While everyone with the exception of Theo Epstein is congratulating the Yankees on their heist in broad daylight of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, a few pundits have noticed the guys left holding the stickup note haven’t fared too badly themselves since that day.
It would be an exaggeration to say Abreu had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia. After all, career .300 hitters are hard to come by, especially ones who can also steal a base and draw bases on balls at an astonishing rate. I prefer to say Abreu was in serious need of a change of scenery. Bobby was a very good player during his days in red pinstripes, but in the end he wasn’t the sort of player his team needed. He was admired and respected by his teammates but it is highly doubtful they looked to him for leadership. That concept may seem like an overworked and unsubstantiated factor in a team’s ultimate success, but a quick look around the majors reveals that most successful teams possess just such a player or players. The consensus was that Abreu would thrive in New York, which already had plenty of stars and leaders to deflect those expectations from him, and, the majority was correct. Far from being the straw that stirs the Yankees, Abreu has quietly gone about his business of hitting, drawing bases on balls and fielding adequately.
Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the mantle of leadership was quietly passing on to the next generation, even while Abreu was still in town. All that was needed to consolidate the transition was his actual departure. Once he was gone, the Phillies no longer thought reticence at the wall or patience at the plate were paradigms. That didn’t mean they suddenly became free swingers over night or careened recklessly into barriers or each other (at least not most of the time). But it did mean a new tone would be set, that standards would include busting it down to first base on ground balls and barreling over catchers on plays at the plate. The free pass was still esteemed, in its place, but the preference was to take one’s hacks.
The end result was a more exciting team than the one Abreu left. A far more exciting team.
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Some people aren’t happy unless they are unhappy.
How else can we explain the whispers and outright accusations that Ryan Howard is using illegal substances. Jason Weitzel has written a superb repudiation to such nonsense at Beerleaguer and Tom Goyne reminds us over at Balls, Sticks & Stuff that these home runs are nothing new, but with every home run Howard hits the discontented come out of the wood work.
I am not required to presume Howard’s innocence because never, for one nanosecond, have I entertained his guilt.