Philadelphia Phillies Owners: The Phantom Five

The Phillies may finally be serious ­contenders, but the franchise is still the losingest in sports history. For that we can blame a group of people we never see and never hear: the team’s (very) silent owners

That unwavering loyalty flows up to the Godfather himself, MLB commissioner Bud Selig, whose every wish becomes Montgomery’s faithful command. But kissing the ring doesn’t translate to winning, says Stark. “You have ownership groups playing by their own rules, rebels who do what they want,” like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, who together have won five of the last 10 World Series. One look at the MLB draft separates the renegades from the company men. Each year, the league estimates the size of the signing bonuses teams should award to each of their draft choices; last year, the first pick was slotted at $3.6 million, number two was $3.15 million, and so on. The most promising pitcher on the market, right-handed stud Rick Porcello, was still available when the Phillies selected at 19, most likely because Porcello’s agent is Scott Boras — king of the record-breaking contract, Satan in a suit in the eyes of MLB. Boras had already burned the Phillies with J.D. Drew, the second overall pick in the 1997 draft, whose contract demands the team deemed outrageous and whose name is still a source of anguish within the organization. Montgomery passed on Porcello, drafting a less-heralded lefty and paying him $1,372,500 — precisely what the league slotted as the bonus for pick number 19. Porcello fell to the Detroit Tigers, one of those renegade teams, who signed him for $3,580,000, more than $2 million above what the league wanted them to spend.

What the Phillies owners want everyone to forget about the J.D. Drew debacle is that it was completely avoidable — before he was drafted, Drew, and Boras, made it clear he expected a staggering $10 million signing bonus. The Phillies figured they could strong-arm the two once Drew was picked. But Wade vs. Boras was an epic mismatch, and although Boras reportedly cut his demand in half, the Phillies refused to go above $2.6 million — right where the league wanted them to stay. Drew ended up in St. Louis, and the Phillies wasted an elite draft pick. Drew’s first appearance at Vets Stadium led to the infamous battery-pelting incident, but the fans should have aimed their Duracells at the owners’ box.

The team finally looked outside its own offices in 2005 by replacing Ed Wade with Pat Gillick, who has made a career of building World Series contenders. It was a smart fix, but a short-term one, considering Gillick’s age and intention to retire at the end of this year. Who will his successor be? Either Mike Arbuckle, a 16-year Phillies veteran, or Ruben Amaro Jr., a former player who was hired and mentored by none other than … Ed Wade.

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