I’m a fan of a certain Queens-based baseball franchise, so common sense reminds me that I have no right to openly make fun of cheesesteak-scarfing fans donning pink “P” caps. After all, the Phillies stole the 2007 and 2008 NL East crowns while Mets general manager Omar Minaya slept, and they have steamrolled over us and our new ballpark every year since.
Therefore, I was quietly pleased to read this Grantland article from Rany Jazayerli, which confirms my belief that, while the Phillies will remain formidable over the next two seasons or so, the team’s decline may then turn ugly fast.
For starters, Jazayerli is concerned about the graying lineup:
Philadelphia’s hitters are getting old all at once. In 2007, when this batch of Phillies first made the playoffs, the average age of the offense was 28.8 years old. Three years later, the average age of the Phillies’ offense was . . . exactly three years older. At 31.8 years old, the 2010 Phillies had one of the 10 oldest lineups in NL history. This year, their hitters are just a tick younger — 31.5.
After citing payroll concerns — $113 million has already been allocated for next season and that includes neither star southpaw Cole Hamels (arbitration) nor fan-favorite shortstop Jimmy Rollins (free agent) — he raises another point:
The team’s farm system, having been used so many times to trade prospects for star players, is just about tapped. Philadelphia’s latest acquisition was outfielder Hunter Pence, whom it received from the Astros at the trade deadline. Pence has justified the deal so far; he’s hitting .330 with Philadelphia and .313/.366/.487 overall this season. Pence is 28. On this team, that qualifies as a youth infusion. But Pence cost the Phillies four prospects, including two elite ones in first baseman Jonathan Singleton and right-hander Jarred Cosart. The Phillies still have some promising arms, but they don’t have a single impact bat left in their farm system. Promising rookie Domonic Brown, who will likely take over for Ibanez in left field next season, is the organization’s only above-average hitter under the age of 28.
Jazayerli reminds us that other teams in the division are not treading water. Specifically, he cites the Braves and Nationals as teams that are likely to make serious runs at the division title in short order. (I will give Rany a pass this time for not being
starry-eyed optimistic about the Amazins’ future.)
Interestingly, Jazayerli does not assign blame to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. for failing to do a better job at staving off the prospective decline. Feel free to read this take on Amaro’s work if that issue interests you.