I’ve risen from my autumnal baseball slumber to discuss the very, very rousing and borderline erotic words of Phillies owner John Middleton that appeared in Bob Nightengale’s latest piece for USA Today.
Specifically, these words:
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
Stupid? Now you’re speaking my language. Oh, please do go on:
“We just prefer not to be completely stupid.”
Don’t hedge, John. Be stupid. Be so stupid. I’m not interested in long-term financial flexibility and discipline. What I’m interested in is all of the short-term satisfaction, immediate hope, and self-assured shit-talking that all of your Comcast television rights and tobacco money can buy.
I’m 33 years old, my life is consumed by work, wedding planning, and house renovations. I’ve spent more hours recently peeling wallpaper than one should be subjected to in a lifetime. Have you ever peeled wallpaper and scraped the glue underneath, John? It’s the worst. THE WORST. And so I need this. In fact, I’ve earned this.
But this isn’t just about me, and in all seriousness, those that care about the Phillies have earned the right to want the world after patiently sitting through seven years of mostly meaningless baseball, and it would seem as we continue our patient wait during the calm before the storm that Middleton understands this.
For those that are quick to dismiss his words merely as hollow bloviating in the absence of meaningful action, I think that’s a mistake. Maybe I’m too eager or too easily won, but it seems perfectly fine for Phillies fans to get a little bit excited over his words. Hear me out.
It’s one thing for Middleton to privately hope that things break right and an opportunity to make a seismic organizational-defining move presents itself. It’s an entirely different thing when he tells a writer, who, by the way, recently wrote that you can “bank” on the Phillies signing Bryce Harper, that his team wants to be a “little bit stupid” with its spending. I’ve never met the man, but, typically, a guy worth $3.2 billion (according to Forbes), doesn’t make all of that money because he’s completely oblivious to the way the market will react to certain actions or a lack of certain actions. And he must know the local market will react in a decidedly unfavorable way should the Phillies go conservative or strikeout over the next few months. At the very least, he sounds like a man that is acutely aware of his past proclamations and promises to win and win big, and he has made it clear that his team can’t just run it back in 2019 with a tweak or two and hope for organic improvement. Just ask him:
We don’t have like one need. It’s not like we need a left-handed relief pitcher in the eight inning. We got lots of ways to go to improve this ballclub. Starting pitching. Bullpen. In the field. At the plate.
Does that guarantee Bryce Harper or Manny Machado is in red pinstripes next season? It doesn’t because the player still has the power to control his own destiny, but it has become virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Phillies sit down for negotiations with a player they truly covet and walk away having been outbid.
And, sure, I’ll stop and acknowledge the obvious point that spending money doesn’t always equate to winning baseball games, but you can be damn sure Middleton knows his personal reputation in this city and his team’s place in the sports landscapes of this city and Major League Baseball is riding on this offseason. So when he says his general manager “is going to be a busy boy this winter,” I completely believe him.