Don’t Pay for Production: The Tragedy of the Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge (right) and catcher Carlos Ruiz celebrate a World Series championship with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wednesday, October 29, 2008. (Jerry Lodriguss/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)

Now that baseball’s messaging is being controlled by the MLB, the professional sport in the U.S. which relies most on its history seems to be turning its back on it in favor of…Process.

By Kyle Magin

Baseball’s a son of a bitch.

The Philadelphia Phillies get mocked for paying for their 2008 World Series rings seven years later with the bloated, suffocating contracts given to the stars of that particular fall classic. The Houston Astros’ and Chicago Cubs’ brain trusts are lauded as geniuses for maybe approaching the postseason—to say nothing of winning it all—by blowing it up and trotting out AAA squads for multiple seasons before their yet-to-be-finished rise this year. The Phillies are laughed at for going 38-63 so far this season after finishing in last place last year, while last year the Cubs and Astros went a combined 143-181 in their last place bids and had the baseball world collectively swooning.

Production has lost out to The Process in the court of public opinion, and that’s weird.

Don’t take this as some sort of anti-analytics screed or an indictment of the way the Astros and Cubs have done business. It’s distasteful to put your fans through a full-stop rebuild by bottoming out your payroll and forcing kids to struggle through consecutive 100-plus loss seasons, but it’s evidently effective.

What’s defective is the way the baseball public treats the Phillies as their ship sank. They giggled and made a jester out of Ryan Howard, a guy who toiled for years longer in the minors than he would have in any other organization because of the presence of Jim Thome in front of him, came up and won an MVP and a World Series then answered like any other young man would when someone offers him nine figures: Yes. They make some sort of tragic hero out of Chase Utley, a 36-year old millionaire playing pro sports who owns a World Series ring. Jimmie Rollins caught a load of shit for aging like a human being. General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., a real dumbass, got jumped on for paying the guys who won his team a ring instead of the myriad bad trades, worse free agent signings and terrible drafting his administration has perpetrated.

This week they’ll have another chuckle as Cole Hamels made his way to the door via trade to Texas, leaving Howard and Utley as the only holdovers from the city’s first championship in a quarter century, and its last in the seven years since. All the while, they’ll wait with bated breath to see how the process turns out in Houston and Chicago—anxious to find out if those towns will have to wait another year for their title shot.

The guys who are paying for potential get fawning headlines, while the guys who paid for production get slammed.

Baseball’s a son of a bitch.