Darkness on the Edge of Town
This past winter, Billy Wagner had too much to say about the south Philly clubhouse. This guy doesn't want to win. That guy's a rat. Nobody wants to hear the truth from me. Well, anyone who thought that element was expunged was dead wrong. Now, Cory Lidle's learned the melody to that tune. His comments earlier today, the hole still crisp and round on his punched ticket to the AL East race:
"I'm the kind of player that goes to the field every day expecting to win," Lidle told New York reporters. "Unfortunately, the last few years, I haven't had a clubhouse that expected to win with me. It was almost a coin flip to know if the guys behind me were going to be there to play 100 percent. I know that's not going to be the deal here in New York...That's the reason I'm most excited to come over here. I think I'll fit in well and be able to take my game to the next level."
"It was a mixture of veterans and young players, and sometimes there were mixed signals," Lidle said. "Sometimes it seemed like winning was all that mattered and sometimes it seemed like winning didn't matter at all. That was the opinion I had. I don't know how true that is. A lot of the other guys in that clubhouse didn't all go there with one goal in mind. Everyone liked to win, but they didn't expect to win. I think being with 24 other guys that come to the clubhouse every day and expect to win will raise my level of play."
Lidle's an interesting guy, being the good poker player that he is and all, as well as someone with a reputation for obsessive preparation between starts. These comments ring differently from him than they do out of Wagner, who by most accounts seemed miserable yet duplicitous the entire time he was here. Wagner, along with his bullpen sidekick Tim Worrell saw fit to rip the Philly fans after leaving town, while Lidle stood in front of the local media on his way out and claimed that the negative fan factor was overblown.
By all accounts this season, the additions of Aaron Rowand as keg party host and beer pong champ, along with Arthur Rhodes as bullpen spiritual leader, did some sort of good for the vibes in the clubhouse. That was the line anyway. Granted, that was back before an atrocious June did the team in. So what of these lack of motivations? Is it all Pat Burrell and Mike Lieberthal's fault? Was Ryan Franklin that much of a rattle-shaking crybaby over not getting to start and vie for the league lead in HRs surrendered? Did David Bell's stone-faced mediocrity finally get on Lidle's nerves enough to push the big red button? Are the new guys too quiet still? Perhaps the offseason dropoff at the scrap heap will finally lay this Jimmy Carter-esque aura of malaise hanging over this franchise to rest. Maybe?
What's interesting here is that hours before the Lidle story hit the wire, Bobby Abreu finally stepped out of his decade-long nice guy character to touch on the most popular criticism levied at him:
"I play hard," the rightfielder said last month as trade rumors swirled - to many fans' delight. "I might not dive. I might not run into walls. I play every day. I play when I'm hurt. I hear what people say. They say I don't play hard. They say I don't care."
Abreu whipped a red uniform sock and tugged it on.
"I care," he said then.
His face set harder than it ever had been in his nine seasons as a Phillie.
"We'll see how they feel about me when I'm gone," Abreu said.
Well, if you're in to connecting dots, its hard to turn this opportunity to draw down. While pure stat heads and overally numerical minds love to downplay the importance of the clubhouse chemistry or individual makeup or sum-of-the-parts thinking or whatever you want to call it, is there not at least something to be said for basic human behavioral tendencies? What is fostering this dull, flatlining culture? Why does it survive year and year out? What assurance is there that it won't pop up again around a new nucleus? Who was the last player to leave Philadelphia and say "I enjoyed my time there?"
Our problems go way beyond a bad trade or two, folks.