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Clearing up mis-conceptions, Part I

My original plan was to file another detailed blog post later tonight after I'd had a day to mull over the Halladay and Cliff Lee deals. But I ended up listening to a healthy dose of sports talk radio while running errands today - side note, they really should put cupholders on shopping carts - and kept hearing several illogical statements (insert joke about sports talk radio here) that need to be corrected.

Illogical Statement I: The Phillies should have just swung a trade for Halladay last deadline and had Cliff Lee and Halladay for two postseason runs.

Answer: While it is true that the package of prospects the Phillies ended up shipping to Toronto isn't a heck of a lot less than what the Blue Jays were reportedly offering last summer, the big issue here is money. Roy Halladay earned $14.25 million last season. The Phillies would have been on the hook for roughly $6.5 million of that. Add in the roughly $3.5 million they took on in salary for Cliff Lee, and you are talking $10 million extra dollars dumped into the budget midway through the fiscal sports year. That would be difficult for any business to absorb. Plus, the Phillies would have owed Halladay all of his $15.75 million salary for this season. Keep in mind the Blue Jays are kicking in $6 million toward Halladay's salary (at least that is what has been reported - I do not have that independently confirmed). And keep in mind that the Blue Jays were reportedly asking for Drabek AND Brown, along with Anthony Gose, with J.A. Happ and Jason Knapp (who was a key to the Lee trade) being kicked around. So the assertion that the Phillies are parting with the same package of prospects is a misnomer too. But even if it were the same package of prospects, the Phillies would have been taking on $12.5 million in salary in 2009 and 2010, in addition to Lee's salary.

You can argue that the Phils still could have swung the deal with the prospects they had. And given Lee's performance in the playoffs, you can argue that they very likely would have won a second straight World Series with Halladay and Lee perhaps starting Games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. But you can't argue the finances of it all.

Illogical Statement 2: Hamels is no longer a bona fide No. 2 starter in the majors and never will be because he is a two-pitch pitcher.

Answer: Look, nobody will argue that Hamels had a down year. And nobody will argue that he would be better suited for success -- particularly against lefties -- with a reliable third pitch. But even in 2008, when Hamels was a playoff stud, he threw his curveball on just 13.7 percent of his pitches (according to That dropped to 10.5 percent last season. But he threw the curve just 10.6 percent of the time in 2007, when he was far more successful than last season. Hamels biggest problem wasn't with his curve ball. It was with his command of his fastball and change-up. Hamels can succeed with just two pitches, but to do so he needs to be in complete control of them. Last year, he wasn't. You can argue that he will never be in control of his fastball and change-up again. And you can argue that he needs to better develop a third pitch. But I don't think you can argue that he is done for his career because he doesn't have a third pitch. Keep in mind, this guy was outstanding in 2008, and was pretty darn good in 2007. He is 25 years old, for crying out loud. Cliff Lee's first full big league season was at the age of 25.

Illogical Statement 3: The Phillies were forced to choose between one year of Cliff Lee and four years of Roy Halladay.

Answer: Not true. They did not trade for four years of Roy Halladay. They traded for one year of Roy Halladay, plus exclusive negotiating rights with him. Keep in mind the Phillies will be paying $20 million a year to Halladay for at least three seasons, and maybe four and five. That's a lot of money. The Phillies could have kept Cliff Lee and their prospects this year and then invested the money they would be paying Halladay into a guy like Javier Vazquez, and likely had plenty of cash left over to invest in other areas of the team. But they wanted Halladay. You can easily argue that it was a wise investment, since Halladay likely would have commanded more on the open market. And if you look at our previous post, you'll see that plenty of elite pitchers have thrived between the ages of 33-36. But the Phillies did not trade for an elite pitcher who was under contract for the next four seasons. They traded for one year of him, and in the process negotiated an extension for the next three.

There. I feel better now.