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Phillies president David Montgomery doesn’t want to rebuild because attendance will fall

Jun 28, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT

David Montgomery David Montgomery

The Phillies are in the middle of what appears to be their second losing season in a row, and their third without a playoff appearance. The lack of success with this expensive bunch of old and injury-prone players has led fans to believe that a rebuild is the best path forward to reattaining success.

GM Ruben Amaro decided to sign veterans Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz to contract extensions rather than trade them to other teams. Further, the Phillies haven’t — until very recently — been active in trying to trade Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies’ brass still believed (and still believes) strongly in the core that helped bring them success several years ago.

As Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times reports, Montgomery is afraid to go into a total rebuild because attendance will drop:

“In 1998, what were we drawing? Where were we ranked of the franchises in the city? We were last,” Montgomery said. “When I took over, we thought it was a moral victory to go 44-46 in the second half and still lose 97 games, drawing a million and a half and we couldn’t get into a new ballpark.

“Some people say that the Phillies worry too much about attendance. Yes, we do. When you are low in attendance, the risk is only on the upside. When you are (drawing well), the risk is dropping any further. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

The problem is that attendance has already fallen and will continue to fall as long as they trot out the same mediocre crew. According to Baseball Reference, the Phillies have seen the largest drop in average attendance between 2013 and ’14, having seen 8,265 fewer fans this year than last. The next-worst attendance drop belongs to the Blue Jays, down 4,635 on average.

  1. johnnysoda - Jun 28, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    Really? The Blue Jays’ attendance is down that much? I’m surprised considering their success.

    • renaado - Jun 28, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Well they’re a contender now and certainly doin well, I’m sure it’ll increase some time after the all-star break if they keep this winning performance going.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      I’m not sure how it is in Canada, but remember attendance is usually pretty bad in the sprint > beginning of summer b/c kids are still in school. I’m sure if you charted it by month, it gets better as the summer goes on.

    • TestSubjekt - Jun 29, 2014 at 6:12 AM

      On the local sports radio shows they like to mention the highway that runs by the Rogers Centre is under construction. Lane reductions for 2 years. Major turn off for drivers.

      For those planning on taking transit, the TTC has been closing the downtown loop of the subway on weekends to do work on signals or tracks. They run shuttle buses when it’s closed. I would think this is also affecting people’s decisions to attend.

    • aresachaela - Jun 29, 2014 at 7:29 AM

      The ONLY reason why the Blue Bird have a decreased attendance this season is because they sucked last year, fans easily lost the interest in watching.

      /sniff…sob

  2. schmedley69 - Jun 28, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    Like his predecessor, Bill Giles, David Montgomery is an incompetent stooge. Amaro deserves a lot of blame, but I will guarantee you that a lot of the bad decisions have been made by Montgomery. He has made one really smart decision in his time as president, and that was hiring Pat Gillick. I have no confidence that the Philllies will be able to turn it around under this current management structure.

  3. chill1184 - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    I didn’t know BF had attendance records. Learn something new everyday.

    Montgomery is wrong and right at the same time at least IMO. Baseball rebuilds take quite some time to complete providing everything goes as smoothly as a GM plans it to be. Rebuilds in general for all the sports take time but IMO rebuilding in baseball takes the longest. Unlike the NFL the NBA and to a certain extent the NHL the guys you draft aren’t going to be on the field come opening day. On average an MLB draftee takes at least 3 to 4 years to reach the big show which is probably a liberal estimate and thats if he pans out to be the player that scouts said he would be when he was drafted.

    People are a fickle bunch, in sports people don’t spend the pretty penny (unless your a die-hard) in food, parking, travel, etc to see a bad team. Thats just the way it is. Sure you can do promos and stuff like that but your casual/bandwagon fan cares about winning and the reality is that you need those casual and bandwagon fans to fill the seats as much as you need the die-hards. However just like a bad toothache the longer you prolong treatment the more pain it’s going to cause you down the road.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      rebuilds take longer when you let EVERYTHING crumble to the ground around you rather taking things project by project (address a player or two, position or two at a time).

      Mo Ron

      his attendance IS dropping and it will CONTINUE to drop and just WHO is going to get it to go back UP?

      where are the up and coming players?

      As president of this shipwreck, he should have fired Ruben a while ago…

    • paperlions - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      The problem is letting an organization get to the point where a rebuild is required. There are organizations that stay competitive each year by not selling the future for the present. Yes, those teams have better and worse years, but they don’t require a multi-year rebuild or a rebuild at all…they try to maintain a healthy minor league system while not getting locked into many (if any) long expensive contracts with players on the wrong side of 30.

      • xmatt0926x - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Thank you. This is 100% correct.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        paper

        well said and I agree…

        to do that, one has to do preventative maintenance all along, year by year…

        that’s what I was trying to get at. The Phils were very good in 2008, 09. 10 etc… but they quit painting, quick filling in the cracks, didn’t put down new mulch each spring, left the window downstairs broken so bugs, rain etc… could come in…

        Before long the roof is leaking, the foundation is cracked and it’s game over for that place.

        My, point, said much better by you, was that they NEEDED to address things each year, a player or two, a position or two…

        Can’t sit back and let it ALL go… even when you’re on top…

  4. andreweac - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Phillies need to double down on players that know how to win.

    In all seriousness it is going to be more than 5 years until the Phillies challenge for the NL East unless they start spending money like Ned Colletti.

    • carpi2 - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:35 PM

      The ironic thing is it was doubling down on players, in the hopes of getting back to the WS, which found them in this current predicament.

  5. gloccamorra - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    You know, he’s right. Shipping off all the veterans and going with kids (and losses) for a few years is really a desperation move by teams that don’t have the resources to methodically improve with free agents and a few trades. As mega contracts play out and one or two veterans are traded, money will be available for key free agents that can improve the team much faster than a teardown/rebuild. Leave the trade-for-prospects strip jobs to small market teams to compete by building with the draft from the bottom up because they don’t have the deep pockets/major market resources. Philly isn’t one of those franchises.

    • carpi2 - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:43 PM

      The Phillies can employ a mixed approach. They can easily shop the likes of Byrd, Kendrick, Rollins, Brown, Ruiz, and Papelbon for any young talent they can get, while keeping the more integral components of the team intact. They will remain to be, at least competitive in the weak NL East. Once their young talent improves they may even make it back to the playoffs.

      • weaselpuppy - Jun 28, 2014 at 11:18 PM

        You are assuming they actually get something for these guys. RAJ is pretty much a joke and the Mr Hankey touch….so, yeah. Good luck w/that.

        Now, if RAJ is the first one jettisoned in the rebuild, then it has a good chance to work.

      • carpi2 - Jun 28, 2014 at 11:23 PM

        I’m not holding out hope they will get too much for any of those guys. However, none of those players I mentioned would cause a great decrease in winning percentage, if removed from the roster. Trading them, at the very least, opens roster spots, and clears some money from the books.

    • quintjs - Jun 28, 2014 at 11:52 PM

      Buying a World Series is hardly an easy job and frankly not many teams could do that. Of course you need free agents but pretty much every world series winner is built from a drafted/ long established core.

      Red Sox last year had some great FA contributions, but it was still a Pedroia/ Ortiz/ Lester team.

      We know the Giants have won the last few years on the back of their home grown pitching, and of course the Cardinals in 2011.

      My favourite is that fact your very Phillies (guessing you are a Phillies fan) won in 2008 on the back of a drafted/ developed Core – Howard, Utley, Victorino, Hamels, Werth etc. Since then the Phillies have stopped drafting and gone into free agents and have lost relevancy. And your solution (and appearently the Phillies team as a whole) is to sign more free agents?

      They don’t need to sell every player but they need to focus on youth. Trading spare parts from their main roster won’t get anything back – anyone could have signed someone like Byrd last year and no one really wanted him at that price, now teams are going to give up decent young talent as well? no chance.

      Quite frankly any plan that doesn’t start with a new GM will end in failure.

      • spol85 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:41 AM

        Red Sox last year had some great FA contributions, but it was still a Pedroia/ Ortiz/ Lester team.

        First of all, Ortiz was a FA acquisition. But besides him almost the entire roster of the 2013 Red Sox were either trades or FA acquisitions. Salty, Napoli, Drew, Victorino, Gomes, Oritz, Lackey, Peavy, Uehara and the enitre bullpen. There were very few drafted and developed players on that team.

        The Phillies did not draft and develop Werth or Victorino. Both were FA’s from the Dodgers.

        The Phillies problem is that they traded away all their young talent in what turned out to be bad deals in an effort to win in 2009-2011. They have also waited too long to try and move the veterans that they have and have saddled themselves with too many bad contracts.

        They tried to win multiple titles with their core group and I dont have a problem with that. But now they are paying the price. They need a major overhaul and it doesnt seem like RAJ is the man to do it.

      • quintjs - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:20 AM

        I’ll take the point on Werth and Victorino – I guess I was more refering to buying a team versus building. Neither Werth or Victorino were star players when they came to the Phillies – neither was Ortiz and Boston. The point on Ortiz was he has been apart of the Red Sox for a decade – he is a leader and established – the Red Sox didn’ really buy a star player, they took a chance on a guy the Twins didn’t want and helped him acheive stardom – the same was the case with Werth and Victorino – and yes the Red Sox did get some free agent acquisitions – but NONE of the guys you mention from the Sox were huge stars – Lackey was the biggest name when signed i would think and most people laughed at that one – Napoli was close behind.

        So i accept my facts were not 100% perfect, and I didn’t explain my point. But here is my main point – Look at the team who has signed the biggest names of name – Angels with Pujols and Hamilton – how has that gone?.

        The Phillies were at their best when they mixed drafted talent, with some shrewed plays on the free agent and trade market. They are not at their best when the sign guys to $100m+ deals.

        But if you want to argue the Red Sox – best? established core (ala 2007), worst – free agent core (A-Gon, Crawford). As for 2013 – Ellsbury, Tazawa, Nava, Bogaerts, Workman – probably the best performances in the WS were from the draft.

      • mikhelb - Jun 29, 2014 at 6:46 AM

        @quintjs

        So… the “buying a championship” argument is only valid when teams acquire big superstars but not when they acquire free agents to fill the roster spots they couldn’t fill via development of players? In the end in both cases a team is filling spots with pieces they didn’t have in their farm… hence they are “buying” a championship.

        “Ellsbury, Tazawa, Nava, Bogaerts, Workman – probably the best performances in the WS were from the draft.”

        Neither Nava nor Tazawa were drafted by the Red Sox, both were free agent acquisitions, Tazawa came from Japan and Nava from an independent league (the sox paid $1 for him). Bogaerts wasn’t drafted, he was BOUGHT from Aruba, but the sox developed him.

        “if you want to argue the Red Sox – best? established core (ala 2007)”

        The 2007’s redsox core were not developed by them:
        Varitek (Mariners), Julio Lugo (Astros), Mike Lowell (Yankees), Manny Ramírez (Indians), Coco Crisp (Cardinals), JD Drew (Cardinals), David Ortíz (Twins), same goes for Cora (LAD), Hinske (Cubs), Willy Mo (Mets), Mirabelli (Giants), etc.

        As far as pitching they didn’t develop:
        Matsuzaka (Japan), Becket (Marlins), Wakefield (Pirates), Tavárez (Indians), Schilling (Orioles & Astros), Okajima (Japan), Timlin (BJays), Snyder (KC), López (LAD), Pinheiro (Seattle), Donnelly (Chisox), Romero (Twins), Gagné (LAD).

        Heck, they had more FA than the 2011 team with AGon. In 2007 out of the 40 players that participated with them, 30 were free agent acquisitions, 10 were developed:
        5 batters –> Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Moss and Murphy), 1364 PA in total out of 6402 total PA of their batters, that is: 21.3% of their total PA.

        5 Pitchers –> Lester (63 inn), Papelbon (58 1/3 inn), DelCarmen (44 inn), Gabbard (41 inn), Buchholz (22 2/3) for a total of 229 inn our of a total of 1438 2/3 inn, that is: 15.91% of the innings pitched by players they developed.

        In fact, Bosox have the highest % of total free agents in their 3 WS championships in the past 30 seasons (2004 was more or less the same).

    • dan1111 - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:50 AM

      I think you’re right that a team with the Phillies’ resources, if well-run, would not necessarily need a total rebuild.

      However, it is equally possible that a badly-run team, even with a high payroll, can get in a situation where rebuilding is the only sensible option. The Phillies, in my opinion, are in this position. They have committed all of their resources to an aging core of players. This core won’t lead them to the playoffs, and they don’t have enough payroll left over to add the talent that would put them over the top. If they do nothing or tinker at the margins, things are only going to get worse. It would really make sense to blow up this team rather than limping along for several more years.

      Also, I seriously doubt that there is much of an attendance difference between the below-average team they have now and a truly bad team. From a fan’s perspective, either you are going to see a team in a playoff race or you are not. The record doesn’t make much impact beyond that.

  6. brewcrewfan54 - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    Attendence always suffers once the winning stops. Still, you can’t keep trotting out the same old superstars who’s best days are 3 years behind them and expect people to keep coming to the ballpark. Unless you’re willing to pay a rebuild is always eventually neccesary.

    • mikhelb - Jun 29, 2014 at 6:59 AM

      Yankees have been doing that and this year it was very clear they do not care about the playoffs, their main preocupation is butts in the seats of YS III. Last season they had a hard drop in their attendance, so much that they “lost” more in their drop in attendance than what they’d have to pay in taxes had they acquired somebody they needed to fill roster spots (lost in the sense that they sold less than a previous season, and that drop was higher than the amount they’d had to pay in taxes in 2013).

      That’s why they went all in for marquee FA to give fans extra reasons to attend to the games, and it seems they didn’t sign Canó because Robinson alone doesn’t sell as much as a new face in town, and alas their attendance is higher and their record is basically the same as 2013 after 79 games (last year 42-37, 2014 is 41-38).

  7. renaado - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Are the TV ratings down for the Phillies too?

    Somewhat agree with the rebuild and stuff there but what’s the difference even when they’ll always lose? This city really wants to win hard and DEFINITELY always wants to win. It’s somewhat what you can call a “double-edged sword”, there’ll be good results and bad ones if this happens. Rebuilding a team with lots of young and awesome players is certainly good for those who keeps loosin and it sometimes gains the interest in fans … But, performance is always the no.1 question mark.

    • dan1111 - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:14 AM

      “what’s the difference even when they’ll always lose?”

      +1, this is the best argument against rebuilding: they won’t be able to do it successfully with the management they have.

  8. greymares - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    A rebuild is the only way to save attendance.

  9. yahmule - Jun 28, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Perfect picture for the headline.

    • renaado - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:13 AM

      He looks happy though.

      • yahmule - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        You can’t let presiding over a horrible team with no future get you down, Renaado.

      • gloccamorra - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:38 PM

        His face is just shaped like that, like a smiling dolphin. With a dolphin, you can’t tell if he’s happy, or planning some terrible revenge. With Montgomery, same thing.

  10. westyh - Jun 28, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    A key to Philly’s sustained success is in Houston thanks to the Pence trade.

  11. coltzfan166 - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    Rebuilding doesn’t work. Teams should always try to be the best they can every year.

    • gloccamorra - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      I believe you, coltzfan166, but a lot of people here don’t. All you have to do is ask a Pirates, Royals or Padres fan how long that “rebuilding” plan really takes, but I’m guessing a lot of HBT readers like to imagine their own teams picking up other teams’ players in a sell-off.

  12. mungman69 - Jun 29, 2014 at 5:35 AM

    The Phillies didn’t have to rebuild two years ago, they just had to reload, make one or two “good” deals and still be competitive. I haven’t been in Philly for a while but I know that if you show Phillies’ fans hope they will buy tickets. Now it’s too late to reload and I agree, rebuilding will take a long, long time.

  13. Walk - Jun 29, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    If it is viable to reload that is always preferable to a rebuild in the short term. Rebuilding may ,and i stress may, bring you success down the road whereas reloading may bring you success near term. Not every team has the option to reload, not every team has fanbase to put up with a rebuild. Whatever the decision it will ultimately be judged in hindsight. If the phillies brass believe the personnel will be available for a rebuild then i wish them success, but if they miss their free agents they are looking at another down year.

  14. greymares - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    I’m not a season ticket holder because i live 70 mi away but i take in about 15 games a year. If it means anything to you Mr. Montgomery I won’t be coming anymore this year unless there are some large trade day changes. Also i suspect I’m not alone.

  15. eagles512 - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Fire your GM and the fans will start looking at the team differently. With him, they’re to the point of being hated.

  16. downvotesforeveryone - Jun 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    What. An. Asshole.

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