on the field, Schilling has just notched another strikeout on the Schill-o-meterthe
invention of a loyal group of fans who hang large Ks (baseball parlance
for "strikeouts") high in the leftfield stands every time their
hero whiffs an opposing batter.
it would be wrong, and would betray the fan base we're building,
to jeopardize this young nucleus because of commitments to some
Schilling, one of the premier starting pitchers in
the game, and a relative bargain at $5.5 million a year, has also been
loudly challenging the team in the press to spend more money on free-agent
pitchersor sell to somebody who will. I mention this to Montgomery,
who is seated beside me in the executive box, keeping score.
responds. I press him, feeling positively boorish.
"We really respect what Schill does on
the field," he says finally, "and we admire his competitive
nature. The job we believe we have to do is to create this young nucleus
and build on it. Some people always gravitate to free-agency as what I
would describe to be the short-term fix. But it can have long-term implications.
And one of the things that we think would be wrong, and where we would
betray the fan base that we think were beginning to build, is to
put the retention of this nucleus in jeopardy because of commitments to
some free agents."
Better to get younger players through an improved farm system and judicious
tradesand then hang on to them, he argues, pointing with justifiable
pride to the trades that brought Glanville and Abreu to the team.
"A player," he adds, "probably
has the luxury of looking at today and not worrying too much about tomorrow.
Its not a luxury we have as far as making decisions overall for
the good of the organization."
Besides, as Ed Wade has been pointing out a
lot lately, there are a only a few high-quality arms
available each year and 30 teams who want them; as a result, those free
agents tend to go to teams that are competitive now, not a few years down
the road. And trying to snag one in a mid-season trade can cost a team
dearly in young talent. Montgomery and Wade have indicated that
once the team is just one or two key players away from the playoffs, theyll
be willing to get out the checkbook. Until thenpatience.
The long-term approach is all good and well,
says Paul Hagen. "But if they get to the point in four years where
theyre where they want to be, but Scott Rolen is so disgusted that
he leaves to become a free agent, how have you gained?"
A sobering thought, that. I dont get to
ask Rolen about it directly, but I do track down the estimable Doug Glanville,
who recently signed a four-year contract worth $5.57 million. He cant
really speak for anyone else, he says, but hes quite happy to be
playing with the Phillies.
"A guy like Rolen, thats going to
be his decision at the end of his contract," says Glanville, "and
I guess hell see, based on what happens up until then. But I think
hes pretty happy with what hes seen. Seems to me, just like
they said, they wanted a younger team that would develop together, and
now, within a year, weve made some strides. I know Im optimistic.
"From my point of view," he adds,
"Daves been great ... When I signed, I just asked for them
to be fair. And when my agent got the initial offer, he said, You
know, thats a pretty reasonable opening offer. He showed me
where I fit in with other players in my class, and he said, Thats
showing a lot of good faith. So I didnt feel the need to squeeze
it to death. I just told them what parts of the contract Id like
to improve, and he didnt waste any real time changing it."
As it turns out, Glanville is the hero of the
taut but sparsely attended game, coming through (again) with a two-out,
10th-inning single to knock in the only run of the game. As the winning
run crosses the plate, and the players stream out of the dugout, Montgomerys
eyes crinkle with delight.
"Theres your Penn guy!" he yells,
slapping me on the shoulder. And for a moment, anyway, he looks like a
man without a care in the world.
Like a fan.