COMMENTARY | Generally, baseball teams can all be classified in three different categories: win now, rebuild or neutral.
Win now is what you would call teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers. These teams make moves that clearly benefit the team in the short-term more than anything else.
Rebuild mode would be the way the Houston Astros do business. Over the last few years, the Astros have prioritized trading away their highest-paid players in order to get back quality prospects in an attempt to build the team from scratch.
The option for any team is neutral. These teams are stagnant, unable to commit to either side. They are the agnostics of baseball management. The same way an experienced weightlifter may tell you how difficult it could be to lose weight and gain muscle; the Phillies have put themselves into a position to stay skinny-fat until a change is made.
Do they lose weight and drop their highest-paid players, or do they bulk up and spend as much as they can?
If the team had planned to fall into the win-now category, it would not have cared about baseball's luxury tax. The owners already have plenty of money invested in the players, whether you believe it has been spent wisely or not. Paying a 36-year-old Marlon Byrd $8 million a year after coming off his most productive season in his career, the Phillies are making it known they lean closer to trying to win than they do creating a more comfortable future.
Philadelphia sports fans know a lot about the rebuilding phase of a franchise. Currently, the city's basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, is in a position where fans demand the team to lose. Unlike basketball, a baseball franchise losing is not done to attain a top draft pick. When a baseball team rebuilds, it takes a few years.
For the Phillies to begin the rebuilding phase, they will need to first part ways with their core, injury-prone veterans who have not had even close to average seasons in quite some time.
As it stands, the Phillies are a neutral team. They cannot accept that they have to begin rebuilding. This was likely in part done due to the pending television deal, which has now been locked up. For the Phillies to announce that they are planning to lose in order to get better for the future, many fans would feel disrespected.
One essential element to look at with the Phillies is attendance. Back when they played at Veterans Stadium, they were frequently drawing below 20,000 fans per game. Once the team made the playoffs in 2007, attendance skyrocketed and an impressive yet alleged streak lasting 257 games of sellout baseball was played at Citizens Bank Park.
After all of the support the fans gave the team during that time period, the team's image would be in jeopardy if it threw its hands up in the air before spring training by declaring the season one of rebuilding.
What the Phillies should do is make a decision. Do they want to win now? If so, it must be at all costs, even if it means spending more money than they want and parting ways with players they would like to one day put in the broadcast booth. For the team to begin rebuilding, it would need to begin sometime in 2014, depending on how the season goes. As many expect, this upcoming season will not involve October baseball unless there are a lot of rainouts.
Stagnation is never good in life. In baseball, a clear goal in mind for what you want from your team is important. The Phillies should take advantage now of the fans' acceptance that one or two or maybe more bad years are upon us -- if for the sake it ends in a parade down Broad Street.
Tim Boyle is a lifelong and loyal Philadelphia sports follower who enjoys writing about his favorite teams and discovering unique statistical facts.
- Sports & Recreation