My buddy Frank writes that this off-season makes no sense, and he's right. It's pretty much nonsense right now. Last off-season the Phillies tried to throw band-aids on this team, bringing in players like Delmon and Michael Young, players off injuries like Mike Adams, and cast-offs like John Lannan, and hoping they'd do better than the track records suggested, and old, injured players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay would magically bounce back. Utley did, but the experiment failed, and the team won 73 games. The Phillies response was to pay Chase Utley more money, pay Carlos Ruiz more money, and bring in the Byrds, Hernandez's, and Nieves of the world. It's like they're trying again. Add onto that their contract-tenders to 2013 underperforming bench players like Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry Jr., and you wonder if they learned anything at all in 2013.
All of this assumes that Ruben Amaro Jr. is in charge. Let's not forget, he's not totally in charge. The Phillies operate on a budget, which makes them different than the Yankees or Dodgers, or for that matter, even Boston. That budget appears to have not changed for 2014, as they are back in the $165 million range that they spent last year. Let's not forget that the Phillies owners are known to be fond of some of the recent players given large contracts- Utley, Howard, Rollins, Lee, and even Halladay were all known to be either favorites of the owners for their past achievements here, or top targets of those owners. They Phillies have committed close to $100 million to just five players- Howard, Utley, Rollins, Lee, and Hamels, all of whom were around for at least one of the World Series runs, and all of whom are going to be six years older than they were on Opening Day of 2008, come Opening Day of 2014. If these players got deals because owners wanted them, and those same owners capped the payroll at a budgeted number of $165-170 million for 2014, they effectively gave Amaro $70 million to fill 20 spots on this team. If you want to put Chooch and his deal on here, it's even worse. Does this absolve Amaro of stupid signings like Papelbon or even Adams? No. Did the Phillies need to increase payroll to the new luxury tax of $189 million to compete in 2014? Probably. The point is, it appears that ownership pressures at least had some impact on this situation. Remember, prior to this golden age of Philadelphia Baseball, we all thought the owners were a bunch of bumbling, lost types. Maybe they still are?
The point of all of this isn't to say don't blame Amaro, or blame Amaro, or whatever else. The point is that the Phillies, for as long as I've been a fan, have suffered from a bad case of nostalgia, which is amazing since we have the most losses in American pro-sports. We've hired ill-prepared managers (Larry Bowa), hired the wrong GM's (Amaro over Arbuckle after 2008), and re-signed declining players just because we didn't want them to ever wear a hat besides the Phillies red hat. Good organizations simply can't do that. Sure, there are good reasons to have some level of loyalty, and if a player or employee is good, you should, but the Phillies take it to extremes. To be fair, the Phillies weren't attached so much to Shane Victorino, Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth, and some other players from the 2008 team, but we did allow plenty of players to last from that team well past their prime here, and in paying them so much, failed to replace the guys we let leave. The point is that I'd much rather watch the Phillies sign good players, and win games, than watch guys from 2008 keep playing here until they want to retire. The Phillies are a big market team, with great attendance, and should be able to win regularly, if they were run correctly. I think the problems that infect this organization rise above Ruben Amaro though. I think the mess is somewhat caused by bad ownership.