Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Comings And Goings

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.

* * * * * * * *

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!!

* * * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * * *

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?


Dick Richards said...

Re: when are the Phillies going to give up on the Ryan Madson experiment?

There was a prophetic scouting write-up about Madson in a pre-season magazine (can't recall which one). The scout wrote that Madson looks like he might be a starter because he has three pitches. But the scout went on to say that all of those pitches are decidely average and Madson can get by with them once through the lineup only because of his "funky delivery."

If I were PG I'd hire that scout.

Tom Goodman said...

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the scout were already on the Phillies' payroll.

RickSchuBlues said...

Dead-on commentary per usual, but a couple of comments:

Don't overlook that Rollins did call a players' meeting earlier this year. I would not include him in the group of veterans who demonstrate no leadership or accountability - which is a big reason why he stands apart from the rest of that failed "core" to me, and which is why I believe he should continue to be in the Phillies' long-range plans.

Contrary to the opinion of said scout and many others who have ripped Madson, I think the problem is not his stuff, but the fact that he can't command or trust his stuff. Since his very effective showing in his rookie year, Madson has fallen prey to the confidence issues that seem to manifest in the Phillies organization. On the rare occasions when he gets in a groove and can put the ball where he wants it, Madson still shows you a wealth of ability and potential. But something's gotten in his head and who knows how and when it will ever right itself. His future with the Phillies is extremely clouded at this point. A shame.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: I would absolutely agree with you about Jimmy. I don't think he is the kind of player who might take aside an individual in the dugout and point out a mistake (though he would be among the first to congratulate the same player on a great play), but I do think he is committed to the organization, wants to win and provides some kind of leadership.

As for Madson, yes, he has had a few good outings, but more often than not he cannot command his curve or changeup and relies on that average fastball with little or no movement. No one can get out major league hitters consistently with one average pitch. At this stage, every time he goes out there he is more likely to implode than not. Last night, when he tried to throw his curve, it was badly high and outside to left-handed batters or in the dirt to righthanders. He cannot get it over the plate.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Rollins seems to enjoy the role of leadership.

Not that it's a big deal, but an indicator: recall that HR that R. Howard hit when Rollins got the team to play it cool & give him a delayed ovation?

Keep Rollins.

Dick Richards said...

Re: Madson has fallen prey to the confidence issues that seem to manifest in the Phillies organization.

Yes. What is that about anyway? I remember wondering about that years ago when Tommy Green suddenly developed a deer-in-the-headlights look while on the mound. Is it the players alone? Is there something odd about the way the organization treats young pitchers? Do other organizations tend to breed fearful pitchers to the same extent? What is it?

I fear that both Madson and Floyd will someday be remembered in the same sentence as Steve Blass, Joe Cowley, and Rick Ankiel. Ooops, I guess I just wrote that sentence.

RickSchuBlues said...

The Phillies seem to have this problem with once-promising players all the time. Bruce Ruffin, Pat Combs, Dave Hollins, and Brandon Duckworth are others out of the recent past who come more immediately to mind. I really don't know if other teams have the same recurring rate of what I'll put ungently as "head cases", but it's evident from the organizational backing on players like Brett Myers, Marlon Byrd, and now Kyle Drabek, that character or mental makeup doesn't count for a whole lot with the Phillies.

Dick Richards said...

I suppose that is it: "character or mental makeup doesn't count for a whole lot with the Phillies." The only other explanation would be an organizational culture that has for many years bred an expectation of failure. Come to think of it, those two explanations make sense as a set.

To me, the most hopeful sign about PG is that he seems to want gamers.