If it is true that a tree is only as strong as its roots and that a building only as sturdy as its foundation, then it is true that a baseball organization is only as strong as its minor league system.
A winning season, or even a World Series can occur for any organization (cough, Florida Marlins), but sustained success requires stability from the bottom up.
Ed Wade must have known this from his days rising through the ranks of the Phillies organization. In complete retrospect, it appears as though he might have known what he was doing after all. Take a look at the Phillies only World Series title in my lifetime, 2008.
August 10, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6), second baseman Chase Utley (26) and shortstop Jimmy Rollins (11) applaud former Phillies teammate Mike Lieberthal (not pictured) who was inducted into the Phillies
Jimmy Rollins – drafted in 1996 (Ed Wade was Assistant GM)
Chase Utley – drafted in 2000
Pat Burrell – drafted in 1998
Carlos Ruiz – signed in 1998
Ryan Howard – drafted in 2001
Shane Victorino – selected in 2004 Rule 5 Draft
Of the team’s starters that year, World Series MVP Cole Hamels, and key contributors Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick were all drafted under Ed Wade. The bullpen may have been locked down by Brad Lidge who came over from the Astros for Michael Bourn, but was solidified by Ryan Madson.
The obvious point is that the bulk of that team, the only one of this Phillies era to win a championship, was one built by the man we call incompetent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it took a change in the leadership and in the clubhouse to get this team to finally turn the corner. I do believe that if it were not for Pat Gillick dealing the likes of Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, the Phillies may not have ever gotten over the proverbial hump.
From the time Pat Gillick arrived, and most certainly now with Ruben Amaro, Jr. the Phillies have had sustained success despite only winning the one World Series. Additions through major trades and key signings led to some of this success.
Brad Lidge – Pat Gillick trade
Apr. 25, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Cliff Lee (left) and Roy Halladay walk off the field following the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jayson Werth – Pat Gillick signing
Joe Blanton – Pat Gillick trade…and traded away by RAJ
Pedro Martinez – Signed by RAJ
Roy Oswalt – RAJ trade
Roy Halladay – RAJ trade
Cliff Lee – RAJ trade…and signing
Hunter Pence – RAJ trade…and then traded away
But notice, the core of the team is in the first list, the Ed Wade list. Only two players remain from these transactions. The staying power and the strength of the team has always been in the core established by Wade. The biggest problem is the current age of that core. They, along with the many additions to compliment them are in or entering their mid-30’s.
You could argue that there has been a strong minor league system because it has brought back big names. However, have any of those names other than Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton brought a World Series title with them? Ruben seems to have done a far better job depleting what was once a strong system rather than building it up.
This year’s top 10 prospect list was not too impressive. Amaro even admitted that trading away the likes of Jonathan Singleton and Travis D’Arnaud could still come back to bite them. (Especially now that D’Arnaud is with the Mets – YIKES!) I bet he wishes he had given up Dom Brown instead. I know I do.
The future of the Phillies for 2013 and beyond is not about the next big signing or trade. And it is not tied to who they acquire for the needed outfield position (Unless they pull off a miracle and trade for Giancarlo Stanton). No, as Ed Wade’s core starts to fade, the Phillies future success hinges on a new core from within the Phillies system.
Sep 25, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown (9) celebrates hitting a home run with left fielder Darin Ruf (18) during the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Nationals 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Dom Brown (yep, still that guy)
Can this group and others prove to be enough to bridge the gap and continue the success, or will more down years require Special Assistant Ed Wade to work his minor league system magic again?
Maybe we should be less focused on the next big transaction, and more so on whether or not any of these young guys are ready to take the reigns.