Over the past five years, the Phillies have been extraordinarily lucky to have had one of the most well respected and regarded clubhouses in the entire game, thanks to high-character guys like Brad Lidge, Roy Halladay, and Jimmy Rollins. While other teams have in-fighting and conflicts among their personnel, the Phils have always been beyond reproach, which is evidenced by their team-first attitude and run of division titles.
That's all about to change, as the Phillies might just have a dreaded 25th man controversy on their hands, when they announced today that they would be adding Juan Pierre to roster, which means the veteran speedster will open the season on the big club.
The 34-year-old, who has at least 27 stolen bases to his name in each of the last 11 seasons, gives the Phillies a much needed speed-merchant off the bench, as well as a capable enough hitter (career .296 hitter with .345 OBP) in a pinch. Although he brings very little power (16 career homers) to the table, it's important to note that he wasn't signed to hit a late-inning bomb. He is a speed-only guy, who should make third base coach Juan Samuel's job much easier.
But that's where the trouble starts. Although the Phillies were able to avoid in-fighting last season when they kept Rule Five draft Michael Martinez around, due to this ability to play every position on the diamond, it might not be so easy this season, thanks to the presence of Scott Podsednik, a player who is remarkably similar to Pierre.
Both Pierre and Podsednik are speedy, light-hitting, left-handed hitting outfielders who don't do much else but bring a set of legs to the team. They can't be counted on for anything more than slap singles or seeing-eye doubles, and neither will be expected to get too many at-bats.
The controversy stems from the fact that the incumbent Podsednik, who spent 2011 in the Phillies farm system with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, was passed over for Pierre, whose contract allowed him to ask for his release if he wasn't on the big league roster to start the season.
And instead of going with the devil they knew, the Phillies went with the new guy, which is sure to cause a lot of ripples in the clubhouse, as the other 24 players need to deal with Pierre and his flat-top baseball caps, while Podsednik toils for another year in Allentown.
Personally, I don't like the way this new Phillies team is shaking out. They are disregarding their own guys for outsiders, and for what? Some stolen bases and merchandising dollars from all the jerseys that Pierre is sure not to sell? Makes me sad.
I can only hope that the Phillies' ship isn't sunk by the iceberg that is sure to be caused by this rift.
(In seriousness, there is no controversy. This seemed a lot more entertaining than the boilerplate “Phillies add Juan Pierre to the roster” blog post. If you're reading this, congratulations! You probably made it further than like 79% of the readers who clicked on this link. I only wish I could have rewarded your journey, young soldier.)