This is not the movie Inception, where Leonardo Dicaprio, and a gang of New York Mets' fans have infiltrated Ruben Amaro's dreams to sack fans' hopes of a third straight National League crown. We are in reality, mind you.
So, wake up and smell the putrid scent of second place and third place in the division.
The Philadelphia Phillies are on the cusp of falling off the pennant chase. They are also endangering the future of their own team, as we know it.
I doubt it takes rag-tag thieves to steal the secrets behind any team's success or failures, especially just looking at the bitter faces of forty-three thousand Phillies fans at the ballpark. Many of which, are venting their frustration at Ruben Amaro Jr. and his decisions.
Since General Manager Pat Gillick stepped down after the 2008 World Series, Amaro inherited the job and showed gusto when he traded a boat load for 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians. Straight on to the 2009 World Series, he slayed the New York Yankees in two games but could not do much else in winning the main prize.
As fans have read countlessly before, Lee was traded away to the Seattle Mariners for minor league prospects while the Phillies swapped their own for Toronto Blue Jays' ace Roy Halladay. The split decision left some divided like rival political parties, but in the end, an ace is still in town.
The question Ruben Amaro refuses to answer is that whether or not the moves were actually worth it now. I'd like to peg the blame on his head right now, but turning back the clocks, let's go back to the 2008 World Series (which we still all pine for again, admittingly)to find the stitches of the past and how the present has been involved.
The Phillies were left with this rotation to set up their 2009 squad—Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Kyle Kendrick. But in the process, they had to resign Moyer a two year, $16 million contract to keep him with the club through the conclusion of the 2010 season. The next move was signing outfielder Raul Ibanez to a 3-year, $31.5 million dollar deal.
Reverting back to the conclusion of the 2009 World Series, the Phillies had to mangle with $8 million dollars of the aging Moyer along with debating to resign rotation horse Joe Blanton. The odd man out was none other than Cliff Lee, who'd be expected to request a large contract extension after his 2010 season would require a payment of $9 million dollars.
Strapped with an outlook at the future, rather than heavy weight contracts of hitters Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth added on to the responsibility of Lee, Amaro pulled the trigger on trading Lee for said prospects and landing Halladay (and a contract extension), by trading his own homegrown minor leaguers, including the highly touted Kyle Drabek.
Seems as though Amaro pulled a con man's magic trick on the Phillies' fan base. But, that's all he could have done weighted down by the hefty money. If you kept notes or calculations, that's nearly $9 million dollars per year ($18 million in total) for two futile players in Moyer and Ibanez. Given the circumstances of their contribution, they were ,in terms of value, one-year deals at best.
If the circumstances above worked out in my favor (or any other Phillies' fan, ideally), Moyer may have retired after 2008, Ibanez could have been lured to sign a big 1-year deal for 2009, and the team would have enough money to disperse to Lee, Werth, Howard, and Blanton.
Imagine it, having the rotation set up as Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Kendrick, Happ. The Halladay trade may have been executed (or not) given the outlook of the team, but on paper, a great team would be set, and Kyle Drabek would still don Phillie pinstripes. That's a dream come true.
Back to the nightmare fans are facing now.
Will there be any chance for 2010 or 2011?
Optimists, believers, and ones with unconditional faith will say "Absolutely." They have legitimate reason to feel confident, with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels leading the charge for ample seasons. The spirit of 2008 must roll on (and will do so) for them.
What about the pessimists? Phillies' fans are quite intelligent and perceptive of the stark realities and what has caused the two-time National League Champs to merely stand back and watch the rival Atlanta Braves and New York Mets make impressive waves.
With the inevitable trade deadline looming, fans will wonder what is concocting in Amaro's own mind, as his reputation, and job-sake may need a sign at redemption.
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