Dear Billy Beane,
We’ve thought about this long and hard. Man, it must have sucked back in 1968 when the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Oakland. I can’t imagine what it would feel like if, say, Chip Kelly, Nick Foles, and the other Eagles suddenly up and left to become the Oakland Raiders today (after the Raiders move to San Antonio, of course). I wasn’t around back then, though my parents were, barely. Even though the Athletics went on to establish a dynasty in Oakland in the early 70’s, winning three World Series in a row, I can’t complain much – after all, the Phillies won two titles more recently, one of which was the only beacon of happiness in this young sports fan’s life, which is still haunted by images of Donovan McNabb throwing up in the huddle in 2005 and the 1-0 Cardinals Game 5 clincher in 2011. Not to mention every single 76ers season since 2001, to the point where capitalizing on a possibly career-threatening injury to Derrick Rose in 2012 for a ticket to the second round felt nearly life-affirming.
But after weighing the pro’s and con’s for months, I’m willing to concede. We will take back your Phillies team of old, and in return, give you our Phillies team of old (players.) It won’t be easy saying goodbye to Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and the rest of our hometown heroes. True, they’ve eroded some of their saintly glow simply by virtue of remaining on the team long enough to serve as daily reminders that all humans grow old and become less capable of doing what they used to do best until dying and becoming nothing forever. But we’ll miss them all the same.
Now, I realize that you may not be particularly thrilled with this arrangement. This Phillies roster, as presently construed, constitutes essentially the opposite of everything you hold dear. It’s largely comprised of players in their 30’s with outrageous contracts. You literally had a movie made about you – starring Brad Fucking Pitt – because you chose to always do the opposite of that. As of last week, we were considering paying our former best player upwards of 100 million dollars to not be on the team anymore.
That’s more money than your entire current payroll.
Without your recent (wonderful!) acquisition of Jon Lester, that’s close to doubling your entire current payroll.
But you get Cole Hamels, still one of the best pitchers in the game! Thing is, if the A’s acquired Cole Hamels today, it’s hard to say where he would fit in their four-pitcher playoff rotation. He might arguably be the best pitcher in the bunch, but who do you get rid of? Certainly not Lester. Not Scott Kazmir either, quietly assembling an ERA of 2.37 with a strong walk/strike-out ratio and emerging as a dark horse in the AL Cy Young race. You could definitely argue for Hamels over young studs Sonny Gray and Jeff Samardzija, who I really hope yells out “Notre daaaaaaaaaaamn” after every strike-out, based purely on playoff experience. But you could just as easily argue that Hamels isn’t a significant enough upgrade to justify his remaining contract, also worth upwards of 100 million.
So let’s go to offense, because you just gave up Yoenis Cespedes even though home run derby winners are clearly way more valuable than number one aces, idiot. Our lead-off hitter is 26 years old and currently batting .301. You know you like that! He also has 10 walks in 376 plate appearances. Hm. I know you like walks, Billy. (Again, I saw fucking Moneyball. I hope you wistfully remember Scott Hatteberg as the “guardian of MY galaxy.”) But back to our lead-off hitter – he admittedly also has the power numbers of an 11-year-old child and the arm strength of a 4-year-old infant. I guess that’s not necessarily how you want to replace a guy whose arm was perhaps a creation of the U.S. military.
Okay, so you don’t want Ben Revere. I understand that, even if I like Ben Revere more than most. Honestly, though, you may not be crazy about the rest of our offense either. You have five everyday starters with 39 or more walks on the season: all-stars Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris, as well as Coco Crisp and Jeff Lowrie. We have two: a newly patient and surprisingly more-efficient Jimmy Rollins, and a guy praying those corner pitches aren’t called strikes, Ryan Howard. We have four starters hitting over .270 (Utley, Revere, Marlon Byrd, and Carlos Ruiz), which isn’t bad! But the next everyday starter with over 200 plate appearances is Cody Asche, who is batting .244. That’s not so good.
By contrast, Steven Vogt, your THIRD catcher, is hitting .351. Outside of second base, your starters hitting below .260 (Donaldson, Moss, Josh Reddick, Jeff Lowrie) have combined for 57 home runs and 216 RBI’s. That’s the amount of home runs and RBI’s Dominic Brown hits in his dreams every night, where life is perpetually June of 2013. Speaking of Brandon Moss – do you think we could get him back? We traded him to you for absolutely nothing two years ago to give Ryan Howard more playing time. To recap, Ryan Howard is the guy we’re thinking of paying 100 million dollars to stop playing for the team. In all fairness, it’s not like we could tell Moss would become a stud and one of the AL’s 10 best power hitters. Our talent scouting department is comprised of one guy, a Big Gulp, and YouTube MLB highlights from 2009.
Come on, Billy, you’re all about making the trades today. After getting Lester, you traded Tommy Milone – who would literally be the second best starter on the Phillies right now – to reacquire Sam Fuld, who you put on waivers three months ago. I imagine you did this because Milone was openly complaining about being optioned to the minors, and after successfully adding Lester to a rotation that already included Gray, Kazmir, and Samardzija, you literally felt like a God and decided to banish him to the eternal cold of Minnesota for his insolence. I understand, Billy. Milone was a whiny piece of crap player. Anyone can see that. Can I interest you in Kyle Kendrick, 5-11 with a 4.92 ERA and inarguably the worst pitcher in the national league this year by nearly every advanced metric?
How about Roberto Hernandez, looking like a ace by comparison with his tidy 5-8 record and 4.14 ERA? Or A.J. Burnett, one of those old guys you don’t particularly care for, also rocking a 4+ ERA and amassing 10 losses on the season? I’m literally sobbing right now realizing that if we gave you Cliff Lee, who any sensible baseball fan would tell you is definitively one of the best pitchers of the last decade, for absolutely nothing, you would probably option him for the good of the team.
Four years ago, Roy Halladay won a Cy Young by finishing the season with 21 wins. Three years ago, Halladay won 19 and Lee won 17. This year, we have two pitchers tied for wins with 6: Hamels (6-5, 2.55 ERA) and Burnett (6-10, 4.15 ERA). One of your stud relief pitchers – good god, how do you have this many stud relief pitchers?? – David Otero, has 7 wins. Three of your starters – Gray, Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez, have more than that. Samardzija probably will too, as would Milone and Drew Pomeranz, if you hadn’t designated them and their hideously below-average ERA’s.
I’m not so much asking you to swap teams right now so much as I’m openly begging for it. You’ve created a roster resembling something we Philadelphia 76ers fans pray becomes that team in five years: a literal bounty of assets, all at the height of their game and somehow destined to stumble into a championship this year. Yet even if Lester and Samardzija walk after this season, you’re still in fantastic shape going forward. Your payroll will be below 60 million dollars entering next season. Donaldson and Moss could realistically ascend to superstar status. You have a bullpen that’s so good, you didn’t even blink when you had to designate your struggling would-be closer, who saved more than 50 games in each of the last two seasons. It helps when Sean Doolittle, a person no one has ever heard of and your new closer, has allowed four walks to 69 strike-outs in 48 2/3 innings. Those are completely insane numbers, Billy. Those are the equivalent of having 2010 Cliff Lee walk out of your bullpen for an inning, K a couple of fools, and brush his shoulders off like it didn’t even happen.
By the way, we let go of Tyler Cloyd, who started ten games for us last year, before this season. He just threw a no-hitter in AAA last night. I don’t know what team he did it for, but it wasn’t the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, because I live near where they play, and they’re comprised of guys who aren’t good enough to be on the Phillies, so imagine how fun that team is to watch.
Billy, I know you’ll think about my offer long and hard. Because that’s what great GM’s do for every offer they’re given, and because you’re not this person. I fear that you’ll ultimately decline the deal, because outside of Chase Utley at second, none of the other players you’d acquire from our roster would be an upgrade from what you currently have. The run differential (differential?) between our two teams is currently 230 runs. I’m pretty confident that’s the largest its been since the Athletics moved from Philly to Oakland in 1968 without having to look it up.
But I hope you consider it. Because from 2006 – 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies were the only thing sustaining this miserable fucking sports town. So blindly enamored with this team were we, we decided to put it in the hands of a man who blatantly defies the definition of insanity night in and night out. As the general manager of the A’s, you just traded a talented but somewhat raw hitter for one of the ten best pitchers in the game. That’s not just a great deal. That’s potentially the move that’s going to finally get your team into the World Series and define your legacy.
Remember, though: as sexy as Lester/Gray/Kazmir/Samardzija looks on paper – and god it looks glorious – Halladay/Lee/Hamels/Oswalt got us to 101 regular season wins in 2011 (still a realistic goal for your team), yet fell short in the divisional series to the Cardinals (in that subtly heartbreaking Game 5 I mentioned earlier). You’re a God today. You were able to fling Tommy Milone to any part of the country you desired. I know that must have felt good.
But three losses in late September is all it takes to come back to Earth and wish, wish you had taken my offer and started over with these sad, sorry Phillies. They’re a franchise that needs to be built anew.
And as you’ve proven once again this year, that’s most certainly what you do best.