While the Phillies heave through another death march of a season, their farm club in Allentown boasts the best record in Triple-A.
So those few lonely fans left in Citizens Bank Park call longingly for prospects they’ve never seen — Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams. Meanwhile, GM Matt Klentak refuses to call up the kids, instead allowing a has-been like Michael Saunders to embarrass the franchise.
What’s the holdup?
We learned last week. The baby-faced GM’s concern, apparently, is hurting the feelings of America’s youth. In a sit-down with reporters, Klentak said this: “I think the human emotion of it — once anybody reaches a certain level, they don't want to be sent back. Nobody wants to be demoted in our jobs. No player wants to come to the major leagues and then be sent back. Obviously we've sent players back before and you can hear the emotion in their voices and how disappointed they are. If you can avoid that, we'd love to avoid that."
Emotion in their voices? Disappointed? What are we running here, a major league operation or grade-school play audition? Gosh, we wouldn’t want anyone to walk away with hurt feelings. How about pizza and ice cream for all? And line up for your participation trophy.
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I realize eras change, and the days of Dallas Green (rest his soul) threatening to rip out a player’s lung for sloppy play are gone. But ballplayers can’t have reached the point where first-time failure crushes their tender psyches.
Take a look back — and not too far. Chase Utley came up in April 2003, hit 3-for-15, and was dispatched back to Triple-A. Four months later, he arrived for good. Much as I remember, Utley didn’t need any DL time to recover from bruised feelings. Same thing with Carlos Ruiz, who started his Phils career hitting 5-for-35 — earning a bus trip back to the minors. Ruiz shuttled up and down three times in 2006. God only knows how he found the mental resilience to survive such indignity.
Jason Werth, Brad Lidge, Jim Thome, Cliff Lee — all did the yo-yo between minors and majors before becoming stars. Young Roy Halladay got busted from Toronto to Single-A, and somehow recovered to win two Cy Young Awards.
Failure is part of baseball, where the cliche says that a hitter who succeeds 30 percent of the time is a star. Dealing with disappointment at the highest level is an issue every player must fight through. Prospects don’t need Matt Klentak strapping them into the car seat and handing them a sippy cup.
Hoskins is 24 years old already. Cozens and Williams are 23. If there are still flaws in their game preventing a call-up, that’s one thing (Williams’s sense of the strike zone seems shaky, for example).
But if the issue is damaged egos and quavering voices, let’s stop the preschool mentality and let these young men prove their toughness and maturity. I’ll even bring along the squeeze-boxes of apple juice in case they’re needed.