Over the course of the past two weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies have opened their doors to their most loyal of benefactors –season ticket holders. The team has taken criticism over the past two offseasons by this author and other members of the media alike, but the one thing that remains unchanged about this organization is their commitment to their fans.
After a brief luncheon buffet this morning, which featured the team’s two World Series trophies (pictured above), a crowd of approximately 100 fans were treated to a Q&A session with manager Ryne Sandberg, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., outfielder Marlon Byrd and reliever Mike Adams. As would be expected from Philadelphia fans, especially season ticket holders who help fund the team’s offseason activities, the questions were not softballs.
When asked to analyze his team, Sandberg briefly ran through what seemed like his entire 25-man roster. The new manager remarked that Ryan Howard looks thin and in playing shape, Ben Revere made things happen last season, and Darin Ruf has strong versatility. However, when referring to other members of the team, the infamously terse Sandberg restrained himself, mentioning that Carlos Ruiz is a strong right-handed bat along with Byrd, he expects better defense in the outfield and he’s hoping for a ‘smart’ infield. Notably, after stating that he is ‘in the loop’ with all player transactions with his general manger, he commented that the 39-year-old Bobby Abreu has been playing and looking as if he was 29.
Amaro, who has wavered back and forth over his tenure as general manager between being overly verbose about team strategy to notably close to the chest, was somewhere in the middle while taking some less-than-subtle tough questions from attendees. When asked to provide one inquisitor confidence that the team will be competitive with such an old roster and limited prospects in the pipeline, Amaro re-iterated that his job is to compete for a championship every season, but it has been tough to build the farm team due to the team’s recent success and picking so late in the draft. This did not sit particularly well with some fans in attendance. “I was somewhat disappointed in Amaro’s comment that the Phillies’ poor draft location has resulted in fewer exciting prospects,” new season ticket holder Matthew Dreyfuss commented. “I think you can still find talent later in the rounds.”
Amaro was much more forthcoming in other contexts though. When asked about Giancarlo Stanton, he mentioned specifically that he has inquired about his availability on numerous occasions and has come up short every time. Similarly, in an example of showing his hand, he eluded to the fact that if not for the repeated concussion issues of top catching prospect Tommy Joseph, he may not have brought Chooch back this season. None of this is incredibly earth shattering, but it is still somewhat refreshing to hear it described in such blatant terms from someone in a position of power.
Other notes involve Adams attesting that he is 100 percent healthy and his arm feels 10 times better than he expected, Amaro mentioning that this offseason is somewhat of a testing ground with using advanced statistics for the first time with new guru Scott Friedman, and that trades often occur via text message.
Overall, the event was a successful and warm one. All parties stuck around for pictures and autographs, and the fans left happy and hopeful. “I am optimistic that if the team stays healthy and Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have strong seasons, this team could make some noise late in the season,” Dreyfuss mentioned. “Regardless, I’m particularly excited to get out for more dollar dog nights. Everyone’s a winner in those.”