Wednesday, November 14, 2007

OK, fine, I'll talk about the Phillies' deals ...

I'm sitting here fucking around on the internet, procrastinating from a late-night run, and now you've gone and given me a reason to procrastinate past the point when I'll actually have to go running. I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times more: Goddamn you, Diesel.

But Anonymous's evil twin has also been hectoring me to discuss Lidge (seriously, you should just change your name to Hector, or maybe create a blogger alias and just join us on the blog). So here goes.

Your post doesn't upset me at all because it reads as if you're consciously overlooking a few important things for the sake of argument, and I think you realize those few things full well.

Silver's column angers me a little bit, simply because he's being a jackass. He's doing what seems to be a staple over at BP (at least from what I've read, which admittedly is not enough to say authoritatively): neglecting to mention relevant information in order to make a point for the sake of making a point. He ignores a lot of relevant stuff, as well as making some ludicrous comparisons and projections, in order to shore up a flimsy claim, a claim he probably only made in the first place because he wanted to say something controversial. Still, these are things that, if he's supposed to be a professional baseball writer, he should know better than to believe. And if he does believe them, he could plainly see their wrongness if he'd only read up a little bit in the real media on the state of the organization or the players in question.

I can hopefully address both of your pieces by enumerating these topics. I'll start with topics relating to the Lidge trade:

Aaron Rowand's departure is a foregone conclusion -- That Silver seems to be project the Phillies' resigning of Rowand as likely or even probable is the first of many things he says in that column that lead me to believe he doesn't know much about the organization. The Phils are not going to re-up Rowand, and nobody who follows the organization has thought they would for months, since it became clear he would be looking for $14M per in a long-term deal. There's just no reason for them to do that, because he's not that good -- not nearly as good as his 2007 accolades would suggest, offensively or defensively. I can expand on this point if you'd like, but I'm pretty sure we've discussed it before, and that you agree. The fact that the Phillies made no real move to sign him during their exclusivity period suggests that they do, too. There's also no reason to because of ...

The presence of Shane Victorino -- You make no mention of the Flyin' Hawaiian, and neither does Silver, which is a pretty glaring omission. He would have replaced Aaron Rowand in center regardless of what they did with Bourn, because he's a lot better than Bourn and has proven it. (A brief aside: Bourn [not Bourne] may be the most-misspelled major leaguer in recent memory. I've seen him called Bourne a dozen times in recent articles. The Bourne Identity ruined his life.) There's no way in hell Bourn would have been the Phillies' starting CF as long as Victorino is there. Victorino's been exiled in right too long already. He also quietly posted a pretty good year, especially considering the ample time he missed with a calf injury -- before that he was on par to put up solid numbers even relative to other RFs. It's problematic to try to forecast stats for Bourn, considering the way in which he was used this season, almost always as a late-inning pinch-runner for Pat Burrell. But the Good Phight broke it down pretty well here.

In short, Victorino has all the attributes Bourn has -- decent hitter for average, nearly identical OBPs, excellent base stealer, stellar range -- and a few very important ones that Bourn doesn't: a cannon arm and respectable pop for a CF. Also, the fact that he's two years older shouldn't be a huge deal when you consider that he's shown what he can do over a full MLB season, while Bourn hasn't.

Barring a move for a RF, which I sort of doubt, Werth will be the starter next year. I'm not sure exactly why you think that Bourn is a legitimate starting outfielder and Jayson Werth isn't, but the Phillies think otherwise (obviously), and they have pretty good reason. His numbers were damned good for a guy who made only spot starts and pinch-hit a lot -- they project to a solid-to-good season out of a right fielder, and are head and shoulders better than Bourn's. I don't have the time or inclination right now to parse his defensive metrics, mostly because I have little faith in them anyway, but I know he had a decent amount of assists and was considered above average as a defender. There's no reason to believe that an outfield of Burrell (who isn't going anywhere), Bourn, and Victorino would be better than Burrell/Victorino/Werth, and there's a good amount of reason to believe it would be worse.

The fact that none of the prospects is very good -- Bourn was going to be the Phillies' fourth outfielder even with Rowand gone, for the foreseeable future, for reasons outlined above. Bourn is nothing special right now, and he won't be hard to replace. If the Phillies really need a fourth outfielder to play defense and pinch run, they could just call up Chris Roberson.

As far as Costanzo, everybody (including Silver) seems to mention his 27 homers and say he was the Phils' 3B of the future. What he fails to mention is that he's a defensive butcher and is absolutely abysmal against LHP. They were supposedly thinking about moving him to the outfield. He's drawing lots and lots of Russell Branyan comparisons, which isn't good unless we're playing MLB '07 at the Anonymous household (in which case, Branyan is Roy Hobbs). And really, since when is the fact that Ed Wade scouted him and liked him cause to think he's any good?

The third piece, Geoff Geary, is a proven commodity. Proven to be the definition of mediocre.

So you have one completely unremarkable MR, and two prospects who show few signs of future stardom. In contrast, they got a major-league-level utility player for their bench (who, while not groundbreaking by any stretch, will probably contribute as much to the 2008 Phils as Bourn would have, and far more than Costanzo), as well as somebody who could really make a difference, because ...

Brad Lidge makes a pretty good closer and a great setup guy -- First of all, I don't buy the organization's insistence that this means Myers is moving back to the rotation. The organization has hinted that that's the case, but this is the same bunch of people who said Tom Gordon was their closer last year. Myers has said he prefers closing and he was really good at it when healthy. The bullpen was also the biggest area of concern for last year's Phils by far. Add in the facts that the Phillies have four starting pitchers pretty much penciled in for next year -- Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, and (sigh) Adam Eaton -- and that they've made it limpid in every official comment that their #1 priority this offseason is pitching, possibly starting pitching, and it becomes far from certain that Myers will be back in the rotation. He might, but there's no guarantee. If they acquire anybody else, possibly an El Duque type on a short-term deal, I bet Myers winds up back in the pen.

And if their bullpen is Gordon/Madson/Romero/Lidge/possibly Myers and whoever else, that's one hell of an upgrade from last year. I don't know why everybody talks about Lidge as if he's damaged goods. He's a 31-year-old, high-strikeout, low-ERA guy who's been excellent in the past, had one bad year, performed well last year and comes relatively cheap (and the $6 millionish they'll pay him after arbitration is relative cheap, considering the $15M Rivera will likely be getting in the next few days), all because of some abstract mass conception of his mental fragility or something. In his original article on the trade, Silver himself estimates that he's quite possibly one of the 15 best relievers in baseball.

He's inarguably better than anybody in their current bullpen not named Brett Myers, unless it's ...

J.C. Romero -- Simply put, Diesel, your text-messaging up-in-armsedness over this deal baffles me. I know you're on this big homegrown-talent kick, and it seems like Silver is, too, but the fact of the matter is that they just signed the best lefty reliever available for $4M/year. Given the market -- with last year's free agents such as the Gagnes and Foulkes and Dotels and Borowskis and Wickmans of the world all making significantly more than that, as well as the LaTroy Hawkinses and Roberto Hernandezes and Jorge Julios making close to the same -- that's not at all unreasonable. Especially not for a guy who was spectacular from the moment he signed with the Phils.

You talk about the signing like he's another Tom Gordon or something, and I fail to see why that is. He's their best option for next year, and if they wind up regretting it in two years, as you say, they only have one year of wasted contract. And that's irrelevant anyway, because of ...

The fact that the Phillies need to be legitimate contenders next year, or else there will be massive changes -- One of the bigger reasons Costanzo and Bourn don't matter is that by the time they might become regular contributors -- and my guess is that neither will ever be good major leaguers -- it will be way too late for Gillick and Manuel, and maybe for the Phillies. The not-so-dynamic septuagenarian duo will break up next year if Gillick leaves, and might be gone regardless, simply because of their age. The Phils' core of young talent will start to break up shortly thereafter as their contracts expire and they can't all be re-signed.

The Phillies have to contend now. These moves give them a better chance to do so, as even you and Silver admit. So it really doesn't matter if they're auctioning their future (which they're not, and I've explained why, without even getting into the huge amount of money [$25M+] coming off the books when the Burrell and Thome and Gordon contracts expire after next year). If they just hung on to average organizational guys for years despite their obvious flaws, expecting somehow to win a championship that way, as you and Silver seem to advocate, then they might as well just move across the street and change their name to the Eagles.

A few other thoughts:

Silver's contention that signing Eric Gagne for $6M or Cordero for 4 years at $10M per would somehow be smarter is one of the three most asinine things I've read this month. The other two are that they have any chance at Rivera and that they should have saved their money for A-Rod. I mean, seriously -- this guy's a journalist? What a load of utter bullshit. The Yanks are offering $15M/year for a 37-year-old closer who's already well past his peak, and nobody with half a brain or any familiarity with the Phillies thinks A-Rod is a possibility. He should at least read the stories posted on their official site before spouting off like that.

His entire last paragraph is also revisionist blather. At the time of that trade, when Beckett had that oft-cited sub-.500 career record and Lowell was a shadow of his former self, I bet you he was one of the legion of reporters blasting that move, too. And to compare giving up Michael Bourn to giving up Hanley Ramirez is just laughable.

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