Pat Gillick took a team that was good on paper, shook it up, and made something better.
If you listened to Aaron Rowand’s press conference, you heard Arthur Rhodes’ name mentioned as a new player having a positive influence behind the scenes.
If you subscribe to the theory that this team has overcome its identity crisis, you have Pat Gillick to thank for adding players like Rhodes and Rowand, all supposedly altering the stagnant dynamic of the Phillies.
When Gillick first made his rounds in November, I paid close attention to the newspapers and read every quote, hoping to get a feel for his thought process. Though his responses were measured, reading between the lines, one could surmise that competitive drive was very important to him, perhaps vital.
Gillick made Rowand, Rhodes and Tom Gordon his main additions, and also waived goodbye to players like Kenny Lofton, Vicente Padilla, Todd Pratt and Jason Michaels, all reported later to have had a negative influence in the locker room. One story attributed team officials as saying J-Mike was holding Pat Burrell back to some degree.
More than any Phillies team in recent memory, players are earning respect for things you can’t read in a box score. Rowand’s perfectly stated press conference is a good example. Sal Fasano, and his role on this team, is another good example.
Fasano was signed as a cheap replacement to Todd Pratt. The Phillies knew they had a good player waiting in Carlos Ruiz, but didn’t know if he was ready. Fasano was the answer, and as it turns out, is starting more games than most backups.
It seems now that Fasano was signed more for his positive influence than for his talent. His primary assignment became a significant task. His job was to make sure a basketcase like Gavin Floyd kept his head on straight and didn’t embarrass himself enough to shatter his confidence for good. If Floyd failed, there’s little doubt he would have been lost forever.
Today, Fasano has not only handled him, but Floyd appears to be improving with every start.
Each of Gillick’s primary additions, like Fasano, have made a positive difference, and it makes one wonder how committed he was to resigning Billy Wagner.
Conventional wisdom says Wagner played the Phillies and Mets to drive up his price, but what if Gillick was simply playing along to mollify fans still holding on to the belief the Phillies are too cheap and do not care about winning? Before the Mets series, Wagner admitted he was not well-liked by teammates. He wanted a long-term deal, something Gillick had to realize was beyond the Phillies’ means, and could also counter the Phillies good karma. Their final offer was said to come in at two-years, well under his final four-year, $40 million deal with New York.
Bobby Abreu needs a change of scenery, and that's not taking anything away the outstanding career he's had with the Phillies.
Gillick shopped him all winter and he gets kicked around too much by his home fans and media. Since the all-star break of '05, he's been out of sorts. Rowand is such a captain out there, it wouldn't surprise me if Abreu is a little overwhelmed by it all.
I don't believe Gillick would hesitate in going the rest of the way with Shane Victorino/David Dellucci/Chris Roberson, just to clear Abreu's salary from the table and give himself more flexibility to make moves.
Abreu is slumping now, and I wouldn't count on it to stay that way, but it's pretty clear the team’s recent resurgence, and even their September playoff push, happened largely without him.
Abreu’s recent hitting slump and appearant declining health must be an untimely development for Gillick, who might have been hoping to move Abreu around the trade deadline. But I have a hard time believing any scout would endorse a trade for Bobby right now considering his high price tag. He hasn't made solid contact in two weeks.