Monday, July 10, 2006
As many of you know, the Constitution requires the President to update from time to time the Congress on the state of the American Union. Traditionally, the President would send a message to be read aloud in the Congress, but Woodrow Wilson changed the tradition by coming himself to speak and ever since then it is an event that has generally been blown out of proportion, a massive P.R. bit where the President flogs his latest policy offensive and members of his party applaud wildly while the opposition sits on their hands with grim expressions on their faces. I envision the State of the Phillies address to be held not in the U.S. Capitol, but in Citizens Bank Ballpark. Instead of 100 U.S. Senators and 435 U.S. Congressmen, as well as 9 Supreme Court Justices and legions of Cabinet Secretaries and political advisors jamming the room, I see legions of season-ticket holders in the stands, with the players and coaches watching from the dugout. There is electricity in the air as the people buzz with anticipation. Governor Rendell and Mayor Street sit next to one another, chatting, as Gillick strides to the podium…
Anyway, here is Pat Gillick’s State of the Phillies address…
Season-ticket holders, fans … friends … I stand before you today to admit we have made mistakes. We have failed to deliver a winner to Philadelphia. But I stand before you today to pledge that we will righten this ship and bring it safely to the playoffs. [Mild applause.]
When I took this job, I took a gamble. I had built winners everywhere else I had been, Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle. I had never worked for a National League team. I could have rested on my laurels and congratulated myself on a job well done helping to guide the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays to the World Series. But I was intruiged by this team. I thought this team had talent and potential. I thought that all this team needed was a little tweaking.
I was wrong. [Murmurs of agreement fill the air. One loud fan stands and shouts: “Damn right!” to scattered applause.]
My friends, I think we need to admit that something is rotten at Citizens Bank Ballpark. I am disgusted with our performance to date. How is this team mired with a losing record?
Offensively, this team must improve itself. We rank ninth in the National League in runs scored. We are a powerful bunch at the plate, proud of two of our representatives in the All-Star game, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as the rest of our offensive unit, but we are a shadow of the team we have been in the past. Today we rank thirteenth in the National League in On-Base-Percentage. Thirteenth! For a team that is usually third or fourth in that category, this is shocking. We are not creating opportunities the way we ought to. [more agreement]
Our biggest flaw offensively is that we do not take advantage of opportunities that we do create. We rank tenth in the NL in slugging percentage with runners in scoring position (.414). We are dead-last in the NL in batting average with runners in scoring position (.235), worse even than the hapless Cubs (.242). The Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that wanted my services, lead the National League in runs scored because they are fearsome hitters with runners in scoring position (.309).
Our pitching and defense are unsettled. Defensively, the Phillies were one of the top five teams in the major leagues the last several years and yet we seem to be floundering in the field. Can you believe that we have allowed thirty-six unearned runs?
When I first took over the Phillies General Manager position I apparently angered some members of the team when I said that the pitching staff needed to be upgraded. I think that my suspicions were well-founded. We are thirteenth in Earned Runs Allowed (ERA). Our bullpen has pitched well – my decision to make Tom Gordon our closer was ridiculed by many yet who is our sole pitcher in the All-Star game? – but our starting rotation has been a major disappointment. Gavin Floyd needs to return to the minor leagues to regain his confidence. Cole Hamels was perhaps not quite ready to shoulder the responsibility of being a starting pitcher. And Brett Myers has a lot of growing up to do. I think that we have the makings of a good rotation here with Cole and Ryan Madson and Jon Lieber now a part of the team. Jon did pitch a sterling game the other day against the Pirates, did he not? [Applause. The camera cuts to a sheepish Lieber nodding his head slightly…]
What shall we do? I pledge to you all that I will not be “Stand Pat” in the coming weeks. The month of July will be a busy one for this team. We need to improve our pitching staff dramatically. I will not hesitate to make a deal that will improve our pitching staff. I will not hesitate to make the important decisions. [Applause.]
I also want to apologize to you all for our handling of the incident with Brett Myers in Boston. We were wrong to have him pitch and we did not display the appropriate sympathy we ought to have to Kim Myers and to the victims of domestic abuse. For that, I apologize. We as an organization apologize.
So is this season lost? Hardly. The National League is not the powerhouse that the American League is. We stand just a few games out of the log-jam for the wildcard, and the Mets are hardly invincible.
We shall make the playoffs. We will bring a winner to Philadelphia. This I promise to you…
[With that, Gillick walks off the field to thunderous applause.]
Tomorrow, I'll have some thoughts on the Home Run Derby and the Phillies bullpen. Wednesday, I'll assess the Phillies post-season chances.