There’s a reason why the Mets fired Steve Phillips. It’s the same reason why he hasn’t been offered a position since, and why he always comes off on ESPN as knowing nothing: he hasn’t a clue how to construct a roster.
I don’t think I’m no to anything groundbreaking here, but I felt it an appropriate lead-in to his recent article on ESPN.com about Josh Hamilton. In it, he opines that the Reds are sending the wrong message by drafting Hamilton in the Rule V draft, thereby either giving him a major league roster spot or returning him to Tampa Bay. His reasoning:
The decision to acquire Hamilton and give him a chance to be a major league player without doing anything to earn it over the past four seasons makes a statement to current Reds major leaguers and especially to the organization’s minor league players. This one decision contradicts everything the organization claims is important…It sends the wrong message to all of the hardworking, dedicated young men who are paying the price to get to the major leagues.
I know their situations aren’t quite similar, but did the Blue Jays send the wrong message to its minor leaguers when it placed John Olerud directly in the majors following the 1989 draft? You could argue, I suppose, that they did, but then I must ask: did it really matter? They won the AL East in ’89 and ’91, and finished two games behind the Red Sox in ’90…and that’s before they rattled off two straight World Series victories.
In making this statement, Phillips once again makes no confusion over why MLB teams continually pass him over for GM openings. I’m not saying that he would be necessarily wrong for passing on Hamilton. But to criticize another team for taking that risk is unwarranted.
Finding viable major league players is no simple task. By selecting Josh Hamilton in the Rule IV draft, the Reds were attempting to fill a valuable roster spot with a potentially underpriced player. If it doesn’t work out, they’re out a net $25,000. If it does work, they have a cheap player (he’ll make around $400,000 for the next three years) under their control for six full seasons.
That, my friends, is more valuable than any message Steve Phillips thinks is being sent to the club’s minor leaguers. In truth, his entire view of the messsage being sent may be flawed:
Their [the ballplayers] take will be that if you have talent, it doesn’t really matter what you do or how you behave — there is a place for you at the top.
I’m pretty sure that’s not the message. Yes, Hamilton is insanely talented, but that alone won’t keep him on the Reds roster. If he was to hit .180 through March, I’m sure the Devil Rays would be welcoming him back to its system. Such is the nature of Rule V picks.
Phillips’s article cleary illustrates why he serves no purpose in the baseball analysis community. We’re talking about players and production, and he’s talking about hypothetical messages.
Photo courtsey Al Behrman/AP