[NOTE: Okay, I am going to try and clean up some old “drafts” that I have been meaning to write for a while now.]
For us Phillie fans, this baseball offseason has been a rather uninteresting one for our team. There were no impact free agents (all apologies to Geoff Jenkins). There were no big trades, other than the mildly impactful addition of Brad Lidge in the very early going. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are about to enjoy another year of their big contracts and Ryan Howard may become the highest arbitration case of all-time, but none of this is expected to really affect the 2008 Phillies roster or said roster’s performance.
If you ask anyone outside of Philly, however, the sentiment is probably clear that the biggest roster change for the Phils from 2007 to 2008 is the loss of high-dollar centerfielder Aaron Rowand. Is it just me who doesn’t care or is this not a big deal to most Phillie fans?
I am not saying that there should be a city-wide feeling like the one following the departures of Sir Charles Barkley or the great Allen Iverson. It will never come close to the feeling of loss from Mike Schmidt’s midseason retirement or the possibly impending departure of one Donovan F. McNabb. But, Aaron Rowand was–both inside and outside the numbers–a phenomenal player. Last season Rowand hit .309, with a .374 OBP and a .515 slugging percentage. He hit 27 home runs, knocking in 89 and scoring 105. He made the All-Star team and finished 22nd in MVP voting. This is all not to mention his stellar defense in centerfield and his intangible leadership and winning attitude. He was inarguably one of the most important pieces of first division title in 14 Phillies’ seasons. And now he’s gone, with no real compensation (other than a couple draft picks)…and we don’t care. Why not?
There are several possible reasons:
- Rowand only played one and half healthy seasons for the Phils. All the other “big names” that have left Philly teams were here forever. In fact, Barkley, Iverson, Schmidt, and McNabb (again, not saying that Rowand is in that category of player) all started their careers in Philadelphia and were each here for nearly a decade, at least, before exiting the Philly sports scene.
- The Phillies have an incredible nucleus of young players among which Rowand never really was considered. When you have an offense of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, you are in good shape. When you consider the fact that they are all still under 30 years old, you are in good shape for years to come. Because of these three and other guys like Shane Victorino, it doesn’t seem like the Phillies really need Rowand–strange as it is to say about an All-Star in his prime.
- Rowand just signed an enormous contract. About a month ago, the Giants signed Rowand to a 5-year, $60 million dollar contract. Despite all the stats mentioned above about Rowand’s fantastic 2007, I personally think that the Giants grossly overpaid for a career .286 hitter who is on the wrong side of 30 years old. Furthermore, the Phillies situation, with their offense set with big contracts for Rollins and Utley and a big contract coming for Howard, dictates that any more money that they spend should probably be done so on bolstering the pitching staff.
- Rowand does not seem to really be all that upset to leave Philadelphia. This is the big one for me. As great as all his press conferences were and how well he answered questions with all the right answers, I never once got the sense that Rowand really wanted to be here. It seemed as if his heart was still with his ex-teammates in Chicago, where he won a World Series. Either that or in his native California, where he is returning now to the Giants. In fact, the impetus for this weblog was an interview I heard Rowand give on the Jody MacDonald show on December 13. You can hear the interview here. Now, maybe I am being hypocritical because all I ever want from anyone, especially athletes and other public figures, is honesty. There is no question that Rowand answered all of Jody’s questions honestly and accurately. But, it just proved to me that, though Rowand does say all the right things and surely does value his family and his contract just as much as anyone else, he never really wanted to be here and certainly did not want to stay here. Maybe that, above all, is why I (we?) do not really care that he will be wearing another team’s colors next year. I wish him all the best. He is no J.D. Drew, Scott Rolen or Curt Schilling, in my mind, but I will definitely not lose any sleep over the Phillies not paying Aaron Rowand $12 million when he is 35 years old.