When it comes to baseball, a ton of stock is put in farm system. Hundreds of writers, scouts and baseball personal have dedicated their careers to the minor league systems of a certain team. The young prospects of the future are thrown around like scraps of meat in trades that often times send Major League talent from bad teams to contending teams in order for those lesser teams to try and retool for the future.
Over the last few years, the Phillies have been in full-blown “rebuilding” mode, and no one is trying to deny that. They’ve finally been able to rid the books of the mega-contracts of the likes of Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee. They’ve replaced those big name stars with young talent in order to build from within for cheap. They’ve also been able to trade pieces such as Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and more for these young players in order to retool a completely depleted minor league system. Many are looking at the last two years, and likely the next two years, as a chance for these young players to develop, rise through the ranks of the minor leagues, and one day, put the Phillies back on top, the way that the core of young talent did when they hit the potential set for them in the early 2000’s.
Here’s the issue I have with this process, though: It doesn’t always work. In fact, often times, minor leaguers, your true, blue chip, can’t miss type prospects, don’t work out. Quick trivia question for you: how many number one overall picks in the Major League Baseball draft have gone on to the Hall of Fame? One. Ken Griffey Junior is the only former top pick to get enshrined in Cooperstown. Granted, Bryce Harper may be on his way there and Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones will likely be enshrined in the coming years, but for now, that list stands at one player. That means since Rick Monday was drafted number one overall by the Kansas City A’s back in 1965, one out of 52 players selected first have been Hall of Famers.
What I’m really trying to get at here is that farm system, in their simplest form, which is to help build from within and become trade pieces for contenders, are useless.
When it comes to winning, does anybody really care if the Lakewood Blue Claws win the South Atlantic League this year? Or can you name me another team in the Blue Claws division? Had I not lived in lower Delaware the last eight months, and known who the Delmarva Shorebirds were, I sure couldn’t have. Why? Because nobody cares. At the end of the day, unless Aaron Altherr is in Lakewood on a rehab assignment, the Phillies world will not stop spinning if the Blue Claws lost 100-0 tonight. I’m using the Blue Claws as an example, but the same could be said for most of the league’s farm system teams.
Prospects are just that until the make the Major Leagues. For every Ken Griffey there are 50 Matt Bushes. Don’t know who Matt Bush is? You probably know him best as the former 2004 number one pick for the Padres who was charged with assault multiple times. He played six seasons in the minor leagues, never getting past AA. He slashed 219/.294/.276 with three homeruns in those six seasons. More often than not, prospects never become what scouts hope they would have out of school, especially high school.
What this longwinded, side stepping jumble of an article is trying to tie the Phillies into is this: The Phillies are in a spot, right now, of pure uncertainty. You can talk to any scouting expert in the world and you won’t get the same answer about a particular player in the Phillies farm, because they don’t know. Until a player’s career really comes to fruition and he makes a Major League roster, and contributes, he’s worth nothing to a franchise.
It’s great to see guys like Mickey Moniak, J.P. Crawford and the works doing well on their respective teams, but that doesn’t help me today. Rebuilding and retooling are just excuses as to why your Major League roster stinks. “Well we’re getting young guys better at each level”. Spare me. I don’t care how well Clearwater is doing when the Phillies are terrible. I don’t care that we could see a team win a World Series in three years, five years, ten years, 100 years. I want wins, and I want them now.
That’s why farm systems don’t mean anything to me. If another team wants your “could be’s”, be my guest and take them. Take them all, I don’t care. If the Phillies are going to get an offer for an established, professional, All-Star caliber player or players by giving up Mickey Moniak, go right ahead and do it. It’ll make your window smaller, and put you in win now mode, but shouldn’t every team be in win now mode all the time? What the Phillies, much like their brethren across the street are doing with “The Process”, are doing, is making an excuse for losing. They’re making losing the acceptable norm here in Philadelphia, and that needs to change.
I’m 23 years old now. I’ve seen one championship in over 90 seasons worth of Philadelphia sports. That means in one percent on the seasons I’ve been alive for I’ve gotten to see a banner raised. That’s absurdly low. In fact, out of the cities with four major sports teams, only Minneapolis has a lower percentage.
I don’t want to deal in what if’s and possibilities any longer. It’s time to shed this idea of rebuilding and go for wins now. This Phillies team is not a playoff team with the talent on the 25-man roster. I know that. You know that. Every logical person in the sports world knows that. But, there are plenty of young players in the minor leagues that could bring in talent to make the Phillies a playoff team. Ship them all out and get to winning. I don’t care about 2020 in 2017. The League could fold by then. Aliens could take over the world by then. You don’t know what the future holds. As Al Davis famously quoted so many years ago, “Just win, baby.”
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports