s case the principal attraction seems to be his experience in pennant races. Clearly all of that experience is being wasted in Philadelphia.
Tom Gordon has also been the subject of rumors lately. Many people who follow the Phillies argue it is too difficult to come up with a top closer to give one up, but Gordon has been far from impressive in his last three outings. Batters are sitting on his fastball and the results have been disastrous lately.
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Someone should issue an APB for Fabio Castro. The guy hasn’t appeared in a game since July 6, versus San Diego, when he pitched an inning. What’s the story here? Is he hurt? Jason Weitzel over at Beerleaguer suggested he is a Rule 5 player who has to be kept on the roster. If so, fine, but does that mean he just sits? Are the Phillies so pitching rich they can afford to carry a guy on the 25 man roster just so they don’t have to offer him back to someone else?
Speaking of pitching rich, Ryan Franklin doesn’t qualify on any count, but that doesn’t prevent Charlie Manuel from running him out there again to serve up a game-losing home run when needed.
Finally, when are the Phillies going to give up on the Ryan Madson experiment? Do they really require further evidence that he isn’t starter material?