To John Middleton,
We haven’t had the chance to meet yet, but when you were set to take over as majority owner of the Phillies, I had hope that you would restore this team to its former glory. When you brought in Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail, I was excited to see how a modern analytical strategy would help the Phillies make it back to the World Series. Five seasons later, and it feels like nothing has changed.
Sure, you personally brought in Bryce Harper. I had a lot of hope seeing that press conference in Clearwater. I applaud you for jumping in and getting the deal done. The Zack Wheeler signing was another great move. The Phillies are a lot closer to a World Series now than five years ago. But like you yourself said, it is a results-based industry and we have yet to see results. Analytics have been a part of the front office for five years now, and yet you yourself have admitted that the Phillies struggle with evaluating talent. You’re no longer an outsider mentioning that and need to decide if you are a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
Look at the Tampa Bay Rays, a team with the third lowest payroll in the MLB, and yet they’ve made their way to the ALCS with the best record in the AL and the best farm system in the league. That is the result of proper talent evaluation. If you are truly looking for someone to take over as president of Baseball Operations, it needs to be someone with experience in talent evaluation. While that would help long-term, we also need someone to help short-term. You’ve committed to making this team a winning team, and you need someone willing to make the moves.
But you need to be willing to make those moves too. I know the COVID-19 season is in the red. It is like that for every team. If you decide to cut costs in payroll, that would make sense economically at first. That is, until you realize that doing so would cut the Phillies short of the playoffs for the next several seasons.
John, the City of Philadelphia is blue-collar and loyal. When things get tough, we double down, and expect our teams to do so as well. We love an underdog because they see adversity and decide to give it their all regardless. Even more so, if you double down, you will gain the respect of Phillies fans and they too will buy in. Want to know how to offset this season’s deficit? By ensuring that there are profits the next five years by putting a perennial winner on the field.
If you decide not to, if you opt for pay cuts and staggering the team on the field, then you will alienate Phillies fans. Attendance will plummet (comparing 2019 to 2021), revenue will stay down, and you will remain in the red.
David Montgomery understood this. In fact, he was overly loyal, keeping the heroes of 2008 around for too long and being unwilling to say goodbye to Ruben Amaro Jr. But fans respected him for that. That loyalty brought home the pennant in 2008 and was rewarded in kind with record-setting sellouts for years to come. Fans are seeing you let Jim Jackson go in the name of money and know that you are more worried about money than loyalty. So why should fans be loyal to you when you are not loyal to them?
We know you’ve taken a hit this year, but like Sylvester Stallone said as Rocky, “It ain’t about how hard you hit, its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
So keep moving forward. Invest in this team, and the city will invest in you.
A Phillies Fan
Mandatory Credit – Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
Shaun is a Sports Information Graduate Assistant at West Chester University, where he is currently earning his Master’s in Public Administration with a graduate certificate in Sport Management & Athletics. An alum of The University of Tampa, Shaun has worked in many different aspects of the sports industry, including NCAA Division II programs, the United Soccer League, the Reading Fightin’ Phils, and NBC Sports Philadelphia.