An era of sorts seems increasingly likely to be ending soon with the approach of the July 31 trade deadline.
A host of veterans including Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Rheal Cormier, David Dellucci, Arthur Rhodes, Cory Lidle, Jon Lieber, and Aaron Fultz among others have all been the subject of trade rumors lately. The prominence of Phillies on the list of players attracting interest hardly comes as a surprise given the pre-season prediction that the Phillies were a competitive team except for their pitching. Of all the names, Abreu’s has been on the list the longest, at least since last Winter. Whatever complaints we have about Bobby, he remains a premier player. Were it not for his huge salary, Abreu would unquestionably be the number one target of several contending teams.
One or more of the above players should be joined on the road out of town a few months later by Mike Lieberthal, David Bell and some of those whose contracts are expiring and do not figure to be renewed.
With their expected departures the Phillies will be looking to rebuild around Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, Shane Victorino, Aaron Rowand (if he doesn’t return to Chicago) and a few minor leaguers such as Scott Mathieson. Bret Myers may or may not figure in that mix by the time next April rolls around.
Phillies’ fans tend to believe this team is always rebuilding, but the truth is what they have been doing is perpetually retooling, tinkering with the addition of a veteran here or there along with the influx of youngsters, hoping they could find the right mix. They came close once, but never grabbed a post-season spot.
Lieberthal has the longest tenure here of anyone, twelve years. Abreu was acquired nine seasons ago from Houston. Burrell was the club’s first round draft pick six years ago. And yet, can we honestly say we ever knew them?
None ever moved permanently to Philadelphia or, for that matter, ever seemed to embrace the city. Every October, they all packed their bags and headed for warmer climates and continents. Except for Liberthal, they never even did local television spots, one of the traditional ways of becoming an icon in the community, and in his case he was teamed with Jeremy Roenick of the more popular Flyers. They clearly never rode flatbed trucks up or down Broad Street, thereby etching their images indelibly into the collective minds of the city. There was no Fred Shero in the locker room reminding them they would walk together forever if they won it all.
In this era their transient status in Philadelphia is hardly unique to this team or city. I suspect only California- and Florida-based teams have much of a chance of enticing their players to become year-round citizens. Instead, they were here for what feels like a relatively brief time, like shooting stars, and then disappeared.