Saying Bye to Icons Take Guts, Could Be Right Call

Cole HamelsCole Hamels answered numerous questions about the future following yesterday’s season finale at Citizens Bank Park.

He had several interesting things to say, including the fact he hopes to remain in Philadelphia, but he will not hold a grudge if he is traded. Hamels has said a player has a limited amount of prime years in his career, and he would rather spend them winning than losing. Hamels acknowledged the fact the Phillies appear to be a long way from winning again, which is why it sounded like he would not stand in their way if they want to trade him to a team on his limited no-trade list.

He also made a good point when somebody asked him about organizations like the Cardinals and their ability to retool year after year.

“They had Albert Pujols for a while and they got rid of him,” he said.

The Phillies have finally acknowledged they held on too long to the belief they could win with the 2008 World Series championship core, if they simply surrounded it with complimentary players. But will they take the next step? Will they move on from an iconic player or two, if the right situation presents itself in the offseason?

I understand the difficulty in doing that, but I do not believe an organization should grip tightly to its iconic players because it is worried about alienating its fan base. How many fewer fans would the Phillies have drawn this season, if they had traded somebody like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard or Hamels before the season? The team drew 2,423,852 fans, a nearly 20 percent drop from last season and its lowest season total since its final year at Veterans Stadium in 2003, when they drew 2,259,948. Fans love their heroes, but they love winning more. Organizations, not just the Phillies, must stomach the short-term backlash of trading, releasing or not resigning an icon for the long-term benefit of winning.

I can relate to one example as a native Wisconsinite, which SI.com’s Peter King wrote about last month. Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round in his first draft as GM in 2005. Rodgers sat on the bench for three seasons, and after Packers icon Brett Favre lost the NFC championship game at home in the 2007 season, Thompson decided he needed to move on from the aging quarterback. Favre initially helped when he retired, but then he unretired and wanted his job back as the Packers’ starting quarterback.

But Thompson essentially told one of the most popular players in NFL history, “No, we’re moving on. We’re not giving you your job back. Good bye.”

Fans went crazy. They hated Thompson. Hated him.

But then a funny thing happened. Rodgers played well and led the Packers to the Super Bowl championship in 2010, while Favre got old and finally retired for good. You can’t find too many fans who still hate Thompson for the decision to move on from the iconic Favre. Because in the end, no matter how much fans love a player, they really love winning. Thompson believed he could no longer win with Favre, so moved on. He stuck to his beliefs, weathered the storm and was proven correct.

I am not advocating dumping players just for the sake of dumping them. They should always be moves that make sense from a baseball perspective. But organizations must not be afraid to move on from a popular player because of the possible marketing or ticket sales implications. If unpopular changes are made, but they lead to winning in the future, the fans will return. They always do, and they always forget why they were so mad at the team in the first place.

Several Phillies discussed their futures with the organization and the state of the team. In case you missed them, here are the links:

11 Comments

Do you think the Phillies should move on from Ruben Amaro Jr as well?

Those of us with half a brain think it.

Only way Phillies get rid of Howard is to just release him and eat that salary. No way anyone is taking $1 of that contract.

I agree. To a point. With most of the young guys being so inconsistent, we need some veteran leadership. I vote Utley. He’s clearly the “captain” of this team.

A trade will be accepted and loved only when and if the players who were added actually produce a winning combination… until then there will be naysayers… it seems to be the nature of fans for the most part… It seems there needs to be new “Pence” energy and team spirit in the locker room!

Regarding RAJr… I would give him another trading season since Pat Gillick is onboard and hopefully overseeing the process and prospects that come up in trades…. also his contacts are probably more reliable since RAJ is still relatively new… I wish for the best but instant gratification is not going to happen unless they have great talent and chemistry… may take 10 years… I hope I live that long to see it…

If the Phillies don’t clean house, the drop in attendance next year will dwarf the 20% decline this past season. Is there anybody out there that will pay to watch Ryan Howard any more? Utley is also finished…just look at his stats. Not as bad as Howard, but outside of Rollins, this veteran team scares no one. Whoever is GM will be busy retooling and trading Hamels, Brown, Utley, Sizemore, Revere, Galvis, Papelbon, Bastardo, and DeFratis. Franko will be the new 3rd baseman, Asche should be the new second baseman. Release Howard. Keep Giles and Dieckman.

If getting rid of them would make the team better by allowing younger guys like Ruf and Franco a chance to play and develop they should go for it. They should have done it this year. They had a loosing season and will end up going into next season at the same level

If you trade all the old guys: Howard, Hamels, Utley, Rollins, Byrd, Lee, papelbon, Chooch.

You should be able to get back 7-8 mid level prospects, like a Randall Grichuk.

Not saying it will be Grichuk. But realistically no team is gonna give a Kris Bryant for Hamels.

Bring in some near ready prospects, eat plenty or next to all of and take a chance on some derailed prospects, kind of like Geovany Soto.

RAJ was a below average major league baseball player and has continued the tradition in role as a general manager. Ironic to see the other candidate to replace Pat Gillick when Gillick retired lead Kansas City to the playoffs. So many mistakes and no hope in the near future.

Ruin should have been re-tooling this team on the fly. If Ruin had a clue as to what he is doing the Phillies would not have fallen so far so fast. Other teams must salivate when ever they hear their receptionists declare “Ruin Tomorrow, Jr. of the Phillies is on line 1”.

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