IN AN EARLIER ESSAY on this site (“I definitely didn’t come here for this” posted on August 1, 2013), I stated that “If I were the general manager of a baseball team, I would have a plaque on the wall of my offices at work and at home that featured Branch Rickey’s famous statement: It is better to trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.”
For the tender-hearted, that may sound ruthless. It’s intended to be ruthless. It’s also damn good baseball reasoning—if the state and welfare of the team is paramount. Which is what it is supposed to be to everyone involved with the team but especially with the general manager!
In my post of August 1, I also noted that “For the past four years, I have been engaged in an ongoing argument with my father about the Philadelphia Phillies.… that the Phils should have been trading away each of their over-30 players one per season and replacing them with younger players. Three years ago, Rollins, Howard, and Utley had considerable trade value. Today, they have little.… ”
Fast forward to today’s Seattle Times (August 8, 2013, page C5) and an Associated Press entry: “Chase Utley and the Phillies agreed to a contract extension that could keep the five-time All-Star second baseman in Philadelphia through at least the 2015 season.… The deal reportedly is worth around $27 million over two seasons with multiple vesting options.”
All-Star Utley to stay in Philadelphia through 2015
For five seasons (2005-2009), Chase Utley was arguably the “best” second baseman in baseball: he averaged .300 with 29 homers and 65 walks while playing excellent defense. That’s a helluva middle infielder!
For the past four seasons, he has been hampered by season-derailing injuries coupled with the usual loss of “skills” associated with any aging athlete.
Mr. Utley’s next three years do not look like the kind of years that I, as a general manager, would put ANY amount of money on, let alone $13,500,000 per season!
A general manager’s allegiance and loyalty should be to the team, of which each member is a piece. Maintaining the the presence of the team as a winner, a contender—at least in the case of a team like the Phillies, who have been among the best teams in baseball since 2001—should be more important that retaining the presence of a revered player who is comfortably past his prime.
As a GM, “youth movement” would be the motivating factor in each of my (often ruthless) decisions.
Obviously, in the Phillies’ case here, the GM, his advisors, and ownership are not in accord with my goals as their hypothetical general manager.
Finally, so I don’t seem excessive: there would be absolutely nothing wrong with this signing if it weren’t for the fact that Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, the other aging stars of the team—who make up the team’s nucleus—are almost impossible to trade and so will be a fixture on the team’s roster for the next few years. It should also be noted that the Phils’ regular third baseman and catcher are also over 30 years old …
As a fan/observer, I would expect the performance of the Philadelphia Phillies of the next few seasons to resemble their 2013 season, not the preceding eleven seasons.
The Best Second Baseman in Baseball!
Regarding my use of the word “best” above in describing Utley’s performance 2005-2009: I try not to use that term without qualifiers in almost every human endeavor imaginable. For example, I can NEVER answer what are, essentially, endlessly moot questions: In your opinion, what is the best album ever made? Who is the greatest movie star of all time? Who was the greatest hitter in the history of baseball? I can tell you which albums resonate the most with me—what my faveraves are—but that’s about it.
If My Dog Talks for You, Can I Get a Free Drink?
So, this old man and his dog wander into a bar and take two seats. The bartender looks at them but before he can say anything the old man says, “My dog can talk! If he talks for you, can I get a drink?”
The bartender smiles and says, “Okay! For each question that your dog answers satisfactorily, I’ll give you a drink.”
So, the old man turns to the dog and says, “Waldo. What is on top of a house?”
Waldo barks, “Roof! Roof!”
The bartender frowns so the old man asks a second question: “Waldo, what do you find on a tree?”
And the dog goes, “Bark! Bark!”
To which the bartender says,m “Alright, This ain’t funny!”
The old man begs for one more question: “Waldo, who was the greatest hitter in the history of baseball?”
And Waldo wags his tail and barks, “Ruth! Ruth!”
The bartender loses his patience and says, “That’s enough! Both of you outta here!”
So, the old man and the dog leave the bar. As they are walking down the street, Waldo turns to the old man and asks, “So, should I have maybe said Ted Williams?”