From my vantage point, the Philadelphia Phillies have a franchise blueprint that reminds me of an old joke.
The joke tells of a man on the stoop of his house as flood waters approach. A woman in a rowboat drifts by and tells him to get in. He says, "No, I'll wait for God to save me."
The flood waters keep rising and the man heads to the second floor of the house. A man in a motorboat comes by and tells him to get in. Again, the true believer says he will hold out for God to save him.
Soon enough the flood waters have filled the house and the man ends up on his roof. A helicopter then comes by and the pilot lowers a rope and tells the man to climb up to safety. A third time the man says that he will wait for God to rescue him.
After the man finally drowns, he confronts God in heaven and asks God why He had let him die.
God was exasperated. "What the hell is wrong with you? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"
After the 2011 season ended in a crumpled heap near home plate, the Phillies had their first sign that their reliance on old, expensive players had a short shelf life and a worrisome success rate.
After the 2012 season ended with the Phillies missing the playoffs for the first time in five years—and barely reaching .500—the Phillies had their second sign that their methods were failing.
Then the Phillies crash-landed in 2013 with 89 losses despite the third-highest payroll in baseball.
You do not need to have supersonic hearing to sense that the helicopter blades are pulling away from the Philadelphia Phillies. They are not apt to receive any more glaring warnings of their impending doom.
Which is why pieces like Dan Szymborski's for ESPN.com (subscription required), though hopeful in tone, do more harm than good for both the team and its fans.
Szymborski maintains that the Phillies "have the ability to vault themselves back into contention with a strong winter," fueled in no small part by the possibility of a "new TV contract that could increase their TV revenue by a factor of six."
The plan as he sees it is to sign Carlos Beltran and Matt Garza and/or trade for David Price. Szymborski had previously suggested that the Phillies offer four prospects (including Jesse Biddle and Roman Quinn) for Price.
In other words, more outlandish spending on players headed over the hill, and more strip-mining of the farm system.
No, no, no. Please.
A truly successful Phillies offseason can only come if the Phillies are willing to remain out of contention for a playoff berth for one more season.
Barring a renegotiation with Comcast, the television money is not coming until 2016 anyway.
After 2014, Jimmy Rollins' contract might be off the books. The disastrous deals handed out to Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon will both be one more year closer to being done, perhaps making those players more tradeable commodities.
Meanwhile, Cliff Lee could be shopped this winter for major league-ready prospects. With a full rebuild in play, Lee might willingly waive his no-trade clause to leave for a contender.
Then, after the Phillies compile high first-round picks in 2014 and 2015, the TV money comes in and the Phillies make runs at a free-agent crop that (by default) will have better options than Garza, Beltran, Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo.
The definitive blueprint for a successful Phillies offseason, then, is to undermine the 2014 Phillies with the intent to make the 2015 and 2016 Phillies formidable.
I know this is never going to happen—Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has neither the patience nor the acumen to make it work.
But I wish it would.