Sunday, August 20, 2006

An Open Letter to Pat Gillick

from ben schuchardt:
Dear Pat,

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,

Ben

Labels:

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben,

I have the rare pleasure of working with you and hearing these well-considered,passionate diatribes every day, but this is really potent stuff. Well stated.

However, I would deep 6 Myers now for something, anything. Two games in a row this guy pulls a Houdini and disappears early in big situations. Friday's game against the lowly Nats was over in the 1st inning thanks to Brett. He may have a right arm, but he also has an empty ehad and a questionable heart. Yes he's 26, but this dong and dance is getting old. I've seen enough. Give me something I can count on every 5 days.

Just sick of everything that Brett is and will ever be. I'm full, been there, seen that again and again. This guy is a turd of a pitcher and a bigger turd of a human being. I'm out.

Bumble

9:08 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bumble,

I hear what you're saying, dude. I really do. But I'm trying to be practical for a moment.

Myers turned 26 last Thursday, he sits at 50-39 lifetime, and he takes the ball every 5th day. He's struggling right now, physically and emotionally. After he took three weeks off (we all know the reasons) he was bound to run into this problem. They call it "dead arm" and it usually happens about three weeks into spring training.

I've also written him off as a human being, because we saw who lurks behind the mask. But as I wrote, the Phillies are in a bind. Who would give up fair value if you dumped Myers?

You don't offer a suggestion for replacing Myers, which seems unfair. I'm assuming you wouldn't want to trade Chase Utley or Ryan Howard (which is what you'd need to give up to get an equivalent pitcher)? I'm also assuming that you don't really think the Phillies would pay the $50+ million (over 5 years) to buy an equivalent free agent (who would also be older, and probably not as healthy)?

I expected a little backlash for making the Myers suggestion, and believe me it was tough to do. I'm surprised none of the other moves provoked more complaint.

Either people in this town have completely lost interest in baseball, or I've made more compelling arguments than I first imagined.

So what would you do if you were the GM?

8:19 PM EDT  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

i think just about everything you've written makes sense.

it's tough to focus on baseball when football season is so near. however, i'm watching tonight's game and the character of this team is palpably different. maybe moving abreau wasn't the direct cause, but whatever caused it i'm on board.

heck, even burrell laid out for a ball tonight.

10:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget about his knocking the Cub's catcher on his ass or lacing a double to center after Charlie left Leiber in the game too long (why do pitching coaches listen when a pitcher says "I'm fine.")

I wonder if the Phillies should find out who Burrell slept with last night and bring him/her to the rest of the games.

And what about Victorino's peg to second? Get excited everyone, this is going to be a great ride down the stretch. I know the Phillies are mediocre, but egad they're damn exciting right now. Until the real season starts, there really isn't anything of interest happening with the Eagles.

Ben

10:33 PM EDT  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

Ben, this letter was a very inciteful, practical approach to the off-season and the Phillies down the stretch. I justed wanted to throw a couple of things in the fire:
1. I heard Gillick on WPEN say that the organization wants to spend money, but needed to clean up the house first. Basically translating to fixing Head Wade's mess. So, I guess that moving all the players that they did was the plan. It is going to be interesting to see how they spend their money next off-season.
2. I am with you on the Rowand idea, but am not sure that would happen....and the reason is this. Philadelphia is a tough, but loyal town with demanding fans. Yes, winning does help cure most ills, but Rowand is a typical fan's player. The 1993 was loaded with these guys and sometimes even if you are great (see Mike Schmidt and Abreu) the fan-base who feed the media can make it a rough stay. On paper I think that you are right, but would be mildly suprised if it happened.
3. Similar to the comment above, you can't bring back Bell. Yes, Nunez isn't the answer, but neither was Bell. I suspect that something will happen on this front in the off-season....while it doesn't seem like there is much now, something has to pop up? Doesn't it?....to make it worse, you need a 3B or a C that can protect Howard in the 5 hole.
4. You can't rid yourself of Burrell. Wade has basically made it impossible. So, assuming that you are living with him I move him down in the line-up to 6th or 7th. A little pressure is off him. Maybe this helps. I am assuming Dellucci will not sign here, either.
5. I like the Wolf idea. So, if you keep him on board, you have a potential rotation next year of....1. a newly acquired starter 2. Myers 3. Hamels 4. Wolf 5. Moyer (I think he'll want to stay, maybe it's either Wolf or him)...then you can encourage Floyd and Mathieson to get better.
6. I think that you need to buck up and get a leader in the C position this off-season. I don't know what magic can be done, but you need a leader who can work with the young catchers and have Coste as the back-up. But a good back-up.

1. Victorino RF
2. J Roll SS
3. Utley 2B
4. Howard 1B
5. new 3B
6. Rowand CF
7. Pat the Bat LF
8. new C

11:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Dog,

I'm hearing what you're saying. I know the Philly crowd would go berserck if the Phillies re-signed Bell or traded Rowand. I know.

But I've looked things over and don't see a better third baseman coming available. I hope you are right and that something happens, but Scott Rolands don't grow on trees.

I specifically said "swallow hard and trade Rowand while you can" with the Phillie fan in mind. The longer they wait, the deeper the locals will fall in love with Rowand. After watching him intentionally run into a wall (two Sunday's ago versus the Reds) for no apparent reason and watching him end his season last night (and nearly take out the franchise) I fear the moment to move him is already a memory.

If he throws a punch at the next pitcher who hits him next spring, he's here for life. If that's the case, I sincerely hopes he learns to hit the inside fastball or the outside slider. If his hits remain limited to pitches grooved down Broadway, he will join the ranks of Pat Burrell and Mike Leiberthal before he tale is told.

Since Gillick was able to give away Bobby Abreu for nothing, I'm counting on the fact that he can give away Burrell for bobbleheads if he takes on half the contract responsibility. This seems doable to me. If "The Bat" continues to have games like last night, I'm all for keeping him around for a little while, however. I'll bite my tongue watching his obvious deficiencies if he gives me 30 homers and 110 RBI.

It's doubtful to me that the Phillies will fill in the number 1 blank in the rotation. Even if they spend the bucks, I don't see who they can get that's better than Myers. I hope you're right, though. An aca would really make me happy.

Ben

10:53 PM EDT  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

Thanks Ben. I think that we are on the same page. You have to admit that this team just has something that they didn't have prior to the trade deadline....it could have been as easy as putting an aggressive hitter in the three hole rather than a great hitter (Abreu) who works counts and is content with getting a well-earned walk rather than an aggressive single or doubles hitter.....yes, an ace is hard to get. Very hard. We'll see what happens on that front, but I think Gillick is going to do something even if it's get another quality starter. Notice I had nothing with Lieber....I agree with you with what they have to do with him. I think that finding a quality, 5 hole hitting 3B may be their most difficult challenge this off-season. Hey, if Burrell removes his head from his ass, having him bat 6th or 7th doesn't look too bad does it? Let's not forget getting a quality, Luis Aguayo-like utility infielder wouldn't be a bad idea either....this is something that they may be able to do within the system. It also lets J Roll and Utley get a well-earned day off once in awhile, too.

7:40 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a last thought, does anyone else think that Charlie should have at least tried Abreu in the leadoff slot and moving Jimmy Rollins into a more natural lineup slot for him?

I'm not arguing with the results of trading Abreu (for either the Phillies or Yankees), I'm just wondering if a competent manager could have made a difference back in May or June if he'd shown a little moxie. It kind of bothers me that the GM didn't force this issue. I would have.

Ben

7:04 PM EDT  
Blogger The Big Dog said...

It bothers me big time. Big time. It was pretty obvious that Abreu is a much better lead-off guy simply for that fact that he is a patient batter who will work the count and the pitcher to lead off the game and set the tone. By the time he was done his at bat, the team could have seen everything the pitcher was throwing and could have gotten him to throw 10-12 pitches with all of his foul balls. And he can run a little...and he sets the table. I was sick and tired of all of the "Abreu doesn't want to lead off, he thinks he's a 3 hitter"....good grief, what sports world do we live in? when a player puts ego over the good of the team....or maybe the Phillies (including Manuel and Gillick) just thought he'd say that! who knows, but we had the wrong guy leading off and batting third and it took a trade (where we got nothing back)to remedy the ill....very spineless and pathetic.

8:01 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil Hughes update from Akron game last night:

IP: 5 (Yankees imposed limit)
H: 0
BB: 1
K: 9

Another tough night for the guy who got away.

Ben

9:35 AM EDT  

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