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The future is “murky at best” for the Philadelphia Phillies

Aug 31, 2011, 11:33 AM EDT

Ryan Howard dark skies

Yeah we have even more Phillies-related posts today than usual. But if Rany Jazayerli is correct in the column he just wrote for Grantland, it will all even out very soon when the Phillies suck and no one cares about them.

The problems: An aging roster which is getting more expensive as it declines, a relatively fallow farm system and a division in which the competition is younger and on the rise. Money quote: “But the Phillies’ biggest concern in the near term is, as always, the Atlanta Braves …”  Ahhhh.

All of which leads to this payoff:

“… for a team on the verge of its greatest season ever, the future is murky at best. The Phillies have climbed to the top of the mountain. There might be a cliff up ahead.”

We’ll accept “he’s just a hater!” responses for the first few minutes after this post goes live because I know you guys can’t help yourselves when it comes to mistaking criticism for bias. But then you all are going to actually have to read the article and explain how, exactly, Rany is wrong.

314 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. ditto65 - Sep 1, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    Phillies Phans are Phunny.

    Make one observation that doesn’t jibe with the official positin that the Phillies are awesome and their awesomeness will last forever, and they go off the deep end. Never mind that the author spent half his post on how great the Phillies are. He used the word “murky” to describe the teams Phuture as it stands at this moment and Phillies Phans start pulling Grade “A” prospects out of their sofa cushions.

    Aparently one can have too much passion.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 1, 2011 at 8:33 AM

      ditto, I’ll take too much passion over none every day of the week.

  2. bigleagues - Sep 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Speaking as a Red Sox fan who suffered through the false hope and indignities of 1978, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2003 . . . I don’t think Phillies Phans will truly put their insecurities as loyalists to the losingest franchise in MLB history behind them until they win that 2nd World Series with this core.

    Of course, if they don’t get it done this year at least they had a great regular season. This generation will always have 2008 and they still have one more trophy than the Braves this century.

  3. amctjc - Sep 1, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    The source of talent these days in the MLB is the money generated by the franchise not draft picks. The last time I checked the Phillies were in the top 3 in term of revenue generation. Revenue Generation equals the ability to get talent usually from the teams that cannot afford to compete…..just see the Yankees and Red Sox for the last say 15 years.

    • bigleagues - Sep 2, 2011 at 12:49 AM

      Winning drives revenue. The Red Sox were reminded of this last season, when despite remaining competitive, injuries decimated the roster of many of its stars for long stretches of the season. NESN’s ratings sank as a result.

      Also, whether you are a small market team like the Brewers or a major market team like the Phillies, franchises MUST draft and produce viable ML talent in order to compete on the field and on the hot stove. So smart draft picks are most definitely part of the revenue generating formula.

      Boston and Philly is very apples to apples comparison. Neither the Phillies nor the Red Sox can afford to build teams solely by purchasing Free Agents. There must be quality talent in the pipeline – not only to have chips to trade, but more importantly to have as a productive member of the roster (preferably as regular) and under team control for as long as possible. Also, having a good mix of young and old is also necessary.

      Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Lester, Buchholz, Papelbon, Bard, Lowrie, Reddick are all homegrown and have provided the Sox with the payroll leverage necessary to pay the likes of AGon and Crawford.

      Similarly, Utley, Howard, Rollins, Victorino, Hamels, Madson, Bastardo, Worley and Mayberry helped provide similar benefits to the Phils.

      However, where Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz are the young core pieces of the Sox, the Phillies core largely remains over 30 and under hefty veteran contracts. The whole point of the article is that without imminent young talent in the system to fill needs on an aging roster, this Phillies run likely has an expiration date on it.

      • jeffro33 - Sep 2, 2011 at 1:47 PM

        I am not totally buying into this argument. The supposed aging core the Phillies haves in Utley, Howard, Lee and Doc are all in their primes for a minimum of 3-5 more years.

        The next group in Hamels and Pence have 8 years (give or take)…

        In Oswalt, Lidge, Ibanez, the Phils have $40 million coming off the books this offseason with players who haven’t been major contributors to this team’s success.

        With the Phillies’ aggression in filling its holes with proven talent ahead of potential prospects, I don’t see how this doesn’t continue. And from everything I read, even though the Phils have stripped their farm to go after Lee/Oswalt/Pence, their cupboard still is not bare.

        There is an ownership group in place here that finally gets it. With the support this team has from its fans selling out every game and with apparel sales, I just can’t see evidence that this team will not continue to reload as long as the balance sheet is in the black.

  4. amctjc - Sep 2, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    I left one piece out of the the business formula above

    revenue generation + good management product/personnel management = sustained excellence over a number of years

    the phillies have both we will be around for a long time… see microsoft ,,apple,,,yankees,,,red sox…it works in business

  5. mojosmagic - Sep 3, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    They added Vance Worley 23, John Mayberry 26, Hunter Pence 27 just this year. They have a 21 year old dynamite SS prospect in Freddie Gavis that could replace Rollins if they so choose. They have a young bullpen. The starters save for Hamels and Worley are over 30 but still in their prime and have a number of years left. Sure they will have to replace players like every other team in baseball but they have a great GM in Amaro and more money then any other team in the NL. Bernie Madoff made sure of that.

  6. leftywildcat - Sep 3, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Let see.

    The Phillies farm system was said to without any talent after trading prospects for Lee, and then more for Halliday (including Drabek), and then for getting useless ones for Lee.

    Not counting Brown, same farm system this year, in mid-season, produced a fantastic starter in Worley, a fantastic reliever in Bastardo, and an excellent position player in Mayberry!

    Isn’t it high time we all begin totally ignoring all of Craig’s Phillie-baiting BS. He’s got nothing better to do.

    • bigleagues - Sep 3, 2011 at 6:06 PM

      I’m not a Philly hater, I just want to make that clear.

      Worley does appear to be a solid starter for years to come. Bastardo has been great in his role and screams future closer.

      Mayberry on the other hand may be a tad over-rated by many Phillies phans. He spent parts of the last 3 years in Philly, but the bulk of ’09 and ’10 were spent at AAA, where he was certainly a solid player, but hardly mashing the ball.

      He will be 28 in 2012 and IMHO I don’t see any reason why he can’t be as productive as Ibanez has been the last few years – and he’ll come cheaper. And I think calling Mayberry an “excellent OF” is over-rating him. In the games I’ve seen him play the field he hasn’t made any spectacular play or covered extraordinary amount of turf. And the metrics back that up. He’s a good player. Not excellent. Not great.

      As for a what constitutes a players prime? Historically it has been viewed as approximately ages 27 thru 33.

      In 2012:
      Victorino – 31
      Howard – 32 (his numbers have been on the decline for the last two seasons.)
      Rollins – 33 (still very good in field, but a shell of himself offensively)
      Utley – 33
      Polanco – 36

      Lee – 33
      Oswalt – 34
      Halladay – 35

      Historically (PED’s aside ergo Clemens), even the best Starting Pitchers begin to hit the wall at age 35-36. Does that mean Halladay will suddenly suck next year? No, of course not. Will the Phillies remain competitive for the next couple of years, I believe yes. But they will have less and less roster flexibility as aging players go down with injuries . . . and that $25mil per year for Howard at ages 32-36 is just dumbfounding.

      • mojosmagic - Sep 4, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Howard leads the league in RBI’s and is on a pace to hit 40 home runs? His career numbers are mind boggling and Ruth like. What’s stupid is the Nats paying Jason Worth 17 million a year for 7 years. Rollins is having very nice offensive years and is 7 year younger then some guy named Geter. They also have a switch hitting SS in the minors hitting over 300 in double A who right now is better defensively then 90% of the SS in the majors. You conveniently left 26 year old Cole Hammels off your list. As somebody who has watched Mayberry for two years he is a good ML player and they also have Dom Brown a highly ranked prospect to play left. Victarino is having his best year this season and 31 isn’t old. Polanco and Utley will have to be replaced in a year or two and the Phillies have a 170 million dolor budget to do just that. This year they have 22 million coming off the books for Ibanez and Lindge alone. I wouldn’t resign Madson so add another 8 million. Will this go on for ever? No but I also don’t think they are in any kind of trouble. Just look at the ages of the Yanks and Red Sox and tell me what’s different? The writer was lazy conjured up the story without much fact.

  7. phillysports266 - Sep 5, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    When does he think the end is? He doesn’t specify and while the Phils might be low now, if its in 2015, they have plenty of time to get prospects. They clearly have no problem finding good prospects. Its 2011 now, they will replace Polanco with a younger third baseman in 2013, and they have Mayberry and Brown and Pence. Hamels is also not to old either. They have a core of players who are younger than thirty. I expect the clock will run out on Halladay and Lee when their contracts are up, and their bullpen is young and talented.

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