My writing is all about synthesis and intersection. Whenever I’m penning an essay, short story or feature, I’m always trying to understand how things link together, because while I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, I believe in the C chord and the idea of home. Everything returns to its proper place. We’re made whole. No matter how much we change and how things wildly diverge, we always find our way home.
Typically I have to look hard for the synthesis. Sometimes it’s impossible, and I can’t force it, so I don’t go for it. But rarely, and it happens, everything falls into my lap, as if the universe – or the agents I’m writing about – seem to want the narrative to shape that way.
Today was one of those days.
On Dec. 15, 2017, the Philadelphia Phillies slammed the book shut on an era of sub-mediocrity, of forcing square pegs into round holes, and of crawling from the jar like molasses. Hours later, they presented to the world the new book, one where we’re caught completely off guard, where flexibility flourishes, and where new characters can thrive on a field at the corner of 11th and Pattison.
Today the Phillies traded Freddy Galvis to San Diego. Then, when we thought that was the story of the day, they spent $20 million this year, next year, and the year after, for Carlos Santana, a slugging first baseman and lightly experienced outfielder who can draw a walk and show the boys what the postseason feels like.
It’s a weird day. It’s a weird signing. The news of the Santana deal stunned me, as I truly thought the talk of Phillies’ interest was simply agent bluster. Not even close. The Phils have a plan, and that’s obvious, and that plan means putting both feet completely in the new era.
Galvis was fine. As a fielder he could be transcendent, making exceptional plays nightly at shortstop. As a hitter he languished, flying out a ton, striking out a bit, and never getting on base. He was a clubhouse leader, but the clubhouse he led won no more than 71 games. He came on board to substitute Chase Utley at second base, then worked his way into the starting role at shortstop. Average at best, damaging at worst, he was the everyman of this team built to simply recycle out the old and bring in the new. His 2,440 plate appearances lead the Phils since 2012. It was his team, but today it’s no longer.
And not long after the reaction cleared on the trade, in comes Santana, tied to a mammoth contract, the likes we haven’t seen since Howard, Utley, Halladay and Lee. Maybe it’s an overpay, and it’s possible by year three we’ll think so, but for this front office it’s a warning shot. Santana feels like a big deal in the way that Jayson Werth felt like a big deal for the 2011 Nationals. People then didn’t understand why Washington would bring him in on a weighty contract, but in retrospect it made sense: The Nationals knew it had the young talent to compete, and it was closer than people thought to contention, so Werth represented the first major move to kickstart the run to the top.
Well, here we are. Santana joins the Phillies, possibly to play first base, possibly to play the outfield, but we won’t know until the smoke clears. And there’s definitely more smoke ahead, because everyone’s talking about a young, controllable starting pitcher. This may be the end for Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.
Or maybe not. Maybe the Phils are just hoping to build a rotating offense that rests and rumbles.
We sure don’t. Hell, we didn’t see this one coming. None of us did. But maybe that’s what this front office wants – a new era where literally anything can happen, and we’ll just have to react and consume in real time. I’ll be on my toes, my fingers dancing on keyboards, trying to seize the narratives and synthesize the pieces.
Oh what fun: Phillies baseball has reached the next level.