An Open Letter to Pat Gillick
from ben schuchardt:
I know we got off on the wrong foot. I wasn’t in your shoes at the trade deadline and don’t know all the pressures you faced when you folded your cards and gave away Bobby Abreu for nothing, yet I criticized you relentlessly. I’m sorry. Let’s start over. At least I get to watch Phil Hughes at the local ball park and maybe Trenton can win a championship.
Rather than dwell on the negatives, I thought I’d turn the brain toward offering some constructive suggestions for the days ahead.
1. Fire Charlie Manuel at the end of the season, no matter what. Even if we rally and make the playoffs, it will only accentuate the need to put someone with a brain in the manager’s office. I like Charlie. He’s a goofy guy with an endearing touch. I’ve come to enjoy his post game ramblings. I still don’t understand a word he says, however, and I doubt the players do either. I realize the players like Charlie and they play hard for him, but you just can’t let this fellow represent the team or the city any longer. This isn’t Mayberry RFD, and the season isn’t a sitcom. Let him go with dignity, but let him go. Hire a real manager.
2. Explain to Jimmy Rollins that you love him, that you want him to be a cornerstone of the franchise for the next ten years, and that you will continue to have Jimmy Rollin’s Give Away Nights as long as you are GM. Also explain that the experiment is over. He can’t hit leadoff next year. Not because he is a bad hitter or that you’ve perceived some sort of flaw in his game, but because you have tried to force a round hole into a square peg for long enough to see that it is a bad idea. Jimmy Rollins is a Natural. He can field better than any other shortstop in the league, he has surprisingly good pop for a 5’ 7” guy, and he runs the bases like a cheetah. But I don’t want him thinking at the plate. I don’t want him looking at pitches he’d rather drive. I don’t want him trying to do things that people with far less talent need to learn to do. Resist the temptation of thinking “if Jose Reyas can learn to hit leadoff in two years, Jimmy can surely do it in five.” Let Jimmy be Jimmy.
3. Sign Randy Wolf to a modest, multi-year deal now while he will be grateful instead of greedy. Tommy John surgery is really scary to a young pitcher who has no ability to feed his family other than by pitching baseballs, but it is relatively benign with respect to ending careers. Roll the dice. Have you looked at how much it costs to sign left-hand pitching lately?
4. Call up Carlos Ruiz now and let him catch every day that Chris Coste gets to rest. I know, we’re in a playoff race right now and Leiberthal is better than people think he is. Still, let’s consider some facts: Leiby is gone next year no matter what. Coste is riding a tsunami right now, he is a .306 lifetime hitter (minor leagues), and we have underestimated the ability of other players to translate minor-league success at the big league level (Utley, Howard). Ruiz has hit .313 for Scranton and might be fine if we just let him settle in for a few weeks. He’ll be here next year anyway. What are we waiting for? You won’t have enough money to sign a big-time catcher, and it isn’t likely that one would be there for you even if you did. You also can’t trade for a catcher, because the only commodities you have must be husbanded for pitching.
5. Sign David Dellucci to a fair contract that tells him he’s your everyday right fielder for the near-term future. I had my doubts about this guy earlier in the year when he struggled fit the role you assigned him. But I give him huge credit for sucking it up and making things happen as a pinch hitter. When you gave him playing time he showed you why he chaffed on the bench behind Bobby. He has above average power and he seems to have courage. I wish he hit right-handed, but he doesn’t. We’ll get to that later.
6. Invite Ryan Madson to your office for a long chat. You know in your heart that the kid will never be a successful starter in this league. He’ll tease you with great outings because he has a funky delivery and good stuff. But his future is in the bullpen, and he won’t like hearing this. Soften the blow by telling him you want to groom him as a stopper. Tom Gordon is a gamer and he is giving you everything you paid for, but he will be 50 next year and his out pitch requires so much arm torque that I need an Advil after watching him pitch. My sense is that Madson really wants to start because that’s where the money is and he is still 23. Explain to him that Stoppers also make the big cheese and can last in the league forever.
7. Re-sign David Bell in the off season to a one year deal. Despite the bad rap he gets by your fans, he’s a gamer, he’s respected in the clubhouse, and he will be cheap. I’m fine with experimenting with Abraham Nunez for a few months, thinking that he’ll play up to his potential when he relaxes, but I think Bell is a better player. Besides, there isn’t anybody better coming available at 3B next year either in the minors or via free agency and you’ll need to spend your money elsewhere (discussed later).
8. Demand that Chase’s Chicks get better outfits next year or simply go away. Better yet, get better looking chicks for Chase’s fan club. While you’re thinking about Chase, talk to his agent to find out what it would take to sign him to a long term deal now. I know, I know, Ed Wade took a beating for trying this same strategy with another player (Burrell) and it backfired. But think it through. Is there any doubt in your mind that the kid will play hard after he signs his deal? Do you see fatal flaws in his swing that lead to inevitable slumps? Chase Utley is the face of the team.
9. Trade Pat Burrell for anything you can get, even if it means eating some of his salary. You’ve saved a ton of money, and there aren’t many suggestions here for spending it. Cut the cancer. I promise not to ridicule you for applying “addition by subtraction” mathematics to this problem. If you can get a player of value, great. But let’s be clear, an extra stack of bobble figurines would be enough, especially if they were schmaltzy. I’ll buy a ticket if you run a Jet Night promotion, play a lot of 80’s music (Man in the Mirror would bring back memories), and hand out Steve Jeltz trinkets. ; Assuming you get nothing in return for “The Bat,” sign the best available right-hand hitting left fielder you can find. Anyone with power will do, and he won’t even need to field better than Greg Luzinski. Even if you pick up half of Burrell’s contract, this is a revenue neutral suggestion.
10. Swallow hard and trade Aaron Rowand while you can. I’m a Philly guy and I love the kid to death, but he can’t hit and we need right-handed protection for Ryan Howard. Because the old-boy network loves Caucasians who hustle and say all the right things (and consequentially overvalues them), it should be easy for you to swing a great trade (front-line GM that you are). Feel free to package Michael Bourne (a great prospect) if you need to, but let’s not settle for anything less than a pitcher who can give you 200 innings, win 12-15 games, and keep the ERA under 3.8. Think Cory Lidle only better. You need to build the pitching staff NOW.
11. Take a chance on Shane Victorino. He roams the outfield nearly as well as Rowand and has a much better arm. He’s also a switch hitter with decent power. Most important, he can be the new leadoff man. Unfortunately, you gave away Abreu, so we need someone else to replace Rollins at the top of the order. Explain to Shane that part of the deal is that he heads down to Venezuela, Mexico, or the Dominican Republic this winter to learn how to steal bases. The kid is WAY too fast to be an anchor on first base. He should be stealing 30 bases in a typical year. Please send Rueben Amaro as Victorino’s chaperon. Let’s start scouting Latin American players with an eye toward signing them. Okay?
12. Meet with Scott Mattieson today. Hand him a ticket to Scranton and explain to him that you love his arm and potential, but you realize he isn’t ready to face Major League hitters right now. There is no shame in this, but you have to handle the conversation well. Let him hone his craft against AAA players for at least half a season. Build his confidence. Tell him you don’t want him to become the next Kevin Duckworth, but reassure him that you don’t think he will. Bring up Brito or some equivalent that can get the job done for the rest of the year.
13. Meet with Jon Leiber at the end of the season and tell him that he’s disappointed you tremendously. Tell him that it’s bullsh$t that a veteran like him is still fooling around with “arm slots” and other excuses. He needs to get in shape over the winter and play like a guy who is on the last year of a contract and the edge of baseball oblivion. That ought to get his attention. While you’re at it, tell him that he isn’t your ace and you don’t want him even mentioning that word when talking to the press. He pitches in the 4th game next year, maybe.
14. Make sure Brett Myers continues to see a good psychologist this off-season (and perhaps a good nutrition expert as well). Hate the sin, but forgive the sinner. You’re in a corner here. He’s 26 and God blessed his right arm. You can’t possibly receive enough value for him if you feel the urge to dump him to satisfy your fan base, and you aren’t in position to give away pitching.
15. Talk with Ryan Howard when the time is right. Suggest to him that he’s too young to watch him majestic homers from the batter’s box or nonchalant routine ground balls. Imply that he will be in line for the Chase Utley treatment outlined above if he shows you he can play the game “the right way” for a solid season. Do this VERY carefully, and DON’T do it at all if you think it will upset this monster talent. It would be better if the Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley had this talk with Ryan, but I know that peer pressure is an obsolete concept.
16. Start taking Geoff Geary seriously. He should replace Arthur Rhodes as your primary setup man right now to see if he can handle the task. I think he’s up to it. While we’re thinking about the bullpen, how about letting young Castro pitch in some meaningful spots also?
I know this is only a start, and I’ve left some blanks for you to fill in, but I have a lot of confidence in you, Pat. You can handle the job of finding some fill-in players for the bench and the pen.
Let me know what you think,