Mixed Feelings

Featured Cards: 2004 Upper Deck McDonald’s Phillies #18, Ryan Madson; 2008 Upper Deck World Series Champions #PP-21, Ryan Madson

I don’t know if “Mixed Feelings” correctly captures my sentiments on the official announcement of the Jonathan Papelbon signing last week, but it’s close enough for blogging purposes. While I accept the realities of player movement within the sport, like many fans I also wish to see the home-grown core of the team to remain as long as possible. Thus, I was really hoping that the Phillies would find a way to retain Ryan Madson for the next few years. In fact, I was really excited when rumors originally started circulating that the Phillies and Madson were close to an agreement. Despite the rumors and reports provided by “anonymous sources,” we’ll never really know exactly how close Madson and the Phillies were or the real reason why the talks broke down.

In my mind, one of the biggest disappointments regarding the Papelbon signing and Madson’s exit from the club (yes, I do understand that the Phillies could still potentially resign him to resume his setup role, but the chances of that happening are roughly on par with Pluto regaining its status as planet) is that it almost guarantees that the Phillies will continue their decades-long streak of being unable to draft, develop and keep a closer. It’s somewhat frightening to acknowledge three different things: 1) Jose Mesa is the franchise career leader in saves; 2) Mesa only saved 112 in a Phillies uniform; and 3) Ricky Bottalico holds the franchise mark for most saves by a player developed by the Phillies farm system (78).

Having said all that, assuming that the contract signed by Papelbon is roughly similar to the one the Phillies and Madson attempted to negotiate, I would take Papelbon over Madson as my closer. However, that’s a decision made solely by my head, not my heart. Of course, I’d rather see the man who already holds the franchise mark for most career appearances stay for another four (or potentially five) more years and have the opportunity to set the franchise records for career saves as well. Unfortunately, constructing the best team possible means making decisions such as this one, and for that reason alone I don’t envy Ruben Amaro for his job. It’s easy for a rabid fan to state what he/she would do differently, but such fanaticism can potentially make it harder for you to make the right decision. There’s a good chance that this change of personel could come back to haunt Amaro and the Phillies (this is true of any free agent signing), but right now it appears to make the club better, and in the end that’s all you can really ask for.

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