As the trade deadline approaches, some organizations are caught in the middle between building for the future and loading up for a potential playoff run. One such team is the Philadelphia Phillies who are now in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year after heading to the postseason every season from 2007-2011. At 49-53, the Phils are 8 games behind Atlanta in the National League East, and 9.5 games back of the second wild card spot in the senior circuit. The good folks over at Cool Standings give Philadelphia less than a 3% chance of making the playoffs given their position in the standings and their less than ideal run differential this season. So while there is a chance that the team can rebound, rip of 25 straight wins, and make a playoff push, the smart math says that it just isn't in the cards this year.
Assuming the members of the Phillies front office have some aptitude for math and logic (areas I am quite certain they excel in), why aren't they trading some of their assets to build for future seasons? Look no farther than the man at the top, Ruben Amaro Jr. Since taking over Amaro has made some questionable moves and much of the team's success has come because of the foundation that his predecessor, Pat Gillick, built before stepping down. Because of that, without any real knowledge of the situation, I would gesture that Amaro may be feeling some pressure to win now to save his job.
And if that is the case, it's easy to see why he may get somewhat defensive about his team and his decision, at least thus far, not to trade some of their aging players like Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, and Michael Young. Especially with constant questions day-in and day-out regarding the direction of the franchise, it is almost inevitable that Amaro will say some things out of frustration. But while I sympathize with his position, I still feel that Amaro made some indefensible comments regarding public prospect-rankings earlier this week. From Jim Salisbury's column on CSNPhill.com:
"We have some [minor league] guys that may be available," Amaro said. "Clubs have asked about some guys that you don't see on the top 25, top 50 lists of everyone who knows everything about baseball. I said that sarcastically, by the way, because I don't think people know (crap) about it. You can print that if you'd like.
"There's just a lot of those lists that come out that make me laugh. I don't see anyone working for any major-league clubs that do that with those lists. It's interesting."
Again, I think these are the comments of man that is a) under a lot of stress, and b) tired of answering the same questions on a daily basis, but there is no reason to bash ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks, Minor League Ball's John Sickels or the team over at Baseball America. The people constructing these lists put in hours of work, crowdsourcing the opinions of front office executives, scouts, and coaches, as well as adding in their own opinions, and I feel that they know quite a bit more than "crap" about it.
Actually, these lists have proved to do quite well in which players will become future stars, as evidenced here by our own Chris St. John. And the Houston Astros, at least, thought enough of Kevin Goldstein's work to make him their Director of Professional Scouting without any prior experience in a baseball front office. If these lists were just comprised of the opinions of the rankers, Amaro may have some semblance of a point, but because many, many opinions go into these lists, I think this is just an offhand comment by a GM that is frustrated with the current state of his farm system. Let's not get too excited about these comments, and instead use it as an opportunity to be thankful that we have the great resources that public prospect rankers give us.
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Andrew Ball is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, Fake Teams, and Fantasy Ninjas.
You can follow him on twitter @Andrew_Ball.