After last week’s NBA Draft, many Sixers fans are upset. Most of them were fine with the team tanking the 2013-2014 season because they thought it was a necessarily evil and that the turnaround would occur in relatively quick fashion.
They envisioned the team would emerge from last week’s draft with a future cornerstone like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker as well a nice supporting piece like Doug McDermott. While those players probably wouldn’t make the Sixers a playoff team in 2015, at least they’d contribute on the court and give the fans some indication that better times lay ahead.
Instead, the Sixers used their two first round picks to add a variety of assets who likely won’t help the team at all next season. And while the offseason is far from over, it appears as if the 2014-2015 Sixers may somehow end up being even worse than they were last year.
Unfortunately, this is what a total rebuild usually looks like. Yes, the ultimate payoff may be great, and we may eventually feel that it’s all been worth it. But we’re probably going to have to endure some tough years before we get to that point.
Despite the growing frustration with the Sixers, as the Phillies continue to struggle, more of their fans have become convinced that they should follow suit and go the total rebuild route. It sounds good in theory: The Phillies would trade away as many big name players as they can. In return, they’ll receive a ton of prospects, and in a few years, those prospects will one day lead the Phillies into a new golden era.
There are a few problems with this scenario.
As has been mentioned in many places, the Phillies aren’t going to get a king’s ransom for any of their pieces. And even if they do get a decent haul in return, there’s no guarantee that those players will ever pan out.
Baseball prospects can be notoriously difficult to project. For instance, Aaron Nola was regarded as the most major league ready prospect in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. Yet he is still much less likely to eventually help the Phillies than Joel Embiid – injuries and all – will eventually help the Sixers.
As team president David Montgomery warned, a total rebuild would likely have a negative effect on home attendance. Attendance has already dropped significantly this season, but it could still get much worse.
Remember the study that said that Phillies fans are bandwagon riders? That was on point when it comes to attendance at Phillies games.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies were regularly located near the bottom of Major League Baseball in attendance. While some of that low attendance was due to playing in Veterans Stadium, it also had a lot to do with the team’s poor record.
The Phillies are currently 14th in home attendance, so there’s plenty of room for them to drop. Montgomery is being vilified for his comments, but he’s right. The presence of veteran stars like Utley or Hamels might still entice some fans to come out to the ballpark and watch a losing team. In the case of a total rebuild, home attendance would likely drop to the bottom third of baseball.
People point to the Houston Astros as an example of how a baseball team can perform a total rebuild. They will mention how the Astros are loaded with young talent (some of which was traded to them from the Phillies’ farm system) and their future appears bright.
It’s true that the future may be bright, but the recent past has been quite ugly. As a result, attendance has plummeted, television ratings have tanked, and the team is going to flirt with a fourth straight season of 100 losses in 2014. That young core had better pay off some day for this kind of losing to be worth it.
I’m not opposed to the Phillies undergoing a rebuilding effort. It is clear that players like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can no longer be the centerpieces of a winning team, and it doesn’t appear that any amount of supplemental pieces is going to get them into the playoffs.
The Phillies have to do something – and I’ll cover this in a future column – to shake things up. But I don’t think simply dumping all of their players and going with an almost entirely young and cheap team is the way to go.
That said, I would be open to the Phillies trading any one of their individual players for the right deal. If a team comes along with a Godfather offer for Cole Hamels, then they should bid him a hearty farewell and tell him thanks for the memories.
Remember that as bad as things have been for the Phillies this season, they haven’t been “league record losing streak” bad. (At least, not yet!) Maybe if the Sixers are wearing championship rings in a few years, we’ll be able to say that it was all worth it. But if things don’t work out for them, then all they’ve done is put their fans through a lot of agony for nothing.
I’ve already endured my share of agony as a Phillies fan. If Montgomery is right in his assertion that the team can make the rebuilding process a bit more pleasant, then I’m all for it.