And we wait and we wait and we wait some more. And that’s all I have to say this week about the Phillies' free-agent pursuit of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. For the record, Saturday is Groundhog Day.
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The players' discontent with a second straight free-agent market that has moved slower than a Wilson Ramos trip around the bases is growing louder. Earlier this month, Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta tweeted his concern about the situation.
Arrieta, of course, was part of last year’s slow-moving market and did not sign with the Phillies until March 12, just 17 days before the season opener. His three-year deal for $75 million was for fewer years and less money than he expected to receive when he hit the free-agent market. By waiting him out, the Phillies got Arrieta without having to commit to him beyond the first year of the 2020s.
Was it good business by the Phillies' Matt Klentak, one of the new-wave general managers who relies heavily on analytics when making business decisions, or was it a form of ownership greed in a business model that has been protected by a federal antitrust exemption since 1922? It was definitely a good business move by Klentak and the Phillies, and it appears that the GM and team could be using that same playbook in their effort to sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper this offseason.
It is not unreasonable, however, to think that the owners have much to gain by an industry-wide refusal to hand out 10-year deals worth as much as $400 million to two of the youngest and most accomplished free agents ever to hit the market. At the very least, it’s capturing the attention of the players and drawing the ire of agents.
“It’s weird, really weird,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant recently told a Chicago radio station. “Two of the best players in the game, and they have very little interest in them just from what I hear. It’s not good. I think it’s something that, it’s going to have to change. I know a lot of the other players are pretty upset about it. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. We still have another month left. But it is slow for sure.”
The fear for commissioner Rob Manfred and all of baseball is that this could lead to another work stoppage, the nuclear option that baseball has not experienced since it blew off the World Series in 1994.
“I think there are many reasons why this market the last two years has moved so slowly,” agent Rex Gary said. “Some of those reasons are legitimate. There are a lot of decisions that clubs have to make in terms of personnel. More and more, the early part of the offseason is focused on internal staffing.
"But as it relates to players and the overall market place, I think it would be prudent for baseball to take a look at ways to get the offseason moving quicker, whether that means deadlines or whatever. I think everybody benefits when decisions are made well before spring training.”
The concern of the players' union, of course, is that the owners are repeating the collusion tactics they used in the 1980s that eventually led to victorious arbitration cases for players and a famous tongue lashing by then-commissioner Fay Vincent.
“The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion,” Vincent told the owners. “You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue, because you got caught and many of you are still involved.”
If they are still involved now, shame on them. The problem for the players is that the general public is never going to side with them because the average Jill and Joe cannot relate to the amount of money they make. That does not mean the millionaire players are wrong in their fight against the billionaire owners who have never been forced to open their financial records.
The waiting for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper is definitely the hardest part for Phillies fans, but it is also the smartest way for the Phillies to do business, according to our Scott Lauber.
The Phillies finally landed a superstar shortstop this week, signing three-time all-star and former MVP Jimmy Rollins. At age 40, however, Rollins will be relegated to the role of special adviser, helping out in a variety of roles. One of them, it appears, will be putting on a uniform and working with players in spring training. That’s smart.
Columnist Mike Sielski traveled to Bethlehem, Pa. recently and caught up with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. One of the biggest challenges for the manager in his second season will be proving to the fans and, more important, his players that he is authentic and has what it takes to win now.
Columnist Bob Ford weighed in Sunday with his thoughts on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. His conclusion: It’s so dumb that they’re waiting so long to take the Phillies' “stupid money.”
While most of the discussion this offseason has been about what the Phillies have not done yet, our Matt Breen reminds the readers that they have already done enough to be significantly better.
Lefty reliever Tyler Gilbert was among the minor-league prospects invited into town by the Phillies earlier this month, and he told me a great story about how his 2018 success at double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley was directly related to his cutter and improved curveball. Gilbert learned the grips for both pitches from teammate Seth McGarry.
Our Ed Barkowitz caught up with former Phillies farmhand Jim Murphy and discussed his experience of playing in the 2011 South Atlantic League all-star game with both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
Feb. 13: First workout for Phillies pitchers and catchers in Clearwater, Fla., 9 a.m.
Feb. 18: Phillies' first full-squad workout in Clearwater, 9 a.m.
Feb. 22: Phillies vs. Rays in Grapefruit League opener in Port Charlotte, Fla., 1:05 p.m.
March 28: Opening day. Phillies vs. Braves at Citizens Bank Park, 3:05 p.m.
With spring training fast approaching, it’s time to introduce a new Extra Innings segment called Fun with FIP, the fielding independent pitching statistic that is so cherished by Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. Go here for a detailed explanation of FIP.
Today’s exercise will focus on the 50 Phillies pitchers with the lowest FIP averages in history and how they compare to the 50 Phillies pitchers with the lowest career ERAs. A pitcher must have logged at least 500 career innings with the Phillies to be considered.
George McQuillan, who pitched for the Phillies from 1907 through 1910, went to his grave in 1940 with a 1.79 ERA, which still ranks as the best in franchise history. His FIP, however, was 2.42, 63 points higher than his ERA. Lew Richie, teammates with McQuillan during most of his 1906-09 run with the Phillies, ranks second on the team’s all-time ERA list at 2.06, but his FIP was 77 points higher at 2.83.
The Phillies’ greatest FIP pitcher of all-time is Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, who truly remains the franchise’s greatest pitcher of all-time. His 2.18 ERA ranks third all-time, but his 2.39 FIP is the best by any pitcher in team history, which is saying something since he is also third all-time in team wins and innings pitched.
Steve Carlton, the all-time leader in team wins (241) and second in innings pitched, ranks 22nd with a 3.09 ERA and 15th with a 3.05 FIP. Robin Roberts, second in career wins (234) and first in innings pitched, ranks 39th all-time with a 3.46 ERA, but only 46th with a 3.49 FIP.
Thanks for tuning in to the first segment of Fun with FIP. It will return at some point.
Question: I think you’re doing a great service to Phils fans. Why isn’t Jim Kaat in the HOF. 283 wins, 16 Gold Gloves etc. he’s 80 years old. Get him in before he passes!
-- Dave S., email
Answer: Even though Kaat’s career with the Phillies was rather brief, I always loved watching him pitch. He was the fastest worker I ever saw, and he earned those 16 Gold Gloves, including the two with the Phillies. He was also a heck of a hitter, slugging 16 home runs and driving in 106 runs during his career.
During his 15 years on the BBWAA ballot, Kaat never received more than 27.3 percent of the votes, far short of the 75 percent needed for election. He also fell short on the Golden Era ballot in 2015. Based on that, it is highly unlikely Kaat will ever get into the Hall of Fame.