We — we — Need New Ownership of the Phillies

“Ruben is not on the hot seat,” Montgomery explained during a back-and-forth with season ticket holders. “I think we have somebody whose experience working under two general managers served him well and positioned him to be very effective at his job. We — we — need to do better.”

This quote from Phillies owner David Montgomery tells me two things, neither of which is good: Montgomery is either completely full of crap or he’s a very sick man.

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Aging Gracefully in Section 426

10271606_10203834544412103_2083958341796465289_nI’m proud to say that in 40 some odd posts in a little more than a year, I haven’t made myself a focal point.

Until now.

If you haven’t figured it out yet (and someone like Ruben Amaro probably hasn’t), my blog name is derived from my birthday 4/26.

Now that that’s cleared up, here’s a topical post to celebrate the day: Since 2000, which Phillie has the most hits on April 26? Here’s the top 20 (with a minimum of 2 hits).

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New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies

If ‘The Big Piece’ Finds Patience, Could the Phils Find the Playoffs?

Coming off a 2013 season where he swung and missed at a career-high 16.9% of pitches, Ryan Howard is displaying a better eye at the plate so far in 2014. Through 62 plate appearances (or 15 games), The Big Piece’s swinging-strike percentage is down more than 50% over the same amount of plate appearances last year. If nothing else, it’s an excellent sign for a team that, as a whole, has been undisciplined at the plate over the past 3 seasons.
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It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, But Which Phan Club You’re In

Howard struck out three times with runners in scoring position? Bummer. But you were sitting with The Asche Trays when Cody Asche drove in the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. #phanclubsareback #losingcanbefun

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Better Gauge Players’ Value To Avoid Overpaying

I think Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has taken his already difficult job and made it even harder, thanks in large part to his inability to leverage the baseball analytics that’s at his fingertips.

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Do MLB Players Get Better or Worse as they Age?

Life is full of questions that don’t have an easy answer:

Why do we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?

Why are there 90 feet between home plate and first base?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Life has a funny way of balancing itself out though. As proof, these types of questions are balanced out by those with more obvious answers. To demonstrate what ‘more obvious answers’ are, here is a commercial from AT&T’s ‘It’s Not Complicated’ ad campaign.

If you don’t have 32 seconds, it goes like this: a man asks a group of elementary-school-aged kids a simple question like, ‘which is better: bigger or smaller?’ and why. In another spot, he asks the kids if being faster or slower is better.

This got me thinking: Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and his front office personnel should be forced to sit in a room. A moderator walks into the room and asks the group: ‘Is it better to flush money down the toilet or spend it wisely?’ Amaro et al. may collectively agree that it’s better to spend money wisely, but based on the contracts they’ve given out to “the core” in the past three years, it would be hard to take this ownership group seriously.

Start with Ryan Howard. Forget about the fact that Amaro offered him the contract a year and a half before he was set to hit free agency. In a nutshell, Ryan Howard could have gone 0-for-the-next- year-and-a-half and his value would have dropped considerably. As a result, Amaro could have offered Howard much less than the 5-year, $125 million contract extension he signed. He didn’t go 0-for-the-next-year-and-a-half but you get the point. Ryan Howard’s first full season with the Phils was 2006. His on-base percentage was .425, and his slugging percentage was .659. By 2009, his OBP had dropped .065 points and his SLG had dropped .088 points. In and of itself, there was nothing wrong with the drop.  As hitters age, their skills begin to diminish. That’s life. The problem arises when you reward a declining 29-year-old player with a long-term contract and guaranteed money. Since the beginning of his contract extension in 2010, Howard’s OBP fell another .034 points to .319 while his SLG fell .040 points to .465.

Okay, it happened once. Amaro learned his lesson and it won’t happen again, right? Wrong. Yo, Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey from Saturday Night Live, can you back me up on this one?

Jimmy Rollins’ peak OBP occurred when he was 29. His peak SLG occurred at age 28. Not only was a 32 year old Rollins rewarded with a three-year contract three years after his SLG peaked, he was actually given a $2.5M raise per season. Again, player performance goes down while pay goes up. Why does the Boob keep doing that? Just flush the money down the toilet.

The Boob did the same thing to Chase Utley this season, offering the soon-to-be 35 year old second baseman a two-year contract, with performance incentives that can keep him a Phillie through 2017. While I don’t think two years is too much to offer Utley at this stage of his career, I do think $13.5 million a season could be better spent elsewhere.

Catchers Carlos Ruiz (age 34) and Erik Kratz (age 33) have seen their SLG drop over .100 points to .326 and .403, respectively. Outfielder John Mayberry Jr.’s (age 29) OBP has dropped .080 points in three years, while his SLG has dropped more than .400 points.

I’ve made some predictions in blog posts before, and I feel very comfortable making this one: these three guys over the age of 29 – Mayberry, Kratz and Ruiz – will all be on the active roster come Opening Day 2014.

I’m one of thousands of Phillies fans familiar with Ruben Amaro’s (or Ruin Tomorrow’s) penchant for throwing money at players whose skills are diminishing. Maybe if the team had been competitive since 2012, we could look past some bad contracts. But they haven’t so we can’t.

If we can see it, why can’t Phillies’ ownership?

Now there’s a question that doesn’t have an easy answer.

When Will This MLB Craziness End?!?

The news hit me hard, real hard.

How could a baseball team suffer this much pain? Would the sport of baseball ever be able to recover from this? Will the integrity of the game be tarnished for good?

Days earlier, Ryan Braun, a rising young star in MLB was suspended for the remaining 65 games of the season for “unspecified violations of baseball’s drug rules and labor contract.”

Wait. You thought I was talking about him? No, no, no. I’m talking about the news that Michael “Babe Ruth” Martinez had his contract selected by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro and is now a member of the 25-man roster … again! What’s the big deal, you ask? I’ve come up with a brief FAQ sheet that should help clear up why this is such a poor (yet not surprising) decision by the former 1993 Philadelphia Phillies’ utility player (aka Ruin Tomorrow – tip of the hat to Philly.com for that one).

Q: Who is Michael Martinez?
A: He’s 31 years old, holds a career .186 batting average, and is by Major League Baseball standards a below-average fielder.

Q: The Phillies aren’t going anywhere this year. Aren’t there younger players in the Phillies’ minor league system that could benefit from some extra playing time?
A: There sure are. Freddy Galvis (23 years old) and Cesar Hernandez (22 years old) are both playing second base for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Cesar Hernandez has also stolen 30 bases in 36 attempts while hitting .316 in 89 games. In 2012, he hit 12 triples at Lehigh Valley in 133 games while batting .291. But who wants an infielder on a major league team with that kind of crappy production.

Q: Michael Martinez made the majors via the Rule V draft. Wasn’t former Phils’ All Star Shane Victorino a Rule V draft selection too?
A: So was David Herndon. I rest my case.

Q: Martinez is an infielder. So why was he playing CF against St. Louis?
A: Excellent question. Because the team is missing Ben Revere in centerfield for the foreseeable future, Amaro could have done the smart thing and brought up centerfielder Jermaine Mitchell. Sure he’s only hitting .258, but he does have 17 stolen bases in 23 attempts. What’s the worst that happens? He stinks and you send him back down. What’s the best that happens? He performs so well that he earns a spot on the big club when rosters expand in September, and maybe he gets an invite to Spring Training next season.

The Phillies are not making the postseason this year, even in a weak National League East, even with two wild card spots up for grabs. If they don’t start bringing up the young guys, guys like Galvis, Hernandez, Mitchell, and third baseman Cody Asche, astute fans like myself are going to think the organization is trying to cover up just how bad the minor league talent really is. The Philies’ minor league talent might not be that bad, but that’s how Phillies’ fans will perceive this situation.

Bottom line: I don’t trust Ruben Amaro to accurately judge the talent for a high school talent show, let alone to discern a team’s strengths from its weaknesses, or the wants from the needs of a multi-billion-dollar major league franchise. He got us into this mess and he’s surely not the one to get us out of it.