Ron Costello

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The roster is made up of players the majority of which earn the major league minimum — $500, 000 a year. Then filled in with free agents, pricy but from the shelves of Macy's, not Neiman Marcus. Neiman Marcus pricy comes next season with a free agent pool headed by Bryce Harper.

So in the Grand Experiment, the Phillies begin the 2018 season with some lean and mean dogs. That's good because according to the self-anointed, crystal ball gazer and psychic prophet, Jason Kelce, "hungry dogs run faster."

If Kelce is right, the Phillies may compete for a wild card.

But let's get real here. Last season Arizona and Colorado ran away with the two NL wild-card spots. St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee were close all season.

To think that Philly will compete for a spot because it signed Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta is wishful at best. Arrieta's velocity has dropped, which might explain why Washington, the Yankees, the Dodgers, and even more pitching-hungry clubs took a pass. Santana, 31, is at the age when bat speed slows. It's the first sign of death to follow.

To the Inquirer, newbie manager Gabe Kapler is a clone between Casey Stengel and Gene Mauch. It seems the paper praises everything he does and puts him — in the scheme of things — alongside widening the Expressway and moving Pats and Ginos to Center City.

So Kapler will come north with no dugout experience. It's happened before. One that stands out, of course, is former Phillies' manager Ryne Sandberg. And we know the disaster that was. But there have been successes, namely Mike Matheny with the Cardinals and Don Mattingly with the Dodgers. Like Kapler, both former players.

Here's the thing. Gabe Kapler looks like he's not short on confidence. That's a big part of what big league managing is about, managing the boys. Sandberg knew his baseball but was clearly in over his head managing the boys. I don't see Kapler failing there.

But there are other concerns in the Grand Experiment: Moving young players around, even moving them defensively when the next hitter comes up.

Moving young players to different positions: The quick move of Rhys Hoskins to the outfield when Carlos Santana was signed. Moving J.P. Crawford to third and second. Scott Kingery hasn't had a major league beer yet, and they're trying him at third and short.

It appears that if a position-move with a young player is convenient for the Phillies, they do it. What can kids just brought up from Triple-A say or do about it? You're right, nothing.

But if player production decreases and dissatisfaction results, then not good, Harry, not good at all.

Lookit, Dartmouth economics major and numbers phenom Matt Klentak has no experience, either. The young GM is mentored by baseball lifer, Lee MacPhail. How much of the recent decisions are Klentak's and how much are they MacPhail and principal owner John S. Middleton's? I have no idea. I can't believe in the Grand Experiment Klentak is calling the shots alone. Or even suggesting them. Inexperience runs from the field into the dugout and upstairs.

Scientists perform experiments with a clear mind and without presumptions one way or the other.

That's how I'm looking at this. With the Grand Experiment, it will be most enjoyable to see what the hell happens.

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