COMMENTARY | Purchasing an official team jersey with the name of a player on the back is always a risky move.
Florida Marlins fans who eagerly snatched up Mike Piazza jerseys in 1998 know that risk all too well.
An unfortunate fact for the apparel companies who provide merchandise for the Philadelphia Phillies is that the 2014 team has few names worth supporting via a jersey. A lack of young talent or big stars in their primes locked into long-term contracts, the Phillies are full of players on the move or ones here to stay and not worth having jerseys of.
A commonplace word used to describe several players on this team is "core." This core consists of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels and for those feeling especially generous, Kyle Kendrick. These are the players who have been with the team since 2008 and in that year were keys to taking home the championship.
One can assume anyone that is a hardcore fan of any of these cores players already has a wrinkled up, over-worn jersey with their name gracing the back in bold stitching. They may even have everything from the road grey to the cream-colored throwback day game jerseys.
At this point, an Utley, Howard, Rollins, Ruiz, Hamels or Kendrick jersey would be like having a date to the prom 5 years after graduating high school. These players have done all they will do in a Phillies uniform.
Only for younger fans first discovering the team or those interested in throwback jerseys to commemorate a simpler time when the team would win 90 games in their sleep would a jersey for one of the core members be worth buying.
Of the players not to come through the Phillies' farm system, Cliff Lee is the best. A Lee jersey though is still ill-timed as he has already been with the team in two separate stints. Still, Lee rarely disappoints and is a perennial All-Star each season. This option would not be a bad one as Lee should remain with the team for at least a few more years.
The other new players on the team might be more secure choices. Domonic Brown proved in 2013 that he can be a great player. This could potentially turn him into trade-bait once his time making league minimum runs out, making him an unsafe choice.
Ruf seems to have as many fans as he does detractors in the organization. He has done everything he can in the minor leagues to showcase his skills. The time to prove that he can be an asset to the big league team has been limited thanks to constant caution the team seems addicted to.
Revere, an even younger player than Ruf and with more experience, could be a good choice for jersey buying if only there was more faith in his abilities. Revere is a singles hitter with speed and average fielding ability on a day when the ball is hit directly at him. Somewhere in the near future, Revere could end up with a new team as he seems to fit in more as a role player than an actual starter.
Finally, there's Papelbon. Buying a Papelbon jersey would be the best thing any Phillies fan could do if he or she wanted to buy high and sell low. Papelbon's time in Philadelphia will not extend his full contract. He wants to leave and the team wants him gone, too. Unless your main mission is to have expensive ballpark food thrown at you, stay away from No. 58 Phillies jerseys.
The words "upcoming stars" and "Philadelphia Phillies" have not been used in the same sentence for quite a while. A minor league system seemingly incapable of producing young talent, especially pitchers, has given fans few future stars to buy jerseys of.
Among the top-rated prospects that might be jersey worthy, Maikel Franco leads the list by a wide margin. Buying a jersey of any player who has yet to even play for the team makes little sense, but if you are a timid daredevil who gets a rush out of buying potentially irrelevant clothing, a Franco jersey would be the way to go.
Franco is not as far away from the major leagues as a few other prospects are. Guys like Adam Morgan would only get a call to join the team in Philadelphia if ringworm were to become a serious issue in the locker room. Although looking at the current roster, a more likely scenario would be a contagious case of Alzheimer's.
Your best course of action would be to buy a nameless Phillies jersey. After all, it's about the name on the front not the back that should matter most.
The biggest winners in the 2014 season are owners of Bobby Abreu and Marlon Byrd jerseys from their first trip through Philadelphia. Mocked by their friends for holding onto these relics, those fans will hold their chins up high in 2014 if the two outfielders are able to help out the team.
Ryan Madson jersey owners, you may be able to join them soon enough.
Tim Boyle is a lifelong and loyal Philadelphia sports follower who enjoys writing about his favorite teams and discovering unique statistical facts.
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