Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wrong Man, Wrong Time: Gillick should go

By Jared Trexler
The Phanatic Magazine
This is hard for me. I once believed in Pat Gillick (as late as early this spring) -- the mythical old man responsible in some way for bringing Joe Carter to the plate and extending Philadelphia's championship drought. The man who turned the corner in Seattle without Griffey and A-Rod, in Baltimore with a mesh of young and old.
He was brought here to do exactly what his resume stated -- win early, often and in October.
Now, belief is past borrowed time. I used to believe in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Now, they are far distant fictional characters replaced by my parents' bank account.
In that same vein, the wise, baseball-tested Gillick now just looks like a wrinkled, beleaguered hack well past his element in 21st century baseball. The "network" Gillick created at every winning stop has weighed him down in Philadelphia and in the process watered down the talent level from Broad and Pattison to Clearwater.
By now, everyone has likely heard or seen manager Charlie Manuel's verbal lashing of Howard Eskin in last night's brief post-game presser. If not, you certainly can grasp the basic concepts from my colleagues' earlier coverage.
Views range from "Charlie must go," to "the players must step up." My take on that argument was made last night in a succinct sentence outlined through frustration and a conversation with a colleague.
As a players manager, Manuel has always been the shield for his crew. He has supported, nurtured, yelled when necessary and has unequivocally had each's back from day one.
Now it's time they have his. And if not, no tongue lashing can be used to motivate athletes who make millions of dollars a season to play with a ball and bat.
Last night's made-for-TV, and in WIP's case over-the-airwaves, moment highlighted that fact. But it also brought another stark reality to the forefront.
Perhaps the Phillies are 3-9 not because of Manuel's in-game decision making or the players' lack of focus and hustle. Unimaginable to the casual fan and neutral observer just a few weeks ago, perhaps the Phillies as constructed are just not that good.
And that buck stops at Gillick's desk. Like Mike Rushton pointed out, Manuel didn't sign Adam Eaton to an exorbitant contract, money that would have been more wisely spent on lights-out relief pitcher Justin Speier, former Met Chad Bradford or former Tiger Jamie Walker.
Manuel isn't 5-for-32 this season with runners in scoring position. Nope, that's the new faces of the franchise -- Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. What is Manuel supposed to say in his post-game media meeting? "Last year's MVP stinks."
Gillick wiped out former GM Ed Wade's regime of Jim Thome, David Bell, Mike Lieberthal and Bobby Abreu, replacing that core with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz with Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell as mainstays. While on the surface it looks like an upgrade, the results on the field -- not in the dugout -- have been less than inspiring.
If Gillick chooses to preach patience with this players, Manuel deserves the same. Especially considering he begged publicly -- and I'm sure behind closed doors -- for bullpen help all winter, and the best Gillick could come up with was Antonio Alfonseca, and more important roles for Geoff Geary and Ryan Madson.
Are goosebumps supposed to be bad things?
That is failure -- and while Eskin and the like can point the blame finger at Manuel, it really should be directed one step higher to his boss.
I once believed. I still do -- but on a far different end of the spectrum.
Once determined, now a detriment. Gillick should go.
---------
Jared Trexler can be reached at jtrexler@phanaticmag.com
Post a Comment