There’s a foot of snow on the ground, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are gearing up for Super Bowl something-or-other, the NBA and NHL seasons are in full swing and everybody is getting ready to the Winter Olympics. So, that makes this a perfect time to talk about baseball.
Or, more specifically, the Phillies. They’ve made headlines – and themselves the butt of jokes – with some of their recent signings of older players. How old? Somebody made the crack that the Phillies are only signing players who emerge like specters from a cornfield.
Bobby Abreu, signed to a minor-league contract, turns 40 in March and he didn’t even play in the major leagues last year. And Marlon Byrd, who stands right now as the Phillies’ prize off-season acquisition, had a terrific season in 2013, but he’ll turn 37 this season and he’s been inconsistent throughout his career, alternating good years with not-so-good years. And they join a team that is already loaded with players who are on the downhill sides of their careers, including Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, all of whom signed big-money contracts in the last couple of seasons.
But none of those signings irked me like the news that the Phillies had re-signed pitcher Kyle Kendrick and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. Both were arbitration cases and the Phillies could have and should have simply walked away. Instead, they brought them back and those signings, more than anything, indicate that this will be another depressing season for Phillies fans.
Kendrick has been inconsistent throughout his career. His overall record with the Phillies is 64-55, which isn’t bad, but don’t forget that he pitched for the Phils when they had one of the best teams in baseball and one of the most potent offenses and consistent defenses.
In 2008, when the Phillies finished 11 games over .500 (92-70), Kendrick finished two games over .500 (11-9). In 2010, when the Phils finished 16 games over .500 (97-65), Kendrick finished one game over .500 (11-10). And in 2011, when they finished 21 games over .500 (102-60), he finished just two games over .500 (8-6). And the last two seasons, when the Phillies finished at or under .500, Kendricks had losing seasons both times (11-12 in 2012 and 10-13 in 2013).
So, even though Kendrick isn’t terrible and he might be a decent No. 4 or 5 starter, I just wanted to be done with him. Surely, there must be somebody else out there who is as good and maybe better and certainly more reliable. And to make matters worse, the Phillies will pay this journeyman pitcher $7.675 million this coming season.
But as much as that signing made me shake my head, bringing back Mayberry made me grind my teeth. This is a guy who has been given opportunity after opportunity, as a starter and as a bench player, and he’s been a bust every time.
Look at his numbers. For his career he’s hitting .245, which isn’t even an average average. His best season was in 2011, when he hit .273, but then he hit .245 in 2012 and .227 in 2013 – notice a trend there? Maybe you could overlook a weak batting average if he had impressive power numbers, but Mayberry hit just 11 home runs and had just 39 RBIs in 353 at-bats last season. Of course, it’s hard to drive in runs when you almost never hit safely.
Again, there has to be somebody – anybody – out there who could do a better job and certainly a more consistent job. Mayberry’s only value is that he can play all three outfield positions and even first base in a pinch, but that only means he’s mediocre at several positions.
Mayberry won’t cost the Phillies very much – he’ll make “just’’ $1.587 million in 2014 – but certainly the Phillies could have signed a better player and gotten a lot more bang for their buck – not to mention more hits and RBIs.
Kendrick and Mayberry aren’t key parts of the Phillies and their seasons probably won’t have much of an impact on where the Phils finish in the standings. But the fact that they’re still wearing the red pinstripes tells you everything you need to know about a once-proud franchise that probably won’t be a contender for a long time.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.