The Phillies this morning refuted a TV report last night that Phillies president David Montgomery had been ousted from his position in August, and that limited partner John Middleton is making a push to own the majority of the franchise.
Multiple sources also refuted the report.
Montgomery took a leave of absence in August to recover from jaw bone cancer surgery. Pat Gillick took his place as interim president.
FOX 29 called it a “convenient story.”
“Contrary to the Fox 29 report last night, David Montgomery’s leave of absence from the Phillies is entirely due to his medical condition, as previously announced,” the team said in a statement. “There is absolutely no other reason for his leave from active involvement in the Phillies management.”
Regarding the reported ownership shakeup, the Phillies said, “Over the life of the Phillies partnership no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership, and we do not foresee this changing in the future.”
- Carlos Ruiz on Monday had minor arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. Team physician Michael Ciccotti performed the surgery. Ruiz will begin his rehab immediately and will return to Philadelphia in one month for a follow-up exam. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
- Ben Revere on Tuesday had surgery at the Rothman Institute to remove screws from his right ankle. Physician Steven Raikin performed the surgery. Revere will be in a walking boot for approximately two weeks and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
- Cliff Lee on Friday had an MRI on his left elbow at the Rothman Institute. The team said the MRI showed positive results as his flexor tendon is healing well. Lee will begin a full throwing program in November and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
- The Phillies are in the process of scheduling hernia surgery for right-hander A.J. Burnett. The club will have more information once the surgery has been scheduled.
They announced this afternoon that every big-league coach has been asked to return for the 2015 season. It remains to be seen if everyone accepts.
Ryne Sandberg’s coaches include bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, hitting coach Steve Henderson, first base coach Juan Samuel, third base coach Pete Mackanin, bullpen coach Rod Nichols and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock.
The Phillies finished 73-89 and last in the National League East, but the front office and Sandberg must have felt it could not pin the team’s failures on any of its coaches. They made changes to the coaching staff following the 2014 season, when they announced pitching coach Rich Dubee, catching coach Mick Billmeyer and strength and conditioning coordinator Dong Lien would not return. (Assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner had been invited back, but left the organization.) That followed manager Charlie Manuel’s dismissal.
The Phillies finished 73-89 that season, too.
So far the only change to the organization is Marti Wolever, who will not return as assistant general manager of amateur scouting.
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.
It could be.
“Do you think it’s my last game as a Phillie?” Howard said.
The Phillies are expected to try to trade him to an American League team, understanding they will have to pay the majority of the remaining $60 million of his contract over the next two seasons. The Phillies would like to get younger and more athletic, and moving Howard would give them flexibility in the infield with a potential mix of Chase Utley, Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco at first base.
Sources said in July the Phillies discussed the possibility of releasing Howard in the offseason, which Ruben Amaro Jr. denied. But the fact the Phillies broached the subject show they at least feel a change at first base could help them.
“That’s a question for those guys upstairs,” Howard said. “I’m not really thinking about that.”
But what about a fresh start somewhere?
“It just hasn’t been anything that’s crossed my mind,” he said. “I have no clue. There are always possibilities because it’s business or whatever, but it’s never crossed my mind.”
Wolever, who has been running the organization’s First-Year Player Drafts for more than a decade, had been with the organization since 1992.
“The Phillies express appreciation for Marti’s many years of service to the organization,” Amaro said in a statement.
Wolever could not be reached for comment.
One of the reasons the Phillies slid in the standings in recent seasons is because they have not had enough talent coming through the farm system. They took Cole Hamels with the No. 17 pick in 2002, but since then have produced few impact players or pitchers.
Recent first-round picks included Greg Golson (2004), Kyle Drabek (2006), Joe Savery (2007), Anthony Hewitt (2008), Jesse Biddle (2010), J.P. Crawford (2013) and Aaron Nola (2014). Supplemental first-round picks included Adrian Cardenas (2006), Travis d’Arnaud (2007), Zach Collier (2008), Larry Greene (2011), Mitch Guellar (2012) and Shane Watson (2012).
There have been more misses than hits, although Wolever’s final first-round picks – Crawford and Nola – could be his best.
Before this year’s draft, MLB.com examined the Phillies’ previous 10 drafts (2004-13). Forty-six draft picks reached the big leagues, which tied the A’s and Rangers for seventh-best in baseball. The average in that span was 41.8 players per organization.
But the quality of the Phillies’ picks ranked last. According to Baseball Reference, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies’ picks over the past 10 years was 20.7, which was 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3).
The Red Sox (142.7), Braves (133.3), Angels (124.4), Yankees (120.5) and Diamondacks (120.1) were in the top five. The Phillies, Blue Jays, Mets (49.5), Twins (49.6) and Marlins (51.8) were in the bottom five.
The big-league average was 82.7.
“When you pick down low, sometimes your interest changes a little because you have a chance to take a little bit safer pick or take a chance if it hits with a high ceiling,” Wolever said in May. “You reach out and you take Golsons and Saverys and you roll the dice on Anthony Hewitt and you hope that you hit based on their tools and their athletic ability. Some do, some don’t and some of them haven’t and we need to do a better job in that regard, but it’s based on a lot of factors that come into play.”
It should be noted Wolever’s drafts produced players like Ryan Howard and Hamels as well as the players that helped the Phillies acquire talents like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Brad Lidge and others.
But Wolever also got the Phillies snared in a controversy with the NCAA and two picks the Phillies failed to sign in 2013. Wolever reported those players to the NCAA for violating its “no agent” rule during negotiations.
“We probably could have handled things a little bit better,” Amaro said on 94WIP in March.
Wolever said in May he had no regrets.
“The only regret I have is taking players that had no intent of signing,” Wolever said. “That’s the only regret I have.”
One wonders if Amaro will look next at the player development staff. Are the organization’s shortcomings in the farm system a matter of lackluster drafts or lackluster drafts and poor player development?
One thing seems fairly certain: Wolever’s dismissal will not be the only change Amaro makes in the front office.
If Ken Giles receives votes for National League Rookie of the Year, he might learn about it during an eight-hour shift at his 40-hour-a-week, minimum wage job at an indoor baseball facility just outside Phoenix.
Giles has spent the past few months throwing 100 mph fastballs and nasty sliders past big-league hitters, but he will spend his third offseason picking up baseballs in batting cages and giving pitching lessons.
“It gets me out of the house,” he said.
Giles, 24, entered Thursday’s series finale against the Marlins at Marlins Park with eye-popping numbers. He is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA and one save in 43 appearances since his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in June. He has allowed 24 hits, 11 walks and has struck out 63 in 44 2/3 innings. His 0.78 WHIP is fifth among all rookie relievers since 1914. His 5.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio is seventh and his 12.69 strikeouts-per-nine innings average is 10th.
He would be closing right now, if the Phillies could have traded Jonathan Papelbon.
Giles will not be NL Rookie of the Year. Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.63 ERA in 22 starts) is probably the favorite with others like Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton receiving more hype and attention. But voters looking closely at the numbers cannot miss Giles’ statistics.
“That stuff doesn’t really matter to me,” Giles said. “Awards are awards, numbers are numbers. It’s nice to be recognized, but other than that, who cares? Staying up here was my main concern. Do my job and perform. I’ve been waiting to do this since I was four years old. That’s all that matters to me.”
It is hard to believe, but when the Phillies sent Giles to Minor League camp in March he really needed to work on his command, particularly with his slider. It has not been an issue since his promotion.
“I’m sure I shocked a lot of people with how fast I came along,” he said. “I just busted my tail in the offseason to make sure I met those requirements. They were right to send me to the Minors. I had no problem going to Double-A, then Triple-A. It was just a matter of me getting that rhythm and that groove and getting those innings in.”
Giles will enter next Spring Training as a lock to make the bullpen, either as the setup man behind Papelbon or as the presumed closer, if Papelbon finally gets his wish and is dealt. Giles said he is fine either way.
“Pap is our leader,” Giles said. “I think right now he’s the glue of our bullpen. If he comes back next year I think he’ll be the biggest key to our success.”
Giles will head home to Phoenix following Sunday’s season finale against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He said he will spend his mornings working out and the afternoons and evenings working at It’s All in the Game Sports Center in Peoria, which is located just behind the Spring Training facilities of the Mariners and Padres.
He gets weekends off.
He is pretty sure he the only Phillies player to work a job in the offseason.
“I just can’t sit in my house all day,” he said. “A lot of my friends go there. My brother (Josh) works there. He’s my boss, actually. I got him the job and he ended up being my boss. But it doesn’t feel like work. It’s just hanging out with a bunch of my friends.”
He pitched tonight for the first time since Major League Baseball suspended him seven games for grabbing his crotch in a perceived gesture toward Phillies fans. He maintained his innocence after the 2-1 victory over Miami, saying if he really wanted to let booing Phillies fans know he was upset with them he really could have let them know.
“It’s been rough, it’s been bad,” Papelbon said about the suspension. “I’ve just had to really try – I don’t know how to say this but – I’ve just had to try to put (umpire) Joe West in the back of my mind and carry on even though I feel like I got the raw end of the deal.”
West ejected Papelbon from a Sept. 14 game against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Papelbon had just blown a save when he rather aggressively adjusted himself before he entered the Phillies dugout. West ejected him at that point. The two argued and made contact with one another on the field with West grabbing Papelbon by his jersey and pushing him away.
MLB suspended West one game without pay for his actions.
The Phillies finish their series against the Marlins at Marlins Park on Thursday before returning to Philadelphia for the final series of the season beginning Friday against Atlanta. Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg said Papelbon is their closer, inferring he will pitch in a save situation this weekend if it presents itself.
“Do I wonder about that?” Papelbon said about the fan reaction. “Do you think I wonder or do you think I know exactly what it’s going to be like?”
He knows exactly, doesn’t he?
“That’s right,” he said.
Is he looking forward to it?
“Yes, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I wouldn’t say bathing in the boos. I’m looking forward to getting back there and pitching there. I enjoy pitching there, I really do. I don’t let the boos get to me. They don’t bother me. Like I said, I don’t hear them. For me, I like pitching in that kind of environment. Whether the fans are booing or cheering, that don’t make no difference to me.”
Of course, the league and the Phillies thought Papelbon let the boos get to him, which was why he grabbed himself and why he got suspended. The Phillies said they fully supported the suspension and apologized to fans.
“I did it because I needed a readjustment,” Papelbon said. “I truly feel like if the fans really got to me and they wanted something I would have given them a little bit more than that. Everyone has their right to an opinion and what they think. I said what I said and it’s the truth and I’m not going to waver from that. Like I said earlier, if I really, really wanted to do something back it would have been more than just a little ‘umph’ with the pants, you know what I mean? People are going to take it for what they want, you know what I mean?”
Papelbon said he did not appeal the suspension because it would have lingered into next season.
Not with five games remaining in the 2014 season.
“Would it be wise?” Rollins said Wednesday afternoon at Marlins Park. “It would not be wise.”
But if Rollins is finished for the season he can pack up his things Sunday knowing he rebounded from arguably the worst season of his career. He had a career-low .667 OPS in 2013, but bumped up that number to .717. He also hit .243 with 22 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs, 55 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a career-high 64 walks in 609 plate appearances.
He ranked ninth among 25 qualifying shortstops with a .716 OPS, which made him one of the more productive shortstops in baseball.
“I don’t know what the overall grade would be, but you’re never doing enough if you’re not winning,” Rollins said. “Ultimately, that’s how we grade ourselves as athletes. Yeah, I did great, but I didn’t really help us win too many games. That’s how you feel. Even if you did everything you could. Nobody is going to be perfect. Leaving that runner on third those five times, that could have been five wins because we lost by one or something. Things like that. I always look to improve. So you’re never satisfied.”
Rollins will become the dean of everyday shortstops following Derek Jeter’s retirement. Jeter is 40. Rollins turns 36 in November. The next oldest qualifying shortstop is White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who just turned 33.
Rollins will make $11 million in the final year of his contract with the Phillies. It could be his final season in Philadelphia, but as much as he would like the Phillies to be competitive next season he said he does not know if that is possible.
“It could be next year,” he said. “It could be two, three years. That’s what’s so great about being a ballplayer. We get to write that story. Always have. You put it on paper. You make it official. But we get to write it.”
Rollins said his feelings have not changed about his desire to remain in the Philadelphia. It is possible the Phillies will try to trade him in the offseason, but Rollins has complete no-trade rights and will have the final say.
“I’m still here,” he said. “I’ll be here next year.”
But the Phillies could say, “Jimmy, we’d like to trade you to a contender.”
“And they could say, ‘Guess who we’re signing? We want you to be a part of this,’” Rollins replied.
Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas could be that type of player. He could fetch $100 million or more on the open market. He is projected as a middle-of-the-order bat.
“We have enough money to (compete),” Rollins said. “So you can’t say we don’t we have the money to make improvements in the places that need to be improved, or where they can make them, whichever is the priority. We’re in a big market, so. A big market payroll. So you have to go out there and make it happen.”
A source confirmed reports they privately worked out Tomas in the Dominican Republic. He held a large workout for every team in baseball yesterday.
The Phillies have liked Tomas, 23, for some time, and for a team in need of a big bat he could be the answer. Scouts described Tomas as a “monster” to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. They said Tomas, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, has athleticism for a big man with big power and quick hands. He also can run.
Teams seemed to be impressed.
Of course, the Phillies are not the only team interested in Tomas and bidding for the impending free agent is expected to be fierce. Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo recently signed a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox. The Phillies worked out Castillo, but were lukewarm.
Sources said the Phillies have always like Tomas more.
But there is talk Tomas could fetch at least $100 million, but if he can hit like other Cuban sluggers like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler it would be worth the risk.