Jul 232010

July 23 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon

“YOU HEAR IT a lot these days, everywhere you go: The Phillies are cheap.

On the surface, it seems absurd calling an ownership with a $139 million payroll misers, a group that has brought this town two consecutive World Series appearances and its second-ever world title.

The Phillies aren’t cheap. But they might be more cost-conscious than in recent seasons. And that has led directly to their current dilemma in the standings, and the current discontent. Comparisons of the roster this season to the rosters of the last two are not flattering, and they are feeding that old notion, once so tried and true, that the Phillies are squeezing those revenue streams a little too tight.

The point came to a head Wednesday when Charlie Manuel chose to let Joe Blanton bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game rather than use Wilson Valdez. Blanton’s earned run average balloons after six innings, but Manuel’s bullpen was taxed from back-to-back starts by Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick. Still, you have to believe if Charlie had the 2008 bench at his disposal, Blanton’s night would have been done.

The Phillies’ payroll this season is about $139 million. Just over $5 million of that has been spent on the following six players: Ben Francisco, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, Juan Castro, Greg Dobbs and Valdez.

In 2008, the team payroll was about $98 million. About $6 million was spent on these six players: Matt Stairs, So Taguchi, Tadahito Iguchi, Dobbs, Chris Coste and Eric Bruntlett. They also gambled on much-injured Jayson Werth at $1.7 million. But even without him, or Geoff Jenkins’ $5 million contract, the percentage of total salary spent on those six role players (6 percent) was still double that spent on this year’s.

In 2008, the top three bench players – Dobbs, Coste and Jenkins – combined for 27 home runs, 47 doubles and 105 runs batted in.

It’s hard to figure who the Phillies’ top three bench players are in 2010. The player with the second most at-bats, Castro, was waived earlier this week. Right now, Valdez is your everyday second baseman. But it really doesn’t matter. Include Valdez with Francisco and Dobbs and you get this: 10 home runs, 47 runs batted in, with 67 games left.

Replace Valdez and Francisco, who are semi-regulars these days, with Gload and Schneider and you get this: 10 home runs and 32 RBI.

That doesn’t make them any different than most of the regular lineup, of course. But that’s the point about a strong bench. It can pick up the regulars from time to time. When Jimmy Rollins was injured early in 2008, Bruntlett batted .300 in his place. When Pedro Feliz got a bad back, Dobbs caught on fire. Stairs pinch-hit and . . .

Which begs the question: Did ownership tie Ruben Amaro’s hands on more than the Lee/Halladay conundrum? Did it say no to pricier options than Castro, Valdez, Cody Ransom, et al? Or did the GM overvalue them?”

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