INDIANAPOLIS -- After Milwaukee general manager
After almost a decade in which democracy ruled in the NL, Philadelphia is becoming the Yankees of its league: the king who wants more. Already the two-time league champion, the Phillies, given their aggressiveness and stockpile of young talent, are emerging as the favorite to land Toronto ace
"They've been very aggressive," one baseball source said about the Phillies' pursuit of Halladay. "They're putting together a package, even if they need another team. They're trying to find the players [on other teams] the Blue Jays want to get it done."
The Angels also have been aggressive on Halladay. Owner
The Phillies represent the biggest growth brand in the baseball industry, similar to how the Red Sox began to rise in 2003 under new ownership. Their farm system is so flush that they could trade for both Lee (who cost them four prospects) and Halladay inside of six months and still have hay in the barn. Their attendance has risen 38 percent since 2006, climbing from 2.6 million -- ninth in the league -- to 3.6 million. Their payroll in those three years jumped 49 percent, from $88 million to $131 million and is likely to approach $140 million in 2010. Local television ratings for the Phillies on CSN Philadelphia, their regional sports network, soared 24 percent last year alone -- the team's seventh consecutive season with increased viewership. The Phillies' 7.13 rating and 210,000 average homes are team records. Only the Yankees and Red Sox reach more households with their local networks -- making the Phillies the most watched team in the NL.
"And you would be shocked at how little they pay in revenue sharing," griped one GM.
After the Braves' mini-dynasty drew its last breath in 1999, the NL was a free-for-all in which just about any team a bit better than mediocre had hope of playing king for a year. Of the eight NL champions from 2000 through 2007, seven of them did not win their division or won fewer than 93 games. Seven different NL franchises claimed one of those eight pennants, including the 2005 Astros, who didn't play a meaningful game in their division race all year, and the 2006 Cardinals, who won 83 games.
And then the
The Phillies are not quite the Yankees in terms of institutional strength, but they have raised the bar in the NL and, like the Yankees, they do act boldly. Rookie GM
The Phillies can give Toronto enough talent back and they can give Halladay everything he wants: the chance to pitch for an established perennial contender, eight more weeks every year at home, NL lineups to carve up after all those years in the rugged AL, a devoted fan base and a monster contract extension. There's only one thing they can't give Halladay: his uniform number. Number 32 was retired to honor Hall of Fame Phillies pitcher
• The addition of
• The Dodgers like utility infielder
• Yes, the Giants need a bat, but they don't have the payroll room to add a big one such as
• Two different GMs were aghast to hear the Astros are paying $15 million over three years to reliever
• How sharp are the Yankees operating these days? On the day he handed in his World Series roster before Game 1, New York GM
• Cuban free agent
• Melvin may have added pitchers two pitchers during the winter meetings, but he lost his Mercedes -- to a parking valet who couldn't find the keys, only to have the keyless car impounded. After the Rule 5 draft Melvin cracked, "We were thinking about drafting a car so I can get home."