Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
That's a number that has been rattling around my head since before spring training started. It's the number of games the 2007 edition of baseball's version of the LA Clippers, the Philadelphia Phillies, will win.
This team is a dysfunctional, dystopic mishmash mess despite all the blather that the Phils somehow are the team to beat in the NL East. Yesterday's cuts fully illustrate why.
They cut utility infielder Danny Sandoval, who committed six errors in thirteen games, and two pitchers who were supposed to be part of the bullpen mix, Brian Sanchez and Justin Germano (who was claimed on waivers by the Padres) among others. Minor cuts surely. However, they demonstrate how deeply, how fundamentally fouled up this team is.
Sandoval, a no-hit/(apparently) no-field middle infielder, was the only man on the roster who could competently back up Jimmie Rollins at shortstop. The only other player with major-league experience at short is Abraham O'Nunez, who played just three games there last year.
On average backup shortstops play around fifty games each year (actually, 52.14 to the starter's 128.38 on average for 2000-06). Nunez, who came up as a shortstop with the Pirates in 1997, has not played that many games at short since 1999.
Besides Nunez is supposed to split time at third with cemented gloved Wes Helms. Imagine Charlie Manuel, a manager who has yet to master the intricacies of the double-switch or a modern bullpen, trying to rotate Nunez around the infield late in ballgames.
So no biggy, the Phils are just foregoing utility infielders. Maybe in and of itself, that wouldn't be that big a deal. But this team is skimping in so many areas like right field, third base, and the bullpen.
This is a team that looks better on paper than on the field. They are built more like a fantasy team than an actual team. They have two center fielders, six starting pitchers, two part-time third basemen, and three part-time catchers.
And who is to blame for this mess? I lay the blame at GM Pat Gillick's feet. Did Gillick have to sign sub-par Adam Eaton (4.40 career ERA in a pitcher's park) to a grossly overpriced contract, three years and $24 M, and then acquire Freddy Garcia?
Why did he trade Bobby Abreu last year without retaining his only viable replacement, David Delucci? Delucci left as a free agent, and Victorino, the natural choice for center, became the right fielder even though he doesn't hit well enough to play there. Oh, but I forgot, trading Abreu was just a salary dump.
Then there's the catcher. The Phils used a rotating door behind the plate last year, but seemed to settle on Chris Coste down the ill-fated stretch. Never mind that Coste was a 33-year-old rookie, who had no future with the team. The only catcher in the organization that had a shot of contributing in 2007 was Carlos Ruiz, but Ruiz was yo-yoed in and out of the lineup and up and down to Triple-A without any sort of concern for developing the 27-year-old rookie. The season ended. Mike Lieberthal was a free agent the Phils had no intention of resigning. Sal Fasano was long gone to the Yankees. With Coste and Ruiz remaining, the Phils realized that they did not have enough experience, went out and signed no-hit vet Rod Barajas, paired him with Ruiz, and proceeded to shun Coste much to the dismay of the local media who have been running a weekly homage to the marginal player ever since.
Actually, the Phils are a conglomeration of their own shortcomings over the years. Their inability to sign Scot Rolen lead to the ridiculously long and expensive contract to which they signed Pat Burrell. Losing Rolen also lead to the ill-fated signing of David Bell indirectly and directly to the acquisition of Placido Polanco, who could have been a viable solution at third until he was traded for the useless Ugueth Urbina, who is in prison somewhere in Venezuela.
The Phils have actually traded arguably the best players in the game at third (Rolen) and in right (Abreu) and all that they have to show for it is Matt Smith. Oopha!
Yes, Gillick was not involved in a number of those trades, but the moves that have been made with Gillick as GM are mind-bottling (to quote Will Farrell). He trades Abreu in a towel-throwing move and then fails to make moves that will help the Phils in the future. His only decent pickup this past offseason was Freddy Garcia, but with only one year left on his contract, if the Phils don't contend in 2007, it was a waste.
Gillick has set himself up with a built-in scapegoat with the execrable Charlie Manuel as manager. He even has his old manager, Jimy Williams, waiting in the wings. So no matter how badly the Phils start out of the blocks, he has himself covered.
It's a good thing, too, since Gillick's replacement will undoubtedly be company man, assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., more mediocrity from the folks that brought you Ed Wade.
and given that J-Ro has never played in fewer than 154 games in a full season, I don't really think the lack of a backup shortstop will be what makes or breaks this team.
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