I remember waking up very early on the morning of December 13, 2010 - I'm talking 3:00 a.m. early - with the premonition that something big had happened.
I had reluctantly gone to bed earlier in the evening after reading that the Phillies were identified as the super-secret "mystery team" trying to land Cliff Lee. It was almost surreal for a Philadelphia native unaccustomed to seeing the biggest offseason target land in my back yard. I woke my wife in all of my excitement when I saw a picture of Lee in a Phillies uniform once again.
In what seemed like a matter of minutes, the Phillies had amassed the most intimidating starting rotation in the league with Lee, defending Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, World Series MVP Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
This year's headlines are looking eerily similar to 2010, and the name in the rumor mill is Josh Hamilton, one of the league's premier sluggers.
My problem is not with Hamilton, who is an offensive powerhouse. His 2012 stat line reads: 43 HR, 128 RBI, a .285 batting average and a .930 OPS. This all happened despite having a two month "slump" in the middle of the season. If only all players could have that kind of slump.
My problem lies in the fact that signing Hamilton to what would be another huge contract for the team doesn't solve either of their two biggest issues: relief pitching and speed. A lot of blame for the disappointing 2012 season went to lack of offense and "timely" hitting, but if you dig a little deeper you find that hitting was the least of their problems.
In 2011 when the Phillies won a franchise record 102 games, they scored 713 total runs while allowing only 529 (+184). In 2012 they scored 684 and allowed 680 (+4). While their run production only dropped 29 runs, they gave up 151 more. The culprit? The 8th Inning.
In the 8th inning alone, Phillies relief pitchers allowed 93 total runs over the course of the season, their highest of any inning. A lot of money was spent on Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason, but resulted in the loss of Ryan Madsen who had been as steady an 8th inning guy as any in the league. Perhaps their money would be better spent on re-signing Madsen instead of another bat.
Part of their lack of scoring had to do with the team's on base percentage (.317), their worst in the last five seasons. Jimmy Rollins will be 33 through the 2013 season and with Shane Victorino gone the Phillies don't have much speed. Filling the void in center field with Hamilton will add power but doesn't add any speed to the top of their order.
If it were up to me, I would be more interested in B.J. Upton. He may not be the superstar caliber of Hamilton, but he's younger, faster and his bat has some pop that could be amplified moving from Tropicana Field in Tampa to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
As the recent fire sale in Miami shows, money doesn't always buy success. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they did it with home grown players entering their prime: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino and Pat Burrell.
Reuben Amaro Jr. - who took over as Phillies GM after the 2008 season - has built quite a reputation for himself by making blockbuster deals. Many have criticized him for gutting the farm system to do it, but I find that to be a hindsight judgment.
Since '08 the Phillies have had a rare window of opportunity with their core players entering their prime. Not many teams are in a position where one or two pieces can put them over the edge, and Amaro showed he has the fortituide to make bold moves in an effort to win the ultimate prize. That's what I want out of my GM, a desire to win, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. Right now we're feeling the effects of that unfortunate truth.
Even if I could turn back time and do it all over, I'd feel the same way. Now, however, we are in a different situation. We're more than one or two players away from where we were in '08 and '09. They need to make smart baseball moves instead of spending out of their minds.
As it stands the outfield consists of John Mayberry Jr., Dominic Brown and possibly Darin Ruf. I think all three of these guys could make an impact in the Phillies lineup. Brown still has a chance to develop into a five-tool player now that it looks like he will get the opportunity to be an everyday starter. Mayberry seems to have found a plateau but he still makes for a legitimate power threat in the bottom half of the lineup. We only got a glimpse of Ruf, but he lead the minors in home runs in 2012 and I would love to see him get a change to develop into a big league slugger. The addition of Josh Hamilton would likely hinder the development of at least one of these players.
I'm not opposed to the idea of Josh Hamilton in a Phillies uniform. It would certainly create the same kind of buzz in Philadelphia the Cliff Lee signing caused in 2010. The city could definitely use that following the dismal 2012, but signing the biggest free agent isn't always the best way to improve a team. In fact, with the exception of the '09 New York Yankees, the team that "wins" in free agency generally doesn't win the World Series.
If the Phillies want to return to glory, they should follow what the Giants and Cardinals have done to win the last three World Series.
Scott Lentz is currently a contributor to Football Nation. He was born and raised in the Philadelphia area and now resides in the nearby suburb of West Chester.
All statistics and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
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