"These owners are not willing to pay into the luxury tax. Nobody wants to pay and that's where the Phillies are," Breen stated. He went on to say that "I'm not going into spring training saying this is a playoff team. In fact, I struggle to say that their a wild card team."
Certainly not a glowing review for a franchise that has stated numerous times that they are not rebuilding and ready to contend. Last year at this time, John Middleton was star hunting. The Phillies managing partner was courting one of the league's biggest star free agents in Bryce Harper. We all know how that played out and the fans were stoked.
However; what a difference a year can make. Although there was so much promise going into last season, the team had a disappointing finish and they fired their manager. There is no doubt that adding a manager like Joe Girardi will make a huge difference. The team also added Bryan Price as their new pitching coach which should also pay instant dividends.
Moreover; the team signed Zach Wheeler and Didi Gregorious as free agents and those are all satisfying moves as well. At this point, I don't think there is a question that this team will be better.
However; what is the ultimate goal? Hopefully your answer is to win a championship. At the very least, your answer has to have the Phillies ready to contend this year and at least make the playoffs. The fact of the matter is that this team continues to have many holes in its roster and they are not even the best team in their own division. And that is a bothersome situation to be in.
I hate to sound like a Debbie downer but I am just not that confident. And that brings me to my biggest beef...why is John Middleton being cheap all of a sudden? Is he just another fraud sports owner that makes his bed in lies and deception?
As a die hard fan, its hard for me to have any sympathy for a professional sports ownership group when it comes to spending money. Especially when that owner is a billionaire like John. And frankly, it disturbs me even more when that same guy said that the team was ready to spend stupid money just one year ago.
As a writer that often does a lot of research; I totally get the fact that comments are often exaggerated and many times are taken out of context.
However; its also true that when comments are made they can either be backed up by actions or just flat out misunderstood. The point is that last year John made a declaration that this team was all in and that they were laying all of the cards on the table. Well, when the team traded for all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, followed by signing Bryce Harper, David Robertson, Andrew McCutchen and more it certainly signified that he was not messing around.
However; now all of a sudden this team refuses to go over the luxury tax threshold. Any realist will recognize the importance of finding balance when constructing a roster. Furthermore, there is no doubt that this team needs a blend of youth (prospects) as well as veterans to sustain an upwards trend. With that being said though, today's game shows that there are still teams out there that are willing to spend and those teams continue to field superior talent.
My main concern at this point is whether John Middleton is truly commited to making this team great; or whether his real intentions are to just get the team to contend and sell tickets. While appearing as a guest on WIP sports radio in 2017, Middleton made an almost legendary quote that "We're going to get that trophy back somehow, or I'm going to die trying."
That was as close to a declaration or promise to do whatever it takes to get this team another championship, as there comes. What a way to set the bar high and with that fuel the expectations of the die hard fans. Well, it appears that Middleton is talking in riddles now. Because if he was wiling to do whatever it takes, going over the luxury tax would not be an issue folks.
Even if you are in the camp that the team cant just buy buy buy, there is no arguing that there were better moves that could have been made and it all comes down to money. And that my friends is a travesty. Now I will cite a few examples of why I feel that John Middleton is a fraud; and that he has duped Phillies nation in an epic fashion...
- Refusal to Sign Gerrit Cole
- Gerrit Cole was the best free agent pitcher on the market since Roy Halladay. The past few seasons Cole had established himself as one of the premiere talents on the mound. A dominant ace that could win you a championship. With that being said, the Phillies were never even in on him. They did not even try to sign Gerrit Cole. Obviously Cole commanded a record setting contract and ultimately signed with the Yankees. And I'm well aware that a contract of that magnitude is a huge risk and could ultimately strap a team for years moving forward. However; Cole would have given the Phillies a Top tier pitcher that would have made them a legitimate contender immediately. The team instead chose to sign Zach Wheeler. I guess you could say that Wheeler was a nice consolation prize but we are not talking horseshoes and hand grenades folks. Cole would have been a game changer. Why didn't the Phillies try and sign Cole...the answer is simple...the luxury tax.
- Refusal to Trade for Another Bat or Arm
- There have been quite a few significant trades the past few months and the Phillies have not been a participant in any. The main reason...because if the team were to make that trade, then it would force them over the tax and we already know where they stand. Players like Mookie Betts and Corey Kluber have been traded and both would have been nice additions for the Phillies (of course at the cost of premier prospects). Nonetheless, the team needs at least one more star player to put them on the map but they continue to look the other way due to money. There are still guys like Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado that could be a tremendous asset to this team but adding them will mean that they have to pay the tax. Here we go again...lets just look the other way and play the fairy tale mindset.
- Not Signing or Trading for an Elite Closer
- The Phillies could have added a closer in free agency or via trade but instead chose to bank on an inconsistent Hector Neris and Seranthony Dominguez. What were the reasons for not improving this area. You guessed it...once again too much money. The team refused to be players in this market because they felt that these closers were too expensive. Well, just remember that when Neris is blowing saves in mid August and Dominguez is riding on David Robertson's coattails next season. Why not get an elite closer to solidify your bullpen...you guessed it...the Tax.
The bottom line is that Mr. Middleton is not backing up those promises with action. By refusing to go over the tax he is not only signifying that this team is not good enough to contend, he is also going against the basic principals that he has preached so feverishly.
I have tried to remain optimistic and patient this offseason and to trust that the organization will do whatever it takes to win.
Well, my patience has worn thin. My confidence meter now screams miniscule numbers. And my anger level has reached 911. I am afraid that Middleton is not the stand up man that he has portrayed himself as. Im concerned that he has alterior motives to not transcending the tax, motives that only have aspirations of making this team good...but not great. And my heart is telling me that John has turned back into a pumpkin and that this franchise is destined for failure.
Well I hope that my fears are just my imagination. Im praying that my opinion is just exaggerated and just an overreaction. And I am trusting that he will ultimately make me eat crow. Sometimes my meltdowns crave the voice of reason, and God knows I have had many arguments about the state of this team. But as a die hard fan, my expectations are high. And when I smell a problem, I am compelled to action.
Hopefully, the John Middleton that I thought I knew will suddenly appear. And then this will all just be blog speak in someone else's version of GOT MAIL. Mr. Middleton, you are the next contestant on the price is right...now do the right thing damnit and pay the price. Please please please...its only money. For the sake of Phillies fans everywhere...DO THAT THING!