THREE DAYS BEFORE the official start of the 2008 baseball season, the Philadelphia Phillies are treating their friends in the city chamber of commerce to a party in the ballpark’s exclusive Diamond Club. Toyota dealers, Commerce Bank execs and W.B. Mason reps load up on baked ziti at the free buffet line, sip Bud Light from frosty aluminum cans, and shake hands with the team’s big guns, like MVP Jimmy Rollins. There’s good reason for revelry — 2007 marked the Phils’ first post-season appearance in 14 years. By comparison, in that time the Flyers enjoyed 12 playoff campaigns, with eight for the Eagles and seven for the Sixers. Moments after Brett Myers threw the curveball that clinched the National League East title last September, the Phillies faithful erupted in a throaty roar of elation and relief. It wasn’t simply a celebration — it was catharsis.
No other city with teams in all four major sports has gone 25 years without a championship, and hunger for a parade is growing with each failed season. Not long ago, few would have picked the Phillies as the team most likely to deliver salvation, but its current core of young talent is cause for excitement. “The Phillies have a team that could be among the best in franchise history,” says ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who covered them for 21 years with the Philadelphia Inquirer. So why didn’t Stark, or any other baseball prognosticators, pick the Phillies to win the World Series this year? Building a champion, he says, “would take a lot of daring this team doesn’t have.”
David Montgomery, the team’s president and the face of its owners, will never be mistaken for Evel Knievel. Today, “Gentleman Dave,” as he’s known, is in the middle of the Diamond Club schmoozefest, shaking hands and smiling. Also here is chairman Bill Giles, who in 1981 assembled a group of investors to buy the Phillies. There are five conspicuous absences, though: Claire Betz, the 87-year-old who took her seat at the ownership table when her husband, head of Betz Laboratories, died; the Buck brothers — Jim, 82, Bill, 78, and Whip, 75 — founders of TDH Capital, the Delaware Valley’s first venture-capital interest; and John Middleton, 53, whose cigar company, John Middleton Inc., sold for $2.9 billion last year. They are the shadowy owners of the Phillies, and for this Phantom Five, the less interaction with the public, the better.
Here’s why: When it comes to their baseball team, the owners are as beloved as Mumia at an FOP beef-and-beer. Fans, the media, and even former employees say they’re cheap. They make bad baseball decisions. They treat the Phillies like an investment, with success evaluated quarterly, not in October. Simply put, they care more about business than winning. Chances are, if the owners appeared in the Diamond Club today, they’d get an earful about the way they run the team. And who needs that?
It’s a shame they didn’t show up, though, because they could use some lessons from their corporate buddies. You see, the conventional wisdom about the Phillies owners is wrong. The source of their continuing failure isn’t that the baseball team is run too much like a business — it’s the reverse.
In the Phillies boardroom, the mantra isn’t “You’re fired!” — it’s “We’ll get ’em next year, fellas.” “Play it safe” has replaced “Play ball!” as the rallying cry. The Phillies’ front office is a place where jobs last forever, everyone’s chummy, and no one is held accountable, starting with the owners themselves, who refuse to talk to the media or to accept responsibility for failing to bring home a single championship during their 26-year reign. At best, they’re cowardly. What’s more, they’re violating the civic pact you make when you buy a professional baseball team, and the quasi-public trust you create when you ask the city and state for $260 million in funding to build your new ballpark.
Earlier at the Diamond Club party, Giles stood alone in a corner. He laughed quietly to himself when Rollins cracked a joke, and was careful to let Montgomery stand in the spotlight alone. When asked about his fellow owners, Giles’s grin disappeared. “I’ll talk to you about anything,” he said politely, “but the ownership group.”
DAVE MONTGOMERY SITS in a pristine meeting room inside the corporate offices of Citizens Bank Park, telling tales of bygone Phillies teams. The former Phillies ticket salesman still scores each game by hand. Today he’s brought pencils and a yellow legal pad to take notes, even though he’s the one being interviewed about the team’s leadership. That was the intention, at least. Wearing a V-neck sweater, quick with a warm laugh that narrows his eyes to a close, Montgomery is, by all accounts, a gentleman in a game of tobacco spit and head-first slides in the dirt. He’s also a politician, filibustering his way around direct questions about the owners he protects year after year. Asked if he’s made a conscious decision to be less outspoken than Giles, his predecessor, Montgomery says, “I just believe the organization needs an image that’s not directly tied to wins and losses.”
Dave Montgomery is a mild-mannered guy, but it’s hard to imagine a more radical statement. After all, what we’re talking about here isn’t your kid’s tee-ball league or your niece’s Division III volleyball program. This is professional sports, where athletes are paid tens of millions of dollars to perform, and where loyal fans invest their time, money and passion in a team with one singular hope: to see them become champions. If this isn’t about wins and losses, then what exactly is it about?
That attitude — winning would be nice — has infected the Phillies organization for decades now. And it trickles down from the very top, from the owners themselves.
The Phantom Five meet four times a year, beginning in March during spring training. That session is known as the annual meeting, and it’s a chance for the Phillies vice presidents and Montgomery to deliver state-of-the-team reports to the bigwigs. Bill Webb, the attorney who helped Giles buy the team more than a quarter-century ago, is still there, handling the minutes. The meeting leads off with Montgomery’s baseball report, recapping the past season, laying out an improvement plan for the one ahead, and answering the sorts of questions the average fan might ask. (How’s our top 2006 draft pick doing after Tommy John surgery? Is there another Kyle Kendrick in the farm system?) The other executive reports — like the economic breakdown from Jerry Clothier, the team’s finance guru since 1982 — rarely generate further discussion. There’s another meeting after the draft in June, and a light December session that doubles as a holiday party. The season-end recap is scheduled each year for September, as if to presume the Phillies’ campaign will never extend into October.
None of the owners dissect the payroll or thumb through dog-eared copies of Baseball America at those meetings, which are usually agreeable affairs, and for good reason. In keeping with Philadelphia’s reputation as the biggest small town in America, where everyone knows a guy who knows The Guy, the Phillies’ top brass are an interwoven network of buddies. As a former judge and U.S. Attorney, Mike Stiles seemed like an odd choice to become a senior VP in 2001. In fact, he was a brilliant addition to the corporate roster, thanks to his top-shelf connections among the region’s business, legal and political elite as the team was building Citizens Bank Park. He also shared a room with Montgomery in the Phi Sigma Kappa house at Penn, where Stiles was president and Montgomery was the social chair. There, they partied with an upperclassman named Ed Rendell who would one day join the law firm, Ballard Spahr, that handles the Phillies’ legal work; David L. Cohen, a longtime Rendell confidant, was their attorney for years. The Phillies’ CFO, Clothier, is also a Wharton grad, and met Montgomery thanks to a guy he knew through his daughter’s playgroup — Mike Stiles.
All that familiarity — and the lack of pressure from the people who actually own the team — seems to breed contentment. The front-office turnover rate is amazingly low, despite tales of incompetent employees who appear to get pass after pass. “It’s a very collegial, friendly culture, and sometimes you need a bit of the other kind of medicine,” says a source close to the team. “It’s not a place where a general manager has a bad four-year run and you know he’s going to get fired.”
That’s a nod to Ed Wade, who may be Exhibit A when it comes to the organization’s lack of accountability. Wade started his career as an intern in the team’s public relations department, and eventually rose to assist the general manager. The fact that the team had just one winning season while Wade was in that post didn’t stop Montgomery from naming him GM in 1998. Over the next eight years, Wade compiled a record of zero playoff appearances and an overall winning percentage under .500. His tenure was so abysmal that fans started an online campaign, FireEdWade.com. And Sports Illustrated didn’t just call him a lousy GM — it named its “award” for worst executive in the National League after him. Still, Wade was a “Monty Guy,” and all six people above Montgomery in the Phillies hierarchy — the Phantom Five and Giles — were content to let him keep his job, year after year. A source close to the team says the reluctance to fire Wade — to hold him responsible for the team’s poor performance — is symbolic of what’s wrong with the franchise. “When you don’t win, you make changes, and you make hard calls,” the source says. “When you analyze their changes, they’re pretty soft. If you say ‘Fire those four fucking guys!,’ they say, ‘No, no, no.’ Who is held accountable?” In an organization where friendship is prized more than performance, the answer is … no one.
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.
IF THE OWNERS are content to sit back and let their baseball people make the decisions — and if they insist on remaining completely out of the public spotlight — it’s because that’s the deal they signed on for when they bought the team decades ago.
Since his first job with the Cincinnati Reds as a 14-year-old, Bill Giles dreamed of running a ballclub, and when Ruly Carpenter announced he was selling after the team’s first and only World Series victory in 1980, Giles — then the Phils’ executive vice president — saw an opportunity. But with his own net worth of $50,000, Giles needed to sell more than just the Phillies to prospective buyers — he had to sell himself. Along with the team’s lawyer, Webb, and his confidant, director of sales and marketing Dave Montgomery, Giles crafted his pitch. He’d own 10 percent of the team and oversee its day-to-day operations. He would also become the public face of the Phillies, taking heat from the press and shielding his investors from the spotlight. In exchange for their money, this elite club of multimillionaires would get their own suite, all the catered food they could eat, trips to Clearwater for spring training, two reserved parking spaces each, and, in Giles’s words, “the fun of owning a piece of a major league baseball team without the headaches of being the general partner.” With that, the die was cast, and the Phillies would become a team ruled by cabal, with only the front man feeling pressure from the public for management’s errors.
Giles wasn’t successful in recruiting anyone as passionate as he was about the Phillies. The Buck brothers were longtime season ticket-holders and ponied up $5 million, but as Jim Buck would later tell the Daily News in the middle of a dreadful 67-95 season in 1996, it wasn’t an easy decision. “My first reaction when the opportunity [to buy the team] was presented to me was, ‘Hell, no,’” Buck said. “Why would I want to get into something like that and run the risk of being dragged down around the community? Like now.”
Next on board were Widener family heir Fitz Dixon and horse-racing magnate Bob Levy, who pledged a combined $3.5 million. Both were experienced owners — Dixon of the Sixers, Levy of Thoroughbreds — but neither ranked baseball as his favorite sport. Then Giles approached Jack Betz, whose family-owned water-purifying company, Betz Laboratories, enjoyed annual sales of around $500 million. Betz wasn’t interested at first — he was a football guy. But the Eagles weren’t for sale, and his wife, Claire, had a thing for Tug McGraw and the Phanatic. She also wanted the parking passes Giles was offering — for Eagles games. “We’ve invested $5 million in dumber things,” she said.
With Taft Broadcasting on board for $15 million, Giles and his party of six bought the Phillies in 1981 for $30 million. From the start, the owners were content to let Giles call the shots. “We had great faith in management,” Bob Levy says today. Like Jack Betz, Levy was a football fan at heart, and he already knew Montgomery, having coached him as a lineman at Penn Charter. “Football, I might have gotten involved,” says Levy. “But baseball is a scientific game, and you leave it to the people who have been in it for years. None of us had a say, and we didn’t want to.” The owners’ silence seemed to indicate what these baseball hobbyists really valued — when attendance declined, they simply spent less, literally setting the team payroll to match ticket sales. The business, it seemed, literally ran itself.
The value of every MLB team has increased by millions each year since 2005; the 2008 Phillies are worth $481 million, up five percent from last year. Thanks to revenue sharing, the league’s welfare system, the worst teams get multimillion-dollar bailouts (as the Phillies did for four years after the program began in 1997 — a disgraceful handout for a team in one of baseball’s largest markets). Even during the Giles years, with a winning percentage of .484, the team’s worth continued to climb. But think of where the Phillies could be today if the owners treated it less like a hobby and more like a Fortune 500 company. The proof lies in Boston, where the Yawkey family spent 68 years running the Red Sox with the same lack of courage and vision that the Phillies’ owners possess. In 2002, three successful businessmen with baseball-ownership experience bought the team, and in just five years, they’ve become a dynasty — and not just on the field. Owning 80 percent of Boston’s regional sports network helped, but so did an aggressive marketing plan that made Red Sox Nation a global brand, as did investing in the real estate surrounding Fenway Park. What did the Phillies do in that time? In exchange for public aid for Citizens Bank Park, they let themselves get bullied into the safest, most economically limited location for it, at the deserted tip of South Philadelphia.
The Bucks made a fortune as venture capitalists, which by definition is a daredevil’s pursuit. It’s puzzling, then, that they’re so risk-averse, both in the way their team is run and in their refusal to speak out about it. “I believe they were motivated as much as anything else by the desire to see that the ownership remained local,” says J.B. Doherty, general partner of TDH Capital in Radnor. “The Bucks are very principled. Very, very gentlemanly. Very, very private.” Staying out of the public eye has always been a priority for the three brothers. (Jim and Bill live on the Main Line, and Whip lives in Princeton.) “We just kind of prefer to say we are here to support Bill Giles,” Jim Buck told the Daily News 12 years ago. “He’s the spokesman. He speaks for all of us.” Contrast that with Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino — who, like his partners, proudly faces the public and the media on behalf of his team, and infamously hurled mud at the Yankees, calling his rivals “the Evil Empire.” When has any Phillies employee not wearing cleats talked smack about the dreaded Mets?
After enduring 16 years of criticism from fans and the media, Giles announced he was stepping down as general partner in 1997. What’s unclear is whether the behind-the-scenes pressure he felt was directed at the team’s losing records, or at Giles’s willingness to speak his mind, consequences be damned, as when he defended the team’s penny-pinching by calling the Phillies a “small market” ballclub, a comment made in 1994 that still haunts him and his silent partners, who wish he’d been a little more mute. The latter seems likely, since instead of casting a net across the major leagues in search of a president with a fresh new perspective on building a winner, the Phillies again played it safe and promoted Montgomery, a faithful 26-year employee.
By then, Levy, Dixon and Taft Broadcasting had left the owners’ club, but the Bucks and Betz continue to uphold their vows of silence, both behind the scenes and in public. It’s a mystery how Claire Betz and her family have managed to stay out of the spotlight despite a crush of media attention over the murder of her son, Peter Betz, at the hands of his 16-year-old son Justin in 1988. John Drew Betz, Claire’s husband, died of cancer after the boy pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. Since then, the family’s profile has remained subterranean. Claire Betz jets between Key Largo, to be close to a daughter and three remaining sons, and Gwynedd. Her only child still in the area, Jacqueline Murphy, insists portrayals of her mother in the newspapers are wrong. “That guy with the Philadelphia Daily News [perpetual Phillies instigator Bill Conlin], he’ll write about her hair in a bun or [her] with her doggie,” says the 64-year-old. “She doesn’t have a doggie! It really hurts her feelings.” Her mother enjoys spending time at the ballpark, but Murphy says Claire doesn’t pay attention to the business side of the game. “My whole family used to be big baseball fans until the strike [in 1994],” Murphy says. “Then we found out there was life outside of baseball. After that, we were never as into it.”
When the Betz family matriarch passes away, the other partners will likely buy her shares. Murphy says her brother, Michael, is the most involved with their mother’s stake in the Phillies, but messages to him for this story went unreturned, as did multiple calls to the Bucks, whose secretary chuckled at the notion that any of them would comment about the team. Then there’s John Middleton, who inherited the stake his father, cigar kingpin and McIntosh Inn hotels owner Herb Middleton, bought from Levy. When the Billion Dollar Man received calls for this story, he recruited former Rendell mouthpiece Kevin Feeley as his spokesman and, after months of considering interview requests, finally declined.
In April, the Phillies brass dressed up for the gala premiere of a documentary on beloved Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn. None of the owners saw fit to attend, save for Montgomery, who owns a sliver of the team, and Giles. As the guests took their seats, Giles was asked why messages left at his office weren’t returned, despite his agreement weeks before to be interviewed. Like a father placing his hand on his son’s shoulder before delivering a cold, ugly truth about the world, Giles extended his right arm and smiled. “David and John Middleton don’t want me to talk because they know I’ll say what I’m thinking. And that might not be what they want to say.”
WHEN NEWS BROKE last November that Middleton had sold his family cigar company to the Altria Group, owners of Phillip Morris, for $2.9 billion in cash, there seemed a glimmer of hope that finally someone in the Phillies’ Phantom Five had the capital, cojones and, most important, business instincts to build a winner. Middleton splits his time between a Bryn Mawr manse and a beachfront house in Stone Harbor, and is known as the most fiercely private — and privately passionate about the team — of all the partners. “[Herb] Middleton was the most outspoken owner,” says Lee Thomas, the Phillies’ general manager from 1988 to 1997. “When he died [in 1998], his son took the ball. They’re not what you’d call baseball people, but they were the most focused on the team and most willing to make things happen.”
Montgomery denies a long-circulating rumor that John Middleton was the force behind the $85 million acquisition of Jim Thome in 2002, the boldest Phillies signing in at least a decade. The legend goes that as the owners fretted over the size of Thome’s salary, Middleton declared, “I’ll pay for him myself!” There’s also talk that Middleton pushed to recruit cannon-armed Billy Wagner, the most reliable closer in the Phillies’ inconsistent bullpen in recent years. (Shortly after hightailing it to the Mets for more money, Wagner joined former Phils Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen in questioning the ownership’s will to win.) John Kruk, ESPN analyst and a leader of the pennant-winning 1993 Phillies, believes both Middleton tales. “He’s very aggressive,” Kruk says. “From what I understand, he had to be talked off the ledge a few times. He wanted to be like the Yankees and buy everyone, and the other owners said whoa, hold on.”
Middleton’s fingerprints were also said to be on the body of general manager Ed Wade, whom Montgomery begrudgingly axed after eight years of failure, and it’s believed the Middletons accelerated Montgomery’s ascension by nudging Giles into retirement. “If there was anything in the group that pushed him out, that’s my guess,” says a team insider. “They were always sniping at him. They would either buy into [the criticism of Giles] or start it.” One thing the Middletons and Giles seemed to agree on was the value of a championship. In 2006, Giles told a group of reporters, “The ownership group’s main goal is to win. Win a World Series. Particularly, two of them say in every meeting, ‘Gosh darn it, I want to win a World Series.’” Giles then admitted he was one of the two, prompting a reporter to ask, “Is the guy who pushed you out [Middleton] the other one?” Giles replied, “No comment.”
Those who know Middleton outside of the team suggest he’s not interested in a bigger stake, and if one is up for grabs — say, Betz’s share — the other owners are entitled to a portion of it, too. Still, Middleton’s windfall is the stuff Phillies fans’ dreams are made of. “Out of all of them — the Buck brothers, Betz — he would be the one to stir the pot,” says Kruk. “I got into an elevator with him at the Vet after someone just blew a save. He said, ‘If I have to get a whole new damn bullpen, that’s what I’ll do.’ He was trembling.”
The reality is more sobering. Since turning into one of America’s richest men, Middleton has become even more private, and more unlikely than ever to raise his profile. There’s also a structural hurdle in his way — flooding the team with cigar money would undermine the group dynamic that Giles designed and Montgomery upholds. If Middleton somehow claimed a majority stake, he could do more than fume over blown saves and his co-owners’ timid caution — he could tell Montgomery what to do, or fire him. But that’s not how the business of the Phillies is built. For all his frustration at losing, Middleton can’t — and, ironically, because of his newfound fortune, won’t — do anything about it.
IN A TOWN where sports owners’ larger-than-life personas define their teams — Ed “No More Superstars” Snider and Jeff “Gold Standard” Lurie — the Phillies’ stewards are simply tone-deaf. When the Flyers spoiled their 40th anniversary season last year by setting a franchise record for losses, Snider didn’t hide behind publicists or his front office. He faced TV cameras and spoke to reporters. His pain was palpable. He hurt like you did, and goddamn it, he would do something about it. Snider wasn’t pleased with his Sixers, either. He made tough calls, firing two of his beloved GMs, and this year, both teams made it back to the playoffs. As for the Eagles, one thing Jeff Lurie will never be accused of is humility, and there’s a swagger to his franchise.
By contrast, the Phillies are best known as the team that every charity, local business and City Hall wants to work with. Each week, it seems, the team sponsors another civic good deed, from green initiatives backed by Michael Nutter to Wiffle ball games for underprivileged kids. Chummy chamber of commerce parties and friendships with the Mayor and the MLB commissioner don’t lead to championships, though. Since the Phillies moved into Citizens Bank Park, their payroll is finally competitive, but in baseball, the only major sport without a salary cap, that only looks good in comparison to decades of woeful under-spending. When you buy a team in Philadelphia, there’s a pact that comes with the perks — especially when you’re handed more than a quarter-billion in city and state assistance to build your new home, complete with an owners’ box high above the third-base line, where losses are much easier to handle. Montgomery, his good friends in the front office and the Phantom Five are playing with some serious house money. It belongs to the tax-paying, seat-buying, jersey-wearing fans. Accountability to them is long overdue.
For the first time since 1993, there’s some swagger out there in the yard, thanks to players like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, who are as Philadelphian in their hustle and lunch-pail style of leadership as the owners they play for aren’t. The Phillies were selling NL East Championship hats and tees as fast as they could make them last fall, but months later, they rewarded All Star Cole Hamels with a paltry $100,000 raise, and strong-armed Ryan Howard into arbitration that they lost. In an eyeblink, fan optimism gave way to portentous nightmares of Howard jacking home runs in a Red Sox jersey and Hamels no-hitting for the Yankees in the next few years. Who will be held accountable if this team is a shell of itself by 2012?
The answer is, no one. If you stop buying tickets, they’ll simply lower the payroll. If the Phillies fall into the MLB cellar, the league’s revenue-sharing plan will keep them afloat. If a newspaper columnist or sports-radio provocateur leads a campaign against them, Gentleman Dave will take the heat, smiling all along, while the owners he protects stay silent, hoping everyone will focus on something besides wins and losses and a 1,600 percent increase in the value of the team since they bought it. That’s the way the business of baseball is done in this town. Dare to dream of the day when change will come, Phillies fans. But as always, don’t get your hopes up.
TAKE OUR BASEBALL TEAM. PLEASE.
A few potential owners we’d love to see step up to the plate.
Why: Croce won’t comment, but it’s said that he’s tried to buy the team in the past — only to be frustrated at how long it took even to get his phone calls returned.
Impact: Hyper-kinetic Pat brought passion, fun and an appearance in the NBA Finals to the Sixers. We’d expect nothing less with the Phillies. Oh, there’d also be pirates. Lots and lots of freakin’ pirates.
Why: The company already owns the Sixers, the Flyers, and the sports network that carries the Phillies games. Why not add baseball to the stable?
Impact: With Comcast’s deep pockets, the Phils become the next Red Sox. And with Ed Snider running the show, the guy in charge will care as much as we do.
Why: Legendary concert promoter and Live Nation big cheese is among the biggest fans in town.
Impact: Upside: Way cooler National Anthem singers. Downside: Possible “transaction charges” on everything from parking to buying a beer. (But if the latter means more money for the starting rotation, we’re cool with that.)
David Field and Shanin Specter
Why: Arlen’s son, the successful plaintiffs’ attorney, and Field (left), CEO of the country’s fourth largest radio company (Entercom), are both über-fans. And loaded.
Impact: Both are tough, results-oriented guys — something the organization desperately needs. And the influence of Arlen and his obscure legal mind could be interesting. (“Citing Scottish common law, the Phillies last night insisted they be given four outs in every inning.”)
Why: Sports-obsessed Eddie doesn’t have the net worth to pull this off on his own, but he’s no slouch at raising money. (Witness the way he got some Hillary backers to offer to pay for a redo of the Michigan primary.)
Impact: In a nod to Rendell’s 700 Level past, the team schedules “Pelt an Umpire With a Snowball Night.”
Jim Cramer and Lenny Dykstra
Why: Financial whiz Cramer discovered that Nails, the former Phil, is the world’s most unlikely stock savant. They have the dough—and mojo—to pull this off.
Impact: Maybe none on the field. But Cramer’s uncontrolled screaming and Dykstra’s incoherent rambling have reality show written all over them: “Dude, Where’s My Baseball Team? Arghhh … !”