On The Edge Blog

Friday, December 18, 2009

Phillies are NOT better after acquiring Halladay

Winston Churchill once said, “There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.”

The problem with the Phillies’ moves this offseason is that I really don’t know if their roster is changing in the right direction.

I like the idea of replacing Pedro Feliz with Placido Polanco at third base, but replacing Cliff Lee with Roy Halladay doesn’t do much for me. In fact, I believe that it makes the Phillies worse for both 2010 and the future.

For the last few days, you couldn’t watch TV, listen to the radio, go online or even walk down the street without hearing someone talking about the Phillies trading for the Toronto Blue Jays' ace.

It finally happened, except it happened five months too late.

Back in July, I wrote a column begging Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., to trade for Roy Halladay. I wrote that it didn’t matter who we sent to Toronto, as long as Halladay was wearing red pinstripes. But when the Phillies downright stole Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians, I was pretty satisfied.

However, I didn’t realize that we could have had BOTH pitchers in red pinstripes for the 2009 playoff run.

As the trade deadline approached, everyone in the Phillies organization swore that Double-A pitching prospect Kyle Drabek was untouchable, which is why the trade talks with the Blue Jays broke down, causing Amaro to turn his attention to Lee.

Apparently Drabek lost that “untouchable” tag in the last few months, because he was included in the deal, making him no longer slated for a mid-2010 debut in the Phillies’ starting rotation.

Now I don’t know if the Blue Jays would have taken a package of Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud for Halladay back in July, but I don’t think even the staunchest New York Yankees fan could believe that the Phillies wouldn’t have won back-to-back World Series titles if Halladay and Lee were starting five of the seven games in the Fall Classic.

So why am I so pessimistic about the Phillies losing Cliff Lee – one of the top pitchers in baseball – but gaining Roy Halladay, who is the undisputed best pitcher in baseball? By the way, that claim does include the likes of Johan Santana and C.C. Sabathia.

It’s pretty simple. The reason the Phillies fell short in the World Series was that Lee couldn’t pitch every game. Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez and Joe Blanton weren’t able to manage just one victory in four starts, which would have put the ball back in Lee’s left hand for game 7.

So in 2010, if the Phillies get back to the World Series, Halladay will not be able to pitch every game, which means Hamels, Blanton, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Pedro, or any other starting pitcher the Phillies can find, would still need to win one or two games in the Fall Classic.

I fully understand that the Phillies would have had absolutely nothing remaining in the minors for the next two or three years if they kept Lee for the 2010 season, but how could they not have paired Halladay and Lee for the 2009 stretch run? They still could have spent the offseason working to trade whoever wasn’t willing to sign a contract extension, but maybe they would have had enough money in the payroll to extend both pitchers if they had won a second World Series. Or they could have traded away Hamels to help alleviate the jump in payroll.

Right now, the Phillies still lose to the Yankees or the Red Sox in six games.

But that just makes their 2010 team the same as the 2009 team that fell just short, so why are they worse?

The fact remains, the Phillies don’t have a pitcher to win game 2 of the World Series, but that pitcher could have been Drabek. If the Phillies convinced Lee to stick around beyond 2010, which apparently he was quite willing to do, the Phillies would still have Drabek to replace Hamels as the ace of the future. Because they traded for Halladay, they don’t have Drabek waiting in the wings to step up.

At this point, the Phillies are hoping that Hamels can recover from whatever ailed him all of 2009, which somehow cost him four or five miles per hour off his fastball, making him go from devastatingly deceptive in the 2008 playoffs to completely hittable in the 2009 playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful that the Phillies should be competitive for the next few seasons with Halladay locked up through 2013, but walk outside and ask a person wearing an Eagles jersey if they are content with all of the playoff appearances the Birds have made this decade.

I know that the Phillies won it all in 2008, and it is great that they have gotten to a point where the regular season is merely a formality, but falling just short will get old pretty quickly, especially knowing that Lee or Drabek would have been the difference between a parade in Philadelphia and a parade somewhere else.


Like the "On the Edge" column? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show. We will be taking off for the holidays, but will be back in full swing in 2010, hopefully talking about the Eagles rolling through the playoffs.


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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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