Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rhymes With "Beaten"

Quintus Arrius: Now listen to me, all of you. You are all condemned men. We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well, and live.

The Phillies have now fully adopted the strategy first embraced by the Roman legions in Ben Hur: just strap random guys to individual oars, no matter what condition they're in, and have them row, row, row the boat until they drop, or sign with the Dodgers. Then it's on to the next galley slave.

Exhibit #426: Adam Eaton. Three years, $24 million, with a mutual option that could make it four years at $33 million. OK, so he'll be a well-compensated galley slave. But at some point in the next three years, they'll almost certainly have to untie him from the oar and throw him over the side, along with whatever remains of that $24 or $33 million.

Actually, forget the $33 million. There's no way he'll pitch well enough over the next three years that the Phillies will even consider picking up that option. In fact, it would be a miracle if he's even in a Phillies uniform at that point.

Adam Eaton gets hurt a lot:
Eaton, 29, missed 4 months for the Rangers last season after he tore a tendon in the right middle finger, an injury that also cost him time in 2005... He missed part of 2001 and almost all of 2002 with Tommy John surgery.
He's never pitched 200 innings in a season. Do you think he's likely to start now?

When he does pitch, he's not very good. He's never had an ERA under 4.00. Baseball Reference lists ERA+, which is adjusted for league and park and scaled to 100 = adjusted average. Eaton has been over 100 once, barely, in his rookie year, and has a career ERA+ of 92.

On the bright side, he'll put a lot of souvenirs in the seats at Citizens Bank Park. In 2004, Eric Milton gave up 43 home runs. The only reason Eaton won't beat that mark is that he won't be healthy or effective enough to pitch a full season. When he does manage to keep the ball in the park, he'll have Wes Helms waving at balls hit near third base and, apparently, Pat Burrell limping after them in leftfield. Oy.

Why sign this guy at all, let alone for $24 to $33 million? The official explanation:
The Phillies preferred Eaton over the other pitchers on the market ... for a few reasons. The most important: They simply think he has better stuff. But then there is the familiarity factor. They also consider him to be a better athlete who can field his position, and even hit a little.
Yeah, sure. The real reasons are these: first, somewhat incredibly, Eaton has a winning record for his career, 54-45, and the Phillies put way too much stock in stuff like that. Second, he was a first round draft pick, and that still impresses some people, despite seven years of crummy pitching in the major leagues.

Then, of course, there's the galley slave factor. Somebody has to pull on the oars:
"It's like musical chairs," Gillick said. "You don't want to be stuck without a chair..."

The off-season hasn't gone as planned for the Phillies, but Gillick said he is optimistic. The Phillies consider Eaton a step in the right direction.

"I think things are going to be all right," Gillick said. "I think we've got some things going that are going to make us better than we are."

Say, off the starboard bow -- that ship, the one that says HMS Mets -- it's coming right for us. WE'RE GOING TO BE RAMMED!

Fig. 1: Phillies pitchers arrive for spring training.

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