Dr. Strangeglove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Roy Halladay Trade

Okay, so this whole Halladay business snuck up on me, and honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure how I feel about it, and so much has been going on and so much has changed in the past 4 days that I really can’t begin to wrap my head around it. I’ll have a more in-depth Halladay reaction coming either tomorrow night or, most likely, Saturday sometime. But there’s something much more pressing to deal with.

The reaction from the Philadelphia fan base has been absolutely unacceptable, and this post is about why. Following after the jump is R-rated material. I’m really frustrated with the fan base, so there will be tons of swearing and a little bit of harping on stereotypes. Also, some male nudity if you’re not careful about which links you click. (Edit: On second thought, it was probably a bad idea to link to Meatspin, so I killed the link and you don’t have to worry anymore.) But I’m angry, so indulge me.

The past 2 days, every time I’ve turned on sports talk radio (97.5 only, because 610 is the province of lunatics (LUNACY!), morons, cousin-fucking rednecks, and Sal and Joe from the Northeast. I will not suffer the sexual perversion and ill-informed testicle-pounding that is Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team any longer. I will not suffer the egomaniacal rantings of Howard Eskin. You’re the smartest kid on the fucking short bus, Eskin! Pack it in. Everyone lives in their own inside jokes and they think that an AM sports talk radio station in Philadelphia is somehow of earthshaking importance. It’s not.

So I listen to ESPN Radio. I like Mike and Mike. I like Mikey Miss, I love Harry and the Schwartz. Tony Bruno ain’t even half-bad most of the time when I’m driving home late at night. But since The Trade, it’s like all the mouth-breathers at WIP have infected the 97.5 crowd. And listening to them is like listening to General Ripper when you’re Group Captain Mandrake.

It’s unsettling. They’re insane, irrational, and they threaten you with nuclear annihilation.

For those of you not familiar with the Philadelphia sports fan, he’s generally incapable of speaking coherent English, thinks that the Buddy Ryan Eagles were the pinnacle of human achievement, and is only aware of the existence of the following sports teams: the four NFC East teams, the five NHL Atlantic Division teams, the Phillies and New York Mets (though only since 2007), Penn State football, and St. Joe’s men’s basketball.

I swear, the next time you’re watching a St. Joe’s game in public, ask the guy next to you about it. He’ll swear up and down that some place called Xavier threw together a basketball team for the express purpose of playing St. Joe’s. Philadelphia sports fans might be the single dumbest demographic group in North America.

Here are some things the average Phillies fan is unaware of:

  • That baseball games were contested on a professional level anytime except between the years of 1976-83 and since 2007
  • The existence of Villanova men’s basketball
  • Professional basketball
  • Any baseball statistic that requires something more than addition of single-digit and double-digit numbers to understand (in all fairness, I’ve always said I won’t cite stats unless I can do the math for them either). The downside is that they’re only aware of pitcher wins and home runs.
  • That if you mention the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry in Dallas, people will look at you like you’ve just told them you dated their sister in high school. And also that you have just arrived from Mars. This is the single funniest thing about Eagles fans. They think we’ve got these great two-way rivalries with the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins when, in fact, the rest of the country could not give a flying fuck about the Eagles. Landry didn’t personally victimize the Eagles, guys, he did that to everyone.
  • That there are other cities with passionate sports fans.
  • The end of the Cold War
  • Unfortunate events that aren’t the direct result of Donovan McNabb, Eric Lindros, or Cole Hamels’ lack of heart
  • That it’s possible to lose a playoff game or series  because you simply ran into a better team. You want to know why the Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX? The Pats were the better team. Why the Phillies lost the World Series? The Yankees were the best team in baseball, and it wasn’t even close. So stop whining.
  • The state of Oregon. I know, it’s odd. I didn’t even hear about it until I was 13 or 14.

This is truly a special kind of moron we’re dealing with.

So when I turned on the radio trying to find shit out about the trade, all I heard was lunacy. LUNACY! Let me state and rebut, one by one, the various and sundry arguments about the Lee/Halladay trade. Playing the part of the average Philadelphia sports fan, we’ve got Tony on the line from South Philly. Go ahead, Tony, you’re on 610 WIP!

Tony: Hi, Mike! First time, long time. I’d rather have Cliff Lee than Roy Halladay.

Me: Actually, let me stop you right there, Tony. I don’t think you would. I can see why you’d be confused, because you’re unaware of the existence of such teams as the Cleveland Indians or Toronto Blue Jays, but actually Roy Halladay is a significantly better pitcher than Cliff Lee. You might not know this, but baseball actually was played between the years of 1984 and 2006, and for the past decade, Roy Halladay’s been consistently among the best pitchers in baseball. You might remember that we tried to get him originally this summer before settling on Lee. That ought to be instructive.

Halladay throws five pitches, all deceptive and with great movement. He throws more innings than Lee, and his innings are better-pitched. He throws harder, has better breaking stuff, and his control is just as good. Even over the past 2 years, unquestionably the best 2 years of Lee’s career, Halladay was better than Lee in just about every relevant statistical category. Your opinion of Cliff Lee is being colored by the fact that the only time you ever saw him pitch, he was playing the best baseball of his life. But if you have watched baseball writ large over the past five, six years, you might notice that Halladay’s better. FanGraphs has Halladay as the second-most-valuable pitcher in baseball over the past 3 years.

That’s some heady shit.

Then there’s the contract issue. Lee, by all accounts, liked it here, but he wanted to test the free agent market after next season. That’s his prerogative, and he will most likely get somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 years at $22 to 25 million per. The Phillies, because of their refusal to sign pitchers to contracts of more than 3 years in length, would have let him go. Halladay, because of his desire to stay on a team committed to winning, is now signed for 3 years, $60 million, at the end of which contract he’ll be 36 and we’ll figure out where to go from there. So we’re getting a slightly better pitcher, with more contract flexibility, for slightly less money. Win. All around.

I’m also convinced that Halladay’s going to age well, because 1) he’s huge, and big, thick-legged pitchers tend to do so. Think Roger Clemens (who would have pitched effectively to age 40 even without steroids), Nolan Ryan, or Tom Seaver. Steve Carlton. Second, he’s got an easy delivery, which means that even with all those miles on his arm, he’s still going strong. Third, he’s got great movement on all his pitches, so even when he starts to lose the velocity, he can still change speeds and arm angles and baffle hitters with breaking balls from now until Kingdom Come, like Pedro, or David Cone. Finally, he’s a Mormon and reportedly takes tremendous care of his body, so none of those 32 years and counting involved any drinking, drugs, smoking, partying, or even caffiene. Look at Mitt Romney, probably America’s most famous Mormon. Homeboy’s in his early 60s and he still looks like an action figure. I think Mitt Romney’s in better health at his age than I am a couple months before my 23rd birthday. I think we can squeeze a few more years out of Doc. In short, you think Lee’s been better in the past or will be better going forward, you’ve got another thing coming. Next caller.

We’ve got Johnny on the line. Johnny, you’re on 610 WIP. What’s going on, brother?

Johnny: Hey, Mike, I really think the Phillies blew a chance to keep Lee on and trade for Halladay anyway. Can you imagine that front-three of Halladay, Lee, and Hamels?

Me: Well, Johnny, I would have rather seen the Phillies dump Blanton’s salary and have that three-headed monster also, but here’s why I understand the Phillies’ reasoning.

The Phillies need to emulate the 2004-07 Red Sox in that they need to gradually turn over their players instead of relying on the current core, which will get old, all at once, and in a hurry, to avoid having Hamels, Utley, Halladay, and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs on the field in 2012. That means replenishing the prospects they gave up to get Lee and, ultimately, Halladay. The three players they got back are all promising, even if two of them are Canadian, and may wind up contributing once the Rollins/Howard/Werth/Lidge core is gone. Next caller. Dave, you’re on 610 WIP.

Dave: Hey, Mike, I’ve got an Eagles point–

Me: THEN GO GET FUCKED! [click] Steve, you’re on 610 WIP. How’s it hanging, Steve?

Steve: Like Brad Lidge’s slider, pal. Low and outside.

Me: Glad to hear it. What’s on your mind?

Steve: I think that this Lee salary dump is a personal affront to the Phillies fans. We support this team, the Phillies are printing money, and still they’re reverting back to their old ways and trying to cheap out on us. This team should spend for everyone they can get their hands on.

Me: This is the one that pisses me off most. I heard Brian Baldinger saying something along these lines yesterday and I wanted to break his other pinky finger. What is it about these radio stations that make them think that just because someone once played for the Eagles, they’re qualified even to talk about pro football? And forget any other sport. I once heard Ike Reese say that the quarterback is the most important position in sports. No. It’s the goalie in ice hockey. That’s not even a discussion. Moving on.

Anyhoo, this refusal to spend more than $140 million a year in payroll is not cheapness. It’s pragmatism. The Phillies, coming off three straight division titles and two pennants, will never make more money than they are now. They will never be able to spend as much as the Red Sox, Mets, or Yankees. Not now, and if not now, then not ever.

The Yankees can afford their payroll because they have the largest TV market in North America. They make so money from owning their own cable network that they can buy and sell the National League twice over. It’s not fair to compare any team’s spending power with that of the Yankees because those situations are not the same. The Mets also benefit from the enormity of the New York media market, though not as much as the Yankees because of the cable channel deal.

The Red Sox can spend because they’re a national brand. They’re selling Red Sox hats and Dustin Pedroia jerseys from Toronto to Honolulu and back. The Phillies will have to win the next 10 World Series, and develop the kind of bandwagon celebrity fan base that the Red Sox have in order to compete. I hate to break it to you, but Joe Biden and ?uestlove are hardly Ben Affleck and Bill Simmons.

Bear in mind, also, that in Philadelphia sporting culture, the Phillies are only the third-most important pro team, after the Eagles (who own this town and always will), and the Flyers. The only reason they’ve broken through is that they’re winning pennants and the Eagles and Flyers are honoring their tradition of making the playoffs and losing in the second round year after year. This won’t last. The instant the Phillies miss the playoffs again, or if the Eagles make a Super Bowl or the Flyers a Stanley Cup Finals, that support goes away in the blink of an eye.

The Phillies, as of right now, are spending like what they are: a big-market team capitalizing on a groundswell of support. In the 1990s, they cried poor and spent like they were based in Columbus, Ohio, not the fourth-largest media market in the country, and the largest media market that any MLB team has to itself. Last year, they spent $113 million on payroll, good for seventh in baseball. I think that is appropriate. If you can’t compete for titles with one of the largest payrolls in baseball, you’re not smart enough.

Even with the largest payroll in team history, they’ve continued to spend on quality free agents (Polanco and Ibanez), trade for big-name players (Lidge, Lee, Halladay) and bestow the three biggest per-year contracts in team history (to Utley, Howard, and Halladay). I find it disingenuous to question the motives or largesse of a team that just granted the first $20 million-per-year contract in its history. So sit down, shut the fuck up, and quit acting like spoiled Yankee fans, kids, because the Halladay/Lee trades, while certainly not a steal, will not ruin the team, and are not going to cost us next year’s division title. Sit and spin, Philadelphia radio listeners.

We’ll be back after these messages from Cheerleaders’ Gentlemen’s Club.

Coming this weekend: More Halladay analysis, some more potential free agent targets, Chase Utley’s short appendages, and a reaction to the minor acquisitions.



Filed under Offseason 2009-10

3 responses to “Dr. Strangeglove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Roy Halladay Trade

  1. John

    You are dumb and your mother is a whore.

  2. Paul Boye

    But does his father smell of elderberries?

  3. “For those of you not familiar with the Philadelphia sports fan, he’s…”

    “…or she’s.”


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