Blast from the Past: Mark Phillips Outrage

What a fool I used to be. Those are Neil Peart’s words, but they apply here as well, so I’ll use ‘em. When the Padres traded Bubba Trammell and minor-league left-hander Mark Phillips for Rondell White back in ’03, I was… a little less than pleased. I actually vented in three parts:

  • Part 1 includes this gem:

    I realize I may not be the most objective person when it comes to talking about Phillips. I’ve seen him pitch on several occasions and I even once had the chance to chat with him while he was charting a game at Elsinore. But beyond the fact that he seemed like a nice enough kid, he has a serious arm. You just don’t see a lot of young lefties with that kind of fastball/curve arsenal.

    Except, of course, that he never made it past A-ball.

  • Here’s my favorite passage from Part 2:

    Trade Phillips if you have to; it’s not the end of the world. But make sure you address a need and get value for him. The Padres did neither.

    Except, of course, that Phillips and Trammell sucked for the Yankees, and White played well for the Padres.

  • Finally, in Part 3, I respond to some reader feedback:

    [Yankees GM Brian] Cashman essentially threw less-than-first-round money at a former first-rounder who already has professional experience under his belt and who, unlike many former top draft picks, actually has had a fair amount of success as a pro. From the Yankees’ standpoint, this wasn’t about money. This was about opportunity. Cashman saw a stud lefty on the horizon and went out and got him on the cheap.

    Except, of course, that Phillips wasn’t a stud lefty. He only seemed like one at the time.

I’ve talked in this space about being slower to judge now than I once was. Crap like the three posts above should help you understand why. I didn’t know enough then to know how little I knew. I may have had good intentions, but it’s pretty clear that I had no freakin’ clue.

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13 Responses »

  1. Sean McAdam wrote a piece for about the Padres terrible year:

    I have often thought that the last game of 2007 hit the Padres too hard and was too tough from which to make a recovery. I haven’t thrown this theory out there, because it is based on a feeling and probably would have been shouted down.

    But I relate it to the Raiders and tuck rule game. That team never got over that call, and it showed.

    Sometimes, life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and the umpires or the authorities say: No, it’s lemons. And you sulk about it. And it’s destructive. It’s not a good idea, but it happens.

    Holliday never touched the plate.

  2. We’ve talked many times in this space about not only using the outcome to judge a decision. Yes, the outcome in the Phillips trade favored us (although White’s tenure was so short and the 03 Padres so bad you could argue that he was near-useless for us).

    The points you made at the time were valid. The Padres essentially used a $100 bill (Phillips) to convince the Yankees to take Trammell, who was undervalued due to a bad BA and signed to yet another patented backloaded Padre contract. That $100 bill could have been used to buy something more valuable than Rondell White.

  3. In all fairness, Geoff, Phillips was rated #3 Padres prospect by BA at the time of the trade.

  4. #2@Tom Waits: Yes, to a degree the points were valid. However, I’m assuming now that there was more information about Phillips that I failed to factor into the equation because I wasn’t privy to it. I still couldn’t tell you what that information was, but I’m guessing that Towers knew something that caused him to devalue Phillips, who looked like a stud at the time. And if Towers knew something, there’s a good chance other GMs knew it, in which case the $100 bill may not have been a $100 bill at all.

  5. #4@Geoff Young: No doubt Towers knew something about Phillips; that something was that he had a poor work ethic and didn’t take instruction well. I’d question whether other teams knew it; Towers said at the time that the Padres had overhyped Phillips and the Yankees bought it.

    So….one year after hitting 27HR and driving in 97, numbers that would make most GMs lose control of core body functions, Greene is traded for two relief prospects.

  6. #5@Tom Waits: I really don’t think there are that many front offices, if any, left who would really look at HR and RBI and get excited about Greene.

  7. #6@Pat: If they’re looking at OPS+ or VORP or EQA or Win Shares, he still looked awfully good. And there are several front offices that operate on old-school principles (Minnesota being the prime example).

  8. #7@Tom Waits: Really? His OPS+ was 100, among SS he was 11th in offensive WS, among SS he was 16th in VORP, and his EQA was .264 (isn’t .265 league average?). Those all say average offensive player (even when compared only to SS he was mediocre) to me and 2007 was his “big” year. I would hope big league front offices can look beyond the antiquated triple crown numbers and see he just wasn’t that good even in his best year.

    And if they’re old school, can’t a scout see he has lousy plate discipline and his pitch recognition is horrible?

    BTW, I didn’t know Minnesota had that reputation. So what is their approach? I’ve been very, very impressed with their high level of success in a very small market.

  9. #8@Pat: After a terrible campaign (brutal offensively, seemed to lose a step defensively, punched a locker), with a 6.5 million salary, the Padres still managed to trade him for two C or higher prospects. So yeah, clearly, his value was significantly higher coming off a 27 HR, 97 RBI season.

  10. #9@Tom Waits: “So yeah, clearly, his value was significantly higher coming off a 27 HR, 97 RBI season.” I never said it wasn’t.

    What I took issue with was this statement, “So….one year after hitting 27HR and driving in 97, numbers that would make most GMs lose control of core body functions, Greene is traded for two relief prospects.” Which I still don’t believe to be true. I don’t believe there are any FO’s or GM’s who would react that strongly to Triple Crown numbers, and only two of the three at that (his BA was only .254, 11th amongst NL SS). Maybe there are some which place more emphasis on them than others, but I think the overall state of MLB has evolved beyond that.

    And I’d still like to hear more about Minnesota’s approach if you have time. I have been very impressed, as I mentioned, with the level of their success given their relative lack of resources.

  11. #10@Pat: Jim Bowden has been known to drool over Greene since he broke into the big leagues. He’s regularly acquiring guys who are non-sabremetric standards. Sabean just paid Edgar Renteria 18M. Jack Wilson was given a fat contract and some teams are still interested in him despite a career OPS+ 17 points lower than Greene’s. Do you really not think there’d have been no fierce bidding war for a 30HR, 100 RBI shortstop, who also had a 100 OPS+ before 2007 at a key defensive position, who could give you above-average defense while drawing only 11M? Let’s just use Renteria as a case study. His career OPS+ is lower than Greene’s, even after Khalil’s 2007. His range is all but gone. His career high in HR is 16, and that was 8 years ago. And he just got paid 7 million more than Greene was owed before 2007. 7M is a lot of prospects.

    BA has done a lot of stories on Minnesota (the most recent example being Ben Revere, who looked like a huge overdraft to most observers and has done nothing but hit and play good defense since then). There was a Twins blogger who did great work, but I can’t recall the site — Christmas light concerns are occupying most of my brain.

  12. #11@Tom Waits: Ah, I don’t read BA. Thanks for filling me in on the Twins.

  13. I knew Mark in high school. I heard he had that mental block that made it impossible to hit the plate but for a while it looked like he’d be a MLB player. I wish I knew.