Phillies baseball returns on Monday (or perhaps Tuesday?) against some team in a location that will presumably have grass, dirt, four bases and foul (fair?) poles dotting the corners of the outfield.
Alright fine, after a brief Google search, they’re hosting the Red Sox at 3:05 at Citizens Bank Park Monday, April 6. Cole Hamels, soon-to-be former ace, toes the rubber for the Phils, Clay Bucholz for the Sox.
While the other three Philly teams are in a state of flux (side note: holy shit, the Eagles, more on them in a few days) the Phillies have the bleakest outlook by far. A lack of impact prospects and only two or three veteran players who can still contribute at an all-star level, leave this team in dissarray. Add in the front office’s startlingly slow acceptance to a rebuild (seriously, how many times would Sam Hinkie have rebuilt this team in the same time he’s managed the Sixers?) and you get a uninspiring quagmire.
So with the rebuilding process still in its infancy stages, and a long season of losing ahead, let’s play Philadelphia’s new favorite pastime: “Why is he still here?”
Ruben Amaro Jr: How many general managers have presided over a 100-win team and a 100-loss team? I’m guessing it’s a short list, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Rube was the only one on it if the Phils do reach triple digit losses this spring. I haven’t ripped Amaro as much as other fans have done in the years since the Golden Age came to an end. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he deserves most of the blame. But I can’t help buy wonder if he was restricted, by other personnel in the front office and ownership group in anyway when it came time to rebuild sooner. Lord knows he wasn’t restricted with the checkbook. Plus, I was fully on board with giving up prospects to win now in 2010 (Oswalt trade) and 2011(Pence trade). The team has technically be in decline since winning the title in 2008. But obviously you’re not going to fire a GM after he loses in the playoffs multiple years. With his contract up after this season and no extension signed, the guess is that Rube and the Phillies part ways quietly after the season.
Ryan Howard: Owed $70 million when you include his $10 million 2017 buyout, Howard seemed destined to be released in the offseason, with the Phillies just cutting bait with the former MVP. No other team seemed likely to trade for him even if the Phillies swallowed nearly all of Howard’s salary. But he’s still here. Taking meaningful at bats from younger players like Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruben had to awkwardly apologize to him after declaring that the team would be better off without him. Never the same after multiple injuries suffered after his albatross of an extension signed in 2010, he’s averged 16 homers and 16 RBI since 2012. He should be a DH in the AL. The salary is embarrassing whether he’s playing for the team or not. I think there’s more value in outright releasing him and starting a younger player rather than keeping him around. I don’t expect Howard to finish the year in Philly.
Chase Utley: Can’t figure this one out. I’m guessing once the losing gets so bad, Chase will look to his former double play partner, Jimmy Rollins, having a blast in LA and say, ‘that’s it get me the hell out of here,’ in the most polite and honorable way Chase can. Actually, knowing Chase, multiple F bombs will be mixed in that trade request. I admire him for wanting to stay loyal to the Phillies and wanting to live in Philly, but is leading by example really going to benefit this team’s younger players? Especially because the younger infield players on the big league roster just aren’t very good. Cody Asche might be the only serviceable one of the bunch. Plus Chase deserves a shot at a second ring.
Cole Hamels: I’ll give Rube credit for this one, at least he didn’t trade Cole for pennies on the dollar. Yet. Anyway, I remember during Hamels’ contract year in 2012 when he was being shopped towards the deadline, teams were hesitant to give up top prospects for a rental. Now, it’s three years later, Hamels has 4 years and $90 million remaining, plus an option year, which puts his salary obligation at over $100 million and teams are still hesitant to give up top prospects. Amaro can’t afford to give away his most prized trade chip for marginal talent in return. He needs to get one blue chip prospect to give fans and the organization something to look forward to for the future. The best chance for that scenario to unfold is for Cole to pitch lights out in the first half of the season, the hope a desperate team finally agrees to meet their asking price. Let’s just hope Cole stays healthy.
Jonathan Papelbon: One of the least popular Philly athletes of my lifetime, and just a downright bizarre dude, Papelbon’s hefty contract is the reason he’s still here. Expensive closers are pretty much like expensive running backs. Few and far between. Teams can more productive running backs in the middle rounds and pay them a fraction of what, say, a Lesean McCoy or Adrian Peterson can make. Same thing with closers in baseball, assuming they have the mental fortitude to handle the rigors of the 9th inning. His numbers last year were actually solid, and I would think this is the year some team in playoff contention makes a trade for him, assuming it costs them very little. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Phillies got pennies on the dollar for Papelbon.
Quick MLB Predictions Because Why Not?
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
WC 1: Pirates
WC 2: Padres
NLCS: Dodgers over Nationals
AL East: Blue Jays
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Angels
WC 1: A’s
WC 2: Tigers
World Series: Dodgers over Tigers
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez