Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. The day the Adam Eaton era died.
Well, it didn’t quite die, but kind of sputtered until it became a flopping goldfish on the pavement. Yes, Adam Eaton was the goldfish of the Phillies.
In the two seasons he pitched in Philadelphia, Eaton went 14-18 with a 6.09 ERA. How bad is that? I actually had to do the math twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things – a 6.09 ERA. When he pitched, he was prone to giving up singles, and doubles, and triples, and home runs. He actually had good control, but his stuff sat over the plate and looked like beach balls to opposing hitters. His out pitch: Inconclusive. Outs? Barely got them.
Eaton was one of two major missteps of the Pat Gillick era – the other being the Freddy Garcia trade. Gillick decided Eaton was the best pitcher on the free agent market in 2006, pouncing on him early and locking him in for three seasons and $24 million. The front office thought Eaton’s 4.20 ERA resume in San Diego would translate to better things in Philadelphia. But did they see how Eaton’s ERA jumped up a point after leaving San Diego for Arlington, Tex.? Did they see that Eaton was all smoke and mirrors?
The Adam Eaton signing will forever be the worst signing in Gillick’s otherwise skillful tenure as general manager. He’s a blemish that is more than a blemish, merely because of his paychecks. And because they stuck with him so long – but that’s because of his paychecks.
Eaton might be the last time in a while the Phillies gamble hard on somewhat unproven pitching commodities. In the 2008 offseason they risked small amounts for Derek Lowe – when he didn’t bite initially, they drew back. Though Lowe is proven, he performed best at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. In the pinball machine that is Fenway Park, Lowe suffered. After Eaton, the Phillies are smarter, shrewder.
That is the legacy of Adam Eaton – that he represents the last of a long line of iron-hot risks. Now some scuffling club might take that gamble on Eaton in 2009, but they won’t have to pay him $8.6 million. They’ll take him in, test him out, hope he survives. If not, he’ll splatter around on the pavement again, but at least that team won’t have to see him slowly fade away.