July 29, 2010

Roy story 2.

Back in May, the Philadelphia Phillies were ten games over .500. And as an annoying, easily excitable baseball fan, I couldn't help but tweet something along the lines of "Man, it sure is fun to root for the best team in baseball!" to the masses.

Of course, every non-Phillies fan that follows me flipped out, and the baseball gods noticed and punished my team appropriately. They always do. Since then, the Phillies season has been maddeningly up and down, to the point where I called for the team to trade Jayson Werth and focus on 2011 no more than a week ago.

Luckily, Ruben Amaro Jr. didn't listen to that part of my blog post. He did, however, listen to the parts about calling up Dom Brown and trading for another ace. The former, while exciting, might prove to be temporary. The latter, though, may very well shape the Phillies' 2010 fortunes.

In general, most Phillies fans have been pro-Roy Oswalt throughout the negotiating process, but there was also an unmistakable layer of fear coating every response. No one wanted to be part of a fleecing, especially since confidence in Amaro was at an all-time low, and everyone wondered if another ace was really the answer, especially post-Lee. Would the Astros pry away Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart or any of the other big-name low-level prospects that the Phillies had suddenly stockpiled? Was it worth it to sell off these assets for an injury-prone, soon-to-be 33-year-old starter?

As I sat on Twitter this morning watching the Oswalt-related reports trickle in, I saw everyone's mood change from "cautiously optimistic" to "outrageously excited" as the Phillies became the ones doing the fleecing. At first, it seemed like Singleton was going to be included, a concern that grew when the Astros kicked in a boatload of cash. Then everyone got nervous about Cosart being involved, about the names remaining unconfirmed, about Oswalt's back and about Happ's affordable upside.

But at the end of the day, we were all happy. There's an element of risk to every trade; if the ace's arm falls off the day after you acquire him, even if it's through no fault of your own, they'll burn you in effigy forever (unless you're Pat Gillick and win a championship one year later). It's safer to stick with the guys you know, particularly when you've been to two straight World Series.

But Amaro did what he does best, which is make big trades in July. Last offseason, times were tougher. Numerous teams were serious about Roy Halladay, and Amaro turned out to be under an strict economic ceiling that forced a knee-jerk Lee trade to the first interested party. Without the pressure of empty stadiums, bloated payrolls and underperforming rosters, the bad teams felt unusually competitive and the good teams thought they could get away with underspending. Hence the interest in acquiring Halladay, and hence the "need" to move Lee.

Over the last few weeks, however, it was amazing to watch Oswalt's suitors fall by the wayside, and then to see the Angels underpay significantly for Dan Haren, and then to find out that the Phillies got away with what is, by all counts, a ho-hum offer for a pitcher with a career 134 ERA+. In the middle of a pennant race, with the risk of a $140 million investment going to waste, Phillies ownership was suddenly ready to open the purse strings a little, especially if the Astros were willing to chip in. And all of a sudden, Amaro didn't seem as concerned with emptying the minor league cupboard, especially if it meant an extra $11 million coming in from Houston. This convergence of good timing and good fortune has brought the Phillies a third ace. He might not be the one we all wanted, but let's not hold that against him. Please.

There's always the chance that Oswalt will get injured, that J.A. Happ will return to his Rookie of the Year form, that Jonathan Villar will be the next Jimmy Rollins and that the Astros instantly flipping Anthony Gose for Brett Wallace will end up being a stroke of genius (actually, that part is probably true). But I imagine Astros fans probably feel a lot like Phillies fans did after the Cliff Lee trade: upset at moving a beloved known commodity for maturing prospects with high upsides but absolutely no guarantees.

All I know is that this has been an amazing week. Not only have the Phillies won seven straight games, but the Domonator and Roy 2.0 are in town. The 2010 season has never been more exciting, not even back in the spring days of overly enthusiastic tweets. Maybe I don't root for the unquestioned "best" team in baseball, but 29 other teams have zero Roys. We have two. Be jealous.

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