At this time of year, with the time until the trading deadline measured in hours instead of days or weeks, the tug of war frequently comes down to Today vs. Tomorrow.
The late Washington Redskins coach George Allen famously philosophized that the future is now, and it would seem that most Phillies fans concur. There is a strong tide of public opinion that, after constructing a pitching staff for the ages, Ruben Amaro Jr. must now do whatever it takes to get the righthanded bat the lineup so clearly needs and ignore the potential downside down the road.
Most of the speculation has settled on Astros rightfielder Hunter Pence. In recent days, the drumbeat has gotten louder, imploring the Phillies to make Houston an offer it can't refuse even if it means trading Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Domonic Brown, Vance Worley, whoever, before 4 p.m. Sunday arrives.
Go for it now because, after all, >manana never comes.
And now, speaking for the opposing standpoint, Rob Plummer . . .
He's a successful agent who has focused his efforts on talent-rich Latin America. He watches baseball through a scout's eyes. He's also a Philadelphia native who unabashedly wishes nothing but the best for the Phillies. And his dispassionate assessment of the cost-benefit ratio is that getting Pence would be a huge mistake that will ultimately backfire badly. His scouting report:
Not a fast bat . . . Needs to cheat a lot and therefore strikes out a lot . . . Not a high OPS guy . . . Would not protect [Ryan] Howard in the batting order . . . Not a guy I would like to pay a lot over the next 3 years like you would have to in [arbitration] . . . Not a great defensive player either. Not a premium guy worth giving up premium cheap future-salaried young players . . . I would trade the young guys if it was a guy with an OPS of .950 or above, more athletic with higher upside with a faster bat."
He added that, in his opinion, Pence is the kind of hitter who can compile decent numbers during the regular season but is susceptible to the consistently superior starters that teams face in the playoffs.
Plummer doesn't dispute that Pence might be the best righthanded bat believed to be available. He just doesn't think that's a good enough reason to move blindly ahead at the expense of 2013, 2014 and beyond. And he's especially reluctant to part with Cosart.
He'd make a move and part with prospects if the return was a player who would really make an impact, would markedly improve the Phillies' chances for another parade down Broad Street. He just doesn't think Pence is that guy. In fact, he's not sure that guy exists. Or he'd trade lesser prospects for a marginal improvement.
It's worth saying again that not even getting a bat the quality of, say, Matt Kemp, would guarantee another trophy. Not to mention that there have been no rumors to this point indicating that the Dodgers would consider trading him.
The Astros have helped the Phillies in the past, trading them Brad Lidge before the 2008 season and Roy Oswalt right about this time last year. Plummer strongly believes Houston would best help the Phils this time by holding onto Pence no matter how much the Phillies offer.
BETWEEN THE LINES
Pat Gillick responded to rumors that the Cubs could be courting him to be their next team president by saying he's never spoken to owner Tom Ricketts. What he didn't say was whether he'd been contacted by anybody representing the team.
This should be a no-brainer for the Cubs. Whether it would be the right situation for Gillick is a different issue, but there's a reason to think it might be. Which is: Is there a bigger challenge in baseball than being the guy who helps that franchise win its first World Series since 1908?
The Hall of Fame printed up 3,000 souvenir postcards featuring a picture of Pat Gillick's plaque, which was officially unveiled on Sunday. By Monday, they were sold out.
BATS LEFT, HITS RIGHT
First baseman Ryan Howard has hit 20 home runs this season and all have come against righthanded pitching. The record for that sort of thing? Press-box pal Clem Comly points out that it's held by Duke Snider, a lefthanded hitter who belted all 40 of his home runs for the 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers against righty pitchers.
THE BEST, AND THE REST OF THE STORY
The Phillies finished with baseball's best regular-season record for the first time in franchise history last year. And they're well on their way to repeating the feat this season.
Just a reminder, though, that this is a poor predictor of what will happen once the postseason begins. Of the 20 teams that have led or tied for the lead in regular-season wins, only three - the 2009 Yankees, 2007 Red Sox and 1998 Yankees - went on to win the World Series. And only four more made it to the Series before losing. In the meantime, six lost in the LCS and seven were bounced in the first round.
WHEN HE'S GOOD
Everybody knows how good Cliff Lee can be when he's at the top of his game. But did you realize that in 36 regular-season starts since being traded from Seattle to Texas last season, he's 13-13 with a 3.45 earned run average?
AROUND THE BASES
There's already speculation that the White Sox' decision to flip outfielder Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays is a clue that Tony La Russa will end up managing on Chicago's South Side next season. The Cardinals reportedly parted with Rasmus, in part, because of his differences with La Russa. So the thinking is that the Sox weren't comfortable with reuniting the two next spring. In this scenario, current White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen takes over the Florida Marlins.
WAR OF THE WORDS
Florida special assistant Jeff Conine, who got the nickname Mr. Marlin during his playing days, expressed some unflattering thoughts about shortstop Hanley Ramirez during a radio interview last week. "I think there are some nights when he doesn't try as hard as he should," Conine said, adding that Ramirez frustrates him "on a nightly basis."
Ramirez fired back. "If he's got a problem, just come over and talk to me like a man," the shortstop said. "Don't be a chicken, talking on the [radio] . . . I think he wants to be Mr. Marlin forever. It won't happen. I'm coming, baby. I think I'm going to be Mr. Marlin. That's my goal now. I wasn't thinking about that [before]."
FOOD NOTE OF THE WEEK
Bill Arnold, who keeps track of such things, says the most expensive concession-stand hot dog, $80, is offered by the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League. The half-pound, all-beef "McMullen Dog" is deep fried, dipped in truffle oil, coated with porcini mushroom dust and garnished with white truffle shavings, crème fraiche and caviar. Not sure how many they sell, but if you want one you have to give them 24 hours' notice. Designed to get the franchise in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive hot dog sold, it is the brainchild of Atlantic City chef Ryan McMullen.
THE MORNING AFTER
The Mets might have outperformed expectations this season, but the trades of closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers and outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants send the unmistakable message that the front office is looking beyond this season. Manager Terry Collins planned to address his team yesterday about Beltran's departure. "This is just a situation that everybody has anticipated, whether we liked it or not," he said. "We knew it was going to happen."