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Phillies' owner Middleton: Team will win World Series or he'll 'die trying'

The public face of the team's ownership group gave enthusiastic backing to the team's progress, and looked ahead to when the team can next be great.

Phillies co-owner John Middleton visited WIP's morning show on Thursday to chat with host Angelo Cataldi. Middleton spent a full hour in the studio, discussing a range of topics.

There were a few headline quotes. The first was a statement Middleton offered on how badly he wants the Phillies to get back to playing for a championship, what his timeline is for the team to do so, and what fans should expect. It's a theme that he and the team have not been shy about, and the tone was once again strong here:

I don't know how many people you have listening right now, Angelo, but this is a message for them. I'm intent on winning. We're going to get that trophy back somehow, or I'm going to die trying. That's just the way it's going to be.

The only reason professional sports teams — I shouldn't say the only reason, but the most important reason professional sports teams exist — is to win. And if you're not aiming to win, then you really don't belong owning a sports team, in my opinion. So you've got to be moving there.

Now, you don't do that overnight. But I'm not going to give you some pablum that you've got to go through a process. You have to go through a process, but you have to understand, if your objective is to win the World Series, we may not be winning it in 2017 or 2018, but that's got to be what your goal is, and you have to have a plan to get there, and you have to know every step of the way, are you on plan, on schedule, or not.

And if you are, great, and if you're not, you need to understand why you're not, and then you need to start talking about specifically what you're going to do to get yourself back on that plan, and on that schedule.

Later in the show, Cataldi asked Middleton if he's becoming impatient since the Phillies haven't finished a season with a winning record since 2011:

Yes and no. I always want to win, and I want to win yesterday. I want things fixed yesterday. But you have to understand, you have to be smart enough to know, and you have to be disciplined enough to know — which is one of the things I learned about wrestling [which he did in high school and college] — that you set goals and you work toward them, and it takes time.

So I'm patient, and I mentioned this earlier: As long as you have a plan, and your plan isn't just it starts here and in year, whatever, four, five or six you're here. It has to be, here's where you are in year one, here's where you've got to be in year two. And as long as I'm on track on schedule and I believe we are, and Andy [MacPhail] and Matt [Klentak] do as well, I can be patient.

But I need to see that progress. If I don't see that progress, then I get very impatient very quickly.

Toward the end of the show, Middleton spoke words that many fans of the team have been yearning to hear: the organization is ready to spend a lot of money to sign big-name players when those players hit the market — especially in 2018.

Here's what Middleton said about that:

Matt [Klentak] and his front office are going to kind of come to us when they think the time is right. And by the way, it's not just free agency. It's also trades. You have to remember we traded for Doc [Roy Halladay], we traded for Brad Lidge — you know, you go back, we traded for Steve Carlton, we traded for Garry Maddox.

These were trades that we made to bolster, and by taking on really good players, you're taking on larger salaries, so there's a larger salary commitment there.

So the salary commitment, the strategy, obviously, is if you're building from within, building the farm system — and that's the way you need to do it in this industry — you're going to have younger players who are less expensive for a while.

And then just as they did in '06, '07 and '08, those younger players who are good — and we're going to have some really good players like that — then you have to sign them. You get into arbitration-eligible years, their salaries go way up. They get into free agency, their salaries go up even more.

And we have the ability to sign those players. We have the ability to trade for those pieces. Whatever we can't develop internally, and nobody develops everything internally, you have to be able to trade and sign free agents.

And we have the money to do it. Look, we had the number two, three, four payroll for years in all of baseball. I mean, for, it was like four years, or maybe five. We were second, third, fourth. We're going to be there again.

Philadelphia is a big market. We're going to operate the team like it's in a big market. We've got a very good contract with Comcast for our local TV. We're going to be aggressive when it's appropriate to be aggressive.

You can listen to the entire interview here.