Ron Costello

Friday, July 20, 2018

In '64 the Phillies missed a near-certain NL title by losing ten in a row. Thinking the following season '65 would be the year, the team finished a disappointing sixth.

Mauch preferred experience over youth and the organization, wanting to appease the Faithful — still brooding over the '64 collapse — made a trade that made perfect sense. At the start of the '66 season, the club sent three young players to the Cubs for two veteran right-handers Larry Jackson, 35, and Bob Buhl, 37.

It was the deal that would get the team over the hump.

Unfortunately, one young player the Phillies sent to Chicago was Ferguson Jenkins, who won 284 games over 19 seasons and became the first Canadian inducted into Cooperstown. And "over the hump?" In '66 the team finished fourth and did not get close again until ten years later.

In '81 the Phillies got hoodwinked again and taken to the cleaners by the Cubs. Saddled with an aging team, the club traded veteran Larry Bowa to the Cubbies for shortstop Ivan DeJesus. But to close the deal at the last minute, they threw in a 22-year-old infielder named Ryne Sandberg. The two trades, Jenkins and Sandberg rank at the top — if not 1 and 2 — of the worst trades in Phillies history.

The Manny Machado deal made perfect sense, too. In first place at the All-Star break, the Phillies, giddy over the team's sudden and unexpected rise to the top, appeared to make a strong effort to get Mr. Machado. How strong no one knows but the front office.

But one thing is sure: It didn't trade a Fergie Jenkins or Ryne Sandberg.

Look, the Phillies are to be congratulated for the way they built this team, and for the manager they hired, Gabe Kapler. Last season they came within a whisker of losing a hundred games. To their credit, they didn't tank. The young general manager Matt Klentak asked the Faithful for patience, the club was building for the future.

Then suddenly the future showed up.

But here's the thing. What got the Phillies to the top was an unconventional manager who moved the young players around like Don Juan at Chickie & Petes. He'd play them and sit them; play them and sit them, and at the same time tell the press they were clones of Lou Gehrig. Eventually, these kids started believing in themselves.

Mr. Kapler's patience and tenacious leadership drove the team ahead of Washington and Atlanta; there's no doubt in my mind about that. Slowly, the young players began thinking that maybe the Skipper is right.

Picking up a veteran for the bullpen or bench prior to the deadline is fine. Trying to sign Manny Machado next November is fine too.

But for now, just let them play.

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