Ron Costello

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Sixers had a name for it, called it "The Process." It meant the process of getting the team back in contention with draft picks, young players, and smart trades. The Phillies movement from the bottom to the top of baseball has no name, short of, "What the hell?"

So let's give it a name. Going straight to the thesaurus, an author's best friend, and typing in process, out of 40-some word suggestions I picked progress. As in, "The Progress."

That's, "Trust The Progress."

One of my South Philadelphia neighbors might say, "Ron, what's with the pretty words? Words don't mean nothin.'" To appreciate the full value of that statement you have had to be a Sopranos fan.

True, words don't mean nothin.' But before we go Manny Machado crazy, let's consider the pretty words.

The Progress has been real. The Phillies are loaded with young players both at the major and minor league levels. The youngest team in baseball snuck up on us overnight. Suddenly, the team has a shot at the NL East Division. It's as if we went to bed and woke up ahead of Washington and Atlanta. Half of the Faithful are still asleep, thus the sections of empty seats.

Trust The Progress.

In my last post I made a list of five players I would protect in any Machado trade. But it was short-sighted. In The Progress, there are many more. I also said Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez could go in a Machado deal as collateral insurance. But both are good players in an infield as crowded as 76-W at 4 p.m.

Let's say the Phillies can execute (another Sopranos word, sorry) a Machado trade. Mr. Machado has stated publically that wherever he goes he wants to play short. So okay let's say he's at short on August second when the Phillies host the Marlins at CBP (August first is an off-day). Now place Hernandez, Franco, J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery, and Carlos Santano around the infield. See what I mean? Expressway at 4. That's five players for three spots.

Sooner or later the club needs to decide who will be at second and at third. Hernandez or Kingery at second? Franco or Crawford at third?

Or Kingery at third and Herandez on second and...

It's been the genius of manager Gabe Kapler. But playing musical chairs with the infield is acceptable in the early stages of The Progress, but knocking on the door of a division title is different.

Or is it?

Is the infield — and to some degree the outfield — musical chairs the reason for the resurrection?

Look, here's the thing. Ben Franklin said, "Dance with the one who brung you." So if the current 20-man has moved through The Progress and elevated expectations to white-towel-waving, why disturb The Progress in a crazy Manny Machado trade with no guarantees that he'll stick? Instead, use some of the Comcast billions and steal Mr. Machado away from the Yankees, Dodgers, Boston, Cardinals, and Mets come post World Series.

But here's something ole' Ben didn't figure on. As we speak, Baltimore scouts are covering the Phillies' young players like a South Philly blizzard. The interleague trade competition for Mr. Machado will be steep. But let's say the Dodgers, a team that won 104 games last season and lost to the Astros in the World Series, want another go-around and figure Mr. Machado will be a nice improvement to their infield. So the Dodgers package a trade — with their top prospects — so big it tickles Baltimore's fancy. With Machado at third or short, the Dodgers get back to the Series and this time win it. Then Mr. Machdo decides he likes the pollution from the 405 and 110 better than the refinery stink along the Schuylkill.

And, the starting bid for Mr. Machado in November goes ga-ga and is just short of ridiculous, pushing the Phillies out of the hunt.

I ask you. Is that so bad when you continue to Trust The Progress and "dance with the one who brung you?"

I don't think so. Besides, the team can improve it's October chances without disturbing The Progress.

And here's another thing to consider. In The Progress, do we know the actual value of J.P. Crawford? Or Kingery? Or, for that matter, Mr. Franco, who's been improving and hustling like a Toms River kid at Williamsport.

Or the 24-year-old Drew Anderson who's making his debut this afternoon against the Pirates.

Trust The Progress.

That's all I'm saying.

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