If you read the scores, it might get you to raise an eyebrow:
Sunday: Phillies 4, Giants 3 (12 innings)
Monday: Phillies 7, Brewers 6
Tuesday: Phillies 7, Brewers 6
Wednesday: Phillies 7, Brewers 6 (10 innings)
But if you were at any of these games, or even watched them on your TV or computer, you know that each of these wins got your heart pumping, the fans’ collective hearts pumping and yes – even got a pulse going in the Phillies clubhouse.
If a 5-run 9th inning comeback to bail out Roy Halladay on Monday wasn’t enough, how about the 6-run 8th inning comeback – featuring only 3 hits – that got Cliff Lee off the hook? Or maybe the 2-run bottom of the 10th Wednesday, bailing out both Antonio Bastardo (what was he doing in the game facing the best right-handed power hitter in the NL, anyway?) who gave up the game-tying home run to Ryan Braun with 2 out in the 8th, and Ty Wigginton, whose dropped popup and 2-base error led to the Brewers’ go-ahead run in the top of the 10th.
After a season where the Phillies had not won a game when trailing after 7 innings, the team won 4 straight games in their final at bat – the last 3 after trailing late.
Sandwiched between Tuesday night’s and Wednesday afternoon’s wins came the news that Cole Hamels signed a 6-year, $144 million extension that could, with its vesting option, end up being a 7-year, $162 million deal – which would eclipse C.C. Sabathia‘s contract as the richest ever awarded to a pitcher.
Don’t underestimate the thrill of these wins, as meaningless as they might turn out to be when the NL standings go final in just over 2 months. Each game – in some ways more than the one the day before – drove home the point that Philadelphia is a great place to win ballgames.
It’s quite possible Cole Hamels was taking note as the Phillies’ contract offers kept rising throughout the week.
It was enough for him to reach for a pen, sign on the dotted line, and get back to work Friday on a mound in Atlanta, knowing he will be a Phillie for quite a while longer.
Fish market in Miami, while Phils buy and hold?
Coming into this season, the Phillies had the highest payroll in the National League.
Setting aside for a moment the Angels’ major investments in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, which other team went out and spent big money – in the Phillies’ backyard of the National League East, no less?
The Miami Marlins.
It was understandable that the Marlins wanted to make a big splash to coincide with their opening their new ballpark, and also to coincide with their new name, logo and overall look.
So they went out and bought a shortstop (Jose Reyes) for $106 million over 6 years, even though they already had one of the better shortstops in baseball (Hanley Ramirez), albeit coming off a down year. They bought an innings-eating starting pitcher with a perfect game on his resume (no, not Roy Halladay…this guy’s also won a World Series) – Mark Buehrle, for 4 years and $58 million.
They recruited Buehrle by first hiring his manager away from the White Sox. Never mind that Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen (that would be the country run by Fidel and Raul Castro’s good friend Hugo Chavez) alienated the entire Cuban-American population of South Florida with his pro-Castro remarks not even a month on the job.
They also had to get a new closer, since the old one wasn’t the same person after last season. No, really – he wasn’t the same person anymore, because he never was Leo Nunez, despite his uniform and baseball card saying so. His real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo.
So the Marlins lavished $27 million over 3 years on Heath Bell, a guy who seems to be proud he can’t see his own feet when he stands on the mound. At least his arm was sound when he saved 132 games for the Padres over the prior 3 seasons, which earned him an All-Star nod each of those years.
As a Marlin, however, he has a 5.90 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 2-5 record, with 6 blown saves.
Why am I writing about the Marlins? Because like the Phillies, they were free spenders. They also join the Phillies in the bottom 2 places in the NL East.
There are 2 key differences between the Phillies and the Marlins, however:
1. The Marlins look like they’re in full fire sale mode as the trade deadline approaches – having already dealt Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Randy Choate. They may yet deal Bell (if they can find a taker) and even their ace, Josh Johnson.
2. The Marlins have no real fan base to alienate when they give up on a season and trade familiar faces away.
The second point continues to support a point I made in my recent “From where I sit” column on Ruben Amaro’s predicament. Even though it might make sense from a baseball perspective to part company with your star players as they age, the Phillies have been a remarkable story over the last 10 years, building a new ballpark then building a championship team to not only fill the ballpark, but also be the talk of the town more than any other team in Philadelphia – even the Eagles.
The Phillies’ fans love affair with this team – and the current star players’ apparent return of the affection – is a unique bond. It was on display at Thursday’s Phillies Phestival to support ALS and other charities as much as it’s been on display during the improbable string of comeback wins this week.
Whether it remains on display if the Phillies’ fortunes have taken a long-term tumble remains to be seen.
Might the Phillies still “sell” selectively?
With the first-year compensation under Cole Hamels’ new contract set at $19.5 million, the Phillies have committed $128.8 million to 8 key players in 2013: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz. That leaves them just under $50 million to finish out a lineup, a rotation, a bullpen and a bench.
Figuring that Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick will round out the rotation, the key issue for Ruben Amaro Jr. is how to allocate the remaining money to an entire outfield, third base, a bullpen and a bench.
One key question is whether Freddy Galvis factors into the Phillies’ plans as an everyday player. Galvis showed outstanding defense, as advertised, and a surprisingly good RBI bat in his major league debut. On the other hand, Galvis is serving a 50-game PED suspension and is recovering from a pars fracture in his back, at the tender age of 22. If Galvis can be trusted to play every day, the talk of Chase Utley moving to left field or third base will intensify, as Galvis at second seems to make more sense than Galvis at third or in the outfield.
On the presumption that Galvis is an everyday player in 2013, the Phillies still need three more everyday players – a center fielder, a right fielder and either a left fielder or a third baseman.
In right field, they could allocate $12-14 million to Hunter Pence, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility. Or, with the concept that Pence is not a “rental” the way Shane Victorino is, they could possibly trade Pence now – given that by all accounts he would bring much more in trade than Victorino would. Of course, trading Pence would create a hole in right field. Could that hole finally be patched by (cringe) Domonic Brown? Can we expect that John Mayberry can handle an everyday assignment, in whatever outfield position makes sense?
Speaking of Victorino, we’ve been saying that with his down year, lack of an ideal spot in the batting order, age (32) and pending free agency, it would be a good idea to trade him, since it doesn’t seem like the Phillies will bring him back. Whether the Phillies deal Victorino in-season or let him walk after the season, it obviously creates another hole to fill. Would the Phillies add one more big contract (such as Michael Bourn or Melky Cabrera) to the core? How many back-end loaded deals can the Phillies keep making before they have to let a key player go?
Maybe the Phillies keep Pence and make a $12.5 million qualifying offer to Victorino, who might accept it (if he doesn’t, the Phillies would get a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of the June 2013 draft). That leaves fewer holes, but also takes the budget down to somewhere in the $20-25 million range for 15 players (or say $15-20 million for 11 players, after rostering Worley, Kendrick, Galvis and Mayberry). That’s still a very thin figure to try to address one more starting position and a bullpen that – with the exception of closer Jonathan Papelbon – has been a crushing burden to the team this season.
And what about this season? Are the Phillies ready to pull the plug on 2012 before the euphoria of keeping Hamels dies down? If so, you might as well add Joe Blanton to the top of the list of guys to move now. Or maybe it’s time to deal Cliff Lee, and avoid having 40% of the team’s payroll allocated to the top 3 starting pitchers? Or maybe even Roy Halladay gets moved – though his injury-plagued 2012 may scare off teams to the point where the Phillies are better off keeping him for 2013, the last year of his contract. Or maybe it’s Jimmy Rollins who gets dealt, though his #1 suitor (the Dodgers) just acquired Hanley Ramirez and the Hamels signing seems to reflect an ongoing commitment to home-grown players.
There are certainly a lot of questions left to answer in the next several days, with the non-waiver trade deadline looming. Expect a lot of talk – but perhaps little action. It’s just as conceivable the Phillies hold onto everyone into August, see where they are in the standings at that point, and perhaps try to get players like Victorino, Blanton, Polanco, Pierre and Wigginton through waivers at that time and make deals then if a 2012 postseason berth is out of the question.
In the meantime, maybe sweeping the Brewers is a good omen. In 2008, the Phillies swept the Brewers in a 4-game home set in mid-September to cut the Mets’ NL East lead from 3 games to 1 and start a 13-3 regular season run, followed by an 11-3 postseason run to a World Championship.
If we’re watching the beginning stages of another 24-6 run, the Philies would be 65-60 on August 24 and in need of winning about 23-25 of their last 37 games to have a shot.
We can only hope.