Manny Machado and Bryce Harper aren't feeling Philadelphia, according to report

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Manny Machado and Bryce Harper aren't feeling Philadelphia, according to report

The baseball world goes into a brief slumber during the period between Christmas Eve and New Year's. Last year at this time, a few minor moves were finalized by teams on Dec. 26, and Wade Davis signed a multi-year contract with the Rockies on Dec. 29, but other than that, there weren't any moves of consequence until mid-January.

Obviously, at this point, the decisions of both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will come in the calendar year 2019. And the longer the Phillies go this offseason with a roster including neither, the more antsy and worried fans are going to get. It's already evident, the unease from a fan base that was expecting at least one of the stars to put pen to paper and join the Phillies.

It's interesting how much the narrative has shifted this offseason and it's again why you can't put much stock in random gossip at the beginning of free agency. Remember when anonymous executives were telling a few national baseball reporters that the Phillies were the heavy favorite to get Machado/Harper and that the entire MLB offseason ran through them? 

That eventually shifted to the more measured sentiment that maybe the Phillies don't get one of them, despite the money they're willing to spend. The Phils cannot force anyone to sign with them, all they can do is offer the most money, which at the end of the day, they probably will for Machado.

The latest bit of info from Joel Sherman of the New York Post won't make anyone around here feel much better.

"Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia and both would have preferred the Yankees, who have shown little interest in Harper," Sherman wrote Wednesday.

Machado liked Philly enough earlier this month to make it his third visit in a week that included prior stops to hear the sales pitches of White Sox and Yankees. And if/when the Phillies offer him upwards of $300 million, Machado and agent Dan Lozano will like that too. If nothing else, it will give them leverage. 

And if, at the end of the day, all Machado's camp seeks is leverage from a deep-pocketed team, what else can the Phillies do? 

It's been clear since midseason that Machado would like to be a Yankee. Truth be told, that's where I expect him to land at this point, and I can already envision the introductory press conference with him donning a Yankees cap and saying, "This is where I always wanted to be. All those years playing the Yankees 20 times a year, I knew this was the right fit for me."

The Phillies will likely need to outbid the Yankees to get Machado but there's a limit to everything. They're not going to outbid the Yankees by $100 million over the same number of years under contract, for example, despite the Phils' desperation to land a star. Nor should they need to. If it requires beating the Yankees' offer that substantially, then it shows the player never really wanted to be here, to begin with.

The same four teams continue to hover around the talks for Machado and Harper. The Phillies and Yankees are the two likeliest spots for Machado; the White Sox and Dodgers are the two likeliest spots for Harper.

It would make things interesting if Machado were to sign first with the Yankees. Then, with no star infielder on the board, the Phillies' attention would shift to Harper, creating a bidding war against the Dodgers and White Sox that might be easier to win, and one that doesn't include a strong preference from Harper, at least none that has been made as public as Machado's affinity for the Yankees.

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman react to the MLBPA's latest proposal, the Roy Halladay documentary and recall some of their favorite moments from the Phillies' opening playoff series in 2008.

• Are players and owners closer to a financial resolution?

• It seems like the two sides are having completely separate conversation.

• What's more likely: 82 games or 114?

• Our takeaways from the Roy Halladay documentary.

• Halladay may have ended up coaching with the Phillies.

• 1-on-1 with Cole Hamels about 2008 playoffs.

• Best moments and memories of that 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers.

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Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

You need a lot to break right to win a championship in any sport but particularly in baseball, where we routinely see the best team fail to win it all. It doesn't matter how you've performed in the preceding six months and 162 games, any team is susceptible to a bad week in October.

The 2008 Phillies were not the favorite to win the World Series when that postseason began. They had won 92 games with a prolific offense. The Cubs won 97, and in the AL, the Red Sox, Rays and Angels all won 95-plus.

The teams with the two best records in baseball that year (Angels at 100-62, Cubs at 97-64), were dispatched quickly in the playoffs, with the Cubs suffering a sweep to the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Angels going down in four games to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Who knows how much differently the 2008 playoffs would have gone for the Phillies if they drew the Cubs or Dodgers in the NLDS, or the Red Sox instead of the Rays in the World Series. It obviously doesn't matter because reality > hypotheticals, but that 2008 postseason was a good example of timing being everything.

The 2008 Phillies were a better team than the 2008 Brewers, but they also had two huge benefits in that series beyond home-field advantage. Those benefits were the Brewers' top two starting pitchers.

CC Sabathia was the blockbuster trade acquisition in '08. The Brewers acquired him on July 7, three weeks before the deadline, and he dominated for more than two months. In 17 starts with Milwaukee, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Ridiculously, he pitched seven complete games with three shutouts in those 17 starts.

But by the time the postseason began, Sabathia was spent. His start against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS was his fifth straight start on short rest. Four days earlier, Sabathia had thrown 122 pitches in a complete game.

It was clear pretty early in that game that Sabathia was not the pitcher he was down the stretch, and Phillies fans will never forget the second inning. (We will explore the famous nine-pitch Brett Myers walk and Shane Victorino grand slam in more depth Tuesday.)

The other advantage the Phillies had was that the Brewers' rock that year, Ben Sheets, found out at the end of the regular season that he needed Tommy John surgery and would be unable to pitch in the playoffs. Sheets, who had a 3.24 ERA in 128 starts from 2004-08 and was a four-time All-Star, never ended up making a postseason start. 

Had he been healthy, Sheets would have started Game 1 for the Brewers ahead of Sabathia. Instead, that Game 1 start went to Yovani Gallardo, who had torn his ACL on May 1 and was unable to return until the final week of the regular season. 

Gallardo went on to have a decent 12-year career but he wasn't ready for that big moment in enemy territory in '08. The Phillies scored three runs off of him (unearned because of a Rickie Weeks error), and that was plenty of run support for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies clearly benefitted from the Brewers' starting pitching situation that October, but that doesn't discredit the business they took care of. In the NLDS, Prince Fielder went 1 for 14 (.071). Ryan Braun, who would go on to become a career Phillie-killer, had just an OK series, reaching base in five of 17 plate appearances and going hitless with runners in scoring position until his final at-bat of the series, an RBI single with the Phillies up five runs in their Game 4 clincher.

The Brewers hit just .206/.271/.254 as a team in that series with one home run against the Phils.

The re-airs of the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run begin tonight on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The NLDS runs this week from Monday-Thursday, followed by the NLCS next week and the World Series the week after.

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