Scott Rolen in his days with the Phillies. (AP Photo)
Perhaps it was the clashing of personalities with manager Larry Bowa. Or maybe it was the comment made by front office member Dallas Green. Or maybe it was the desire to win that ended it all in Philadelphia.
Whatever the reason was, Scott Rolen wanted out in 2002.
For the next decade, Philadelphia fans would boo their once-lauded All-Star, Gold-Glove third baseman, yell obscenities at him and watch him go on to hav a successful career without Philadelphia. Why? Because they were hurt.
But maybe the fans were booing the wrong guy.
Rolen turned down a massive contract extension during the 2002 season, saying that it wasn’t money but the Phillies front office didn’t have an aggressive approach to building a winning team.
Fans got scared that the best position player in their team history since Mike Schmidt, another third baseman, was about to jump ship for greener pastures.
Question: Was Pat Gillick responsible for the Phillies current success as a franchise and perenial power in Major League Baseball?
Writer Brian Jacobs decided challenge the rest of the Faceoff competitors with this question and John Russo, reeling from his loss to Christian Hetrick, wanted to get himself in the win column.
The Philadelphia Phillies formed a new brand of baseball in the city of Philadelphia during the 2000’s. In 2005, Pat Gillick joined the front office, and the Phillies took off from there.
Former general manager of the Phillies, Ed Wade, brought in the big bat of Jim Thome to go along with the new stadium, Citizens Bank Park, in 2004. Most Phillies fans wouldn’t hesitate to smash Wade and those horrific seasons under his watch, but a small portion of credit should be given to him.
Former Phils GM and HOFer Pat Gillick helped bring a championship to Philadelphia for the first time in 25 years and the first World Series in 28 years.
With Gillick at the helm and new scenery, the fans had a taste of something they were deprived of for years, which was change. Are the Phillies going become a winning team? What are our expectations now? Those were the questions, asked by fans of the club during this time of change.
Gillick’s first big move was trading Jim Thome and cash to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two prospects. Thome’s time in Philadelphia was somewhat symbolic. It was almost as if his stay in the city was simply used as a jolt of electricity that the city was in need of.
Along with the players on the field and the front office, Gillick created a feeling of hope and positive expectations for Phillies fans to bask in. The Phillies were no longer going to accept defeat. They were finally sick of seeing the Atlanta Braves at the top of the division.
Once again, a few pats on the back should be given to Ed Wade. Gillick inherited the future stars, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, whom Wade had drafted. Gillick then brought over the rule-five selection, Shane Victorino, along with the battered bat of Jayson Werth. We all know how that turned out. Gillick looked like a genius and he wasn’t done.
The Phillies finally entered the post-season, but failed to get past the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series. In the offseason, Gillick made a trade with the man he had replace, Ed Wade, who was, and still is with the Houston Astros organization. In came Brad Lidge and his soon-to-be perfect season. Thanks again, Ed Wade.
The Phillies went on to win the World Series in 2008 and they’ve been knocking on the door ever since.
A lot of times, players receive most of the credit for a successful season. General managers sometimes get slighted, but I have a feeling that Pat Gillick and his master plan, as the Philadelphia Phillies’ general manager will find a way into the hearts of fans if it hasn’t already.
Three huge things have factored into the recent success of the Philadelphia Phillies before Pat Gillick even stepped in as GM: the farm system, Scott Rolen and the new stadium.
I’ll attack the more logical reason first. The Phillies farm system was teeming with talent. Before Gillick was GM, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were playing minor league ball. They had Pat Burrell, Brett Myers and Jimmy Rollins already up on the Phils.
But you will bring up Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth being acquired along with Pedro Feliz and Brad Lidge. Werth and Victorino were diamonds in the rough. It was a complete shot in the dark on whether or not they would make an impact.
But Rolen may actually have been the catalyst in David Montgomery and the rest of the office relinquishing their tight grip on their wallets. When offered a 10-year, $140 million contract to stay with the Phillies, arguably for life, Rolen turned it down because of squabbles in the front office because they showed no interest in winning.
Not only has Chase Utley cememted himself as the greatest Phillies second baseman of all time but he may find himself in Cooperstown one day.
Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for three scrubs and Placido Polanco, who gave way to Utley three years later and returned to the Phillies in 2010. Only months after the trade did the Phillies front office get it. They signed first baseman Jim Thome and third baseman David Bell to replace Rolen on the field and in the line up. They also traded back-up catcher Johnny Estrada for Braves starter Kevin Millwood, who threw a no-hitter during his tenure with the Phillies.
It didn’t stop there as the Phillies finally sought external help, signing players like Pedro Feliz, Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia (don’t laugh, they were supposed to be big improvements at the time), Jamie Moyer and traded for Brad Lidge.
But the money didn’t grow on trees. In 2004, the Phillies moved into their current stadium, Citizens Bank Park. Their lowest attendance since the stadium opened was 75% capacity. And with a division win in 2007, a World Series win in 2008, a NL Pennant in 2009 and another division win and league’s best record in 2010, the Phillies are selling out games and have seen their payroll sky rocket from under $58 million in 2002 to $170 in 2011.
Gillick was a fantastic GM but the right pieces were there before he became the GM in 2005. All he did was do some minor tweaking and turn the Phillies into World Champions, finishing the job started four years before he was signed.
Pitching proves to be an important commodity and that's why Roy Oswalt topped the Phils to-do list. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
By Chris Bengel
Ruben Amaro Jr. will always be scrutinized for every move that he makes for the rest of his career. Once again he silenced the critics for the time being. Amaro acquired an ace starting pitcher for the third time the span of a year.
Amaro pulled off another blockbuster with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt. He shipped lefty J.A. Happ along with prospects Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar to the Houston Astros for Oswalt. The Phillies pulled the wool over Ed Wade’s eyes once again. Wade also agreed to pay $11 million of Oswalt’s current salary.
Clearly this was a move that needed to be made. Outside of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, the Phillies have gotten little consistency from their starting pitching. Once again that will bring the, “Amaro should never have traded Cliff Lee,” argument. Let’s move on from Cliff Lee shall we?
Roy Oswalt voiced his displeasure and wanted out of Houston. Amaro knew that he needed to sure up his starting pitching. With the current rotation, the Phillies may not have been able to make a run deep into October. Oswalt helps to add yet another ace to the rotation. Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt may be the best top three in the baseball rivaling the San Francisco Giants rotation.
Oswalt is having an off year but he was on a struggling Houston Astros ball club. He was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA with the Astros this season. However his career statistics are much more eye-popping. Oswalt is 143-83 with a 3.25 ERA in his 10 year career with the Astros. He is a big game pitcher and has been the ace of the Astros staff for many years. Coincidentally Oswalt has something that even Roy Halladay doesn’t have: postseason experience. Oswalt boasts a 4-0 postseason record and an NLCS MVP award which he earned during the 2005 postseason. He has also finished in the top five in National League Cy Young voting five times during his career. His credentials are very self explanatory.
It was a good move for the Phillies and came relatively cheap. Sure Happ is a fine young pitcher and did finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. I feel that he only translates as a third or fourth starter in the rotation. He also is 26 years old proving that he may not improve much more as he obtains more seasoning in the big leagues.
From the prospects side of the trade, Gose and Villar are highly touted prospects but are only 19 years old. It is impossible to know whether they will be legitimate major league contributors. Gose is considered to be very raw with elite speed. Villar has a rocket arm and projects as a nice infielder. But these prospects can not be counted on as much as a guy like Oswalt who has been a great pitcher.
Moves Not Made
The Oswalt trade was a great bargain and is looked at as a great success. But there are also some moves that Amaro failed to make.
First of all, the Phillies bullpen is suspect at best. There should have been more of an effort to obtain some relief help. Many names were available and teams were asking for a lot of prospects and talent. I really can understand Amaro being leery of trading away even more prospects. They have parted with quite a few in the last year.
But there were names out there that wouldn’t have cost the Phillies much at all. Kerry Wood could’ve been acquired without giving up hardly anything. The Yankees gave up a player-to-be-named-later and cash considerations. A move for lefty Will Ohman from the Orioles for a pitcher such as Mike Zagurski was another possible option. With Brad Lidge struggling, a reliever with closing experience would’ve been a great pickup. Outside of Lidge and Ryan Madson, no one in the Phillies bullpen has much closing experience. This is a move or lack there of may come back to bite them in the long run.
The bench is also something that should have been addressed. With the constant injuries to the infield, the likes of Wilson Valdez and Cody Ransom have filled in quite nicely. However a bigger contributor should have been acquired at the trade deadline. A player such as Cristian Guzman or Miguel Tejada wouldn’t have cost the Phillies more than a low level prospect and maybe some cash.
The current bench of Cody Ransom, Wilson Valdez, Ben Francisco, Ross Gload, Brian Schneider and Greg Dobbs hasn’t been awful this season but isn’t playing the way it was projected to. Gload boasts the highest average at .282 but many of the other bench players are struggling. The bench was in need of veteran presence. The Phillies don’t have a clear cut first guy off the bench to pinch hit. I suppose that title would be given to Francisco. Francisco has definitely been swinging the bat better. But I still feel that a trade should have been made. I would’ve loved to have seen Tejada in here as that guy. However Amaro didn’t feel it was enough of a priority and sat on his hands.
The Grade: B-
The Phillies made a splash by acquiring Oswalt. The ball club is definitely better than it was prior to the trade deadline. However a few pieces to the bullpen and bench needed to be acquired. The lack of these moves bring down the grade a bit and could hurt the Phillies in the long run. The Phillies are primed for another October run at the World Series, but I’m just not sure if they did enough maneuvering.