The line has been drawn at the three day interval of the All-Star break in early July when the Phils and Millwood, represented by his agent, Scott Boras, will either hammer out a potentially four or five year contract or shake hands, bid each other good luck and a bittersweet good-bye, at the end of the season. The scenario promises to be dramatic...as Ed Wade stands on one side of the line in the sand while convincing Millwood to cross over the line and join what is already a very impressive list of warriors in waiting.
Just as Travis was comforted in knowing that Crockett, Bowie and Bonham stood ready to stand by his side, Wade must be feeling comforted in the knowledge of his roll call to honor list of participants...Thome - present, Burrell - present, Lieberthal -present, Abreu - present... and on the list goes... alphabetically, from Adams to Wolf, all willingly supporting the Phillies call to arms. Yet, the list is incomplete, sans the M in the middle of thealphabet, representing Millwood, "the Man." Completing this list with the addition of Millwood - crossing the line - would make Wade's 2004 plans so much simpler. And here is why.
In sports, it is easier to retool and reload than it is to rebuild, and with a Millwood in the fold, the rotation takes on a glow that would otherwise be dimmer without him. You see, every team needs an ace, that guy you count on to anchor the team, stop losing streaks and set the tone for the rest of the staff. The number of true ace pitchers in baseball is certainly subject to interpretation and definition but it can reliably be said that once you have used 10 fingers, the additional count can probably be tallied on just one hand…. thus the importance of Millwood. Beyond that, there is less visible but equally important message being sent to the rest of the baseball world – that the Phillies are here to stay, and that Wade's congregation on his side of the line is a talented and youthful force to be reckoned with.
Without Millwood, the situation becomes a tad trickier. Do the Phils roll the dice on trading for a Curt Schilling, or attempt to sign another potential free agent-in-waiting like Bartolo Colon. Either one is fraught with uncertainty. It does seem simpler and easier to prepare a plan with the certainty of a Millwood in tow.
As the drama unfolds with Wade and Co. launching strategies to convince Millwood to cross the line, a meticulous examination of where the line is drawn gets underway. Why? Any true Phillie fan knows that Millwood was acquired in late December as an early Christmas present in Wade's stocking. Budgetary restraints and pitcher surplus problems (some problem!) caused the Bravesto make a painful decision...to trade Millwood to the most ardentsuitor. Wade's good fortune rolled in and the celebration inPhiladelphia topped an early New Years Eve Party...with one caveat. Millwood would only promise his services for one year and then decide whether to stay or go. He waved an olive branch the Phillies way, saying that if he feels all snuggly and warm in Phillie red and white, he might consider negotiating an extension during the season.
Well, the uniform obviously fits snug, enough for Millwood to listen to the Phils offer...but only for three days. Thus, the line was drawn in the sand signifying.... sign me now or sign me never.
Lets examine the two sides and make an educated guess as to what may transpire. On Wade's side, a promise that Millwood will have a call to arms with partners Wolf, Myers, Padilla and Duckworth, with several qualified candidates on call. Also a promise that when Millwood takes a look back at his teammates, he will be comforted in the knowledge that he will be pitching WITH Thome, Burrell, Rollins, Lieberthal and Abreu, instead of pitching AGAINST those sluggers in waiting. Wade also promises riches to the tune of at least a 4 year 50 million dollar offer.... certainly enough to have all the Mocha Frappuchino's one can gulp down when visiting a local coffee house. And, and here is where the line gets hazy, just maybe a vested fifth year option for about 15 million dollars.
And this, my friends, may be the sticky wicket. You see, on Millwood's side of the line, he and Boras are probably looking at that fifth year and wanting it guaranteed…. a five-year 65 million dollar deal, much like the deal fellow Boras client, Chan Ho Park, received from the Rangers a few years ago.
Sounds simple enough except for one thing...the mortality rate of pitchers is very high, and to ask a man to cross the line is one thing, to have to pay him for five years for crossing the line is another. Not an impossibility but definitely a cause for pause. So this is where the line stands as we count down to the time when Wade and Co. will face off with Millwood and Boras. This is when Wade will ask Millwood to trust the troop...and cross the line.
Are there any tealeaves for the reading, fortune cookies for deciphering, or just an old fashioned gut feeling as to which direction the wind will blow, as the long awaited scenario unfold? Millwood has professed certain affection for the City of Brotherly Love, and the affection has been definitely mutual. By all accounts, Millwood is popular with his teammates and enjoys his status as "Ace" of the staff - a status not accorded to him by the Braves. His family is rumored to be happy in Philly, a key ingredient in the final coin toss of "Do I stay or do I go?"
But in the end, I believe it will come down to that fifth year, and Wade has never given a pitcher a five-year contract. Indeed, many in the industry-feigned shock when he rewarded pitcher Randy Wolf with a four year contract this past off-season. It is hoped that some give and take could take place to make that fifth year comfortable for both parties...but Boras has never much cared for comfort, he cares for commitment, and if the Phils appear unwilling to fully commit to that fifth year, the line may be too wide to cross and both parties may choose to agree to disagree.
This could prove ill-fated for both parties for just as Crockett, Bowie and Bonham live on in the memories of historians everywhere for stepping over that line, little is remembered of one Louis (Moses) Rose, the man who chose not to cross over the line in the sand.
The date is coming, the participants are ready, and the terms are set. Whether the footprints of one Kevin Millwood are embedded in that line after the All-Star break, may well tell us much about the future fates of both parties, currently standing on opposite sides of that line in the sand.
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