Phillies

Is it finally time for Phillies fans to give up the Mike Trout fantasy?

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Is it finally time for Phillies fans to give up the Mike Trout fantasy?

Philly fans are obsessed with Mike Trout, for good reason. He'll go down as one of the best players ever. He was born in nearby Millville, New Jersey. Did you know that? It's been pretty under-reported around these parts.

Until the day Trout retires, Phillies fans will hold out hope that someday, the Chosen One will join their favorite team.

The Angels could put a dent in those dreams this winter, though.

National baseball writer Jon Heyman wrote this week that the Angels could pursue a lifetime contract with Trout this offseason. Doesn't mean they will or that he'll sign it, but it does make sense with Trout's current six-year contract expiring after 2020.

The Angels will want to know from Trout whether he's interested in staying around long-term. If he's not, it's better for a team to know that before the player's last season under contract, because more can be acquired in a trade when the player has 1½ seasons left than just a half-season.

Trout wants to win. The Angels haven't been able to surround him with enough talent. The Albert Pujols contract worked out poorly. The Josh Hamilton contract turned out horribly. Shohei Ohtani needs elbow surgery, so for now, he's just a DH. The Angels' starting rotation has been ravaged by nonstop injuries. Trout is not winning a World Series in Anaheim. Feel free to send this paragraph to @FreezingColdTakes on Twitter.

The Phillies this offseason will pursue Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Some rival executives think the Phils possess the ability to land both superstars. If they strike out on one, or both, and if Trout chooses not to sign another long-term deal with the Halos, the trade talks will again amplify.

You have to keep in mind, though, that it will take an enormous trade package for the Angels to even consider moving Trout. A package that would take lots of major-league and minor-league talent away from an organization. 

Between blogs and social media, I've seen some Trout-to-the-Braves fantasies. Bringing that up only because, in every instance, the writer has argued, "as long as it doesn't cost Ronald Acuña Jr." 

Which is just hilarious, because you don't acquire one of the top five players in baseball history in his prime without giving up a great player in return. It is laughable to think the Angels would be OK with a package of Sean Newcomb, Ozzie Albies, Ender Inciarte and a group of prospects. 

Similarly, you'd think that if the Angels ever actually engage the Phillies in Trout trade talks, it could cost them Rhys Hoskins, Sixto Sanchez and two or three more players the Phils would feel extremely uncomfortable about trading.

Between the impending free agency of Harper and Machado and the possibility Trout makes a decision one way or the other regarding his long-term plans, we could know in three short months about the futures of baseball's three most dangerous hitters.

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Has Manny Machado played (and talked) himself out of Philly before ever getting to Philly?

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Has Manny Machado played (and talked) himself out of Philly before ever getting to Philly?

A hearty congratulations to Manny Machado for getting through Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday without doing anything stupid, anything to hurt his free-agent platform.

Or should we say anything else?

Machado, the gifted shortstop/third baseman who has long been the fancy of the Phillies’ front office, didn’t exactly author a brilliant campaign speech when he acknowledged his raging allergy to hustling in an interview with baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal earlier this week.

“Obviously, I’m not going to change,” Machado told Rosenthal. “I’m not the type of player that’s going to be Johnny Hustle. It’s not my cup of tea, not who I am.”

Can you imagine the reaction that Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, had to these comments? (No, Danny, no. That’s a heavy chair, do not throw it through the window!)

In less than a month, Lozano will start shopping the 26-year-old infielder to prospective buyers. Estimates on Machado’s price tag have hovered around the $300 million mark, give or take a Brinks truck or three. Now, the first question that Lozano is going to hear from the potential suitors won’t be about what it will take to sign his client or whether Machado wants to play shortstop or third base, it will be about the player’s aversion to hustle. Or, as it is known in other circles, playing hard.

In some cities, admitting you don’t, won’t or can’t hustle could make you toxic.

New York is one and the Yankees just so happen to need a shortstop next season as Didi Gregorious recovers from elbow surgery. People close to Machado have told me he likes the idea of being a Yankee because, one, they are the Yankees, and two, he wants to play on the East Coast with a team that trains in his native Florida.

The Phillies also play on the East Coast and train in Florida. They also have a lot of money and a longstanding interest in Machado. They tried to acquire him from Baltimore in July and were willing to include big talent in the deal if Machado would have agreed to a contract extension. The Dodgers ended up getting Machado and the Phillies, quietly confident that they could land the player as a free agent this winter, moved on.

But now you have to wonder if Machado could work in Philadelphia. It’s almost become cliché to say the city — i.e., the fans who pay the bills — likes a certain kind of athlete, one that goes all-out all the time, but when you think about some of the city’s all-time favorites — Chuck Bednarik, Bobby Clarke, Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley — you realize it’s not cliché, it’s fact.

Even before Machado made news for the wrong reasons this week, there had been whispers that some in the Phillies organization would prefer to steer clear of Machado for just the reasons that the player articulated in his ill-advised and ill-timed comments. To the best of our knowledge, general manager Matt Klentak remains open-minded, and that’s good because Machado is a great talent and the Phillies need some of that if they are going to put a winner on the field.

But this whole issue has complicated things for Klentak and an ownership group that is poised to write some big checks this winter. Whether or not to pursue Manny Machado is going to require a lot of thought and a lot of weighing the rewards of his talent versus the risk of his makeup.

And who are those guys over there in the corner grinning like a pair of Cheshire cats? Looks a little like Bryce Harper and Scott Boras.

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National media doesn't realize how Philly viewed Gabe Kapler in Year 1

National media doesn't realize how Philly viewed Gabe Kapler in Year 1

ESPN's fake draft of the top 50 coaches among the four major sports had several Philly ties.

One, in particular, was … interesting.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler ranked 39th overall. (Doug Pederson was 15th, and Brett Brown was 40th.)

Again, this includes coaches (or managers) in all four sports. Kapler was ninth among MLB managers. 

ESPN's write-up included a few massive understatements:

The Phillies underwent a 14-game improvement in 2018 and played meaningful baseball in September for the first time in years, but notoriously hard-to-please Philadelphia fans probably won't quite view Kapler's first year through that lens. The Phils were 64-49 and in first place on Aug. 7, then went 16-33 the rest of the way, which elicited some Kapler-focused grumbling.

"Some grumbling." LOL. Search Kapler's name on Twitter and take a look at the last two months of his mentions. It wasn't "some" grumbling, it felt more like 90 percent of the fan base despised him.

I've been on this planet nearly three decades and have spent waaaaaay too many hours consuming sports, mostly baseball. I haven't spent more than six months outside of Philly at any point. And in that time, I have never, ever seen such a passionately negative reaction to any coach or manager in his first year. 

Some of the criticism of Kapler was fair. Some was completely over-the-top. A lot of the time, the criticism was based on aspects of his personality that people projected. In real life, Kapler is a pretty chill guy. When the cameras are off, talking baseball with him is just like talking baseball with a dude who knows a lot about the game. He's as accepting and understanding of criticism as any athlete or coach I've covered, which is refreshing. There were valid on-field questions and understandable confusion over some of Kapler's press conferences, but people kind of ran away with their imagination when it came to his personality.

The main issues fans seemed to have with Kapler in Year 1 were what they deemed overmanaging, and his often flowery descriptions of players' strengths.

Kapler did overmanage at times. He did it on opening day when he removed Aaron Nola too early. Some of the defensive, late-game switches didn't make a ton of sense based on the closeness of the game and the potential for extra innings.

There was also some overmanaging in August and September, but you have to consider the hand Kapler was dealt. For much of the second half, the Phillies had a roster filled with players who could either hit but not field, or field but not hit. What many fans deemed overmanaging was really just Kapler trying to optimize for offense or defense based on the situation.

Kapler's managerial style is new to this city, and old-school cities like Philadelphia don't always appreciate "new." That's not meant as a sweeping generalization but rather an acknowledgment of a portion of the fanbase. If Doug Pederson's two-point conversion attempts failed more than they succeeded those first couple years, fans would have yelled that he was trying to reinvent the game. When "new" works, the shouting isn't as loud.

In reality, a lot of what Kapler and GM Matt Klentak did this season is happening in many cities across baseball. It happens with the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox, Rays, Brewers. The Cubs are just as analytically-driven if not more, aside from the fact that they barely use defensive shifts.

It's interesting that, nationally, Kapler is still viewed favorably despite the Phillies' epic collapse the final seven weeks. It's either a sign that these list-makers are out of touch, or that all the Kapler noise from commenters on websites, callers on the radio and folks on social media isn't an indication of how he's actually perceived.

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