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Friday, December 18, 2009

What Could Have Been for the Phillies was the Real Story; Week 15 Picks

The Phillies tried to pull a fast one on Philadelphia this week, but they ended up looking cheap instead of like the perennial contenders they probably still are becoming.

Early in the week reports were all over the news that the Phils were involved in a mega-deal that would bring Roy Halladay to Philly for Cliff Lee with a bunch of prospects involved and a third team -- Seattle. I didn't like the deal from the start. Lee is just as dominant as Halladay, and Lee proved himself in October against the Yankees. Regardless of the reasons why, no one knows what Halladay can do in the playoffs because he's never pitched in them. And regardless of what all the guys with man crushes on Halladay want to say, plenty of guys have been great in the regular season only to shrivel up in the crisp fall air.

That said, I wouldn't have much to say about this trade if that was the end of it. I don't expect Halladay to not be able to perform in October, I can see the Phillies apparent logic that they were able to sign Halladay beyond next year as opposed to Lee who they claimed said he wanted to test free agency, and I'll even buy the righty/lefty argument that they wanted a right-handed pitcher to go with lefty Cole Hamels. Although having all of this hinge on Hamels returning to form is a bit disconcerting, but that's another post for another day.

But that was not the whole story.

Despite the Phillies carefully making sure everything happened at once, trading Lee to Seattle had zero to do with acquiring Halladay from Toronto except for the Phillies bottom line. As slowly came out during the week, the Phillies absolutely could have had Lee and Halladay at the same time.

This is one of the most blatantly cheap ass moves I've ever seen by a franchise in Philadelphia, and they tried to spin it as a major move.

The fact is that all the Phillies did here was swap very comparable ace pitchers so that they could extend the contract of the one they got. It's a decent baseball move, but when the cheapness of not keeping both guys comes into play, the Phillies are back to looking like the bush league organization they were so long accused of being.

A buddy of mine pointed me to the Forbes website for the Phillies' 2009 financials. Forbes reports that the team had an operating income of $16.3 million, and the team which Bill Giles, David Montgomery, and their mysterious friends bought for $30 million in 1981 is now worth $496 million.

So when Montgomery comes out this week on Mike Missanelli's show, and says the Phillies are "in the red," he sounds like a jackass. Claiming the owners haven't taken a salary since 1982 might be technically true, but nobody with a brain in their head believes they aren't making millions in some form other than salary. It's insulting to even spit out such garbage as if fans buy it.

Ruben Amaro, Jr., suggesting that trading Lee was a baseball move is almost as ludicrous. Trading a bona fide ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball to replenish the farm system would be as asinine as it gets in baseball, especially for a team that just went to back-to-back World Series. When a team can practically nail down a World Series in December, it damn well does it or its owners are quite simply in the wrong business.

Even if the team failed in an honest effort to sign Lee after this season, trading him was stupid. Anybody thinking only about baseball takes both Lee and Halladay for one season and worries about the following season after the parade. Besides that, Lee said yesterday that he expected to finish his career in Philadelphia, so there's no reason to think the team couldn't have kept both if the owners were willing to reduce their already robust profit margins just a tad.

In fact, when fans are jamming into Citizen's Bank Park night after night, the land for which the city sold to the Phillies for a grand total of one dollar, and the taxpayers footed two-thirds of the cost of building the stadium, it could be argued that the owners were obligated to "suck it up" by making a few less million for at least one year to give the city that stuffs their pockets year after year another World Champion.

By Opening Day, maybe the fact that this was essentially a move about the bottom line is forgotten. If Halladay continues to be a stud, it probably will be. But the reality is that anything short of a World Series championship makes trading Lee a terrible move.

Picks. After last week's 3-0 sweep . . . yeah, baby . . . for +28.56 points, I'm at -24.88 since week 10 from 100 for 75.12 points with a record of 21-22 in the NFL and 30-36 in all sports for 2009. This week I'm going with San Diego -7 (20/19.05pts.), Giants -3 (10/10.50pts.), and New Orleans -7.5 (20/19.05pts).

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