For decades, if not generations, it has self-proclaimed for decades how it is the end-all and be-all of sports knowledge and scope, how its fans are the most passionate and insightful in all the land, and I’ll agree with one thing: Philadelphia is passionate about sports. Pro sports.
Its knowledge or insight … ummm, let’s just say I think that emotion overtakes any ability to see a full, clear picture of what is – instead of what is hoped – by many inside and out the city limits.
A perfect case in point is the current goings-on with the Phillies, which provoke pretty much the entire spectrum of what Philly sports fans experience, if not endure, on a seemingly never-ending cycle:
BEING LATE TO THE PARTY… on Ruben Amaro. Despite being presented evidence that he was in over his head as GM while steering the ballclub into the abyss for years, it’s only now, seven years into his reign, that the masses have truly started calling for his head. To me, the moment Amaro, newly christened as organizational player personnel chief, offered 45-year-old Jamie Moyer a 2-year deal on the heels of a “quality start” no-decision in the 2008 World Series and provincially charged rantings to extend the pitching elder statesman signaled his incompetence as a GM. It was clear-cut pandering with no thought to the long-terms effects on his business, which was the success of the Phillies on the field. When Moyer, for all intents and purposes, removed the red pinstripes for good midway through the 2010 season due to injury, the club was rid of his bloated ERA, but the precedent had been set by Amaro. He had proven he was more a fan than GM, that his liking a player was more important than what that player actually was doing, and that he’d make decisions based off that. In business, that’s never smart and deals with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins proved more costly than what read on the yearly ledger. His ode to “pitching is everything” in 2011, while hailed by most and resulting in a club-record 102 wins in the regular season, perhaps was his biggest faux pas of all, as it kept the club and fan base clinging to a glory years run that actually ended in a 2009 World Series defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees, not in the first-round playoff loss to the St. Louis Cardinals two years later.
UNABLE TO LET GO AND MOVE ON… with Cole Hamels. The left-hander has been both a testament to performing regardless of the drudgery that surrounds him and an albatross-like link to the past. He won the World Series MVP 7 years ago, but if you listen to most they’ll cite his current worth with that at the top of the list. Reality check: He’s a quality pitcher who has done well to compile a 114-90 career record with a 3.30 ERA, receiving less offensive support than Allen Iverson did in the Sixers’ run to the NBA Finals almost a decade and a half ago. Hamels is no more; he is no less. A no-hitter in his 294th major-league start does nothing to change that. Comparisons to the likes of Clayton Kershaw have been ridiculous from the get-go. To wit, Hamels is 31, and has earned what is noted above, just not a Cy Young award. Kershaw has three Cys, and is in the running for a fourth – at age 27. He has a 105-55 career mark with a 2.50 ERA. Stop with the comparison, Philly fans. You’re embarrassing yourselves. Stop with the ones to David Price, too. Hamels isn’t him, either. His prime value years are over. In fact, his years of value to the Phillies, aside from being a trade chip, have been over since 2012. When you’re playing on a club that isn’t going to win 75 games with you or without you, you have no value as someone pitching for that club.
BITTER NO MATTER WHAT… with Jonathan Papelbon. Mostly vilified for his quirky comments, Paps had his supporters and produced some very good numbers (14-11 record, 2.31 ERA and 123 saves) while in Philly. But he held less value to the 2015 Phillies than Hamels, and a trade deadline-looming deal with the Washington Nationals should have been ballyhooed as Exhibit A in “addition by subtraction.” Only it hasn’t been. Instead, Amaro has taken hits for not getting anything in return. That this move is just another mindless transaction that yields nothing. In reality, the team unloaded a player who didn’t want to be in Philly, an aging, power-pitching reliever who hadn’t had power the whole extent of his tenure in town for a Double-A pitching prospect who may, or may not, pan out as a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors if he ever gets his act together. Papelbon’s 2015 stats rate, at worst, the second-best of his career, perhaps trailing only his first full season in the bigs, 2006. But on the worst team in the sport, what do they mean? At worst, the Phillies got nothing for nothing in this deal. At best, Amaro finally 86’d one of the most pointless moves of his reign.
No, I’m not a hater. If anything, I feel for the Philly sports fan base, believing it deserves much more in return for its investment of passion. Because that always has value.