Written By Jason Voorhees
The early 2000s saw the metalcore genre's birth as bands like Bullet for My Valentine, Trivium, Killswitch Engage, and Avenged Sevenfold burst onto the scene. While the metalcore style would continue to thrive during the (2010-2019) decade, long-time metal acts, including thrash and hardcore bands, once again became prominent in the metal community. There were many great metal albums released during this decade, and this is my version of the Top 20 Metal Albums of the 2010s. Without further a due, let's jump right in...
This was the 15th studio album by the thrash band. The album sparked high marks, and reviews by metal critics abound, and it was the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200 in 17 years. Blabbermouth stated that Ironbound "is one of, if not the most ripping collection of tunes this legendary act has ever laid to tape." Frontman Bobby "Blitz" Elsworth continued his reckless vocal assault on the troops with his ferocious range. Tracks like "The Green and Black" and the title track marked another benchmark for the New Jersey band. Definitely one of the best thrash albums of the decade and a metal classic.
Like the title track, this was the thirteenth studio album for Megadeth and marked the return of one of its founding members, bassist David Ellefson. Megadeth had gone through many lineup changes during the prior decade, and this was the first to feature Ellefson since 2001. The album received great critical acclaim and many positive reviews. Thirteen debuted at #11 on the Billboard 200 while selling 42,000 copies the first week. Three singles were released, including the smash hit "Public Enemy #1." An extremely underrated album, this ultimately helped Megadeth climb back to the top of thrash and pop-metal alike.
FOR ALL KINGS (2016)
The Eleventh studio album for the thrash metal giants quickly became one of its best all-time. Of course, it was hard to follow up Worship Music, but this was a great attempt. It was the first album to crack the Billboard 200 Top ten as it hit #9. The album once again featured frontman Joey Belladonna and added a new guitarist in Jon Donais. The album tends to use the ever-powerful formula of old school thrash while mixing in some mainstream riffs and sound styles. For All Kings is an all-out sonic assault on what Anthrax has stood for since its inception. In your face metal, endless hooks and riffs, as well as Joey's signature vocals, put this one on the list.
IV: STURM und DRANG (2015)
Lamb of God
This marked the eighth studio album release for the American groove metal band. It was also the first album to be produced after its lead singer's manslaughter case. Randy Blythe had done time in a foreign prison, and many of the album's tracks were a first-hand account of his experiences. The album also marked the band's return to its stylistic roots as far as sound and vocals. The album was awarded Metal Storms' best thrash album of 2015. Lamb of God can bring it, and this one brings the house down musically and literally. Instant Classic.
GOD DAMN EVIL (2018)
This is by far the heaviest Stryper album of all-time. God Damn Evil also marked the debut of bassist Perry Richardson, formerly of Firehouse. Stryper seems to get better with age as this was not only their heaviest album but quite possibly the best overall album of their career as well. Michael Sweet has one of the greatest metal voices, and he matches that energy on the guitar where he can shred like a wizard. Oz Fox and Sweet are brilliant on this album, and it's a must-listen for all hair metal fanatics.
GOD-GIVEN RIGHT (2015)
The fifteenth studio album by the German power metal band drew instant praise. While the album returned to its stylistic roots, the band could infuse modern elements to captivate the audience. The result was a metal masterpiece. If you're a fan of speed metal, then this is your album. Punch in the mouth guitar riffs, escalator vocals, and crunchy hooks makes this one of Helloween's best. The album reached #27 on the Billboard Top 200 Rock albums while cracking the hard rock category's top ten.
OUTLAW GENTLEMEN & SHADY LADIES (2013)
Volbeat has been a band on the rise for the past decade and a half. Their fifth studio album was an instant classic. The track "Room 24" featured special guest vocalist King Diamond which was later nominated for a Grammy in late 2013 for best metal performance. The album charted at #9 on the Billboard Top 200. Volbeat is a Danish metal band that provides a unique blend of style and sound. In my opinion, this was their best overall metal album to date and belonged on the list for top albums of the decade.
WORLD ON FIRE (2014)
Slash w/ Myles Kennedy
This was the second studio album by Slash with Myles Kennedy on vocals. Myles is a fantastic performer in his own right, and pairing him with one of the greatest guitarists is perfection at its peak. This album has a GNR feel to it but also stands alone. The record has a ton of star power-producing hits. My favorite personal track is "30 Years to Life," which features another signature epic solo by Slash. I used to say that everything Slash touches turns to gold, and this album is no stranger to that. World on Fire reached #10 on the Billboard Top 200 during the first week and was one of 2014's best.
SOL INVICTUS (2015)
Faith No More
Sol Invictus marked Faith No More's first studio album since 1997. This was one of the most highly anticipated albums of the decade, and it did not disappoint. Musically the band continued to dabble in all metal genres on the album as it maintained most of the band's traditional sound. The album sold over 200,000 copies during its first two months of release and ranked in the top 5 on most metal media's top album lists for 2015. The album also won a Metal Hammer Golden God Award for best metal release that same year. Most fans said it was well worth the wait.
KING ANIMAL (2012)
Another highly anticipated drop was released by Soundgarden in 2012 when they put out King Animal. It was the sixth studio album by the band and the first since 1996. The album received great reviews and sparked a massive comeback in the band's following. The first track, "Been Away Too Long," was an instant classic and gave the listeners chills as it incensed the emotion felt from their thirteen-year hiatus. This would sadly be the band's last album before Chris Cornell's untimely death. The album was a cross between Down on The Upside and SuperUnknown.
Dystopia marked the fifteenth studio album released by the colossal thrash metal giants. Staying true to form, this album was an absolute smash hit. The band won a Grammy Award in 2017 for best metal performance on the title track "Dystopia." The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 during its first week and sold 48,000 copies. It marked the band's second-highest domestic release all-time behind Countdown to Extinction, which reached #2. Not bad for the metal band that is nearing its fifth decade of existence.
WORSHIP MUSIC (2011)
This was the tenth studio album for the New York thrashers. It also marked the return of original frontman Joey Belladonna. This album was an absolute masterpiece and had the classic Anthrax thrash metal persona. It debuted at #12 on the Billboard Top 200, while some media critics rated it their best album since Persistence of Time, which was released way back in 1990. It featured the original lineup and also included Rob Caggiano on guitars. Top tracks from the album have "Fight 'em Till You Can't," "In the End," and "I'm Alive."
HAIL TO THE KING (2013)
This marked the sixth studio album for one of the top metal bands of the past two decades. AX7 burst onto the scene in the late nineties and became a group with significant star power moving forward. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 while selling 159,000 copies its first week. The album was more of a traditional metal style, drawing comparisons to Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Pantera. The songwriting was more advanced—a must-listen for any die-hard metal fan and a no brainer for the best of the decade.
FEAR INOCULUM (2019)
The long-awaited arrival of Tool's next album finally came in 2019. This was 13 years in the making, and the results were astounding. The third album produced by the band in a row debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. Selling 270,000 copies in its first week, which shattered their previous record. Oh, and finally receiving not one but TWO Grammy nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. Stone cold mortal lock.
BOOK OF SOULS (2015)
No list would be complete without Iron Maiden, one of the pioneers of heavy metal. The album debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200, receiving ultra-positive reviews. It was also their first double studio album and became the band's longest full feature album ever. The song "Tears of a Clown" is based on actor Robin Williams's battle with depression and subsequent suicide. It was a powerful album with classic Maiden gallops and some new wrinkles that contained some drop d tuning: overall an excellent album and smash of the 2010s.
Ghost has been one of the best metal bands of the decade, and their third studio album was the crème de la crème. It charted at #8 on the Billboard Top 200 and cemented the band at the top of the spectrum that year. Not only did the album score well, but it also received rave reviews for its power and energy—definitely the heaviest album for the band up until that point and louder than ever. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album of 2015. No more needs to be said.
WE ARE NOT YOUR KIND
Can you say WOW!!! An album that genuinely puts Slipknot on the map with the big boys. I was never a massive fan of the band, but their last few albums have progressively improved, and this was an absolute beast. Corey Taylor is one of the top frontmen in metal today, and his songwriting has become elite. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, selling 102,000 copies (third-most ever by the band) for a debut. The most experimental album of the band's history and finally one that belongs at the top.
This was the fifth studio album by the band and the first to not include "The Rev," who had recently passed away. It featured Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) on drums and was the only one of his short stint. Nightmare quickly debuted at #1 and has since been certified gold. It was an incredible album, and a toast to one of the true giants on drums that had tragically went away far too soon. Excellent sound and must-have addition for the 2010's collection. In my opinion, this is the best overall album by Avenged, even though the City of Evil gets more credit.
HARDWIRED...TO SELF DESTRUCT (2016)
Tremendous album from a tremendous band. No major synopsis needed...take one listen to the album and you will ultimately agree.
Great release from top to bottom! The Metal Gods hit a home run on this album. Fourteen tracks of in your face metal and Rob sounds better than ever. It hands down the best metal album of 2018, and this also gets my vote for the most fantastic metal album for the decade. Richie Faulkner is an absolute shredder and has done more than an admirable job taking over for KK Downing. This album packs a punch, and it's all speed all the time.
Check out this cut from the firepower album...you will not be disappointed!
Written By Jason Voorhees
The NFL is an ever-evolving sport, and today's athletes are no different.
Athletes of past and present share two things in common: A desire to win and a commitment to staying in shape to be the best at their respective positions.
The Quarterback position has long been considered the most difficult to succeed in within the NFL. Not only is it the most difficult, but it also remains the most important one on the football field.
With the emergence of better athletes in pro sports today (due to technology and better training), many play styles have been adopted to adapt to the changes in strategy. With that being said, no position in sports has evolved more than the Quarterback Position.
Since the NFL's inception in August of 1920, countless star players have left their mark in the league and entertained fans worldwide. The NFL Hall of Fame enshrines the NFL's best of the best. The HOF comprises players, coaches, owners, and critical contributors that have left that mark.
As of 2019, there are 326 members in the NFL Hall of Fame, 34 having played Quarterback. When we think Quarterback, we think of passing yards; touchdown passes, interceptions wins, playoff wins, and Super Bowls. However, as the NFL game has evolved, so has the Quarterback Position.
The classic "drop back" Quarterback, who was once the norm, has now become a thing of the past. Slowly but surely, NFL QB's have become a "dual-threat" on the battlefield. When taking a closer look at this dual-threat (which can be described by the word mobile-meaning able to escape and extend plays), a few different styles have evolved.
The "mobile" Quarterback has gone through numerous style changes as well as philosophical differences. When looking back at these dual-threat signal-callers' history, we think of Tobin Rote, Bobby Douglass, Fran Tarkenton, and Steve Grogan as being the best of the early ones.
Tobin Rote was a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers during the 1950s. Rote led the NFL in rushing yards by a quarterback six times (1951, 1954-1958) and his 37 Rushing Touchdowns ranks sixth all-time by an NFL signal-caller. What was even more incredible about Rote is that he led his TEAM in rushing three times, during an era where running the ball was a grind it out 3.0 yards per carrying, a cloud of dust down your throat approach style.
He also led his team in rushing TD's five times. The two-time pro bowler is still the only Quarterback to lead an AFL and NFL team to a championship. Rote was one of the earliest examples of dual-threat prowess.
While Rote was the earliest example, Fran Tarkenton was the architect of the "true running" quarterback. Nicknamed the "Mad Scrambler," Tarkenton was indeed a player ahead of his time. Fran produced 3,674 career rushing yards and 32 rushing TD's during what was known as the "STATUE" era of quarterbacks. Statue refers to the drop back in the pocket and waits until someone came open or threw the ball away style.
Tarkenton remains sixth all-time in Quarterback rushing yards. Tarkenton was also lethal through the air while taking the dual-threat motto to new heights. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls during his time there. His passing stats were among the best when he retired from the NFL in 1981 and stood as records at the time.
Other Quarterbacks were mobile and fleet on their feet as the game evolved. The Patriots Steve Grogan was also considered a great escape artist of his time. During his career, he compiled 2,176 Rushing yards and 36 Rushing TD's. Grogan once held the NFL record for rushing TD's by a Quarterback for a season with (12), a record finally broke by Cam Newton in 2011 with 14.
1978 was his best all-around season when he had 539 rushing yards while posting 5 TDs.
The Dual Threat evolution would not be complete without mentioning Bobby Douglass. The former Chicago Bears standout took rushing to new extremes. In 1972, Douglass rushed for a single-season record of 968 Rushing Yards for a QB while scoring 8 TD's on only 141 carries. Michael Vick would eventually break this record; however, Bobby set his record while only playing 14 games, two less than Vick. He also averaged 69.1 yards per game.
Other notable quarterbacks that encompassed the dual-threat narrative during this age were Greg Landry, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, and Vince Evans. As the years passed, the evolution was once again changing.
In 1985, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Randall Cunningham in the second round of the NFL draft. Cunningham would change the Quarterback position forever while taking "mobile" to the next level. During Randall's career, he amassed 4,982 yards rushing on 775 carries, a 6.4 Yards Per Carry Average, and 35 Rushing Touchdowns. Cunningham's star power as a dual-threat in rushing and passing earned him the nickname "The Ultimate Weapon."
During his career, Cunningham came close to winning the league's MVP award twice. He also was responsible for single-handedly carrying the Eagles during most of his time there due to a lack of supporting cast and a weak offensive line.
In 1990, Randall rushed for 924 yards while scoring five rushing TDs with an 8.0 Yards Per Carry clip. However, not only could Cunningham run the rock, but he could also air it out with the best of them. It was reported that during routine practice, that he flung a ball 80 yards in the air, which may still be a record. It even got crazier when he punted a ball for a record 92 yards in one game against the Giants, which further highlighted the athleticism of the "Ultimate Weapon."
1990 was a fantastic year for Randall, but the most impressive thing about that year was that along with the 924 yards/5Rushing Td's, he also threw for 30TD's/13INT for 3,466 Yards with a long of 95 yards. That 95-yard pass came in a game against the Buffalo Bills, where he miraculously made Bruce Smith miss a sack and safety, while then scrambling the entire width of the end zone to the other side before heaving a bomb that WR Fred Barnett caught at the 50-yard line, which he took for a touchdown.
There is no telling how good Randall could have been if he was surrounded with more talent. He also had Buddy Ryan as his head coach, who knew as much about offense as I do about algebra, and that is very little. Cunningham was also injured for two entire seasons, as he tore both ACLs during two different years. Later in his career, Cunningham joined the Minnesota Vikings, where he enjoyed his best overall season as a pro. During the 1998 season, Randall compiled a 13-1 record while throwing for 3,704 yards, 34 TD's (career-high), while chipping in 132 yards rushing and two rushing TD's.
A few Quarterbacks have since surpassed Cunningham's rushing records. There have been many dual threats to star in this league since him; however, he was a player before his time, and he definitely ushered in the new age of "Mobile" Quarterbacks that we see today.
After Randall, many other great quarterbacks were able to use both threats on the field.
Steve Young, who still holds the career passer rating for Quarterbacks, chipped in a fantastic 4,239 rushing yards, 43 rushing TD's and 6.0 Yards Per Carry Average. Young became the first of the dual-threat QB's to lead his team to a championship. This was always the argument that "mobile" or "running" style QB's cannot win Super Bowls. Well, I think Young proved that theory wrong. Although I will say that Quarterbacks should primarily star through the air, and no one was more proficient at both than Steve Young.
John Elway was also a master of the escape and extending plays with his legs. This is sometimes a forgotten part of John's game. During his career, Elway amassed 3,417 rushing yards and 33 TD's on 774 carries, which was second all-time to Cunningham. He is also the postseason leader in rushing yards by a quarterback with 461 yards and six touchdowns. His four rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl remains an NFL record.
Ironically, in 1998 the same year that Randall Cunningham was having his resurgence in Minnesota, the Philadelphia Eagles once again drafted a "dual-threat" running QB in Donovan McNabb. He was serenaded to a chorus of boos on draft day, but Eagles fans would soon be regretting their anger. McNabb quickly silenced his critics as he became the team's starting quarterback later that season.
During his career as the Eagles starting QB, he amassed 3,459 Rushing Yards and 29 TDs. However, in a cruel twist of fate, he spent most of his career carrying the Eagles on his shoulders, much the way that Randall once did during his tenure. McNabb suffered from a lack of talent with his supporting cast, especially at the WR position.
In 2004, the one season that McNabb was given a top wide receiver in Terrell Owens, he took the Eagles to the Super Bowl, coming one field goal short of the Eagles first championship.
Donovan McNabb was a more dynamic player than Randall Cunningham ever was, although Randall was probably the better athlete. During his career, McNabb threw for 217 TD's/117INT, along with 37,276 yards. Donovan never wanted to be known as a "running quarterback," always refuting debates and maintaining that he strictly wanted to be considered a drop-back passer. However, there is no denying that his skills on the ground gave him a better chance of winning and enhanced his NFL career. He is the most accomplished quarterback in Eagles history, holding almost every passing record for the franchise.
Around the same time McNabb was coming up through the ranks, his counterpart Michael Vick was emerging as a multi-dimensional star in Atlanta. Mike Vick could be looked at on the opposite side of the spectrum from McNabb, though. Vick now holds almost every career rushing record by a quarterback, and he once again set a new benchmark for dual-threat mobile passers.
Vick rushed for 6,109 yards, 36 TD's, and a 7.0 Yards Per Carry Average during his career. The yards and average are both NFL records while he is third in touchdowns behind Cam Newton and Steve Young. Vick also threw for 22,464 yards passing and 143 TDs. We cannot forget about Mike Vick, when showing his dominant NFL career as a running QB, that he missed three entire seasons in his prime, during his prison sentence after being convicted for dogfighting.
Vick was the fastest of all the QB's as he ran a 4.30 40 yard dash. This speed, combined with his exceptional awareness, probably made him the greatest escape artist in NFL history...up until now. Mike Vick could be considered a human highlight reel on any given Sunday. The plays that Vick made took your breath away. Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb were a part of the new age of dual-threat weapons to enter the NFL.
Other quarterbacks that showed off both skills included Kordell Stewart (Slash) and Daunte Culpepper. This group spawned a new mobile quarterback age that seemed to use running as more of a second option. This next-generation group used the pass to set up the run. Players like Russel Wilson, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith, and many others arrived on the scene and showed new mobile awareness adaptations.
The best of the bunch was Cam Newton and Russel Wilson. In Cam Newton's first season, he passed for 4,051 yards and 21 TD's while rushing for 706 yards and an NFL record 14 TD's. In nine seasons, Newton compiled 4,806 rushing yards and 58 Touchdowns on 5.1 Yards Per Carry Average. While Cam showed off his rushing skills, he had even more success through the air, which was on point with this new "dual-threat" phenomenon. The prototype QB sets up the run by using the pass.
Another Quarterback that showed off this talent and continues to be the crème de la crème is Russel Wilson. Wilson does not have quite the resume on the ground that Newton does, but he has undoubtedly made up for it through the air and became the latest of dual-threat weapons to win a Super Bowl. Wilson has rushed for 3,962 yards, 19 TD's and a 5.6 yards per carrying average. He has thrown for 29,332 yards, 224 TD's, and only 68 INT through the air. This includes 2 (4,000 yard passing seasons) and 6 of ten years over 3,400 yards.
After a decade dominated by QB's named Brady, Brees, Manning and Rothlisberger, there has been a significant renaissance of the NFL's mobile Quarterbacks. Brady and Brees were predominantly drop back passers that operated out of the traditional pocket philosophy.
The new wave of "dual mobile threats" seems to be operating as a hybrid version of this philosophy. They seem to have emphasized developing skills in passing the ball and running it with equal energy. Whether it is to escape incoming sack artists, buying more time till a receiver gets open, or extending a play, or making a broken play into a significant gain, these skills are widespread and on full display throughout the NFL.
Today's mobile quarterbacks are much different. They excel at both sides but seem to have a better idea of when to use which. There is less reckless abandon involved, while they use a more systematic approach. No Quarterback has exemplified this phenomenon more than Lamar Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in 2018 with the 32nd overall pick. Jackson starred at Louisville in College, where he won the Heisman Trophy and starred as a dual-threat his entire college career. There was talk coming out of college that he did not possess the smarts or skills to transition to being a pro quarterback in the NFL. No one ever questioned his athleticism or that he could make it in the NFL, just that he may not be a good quarterback.
Well, after 2019, Lamar Jackson is making all of those doubters eat crow. After a rookie season in which he only started seven games, the Ravens traded away long term starter Joe Flacco in the offseason. Everyone knew that Lamar was an elite athlete and that Jackson could star as a running quarterback, but no one could have envisioned Lamar doing what he did in 2019. He is on pace to be the de facto NFL MVP of the league in only his second season.
Jackson has been nothing short of a human cheat code. If this was Nintendo, you would be doing many up, down, down, left, right, went, right, B, A, B, And Start. Lamar has filled up a stat sheet like icing in an oreo double stuffed cookie with one game to go. 3,127 Yards Passing, 36TD/6INT, 1,206 Rushing Yards, 6.85YPC, 7 Rushing TD's. These numbers are mind-blowing. The only Quarterback to come close was Randall Cunningham, who everyone agrees was ahead of his time.
Nonetheless, what Lamar Jackson is doing has raised the bar once again as the benchmark for mobile QB's continues to evolve. Other QB's that have shown the new dual-threat combination in today's game include Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and to a lesser extent Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes, Dak Prescott, and Jimmy Garrapolo. But none of these are on the same level as Lamar.
In conclusion, there has been a significant shift over the years in the mobile dual-threat philosophy and the number of quarterbacks that employ this type of strategy when playing. From the early pioneers of Fran Tarkenton and Tobin Rote. To the game changer and first "Ultimate Weapon" Randall Cunningham. To the first ever cheat code Michael Vick. And now the unstoppable Lamar Jackson.
The mobile dual-threat has evolved and matured into what it has become today. As the seasons go on, it should be interesting to see how this phenomenon continues to change before our eyes as more college quarterbacks try to mimic their game to Lamar. Only one question remains...will this style ever become the dominant quarterback style in the league, and will more dual-threat quarterbacks win Super Bowl championships. The story is yet to be written, but it should be an exciting ride. What a journey it has been.
Written By Jason Voorhees
The 2018 Philadelphia Phillies season was a tumultuous ride at best.
From the beginning of the offseason, when team owner John Middleton proclaimed that they would be spending "stupid money". To the middle of the season when team President Andy McPhail made the inauspicious comments "If we do we do and if we don't we don't" referring to the teams chances of making the playoffs. To the end of the season when its General Manager Matt Klentak said he was "Kap's biggest fan": in reference to his man crush on then team manager Gabe Kapler.
While 2018 was an extreme disappointment, the prospects of change brought a new hope for the franchise. First of all, the team swiftly fired its manager Gabe Kapler who seemed to be in way over his head. The team hired Joe Girardi to lead the charge who most experts picked as the best managerial candidate available. With a world championship pedigree, he would bring a new culture of leadership and winning to the table.
The team then brought in former manager Bryan Price to be the new pitching coach. The Phillies greatest weakness in 2018 was pitching. Although a lot of the pitching woes could be attributed to talent, there was a strong belief that the coaching was inept and that poor coaching influenced its struggles. Price had tons of success turning around piss poor staffs in both Seattle and Cincinati before becoming the Reds manager.
With a new manager and pitching coach in toe, the Phillies quickly directed their focus to the offense as they hired Joe Dillon to be its new hitting coach. Dillon had a lot of success in Washington and was highly sought after during the offseason. While pitching was the team's greatest weakness in 2018, hitting remained the teams achilles heel all year. Bringing in Dillon signified the team's desire to wash away the past while running into the future.
So to review, the team made significant changes to the coaching staff after last season's debacle.
With a top tier manager and elite coaching staff assembled, Phillies brass could turn its attention to free agency which brings us to where we are today and raises the question...will the Phillies go over the tax??
This is the million dollar question. After 2018's objectively excellent offseason, how would 2019's version stack up and would ownership continue to spend stupid money. Well, this hot stove has started off much different than free agency 2018. For starters, last year the leagues marquee free agents did not sign until February. If you take a look back, it was a long cold winter that finally culminated with Manny Machado signing in early February and then Bryce Harper on the ides of March.
This year has been much different as all of the marquee names have come off the board before Christmas. You would be hard pressed to find a more drastic contrast with teams strategy and ultra aggressiveness after last year's reluctance to spend.
However, even with the record contracts that have been handed out this season, including Gerrit Cole's 9 year/$324 Million Dollar blockbuster, no team has matched the Philadelphia Phillies spending over the past two years. After spending approximately a half billion dollars the past two seasons on free agents (Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson), the Phillies continued to be aggressive in 2019.
Even with all of last year's moves, the Phillies had a few holes to plug beginning with starting pitching. While many pundits and fans wanted Gerrit Cole (this years mega star) the Phillies quickly moved in and signed Zach Wheeler to a 5 year $118 Million Dollar contract. The team next signed free agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one year $18 Million Dollar contract.
While fans can cry and complain that the Phillies have not done enough, no one can say they have not made efforts to improve this team. This team is drastically better than the one that started 2018 season. First of all, the team has a championship caliber manager and coaching staff. The addition of Wheeler definitely improves the starting pitching and gives the team a strong one two punch. And adding Gregorius gives them an excellent fielder that brings above average hitting and a powerful clubhouse presence.
However; With all of the spending that they have done, they are knocking on the doorstep of the luxury tax threshold. This culminates with the fact that the team has yet to give an extension to its star catcher J.T. Realmuto, which could come at any time. So what is the organizations options at this point? While fans and pundits alike (including myself) clamor for more moves, we must take into account that the offseason is not over yet and we will probably see some more significant transactions.
Nonetheless, its easy to be driven by impatience and question this team's ultimate goals in regards to the tax. Many of those in the know have stated that John Middleton has mandated that the team remain under the tax and that further moves are not coming. However, after seeing Middleton's track record over the past two years and his massive coup in bringing this city Bryce Harper, I have a hard time believing that he has posted such constraints.
I think the Phillies will get creative and make some trades in order to improve the team. I believe that they will ultimately cross the tax threshold and continue to remain competitive with an ever improving NL East. I could see the team trading prospects for Kris Bryant who appears on his way out of Chicago. The Cubs appear to be moving in the opposite direction as the Phillies. Trading for Bryant makes sense on many levels; his friendship with Bryce Harper not being the least.
Of course, trading for Bryant would almost certainly put them over the tax. Especially considering that they may have to take on another salary such as Jason Heyward to get a deal done. Nonetheless, a move like this would give the Phillies a three headed core with JT and Bryce. I also could see the Phillies making a trade for another starting pitcher like Robbie Ray. Yes that would increase their payroll even more but would put their rotation on a higher level when comparing to the Mets and Nationals.
At any rate, here we are. Will the Phillies go over the tax? Inquiring minds and negative nannies will tell you absolutely not. Twitter keyboard generals will tell you probably not. And prior history will scream maybe not. However, if the Phillies do want to compete in this division and in the league, they undoubtedly will have to jump the tax to have success moving forward. One more thing to consider is that Jake Arrieta's contract will come off the books next season as will David Robertson. So they may in fact only have to cross this one year.
Time will ultimately tell if this team is willing to continue to spend stupid money. However, at some point the team's farm system and player development has to help with making the team better as well. You cant keep spending and expect that the team will keep winning. Eventually they will need a mixture just like 2008 when they won the whole thing. In the meantime, here is to hoping that Team Stupid Money continues to spend at least one more year. And if that happens I will continue to be John Middleton's biggest fan!
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.