Unlike Eagles, Phillies make moves that matter

Philadelphia Phillies' Domonic Brown, left, and Erik Kratz celebrate after Brown's home run during the fourth inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Clearwater, Fla. Philadelphia won 13-5. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Phillies' Domonic Brown, left, and Erik Kratz celebrate after Brown's home run during the fourth inning of a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Clearwater, Fla. Philadelphia won 13-5. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Posted: March 05, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jeffrey Lurie might have been talking about the Phillies.

In explaining how Andy Reid's tenure went bad, the Eagles owner said his franchise had started grasping at straws in hopes of instant success.

The Eagles, he said, started "to think that the next move, even if it's not consistent with all of your previous moves, will be the one. . . . I think that in the last couple of years, we've done things that have not been as consistent. They've been more scattered in terms of decision making. You notice it with any organization that has had a lot of success, that you will start to reach."

The Eagles were frustrated after getting so close, over and over again. The Phillies actually won a championship in 2008, with a team built largely with homegrown talent.

For them, the challenge then became to get back and win another one. That's when the "reaching" began.

In 2009, they traded for Cliff Lee and returned to the World Series.

In 2010, after adding Roy Halladay and trading away Lee in the offseason, they acquired Roy Oswalt during the season and went to the National League Championship Series.

In 2011, they brought Lee back, creating the Four Aces rotation. They traded for Hunter Pence at the deadline and were eliminated in the NL divisional round.

In 2012, they made Jonathan Papelbon the highest-paid reliever in history and failed to make the playoffs.

Big moves, diminishing results. So there must be a pretty strong parallel to the Eagles, who fell apart in the last couple of years after a long run of success under Reid. Right?

Well, not so fast. The Phillies' moves may have come from that same impulse to press a magic championship button, but they were, for the most part, still very good moves.

The Eagles' moves would have been bad, for the most part, no matter what motivated them.

Making offensive line coach Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator was a terrible idea. Implementing Jim Washburn's wide-nine defensive-line scheme without the players needed to make it effective was a doomed decision. The free-agent spending spree of 2011, coming off a lockout that complicated everything, turned out to be disastrous.

The Phillies may be haunted by catcher Travis D'Arnaud for years now that he's with the Mets, but the Halladay trade was still a win for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Halladay gave the Phillies a Cy Young season, a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter, and a contagious competitive nature.

The original Lee deal looks even better with time. Trading him away was a mistake but still could turn out OK if Phillippe Aumont blossoms into his full potential. Acquiring Lee was not a mistake, either time.

The Pence move turned out to be the one exception. He was asked to do too much and never did quite fit in here. If Tommy Joseph, acquired from the Giants last summer, is the catcher of the future, at least something good will come of the whole Pence experience.

The Papelbon signing didn't look that great last year, but that had more to do with the team than with the player. If the Phillies offense gets going again, and if the late-inning setup situation is improved, Papelbon might prove to be well worth the money.

There is a secondary value in Amaro's aggressive approach. It sends a message to the players, as well as the fans, that the franchise is committed to winning.

"I know the Phillies, every year, do everything they can to field the best team they can," Lee said. "I expect us to contend this year, and in years to come."

Generations of fans, not to mention former stars such as Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, would have a tough time comprehending complaints that the team is too aggressive.

Amaro didn't make the giant headline-grabber this offseason. But he did add Mike Adams, an elite setup man, and Michael Young, a hugely respected veteran third baseman. Filling those holes let the rest of the team know that expectations remain high here.

If the Phillies reach the postseason again, Amaro's shoot-the-moon moves will be a big reason: Halladay and Lee in the rotation, Papelbon closing.

They were all win-now moves. No one will mind if they also help the Phillies win later.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com. Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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