Andy MacPhail

Mets fans angrily send GM money after Phillies destroyed their offseason

Mets fans angrily send GM money after Phillies destroyed their offseason

The internet lets sports fans tease and taunt nearly everyone directly, from opposing players to their own mascots: just @ them. But the front office is a notable, and large, exception - the people pulling the strings (and purse strings) are normally absent from social media.

Which means, when the Phillies swooped in this past offseason to hire Joe Girardi and sign Zack Wheeler away from hopeful Mets fans, their fans needed to get creative with their venting.

Enter Venmo, and Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Dozens of fans began swarming Van Wagenen's account on Venmo, the user-to-user app used to directly exchange money through smartphones, offering financial support for the stingy franchise, according to a story Thursday from the New York Times' James Wagner.

They were particularly angry at being bested (twice!) by the Phillies:

"There was only one logical response in Frankie Wlton's mind. When Wilton, a lifelong Mets fan, read that his favorite team hadn't made an offer to re-sign pitcher Zack Wheeler, who instead joined the rival Philadelphia Phillies on a five-year, $118 million deal in December, he opened his cellphone and scrolled to Venmo. (...) After Wilton futilely searched Venmo for the Mets' principal owner, Fred Wilpon, and his son Jeff, the team's chief operating officer, he was surprised to find General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen on the app. Wilton sent him one cent with a tongue-in-cheek message: "Spare change for the poor."

(...)

"'Hire Girardi and bring back the black jerseys,' wrote a fan named Dan Healy when he sent Van Wagenen money via Venmo on Oct. 17, a week before Girardi was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies."

How New York, right? Where Philadelphia sports fans hit their teams with boos, NY fans hit their teams in the wallet. (Philly fans also hit their GM with glam-rock, but that's another story.)

Interestingly, Phillies fans have felt the same kind of penny-pinching ire this offseason, despite landing an ideal manager and signing Wheeler to a nine-digit contract. 

Managing partner John Middleton was briefly painted this offseason as actively avoiding the luxury tax by not pursing a blockbuster trade for the Rockies' Nolan Arenado and/or the Cubs' Kris Bryant, two difference-making players who would cost a pretty penny. A quick Twitter search for the #PayTheTax hashtag turns up plenty of perturbed Phillies fans.

Middleton said in October he wouldn't want to dip into the tax just to be a postseason afterthought. President Andy MacPhail said earlier this month (see story) that while the team is "not reluctant to go over" the tax line, they want to think about how it would impact the team for the next few years, not just one season, because of the compounding penalties.

It's understandable... but, considering the Harper investment, Phillies fans also want a title run sooner rather than later.

However, Phillies fans, take some solace: while you still may want ownership to #PayTheTax, at least you're not scouring Venmo for @JohnMiddleton to vent your frustrations.

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To exceed or not exceed? Phillies club president offers thoughts on hot-button tax issue

To exceed or not exceed? Phillies club president offers thoughts on hot-button tax issue

CLEARWATER, Fla. – To exceed or not exceed. That is the question Phillies fans want to know when it comes to the luxury-tax issue that has dominated this off-season.

Phillies ownership has so far made the unpopular choice not to cross the $208-million payroll line and that is the reason why the club has reported to spring training with holes and question marks, particularly in the starting rotation and bullpen.

But it’s not out of the question that the Phils, who already project to have the highest payroll in the NL East, will make an in-season decision to go over the tax line.

It’s all dependent on how the club plays in the first few months of the season.

“Speaking for the Phillies and their ownership, we are not reluctant to go over,” club president Andy MacPhail said in his annual spring-training address Friday. “It's not an impenetrable barrier by any stretch. It's my hope and, frankly, my expectation, that we're going to exceed this year.”

Managing partner John Middleton offered his stance on the tax threshold in October:

“I’m not going to go over the luxury tax so we have a better chance to be the second wild-card team. That’s not going to happen,” Middleton said then. “I think you go over the luxury tax when you’re fighting for the World Series. If you have to sign Cliff Lee and that puts you over the tax, you do it. If you have to trade for Roy Halladay and sign him to an extension and that puts you over the tax, you do it. But you don’t do it for a little gain.”

The Phillies haven’t been to the postseason since 2011 and pressure on the front office to produce a team that gets there in 2020 is immense. Heads might roll if it doesn’t happen. So you understand why MacPhail’s stance on crossing the tax line might be a little looser than his boss’.

“I would trade the tax for a wild-card spot,” MacPhail said. “I don't want to get in trouble with John, but I would.

“But I think the problem is, what's going to happen next year and the year after that?”

Teams that cross the threshold for the first time pay a 20 percent tax on overage. That’s not a huge deal. But penalties compound for teams that cross the threshold in consecutive years and can eventually impact the draft and international signing budgets. A number of repeat offenders have taken steps to get under and reset the tax in recent seasons, including the Boston Red Sox, who recently traded fan favorite and former AL MVP Mookie Betts in an unpopular cost-cutting move.

“Nobody can live over the tax,” McPhail said. “The penalties are too severe – not just economically, but it grabs you every different way. Your draft choices get diluted. They take away your international money. … (Eventually) you're obligated to re-set, which is a pretty draconian, dramatic thing to do to your fan base. So it absolutely has to be managed. And you don't go over cavalierly. You don't go over it to be a .500 team.”

To exceed or not exceed?

Time will tell.

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Phillies president Andy MacPhail cheers whistleblower, jeers cheating Houston Astros

Phillies president Andy MacPhail cheers whistleblower, jeers cheating Houston Astros

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Pitcher Mike Fiers, who blew the whistle on the Houston Astros for cheating during the 2017 season, has a fan in Phillies president Andy MacPhail.

“I'm delighted this has come out,” MacPhail said during his annual spring-training address Friday. “I have all the respect in the world for Fiers for coming out and talking about it. I think the game's better as a result of it.”

MacPhail, a third-generation baseball executive, had no words of praise for the Astros organization.

“The Commissioner's office did a pretty exhaustive study,” MacPhail said. “They made their decisions. I have no reason to doubt it. I do think that the Commissioner went to some length to talk about the culture that was there that was disturbing. This wasn't, in my view, the first instance. How they treated some of their employees in the past is not something that would be tolerated by our ownership. You had the whole Taubman thing that went on and their reaction, and this was just another example.”

The Astros have spent plenty of time in the news – for all the wrong reasons – over the last five months.

In October, Brandon Taubman, one of their assistant general managers, was fired for directing an expletive-filled tirade toward a group of female reporters during a clubhouse celebration after the American League Championship Series.

In November, Fiers, now a member of the Oakland Athletics, went public in a story published by The Athletic with details of how the Astros used illicit methods to steal signs during their run to the World Series title in 2017. The firestorm led to an investigation by Major League Baseball and stiff penalties for the Astros, who ended up firing manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The scandal resulted in the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets letting their managers go.

The Red Sox remain under investigation by MLB for possible cheating infractions during their run to the 2018 World Series title. Alex Cora, the Red Sox manager that year, was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and one of the alleged ringleaders in a scheme that used technology to steal signs. Carlos Beltran, an Astros player, at the time, was another ringleader. The Mets last month fired him as manager before he ever managed a game.

The use of technology around dugouts has increased in recent seasons as Major League Baseball has introduced instant replay as a way to challenge disputed umpire calls. Some players like having a video area close to the dugout so they can watch their at-bats and make adjustments in real time.

But the proximity of this technology and these video areas to the dugout can create problems, as evidenced by the Houston scandal and the black mark it has put on that organization and on baseball, in general.

MacPhail offered a potential solution.

“As far as I'm concerned, you could lock that video room at the first pitch and not open it up again until the last pitch,” he said. “We don't need to be going in there every five minutes. Am I confident that that's going to put an end to it? I think you have to be vigilant. There's always going to be some people that try to get an edge and bend the rules no matter what you do, and you have to be aware of that and you need to dam up every place you can where water's coming down because they'll try to find a way.”

MacPhail was asked if he would set a trend and order the Phillies’ video room locked at the start of games.

“I’m not going to do it if we’re one out of 30 and then MLB decides that they’re going to allow it,” he said. “I’m hopeful that MLB is going to create an even playing field and lock it down. If not, do other things in addition to that.

“I know they’re looking at a variety of things. I’m just speaking for myself. I’m probably going to get myself in trouble. But yeah, I’d lock the darn thing.”

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