Bob Ford, the Inquirer's last regularly appearing sports columnist who can actually write, had a wonderful line in today's paper. He began citing a series of jokes making the rounds about the age of the Phillies' roster. My bet is most if not all of them were made up by Ford himself, which only gives more credence to my earlier statement. The one that brought a chuckle was that Matthew Brady would be taking the team photo in 2014.
Yes, fans, your 2014 Phillies are old. Yesterday the re-signed Chooch Ruiz to a 3-year, $26 million contract pending a physical. Was that one too many years and nearly $8 too much money? Absolutely. In Chooch's case, however, I prefer to think of his deal as making up for having underpaid him for so long. I don't have a problem with being generous to a guy who has arguably been one of the leaders of this team.
I am not so magnanimous about other deals.
Of course the most outrageous one the Phillies alleged brain trust, headed by Ruben Amaro, made still must be Ryan Howard's $125 contract, which still has several years to run. That albatross is followed closely by the $50 million deal offered to Jonathan Papelbon two years ago. Pap is not only running out of gas, he has used at least 7 of his nine lives in this town, where he bashes his teammates every other outing. The fans in this town don't take kindly to players blaming teammates.
Most observers have already noted the questionable deal Amaro made a week ago, signing Marlon Byrd to a heft 2-year contract. The Phils need to improve in a lot of areas most notably the outfield. Of course they needed to improve the outfield this time last year, too, and did not.
In the end the biggest change the Phils need to make is the GM. Amaro inherited a good team and has slowly saddled it with bad contracts, questionable signings and the near-total depletion of the minor league system.
Amaro is over his head. The only thing that bails him out has been the years of sell-outs which, of course, abruptly ended at the end of 2012 and continued through 2013, and huge television contracts. At some point the owners, who will unload this franchise one day at a huge premium, will also get tired of the string of mistakes and errors of judgement emanating from the GM's office and do something about it. They will be too late, however, to set their ship on the right course for many years to come.