Little moves prove big for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- There's no magic formula. There's no secret recipe. There's no runaway Amazon best-seller entitled: "How to Build a World Series Team or Your Money Back -- All $200 Million of It."But there are always lessons to be learned from the teams that make it to the World Series. And here is the lesson to be gleaned from the presence of the latest National League representative in the old Fall Classic, the Phillies: Don't forget the little moves. The Phillies -- as their loyal public has long noticed -- are never the team that makes The Big Move. They don't sign the richest, most famous free agent on the market. They don't trade for the most seductive name on the July trading-deadline menu.
Instead, they skulk along below the talk-show radar, looking for names that never make the lead story on "SportsCenter," sometimes names that barely even dent the transactions column.
Winning BlueprintSome of the key pieces of the Phillies' 2008 team weren't big-name acquisitions. They did, however, play important roles in Philadelphia's run to its first the World Series since 1993.
• How the Phillies were built
Those aren't players you build a team around. They're not the names you'll find on the grand World Series marquee. But add them to a cast of homegrown stars -- to a Jimmy Rollins and a Chase Utley here, a Ryan Howard and a Cole Hamels there -- and here's what those guys become:Players you win with. Finding those kinds of players has been the house specialty of GM Pat Gillick for, oh, about three decades now. And 11 trips to the postseason later, with four different franchises, it's beginning to look as if he's onto something. "You know, it's not always about That Big Free Agent," Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer said Friday as his team was getting ready for a World Series while most of those Big Free Agents were getting ready to hit their favorite pitching wedge. "Sometimes, That Big Free Agent can create a problem."
Then there's the man who hit arguably the most important pinch-hit home run in Phillies history: Stairs. He, too, was a player Gillick traded for in August after his old team (Toronto) had designated him for assignment. But he fit a need the Phillies had been trying to fill for weeks: a home run threat off the bench. And one mammoth NLCS bomb off Jonathan Broxton later, that trade has never looked better."He was a veteran guy who had played a lot of big games," Arbuckle said. "He has big power, and obviously our manager [Charlie Manuel] likes power. He was a guy we thought could do exactly what he did the other night."
Durbin: Non-tendered this past winter by the Tigers because he was arbitration-eligible. Signed by the Phillies to a bargain free-agent deal (one year, $900,000). Became one of their most useful and versatile bullpen pieces (2.87 ERA in 71 appearances), despite running out of gas in September.Moyer: Another August trade (in 2006), another trade for a player Gillick went way back with, to their days in Seattle. Moyer was 43 when the Phillies traded for him and was viewed by some folks as being close to the end of the trail. Well, apparently not. Since then, he has exactly the same record (35-21) as Josh Beckett and Carlos Zambrano. In fact, only six pitchers in baseball have more wins than Moyer since that trade. So let's review. Not one of the seven players we've mentioned here -- Eyre, Romero, Stairs, Dobbs, Werth, Durbin and Moyer -- was a major free-agent signing. Two had been non-tendered by their old teams. One had been released. Two had been designated for assignment. Three were traded for after the trading deadline. One was a waiver claim. The three signed as free agents cost barely more than $2 million combined at the time. The three they traded for cost them a total of four minor leaguers, none of them top prospects. The three hitters combined for 35 homers and a .283 average in 661 at-bats. The four pitchers went 28-15 with a 3.27 ERA and two saves in 357 1/3 innings. The Phillies wouldn't have advanced this far without any of them.