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Philadelphia Phillies’ Pence Represents Continuation of Team’s Transitional Strategy: Fan Opinion
Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. acquired Hunter Pence on July 29, 2011. More than a trade, that specific move represented the continuation of a transitional strategy that most prominently began when Pat Burrell was allowed to leave after the 2008 World Series victory parade.
The idea is to keep the team competitive in the standings, while simultaneously introducing a series of new 'family members' to Phillies fans. The dual philosophy is critical in today's competitive sports market.
Every team that is a legitimate contender has a plan. Some build their farm systems and use prospects as trade bait to acquire rental players. Others jump all-in to the free agent market to fill numerous holes. Then, there are hybrid schools of thought that combine those methods with additional streams of consciousness.
Last offseason the Philadelphia Phillies allowed Jayson Werth to sign with the Washington Nationals. They could have committed serious dollars to that productive and popular outfielder who was in the prime of his career, but didn't.
At the time, Domonic Brown seemed to be 'the plan' in right field. The five-tool talent had shown promise in 2010, but was untested and so fans were naturally unsure what he might be able to do during a full season.
Brown's hand injury yielded the right field slot to Ben Francisco for awhile. But, that nice bench player was never seen a real answer.
The true solution was playing for the Houston Astros when the season began and so Pence was targeted and obtained. Under team control for at least the next two seasons, this "Good game, let's go eat" player is another marketable star.
Uncle Jim's sabermetrics
Teams that have high payrolls clearly consider the 'Bank-ability' of a wide variety of players that they scout.
Everyone knows that Jim Thome, the sequel, hasn't returned to Philadelphia to hit another 47 home runs. People also know that there were other left-handed hitting bench players available. But, Uncle Jim has a pre-existing fan base in place which will allow his jersey's to be back in vogue at Citizens Bank Park this season.
Pence quickly became a fan favorite because of his play and because of his personality. Both transform into money. That money keeps the red pinstriped machine running. That machine keeps the team competitive and the fan base generally happy.
Is Shane next?
Other players are bound to be systematically replaced during the next few seasons. The departure of too many baseball relatives at once would be a shock to the system. But, the loss of one every so often: Burrell after 2008, Cliff Lee after 2009, Werth after 2010, Brad Lidge after 2011, can be dealt with as part of the cycle of life.
No one who is rational believes that this team, or any team, will be indefinitely competitive. But, the Phillies seem likely to remain seated with the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and others as one major league baseball's enduring powers.
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