Analysis

Matt Klentak plays Norman Dale at trade deadline


Phillies general manager Matt Klentak opted to keep his top prospects rather than deal for a pitching ace at the 2019 MLB trade deadline. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

In the classic 1986 film “Hoosiers”, Gene Hackman stars as basketball coach Norman Dale, who takes the reigns of a rural Indiana high school team in the early-1950’s.

Hackman/Dale is an old-school coach, even for those long-ago days. He uses a number of tough-love methods, trying to mold his team into a winner despite a highly skeptical and passionate fan base in the local community.

In one such incident, Dale’s Hickory High School team begins a game with just six players. He benches one for disobeying his rules, and when another player fouls out, Dale refuses to allow the benched player to take the floor.

The referee approaches and says “Coach, ya need one more,‘ to which Dale replies “My team’s on the floor.

In this analogy, Phillies fans are the referee. Matt Klentak is Norman Dale.

Sure, leading up to Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline, Klentak had added lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, bumping both Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the bullpen.

But Phillies fans wanted more. They wanted a co-ace to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. Or at the very least, someone who would slot in as a legitimately talented, proven #2-type starting pitcher behind the right-hander.

Those Phillies fans wanted someone such as Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray or Alex Wood.

And so, on trade deadline day, the fan base sat staring at their laptops, pads and phone screens thinking “Ya need one more.

But there would be no new ace added to the Phillies starting rotation on this day. And since are no longer waiver trades allowed during the month of August, there will be no new aces at all during the 2019 season.

Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweeted out that, in summary, Klentak’s position was that “We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players.

In other words, Klentak answered those Phillies fans as Dale answered the referee: “My team’s on the floor.

It remains to be seen what will happen over the final 8 1/2 week of the regular season. The Phillies rotation is certainly deeper, has more experienced arms in it, and now has a pair of southpaws. But will that be enough to help push the club to the postseason for the first time in eight years?

Dale’s methods worked. His team won the Indiana state high school basketball championship in the film, which was inspired by the real-life Milan High School team which had won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.

But Dale won thanks not only to his methods, but also to the return and excellence of a genuine great player to the team. Will any such player step up, stand out, and lead these Phillies to the promised land? Or at least into October baseball?

 

 

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