Keeping Cliff Lee is the wrong choice for Phillies

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Trends don’t get much more clear than this:

2008: Won World Series
2009: Lost World Series
2010: Lost NLCS
2011: Lost NLDS
2012: Missed playoffs

Now, that’s not entirely fair: the Phillies had their best records in that span in 2011 and 2010. But Charlie Manuel’s team has dropped off severely since then. In 2012, the Phillies finished at .500. They’ll be lucky to get back there this year; not only are they 50-56 at the moment, but their run differential (-74) is better than only Miami’s in the NL.

A rebuild seems necessary, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is resisting. His idea of going young was acquiring Michael and Delmon over the winter. The Phillies were reportedly open to trading Cliff Lee, but they priced him so high as to make that impossible. If they keep Lee and re-sign Chase Utley, here’s what they currently look for 2014:

SP: Lee – 35 – $25 million
SP: Cole Hamels – 30 – $22.5 million
SP: Kyle Kendrick – 29 – $4.5 million

??: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – 27 – $8 million (approx.)

RP: Jonathan Papelbon – 33 – $13 million
RP: Mike Adams – 35 – $7 million
RP: Antonio Bastardo – 28 – $2.5 million (approx.)

1B: Ryan Howard – 34 – $25 million
2B: Utley – 35 – $13 million (approx.)
SS: Jimmy Rollins – 35 – $11 million
OF: Domonic Brown – 26 – $600,000 (approx.)
OF: Ben Revere – 26 – $1.8 million (approx.)

That’s a $134 million foundation, and not a particularly good one. Unless the newly signed Gonzalez shows something in this next couple of months and proves he’s ready to occupy a rotation spot, the Phillies will still be in need of a one starting pitcher, a catcher and an outfielder. They do have the option of bringing back John Lannan for $4 million or so. They could also try sticking with Jonathan Pettibone as their fifth starter and filling third base from within.

But Amaro is going to have to pull off far better signings than he has of late if he hopes to turn the Phillies back into contenders in 2014. He will have financial flexibility even with all of those commitments. Perhaps the best defense for going that route is that Amaro doesn’t seem like a very good candidate to pull off a successful rebuild, either.

I’ve heard one explanation for the high price for Lee is that the Phillies know they can just as easily trade him a year from now. But that just delays the inevitable and probably leaves them wallowing in mediocrity for another year. Why wait?

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.