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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baseball’s Hall of Fame welcomed one of Cleveland’s own two summers ago when Jim Thome was enshrined in Cooperstown, and now the man who called some of Thome’s greatest moments with the Indians has his own shot at reaching the Hall.

Tom Hamilton, the beloved radio voice of the Indians for the last 30 years, is among eight finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually to the baseball broadcaster who demonstrates “commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting abilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition by peers.”

If anybody fits that description, it’s Hamilton, a seven-time recipient of the Ohio Sportscaster of the Year award, who began calling Indians games alongside Tribe legend Herb Score in 1990. He’s broadcast some of the most iconic moments in franchise history, including a wild card berth, 10 American League Central Division titles, three AL pennants and three World Series runs.

Hamilton, 65, has developed a rapport with fans, who regard him as a treasure among baseball broadcasters. His signature calls evoke memories of the most exciting moments of summer.

“A swing and a drive, waaaay back and … gone!”
“Swung on and belted … to deep (left/center/right), awaaaay back! Gone!”
“How about that?”
“A swiiiing and a miss!”
“Ballgame!”

Simply reading those words on a page conjures the sound of Hamilton’s voice in your head, and for a moment transports fans to Progressive Field on a warm summer night, where the Wisconsin native’s words sweep through the concourse.

Hamilton appears on the ballot alongside seven other finalists in the Current Major League Markets voting cycle. Those finalists include Joe Castiglione (Red Sox), Jacques Doucet (Expos/Blue Jays), Ken Harrelson (White Sox), Pat Hughes (Cubs), Ned Martin (Red Sox, deceased), Mike Shannon (Cardinals) and Dewayne Staats (Rays).

A 15-member panel including 11 past Frick Award winners and four historians will decide the winner. Results of that vote will be announced Dec. 11 prior to the start of baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego. A subcommittee including past winners Bob Costas, Denny Mathews and Eric Nadel came up with the finalists ballot.

Hamilton, a 2009 inductee of the Cleveland Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the 2015 Lifetime Achievement honoree at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, was the play-by-play man for the Columbus Clippers for three seasons prior to joining the Indians. Since then he’s worked alongside Score and Mike Hegan as well as Dave Nelson, Matt Underwood and current partner Jim Rosenhaus.

To be considered for the Frick Award, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ball club, network, or a combination of the two. More than 200 broadcasters were eligible for consideration for the 2020 Frick Award based on these qualifications.

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Ty Olenchuk could purse a career in football. The starting quarterback for the nationally ranked Dutch Fork football team has been commited to play baseball at Clemson since his freshman year at Dutch Fork. On Wednesday, Olenchuk made his choice official.

While baseball is in his future at the next level, Olenchuk still has a few games left to play for Dutch Fork who is gunning for a fourth straight 5A state championship. He has also been selected for the North-South All-Star Game in Myrtle Beach.

At River Bluff High School, the daughter of former Gamecock and MLB third baseman Dave Hollins will take a winning resume and winning attitude to Conway. Jesse Hollins is a member of the reigning 5A state champion in girls tennis and she signed with Coastal Carolina.

Dreher swimmer Hayley Mason has set numerous school records and she has several state championships on her resume. She has signed to compete at the next level for South Carolina.

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Many major league ballplayers earn more money every time they stand in the on-deck circle than the average working stiff earns in a year. Let’s face it. Most of us resent that fact.

It’s okay to be jealous of major leaguers, but not minor leaguers. At least not most of them. A few elite minor leaguers can live off bloated signing bonuses, but most of others have to make ends meet on $1,100 per month. And that’s only during the season.

During the offseason, they are paid nothing. During spring training, they are paid nothing. If they are assigned to “extended spring training,” in April and May, they are paid nothing. If they are sent to the Arizona Fall League or some other postseason camp, they are paid nothing.

In many organizations it is expected to be on the field before lunch for drills and instruction. Only after a full day of training does he actually play a ball game. Half his time is spent on the road and road trips usually entail bus trips that last hours on end.

On that salary he has to find housing for himself (and maybe his family) where the terms are flexible. At any moment he might be told that he has been shuttled up or down the organization’s ladder and must immediately report to a different city that is hundreds of miles away. He might even be told that he’s been traded and must report to a new organization.

If you get the sense that this isn’t quite right, you’re not the only one. There are lawyers challenging the system on the grounds that it violates minimum wage laws and they would seem to have a good case. Major League Baseball is clearly worried — sufficiently worried to consider revising the entire structure of minor league baseball.

About a month ago a report surfaced that MLB is considering several radical revisions of the minors and those revisions might go into effect as early as 2021. An increase in the pay of minor league players would be offset in other ways.

(1) Reduce the time and expense involved in minor league travel.

(2) Place minor league clubs near their major league affiliates.

(3) Reduce the major league draft from 50 rounds to 20.

(4) Eliminate as many as one-third of the existing minor league affiliates of every team.

(5) Create a “dreamers minor league” in which undrafted players could display their skills in hopes of landing a contract.

Was it okay for me to use the word “radical?”

Taken individually, I don’t think any of these ideas are terrible. But the implementation of any one of them could create serious problems elsewhere.

For example, there are minor league franchises in Trenton, Lakewood, Staten Island, N.Y., Allentown, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. None of these teams ever plays any of the others because all are in separate leagues and operate at different strata within the minor league system. If they could all be placed in one league there would be a huge drop in travel time and expense. But if that were done there is no way all of the teams could be close to a major league parent club.

A larger can of worms of all would be the elimination of minor leagues and minor league teams. There are six levels of affiliated minor league baseball and all 30 major league teams have one club at every level. Some have more than one at the lowest level.

Perhaps the system could function better with only four levels of minor leagues and fewer players being drafted. But how, exactly, would baseball go about eliminating teams and leagues?

The two lowest leagues in the minor league structure are short-season leagues — ones that play a 10-week schedule beginning in mid-June. Most of the players in those leagues are players who just completed their high school or college careers and were taken in the June draft. If these leagues were gone, how would June draftees be integrated onto the rosters of teams that have been playing since April? Or would amateur players be asked to delay the beginning of their professional careers until the next season?

Moreover, the lowest level of minor league baseball (it’s called Rookie A) consists of four leagues, but one of them is the Gulf Coast League and another is the Arizona League. Those leagues consist of teams grouped in a single region — close enough to one another than there are no overnight road trips. If saving travel costs is a goal, why would these leagues be dropped?

If at least one of the short-season levels were to be retained, would a full-time level (High Class A or Low Class A) be dropped? If so, would some of the franchises at those levels be moved to other leagues, possibly forcing existing teams in those leagues to fold?

If something like that is attempted, lawyers will have a field day. Most minor league stadiums were funded, at least in part, with taxpayer dollars. Most of them are operated by private investors. If Major League Baseball arbitrarily shuts down a few dozen of them, the result would likely be an avalanche of lawsuits.

Or would all of them get to field teams in the dreamers’ league?

That would be a lot to dream about, wouldn’t it?

ONE LAST LOOK AT THE NUMBERS: According to Statcast, 16 pitches were thrown last year that exceeded 103 miles per hour. All 16 were sinkers thrown by Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks…Also, per Statcast, the longest homer of the season was struck by Nomar Mazara of the Rangers, It was measured at 505 feet…Tim Anderson of the White Sox led the majors in batting with a .335 average but did not participate in the All-Star Game. Despite his lofty average his on-base percentage was relatively modest .357…Only six pitchers – Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Marco Gonzalez (Mariners), Ivan Nova (White Sox), Aaron Nola (Phillies), Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox) and Justin Verlander (Tigers) did not miss a start. All started 34 times…Yasmani Grandal of the Brewers caught 137 games, the most in the majors. The runners up were J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies and Wilson Ramos of the Mets…Three teams lost 100 or more games and none of them changed managers…Kirby Yates of the Padres led the majors in saves with 41. In five previous major league seasons he logged 14 saves…Rhys Hoskins was the first Phillie to lead the NL in walks since Lenny Dykstra did it in 1993…Rafael Devers of the Red Sox isn’t being considered for any postseason awards, but he led the majors in total bases with 359…Shane Bieber of the Indians and Lucas Giolito of the White Sox shared the major league lead in complete games with three. Fifty years ago Bob Gibson of the Cardinals led the majors with 28…The Astros did not issue an intentional walk during the regular season or in their first 12 postseason games. They broke the string in Game Two of the World Series when Ryan Pressly purposely passed Juan Soto…The NL completed the season with a 166-134 (.533) edge in interleague play.

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced Tuesday that they have agreed to terms with pitcher Adam Wainwright on a one-year contract for the 2020 season.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team.

Wainwright, 38, will be entering his 16th season with the Cardinals in 2020, the third-most seasons as a pitcher in a Redbirds uniform. Jesse Haines (18 years, 1920-37) and Bob Gibson (17 years, 1959-75) are the only pitchers ahead of him.
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“We are excited to have Adam returning for 2020 and look forward to watching him continue to add to his tremendous career legacy with the Cardinals,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.
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Wainwright went 14-10 last season with a 4.19 ERA in 31 starts, leading the National League with his five wins in September. He finished tied for sixth in the N.L. in wins, his highest season win total since 2014 when he won 20, as he became the lone active National League pitcher with 10 career double-digit win seasons.

Wainwright will enter the 2020 season ranked fourth all-time among Cardinals in wins (162), second in strikeouts (1,776) and sixth in innings pitched (2,103.2).

Brought to the Cardinals from his hometown team in a trade that send outfielder JD Drew to the Atlanta Braves, Wainwright has been part of World Series championships in 2006 and 2011 and earned All-Star selections in 2010, 2013 and 2014

Among active pitchers, he ranks eighth in wins, 14th in strikeouts and 9th in ERA (3.39), despite missing significant time due to injury in 2011, 2015 and 2018.

Wainwright was the first Cardinals pitcher since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1928 to post 14-plus wins at age 38 or older, and the first in the majors to have done so since the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who won 15 games in 2016.

A two-time Rawlings Gold Glove and National League Silver Slugger, Wainwright owns a career mark of 162-95 with a 3.39 ERA in 383 games covering 2,203.2 innings pitched. He is the Cardinals all-time leader in postseason games pitched (27) and strikeouts (115) and was on the mound for the Cardinals World Series and National League Championship Series clinching wins in 2006.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright celebrates after striking out Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman to end the top of the sixth inning in Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Jeff Roberson AP
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Team: 1961

Seed: 5

Record: 93-61, finished 1st out of 8 team National League. Lost World Series to Yankees in 5 games.

Did this team matter?: No? The ’61 Reds won about 10 more games than their runs scored vs. runs allowed ratio would have anticipated. And then were steamrolled by a historically great Yankees team, as though they were little more than a casual footnote. Or…yes? The franchise, by and large, had mostly been irrelevant since the early 1940s and taking advantage of good fortune can be a propellant towards a better future. This season not only represented a 26-win improvement over 1960, it also marked the kick-off of a stretch in which the Reds would be a winning team (pretty much every season) until the early 1980s. Also, in the midst of the Cold War, allowing the Yankees to prevail over the Reds was a nice prophetic touch.

Performances to remember: Vada Pinson is fascinating to me because his career has the shape of a hall of famer. He debuted at age 19 and was a full-time player (and an outright star) by age 20, a la Mantle, Trout, Griffey. He played 18 seasons and accumulated over 10,000 plate appearances, which stacks up against all but the most exceptionally durable. He has a career bWAR total of 54, which is maybe about nine wins shy of what might be considered a reliable Hall of Fame floor. Half a win a year. So close.

You could look at his career in slightly different ways to come to the same result. Pinson ended his career with 256 home runs. Three more per year would have put him over 300…which might have edged him over the line with some voters. Or 14 more hits per season (one additional hit every two weeks) would have given him 3,000 base knocks, a nearly ironclad lock for election.

In 1961, Pinson recorded his most valuable season. He hit well: 131 OPS+, 208 hits, 101 runs scored, 23 stolen bases. And he defended, by far, at a level better than any other season in his career, according to the modern metrics. And if 1961 was his normal defensive season, he might have been seen as comparable to Richie Ashburn, at least value-wise. Ashburn had the same career OPS+ as Pinson (but was more of a walks and singles guy than Pinson) and played fewer seasons/games/etc. But he was a superb glove year in and year out and…is in the Hall of Fame.

Wikipedia says: “The Reds were…the last team to win the National League in the 154-game schedule era, before going to a 162-game schedule a year later.”

Uniform notes: 1961’s uniforms married two pre-existing constructs, namely the pinstriped uniforms of the late 1950’s with the blue-backed wishbone C logo of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “This is the same thing as the other striped one but it has ugly sleeves and the number on the front again.”

Team: 1939

Seed: 4

Record: 97-57, finished 1st in 8-team National League, lost World Series to Yankees in four games.

Did this team matter?: You betcha. Not only did the Reds win the pennant, they set the stage for the franchise’s second world championship the following year.

Performances to remember: Lonny Frey’s career had three significant before and after stories to it, and they all nearly coincided in 1939.

First, Frey came into the league as a shortstop. One of the best quotes ever recorded about any baseball player was when Roger Kahn mused that Frey’s only weakness as a shortstop was batted balls. He was a dreadful fielder as a shortstop with the Dodgers (51 errors in 117 games in 1936!), but he’d eventually be picked up by the Reds (prior to the 1938 season) and was turned into a second baseman, where he excelled defensively.

Second, the Reds convinced him to give up switch hitting before the 1939 season. Looking back, I wonder if this request was met with skepticism. Frey was a competent hitter over the first several seasons of his career, compiling a .275 batting average through 1938. He didn’t hit for power, but had a great eye and had a 104 OPS+, which is generally pretty good for a middle infielder. Maybe the Reds had earned some goodwill by moving him successfully to 2nd base, but Frey became a permanent left-handed hitter and posted the best hitting season of his career in 1939, with a .291 average and 11 homers (123 OPS+) in just 125 games.

Finally, the reason he played in only 125 games in 1939 was that he was platooned with Eddie Joost, a young right-handed hotshot-fielding rookie. In 1940, Joost absorbed the full time shortstop role, and Frey graduated to a full-time player again. His rate numbers were never again what they were in 1939, although Frey was definitely a valuable contributor through the remainder of his time with the Reds.

Wikipedia says: “During the season, Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters became the last pitchers to win at least 25 games in one season for the Reds in the 20th century.”
AP

Uniform notes: 1939 would kick off the first of eight seasons where the Reds ostensibly had as much blue in their uniform as red. However, blue had been an on/off component of Cincy uniforms since at least 1900 and would continue in some form or fashion until 1956.

My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “Oooh, more blue. It has a front thing and a side thing, that’s good.”

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The Philadelphia Phillies have ousted Gabe Kapler as their manager after just two seasons. Where did it all go wrong and where does the team go from here?
When Gabe Kapler took the reigns as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, he faced a frustrated yet hungry fanbase and inherited a young roster with plenty of potential.

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However, he failed to develop promising players like Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez. He struggled to control a clubhouse full of underachieving stars. He made endless mind-boggling managerial decisions that left him to be consumed by the Philadelphia media.

Initially, there was reason to be excited about Kapler. He was a young, fresh new face at the head of an organization that had a reputation for promoting from within.

He brought an unconventional, analytical perspective over from his time as the Director of Player Development with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After years of disappointment in Philadelphia, the Phillies front office was eager to give him the keys to the clubhouse.

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In this decade, the Philadelphia Phillies have been trying to regain the success they found in the second half of the 2000s. They won five straight NL East titles from 2007-2011, including two NL pennants and a World Series title in 2008.

Since 2011, however, they have let each of their division rivals surpass them except for the Marlins.

It looked as if the Phillies’ luck was about to change in 2018. After two unsuccessful hirings from within the organization in Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin, the Phillies finally outsourced and hired Kapler as their manager in the 2017 offseason.

With high-profile free agent signings like former NL Cy Young Jake Arrieta and first baseman Carlos Santana, Kapler’s team looked to contend right away.

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When he was introduced as Philadelphia Phillies manager in 2017, Gabe Kapler said his goal was to bring a World Series title to team owner John Middleton.

After two seasons without a playoff berth, the Phillies on Thursday fired Kapler, whose team (81-81) underachieved even with the addition of big-money free agent Bryce Harper and whose nontraditional, analytical style irritated many of the franchise’s passionate fans.

“Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city,” Middleton said in a statement. “I will never waver from that commitment. … I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager.

“I am indebted to Gabe for the steadfast effort, energy and enthusiasm that he brought to our club, and we are unquestionably a better team and organization as a result of his contributions.”

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Kapler is the third consecutive Phillies manager to be fired after no more than two full seasons, joining Pete Mackanin and Ryne Sandberg. Middleton said general manager Matt Klentak will lead the team’s search for a new manager.

The team also announced that pitching coach Chris Young, head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and assistant athletic trainer Chris Mudd will not return. Hitting coach Charlie Manuel will return to his role as a senior adviser. The new manager will inherit the remainder of the coaching staff.

The Phillies have had internal conversations about Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi, among others, as potential replacements for Kapler, sources told ESPN’s Buster Olney. Some executives have speculated that former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon could also be a candidate, according to Olney.

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Showalter used to work under Phillies president Andy MacPhail and with Klentak when all were with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Phillies are the eighth team seeking a new manager this offseason, joining the Angels, Cubs, Giants, Mets, Padres, Pirates and Royals.

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“I have tremendous respect for this organization, this franchise and this city,” Kapler said in a statement. “We came into 2019 with very high hopes. We fell short of those, and that responsibility lies with me. The next Phillies manager will inherit a team of talented, dedicated and committed players. There has been nothing more fulfilling in my professional career than the opportunity to work with the players on this team.

“… As I move on, I know that this organization is in a great spot and will see a lot of success going forward. My hope is that I helped contribute to a developing culture in the organization that flourishes in the years to come.”

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Rival executives have wondered if Kapler might emerge as a managerial candidate with the Giants because of his ties with San Francisco’s Farhan Zaidi, according to Olney. Zaidi, the Giants’ head of baseball operations, used to work with Kapler in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office.

Philly took a gamble when it made Kapler the 54th manager in team history in November 2017, hoping a former big leaguer short on managerial experience — he previously had managed only one season in the minors (2007) — could lead the Phillies back to October baseball for the first time since 2011.

But the Kapler era in Philadelphia never took off.

In his first game, the Atlanta Braves rallied from a five-run deficit, winning on a three-run homer in the ninth inning. Kapler faced immediate scrutiny for lifting starter Aaron Nola with the Phillies up 5-0 and one out in the sixth inning. When Philly returned home after a season-opening 1-4 road trip, Kapler was booed resoundingly by Phillies fans.

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The 2019 Phillies became the third team ever to commit more than $400 million to free agents in a single offseason, but they finished 81-81.

YEAR TEAM FA $
2014 Yankees* $471M
2009 Yankees $441M
2019 Phillies* $401M
2008 Yankees* $396.15M
2019 Padres* $327.4M
* Didn’t make playoffs that season
A historic contract given to Harper and big trades for catcher J.T. Realmuto and infielder Jean Segura didn’t help much in 2019. Although the Phillies spent much of April and May in first place, a seven-game losing skid in June stalled any momentum. And while they stayed in the National League wild-card race, they lost eight of nine in late September and ultimately were eliminated from the postseason by Harper’s former team, the Nationals.

Injuries were a big reason the Phillies couldn’t record their first winning record since 2011. They lost leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen for the season in June, and six of their top seven relievers missed significant time. Free-agent addition David Robertson pitched just 6⅔ innings, and Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter threw a combined 23⅓ innings. Also, starting center fielder Odubel Herrera played just 39 games before he was suspended for the rest of the season under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

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The Phillies finished fourth in the NL East — 16 games behind the first-place Braves and eight games behind Milwaukee for the second wild-card spot. In 2018, the Phillies were third at 80-82, finishing 10 games behind the Braves.

“I want to thank Kap for his tireless commitment to the Phillies over the last two years,” Klentak said in a statement. “When we hired Kap, it was our goal to develop a positive, forward-thinking and collaborative culture throughout the organization that would allow us to compete with the best teams in the league year in and year out.

“While we have fallen short in the win column for the last two years, I can confidently say that Kap’s efforts have established a strong and sustainable foundation for this organization moving forward.”

Kapler, 44, hit .268 in 12 major league seasons as an outfielder with the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and four other clubs. Before managing the Phillies, he spent several years as the Dodgers’ director of player development.

Out of the gates, Kapler and the Phillies looked like they finally found success. Kapler led his squad to a 56-44 record through 100 games. They entered August in first place in the standings. But this is when things started to go awry.

The Phillies ended the 2018 season 21-34 from August to September, leaving them with and underwhelming 80-82 record and outside of the postseason.

However, Kapler still improved the team by 16 games, so the Phillies organization prepared themselves for an aggressive offseason in 2018. They signed prized free agent Bryce Harper to a record-breaking contract and acquired other valuable pieces like Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura, and J.T. Realmuto to solidify their rebuild.

Now, Kapler’s team looked like they could contend.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. While the Phillies started off decently in 2019, they hit a quick decline, highlighted by key injuries mixed with a lack of depth and poor managerial decision.

As a result, they finished in 4th place with 81-81 record, despite spending over $400 million in the offseason. They missed the postseason for the eighth straight season.

Thus, Kapler was ousted. The Phillies organization had no other choice than to move on from Kapler, who was the subject of widespread criticism from both the local and national media. While Kapler was certainly not the answer, the Phillies almost decade-long streak of failure has much deeper roots. Kapler was the third straight manager to be fired after only two seasons of work.

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The Philadelphia Phillies now have an expensive roster and a mess of a clubhouse. If they want to compete in 2020, it is in their best interest to completely clean out their coaching staff and start fresh with an experienced manager. Time will tell if the Phillies are ready to compete now, or if they are doomed for more failure in the near future.