Monday, January 15, 2007

Management Styles

All joking aside, someone needs to delete the Texas Rangers’ phone number(s) from Pat Gillick’s speed dial without further delay. With this latest signing of an ex-Ranger, Antonio Alfonseca, the Phillies GM has proved beyond a reasonable doubt he has some sort of fixation with that franchise. It would be one thing if we were talking about a one-way street that approached that between the Yankees and Kansas City Athletics in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, but we most decidedly are not. Instead, we are witnessing yet another deal between the Phils and a franchise whose record of futility is less grim only because its entire history is so much shorter.

So, until Gillick can demonstrate some self-control, others must act. Alfonseca’s last good season was the same year when everyone was atwitter over Y2K. Most recently he had an awful stint with the Rangers before they released him due to injury and ineffectiveness. According to reports, Alfonseca chose the Phillies over the Marlins, the only two clubs apparently in the running. Imagine, he chose to sign with the team that offered him nearly three times as much money. Aren’t we the lucky ones?! The signing is one more in a series of gambles by Gillick on aging relievers with shaky immediate pasts. If the move hardly inspires confidence in us, imagine what it will be like to play behind Alfonseca.

* * * * * *

By any reasonable standards the just-concluded season for the Eagles was a remarkable one. A fast start out of the gate was suddenly and dramatically halted by stinging losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis and, of course, the season-ending injury to Donovan McNabb. Just as remarkable was the resurrection of Jeff Garcia when nearly everyone else had given him up for dead and the emergence of Brian Westbrook as one of the truly great backs in the league. In the midst of all this turmoil, stolid Andy Reid turned over the offensive play-calling to his offensive coordinator (how’s that for a novelty?!) and, more significantly, coaxed a remarkable string of performances from his battered and bruised charges just when everyone in town, yours truly included, had given up the season.

Reid’s greatest asset is his steady hand on the tiller and his obviously methodical, even-tempered approach to his players and coaches no matter how daunting the circumstances. These attributes serve him and the team well, particularly in the locker room and on the practice field, where doubts first arise and can get quickly out of control. Regrettably, the debit side of his ledger is brought into dramatic relief in the crucible of game-day crises, particularly as time is running out. The decision to punt on fourth and fifteen with less than two minutes remaining in the game represented Andy Reid at his crunch-time worst. If ever there were a time to gamble, that was it. Of course, that would have been going against character and if we have learned anything about Reid during his long and successful tenure in Philadelphia, he does not change who he is no matter what the circumstances. On balance, his steadfast determination serves him well; when it fails him, the results are dramatic.


RickSchuBlues said...

Tom, you obviously aren't easily impressed. The Phillies have had a long history, and to my knowledge have never had a pitcher with more than ten fingers and ten toes.

Only a cynic would suggest he developed his extra digits out of biological necessity in order to more ably count the number of baserunners per inning he allows.

Tom Goodman said...

I know, I know. I have to work on that. I was following some of the thread over at Beerleaguer, which I don't normally do any more (I just read Jason's post and move on) and decided I didn't need to get in the crossfire over there, but I have this thought on retread veterans and unproven youngsters:

I am tired ot seeing the endless string of worn out veterans who have come to town for a [usually] disastrous stint in the Phillies bullpen. On the other hand, the Phils have normally been reluctant to bring up a youngster before they deem his time has come. I'd take my chances with the latter any day. In fact, despite his problems in at least the one outing you cited, Castro has a better chance of producing than the Alfonseca's of the world and I would not be afraid to see him start the season with the Phils. I agree he could use some more work at Ottawa, but if he comes north with the club that is OK with me. Matt Smith is another guy who has been given short shrift by many and I believe he will be the delightful surprise of the pen for the Phils.