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Friday, April 09, 2010

Two People Philadelphia Phillies Fans Should Boo Routinely (and Two They Should Not)

The first is J.D. Drew. The reason: he dissed the city by refusing to sign with the Phillies. Perhaps Phillies' fans got revenge through Phila. native Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August, about Tony LaRussa. The connection -- LaRussa couldn't stand Drew, and Bissinger helped the skipper bury the player.

The second is this guy, who got into trouble with his mouth the other day. No, he's not a player. He's the umpire, Joe West. West's swagger never has been a favorite of Phillies' fans, who just don't want to notice the umpires (meaning that they're doing a good job). Reports were that he body-slammed a Phillie years back while breaking up a melee. Whatever the case, he gets roundly booed.

The two players that they should not boo are the following: Stephen Drew and Scott Rolen.

Here's why:

1. As for Stephen Drew, he's booed because he's J.D.'s brother. That's not really fair (after all, I think that it's only South American drug gangs who take out entire families when they have a problem with one person). It's pretty funny when you hear this booing for the first time, but it's really unwarranted.

2. As for Rolen, well, fans boo him because he turned down a long-term deal with the club and believe that he rejected the club. But, truth be told, the ownership that everyone loves now was at its cheapest ebb right around that time. Rolen was relatively quiet, but he confided to Curt Schilling, who shared Rolen's view that the ownership wasn't committed to spending the sums necessary to win a title. As a result, Rolen asked out of town and was obliged, as was Schilling. Both Rolen and Schilling aren't necessarily the easiest guys to get along with (and Rolen doesn't fare so well in Bissinger's book, either), but it's hard for me to get in a lather about Rolen's rejection of Philadelphia. Truth be told, both he and Schilling did themselves and the fans a favor.

They did themselves a favor because they weren't happy here and were honest about it (it didn't help Rolen's cause that skipper Larry Bowa jousted with Rolen publicly -- that was not Bowa's best moment). Remember, clarity can be offensive -- and Rolen was clear. Both Rolen and Schilling did the fans a favor because they sent a message loud and clear that the ownership had credibility issues with the fans. And that same ownership might have been tempted to field a mediocre team when it opened Citizens Bank Park, figuring that people would flock to a new stadium regardless of whether the team was a contender. So, instead, the club inked Jim Thome well before they opened the new park and then embarked upon a strategy that led to the 2008 World Series victory. I would suggest that none of this would have happened had Rolen and Schilling sung "Kumbaya" with Dave Montgomery and Ed Wade (the former of whom, with other organizations, would have been fired for keeping the latter around way too long, while the latter was fired, but several years too late). Had Rolen and Schilling stayed, you still might be talking .500 baseball in the Cradle of Liberty, especially since Rolen became very injury-prone after he left (on the other hand, Schilling became a borderline Hall of Famer, so perhaps they cancel each other out).

So, Joe West is back to his old tricks, and Phillies' fans will get their shot at J.D. Drew in the third week of May. In a way, booing J.D. is still therapy for them. Or, at least, cathartic.

But they should given Stephen a pass and, based upon this post, consider cheering Scott Rolen.


Blogger WFC Phils said...

Wait. Let me get this straight. Two managers can't stand a player, thus it's the managers' fault. How does that work? If you even only casually watched the game over the past 15 years, you know that Rolen's always been petulant.

11:35 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

I think that you might have missed my point.

I didn't say whether Rolen was petulant or not. Rolen was unhappy with the way the front office was adding/subtracting players -- but weren't we all? The team was bad for 20 years -- from the mid-80's until they added Jim Thome and didn't have a chance to contend. Rolen made that point and got blasted for it (it was Schilling who actually repeated what Rolen had vented to him about). So, in a way, Rolen did us all a favor in three ways. First, he wanted out (and he took his petulance with him). Second, his comments confirmed what we all were thinking, and that caused ownership to wake up and improve the team. Third, had we signed him to a long-term deal (and that's why the fans got ticked, because he rejected the team and, in their minds, the city), he would have underperformed in a major way (as he's been a disappointment since leaving the Phillies). Bottom line -- it was good that the Phillies didn't re-sign him for many reasons.

As for his petulance, fine, but many good players (and not just the Milton Bradleys) are petulant. And, last time I checked, most of the guys who played for Larry Bowa as a manager didn't care for him (he's a better third-base coach). As for the rest, well, John Gibbons in Toronto was canned for being very difficult and Tony LaRussa in the late stage of his career isn't the easiest to get along with, but I'll give you that one because LaRussa wins.

The key point, though, is that Rolen was right when he called out Phillies management, refused the long-term deal and wanted out. The ownership under Bill Giles was befuddled at best and dishonest at worst (when Giles called the team a "small-market" team when in fact it was Giles who was simply small-minded). Rolen's honesty, coupled with Schilling's a few years later, planted the seeds with this ownership that it would become a laughingstock (if it wasn't already because of Giles' foot-in-mouth disease)if it didn't step up its game. To ownership's credit, it did just that -- with great results.

4:51 PM  

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