Change: Not Just Political Jargon
The Plan To Fix A Failing Team
With the republican and democratic parties bickering and getting nowhere in congress, I thought it wise to stay off the topic of politics and onto another topic that we Philadelphians have come to grips with: Change. As we notice, the leaves are changing, seasons are changing rapidly (more rapidly than we would like), and life changes before our very eyes. The change I want to talk about today has been talked about a lot in Philadelphia sports the past couple of weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies are in need of a change. Yes, they are in need of dramatic change. Here is my analysis of the situation:
Swagger? No, What We Need is Determination
For about 5 years now, sports writers, fans, players, and just about anyone that is interested in the Phillies has uttered this word: swagger. Since the 2006 and 2007 seasons when Pat Gillick came on the season and predicted this club would contend for a championship and Jimmy Rollins made his “team to beat” statement, all we have heard was “this team has swagger.” What is swagger? Swagger is a quiet confidence, it is a strut, it is the knowledge that you can beat anyone and do it on your own terms. This team possessed “swagger” in 2007 and got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. My contention is this: The Phillies went into the next season with a new feeling, this one of “determination.” It was no longer swagger that made this team the way they were. It was the will to get to the playoffs and go farther. What happened in 2008 has already been detailed on this blog and we all know that the team assembled in 2008 would win it all. It was sheer determination and a will to achieve the highest honor bestowed in baseball.
The Core of It All
When this core of players was assembled by first Ed Wade and then by Pat Gillick, the expectations were great for this team. The Phillies were the team to beat and the winner of the 2008 World Series. The franchise had become one of the best in baseball and for the first time in a long time, players wanted to play here. The clubhouse atmosphere had changed from one of doom to one of humor and looseness. Come game time, these players were prepared to play and prepared to win every night. The team made it to the World Series yet again in 2009 but lost to the Yankees (I won’t go there). Then the team struck again and made it to the NLCS but was beaten by a scrappy, underachieving Giants team. This year, the Phillies, with the most firepower they have ever had with their pitching rotation and a payroll that would be second or third in baseball, had made it to the NLDS and lost. The question then becomes: What has happened in 3 short years that Ruben Amaro Jr. (RAJ) has unquestionably made this team the best team in baseball but we have fallen shorter and shorter each year?
Did I Mention The Word “Determination?”
The core of players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Shane Victorino is now getting older and they have one ring. To me, this team looks like it has quit despite having the best record in the regular season. The Seattle Mariners proved that regular season win records mean nothing(Go look at their 116 win season all come crashing down in the NLDS). The “real” season is played in October. This team has taken the attitude that they have already won, what more do they need to do? While this opinion may be unpopular, I believe it is the right assessment of the aging core of this team. Determination wins championships, not swagger.
I’ve Got The Hunger
What does this team need this offseason? It certainly does NOT need a total shakeup but I believe Ruben needs to send a clear message to this team. He has already come out and say that this team needs to change its approach offensively next year. Here is my plan for 2012: You can agree or disagree (or agree to disagree) but it is a plan that will get this team back in the driver’s seat and hungry once again.
1B – Chase Utley until Ryan Howard can return
2B – Placido Polanco – While he does not have as much range, he will be a serviceable 2nd baseman until Howard can return.
3B – Aramis Ramirez – Type B Free Agent that may not command a huge salary. He has pop and will fill in nicely for the lack of Howard in the lineup.
SS – Freddy Galvis – Anyone who has been around me lately has heard me chirping for his call up to the big leagues. Rollins was a great player here for 15 years. However, he has worn out his welcome with his injuries and his lack of hustle. Just as Rollins was thrown into the “mess” as a youngster, Galvis must also be thrown in. (See: Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro). This will send a clear message to the team that nobody is safe.
C – Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz – Need I say more?
CF – Shane Victorino – Great guy, high energy still, can fly with the best of them
LF – Dom Brown/John Mayberry Jr. Platoon – I believe this will work. Again, thank you Raul for your time here but we need to get younger and the future is now.
RF – Hunter Pence – Is VERY hungry as per his comments the other day. I think he takes the “Good season, but I am still starving” approach.
Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Worley – I am fine with not re-signing Oswalt. I believe Worley would be a gem at the 5th spot.
Again the future is now: Bastardo, Stutes, Herndon(as much as that pains me), Joe Savery, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer. Our closer should come from within. I would not pay Madson the money that Boras will demand. Maybe we get a veteran closer.
This team has a great mix of veterans and rookies. It WILL become hungry again and also can acknowledge that our window is still upon us. It has not shut and if the Phillies can pull this off, we will become an even better team. I saw a Cardinals team with talent and HEART win the World Series. As much as I wanted to die the night they won, it is the Cardinals that we are chasing and another World Series that we desire.
To Another World Series in 2012,