"For my next trick, watch me set $124 million on fire."
One of the suggestions sportswriters get is to function as something other than a calendar or a standings list.
Presumably, readers are savvy enough to know what today's date is and where their favorite teams reside in the current standings. Don't duplicate effort, so goes the advice.
Well, pitch that, because the Phillies' present condition is atrocious enough to demand a taking of inventory.
The Phillies, not even a full week into August, are:
- 16.5 games out of first place in National League East
- 11 games under .500
- 10.5 games out of a wild card spot, the value of which is diluted since there are two of them
Give them this, though: Based on run differential, their record should be much, much worse than it is.
The Good Ship Phillies hung around the .500 buoy for half a season, hit a rock and sank like a stone.
Woe be to you, if you have tickets to watch this moribund, overpriced, non-achieving side for the next 51 games.
Who wants to talk possible post-deadline trades? Don't all jump up at once.
For the uninitiated, the rules governing post-deadline trades are set forth really well by Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated here.
Sadly for the aging Young, singles-hitting third basemen are like professional golfers who make a lot of pars.
Only Ruben Amaro, Jr. could possible explain what on God's green Earth Michael Young is still doing in Philadelphia.
Some may say that the return of Alex Rodriguez, who will play during the appeal of his Biogenesis suspension, negates the Yankees' need for an upgrade at third base.
Those people have not been paying attention.
There is almost no chance that ARod will stay healthy enough to play even a significant portion of the Yankees' remaining 52 games.
There is also no guarantee that he will be able to field the position adequately, or for that matter hit well enough to be better than Young would be.
Per these photos from the Star-Ledger, ARod looks like he is ready to play—at fantasy camp in January. This is what an elite athlete looks like after too many post-training meals at Morton's.
The Phillies should call the Yankees back and see if just maybe the Yankees still have an interest in Michael Young.
Chooch can run from Father Time, but he cannot hide.
The same Jon Heyman report (per cbssports.com) that had the New York Yankees making an offer for Michael Young also had the Yankees kicking the tires on Carlos Ruiz.
Look, everyone knows how integral Ruiz was to the Phillies' 2007-2011 National League East dominance. He caught the last pitch of the 2008 World Series. No one will forget; no one can take any of that away.
But 2013 is drifting into autumn, the Phillies are a dead team, and Carlos Ruiz's contract expires at the end of the year.
Are the Phillies really doing Ruiz a service by forcing him to see out this second straight lost season in Philadelphia?
Wouldn't the noble thing be to send him somewhere, anywhere, that could afford him a chance at one more postseason?
If the Yankees or another team in contention are willing to promise the Phillies a player-to-be-named, whoever he is, the Phillies should let Ruiz chase the dream one more time.
Delmon Young actually held up his part of his bargain with the Phillies.
The Phillies signed Delmon Young to an incentive-laden deal with little risk to the club and the potential for big rewards if Young put together a full season at premium effectiveness.
While it did not work out that way—Young's bum ankle did not heal in time to let him play a full season—Young actually has performed in line with what he is.
Young is a subpar defensive outfielder who can hit for a little bit of power and is capable of torrid streaks that make him look better than he is.
Like, for example, the week he had in October last season that earned him the 2012 American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Here's the thing: While the concept of clutch hitting may be a myth, you only need one superstitious contending general manager to buy into that fallacy to make a deal.
Kendrick has pitched just well enough this season to make himself attractive in trade.
Kyle Kendrick is the rare example of a player that really only has value under specific, particular circumstances.
Look at Kendrick's career statistics and you see that there is nothing that really sets Kendrick apart from a league-average player.
He still does not strike anybody out, even after more than six big league seasons.
And ever since the anomaly of his 10-4 rodokie season in 2007, when the league had no book on him, Kendrick has never posted a won-lost record that strayed more than two games from .500.
Kendrick fancies himself as a solid starting rotation man. But the truth is that Kendrick's value is in his ability to pitch in any situation at any time.
He has a rubber arm and he has thrived at various times both as a starter and as a reliever.
Those qualities are useless to a 50-61 team in the throes of another losing season.
But for a playoff team? The ability to stash Kendrick in the bullpen and/or have him pitch a seventh inning with a fresh arm in a must-win game is almost invaluable.
The obvious roadblock here is that Kendrick is just good enough for a non-contending team to place a claim on him, since he would be a third starter for many teams and he is only 28 years old.
To which I reply, maybe the non-contending team that claims him would give value, too.
The Phillies are taking Charlie Manuel's dignity to the basement with them.
I have nothing but love for Charlie Manuel.
I would really enjoy the chance to sit with him and listen to him tell stories about his life in baseball for as long as he wanted to talk.
In my opinion, the job he did managing this terrible team to a .500 mark after the All-Star break was among the best years he had as Phillies' manager.
Ultimately, though, a 162-game season means you can only coach up your talent deficit for so long.
Firing Charlie Manuel now would not be disrespectful, or mean-spirited, or ungrateful.
It would be an admission that no one, not even arguable the greatest manager in the team's history—not a misprint—could have done more with this injured, under-performing, old group of players than Manuel did.
The end is pain, and pain is ugly.